Tag Archives: Entrepreneur

Four Tips to Help Businesses Engage Customers During Halloween and Beyond

Simple ideas to help businesses of all sizes authentically visualize celebrations in their marketing.

86% of people still look to celebrate the good things in life – and now, more than ever, people are feeling the strain of social distancing, wanting to feel a sense of connection, and belonging with others after many months of isolation. The most common hopes people shared once transmission for the COVID-19 virus is under control and as vaccination availability increases are travel (53%), dining out/going out for drinks (47%), reviving connections with friends and family (39%), return to live events (38%) and kids resuming normal activities (36%).

To create attention-grabbing videos for Halloween or any upcoming holidays—whether you’re announcing a sale, promoting an event, or adding stories to Facebook or Instagram—using the free iStock Video Editor or similar platform, brings your visual storytelling to life.

“Our concept of celebration is nuanced and ever-changing, with the pandemic further impacting the way we gather and spend time with family and friends,” said Claudia Marks, Senior Art Director, iStock. “The fact is that customer preferences and feelings about celebrations and activities outside of our homes continue to evolve, which is why using visuals that depict our modern realities is crucial to connecting with customers on a deeper level.”

iStock reveals four tips to help businesses of all sizes to effectively, and authentically, visualize celebrations for Halloween and beyond in their marketing:

Showcase Connection and Community
The importance of relationships with family, friends, partners, coworkers, neighbors and more has only increased in value and meaning since the pandemic. According to iStock research, 70% of people say that the pandemic made them appreciate their personal relationships more. Not to mention, almost three quarters of people (68%) say they appreciate small/local businesses more as a crucial part of their community and 66% want to continue prioritizing supporting small businesses during this time. By focusing on the significance of community and the positive outcomes of the pandemic, businesses can foster a sense of belonging among their customers and find ways to unite us all through the visual content—imageryvideos and illustrations—they use in their holiday campaigns year-round.

Be Relevant 
With the COVID-19 virus still a risk, businesses should consider a multi-layered approach to appeal to a broad audience. iStock research shows that 31% of people still want to see people wearing masks and 36% want to see people practice social distancing in visual communications. To alleviate differing thoughts on COVID safety measures, focus on showing visuals which depict social distancing and tell stories of security, but also, think about the future and use visuals and messaging which look beyond the pandemic.

Harness the power of video
Statistics shows that video resonates more deeply with customers, with 92% of marketers noting it as an important part of their visual strategy. Though video has traditionally been more expensive and professional quality video creation may seem daunting, businesses can really benefit by integrating video into their marketing strategies, especially during holidays. To ease these barriers, iStock has created a new free, quick and easy video maker that doesn’t require any previous design or editing experience.

Reflect the diversity of your audience
Use visuals that portray real people and real situations. iStock research shows that 72% of people expect businesses to celebrate diversity of all kinds so ensure you are choosing visuals that reflect the broad diversity of people across all ages, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, abilities and body types.

To find more Halloween imagery and video, visit istockphoto.com.

Content Provided by istockphoto.com
Soft Edit karie engels

Small Business Flex Fund raises an additional $40 million to support Washington state small businesses

Heritage Bank, JPMorgan Chase and WaFd Bank commitments bring the Fund’s total to $70 million

The Small Business Flex Fund hit a milestone this week, having now raised a total of $70 million in committed capital that will benefit small businesses and nonprofits, particularly those in underrepresented communities, across the state of Washington.

Launched earlier this summer, the Small Business Flex Fund is a public-private partnership aimed at helping small businesses and nonprofits recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and grow their business again. It began with a $30 million contribution from the Washington State Department of Commerce and has since raised an additional $40 million from Heritage Bank, JPMorgan Chase and WaFd Bank.

