Social Media for Brick & Mortar Businesses

Now more than ever, people will research a business online before they set foot inside the store. It is for this reason that it is imperative small businesses maintain an active and engaging online presence. The problem is, many small businesses are struggling to properly utilize social media for their brick and mortar store.

One of the issues I’ve encountered is small business owners who feel the need to be on four or more social media platforms. This isn’t necessarily a problem if there is an employee at the business who can maintain activity on all these platforms, but more often than not, the owner is attempting to manage all these platforms on their own…while also running the business, balancing the finances, restocking inventory, and so much more.

The good news is that you don’t need to stretch yourself thin on multiple platforms. It’s not about quantity – it’s all about the quality. Actively engaging on one or two platforms can be far more effective than poorly managing three or more platforms.

If you’re feeling stuck on developing a social media strategy, below is an infographic that
can give all entrepreneurs a basic guide on social media for brick and mortar retailers.

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Mindy Lee
Advisor/Marketing Coordinator
Washburn University
America’s SBDC

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Learning About Exporting

At the Kansas SBDC, we offer a wide variety of resources and training to help our small businesses identify and manage opportunities for growth such as those opportunities present in international markets. On July 28th,  John Addessi, Certified Global Business Professional with America’s SBDC Kansas, presented The Riddle of The Exporter in Manhattan. Thank you to John and to everyone who attended for making it a great seminar!

JohnAddessi

Attendees walked through the steps of how to find important information for determining whether entering new markets is worthwhile for their product or services, how to manage risks, legal issues and regulatory compliance, documentation, contractual issues, financial transactions, freight and cultural differences.

RiddleWork

Chang Lu (below) from the Kansas Department of Commerce also did a presentation on how KDOC can help Kansas businesses get established in exporting.

ChangLu

Below – good fun as participants pose with the “Riddle Trophy” after competing for export “points”. From the right: Ben Kohl of Piestar, Inc.,  Grace Friedel of Radiation Detection Technologies, Inc.,  Aaron Hund of MS Biotech, LLC, Cathy Joy of Contractor’s Engineering, Inc, and John Addessi. Great job, teams!

RiddleGroup

In the seminar, participants took an in-depth, hands on look at resources for managing export challenges – much more than can be shared here!

While this is hardly a complete guide, here are a few general points that small businesses should know about exporting.

7 Important Facts about Exporting

(1) You could already be an exporter and not know it.  To cite a few examples: a small retail shop that mails a package to a customer in another country is exporting even though it is just one package; a component made by one company for a product exported by another company exports is an indirect export; an intangible service provided for a client in another country is just as much an export as a physical product shipped over the seas; an email containing sensitive information could be a deemed export; and a lodging establishment or attraction with guests from other countries is a tourism exporter.

(2) It is important to check out your W’s. When exporting – even in the sort of cases described above – it is important to make sure that there are not any legal restrictions on what you are exporting, the place to where you are exporting, or the person to whom (or organization to which) you are exporting. Even seemingly innocent exports can be illegal, e.g. if they have a dual use one of which is prohibited for export. (Two places to look for more information are the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security and Export.Gov.)

(3) A U.S. patent or trademark does necessarily not protect your intellectual property in other countries. If you are selling, marketing or manufacturing your product in another country, you may need to take additional steps to protect your intellectual property.  (FAQ about the Patent Cooperation Treaty.)

(4) If you are serious about expanding your sales by participating in international trade, it pays to do not only market research regarding the potential for selling your product or services in other countries, but also to research cultural expectations (including those in business culture) when making strategic decisions about entering foreign markets.  Seemingly little things, such as cultural norms about punctuality or dress, can affect business deals and the viability of  the market for your product or service in other countries.

(5) The KS Department of Commerce, U.S. Commercial Service, and SBA can be your friends in export. Because companies that export intentionally and strategically often generate more jobs, job stability, higher wages, and tax revenues, these government agencies are ready to provide assistance to businesses wanting to get established as exporters. Resources available include services such as assistance in finding trading partners, access to international trade shows, loan guarantees for getting a product to market, credit checks, and translation of marketing materials and product labels for international sales.

