NJSBDC Network Featured in NJ Biz Article on Annual Small Business Growth Client Award Winners

Network’s Small Biz Clients across the State Being Recognized for Success

America’s SBDC New Jersey, also known as the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC) network, announces its 13 small business clients from around the state being recognized for their overall business achievements as well as steadfast perseverance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Traditionally, the client award winners are honored at the annual December Small Business Growth Awards luncheon at the Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township, but, this year’s luncheon was canceled due to the health and public safety constraints of COVID-19.

The companies being recognized come from a wide range of industries and were singled out for successfully pivoting their business models to forge ahead with new business opportunities and a sound foundation for the future. Two of the 13 clients were acknowledged for accomplishments in technology-commercialization and success in obtaining procurement opportunities.

As a major resource provider of its primary funding partner, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the NJSBDC program has provided comprehensive assistance for small business owners in all 21 counties for more than 40 years. The program is part of a national network of SBDCs, America’s SBDC, in all 50 states and the American territories, which provides technical assistance for up to one million small business owners and entrepreneurs each year.

“America’s SBDC New Jersey congratulates our 2020 client success award winners for their accomplishments in weathering these great challenges and pivoting for recovery and future resiliency,” stated Kelly Brozyna, NJSBDC network Chief Executive Officer and State Director. “We look forward to 2021 and all the opportunities and assistance NJSBDC hopes to provide our small business clients statewide to become even more resilient.”

“We want to not only congratulate our small business client success award winners, but, we are also grateful for the efforts of the State Legislature in restoring state funding in this year’s adopted state budget,” added Deborah Smarth, NJSBDC network Chief Operating Officer and Associate State Director. “This support strengthens NJSBDC’s resources and assistance for small businesses in New Jersey.” Smarth is the chief advocate for the network on legislative matters.

NJSBDC small business clients recognized for their achievements this year include:

  • CAROUSEL OF LEARNING, INC. (Debbie Bejsiuk), located in Berlin, is a children’s day care center which re-opened in June after receiving disaster assistance financing, including PPP, with the help of the NJSBDC at Rutgers-Camden. Center’s business advisors continue to provide further assistance and guidance concerning business re-opening stages during the pandemic.
  • CAVEN POINT CAR CENTER, INC. (Charlie and Thomas Senatore) is located in Jersey City. The Senatore brothers have a long history of operating diverse businesses, coming from an entrepreneurial family. With the assistance of the NJSBDC at New Jersey City University, this business obtained a refinancing loan as well as disaster assistance loans (EIDL and PPP) during the earlier stages of the pandemic, retaining several jobs at their gas station and other owned business entities in the community.
  • DEBOER’S AUTO (Bill DeBoer, Jr.) is located in Hamburg. This family-run business is very well known in the northern Sussex County area. It specializes in automotive technology, differentiating itself in this market over the years. With the support of NJSBDC of Northwest Jersey, the business made strategic changes in its operations during the pandemic.
  • GRIFFYS ORGANICS (Avry A. and Christopher W. Griffin), owned and operated by two cousins, is located in Long Branch. With the assistance and guidance of NJSBDC at Brookdale Community College, business sales have grown. The company’s mission focuses on sharing knowledge about premium-grade functional nutrition for families and communities. Their “elixirs” are made in small batches from farm-fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, and all-natural extracts, sourcing the highest quality ingredients in-state.
  • HORIZON ENGINEERING CONSULTING, LLC (Hao Yin, president & CEO), located in Linwood, is a startup engineering consulting company. The company specializes in civil engineering and software development. With the assistance of NJSBDC at Stockton University and the SBDC Procurement Specialty Program, the company received loan financing and obtained procurement contract awards. With increased sales revenues, the company increased the number of employees.
  • INDIGRILL (Pallavi Bandi), located in Ewing, opened in August 2019 with the assistance of the NJSBDC at The College of New Jersey. The restaurant has diverse recipes, blending sauces for a stellar culinary experience. The regional NJSBDC has continued to support the client during the COVID-19 challenges.
  • LBU, Inc. (Jeffrey Mayer, president & CEO), a manufacturing company located in Paterson, produces tote bags with corporate logos. During the initial outbreak of the pandemic, heeding the calls of federal/state officials, the company swiftly retrofitted its factory and began producing cloth face masks and gowns, which were in short supply for healthcare workers fighting the pandemic. A client of NJSBDC at William Paterson University, LBU, Inc., was able to retain employees and reboot its operations with the SBDC’s assistance.
  • MAMA’S SOUTHERN STYLE BBQ 2, LLC (Chris Finnick), located in the Vauxhall section of Union Township, attracts hungry customers from as far away as Pennsylvania, New York, and even farther distances. The NJSBDC at Kean University assisted the business with an array of issues over the years. Most recently small business owner Chris Finnick was named SBA’s New Jersey 2020 Small Business Person of the Year.
  • ONE CALL CONTRACTING, LLC (Kenneth Rekuc), located in Saddle Brook, has seen its business grow after the assistance received from the NJSBDC at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Not only has the business received PPP funding as well as an EIDL loan, but, by receiving guidance in other operational areas during this challenging time, the company has expanded and forecasts growth in 2021.
  • ORGANIC PLANT CARE, LLC (Bill Grundmann), located in Frenchtown, has grown sales revenues and increased the number of employees since its establishment several years ago with the assistance of the NJSBDC at Raritan Valley Community College.
  • PHYSICAL FEATURES SALON AND SPA (Richard Anzivino), located in Woodbridge, received assistance and guidance from the NJSBDC at Rutgers-New Brunswick to survive and revive the salon in response to the pandemic’s challenges. The actions taken by the salon’s owner helped retain dedicated employees and created a safe environment with systems and equipment at the salon that protect returning patrons.
  • SONICA IMAGING (Dr. Etienne Bachmann & Dr. Gregory Davies), located in Princeton, is introducing new technology related to an ultrasound-based MRI-quality medical imaging device. The benefits of such an innovation include higher accuracy cancer screening; improved patient experiences and outcomes, by reducing unnecessary follow-up procedures and misdiagnosis; and the provision of safer, non-ionizing, sedative-free imaging. With the NJSBDC Technology Commercialization Specialty Program’s assistance, the business received National Science Foundation (NSF) grant funding to advance its technology innovation.
  • VILLAGE BABIES DEVELOPMENT CENTER, LLC (Dana Kearney), located in South Orange, was established a few years ago with assistance from the NJSBDC at Rutgers-Newark. With NJSBDC’s support, the business received an EIDL and PPP loan to compensate for the business economic losses during the initial shutdown, helping VBDC maintain and re-hire employees. Dana used her medical knowledge (as a nurse) to provide a protective environment at the facility to address such COVID-19 challenges.

The NJSBDC network is looking forward to officially recognizing these successful client award winners at next year’s 18th Annual Small Business Growth Awards luncheon.

Here is the link to the complete original article by New Jersey Business Magazine:

https://njbmagazine.com/njb-news-now/njsbdc-announces-its-2020-annual-small-business-growth-client-award-winners/

NJSBDC Network Featured in roi-nj.com Article on Annual Small Business Growth Client Award Winners

The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers announced the winners of its 2020 Annual Small Business Growth Client Awards recently, honoring 13 companies around the state for their business achievements and perseverance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization, also known as America’s SBDC New Jersey, said in a news release that the traditional luncheon was canceled due to the pandemic, but it nevertheless recognized the businesses for their ability to pivot and forge ahead.

“America’s SBDC New Jersey congratulates our 2020 client success award winners for their accomplishments in weathering these great challenges and pivoting for recovery and future resiliency,” NJSBDC network CEO and State Director Kelly Brozyna said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to 2021 and all the opportunities and assistance NJSBDC hopes to provide our small business clients statewide to become even more resilient.”

This year’s honorees included:

  • Carousel of Learning Inc., day care center, Berlin;
  • Caven Point Car Center Inc., gas station and related entities, Jersey City;
  • DeBoer’s Auto, automotive technology, Hamburg;
  • Griffys Organics, functional nutrition services, Long Branch;
  • Horizon Engineering Consulting LLC, engineering consulting, Linwood;
  • Indigrill, restaurant, Ewing;
  • LBU Inc., tote bag manufacturer, Paterson;
  • Mama’s Southern Style BBQ 2 LLC, restaurant, Vauxhall/Union;
  • One Call Contracting LLC, contracting, Sadle Brook;
  • Organic Plant Care LLC, horticulture, Frenchtown;
  • Physical Features Salon and Spa, salon, Woodbridge;
  • Sonica Imaging, health care imaging, Princeton;
  • Village Babies Development Center LLC, health care, South Orange.

Here is the link to the complete original article by ROI-NJ:

https://www.roi-nj.com/2020/12/17/industry/njsbdc-honors-13-clients-for-success-overcoming-pandemic/

The Small Business Voice: October 2020

TheBottomLine

A ‘Gift’ for Small Businesses and the NJSBDC Program

By Deborah K. Smarth

Thanks to the Legislature and Murphy administration, NJSBDC’s state funding investment is back to where it was in FY 2018-2019. The FY 2020-2021 Appropriations Act, introduced and passed by the Legislature during the week of September 21, was approved by the Governor on September 29. 

Long-time legislative advocates of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers program, the chairs and vice-chairs of the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees, with additional members’ support, provided restored state funding for the NJSBDC network and the thousands of small business owners who receive personalized one-on-one counseling, training, and other forms of technical assistance from NJSBDC’s expert business advisors. The members of the budget committees sent a solid and resounding message in support of the NJSBDC program, recognizing its impact on small business recovery, health, stability and resiliency. 

The state investment is a key component towards SBDC’s dollar-for-dollar federal match requirement. The national network, America’s SBDC, receives resounding support each year through congressional appropriations for this jobs-producing, business-creating program. Congressional members fight hard each year to ensure that the national program receives stable or increased federal funding through the Small Business Administration (SBA).  

The Legislature took the lead again this year in supporting restored state funding for NJSBDC. At a time when small business owners are grasping for air, needing more guidance and assistance than ever before due to the pandemic, it just makes sense to invest in America’s number one resource provider in small business assistance services.

During the many phone conversations and additional communications with various state legislators including key leadership and staff members, the “gift” that fell back to the NJSBDC network is more than appreciated. Our accountability report on state fiscal year deliverables impact showed positive return on last year’s $250,000 allocation. During very long days working remotely since the inception of this pandemic, our network’s experts did everything they could to assist small business owners in 21 counties, ensuring that their dreams and hopes didn’t die. Network business advisors continue to assist small business clients now in recovery stages.