Speaking about the impact the banks’ contributions will have, Lisa Brown, Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce said, “Our Small Business Flex Fund is an important tool for providing much-needed growth capital to smaller businesses and nonprofits that are looking at their mid- and long-term recovery from the pandemic. We appreciate the partnerships with Heritage, JPMorgan Chase and WaFd Bank to grow the Fund and ensure this opportunity is available to businesses all around the state, particularly in communities that have historically been underserved.”

The Small Business Flex Fund provides access to flexible, low-interest loans to businesses and nonprofits in WA State.

Bryan McDonald, President & COO of Heritage Bank said, “Programs like the Small Business Flex Fund are crucial to the small businesses in Washington state. As a long-time supporter of these businesses, we recognize the many barriers some of them can face, especially when it comes to accessing the financial resources they need to develop and grow. It’s time to start rebuilding our local economies and these loans will help us get there.”

“The Small Business Flex Fund will provide essential low-cost loans to help small business owners facing challenging circumstances across the State of Washington, particularly those in underrepresented communities. JPMorgan Chase is proud to support their growth in a post-pandemic economy,” said Erin Robert, Head of Impact Finance at JPMorgan Chase.

The Small Business Flex Fund is administered by the National Development Council with funding arranged by Calvert Impact Capital. It was founded with the goal of helping Washington’s smallest businesses and nonprofits get back on their feet post-pandemic and plan for the future. Businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees and annual revenues of less than $3 million can pre-apply online and, if qualified, will be matched with a lender. Once matched, the participating lender will assist the business owner throughout the application process and provide additional advisory support.

Since its launch in June, the Small Business Flex Fund has provided low-interest loans of up to $150,000 to over 110 small businesses and nonprofits in need of economic assistance. The total amount that has been funded since the program’s launch is over $9.5 million. The Fund works with and through local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which serve under resourced communities and underbanked businesses the Small Business Flex Fund aims to help.

Ruth Brown, Executive Preschool Director of Causey’s Learning Center in Seattle, has used the loan to be able to continue paying her team of preschool teachers and make necessary infrastructure updates at her center. She said, “This loan saved my business. When the pandemic hit, I lost half my revenue. I applied for the loan so I could keep my teachers and cover some of the smaller bills. The process of getting the loan was really easy – it was a matter of weeks from applying to receiving the loan. I didn’t have to go through a lot of red tape! I was shocked! It’s not just about keeping your business afloat; it’s about moving forward into the future.”

Brent Beardall, President & CEO of WaFd Bank noted, “As long-term supporters of Washington small businesses and the positive influence they have in their communities, WaFd Bank recognizes the importance of supporting these vital businesses and is proud to promote unique public-private partnerships that assist in the continuing economic recovery from the impact of the pandemic.”

The Flex Fund aims to raise $100 million to continue to support the recovery of small businesses and nonprofits throughout the state. The additional funding announced today, brings the current amount raised to $70 million.

For more information and to apply, visit SmallBusinessFlexFund.org.

About the Small Business Flex Fund
The Small Business Flex Fund provides access to flexible, low-interest loans and business support services to small businesses and nonprofits across Washington. Supported by the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Fund is a collaborative partnership of local and national community finance organizations created to support Washington’s smallest businesses and address the needs of historically under-resourced and underbanked communities. The Fund includes leaders from across sectors, including local community lenders, national and state-based nonprofit organizations, corporations, philanthropic donors, and investors — all of whom are passionate about an equitable recovery across the state.

CEO Confidence Retreated in Q3, but CEOs Remain Optimistic

Labor shortages have increased significantly

The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™  in collaboration with The Business Council retreated in the third quarter of 2021, after hitting an all-time high in Q2. The measure now stands at 67, down from 82. (A reading above 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses.) 

CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions declined from last quarter but remained in positive territory. In Q3, 70 percent said conditions are better compared to six months ago, down from 94 percent in Q2. CEOs’ view of conditions in their own industries also retreated, with 64 percent reporting better conditions compared to six months ago, down from 89 percent in Q2. Looking ahead, expectations softened in Q3 compared to Q2: 60 percent of CEOs expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, down from 88 percent. Similarly, 65 percent of CEOs anticipate short-term prospects in their own industries to improve, down from 81 percent.

