Archive for May, 2011
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
Do you have or work for a “first class business?” You know, the type of business that’s consistently innovating, serving the community and building a world class workforce?
If so, the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development, Public Service of New Hampshire, the Nashua Silver Knights and the “New Hampshire Today with Jack Heath” show on WTPL 107.7 FM have a great contest created especially for you.
By visiting our Facebook page ( http://www.facebook.com/NoBullBusiness?sk=app_190322544333196) and telling us why you’re a “first class business,” you can win a pair of suite tickets to the Silver Knights Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) game vs. the Seacoast Mavericks (whose president just happens to be Red Sox Hall of Famer Bob “Steamer” Stanley) on June 24th at 7:05 p.m. While enjoying the game, you’ll also dine on some choice ballpark fare and have a chance to meet Boston Bruins winger Shawn Thornton – word has it that #22 might find his way up to our box.
Have you hired new employees? Created a new product that’s changing the way people live their lives? Performed exemplary customer service? Created an employee wellness program that’s causing people to buzz at the water cooler?
All you need to do is visit our Facebook page listed above and let us know and you could be receiving the royal treatment on June 24th. We look forward to hearing from you!
– Steve Boucher, Communications & Legislative Director
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
Selling services or products to the federal government can be highly profitable for small businesses, but often business owners don’t know where to start. That’s why the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program (NH-PTAP) is holding a free information and enrollment meeting for North Country businesses on Friday, June 3rd from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the White Mountains Community College, 2020 Riverside Drive in Berlin.
During presentations by representatives of the NH-PTAP and by Pamala Tharp, Contracting Officer for the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Berlin, participants will learn how to cut through the red tape and get started applying for federal contracts.
According to Roy Duddy, Interim Director of the NH Division of Economic Development, “Federal government contracts worth $1.8 billion are awarded each year to New Hampshire businesses—and 76 businesses in Coos County are working with NH-PTAP to get already involved in government contracting. With Fci Berlin ready to open, pending federal funding, now is the time for North Country businesses to start the process so that they’re ready when FCI Berlin releases their contracts—or they risk being left behind, as once an agency has selected a supplier, they’re likely to stay with them.”
It’s anticipated that FCI Berlin will award $12 million to $14 million per year in contracts, with a big chunk being spent locally. Dave Pease, NH-PTAP Program Manager, points out that there are many more opportunities for federal contracts for North Country businesses. “FCI Berlin is far from the only federal contracting opportunity for lots of North Country companies. Coos County businesses have a competitive advantage when it comes to federal contracts. Since the area is a designated HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone), businesses that are HUBZone certified are eligible for set-asides and contracts. We want to help North Country businesses exploit that competitive advantage.”
Pease explains that those at the June 3rd event will learn what they need to do to be ready to sell to the federal government and what resources NH-PTAP makes available. “Selling to the federal government isn’t like doing business in the private sector. It’s not as flexible and it can’t be done on the fly. Since we now have dedicated office space at White Mountains Community College, we intend to have a staff person spend one week a month there to assist businesses, and we’ll continue to offer training events like this one, as well as more advanced topics.”
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
Smart phone users interested in starting or growing a small business can now find helpful resources at their fingertips via a new SBA mobile application from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“Increasingly, smart phones are the vehicle through which Americans access information. This is certainly true of many entrepreneurs and small business owners and this new application ensures they will have access to SBA’s resources and programs – literally at their fingertips,” said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills. “Greater mobility fits with the new user-focused SBA.gov launched recently, and is another example of the steps we are taking to do a better job of connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the tools to help them start or grow their businesses and create jobs.”
Developed and donated as a gift by Palo Alto Software, Inc., the SBA mobile app will make the search for extensive resources more efficient, whether users are starting a new business or taking an existing business to a new level. The app will first be available for the Apple iPhone®, with future versions for other smart phone platforms.
“Palo Alto Software’s mission is to help small businesses succeed. We’ve developed this mobile application for the SBA because we understand the importance of having the right tools and resources when starting or growing a business,” said Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software. “Ideas can strike entrepreneurs at any moment, and having useful resources available through mobile devices could be the impetus that begins the next big company.”