(6) An experienced and reliable international banker, international attorney and freight-forwarder are other good friends to have when exporting. These people can help you reduce the risk involved in financial transactions, contracts, sharing of intellectual property, documentation, and getting your product from here to there.

(7) Though exporting – and making decisions about whether or not to export or where to export to – might seem intimidating, there are many resources available to help small businesses access the information and connections that they need to make informed decisions and forge international relationships. For small businesses in Kansas, a good place to start is with their local KSBDC.

RiddleTrophy

(Above: On a winning streak – learning about the opportunities for business growth in international markets and how to manage the associated risks!)

Thank you to our attendees for being excited learners, to Commerce Bank in Manhattan for sponsoring the seminar, to the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce for the venue, to the Kansas Department of Commerce and SBA for STEP grants, to Chang Lu for joining us, and to John Addessi for a great presentation of The Riddle of the Exporter!

Related Posts

Export: A Growth Area for Small Businesses

GT Manufacturing: Award-Winning Kansas Exporter

Primary Color: Exporter of Music

Export Training in Manhattan

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University

Kansas SBDC

 

 

 

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This Tote Bag Shows Why Fonts Matter

When it comes to designing marketing materials, something I’ve noticed with a lot of small businesses is a disregard for using proper fonts. I get it. Thinking about fonts is probably not at the top of your list when you’re trying to run your business and roll out promotions for your products and services, but it would surprise a lot of people to learn just how important it is to choose the right font. The following story exemplifies the reason why.

Online retail store BelleChic garnered a lot of attention lately with their new tote bag. Twitter users posted photos of the bag that was supposed to say “MY FAVORITE COLOR IS GLITTER,” but if you’re like a lot of people, “glitter” may not be the word you read:

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Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. A lot of people saw this tote bag and read the words “MY FAVORITE COLOR IS HITLER,” and it didn’t receive the kind of attention I’m sure the company was hoping for:

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Moral of the story: Fonts are extremely important. Choose wisely.

To learn more about design and fonts, check out the 5 Rules of Design.

Mindy Lee
Advisor/Marketing Coordinator
Washburn University
America’s SBDC

Posted in social media/marketing, success, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses

BrianDennis

On July 20th, Brian Dennis, cybersecurity specialist with the America’s SBDC Kansas, gave a presentation for the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce on Continuity and Cybersecurity that focused on the importance of good cybersecurity policies and practices for small businesses.

Small businesses, often easy targets of opportunity, are increasingly at risk of stolen, corrupted, or lost data due to cyber threats from hackers, spyware, and malware.   40-60% of small businesses without recovery plans that fall victim to data breaches plans never recover from the attacks, and of those that do, the majority go out of business within 3 years. Loss of business continuity, loss of customer /client trust, loss of contracts, damaged stakeholder relations, legal fees and recovery costs are heavy burdens for small businesses to bear. Cybersecurity is an area where the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” definitely applies; but not only is it important for small businesses to minimize their exposure to cybersecurity risks, it is also important for them to have a well thought out recovery plan.

This autumn, the Kansas SBDC will be launching its innovative DatAssured ™ cybersecurity center to help small business owners in Kansas with industry-specific preparedness assessment, vulnerability testing, protection protocols and recovery plans for cyber threats. This center will bring Kansas to the forefront nationally in the rapidly developing world of cybersecurity.

Brian’s Top Ten Tips for Small Business Owners:

  • Protect against viruses, spyware and other malicious code by using antivirus and anti-spyware software configured to update automatically.
  • Secure your networks by using a firewall, encrypting information, hiding your wi-fi networks and requiring passwords for access.
  • Establish security practices and policies for how employees should handle and protect sensitive data and for how violations of policies will be handled.
  • Educate employees about cyber threats to protect your business’s data, including safe practices for use of social networking and email.
  • Require employees to use strong passwords and consider implementing a multi- factor authentication protocol.
  • Employ best practices on payment cards by isolating payment systems from other less secure systems, e.g., do not surf the internet on the same computer that is used for processing payments.
  • Regularly back-up data, preferably automatically, and store backup copies in distinct locations.
  • Control physical access to, and use of, your business computers and devices.
  • Create a mobile device policy that requires users to password protect devices and to use security apps to prevent criminal access to data; and outline procedures for lost or stolen equipment.
  • Protect all pages on your business website and social media.