“CEO confidence is down from the all-time peak reached in Q2, when COVID-19 appeared on the verge of defeat,” said Dana Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “A summer surge of the highly infectious Delta variant—coupled with slumping vaccination rates—has brought pandemic uncertainty back to the fore in Q3. Nevertheless, optimism remains well above pre-pandemic levels, boding well for employment and investment growth in the months ahead.”

The job market continued to tighten in Q3, as labor shortages grew more pronounced. While the pace of hiring is likely to accelerate over the next 12 months—60 percent of CEOs expect to expand their workforce, up from 54 percent in Q2—filling these open positions may be a struggle: 74 percent of CEOs are now reporting difficulty finding qualified workers, up from 57 percent in Q2. As a result, the outlook for wages rose sharply in Q3, with 66 percent of CEOs expecting to increase wages by 3 percent or more over the next year, up from 37 percent.

“Businesses are out of pandemic survival mode and eager to expand, invest, and hire,” said Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., Vice Chairman of The Business Council and Trustee of The Conference Board. “This has accelerated a return to the severe labor shortages seen before the pandemic—now exacerbated by the virus’s stubborn persistence, which has kept many workers unable or reluctant to reenter the workforce. For CEOs, navigating this heightened competition for talent is a core challenge—more than half (55%) now report recruiting difficulties that cut across their entire organization, up from just 27 percent last quarter.”

Current Conditions
CEOs’ assessment of general economic conditions declined in Q3:

  • 70% of CEOs reported economic conditions were better compared to six months ago, down from 94% in Q2.
  • Only 11% said conditions were worse, up from 2%.

CEOs were similarly less optimistic about conditions in their own industries in Q3:

  • 64% of CEOs reported that conditions in their industries were better compared to six months ago, down from 89%.
  • Only 10% said conditions in their own industries were worse, up from 4%.

Future Conditions
Expectations about the short-term economic outlook retreated in Q3:

  • 60% percent of CEOs said they expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, down from 88% in Q2.
  • Only 9% expect conditions to worsen, up from 1%.

CEOs’ expectations regarding short-term prospects in their own industries also moderated in Q3:

  • 65% of CEOs expect conditions in their own industry to improve over the next six months, down from 81%.
  • Only 6% expected conditions to worsen, up from 4%.

Employment, Recruiting, Wages, and Capital Spending
The survey also gauged CEOs’ expectations about four key actions their companies plan on taking over the next 12 months.

  • Employment: 60% of CEOs expect to expand their workforce, up from 54% in Q2.
  • Hiring Qualified People: 74% of CEOs report some problems attracting qualified workers, up from 57% in Q2. Notably, 55% report difficulties that cut across the organization, rather than concentrated in a few key areas—up from 28% in Q2.
  • Wages: 66% of CEOs expect to increase wages by 3% or more over the next year, up from 37% in Q2.
  • Capital Spending: 49% of CEOs expect to increase their capital budgets in the year ahead, up from 47% in Q2.

Quick Bites: How Not To Be Intimidated In Silicon Valley

WELA Shares Discussion Between Founder and Laura Ching, Co-Owner of Tiny Prints

Founder of WELA, Upuia Ahkiong, had a conversation with Laura Ching, co-owner of Tiny Prints, an online stationery store, and discussed how success happens when you stop overanalyzing.

Laura Ching, co-founder of Tiny Prints

So, you decided to become an entrepreneur before you had an idea; what gave you that unique perspective? “I get this question a lot.  I feel like I am not the norm, and that you’re right I decided to become an entrepreneur before I had an idea.  When I graduated from Business School, I didn’t have the confidence to go out on my own.  There are probably several reasons, but as I reflect, several come to mind.  I was taught in Business School to take an idea and overanalyze the heck out of it.  So, whenever I thought of an idea, there would be one reason or another that it wasn’t the perfect idea or it failed some test.”