As the challenges of this pandemic took its toll, the sea of humanity took hold. We felt small business owners’ and entrepreneurs’ pain and our experts worked with them arduously to ensure maintenance and survival. Now, we’re looking to build small business recovery and resiliency.

Thanks to all of you for your ENCOURAGING SUPPORT at a time when it was needed most.

Deborah K. Smarth is Chief Operating Officer and Associate State Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network.

The Small Business Voice: October 2020

From the Desk of Kelly Brozyna,

State Director and Chief Executive Officer of America’s SBDC New Jersey

From Challenges to Recovery to Resiliency

I’m glad to join the NJSBDC network Senior Leadership Team as State Director and Chief Executive Officer, and relocate from Colorado, where I directed the Colorado Small Business Development Centers for many years.  I’m looking forward to engaging with NJSBDC’s regional centers and directors, partners, collaborators, host institutions, and of course the NJSBDC staff members who make the engine go every day throughout the year. 

So many small businesses and entrepreneurs suffered major setbacks due to the onslaught of the pandemic (COVID-19) over the past several months. Our offices were flooded with inquiries, questions, and urgent pleas for assistance and our regional offices, business advisors across the state have been working around the clock to facilitate and respond to the high volume of “HELP” calls. These small business owners included returning SBDC clients and new businesses never seen before. We helped them all to receive answers, apply for disaster assistance loans including PPP as well as grants and other financing at the state level. They received financing and funding as a result of our efforts and have been able to retain employees and navigate through these rough waters.

As we move ahead in these challenging times into small business recovery and future resiliency, the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers – also known as America’s SBDC New Jersey – will play a critical role in guiding and providing comprehensive assistance for small businesses in all 21 counties. That assistance will not only focus on the typical operational aspects, but, also all the key strategies and tools to cope with the challenges of the pandemic, including health and safety guidelines for business re-opening, re-tooling business operations, and ensuring that the companies are going in the right direction with re-invention and solid decisions based on cash flow and other factors. 

The NJSBDC Team cares and we’re here to assist the thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs who need our help.

Kelly Brozyna is Chief Executive Officer and State Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network. 

NJSBDC Network featured in nj.com article about the NJSBDC’s help for small businesses due to COVID-19 pandemic in the recovery stage

Image © Michael Mancuso

Since before the state got the first coronavirus crisis under control, health experts and government officials have been warning of a second wave. They weren’t exactly sure when it would come, but they were sure that it would.

It now appears to be on the cusp of arrival. This week saw three straight days in which New Jersey reported more than 900 new cases of the coronavirus, and for the first time in two months, there are more than 700 hospitalizations for COVID-19 on Thursday and Friday.

Even though a handful of hotspot counties — including Ocean and Monmouth — have captured attention recently, Gov. Phil Murphy said the increase is statewide.

“There is only one way to get these numbers back down to where they were only a few weeks ago, and that is by doing the basics — wearing a face mask, by social distancing, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water,” the governor said at a news briefing Thursday. “As the weather cools, these numbers are not going to change themselves. Only we can change them.”

As terrifying as the possibility of another major coronavirus crisis is — it’s hard not to think of April, when hundreds of people in the state were dying every day from COVID-19 — there are some reasons to believe New Jersey will fare better this time around.

The main reason: Preparation.

“I think the state has all the systems in place,” said Perry Halkitis, the dean of the Rutgers University School of Public Health. “The question is are people going to do what they’re supposed to do.

“We have a knowledge base of seven months. We should be in better shape this time than last time.”

Think about it like this: As the first wave was spreading unchecked in early March, hardly anyone had masks, the state had no plans for testing and contact tracing, people were still packing onto NJ Transit trains and attending sporting events.

All of that has changed, along with just about everything else in our lives.

Even the government’s planned response to a second wave is different. Rather than a statewide, crippling shutdown, like happened in the spring, Murphy hopes to be more surgical.

While the Murphy administration did not respond to requests for further comment on its planned response to the second wave, the governor has spoken recently about his hesitancy to reimpose broad restrictions.

“I sure as heck hope we don’t and I do not anticipate it,” Murphy said a couple of weeks ago during a virtual town hall on Facebook Live. “I will be profoundly saddened and I will say shocked if we have to shut the whole place down again. I just don’t see that.”

As the state braces for the second wave, there’s a lot of apprehension. Could hospitals be overwhelmed? Schools shuttered again? Already struggling businesses dealt that final blow that pushes them under? Here are what key officials and experts say they expect as the state’s preparations over the past several months are tested.

Hospitals

Last spring, New Jersey’s hospital system was strained nearly to a breaking point as a flood of coronavirus patients threatened to drown ICUs.

As the chief medical and quality officer for the massive RWJBarnabas Health network, Dr. John Bonamo lived through those days. He remembers one evening, when the network had to rush ventilators from one hospital to another, to meet a surge of severely sick patients.

Talk of a second wave brings fears of a return to that crisis. But Bonamo said the hospital system is prepared to meet any new threat.

“Most of us in the field really do not believe we will see what we did then,” Bonamo said.

As COVID-19 ripped through the state, New Jersey’s hospitals added more than 1,000 ICU beds, going from 1,861 pre-coronavirus, to 3,100 in April, according to the New Jersey Hospital Association. Currently, there are about 2,350 ICU beds in place, but hospitals have maintained the infrastructure to bring others back quickly if needed, the association says.

Hospitals say they have been stockpiling personal protective equipment and have gotten better at treating the coronavirus. They’ve learned how to quickly screen patients who have COVID-19 and to keep them separate from the rest of the hospital’s population, unlike in the early days of the outbreak, when those patients and staff were mixed together.

Murphy has also said the state has been stocking up on protective equipment and certain treatments for the virus.

Drugs like remdesivir, steroids and blood-thinner medications, meanwhile, have shown promise in reducing the disease’s worst impacts. That also compares to the spring, when doctors were trying all kinds of treatments that ultimately proved ineffective, Bonamo said.

“Back in March and April, we were dealing with a disease that we didn’t really understand,” Bonamo said. “We had not seen a virus at this level of contagion in over 100 years. So we were, of course, unprepared.”

At state-owned University Hospital in Newark, officials say they are also ready for a new surge, even if it proved worse than what was seen in April, when hospitalizations statewide topped out at 8,084 coronavirus patients and 82% of the state’s intensive care beds were filled.

“Taking lessons learned, I think we are in a really good position this time,” said Dennis Boos, University Hospital’s director of emergency management.

Still, many nurses on the frontlines across New Jersey remain worried that there won’t be enough staff or that stores of personal protective equipment aren’t sufficient, said Barbara Rosen, the first vice president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, which represents 14,000 health care workers.

During the height of the crisis, Rosen said, some nurses were forced to reuse masks for several days, hanging them on hooks when they left at the end of their shifts. While it has gotten better, “there still seems to be a supply issue throughout the state,” she said.

Kerry McKean Kelly, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association, said hospitals have spent the past several months rebuilding their stockpiles. They’ve beefed up their supply chains, which were reliant on overseas manufacturers, and have secured local vendors, she said.

RWJBarnabas Health, which includes 11 acute-care hospitals, has socked away three months worth of protective equipment at its central warehouse, Bonamo said. It has also put in orders with staffing companies to secure additional nurses, he said.

RWJBarnabas Health was treating 1,750 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals on April 13. At the time, New Jersey was announcing hundreds of coronavirus deaths each day, and the state was under a near lockdown.

Fast forward to Sept. 20, when RWJBarnabas recorded just 34 coronavirus patients, a low since the outbreak floored the state.

But those numbers have ticked back up again, and reached roughly 145 patients on Wednesday – a more than four-fold increase, but still far lower than before, Bonamo said.

Statewide, New Jersey’s 71 hospitals reported 728 coronavirus patients on Friday. That compares to much of September, when numbers were largely in the 400s.

Bonamo said that even so, the patient levels show that social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing has had an impact since the virus erupted.

“We hear constantly about people doing the wrong thing,” Bonamo said. “Yeah, they are out there and they are continuing, but so many people are doing the right thing.”

Schools

When school resumed this fall, public districts across New Jersey tried to walk a fine line between keeping their students and staff safe and offering the best education they could.

Some districts are all remote. Others are trying to make face-to-face instruction work. Many have embraced hybrid plans that combine the two by having some students learn virtually while others come to class.

A surge in coronavirus cases only makes that tightrope more difficult to balance, education experts said. With a second wave of the virus, they said, more districts will find themselves switching to virtual learning – though likely temporarily — as they respond to local or regional outbreaks by closing buildings.

That would produce new disruptions in education and prove difficult for working parents and those students most likely to be left behind with remote learning: those who live in poverty, have special needs or are learning the English language.

Education advocates say they expect closure decisions will be made district by district. Absent a crisis, they said they do not anticipate Murphy will issue the kind of sweeping statewide closure he imposed in March, though he might move to set regional limits if certain areas prove to be hotspots.

“Murphy has been really reluctant to make statewide decisions,” said Suzanne McCotter, the dean of The College of New Jersey’s education school. “He has really shown he wants to leave decisions to local control.”

That would continue the patchwork of responses that has already been seen since the new school year began, as districts close buildings temporarily — or delay reopening plans — after teachers or students test positive for the virus.

At least 16 New Jersey schools as of Thursday have confirmed coronavirus outbreaks in which students or teachers transmitted the disease to others in class or during extracurricular activities, according to the state. There were 58 cases linked to that spread.

Steve Baker, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, said some teachers remain concerned whether their districts can safely offer in-person instruction. As cases rise, districts should err on the side of safety, he said.

“If we were giving it a progress report, we’d say we see some examples of good effort, and plenty of room for improvement,” Baker said.

Still, districts are much better prepared today than in March, when virtual learning was thrust upon them seemingly overnight, said Chris Cerf, a former state education commissioner and superintendent of Newark Public Schools.

“Last spring, districts all over the country were scrambling,” Cerf said. “They’ve now had six months to plan and think ahead about various contingencies.”

Teachers, students and parents have all gotten better at remote learning, even if it isn’t ideal.

“The teachers are ready to go into virtual learning if they have to, the students as well,” said Betsy Ginsburg, the executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, which represents suburban districts across the state.

Richard Bozza, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said districts appear to have secured the protective equipment that was in such short supply months ago.

“I’m not hearing the same concerns that I heard in August or even September,” Bozza said.