The mobile app will help users connect with SBA district office staff and SBA-affiliated counselors and mentors who can provide free, personalized small business assistance. The user-friendly format of the app will help answer questions such as: How do I start a business? Where can I go in my area to get free help with writing a business plan? And where do I begin finding funding for my business?
The SBA mobile app also features a built-in startup cost calculator to help estimate the costs associated with getting a business off the ground, plus an SBA partner locator to help users find SBA offices, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE.
Users will also have mobile access to SBA video content and social media alerts to provide them with tips on the go. This will include live updates from the SBA’s YouTube channel and from SBA’s Twitter feeds. The free mobile app can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/content/sba-mobile-app.
Friday, May 20th, 2011
In a world where written communication is a key skill in education and business, those who struggle with writing are at a huge disadvantage, whether their struggle is due to disability, attention disorder, or learning or language challenges. Now, thanks to a revolutionary new software from a Dover-based company, virtually anyone can write, edit and proofread with ease.
To recognize this achievement, the New Hampshire Business Resource Center announced today that goQ Software has been named the May “Innovation Rocks!” award winner for their WordQ and SpeakQ software.
Together WordQ and SpeakQ are the first and only computer-based writing tools that integrate word prediction, speech recognition and spoken feedback. Word prediction helps the user find the correct word and its spelling. Speech recognition allows the user to dictate, while spoken feedback provides enables the user to hear and correct what they have written. In fact, WordQ will read virtually any passage of text the user selects, including text from a web page.
The user new to WordQ chooses a vocabulary from a selection intended for different writing and age levels. Then, over time, as he or she uses new words, the program adds them the vocabulary. Users can also create lists of specialized jargon or technical words and add them to the vocabulary.
The two programs are so intuitive that they are being used by a wide spectrum of people, from primary school and college students to CEOs of major corporations; these individuals may have learning disabilities, ADD or ADHD, autism, limited mobility, aphasia or trauma, or English may be their second language. WordQ is available for Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X, while the SpeakQ plug-in is available exclusively for Windows XP/Vista/7.
“For many people, having difficulty writing creates anxiety, reduces their ability to perform in school or business, and has a profound effect on their lives,” said New Hampshire Division of Economic Development Interim Director Roy Duddy. “This software opens up a whole world of possibilities. As exciting as it is for the parents of a child who can now write, thanks to this assistive technology, it is every bit as important for adults whose difficulties in writing mean they have few employment opportunities. It’s wonderful to see a product that has both a personal and economic impact.”
For more information about goQ Software, visit www.goqsoftware.com.
Friday, May 20th, 2011
The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund has received the highest possible rating for its social impact performance from CARS™, the CDFI Assessment and Ratings System. CARS helps investors and donors assess the creditworthiness and impact performance of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
NH Community Loan Fund President Juliana Eades and her dedicated staff are a force for positive change in the state of New Hampshire.
CARS awarded the Community Loan Fund, a statewide nonprofit, the top grade – AAA – for its impact performance. The Community Loan Fund also earned the second-highest rating for its financial strength and performance and a “Policy Plus” designation for its work to improve government laws and policies on behalf of people and communities with low incomes.
The Concord-based Community Loan Fund turns investments into loans and education to create opportunity for people with low incomes. It collaborates with a wide range of donors and lenders, and with business, nonprofit and government partners, to provide the financing and support people need to have affordable homes, have quality jobs and child care, and become financially independent.
“This CARS rating is a real testament to the strength of the Community Loan Fund’s strategies and financial practices. It says that even through a recession that rocked financial institutions worldwide, the Community Loan Fund successfully helped people and communities with low incomes seize opportunities to transform their lives,” said Community Loan Fund Board Chair Ed Tomey, of Keene.
CARS was developed by the Opportunity Finance Network, the national association of CDFIs, and launched in 2004. “Socially responsible investors are attracted to CDFIs because they offer a unique blend of financial discipline plus positive social or economic impact in their marketplace,” said CARS director Paige Chapel.
National financial institutions such as Bank of America and Citi, and major philanthropic organizations including the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, use CARS to identify investment opportunities.