“Another reason was that I was surrounded by amazingly brilliant classmates whom all seemed much more innovative and more capable than me and who had a lot more experience, so I was intimidated. I didn’t feel like I had what it would take.  Somewhere along the road, I changed my mind.  I concluded that ideas aren’t necessarily what make it happen; it’s more about the team, the cohesiveness of the team in our case.  Tiny prints selling stationery online I obviously loved it, but it’s not a sexy idea, nor a crazy big idea.   We were lucky; we had a team that really believed in execution,” Laura expressed with a sweet smile. 

Let’s leave entrepreneurs reading this with a goal or a boost for their day.  Laura emphasized, “You don’t need a crazy idea big idea to start a business. I think it really depends on modest goals.  You need to focus on the small wins; literally, getting an order a week was a win.  You need to set yourself up to have those early wins because that will give you the confidence to keep going.”

Entrepreneurs Wanted: Building a Better Business Future


Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One), by John Meese, is the practical guide for small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to build a profitable business despite uncertainty in the market. Survive and Thrive offers advice on marketing, sales, and finance strategies that helps build (or rebuild) a thriving business in any economy.

Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One)

In a time of a rapidly ever-changing economy, Survive and Thrive is a saving grace for entrepreneurs and the newly unemployed, presenting a recovery framework designed to help build businesses that are stronger than ever. Survive and Thrive provides a step-by-step plan for reaching more people, making more sales, and generating more profit and simply explains the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

Despite such drastic changes in such a short time, it is still possible to be successful. Survive and Thrive offers the strategies and motivation to shake things off and start anew toward a bigger and better business future.

If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with John Meese, please visit surviveandthrivebook.com or contact John Meese (the author) at john@cowork.inc.

Stay tuned as we update this piece for Monday’s Coffee Talk and listen to the companion podcast as we talk with John Meese.

About the Author
John Meese is a traditionally trained economist turned serial entrepreneur and the author of Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One). He is the founder and CEO of Cowork.Inc, co-founder of Notable, and is on a personal mission to eradicate generational poverty by helping entrepreneurs create thriving businesses. He is the host of the Thrive School podcast, and has worked closely with multiple clients who have repeatedly hit the Inc 5000 list of the fastest-growing privately-owned businesses in America.

More About This Title
Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One), by John Meese, will be released by Morgan James Publishing on July 27, 2021. Survive and Thrive —9781631953361 —has 200 pages and is being sold as a trade paperback for $17.95.

Vimeo and TikTok Partner to Drive Small Business Success With Video Ads

The partnership connects Vimeo’s powerful creation tools with TikTok Ads Manager; Vimeo is the first video software company to join the TikTok Marketing Partner Program

Vimeo (NASDAQ:VMEO), the world’s leading all-in-one video software solution, and TikTok, a leading destination for short-form mobile video, today announced a new partnership that integrates Vimeo’s powerful video tools with the TikTok platform. The partnership gives small and medium businesses (SMBs) everything they need to make effective video ads to engage customers, while enabling them to take full advantage of Vimeo’s suite of video tools and the broad reach of the TikTok platform. In pre-release tests of the combined capabilities participants saw up to 50% higher clickthrough rates compared to previous campaigns on other platforms and were able to double the number of videos they created in a short timespan. 

Vimeo is joining TikTok Marketing Partners, a group of vetted experts who create, implement, and measure TikTok ad campaigns. Vimeo is the first partner to be badged under TikTok’s all-new Creative Tools subcategory of Creative Partners, who help brands produce creative assets that leverage TikTok’s best practices.

With this first-of-a-kind partnership between TikTok and a video software company, SMBs can now use Vimeo Create, an advanced AI-driven video production tool, to produce and publish ads directly into the TikTok Ad Manager in minutes. The companies also collaborated on developing custom video templates exclusively available in Vimeo Create, optimized for the TikTok platform.