October marks a month when some school districts that opened all-remote are slated to transition to face-to-face instruction. Some aren’t taking that chance.

Among those was Deptford Township School District in Gloucester County, which decided to delay its planned reopening by nearly a month. Under Deptford’s new calendar, hybrid instruction will now begin Oct. 27 for special needs students, and other students will be brought in starting Nov. 10 and Nov. 16.

The delay comes as other districts in Gloucester County have reopened more quickly, only to have to switch to remote learning after students or teachers tested positive for COVID-19, said Sal Randazzo, Deptford’s communications coordinator.

“We’re just trying to avoid contributing to the spread in general,” Randazzo said.

Already, the district has had its own brush with coronavirus. Late last month, a member of one of the high school’s sports teams tested positive, forcing that individual to quarantine and the team’s practices to be canceled for two weeks, said Randazzo.

On Wednesday, the state’s fourth largest school district announced it also will continue all-remote learning. In delaying a return to classrooms until at least Jan. 19, Paterson Public Schools cited other Passaic County schools that were forced to suspend in-person instruction because of outbreaks, and noted that COVID-19 cases are only expected to increase.

Restaurants and other businesses

Walking past restaurant windows and seeing diners inside still feels strange, considering New Jersey went months without indoor dining.

And despite the uptick in coronavirus cases recently, restaurant owners and industry groups are pushing Murphy to expand capacity, some as a lifeline.

Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said her members would like to see the regulations allow more than 50% capacity, up from the 25% currently permitted.

The governor said this week that he may increase restaurant capacity “sooner rather than later,” though he did not provide specifics. He also said that there does not appear to be evidence of coronavirus spreading from indoor dining.

“We think that responsibly, unless the roof falls in over the next number of days, we’re going to be able to get to a broader capacity there,” Murphy said.

New Jersey has been slower to lift restaurant restrictions than some neighboring states, and Murphy has been clear that if cases get out of control again, he will reimpose stricter measures.

Halvorsen said that until the governor acts, diners should expect more of what they’ve seen over the past couple of months: outdoor dining in tents, spaced-out tables inside and servers in masks.

But even the continuation of outdoor dining has raised questions in the state, particularly with cold weather on the horizon. The obvious solution is installing heaters in outdoor areas, something the state has endorsed. But Halvorsen said that some towns have pushed back on the heaters, further limiting options for restaurants.

Few businesses have faced as much pressure during the pandemic as restaurants, and any additional restrictions imposed because of the second wave could prove ruinous.

“It would be catastrophic,” Halvorsen said.

“We’re already looking in the neighborhood of 37% to 42% of restaurants either not reopening or closing by the end of the year as it is,” she added, citing a national figure for the restaurant industry.

Conditions for small businesses other than restaurants have improved in recent months, despite manifold challenges, said Deborah Smarth, associate state director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center.

Businesses that have been the most nimble, both in terms of moving sales online and adjusting their marketing strategies, have had the most success, she said. Smarth said her organization has helped small businesses in the state obtain coronavirus relief money and has put on webinars on how companies can survive the pandemic.

“Right now we’re in recovery. This is the initial stage of recovery,” Smarth said. “Things have gotten better, but there’s a lot more to do.”

She then threw in a huge caveat on her “cautious optimism” about business conditions. We expect to keep improving “unless there’s a major wave.”

The unknown

That’s the one big note of caution, experts underscore. The future is, after all, yet to be written and the breadth and strength of a second wave remains an unknown.

Pandemic fatigue is setting in, as is the colder weather — and with it, the holidays that draw people together. Epidemiologists stress the importance of wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines, but worry whether people will be willing to continue those small but vital precautions to limit the impact of the disease’s reemergence.

“Our destiny is in our hands. People should ask themselves, ‘Do I need to place myself or the people in my life at risk?’” said Halkitis, the dean of Rutgers’ School of Public Health. “The government can only do so much. At the end of the day, we’ve got to work with the government.”

This article originally appeared on msn.com:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/lifestyle-buzz/a-new-wave-of-coronavirus-is-coming-to-nj-heres-why-things-might-be-different-this-time-around/ar-BB1a8lVo

NJSBDC Network Featured in NJ Business Magazine Article on Helping Small Businesses during COVID-19

On July 10, 2020, New Jersey Business magazine featured the ceaseless, comprehensive efforts by the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC) network, the organization that is part of a national network which provides comprehensive assistance to small- and medium-sized firms, to help the state’s small businesses survive and even thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Deborah K. Smarth, chief operating officer and associate state director of America’s Small Business Development Centers, New Jersey (NJSBDC), was quoted as saying that she recalls the onslaught of businesspeople coming to the organization in desperate need. 

“I heard the stories of human toll,” Smarth observed. “People talking about their businesses that they started from scratch years ago, and the toll and the desperation in their voices: ‘Please help us, please help me,’ we heard it all.” 

New Jersey Business wrote that the sheer number of small businesses that were seeking any sort of assistance and guidance shortly after the onset of the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions to help stem its spread was staggering.

Smarth pointed out that during a typical federal fiscal year, in this case from October 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019, NJSBDC provided 5,083 business clients with one-on-one counselling. However, she continued, in just a two-month period from March to May this past spring NJSBDC engaged 2,830 clients in one-on-one counselling, which is about 27% more clients than in the same time period last year.

Additionally, from March 1 to May 5 of this year, NJSBDC completed approximately 4,570 counselling hours, or 31% more than the average year. 

“It was such an overwhelming tremendous impact on our network which is already very lean,” Smarth says. 

Vincent Vicari, regional director of NJSBDC at Ramapo College of New Jersey, was quoted in the article that NJSBDC “is a place that aligns with the human touch of business. The phone calls we received were the hands of the entrepreneur reaching up and saying, ‘Pull me out of this. What is out there that I can stand on?’ [In order to reopen, these businesses must] have a succinct strategy with plans that work for them.”

Vicari added that the NJSBDC is a resource to help companies transform their business plans to be successful on the road to reopening, and as they eventually enter into a stage of resiliency.

Smarth also indicated that no one has total control over the economic outcome that will unfold in the future, but NJSBDC can help mitigate the unexpected risk for business operations through customized one-on-one counselling for each individual business, and helping businesses navigate various loan applications, such as the Economic Injury Disaster Assistance Loan or the Paycheck Protection Program, for example.

“We can give businesses all the guidance in the world, but ultimately the consumers drive the economy. Therefore the economic security of individuals is very important in driving this recovery,” Smarth said.

Here is the link to the complete original article by Jim Pytell, assistant editor, as it appeared in the July 10, 2020, edition of New Jersey Business magazine:

https://njbmagazine.com/monthly-articles/njsbdc-sees-the-humanity-of-small-businesses-throughout-covid-19-pandemic/

NJBIZ Picks Vince Vicari, RD of Ramapo NJSBDC, for ICON Award

MAHWAH, NJ – Vincent J. Vicari, regional director of the New Jersey Small Business Development (NJSNDC) center here at Ramapo College of New Jersey and a mainstay of the small business community in northern Garden State has been selected to receive the prestigious ICON award by NJBIZ.

Ed Petkus, dean of Ramapo College’s Anisfield School of Business, said, “This recognition is extremely well-deserved. Vince has been working tirelessly during the pandemic, assisting small businesses in their efforts to weather the crisis.”

The NJBIZ ICON Awards recognize New Jersey business leaders over the age of 60 for their notable success and demonstration of strong leadership both within and outside of their chosen field. Honorees will be recognized during an official virtual presentation on Tuesday, August 18.

“Receiving statewide recognition for the value provided to the community is much appreciated.  But the real honor is to be able to represent Ramapo College and the New Jersey Small Business Development Center Network on such a prestigious platform,” Vicari said. “Prior to and now during this pandemic, the SBDC provides small business assistance to our community and is second to no other resource in the public sector. We are proud to be hosted at RCNJ, ecstatic that our SBDC intern program is riding high, and humbled to be included for this award alongside such a prestigious lineup of awardees.”

Deborah K. Smarth, chief operating officer and associate state director of the NJSBDC, observed that “Vincent’s skills and hands-on guidance are a godsend during these difficult times when we’ve seen an onslaught of people coming to the NJSBDC in deepest need.”

Smarth added that “while no one has total control over the economic outcome that will unfold in the future, the NJSBDC and Regional Directors like Vincent can help mitigate the risk for business operations through customized one-on-one counseling and helping businesses navigate various loan applications, such as the Economic Injury Disaster Assistance Loan or the Paycheck Protection Program.” 

Vince Vicari is known for his business acumen, and exemplary, strong and dedicated efforts in assisting small business owners and entrepreneurs. Regardless if they are experiencing start-up difficulties, temporary financial troubles or the aftermath of natural calamities, he provides quality, hands-on support for business clients, delivers specialized assistance to them, and ultimately leads small business owners to the path of profitability. His door is never closed to any businessman and woman who needs his help, guidance and advice.

In line with that, Vince shines as a supporter of diversity, inclusion and new Americans. He often holds seminars that help immigrant, Hispanic and Afro-American entrepreneurs launch their dreams of opening a business in Bergen County. Vince has organized seminars to teach millennials the hands-on aspects of running a profitable company. He is also on the forefront of bringing the sustainability message to new and established businesses. His recent daylong seminar on how veterans can get involved in government procurement was a resounding success.

At the Small Business Growth Success Awards Luncheon in December 2017, Vincent was recognized with the NJSBDC’s highest award, the State Star Award, for his outstanding services to the network and small businesses, as well as his remarkable character and exceptional determination. Indeed, he’s always available to talk with New Jersey small businesses owners and ready to listen and solve their problems.

The New Jersey Senate and General Assembly also cited the Center at Ramapo College under Vincent Vicari’s leadership for the stellar services provided to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Click here to read the original announcement about the 2020 NJBIZ ICON Awards

Click here to read the Ramapo College press release about the 2020 NJBIZ ICON Awards

Click here to listen to a clip about NJBIZ ICON Honors Awards Program 2020

The Small Business Voice: April 2020

The Small Business Voice April 2020

America’s SBDC: Creating New Businesses, Generating Jobs, Returning Revenues

To Federal / State Government & Providing Economic Injury Disaster Assistance Now

By Deborah K. Smarth

The NJSBDC network helps its clients create and save thousands of jobs each year. While in Washington, D.C. for meetings with members of our state congressional delegation during the week of February 10th, one thing was clear. The New Jersey congressional delegation members understand the impact our 12-center state network has on the regional and state economy. They also understand the impact of our national network of SBDCs, America’s SBDC. That is why they fight hard to ensure that the national program receives stable or increased federal funding every federal fiscal year, so that New Jersey’s small businesses and entrepreneurs receive comprehensive assistance from the NJSBDC statewide program serving business owners in all 21 counties. The enacted stimulus package enhances support for the small business sector now.