The Kansas SBDC will be hosting a one-day small business cybersecurity conference at the Wichita State University Metroplex on October 4th. Once registration for the conference opens, we shall post information on our WU KSBDC social media. Small businesses in Kansas can contact their local SBDC for guidance in assessing their understanding of cybersecurity, their current status in regard to averting risks in this area and their preparedness for recovery. We encourage small business owners to take their cybersecurity seriously because we care about the health of our small businesses.

Related Post:

Should Small Businesses Have a Social Media Policy?

 

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University

Kansas SBDC

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Happy 1st Anniversary, Sugar Creek Country Store!

SGsignLocated, in a beautifully restored historic building on Highway 24 in downtown St. Mary’s, Kansas, Sugar Creek Country Store celebrated its first anniversary last week. The store carries a unique assortment of unusual, very high-quality foods, has a deli and sandwich counter – and just added an ice cream counter which is proving to be quite popular this summer!

Around 6 years ago, Dan Hohman and his wife Jen were shopping at an Amish foods store in a tiny Minnesota town that somehow was drawing customers in from hours away. Dan and Jen, themselves, filled up their mini-van with food purchases even though they had a 10-hour drive home. That experience made Dan start thinking about the potential for opening a bulk foods store in his hometown of St. Mary’s, Kansas.

Candies

As he thought about it, Dan decided that not only would such a store add something new and different to the St. Mary’s community, but it would also give the Hohman kids a chance to grow up with the experience of participation in a family business. With 10 children and more than 30 nieces and nephews – “all great kids who were raised right” – Dan knew that if the kids were interested, he could bring them into the business and provide them with the opportunity to learn valuable skills and acquire the self-confidence that comes from work and success.

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It took about 5 years for Dan to get Sugar Creek opened. The process started with thinking hard about how to flesh out the concept for the business. Ultimately, it was going to be a lot more than just a bulk foods store. It was to be a shopping destination with high-quality, unusual food items, plus an in-store full-service deli, housed in an historic building.  Dan’s vision was that people would come to the store because they enjoyed everything about the shopping experience: the products, the customer service, the music and lighting, all surrounded by interesting architectural and design features.

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That vision introduced the challenge of finding a building with both a great location and also the potential to be a place that customers loved to be. The 130+ year old structure that Dan chose to house Sugar Creek, however, was in decrepit condition when he came upon it. So, he had to pull together the necessary capital and also the right team of individuals for making renovations and improvements. According to Dan, it sometimes felt as though just when he’d get one part of the plan for opening the business figured out, he’d run into a closed door — but then another door would open and he could continue with his plans. It was in no way a linear process.

InteriorRockWall

During the period when Dan was working to make Sugar Creek a reality, he met every few months or so with advisors from the WU KSBDC who helped him figure out what it would take to accomplish his goals for the store. Dan says the WU KSBDC team really helped him grasp not only what to do, but, importantly, also what not to do. The advisors challenged him with the right questions to get him on track and also helped him figure out realistic cash flow projections so that he knew how to plan.  Throughout the first year that the store was open, Dan continued to check back in with the WU KSBDC for advice and feedback on various ideas that he had for the store – and will likely continue to do so going forward.

GrilledVeggie

Delicious Grilled Cheese & Veggie on Soft Gluten-free Bread

Even though Sugar Creek is not Dan’s first business, he believes that surrounding himself with good advisors – business advisors from the KSBDC, advisors in the form of other successful business owners, and spiritual advisors – is important for staying in touch with the issues that he needs to think about in order to be where he wants to be personally and in his businesses. Dan says that as a business owner, it is important to be a good listener. “You have to listen to your customers and listen to your advisors.”

DH&Customer

One time I asked Dan to describe the roots of his interest in entrepreneurship.  He laughed heartily and replied, “Stupidity!” – a reference to the long hours and dedication that it takes to make it as a small business owner.  Despite the joke, Dan loves what he is doing. He loves seeing employees, especially his children, learn, adapt and grow. He loves listening to customers’ stories and having people tell him how much they appreciate the store. Observing Dan, joy is evident on his face as he interacts with the people around him. Having created something that people really enjoy and are overwhelmingly positive about is a huge reward for Dan. It pleases him to learn of all of the places from which his customers have travelled just to come to Sugar Creek.