Pre-Release Test Advertising
Ahead of launch, Vimeo and TikTok invited small businesses to try Vimeo Create and advertise on TikTok for the first time. More than 85% of participants reported successful campaign results and plan to run additional TikTok campaigns. NaturalAnnie Essentials, a family-run, Bridgeport, CT-based soy candle company, saw a 5.5x increase in conversion rate within the first two weeks of the trial campaign when compared with other forms of online advertising.

“We’ve saved thousands of dollars, the stress of shipping candles to a production studio, and lots of headaches by using Vimeo for our TikTok ads,” said Annya White-Brown, CEO of NaturalAnnie Essentials. “Vimeo Create made it super easy — it was as simple as adding your assets to the templates to fit your brand. Now we create anywhere from 30-75 videos per month.”

TikTok gives small businesses opportunities to reach and attract wider communities where they spend their time today. However, the high level of user engagement on the platform creates a challenge for marketers who need to publish new content and ads with far more frequency than on other online channels. It’s recommended that businesses test new TikTok ad creative on a bi-weekly basis, and that they post new organic TikTok videos multiple times a week – if not every day – to maximize their engagement.

“Vimeo and TikTok are solving one of the most significant pain points for SMBs in reaching customers — how to easily and affordably create professional-quality content at scale,” said Richard Bloom, SVP, Business Development, Vimeo. “We’re thrilled to be the first video creation platform to integrate with TikTok For Business and to expand the reach of Vimeo Create, so more businesses can engage even more customers online.”

“As small businesses recover and rebuild after a challenging year, TikTok is working on ways to make it easier to reach their community and grow their business,” said Melissa Yang, Head of Ecosystem Partnerships, TikTok. “Our partnership with Vimeo provides small businesses with simple, effective video tools that rival what the biggest brands in the world have access to — and they drive real results.”

Following the launch, Vimeo and TikTok plan to find more ways to join forces in helping every SMB succeed with video. This integration is available immediately to all Vimeo users.

About TikTok
TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. TikTok has global offices including Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul, and Tokyo.

About Vimeo
Vimeo (NASDAQ: VMEO) is the world’s leading all-in-one video software solution. Our platform enables any professional, team, and organization to unlock the power of video to create, collaborate and communicate. We proudly serve our growing community of over 200 million users — from creatives to entrepreneurs to the world’s largest companies. Learn more at www.vimeo.com.


If you’ve thought about starting your own business, the time is now

4.4 million new businesses were created since lockdown began, far exceeding historical norms

Have you thought about starting your own business or creating a side hustle? If you have, according to the Census Bureau you aren’t alone. More than 4.4 million new businesses were created since the lockdowns began, and while an uptick during a recession is expected, this far exceeds historical norms. In January of this year alone, there were nearly half a million new business started. The side hustle went mainstream.

YouTube, Pinterest and Facebook are huge contributors to this surge. These platforms give entrepreneurs guidance, tutorials, and an advertising medium to reach consumers. Budding entrepreneurs at long last had time to study topics and tutorials they were eager to learn, but didn’t have the time for while working nine to five. Taking their hobbies online to bring in additional funds, they found there was a viable market for their artisan wares.

As expected during lockdown, food trucks and meal delivery services increased by a large percentage and are still on the rise over a year later. Yelp noticed consumer interest in psychics rose 74% over last year and astrologers by 63%. Notaries were up 52%.

As the lockdown continued, families reconnected across the country, and people realizing how burned out they had become working long hours plus added commute times, decided to make some adjustments. A shift began to take place and they looked for options to keep them out of the nine to five drudgery.

Simple medical visits shifted to a virtual experience, private therapy sessions took off and new personal delivery options popped up everywhere. Personal assistants, marketing, advertising, bookkeeping, and business coaching rose to a new level of not only working from home, but also in the creation of home-based businesses with new entrepreneurs consciously pulling themselves out of the workforce. This trend looks as if it’s here to stay leaving previous employee positions, vacant.