America’s SBDC is the nation’s largest, proven, cost-effective small business assistance network in the United States and its territories, serving businesses for 40 years. New Jersey’s SBDC was one of the first pilot projects in the nation, headquartered at Rutgers Business School, serving the small business sector for 42 years. The Legislature has provided solid support for this program, historically. Now, in this era, our SBDC network experts are there to assist business owners during this time of crisis. The latest available national ROI report (Fiscal Year 2018) of America’s SBDC reveals tremendous impact. The following report data for SBDC long-term clients nationally (receiving five or more hours of counseling) indicates:

  • $5.6 billion in financing was facilitated; 
  • For every federal dollar, $2.16 was returned in federal revenue; $2.81 returned in state revenue; and $45.47 returned in new capital;
  • $267 million in federal revenues was generated while $346 million was generated in state revenues;
  • 99,194 jobs were created and job growth for the average SBDC long-term client stood at 17.7% as compared to 1.5% for the national average;
  • 66.7% of pre-venture SBDC in-depth clients start new businesses; between 2017 and 2018, 16,499 new businesses were started by long-term clients.
  • $7 billion in new sales were generated; annual sales growth for the average SBDC client stood at 18% compared to 5.6% for the national average.

According to MIS data, for State Fiscal Year 2018-2019 (July 1, 2018- June 30, 2019), New Jersey’s SBDC:

  • Provided customized one-on-one counseling for 4,727 clients, delivering 23,635 total counseling hours; 966 clients started a new business; 60% of all clients were established businesses; sponsored 491 training sessions statewide with 7,098 attendees;
  • Facilitated $98 million in total financing for clients; helped clients create and save more than 15,000 jobs.

Due to strong infrastructure, higher education institution partnerships, and diverse business experts in the nation, the SBDC helps small businesses think BIG!  And, we return “BIG IMPACT!” We are now on the ground assisting small businesses during these challenging times.

Deborah K. Smarth is Chief Operating Officer and Associate State Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network

The Small Business Voice: April 2020

The Small Business Voice April 2020

Dear New Jersey Small Business Owners

By Brenda Hopper

It’s official! I have made a decision to consciously uncouple from the NJSBDC.  Please accept this letter as an official notification of my impending retirement from Rutgers Business School, Rutgers University, as CEO and State Director of America’s SBDC – New Jersey (NJSBDC) effective April 1, 2020. 

It has been an amazing 29-plus-year journey. My time as State Director has been professionally and personally rewarding.  If my assistance, in any way, helped to fulfill an entrepreneur’s dream of small business ownership or growth; then it was well worth the ride. I want to thank you the small business community for your tenacity and dedication to providing needed goods and services to the New Jersey community and becoming successful small business owners. Through hard work and commitment to our mission, the NJSBDC provided me the opportunity to grow and expand the network from six (6) regional centers to twelve (12) centers and more than twenty (20) affiliate offices.  Through the years, I’ve met thousands of small business owners and success award winners, public and private stakeholders; statewide and in Washington and I thank you for the opportunity to serve.    

Special thanks to Deb Smarth, COO/associate state director and the entire NJSBDC network staff and some of the old timers that started the journey with me. I would also like to introduce the new Interim State Director, Leon Fraser, Assistant Professor, Rutgers Business School.  I ask that you continue to provide your support so that we may secure the organization’s sustainability for another 29-plus-years.   

I have fond memories of so many small business owners, success award winners, and individuals I met along the way.  The NJSBDC network has always been an organization that focused on you the small business owner first; This will continue!  It’s been quite a ride for me at the Rutgers Business School and NJSBDC; first as a student, then alumna, then staff member and now as a retiree and entrepreneur.  Better yet, now I will be a NJSBDC client too!   

As one of the eight pilot programs that started the SBDC national program over 40 years ago, I wish the NJSBDC and you continued success and great accomplishments.  Again, thanks for the ride and your support; it was quite enjoyable!

Brenda B. Hopper is former Chief Executive Officer and State Director of America’s Small Business Development Centers — New Jersey Network

NJSBDC Network featured in roi-nj.com article about the NJSBDC’s assistance for small businesses impacted by COVID-19

The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers network announced on Tuesday it has been providing resources to businesses on the front lines in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties amid the coronavirus health and public safety crisis.

NJSBDC, which has 12 regional centers providing assistance to small businesses, said the volume of calls its been receiving over the past few weeks has increase substantially as businesses are closing and laying off workers due to economic impact of the virus.

Vincent Vicari, regional center director for Bergen County, talked of what center offers.

“Small businesses need a lot of counseling, especially with loan and grant applications right now,” Vicari said. “The phones are ringing off the hook and our center helps assess each small business case to provide the best solutions for financing and other turnaround strategies at this time.”

The network, which has been serving small businesses for 42 years, provides up to 1 million entrepreneurs and small businesses with one-on-one management consulting, training and technical assistance.

“While we typically focus on helping New Jersey small business grow, our mission now in this national crisis is response, recovery and resilience,” Leon Fraser, NJSBDC interim CEO/state director, said.

The SBDC also assists small business owners in applying for various U.S. Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans. The program also aids state agencies, like the New Jersey Business Action Center and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

“Our state partners, legislators, and Governor’s Office were informed about the swell of business inquiries,” Deborah Smarth, chief operating officer, associate state director, said. “We see the human toll as a result of this crisis and we’re assisting the best we can.”

Here is the link to the complete original article by Emily Bader of roi-nj.com:

https://www.roi-nj.com/2020/04/08/finance/njsbdc-assists-businesses-impacted-by-covid-19/

America’s SBDC New Jersey Participates in Small Business Saturday Events

America’s SBDC New Jersey Participates in Small Business Saturday Events

Regional Small Business Development Centers Visit Small Businesses, Promoting SBDC Services and Clients’ success as well as Shop Small

 

Small Business Saturday events started early this week. The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers network, known as America’s SBDC New Jersey, launched its activities early in the week, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday and throughout the week through Nov. 30.

Small Business Saturday is an initiative started in the midst of the last national recession. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, encouraging people to Shop Small helps bring more holiday shopping to small businesses, the backbone of the economy. America’s SBDC New Jersey is supporting this initiative by visiting its small business clients, sponsoring tours of other small businesses in local downtown business districts, and collaborating with local and regional business and economic development partners.

On Nov. 25, the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at New Jersey City University (serving Hudson County) celebrated the “Shop Small” initiative by visiting with and interviewing a growing client of the Center. Accomplished film producer, Khoa Le of KVibe Productions, engaged with the Center’s consultants/staff, livestreaming information about SBDC services and the benefits of the small business assistance program via Instagram Monday morning, Nov. 25.

On Nov. 26, the NJSBDC at Stockton University kicked off a rally at Stockton’s Kramer Hall Instructional Site in Hammonton for Small Business Saturday. Stockton University, the NJSBDC at Stockton and its small business clients as well as the Hammonton Chamber of Commerce are promoting the initiative. The Stockton SBDC provided information about its services for other businesses wishing to tap its services and assistance.

The New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Ramapo College of New Jersey is conducting a visit to three of its clients’ business sites in Bergen County on Nov. 30, in connection with Small Business Saturday; they include HomeWatch Caregivers in Teaneck; Amaral Motors in Lyndhurst, and Slattery Car Service in Waldwick. The tour of local businesses will be promoted on social media.

The New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Rutgers-New Brunswick will be represented at Small Business Saturday activities in Metuchen on Nov. 30, to meet and greet its small business clients as well as additional small businesses in the town informing them of SBDC’s services. The Center is collaborating with the Metuchen Downtown Alliance and the local Metuchen Chamber of Commerce. The SBDC serving Middlesex County will stop by Café Song on Pearl Street for a drop-in breakfast, brief introductions and meetings with small business participants.

“Visiting our centers’ clients and finding out new aspects about their business operations are important barometers of our services’ impact on their development and growth,” said Brenda Hopper, NJSBDC network chief executive officer and state director. “Promoting our clients services and products in connection with Small Business Saturday is a great way of celebrating their success.”

The Small Business Saturday initiative was started a few years ago to bolster and market the products and services of small businesses and mom-and-pop shops, especially at the holiday season. The SBA and NJ Small Business Development Centers network promote visits to local small businesses and Main Street shops.

“Throughout the year our network’s experts help support and assist small businesses in all 21 counties,” said Deborah Smarth, NJSBDC network chief operating officer and associate state director. “This kind of outreach and promotion of small business products and services on Small Business Saturday is a great way of showing our appreciation for their presence in the marketplace and their contributions to the economy.”

The Small Business Voice: October 2019

The Small Business Voice: October 2019
New Jersey Small Business Community Continues to Grow
By Brenda Hopper

I am proud to announce that America’s SBDC – New Jersey had a successful 2019 so far! The New Jersey
small business community continues to grow thanks to the strength of our time-honored businesses, the
development of hi-tech labs, community engagement and a growing diverse population. 

For the first half of 2019, 12 Regional Centers counseled and trained more than 6,800 small business
owners and individuals, delivering some 7,000 total counseling hours.

During the first six months of 2019, the NJSBDC network helped its clients obtain approximately $50
million in financing. During the same time period, NJSBDC clients saved and created more than 15,000
jobs.

NJSBDC staff attended the 39th Annual America’s SBDC Conference held on September 3-6, 2019, in
Long Beach, CA. The theme of this year’s conference was “Exchange & Experience.” The attendees
exchanged their knowledge, skills and experiences within an enormous world of small business via
trade show exhibitors, the latest information on products and services, as well as networking with
colleagues from around the country that can ensure the success of their small business clients.

Our regional directors and professional staff brought back from the Conference valuable information
and a wealth of shared best practices. These exchanges and experiences will help us to develop new
programs and services and to adequately address today’s small business needs and incorporate this
shared knowledge into the work of our unique New Jersey economy, small businesses and their clients.

As always, we appreciate the support of our clients, stakeholders, partners, advisors, academic
sponsors, and staff. Thank you for your continued support of our program! We look forward to many
more years of providing no-cost, professional business advice to entrepreneurs and small business
owners throughout New Jersey!