To young entrepreneurs, though, Dan would point out that there is much more to running a business than meets the eye. “There is a lot more to keeping a business going than being out front with the customers – there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.” He says that his faith in God – in God’s grace – is what lets him keep it all going. Judging from customer response, there are a lot of people who hope that he keeps it all going for long time.

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Congratulations, Dan, to you and your family, and to your staff, on your first year in business at Sugar Creek Country Store. May many more follow!

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University

Kansas SBDC

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Export Training in Manhattan, KS

Sunflowers&Windmill

Small to medium-sized businesses account for over 80% of the exporters in the state of Kansas.  This shows that export is not only for big businesses. Yet of the nearly 250,000 small businesses in Kansas, only around 3,000 are involved in export. Kansas is most known for its exports in transportation and agriculture, but a wide variety of products and services are exported from our state.

While not every business has a product or service that can be exported, there is certainly opportunity for more of Kansas’s small businesses to expand their sales of products and services by entering into the international market place. With approximately 95% of the world’s consumers living outside of the U.S., businesses that have products or services that can be exported can reach a much larger potential customer base by looking outside this country.

Some Interesting Facts

• In 2016, the value of Kansas goods exported was $10.2 billion

• In 2015, the value of goods exported from the Manhattan, KS Metropolitan Area was $89 Million

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To learn more about the potential for your business to export or to how to better manage export issues, attend “The Riddle of The Exporter” in Manhattan on July 28th. Register here, or, for more information, contact the Washburn University KSBDC. We hope to see you there!

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Sources & Resources:

International Trade Administration

https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Kansas.pdf

Export.Gov

Kansas Department of Commerce

 

Related Posts

GT Manufacturing: Award-Winning Kansas Exporter

Primary Color: Exporter of Music

Export: A Growth Area for Small Businesses

 

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University

Kansas SBDC

Posted in Exporting, success | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

GT Manufacturing: Award-Winning Kansas Exporter

Grain_Sunrise

GT Manufacturing, Inc., based in scenic Clay Center Kansas, is the recipient of the 2017 Kansas SBDC Exporter of the Year Award, the 2016 Governor’s Exporter Award and the 2014 SBA Exporter Award for the state of Kansas. 

GT Manufacturing, Inc.’s is the world’s leading manufacturer of batch grain dryers. Its mission is no small one: it is to help feed the world through preventing grain loss in the field.

This small business of 44 employees exports to more than 80 countries on 6 continents. More than 85% of its business comes from international customers. Being involved in international markets – something the company strategically pursues – enables GT Manufacturing, Inc. to find new growth opportunities and be recognized globally for the high quality of its products.

Exporting is good for the GT Mfg.’s bottom line; but it also has helps the company maintain its workforce.  This in turn is good for the local community. GT Mfg. attributes its success to good processes and good people. This means supporting the education and cross-training of its employees, continually pursuing improvement, listening to customers, strategically looking for opportunities, and operating with integrity.

Watch this video to learn more about GT Manufacturing, Inc.

 

 

Congratulations to GT Manufacturing, Inc. for remarkable success grown out of commitment to people, high quality products, and a mission to feed the world!

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On July 28th, the Washburn KSBDC is hosting “The Riddle of the Exporter”  in Manhattan, KS.  This seminar is designed to help businesses identify opportunities for entering into international markets and to understand various aspects of logistics and legal compliance. For information about “The Riddle of the Exporter” contact ksbdc@washburn.edu or register here.  As the date for this seminar is quickly approaching, we encourage businesses to register right away. For qualifying businesses, STEP Grants are still available through the Kansas Department of Commerce to help cover the costs of attendance. Thank you to also to Commerce Bank and to the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce for helping to sponsor this educational opportunity.

Related Posts

Primary Color: Exporter of Music

Export: A Growth Area for Small Businesses

 

Laurie  Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University

Kansas SBDC

Posted in Exporting, success, Success Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment