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Posts Tagged ‘Portsmouth Herald’

Ask CJ: Exploring the brave new world of home-based business

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

If you think back not even 20 years about home-based businesses, you might envision a low-tech service business such as a daycare or landscaping company. To run a professional business, you needed to be located in commercial office space. Not only did commercial space provide the technical services you needed, but it also provided a professional atmosphere appropriate for meeting with clients.

Today, that is no longer the case. Many small, predominately service-related businesses are home-based and are able to perform the same functions that once were restricted to commercial space. There are some obvious advantages and some resources available that make the home-based business a good choice for the right person.

Before you decide to open up shop from your home, a serious self-examination should take place, and there are several questions you need to ask yourself. “Do I have the discipline to maintain a focus on my business if it is run out of my house? Is there an adequate space in my home that can be used as an office? Are there distractions that will pull me away from my business focus? Will family and friends respect my work time?”

These might seem like obvious questions, but if you can’t separate home from business while working out of the house, you won’t be successful.

With the incredible advances in technology over the past two decades, you can run a small business from your home with the same access to high-speed Internet that you get at many offices. What you may not have is a professional space for client meetings, which raises several considerations: How many of your interactions will be face-to-face? Is it expected that you will go to their place of business or do they need to come to you? What image do you want to portray?

For example, if you are bringing major clients to your home to showcase your engineering capabilities, will they hesitate or question your business acumen if the meeting takes place in your garage? This hurdle can be overcome by using fee-based conference space, such as that offered by I.O.S. in Portsmouth. Conference rooms can be rented for an hour or the day. This is a great resource for someone who can do most of their work from home but who occasionally needs a professional setting for meetings and presentations.

A home-based business can provide a great cost-savings, as you not only save by not paying commercial rent, but the space devoted to business purposes can be used as a tax deduction. A portion of the utilities can also be factored in as tax deductions, but they have to be in proportion to the size of your office space. You may want to have an accountant assist with this because it can become an issue with the IRS if done improperly.

Dianne Durkin, president of Loyalty Factor in Portsmouth, started her company 16 years ago with the express intent of keeping it based out of her home. She likes the home-based environment because, “I can be creative and innovative at any time with all the resources available to me whenever I need them.” For instance, she may wake up in the middle of the night inspired by an idea and being home-based means she doesn’t have to wait until typical business hours to flesh it out. Dianne often puts in some office hours over the weekend, but she says that when she is done for the day, she closes the doors to her office to help create the separation between home and workplace.

Loyalty Factor has four employees, including Dianne. One staff person splits hours between home and Dianne’s place, another works full time at Dianne’s home, and the third employee works part time at the business. Dianne and her employees dress professionally at the office, as they would in any other business setting. Asked about misconceptions of having a home-based business, Dianne said, “You won’t find home-based professionals working in their pajamas all day from a dining room table. It just isn’t conducive to productivity.”

There goes my dream.

Whether you have been in business for 20 years or are just getting started, we have the resources and the expertise to answer your questions. You can e-mail me at Christine.Davis@dred.state.nh.us. I look forward to hearing from you.

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. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.

Business Financing Made Simple

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Congrats to our Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis who was recently asked to serve as a columnist for the Portsmouth Herald. Here’s her latest column that centers around the question of how to best secure business financing:

How to get business financing?
Starting with a bank you know is best choice
By Christine Davis

It wasn’t a big surprise to receive a number of questions related to financing your business. Businesses face multiple challenges every day, but one thing that seems to trump them all is money. How do I get it, how do I generate more and how can I hang onto more of it?

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine Davis

Let’s start with how do I get financing for my business? The person who sent this question has owned his business for a number of years, had a small dip in revenue but has regained profitability over the past two years. His first call to a large bank was unsuccessful and he wanted to know what would be the best next step.

I spoke with Rob Barry, our in-house NH Division of Economic Development finance expert, to see what he recommends without knowing the particulars. In general, we recommend that you first reach out to the institution where you currently bank. Just like in everything else, it often boils down to relationships. If you have got one, go there first. If they are unable to meet your needs, make sure you understand why and then consider what changes your business needs to make to become more bankable. Most loan requests that are rejected are done so because of weak financials or because a company does not have a long enough history of being profitable. In some cases, they may not have an appetite for the type of financing you are seeking. If you have a relationship with a large bank, you may want to consider looking at some of your local community banks. While banks all share some common requirements (good credit, positive cash flow and collateral) some may be more aggressive in certain lending areas than others.

Another source of financing may be your local community economic development corporation. For the Seacoast area, there is the Rockingham Economic Development Corporation in Exeter, the Coastal Economic Development Corporation in Hampton and the Seacoast Economic Development Corporation in Dover. Each one covers a specific area so you will need to check and see which one covers your location. The REDC provides loans to businesses for a variety of needs and may be able to work with a business that does not qualify for a traditional bank loan. If you have a weak spot on your financials, such as a low credit score, but good cash flow and collateral, you might be a good candidate for a REDC loan. Since it is taking on more risk, the rates are typically a bit higher than a traditional bank.

Another alternative source of funding is the NH Community Loan Fund in Concord. It offers both debt and equity financing to business owners. Micro loans start at $1,000 and business growth loans can go as high as $500,000. The Loan Fund is more risk-tolerant and may ask to provide some educational guidance and input.

I also wanted to respond to a question I received about getting grants for business development. In a nutshell, there aren’t any. If you get a call with someone offering to help you find grants in exchange for a fee, run. It’s a scam. While there are some federal grants available for some very specific industries and research projects, they are highly competitive and few and far between. You won’t find grants to buy new equipment or open up a shop on Main Street. There are grants available for training through the N.H. Job Training Fund, www.nhjobtrainingfund.org, but they are for training projects only. I will talk more about that gem of a fund another day.

To learn more about these and other financial resources you can visit our Web site, www.nheconomy.com.

Whether you have been in business for 20 years or just getting started, we have the resources and the expertise to answer your questions. All information is confidential, and I promise not to print your name, age, height, weight or marital status without your approval. You can write to me at: Christine.Davis@dred.state.nh.us. I look forward to hearing from you.

New Hampshire Ranks Healthiest State for Kids

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Some more great news for the Granite State – for the fifth year in a row, New Hampshire has been named “Healthiest State for Children in the Nation” by the Ann E. Casey Foundation. Check out this report reprinted from today’s Portsmouth Herald:

Study: N.H. the healthiest state for kids
By Dave Choate
PORTSMOUTH — New Hampshire retained its title of the best place in the United States to raise children, while Maine hovered just outside of the top 10 in an annual report.

In the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report, New Hampshire was declared the top state for the fifth year in a row, while Maine was 12th. The report uses 10 different measures to determine the general well-being of children in all 50 states.

Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire President Ellen Fineberg said that New Hampshire owes its success to the fact that the state in general is comparatively wealthy and boasts a high rate of well-educated people. With the economy changing and the state attracting new residents all the time, Fineberg said New Hampshire needs to continue to battle childhood poverty in order to continue to provide a safe, healthy environment for children.

healthy-breakfast-lg-large“We have to keep working really hard to stay there,” she said.

Fineberg noted that the data only measures up until 2007, which means the recent recession is not included in the calculations. The high school dropout rate, teen birth rate, child death rate and teen death rate all declined for the state in this report, while the infant mortality rate, child poverty and children whose parents have secure employment all increased somewhat. Fineberg said those areas are a concern for New Hampshire.

In materials provided by the alliance, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said he was pleased with the state’s ranking.

“It is important that we continue to provide the opportunities for a better future for our children,” Lynch said.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.