Brenda B. Hopper is the Chief Executive Officer and State Director of America’s Small Business
Development Centers — New Jersey Network

The Small Business Voice: October 2019

The Small Business Voice: October 2019
The Bottom Line: Small Business Assistance and Entrepreneurship Should be Front and Center
By Deborah K. Smarth

There are always “winners” and “losers” in any State Budget. Policy decisions should be fair and
equitable based on metrics and impact; that’s good! Decisions should be made with the whole picture
that reflects reality, a comprehensive vantage point, not parts or pieces that may be flawed.

The Governor has continually talked about how small business is so important to the State and that
entrepreneurship, technology innovation, etc. are the key to New Jersey’s future. Yet, this enacted State
Budget didn’t entirely reach that worthy objective.

The Small Business Development Centers, America’s SBDC New Jersey, has been around for 41 years —
with more than half of them –as an official partner of the State. SBDC is not just another “partner.” As
part of a national network of SBDCs, the national program returns dollars to each state’s SBDC based on
population; it has strong support in Congress through annual appropriations and private sector support
as well as state government investment to match federal Small Business Administration funding in order
to drawdown a state’s SBDC fair share; it has wide infrastructure and intellectual capacity as it is
required to be hosted by higher education institutions, leveraging faculty/student collaborations with
small business clients and receiving in-kind/indirect support (e.g. offices, etc.). New Jersey’s 12 regional
SBDC offices serve small business owners and entrepreneurs in all 21 counties. Thousands of businesses
are assisted each year resulting in new and retained jobs, increased sales, returned business taxes and
sales tax revenues to New Jersey’s Treasury. In fact, according to national data, small businesses assisted
under this program had an average 14.8% rate of job growth as compared to the national average of
1.8% for businesses not receiving SBDC assistance.

Unfortunately, the gains made in NJSBDC’s funding level in the parting acts of Governor Christie and Lt.
Governor Guadagno (as head of the New Jersey State Department) – with the leadership and assistance
of Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature – which doubled funding to where it was many, many
years ago was sustained for only a short time under the new Murphy administration.

The state budget (enacted Appropriations Act) should have treated small business owners and
entrepreneurs a lot better. After all, when small businesses grow, so too do new and saved jobs,
company sales revenues, state business tax revenues, etc. The economy is supported all the way
around!

While the SBDC’s funding is down for now, the NJSBDC network is hoping that the Governor and
Legislature will collaborate to find stable funding somewhere in that $38-plus billion state budget so it
can be appropriately utilized for such impactful resources. Change should be on the horizon and Small
Businesses AND Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be left behind anymore.

Deborah K. Smarth is Chief Operating Officer and Associate State Director of the New Jersey Small
Business Development Centers Network

The Small Business Voice: February 2019

The Small Business Voice; February 2019
TheBottomLine
Support for Small Business Must be Full Circle

America’s SBDC New Jersey, also known as the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC), has assisted small businesses and entrepreneurs in all 21 counties for 40 years. As one of the first pilot projects of the national SBDC program, established by Congress, the program has helped its clients create and save thousands and thousands of jobs and new business starts each year.
The Legislature receives annual accountability reports on NJSBDC program impact metrics; interim communications through its magazine and newsletter issues about new initiatives, developments, and program direction including the testimonials of successful clients who have been assisted. And, each new gubernatorial administration that gets elected hears directly from our Headquarters; clients share their own success stories to provide examples of how the program helps small business owners succeed and grow.
In June 2018, the Legislature incorporated budget language to restore a state funding increase to drive up state investment in SBDC small business assistance. While still not at the $1 million mark, where it once stood about a decade ago, the NJSBDC network and the clients it has served over the years are grateful for continued legislative support. While it’s taken a while to grease the wheels and power the engine, Assembly and Senate Legislative Leaders, Budget Committee Chairs/Vice-Chairs and Ranking Members have made their strong support known over the years.
While the NJ Business Action Center (NJBAC) is the official partner of NJSBDC, the Legislature has been the driving force behind New Jersey’s investment in small business assistance through the NJSBDC program.
Hopefully, the NJBAC’s collaboration with the Governor’s office, the NJSBDC network, and the Legislature can ensure that New Jersey’s investment catches up incrementally to where it once was a decade ago. According to the national association for America’s SBDC – with state SBDC networks in all 50 states – the average state investment in SBDCs nationally is $1.2 million.
Governor Murphy will be proposing a state budget in March, and small business owners are counting on continued progress concerning NJSBDC’s funding allocation. The NJSBDC network and the thousands of clients we serve look forward to another year of legislative, gubernatorial, and executive agency support for small business comprehensive assistance, which leads to new businesses, expanded businesses, and created and saved jobs – something which the economy needs more than ever.

Deborah K. Smarth is Chief Operating Officer and Associate State Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network.

The Small Business Voice: October 2018

The Small Business Voice; October 2018
TheBottomLine
Where Would We Be?
NJ Congressional Delegation, the State Legislature and Governor’s Support
Are Essential for Small Business Growth

America’s SBDC New Jersey, which is part of a national network America’s SBDC located in all 50 states, assists small business owners in all 21 counties. According to America’s SBDC, small businesses assisted by SBDCs had an average 14.8% rate of job growth as compared with the national average of 1.8% for businesses not receiving SBDC assistance.
It starts at the local office of an SBDC. The soon-to-be entrepreneur receives advice and guidance from our business experts on how to start his or her business. An existing business hits a bump in the road and its owner/operator comes to us to help in navigating the challenge. The established business has an idea for a new market niche and needs financing to accomplish the objective. Enter the business experts from our NJSBDC network. These actions translate into new businesses, growing businesses, and jobs for our small business clients.
Without the support of Congress – and our own NJ state congressional delegation; without the support and advocacy of our State Legislature – led by some stellar supporters; and without the support and agreement of the governor and lieutenant governor, the NJSBDC network would not have all the resources it needs to do the job it does for small businesses across New Jersey. Leveraged state funds with federal funding and additional private sector support add up to an abundant amount of diverse resources, providing comprehensive assistance for small businesses in New Jersey.
Once more, the Legislature came through with its funding support and recognition of the NJSBDC program during this budget cycle. And the Murphy Administration joined the Legislature in restoring state funding for a program with a good return on investment.
Thanks to the Assembly and Senate Budget Committee members and leaders from both parties for advancing the cause of small business ownership and entrepreneurship. Good occurrences like these outcomes just don’t happen on their own!
Our network’s SBDC accountability reports matter. We’re glad our legislative leaders and advocates take the time to review, listen and absorb the program’s impact on business owners’ lives and the effects on the state’s business climate and small business growth.
On behalf of the entire NJSBDC network and the small businesses we assist, Thank You for another uplifting moment during this FY 2018-19 budget cycle. And, we look forward to our continued collaboration. We’re optimistic that New Jersey’s investment in the program will soon match the national average. New Jersey’s small businesses deserve it!

Deborah K. Smarth is Chief Operating Officer and Associate State Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network.

The Small Business Voice: May 2018

The Small Business Voice; May 2018
TheBottomLine
An Observation that Resonates! Do the Right Thing Against

Sometimes it pays to go back in history.
At a March 18, 2015, Assembly budget hearing, former Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, made a remarkable observation. It was the subject of a NJSBDC magazine issue column of 2015. At the hearing, then Chairman Schaer seemed to be amazed that despite NJSBDC’s “BIG” impact and a wealth of client success stories, the state’s investment remains stable only. So, he rightfully observed and questioned “Why?” How can an organization with this kind of impact, and with legislative efforts being made each year to restore increased funding, not make its way into the final state budget for a restored increase? Well, Chairman Schaer’s poignant way of raising that question actually stirred our clients and network’s thinking. After all, how could something so rational not translate into a real state funding restored increase? Well, that year the final state budget restored increased funding from $250,000 to $500,000! But, that’s where it was during the Florio years.
Schaer’s observations still resonate. We’re hoping that the new Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, and longtime Vice-Chairman John Burzichelli, remember Schaer’s insights when they and other Committee members start to formulate this year’s budget legislation.
We have a new Governor who seems supportive of small business. And, so, it is the year in which both the Legislature and the Murphy Administration should do the right thing. Restore state funding to where it was a decade ago, before former Governor Jon Corzine reduced NJSBDC’s $1 million allocation to $250,000 where it was maintained by the Christie administration until June 2015, when the Legislature allocated $500,000. Following the lead of the Legislature, in his last proposed budget, Christie finally proposed $500,000. Governor Murphy’s proposed budget maintains NJSBDC’s allocation at that level.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Senator Paul Sarlo, a longtime advocate of America’s SBDC New Jersey, and former Assembly Budget Chairman Assemblyman Gary Schaer led the charge to restore state funding for this program in 2015. Other Budget Committee members from both parties joined like Assemblymen Gordon Johnson, Raj Mukherji, John Burzichelli, Benjie Wimberly, Troy Singleton (now Senator), Declan O’Scanlon (now Senator), John DiMaio, Anthony Bucco, Jr., Vice-Budget Committee Chairman Senator Brian Stack, Senators Linda Greenstein, Sandra Cunningham, Anthony Bucco, Steve Oroho, Sam Thompson, etc. Fifty percent of the Legislature’s members had signed on as sponsors/co-sponsors of a budget resolution calling for a restored increase.
Why should New Jersey’s investment pale in terms of other states’ investments in SBDC? With similar populations, North Carolina invests $2 million and Georgia invests $3 million in its SBDC. Connecticut, with a population less than half of New Jersey’s population, invests $1.3 million.
A recent 2017 survey of state SBDCs indicates that the average state investment nationally in SBDC programs is $1.252 million. Can’t New Jersey’s Legislature and Governor restore state funding to where it was a decade ago? If business expansion, new business start-ups, jobs, and economic growth are such high priorities, then, restoring $1 million for NJSBDC should be easy. If not this year, when?
Small business owners pay their fair share of taxes, so the services they receive back through this program are pre-paid by them. If small business owners and start-ups had to pay for-profit accounting, public relations and marketing firms for these types of services, it would be cost prohibitive!
The request for a restored increase isn’t asking for new, additional tax dollars; just reallocate existing budgetary dollars to a high return on investment (ROI) program. For every $1 invested, more than $2 are returned, according to an independent study of the program.
NJSBDC is a business and jobs producer! A recent past study shows our network’s cost per created and retained job is way less ($1,150/$1,204) than the past, average cost associated with jobs created and retained under the state’s business grant incentives program aimed at larger companies, estimated at $22,044 per job.
The Legislature has always been the mainstay for the thousands of small business owners this program assists. Now, our thousands of small business clients look for your leadership again.
This year is the year to DO THE RIGHT THING, AGAIN.