As the pandemic continues restructuring the U.S. economy, it’s difficult to peer into the future to see how this will round out, but it looks like the virtual office has taken root. Reports show consumers are making lasting changes to their every-day life to accommodate this, and with home office renovations up by 75%, this is a pace that doesn’t show signs of slowing.

One of the positions new entrepreneurs find themselves in, is investing in their own future. Working for an employer, employees take home a paycheck while the employer handles the taxes, 401k, medical, etc. For a bulk of these 4.4 million new business owners, these are unnavigated waters. Taking time to connect with a professional to map out taxes, investments, growth and retirement planning is essential, and the earlier the better.

Looking for a bit of guidance on this topic, we reached out to Homer Smith, Private Wealth Advisor Konvergent Wealth Partners and asked what trends he has seen over the past year and what possible next steps small business owners might want to look in to as they grow:

“One of the benefits we have seen over the last year was the comfort level that all generations have with technology. Many of these new startups as well as established players focused on information and tools that can be accessed from anywhere. 

This includes a multitude of services aimed at providing access to financial tools that in the past were cost prohibitive for small business. Whether it is as traditional as PayPal for getting paid, Quickbooks for bookkeeping, or a more comprehensive platform like Gusto for payroll and benefits, there have never been more options.

After taking care of the basics and you now have excess cash flow to put to work for your long-term goals, making sure you are building a cash reserve is a minimum requirement to ensuring you maintain liquidity when you need it the most. As you create a foundation of profits and cash flow, it is time to consider how you will invest in your business to create sustainable growth as well as build longer term capital outside the business. These decisions become more complex with growth and may create the need to bring in more resources, whether they are internal or external, to support the fulfillment of your goals.”

Homer Smith is a Private Wealth Advisor with Konvergent Wealth Partners and is not affiliated with Basil & Salt Magazine.

Financial Experts Caution Biden’s Capital Gains Proposal May Impact Small Business Owners

President Biden is asking Congress for higher taxes on inherited properties. As is being discussed across news channels, this may impact family with more than $1 million in gains. 

Financial experts recommend estate planning strategies now, to avoid a surprise tax bill later. 

What’s on the table: Tax inherited property gains at death which targets generational wealth transfers. 

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

Financial experts caution this may impact more families than just affluent ones. “The largest impact on this may be small business owners.  For many of them, most of their wealth is tied to the value of the business.  This increase in capital gains tax, while geared towards those with $1 million of income, will end up hitting these middle class business owners when they are ready to sell.” said Private Wealth Advisor Homer Smith, Konvergent Wealth Partners

As it stands now, heirs may defer taxes on inherited home gains until the property is sold. There’s also the so-called “step up in basis”, which is adjusting the home’s purchase price to the value on the date of death. The Joint Committee on Taxation reports this law saves taxpayers $41 billion per year

Biden however, would like to treat home inheritances like a sale. Heirs would pay for the gains that occurred before they received the property. 

Noteworthy: STEP Act, authored by democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen,  would get rid of the so-called “Step-Up” in basis. 

Exemptions: up to 1 million for single heirs and up to 2.5 million for couples.  

While financial advisors wait to see how the language plays out, this levy would possibly be a burden to heirs who want to live in the family home but are unable to afford the tax bill. Sales of homes over $1 million have spiked by 81% from February 2020 – February 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize a tax hit: 

  • Work with a financial professional 
  • Get a home appraisal 
  • Meet with an Estate Planning attorney 
  • Gift a home or vacation property to children while still living, using a “qualified personal residence trust”. 

Increase the home’s cost basis by: 

  • Tacking on the cost of improvements. Example: New siding, roof and/or certain property renovations. 
  • Keep immaculate records on all improvements 
  • Create a family partnership or Limited Liability Corporation 

Homer Smith is an Investment Advisor Representative with konvergent wealth partners, a Registered Investment Advisor.  This article is for informational purposes only.  Please contact your financial professional about your particular situation.