The Community Loan Fund was the first CDFI evaluated in 2005, when the CARS system was still evolving, and has twice (in 2008 and 2011) duplicated its AAA rating with more-stringent evaluations.
“Three times now, outside evaluators have taken a rigorous look at what we do, how we do it, and our impact on New Hampshire families and communities. Three times they’ve given us a triple ‘thumbs up,’ ” said Community Loan Fund President Juliana Eades. “Their judgment reaffirms our financial strength and resilience as we’ve weathered this extreme recession with high-performing loans and effective technical assistance.”
The CARS rating signals to the Community Loan Fund’s supporters that “they can be assured that their donations and loans, which make our work possible, are creating the maximum social impact,” Eades said.
The 65 CARS-rated CDFIs represent about 11% of all CDFI Fund-certified loan funds. However, these rated institutions currently manage 30% of all on-balance sheet assets among certified groups.
Since 1983, the Community Loan Fund has loaned more than $144 million, leveraging more than $444 million for its projects.
Monday, May 16th, 2011
Q: I am looking at increasing our marketing efforts and need some guidance on where I should invest our marketing dollars. Should I focus on social media?”
A: Marketing is such an important part of the success of a businesses, and it is a topic that is quite expansive. I will try to be brief, but at least touch upon the key elements of a marketing plan that you should be thinking about.
For in-depth free assistance, I would recommend that you spend some time visiting the NH Small Business Development Center at www.nhsbdc.org. It has some great online classes that cover this topic. Your local SCORE counselor, www.scorehelp.org, can also be of assistance.
NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis
There are many ways a business can market itself from traditional print media, to radio, to television, to the increasingly popular social media. There is no one formula that will work for everyone. Just as your business is unique, so should be your marketing plan.
There are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself to help guide your decisions: First, what is my budget? As much as it would be great to have a commercial during the Super Bowl or “American Idol,” you may not have the funds for it. Second, who is your target market? If you can pinpoint your customers and understand what they want, you can begin to create advertising that will resonate with them.
I recently attended an event with the Center for Family Business at the University of New Hampshire. The guest speaker runs a successful gardening center and spent some time talking about his marketing strategy. First he talked about knowing who they were, in other words, branding. What type of product does the company sell? High-quality garden products. Who is the target customer? Women. His next task was to figure out what women want. (Yes, I did laugh out loud when he said that. Good luck, my friend. We don’t even know what we want).
Once these questions were answered, there was another aspect of the company’s marketing plan that I want to share. Are you looking for new customers or are you trying to recapture customers that have drifted for one reason or another? That can affect where you place those well-crafted messages. They didn’t need to persuade gardeners to garden, so instead of placing ads in a gardening magazine, the company’s advertising materials are being placed in other print media that is predominantly read by women, the target market. Again, the answer for you will vary depending on your business, but the questions are pretty universal.
When it comes to content, invest the time to create something memorable. We are inundated with all sorts of media, so an advertisement with impact is critically important. I am amazed when I watch yet another TV commercial that lacks creativity or content. Who is getting paid to write this stuff? I have to admit that there is a TV commercial for toilet paper that I can’t forget as much as I try. One of the lines in the commercial is, “It’s time to get serious about what happens in the bathroom.” As much as that tactic initially horrified me, I must admit that I haven’t forgotten the ad, and I certainly can’t say that about the vast majority of commercials I see on television. You have a very short window of opportunity to make an impression, so don’t waste it.
Like every aspect of your business the marketing plan requires just that, a plan. Throwing out generic ads in every direction at every individual isn’t a good plan. Focusing all of your energy on social media just because the guy next to you is doing it isn’t a good plan, either. A good marketing plan revolves around your customers. Who are they, where are they and what do they want? Answer those questions first and craft a message that speaks to them. Deliver that message frequently via the media that they use. Everyone needs to market their business, and today we have so many options and price points that I just don’t believe someone can say that they can’t afford it. If you lack the big corporate budget, you just need to tap into your creativity. At the very least, get out in your community and get involved. Grassroots networking is still a great way to get your name out there.
Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. She lives in Exeter with her two daughters. She likes to spend time outdoors to discover new places and activities in the community with her girls. She can be reached at Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org.