Deborah K. Smarth is Chief Operating Officer and Associate State Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network.

The Small Business Voice: Winter-Spring 2018

The Small Business Voice; Winter-Spring 2018
TheBottomLine
Murphy Administration Takes Office During
40th Anniversary of America’s SBDC New Jersey

Quite auspiciously, Governor Phil Murphy launches his new administration in the same year that America’s SBDC New Jersey celebrates its 40th anniversary of assisting small business owners and entrepreneurs in all 21 counties. Since its inception, 40 years ago, thousands and thousands of new businesses and existing businesses as well as thousands and thousands of jobs have been generated as a result of the comprehensive consultative business services of the SBDC program.
Over the past 13 years, the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers program has developed strong relationships at the State House, providing annual and interim accountability reports to members of the Legislature, the governor and lieutenant governor, key staff members within the Governor’s Office, the NJ Business Action Center (BAC), and the State Treasurer. This program’s strong track record of helping entrepreneurs to start businesses, assisting established businesses to further grow, and helping its small business clients facilitate the creation and retention of jobs statewide is something for which the organization is solidly known.
In addition to congratulating Gov. Murphy, America’s SBDC New Jersey also congratulates incoming Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver and State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio. Former Assembly Speaker Oliver and Assembly Budget Committee Member Muoio have been avid supporters of the NJSBDC program.
In 2008, when Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver received the NJSBDC Small Business Advocate Award at its annual Small Business Growth Awards Luncheon, she was quoted as saying:
“For 30 years, the NJSBDC has been unwavering in its commitment to assist New Jerseyans seeking to fulfill the dream of entrepreneurship and business development. Its technical expertise, guidance and moral support, has made a demonstrable difference to the business climate in New Jersey, and broadening economic opportunity for those who traditionally have been shut out of the economic mainstream of our State. Your dedication and tenacity in continuing to fight hard for often scarce dollars from the State have endeared you to countless business owners and legislators!”
In 2016, then Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio received NJSBDC’s honorary legislative acknowledgement along with a few state legislators. She supported a restored increase in state funding for the program as a member of the Assembly Budget Committee. As an economic development and elected official in Mercer County, she worked closely with one of the 12 SBDC offices statewide, the SBDC at The College of New Jersey. She saw firsthand and up front that the SBDC program is boots on the ground for economic development, offering strong small business support and comprehensive assistance for small business in local communities.
NJSBDC looks forward to tight mutually beneficial cooperation with the Murphy administration. Growing the middle class, promoting and assisting with small business ownership and growth, and generating jobs are top priorities. This federal-state-educational partnership has even greater significance during the 40th anniversary of America’s SBDC New Jersey.
We have high expectations for 2018!

Deborah K. Smarth is Chief Operating Officer and Associate State Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network.

The Small Business Voice: February 2019

The Small Business Voice; February 2019
Brenda’s Letter
Small Business Is ‘Big’ Business in New Jersey

In 2018, America’s SBDC – New Jersey (NJSBDC) celebrated 40 years of generating economic impact and opportunities for growth statewide. The network provided comprehensive counseling and technical assistance to existing businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Our network of 12 regional centers has maximized business opportunities for growth and sustainability through one-on-one counseling, training, innovative business technologies and strategies to thousands of small business owners and entrepreneurs. As we look back at our accomplishments we are proud to have become New Jersey’s premier small business resource entity. Four decades of service has linked us to thousands of new and existing small businesses, promoted the creation and retention of thousands of jobs, and served as an advocate for successful entrepreneurship. As a result, this has contributed to the improvement of the state’s economy.
Our 2018 impact says it all! The preliminary impact data indicate that 640 NJSBDC clients started a new business, NJSBDC advisors helped our small business clients create and save more than 14,000 jobs statewide and facilitated $118.4 million in total financing (loans & equity). The Centers counseled one-on-one 4,202 clients and delivered 18,884 total counseling hours. We sponsored 453 training sessions on various business topics with 6,650 attendees statewide. Earning the respect and trust of our clients is important and I appreciate the hard work and dedication of our network in achieving this success. As you see in this edition of The Small Business Voice, 15 small businesses that benefited from NJSBDC counseling, were recognized at the annual success awards luncheon for their accomplishments and solid partnerships with the network.
Small business is “big” business in the state as these companies bring vital goods and services to New Jersey residents. The future will bring new technology, new innovations, new needs and new opportunities for small businesses. Moving into 2019 and a new decade, the NJSBDC and I look forward to new challenges as small businesses continue to rely on our business assistance.
Madame C.J. Walker, the first African American millionaire entrepreneur remarked, “I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” The NJSBDC network helps small businesses “get up and make the opportunities.”
Congratulations to the NJSBDC clients, staff, stakeholders and supporters for their contributions to our success. Together we can continue our legacy of excellence!

Brenda B. Hopper is the Chief Executive Officer and State Director of America’s Small Business Development Centers — New Jersey Network.

The Small Business Voice: October 2018

The Small Business Voice; October 2018
Brenda’s Letter
Making Bigger Plans For the New Year

As we near the end of the year, we think about “big” plans for the following year. With the business experts of the NJSBDC network, exciting developments are on the horizon for 2019.
Whether it’s international trade, e-business, technology commercialization, procurement opportunities, sustainability practices or the regular abc’s of business planning, cash flow analysis, strategic pricing, marketing strategies, and more, AMERICA’S SBDC NEW JERSEY is here to support small business owners and entrepreneurs in all 21 counties.
Of particular importance is that segment of “established/existing businesses” that have sales of $1 million or more and/or have 10 or more employees. NJSBDC has a program aimed at that business market’s growth. The B-GAP initiative provides the guidance and resources to achieve those successes also
Whether it’s the entrepreneur who has this great idea for a business, or an existing business in various stages of operation, the NJSBDC network is here to assist and serve you. So, take advantage of the diverse sources of knowledge, management consulting and comprehensive support we can provide you.
In 2019, we anticipate bigger things for bigger ideas and businesses!

Brenda B. Hopper is the Chief Executive Officer and State Director of America’s Small Business Development Centers — New Jersey Network.

The Small Business Voice: May 2018

The Small Business Voice; May 2018
Brenda’s Letter
Reaching Expectations And Going Beyond

Expectations were more than met in 2017 with our NJSBDC network helping clients create and save more than 14,500 jobs and helping them access $126.8 million in equity and loan financing. Beyond those strides, 630 of our SBDC clients started new businesses. Sixty percent of all of our clients in all 21 counties were established and existing businesses in all stages of growth. Our 12 centers, with their expert business practitioners, delivered more than 21,000 service hours – including one-on-one management consulting and training in every business topic imaginable. We have a large footprint, counseling and training thousands of small business owners each year.
So, NJSBDC is on the move and we expect to blaze a trail, achieving another high impact year in 2018. With the Legislature’s funding support and the Governor’s commitment to small business, we expect to have the proper level of resources so we can best match the federal funding that comes back to New Jersey on the basis of population. Our congressional delegation has supported annual congressional appropriations for the program that is then channeled to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to be allocated to SBDCs nationally. That enables us to provide the comprehensive assistance small businesses deserve. We deliver services for the taxes these small business owners pay to our state. They deserve even more!
Our 12 centers and the network’s specialty programs such as International Trade, Procurement, Technology Commercialization, E-Business, and Sustainability are assisting clients throughout the year to increase their sales and attain fiscal health and success. The services of our network empower our small business clients to develop and grow in domestic and international markets as well as obtain federal, state and commercial procurement contracts. We also provide very specialized services for firms and start-ups in the science-technology sectors to help them commercialize their technology and products in various fields.
We thank our funding partners and collaborators including PSEG, Bank of America, PNC Bank, Eisner Amper LLC, City National Bank, Peapack-Gladstone Bank, NJIT, UPS and all of our Educational Host Institutions that provide brick and mortar and support for our small business assistance services in their regions.
This program, part of the national America’s SBDC, has amazing opportunities as we move ahead. We look forward to working with all of you to maximize resources for the small businesses and entrepreneurs around the State.

Brenda B. Hopper is the Chief Executive Officer and State Director of America’s Small Business Development Centers — New Jersey Network.

The Small Business Voice: Winter-Spring 2018

The Small Business Voice; Winter-Spring 2018
Brenda’s Letter
High Expectations for 2018

The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC) network closed out 2017 on a high note. While our official 2017 statistics will not be issued and certified until mid-February, our preliminary system statistics show that our program helped our small business clients create and save more than 16,000 jobs and facilitated more than $104 million in financing last year. More than 560 SBDC clients created new businesses. It was another banner year and we are thankful to all of our network’s experts – who come from business ownership experience and private sector management – in driving these outcomes to assist our small business clients in all 21 counties.
What can we expect in 2018? We think our network will meet or exceed these 2017 statistics. The eventual outcomes will, however, depend on the level of resources from the Small Business Administration, State Government, and our private sector sponsors and grants. All these resources help drive up capacity to deliver assistance and resources to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Increased resource capacity translates into greater outcomes for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
With a new gubernatorial administration taking office, we look forward to our collaboration to ensure that the small business community is strengthened, strongly armed with knowledge, and ready to succeed in developing and growing to ensure that New Jersey residents gain employment and other existing New Jersey businesses buy and sell products and services from and to each other.
We look forward to another banner year!

Brenda B. Hopper is the Chief Executive Officer and State Director of America’s Small Business Development Centers — New Jersey Network.

5 Reasons Why Company Culture Matters

Company culture plays a huge role in the success of your business. While your company’s culture will naturally look different from another’s based upon the goals for the business, you can also expect that certain elements will remain the same. In an ideal business environment, the employees should feel as though their actions matter, and every person should feel like a contributing member of the team. As you focus on what makes working at your business unique, keep these benefits of a positive company culture in mind for improving the bottom line.

Keep Productivity Levels High

Happy employees tend to be more productive. Not only will they show up to work on time and have fewer sick days, but there also tends to be more collaboration among coworkers that increases everyone’s ability to hit their goals. A positive company culture also makes coworkers more eager to share their skills and engage in training experiences that help them manage their responsibilities better.

Recruit Top Talent

Your company’s success depends upon you being able to bring in people with the right personalities and expertise to get things done. Today, the top talent in many industries have their pick of employers, and they are often scouting out the company culture just as much as hiring managers are reviewing their resumes. During their tour of a prospective office and interview, people often inquire about things such as growth opportunities that let them know if it is a positive place to work.

Retain More Employees

Hiring and training employees cuts into profits. Not to mention, productivity always increases when everyone at your business has been there long enough to know how to perform well in their position. In a negative company culture, the turnover rate is high for employees, and the morale is low. Employees who feel valued and know that their hard work is recognized and appreciated tend to stick with their companies, which helps both parties thrive.

Cultivate a Positive Reputation

Brand awareness involves more than just marketing your business to the public. People also hear about things that revolve around the company culture. For instance, people within specific industries often share information with others about what it is like to work for a business. In fact, sites such as LinkedIn provide a space for people to network and provide insights about their experiences as employees for businesses. When people hear about a company with a great culture, they tend to be more interested in working there as well as exploring the products and services that they offer.

Improve the Customer Experience

Each member of your team plays a role in creating positive customer experiences that drive growth. Even if they never set foot in the corporate headquarters, customers can often pick up on a negative culture that causes employees to provide lackluster experiences. For instance, a customer may pick up on a negative tone when they reach out to customer service, or someone might receive less than perfect services from a disgruntled employee. When everyone is happy to be working for your company, the customers will notice and be excited to continue to use your company’s services.

When a company invests in developing a positive environment for the employees, the business thrives. Make sure to regularly check in with your employees and use their feedback to incorporate policies that inspire everyone to reach their highest potential.

Build Your Brand With These 7 Social Media Tips

At this point, most brands have engaged on social media. However, it is still common for small businesses to use offline marketing because they feel they are too new to even set up an online profile. They may have also tried using social media and struggled with building their brand in the past. No matter where your company is at right now, you can use these seven tips to launch a successful social media campaign that builds buzz around your brand.

Assign Responsibility

The first step to building your brand is to develop a plan that members of your team are going to be responsible for. As you start your planning session, try to identify how often you want to post and respond to other people. Then, appoint the person, or people, who will be responsible for finding content and posting according to a determined schedule.

Keep It Simple

There are so many social media platforms out there that you could have a team spending the bulk of their day compiling posts and responses if you try to use every platforms. If your company is still a bit new to social media, then focus on only using a couple of platforms that relate to your brand the most. This allows you to keep your social media campaigns manageable and sustainable for optimum brand-building.

Aim for Consistency

Consistency generates trust in your brand. Once you’ve chosen the platforms that you prefer, try to post consistently. While you don’t always want to repeat information, you can always post a #ThrowbackThursday photo on each platform every week. This helps your followers know what to expect so that they’ll keep coming back to see the latest updates.

Keep a Conversational Tone

A formal business tone may be what your company uses when interacting with other businesses or compiling reports. However, there is not much room for stuffy business talk on social media. Instead, aim to make your posts more like a conversation, and create an engaging voice that is more relatable to your target audience.

Make Posts Eye-Catching

With social media, you have seconds to catch a person’s eye. Fortunately, that’s easy when you know how to use your company logo, bold colors and beautiful images to garner attention. Keep in mind that the right image can entice someone to click share or hit a link to learn more about your brand.

Be Willing to Shine the Spotlight Elsewhere

Naturally, you want the main focus of your posts to be about your brand. However, only talking about your company gets boring, and it makes your brand seem self-absorbed. Try turning the tables by showcasing something positive that one of your partner brands is doing, like announcing the release of a new product. Alternatively, you can mention a social cause that your brand supports.

Track and Adjust to the Results

As with any marketing campaign, you need to track the responses to know how to adapt as a company. A social media marketing analysis can show you insights such as how followers interact with your posts, how often they visit the business profile, and how frequently your brand’s posts are shared. You can then use this information to tweak your strategies to make future campaigns even more effective. At minimum, you should be analyzing this data at least on a quarterly basis, but you may need to do it more often due to the changing landscape of social media.

Building your brand on social media takes time, but the payoff is worth it when you see those numbers take off as more people are exposed to what your company has to offer. Whether your brand is new to social media or has been at it awhile, be willing to incorporate new strategies that help to bolster your brand’s online presence.

4 Effective Traditional Marketing Techniques

Technology has transformed how companies market their products and services today. While it’s great to be able to instantly share an advertisement video, it is also easy to forget that traditional strategies still work, even in a world filled with social media influencers. When your campaign needs a little something extra, it pays to go back to the basics and try one of these four traditional marketing techniques that are still just as effective as they were years ago.

Telemarketing Campaigns

People still prefer to hear a human voice over reading an email. This is especially true for older demographics that include people who may not feel comfortable submitting their information online or trying to navigate through reading the small print on their computer screen. When possible, try to arrange for an actual customer service representative to handle all outbound calling needs, or invest in a quality automated program that can quickly address a potential customer’s needs. If your marketing campaign involves having customers call in to your company, then make sure that you have the resources in place to answer calls right away and make a sale while the customer is still excited.

On-Site Events

As anyone who has ever stopped at a roadside attraction can attest, events that draw a crowd reels in interest. Consider hosting an event at your main business location that taps into the interests of your target audience. For instance, bounce houses and refreshments are always a great way to encourage families to stop by your location. Companies within the food industry can host pie eating contests, bake-offs, or demonstrate how items are made to get people talking about the company. With this strategy, you can even add a modern spin on the technique by sending updates on social media that include teasers leading up to the event and images in real-time that will have people flocking to your site.

Broadcast Messages

Television and radio advertising still works. Not only can your ads reach a large number of people at once, but you can target them to hit a specific demographic. Although broadcast messages tend to only last a few minutes at most, this is still far more time that you can catch someone’s attention than you can often get online. Just remember to keep all of your advertisements geared towards your target audience, and never underestimate the power of late night ads that can catch a consumer’s attention when they are bored and interested in hearing something new.

Direct Mail

The internet helps you to spread your message to a wide audience at minimal cost, but there are also times when it pays to invest in your advertising. Direct mail puts your company’s information directly in a customer’s hands. Even if they tend to throw away advertisements, they will still have to view your company’s information for long enough that it may capture their attention. To increase the effectiveness of this strategy, consider adding a few coupons or a mention of a new service. If your customer base is still fairly small, consider sending out a handwritten note of thanks or a card to celebrate a special occasion. Those little personal touches help to increase your word-of-mouth advertising, and the effort is worth its weight in gold when your business increases its referrals.

In the field of marketing, there are some classic techniques that are just proven to work. Be sure to mix it up and include a variety of different strategies in your advertising plans that help you hit every corner of the market.

5 Ways to Market to Millennials

millenial

Millennials have long held a substantial amount of buying power, yet this generation often does not get enough credit for being some of the savviest consumers that you need to include in your company’s marketing plans. Not only are millennials active online shoppers, but they also prefer face-to-face experiences that allow them to get the most out of a product or service. As your company develops its marketing campaign, be sure to use these strategies that are specifically designed to attract and hold the attention of millennials in your target audience.

Shift to Quality Video Marketing Campaigns

This generation grew up with some of the most advanced technology we have today, and they have come to expect quality when they watch a video. Go through your current marketing materials and eliminate any grainy or outdated video footage. Then, replace it with high quality videos that are short and to the point. As you do, focus on uploading shareable content. Millennials love to keep their friends and family updated on their latest favorite businesses, and a well-executed video campaign can reach hundreds of thousands of people if it gets shared across social media platforms.

Segment Your Advertising Campaigns

Although millennials are within the same age range, they have a vast range of life experiences and interests. Avoid creating one, generalized campaign that doesn’t resonate with anyone by dividing your target audience up into segments. For instance, a millennial could be a single adult who is focused on their career, or they could be a new parent that has the primary goal of using only natural products in their household. Consider establishing several smaller campaigns that reach each type of millennial on a more personal level.

Keep It Real and True

Millennials are one of the first generations to be able to carry a computer in their pocket. For this reason, you want to avoid exaggerated marketing campaigns that will ring alarm bells among an audience that can do a fact check within seconds. Make sure to highlight what makes your business the best, but keep it true and simple. A millennial appreciates honest statistics that show them how they will benefit from using a product or service.

Demonstrate a Commitment to Building Communities

Marketing to millennials also means showing that your business cares about the communities that it serves. Consider contributing to a charity or starting up a cause that your customers and employees can get involved in. Then, share the latest happenings regarding your community crusades with your target audience. This generation loves to feel good about the purchases that they make, and they’ll flock to companies that care about taking an eco-friendly and diverse stance on their business practices.

Share New Information

The millennial generation is one of the first ones to prefer to learn more about a product before falling for gimmicky advertisements. Try sharing information that is pertinent to your industry. For instance, restaurants can share recipes on the blog, and a company that produces baby products can share parenting tips on social media. Millennials also love knowing how things are made so give an inside look of your factory or kitchen on a shareable video. Once you reel them in with some insider knowledge, they’ll be more interested in hearing how they can benefit from your company’s products.

Millennials catch a lot of flack for being more thrifty than other generations, which can pose a few challenges for getting them to buy into using your business. However, the right marketing strategies will work, and you’ll be glad to discover that these are some of the most loyal customers you will ever have once you get them to love your brand.

How AI Helps Small Businesses Compete on the Same Playing Field as Large Corporations

ai

Artificial Intelligence (AI) often sounds like the things that you see in a science fiction movie. However, you come into contact with technology that uses AI every day, and incorporating it into your business plan helps to level the playing field between your small company and larger corporations. As you explore new types of technology to use in your company’s daily processes, keep these benefits of AI in mind so that your small business achieves optimal growth.

Address Menial Tasks

Technological advances have made it possible for your team to use AI to eliminate those mundane tasks that detract from productivity. For instance, AI software can perform many of the same services as a personal assistant such as scheduling meetings or setting up customer appointments. With these tasks off of their to-do list, your employees can focus on other essential duties that are more important for meeting your company’s goals.

Give Customers an Instant Connection

Larger corporations often implement huge call centers to make sure that every customer receives immediate assistance whether they are buying a product or have a question about a purchase. For a small, sustainable business, large call centers may not be financially feasible. Once again, AI provides a solution to this problem since you can use software to immediately engage with your customers. Chatbots are a common form of this type of AI technology, and some of the latest software is so advanced that people are often not able to tell the difference between the chatbot and a conversation with an actual human.

Analyze Your Target Audience’s Behavior

Data is everything when it comes to analyzing what works for your business. While big corporations have teams made up of people who spend all day performing data analysis, you don’t have to work a bunch of new salaries into the budget. Instead, use AI to perform tasks such as tracking how visitors interact with your website or with your sales people over the phone. Being able to see things such as what web page a customer visits before they make a purchase allows you to streamline your marketing efforts.

Increase the Effectiveness of Marketing Campaigns

Social media is one of the hottest places to market your business. Yet, you may not be sure of where to start with making sure that the ideal customer sees your ads. AI software is available through many different social media platforms that uses information that you provide about your current customers to target ads to go to people who also fit those demographics. Being able to put your ad videos in front of the people that actually fit your target audience dramatically increases the effectiveness of every campaign.

Recruit Top Talent

Hiring procedures tend to involve a large amount of time and expenses when you want to hire only the top people in the industry. Now, you can cut your human resources departments work in half by using AI to screen candidates by running through their resumes and asking simple interview questions. AI can also help your business retain top talent by giving them access to information using chatbots in a way that is similar to the strategies used for customer service.

Sum it Up

AI doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, using it to streamline your company’s sales and marketing processes allows for greater growth potential. Try starting out simply by experimenting with software that automatically connects with your customers or that analyzes the current data to make predictions about future sales. Then, make it a point to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in AI technology so that you can continue to add them to your company’s plans.

How to Create a Pricing Strategy for New Businesses

The pricing strategy that you implement for your new business is one of the most critical components for its success, and establishing the right prices for the products and services that your company provides involves a delicate balance of several factors. Simply put, prices that are too high will deter people from working with your company, yet prices that are too low may undervalue the importance and quality of the products you provide. Now that you’ve poured your efforts into building a sustainable business, it is time to develop a strategy that ensures a successful launch.

Perform a Market Pricing Analysis

Your first step to develop a pricing strategy is to understand how your company fits into the current market. For instance, you may need to choose lower, more competitive prices if your business will be marketing to the same target audience as multiple other retailers. If your business provides a unique product or service that is not currently saturated in the market, then you can expect to set the prices higher.

Understand the Target Audience

As part of your marketing plan, you should already have a few buyer personas that give you a better idea of who will be purchasing your company’s products and services. Now, you will use those personas as well as information from your market research to figure out how prices are perceived by the people that you expect to frequent your business. For instance, products that are designed for families with young children may need to be more price sensitive compared to a business that offers luxury products or packages to people who prefer designer goods and are willing to pay the price for quality.

Research the Competition

While keeping the target audience in mind, you now need to consider what other companies have similar products and services. Ideally, you should be able to identify at least three of your main competitors as well as a few companies that provide indirect competition. Now, take a look at how they price their products. Do they sell value-added packages or offer steep discounts on certain items? If so, then you may need to provide similar types of options to remain competitive in the market. Alternatively, you could set your business apart from the competition by offering a completely different pricing strategy that taps into your target audience’s needs better.

Choose Pricing That Fits Your Goals

Effective pricing strategies should always meet the defined goals for your company. In most cases, your goal when you are first launching your business is to break into the market. For this type of situation, penetration pricing may be the answer since offering dramatically low prices in the beginning can attract customers to your company’s products. However, you still need to make sure that you do not set the prices so low that you turn customers away once you bring them back up. Promotional pricing helps to avoid this common dilemma since it sets the expectation from the beginning that artificially low prices are only temporary.

Overall

The right pricing strategy for your business should increase profits without being so high that it stops customers from trying your products. While you may need to set your prices lower in the beginning to stand out from the competition, you should also remember that pricing strategies should remain fluid. Be sure to check the pricing strategy as you launch new products or the market experiences a change so that you can always be sure that the prices set increase profitability for your company.

How to Create a Brand Positioning Strategy

Effective brand positioning places your company at the forefront of your target audience’s mind by highlighting what makes your products and services unique. Yet, carving out a niche is harder than it appears when the market is flooded with competitors that are all trying to do the same thing. Whether you realize it or not, brand positioning begins from the moment that you make your company public, and you can use this step-by-step guide to make sure that your brand takes a leadership position in the marketplace.

Determine Where Your Company Stands

Your first step is to conduct a thorough assessment of where your company currently is positioned in the market. Start by focusing on your brand’s attributes and how the target audience uses them to fit their needs. For instance, a customer may seek your services to fulfill an emotional need or to accomplish a specific task. Using this information, you can then begin to figure out how to align the core values of your business with those of the target audience.

Identify Your Competitors’ Position

You also need to know where your competitors’ brands are positioned. Identify your top competitors and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Are they excellent at keeping up with social media? Or perhaps they are known for tapping into the mindset of a specific type of consumer. Be honest and try to figure out what they do better and worse than your company. While digging into the competitions’ tactics may be tedious, you need to know how your company’s standing fits in with theirs to make a plan to stand out.

Analyze Your Target Audience

The market depends upon the actions of your target audience, and your brand should address a need that causes them to think of your company first. For example, they may want to know that they can get your products faster than the competition, or you may prioritize being the brand that always has the best price. You also want to make sure that your brand is positioned in a way that you can get the word out to the target audience about why your brand is the leader in the market. Whether they shop online or prefer to browse shops downtown, taking your marketing where the consumers go means that your brand is already in the first place that they look.

Create and Implement a Positioning Statement

Once you’ve gathered your information, it is time to put it all together. Contrary to popular belief, a positioning statement is not the same thing as a tagline. Instead, your brand uses the positioning statement to define goals and make sure that everyone’s plans are aligned with the core values of your company. Develop a brief statement that defines your target audience and niche market while following up with what makes your brand distinct and unique. Then, make sure that everyone in the companies aware of the statement and knows how to apply it to the marketing plan.

A proactive stance is the only way to ensure that your company’s brand is viewed as a leader by your target customer in a busy market. Now that you’ve got your strategy in place, be sure to keep tabs on it. With regular analysis, you will know how to tweak the plan to adapt to changes in the market so that your brand stays at the top.

Why Your Business Should Go Paperless

As a business owner, you make executive decisions every day that are all carefully planned to help streamline operations and cut costs. Whether you are getting the best price on supplies from a vendor or analyzing your current staffing system, you know that every little bit counts for maximizing profits. Yet, overlooking the costs associated with using outdated paper-based communications and record keeping methods is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. During your next planning session, make sure to consider these benefits of having your business go paperless.

Provide Mobile Employees With Instant Access to Information

Today, most companies have employees actively working outside of the office, whether they are performing sales calls in the field or working from home. With paper documents, it’s virtually impossible to get information instantly, and having to wait on a file or finish a task hours later bogs down productivity. Digital collaboration tools make it easy for your mobile employees to update contracts, collect customer signatures and even manage billing services from any location.

Improve Data Security

Your customers will always be concerned about their privacy and how their information is handled. Too often, paper files are thrown out with the trash or left vulnerable to unauthorized people filing through the pages. With cloud-based document storage, you can choose programs that maintain high levels of security that only let the information be displayed to those with the credentials to gain access. Sensitive files can also be encrypted during their transfer to prevent data breaches.

Demonstrate Environmental Responsibility

Customers notice everything about your company, and paper waste is one issue that causes people to lose respect. There is no reason to fill your customers’ mailboxes with fliers and letters that only get thrown away and waste valuable energy. Using digital communication methods such as a social media tweet or an email are more likely to be noticed, and your brand will earn points for taking sustainability seriously.

Minimize Expenses

When you take a strong look at the bottom line, postage, filing systems and paper products all add up. Yet, you also need to consider the hidden costs that paper-based systems create. For instance, online billing saves you money over the long run that helps to increase profits by eliminating the costs of mailing out paper bills.

Improve Customer Communication

Customers today expect fast responses to their questions, and this can only be achieved by working with them directly in real time environments. While phone calls work, you can also reach out to your customers through email or online chats to establish a digital record of every interaction. This allows your employees to quickly see what has been done regarding each customer contact, and you can demonstrate commitment to customer satisfaction through prompt responses.

Eliminate the Clutter

Paper is a huge cause of clutter in office environments, and even organized filing systems take up large amounts of space that can be used for better purposes. Transferring paper documents to digital files allows you to free up room for your employees to work on tasks that increase the efficiency of your business.

New technology is constantly providing ways to increase the efficiency of your business by eliminating the burden of paper-based documents. From increasing security to enhancing communication with your customers, going paperless establishes your business as being committed to making positive changes that benefit everyone.

5 New Years Resolutions for Small Businesses

The New Year is an exciting time when change is in the air, and now is the time to take an honest look at how your company has performed over the past 12 months to determine what it needs to grow. While personal resolutions may get cast aside once the hype of the holiday season is over, the ones you set for your small business can be turned into actionable goals. As you reflect upon the past year, you can use these resolutions as inspiration to drive your company’s future growth.

Grow Your Team and Delegate

If you’ve been aiming for better work-life balance, then this resolution could serve double duty as a personal and business goal. Small business owners are known for wearing many hats, and it’s possible that your company has grown to the point that you desperately need help. Ask yourself what tasks might best be handled by someone else. The need to hire a receptionist or promote a current member of your team to management are all signs that your company is following an upward path.

Give Back to the Community

Charitable work and contributions don’t just make your company look good. They elevate the entire community so that everyone can enjoy your company’s products and services. Identify places in your community that your company could help. For instance, your home remodeling business could help build low-income housing. Alternatively, you could offer to speak to a high school group about the path to entrepreneurship. These types of experiences help to show your company in a positive light, and you’ll love how it feels to be fully involved in your community.

Update Your Online Presence

When was the last time that you really took a good look at your company website? Or, you may still be on the fence about setting up a social media profile. Try to remember that online interactions provide a great way to stir up interest about your company. Try making it a goal to post a social media update once a week, and be sure to highlight the work you are doing in the community. Then, have web analytics performed to determine how you could improve your company’s website search rankings.

Invest in New Technology

Putting money back into your business is essential for growth. While it often seems as though new technology springs forth before you have a chance to finish the old system’s installation, this is one area where most companies can benefit. Take a good look at how your employees perform their duties to identify places that could use some updating. For instance, you could use project management software to streamline communication between your employees and customers, or your office crew could need faster computers to increase their productivity.

Identify a New Target Market

When things are going well, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and keep doing what works. However, it is possible that there is an entire market of people who have not yet heard about your company’s products and services. Whether you need to look into international trading or just need to consider marketing your company’s products to a different local demographic, opening up a new target audience keeps things exciting and drives growth.

As with any New Year’s resolution, the best way to make them stick is to take immediate action. Now that you’ve got yours in mind, be proactive and start working on a plan that makes each one part of your company’s focus this year.