Weather Events Preparedness & Business Continuity


Recent Kansas weather, and upcoming forecasts for our region, are reminders that it is important for small business owners to be prepared for weather events and other potential disasters in order to keep their people safe, mitigate risks to their assets and maintain business continuity. Maintaining business continuity is often important not just for the business but also for its employees and the broader community that it serves.

If you are a business owner and have a business continuity plan, you should review it periodically and also in advance of predicted severe weather events.  If you do not already have a business continuity plan,  you can read more here.  Your local SBDC advisor can help you start developing a plan for your business or put you in contact with one of our Certified Business Continuity Professionals.

While no one wants to have to be prepared, according to FEMA , 40-60% of small businesses fail to re-open after a disaster and 90% of small businesses fail within a year of re-opening if they were unable to re-open within 5 days. Being prepared for weather and other events, and following a plan that has been kept up-to-date, can make all the difference to a small business’s ability to survive.

Additional resources to help with preparedness and business continuity:

• the FEMA publication Every Business Should Have a Plan

• additional planning tools for businesses available through FEMA

• Ready.Gov  tips for preparing for various types of weather events

At the Kansas SBDC, our advisors help small businesses with a wide range of planning needs so that they can not only start but also can endure and grow because the success and survival of small businesses is integral to the well-being of our local communities.

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

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Margins Matter: Learn This Formula for Success for Your KC Small Business


banking-cash-deposit-1602726Margin can be a tricky concept to wrap your head around, but it’s an important measure of how profitable your business is (and easy to calculate).

Read the full article, written by our colleague Jack Harwell from the JCCC SBDC here: Margins Matter: Learn This Formula for Success for Your KC Small Business

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How to Get Ready to Apply for a Business Loan


If you are thinking that you need a loan to open a business – or to help your existing business achieve new goals – there are some steps that you can take ahead of time to ready yourself to apply for financing.

Protect your credit score(s). Check your personal credit rating and reports. If you have an existing business, you may also have a business credit score to monitor. If you see any errors in either report, get them corrected.  Know what factors can negatively impact your credit score and try to avoid any actions that might pull it downward. If there are reasons why your credit score is lower than is truly reflective of your ability to manage your finances, prepare a letter of explanation.

Understand your needs and options. Different types of credit are appropriate for different types of needs. Sometimes putting together the financing for a project involves using several loans with different terms and, in some cases, even multiple sources. Banks are not the only potential source for business loans. For instance, in some areas, there are regional loan programs to support small businesses.

Research lenders and schedule pre-loan meetings.  If you already have a banker with whom you have a good working relationship, that is a good place to start, though, having a bank that you already work with is not a guarantee that it will be interested in your particular financing project. It is not uncommon for people to need to visit with several lenders before finding the right fit, i.e., a lender willing to work with you, who understands your needs, and is willing to work with the best options for your financing.

Put together your balance sheets.  If you are a pre-venture business or an existing business that has not yet developed much equity, this means your personal balance sheet (assets, liabilities and equity). If you are an existing business, you will need the business’ current balance sheet, plus an ending balance sheet for each of the past several years. Examine changes in your balance sheet over time and be prepared to discuss whether your financial position has been improving and how this loan will fit into that picture.

Collect your profit and loss statements. For existing businesses, you will need your actual P & L statements from the past 3 years.  You will also want to forecast your sales and expenses to see whether, with the new injection of capital and new debt service, you will still be able to cover expenses and hit the profit goal that you have set.

Develop realistic cash flow projections. These should show the impact of the proposed debt structure on cash flow for at least a 3-year period as well as the impact of the investment into the business. Assess whether you will be able to repay the loan and cover other expenses every month. Make sure that the cash flow projections are tied to how the business will operate.

Identify your break-even point. What will the business need to do in revenues in order to cover its fixed and variable expenses? A lender might also ask you to be able to discuss the break-even point on a particular product or service.

Put together, or update, your business plan. In this context, the purpose of the business plan is to demonstrate that you have thought through where you are going with the business, your specific objectives, how you are going to operate it to achieve those goals, how the financing fits into that picture, how well you understand the relevant finances of the business, the market in which it is going to be competing, the challenges that are going to need to be overcome and that you have the management capacity to be successful.

At the Washburn SBDC, our advisors are knowledgeable about lending options and have tools to assist small businesses – and prospective small business owners – prepare to work with lenders.

Related articles:

What a Balance Sheet Reveals about a Small Business

What Makes Up a Small Business Credit Report

Working With Banks: 8 Tips for Small Businesses

Dealing With Pain Points: Tips for Innovators and Entrepreneurs


Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas


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An Introduction to LLCs


One of the topics that clients at the Kansas SBDC frequently come to us for help with is whether they should form an LLC and, if so, how to go about it. While, in some cases, we recommend that clients also confer with an attorney and/or accountant, we can help with some basic information.


 LLC stands for limited liability company (not limited liability corporation). It is a popular business structure because it can combine the advantages of a sole proprietorship or partnership for purposes of taxation with the advantages of a corporation for issues of personal liability protection. A limited liability company must use the words Limited Liability Company or one of these abbreviations as part of its name:  LLC,  L.L.C., LC,  or L.C.  In business transactions, correspondence, marketing, and so forth, it is important that the legal business entity name, including the chosen way to represent that it is a limited liability company, be used.

Owners of an LLC are called members. An LLC with just one owner is a single-member LLC. One with multiple owners is a multiple-member LLC. Members can have an active role in the management of an LLC or be passive investors in the company.

Articles of Organization give public notification of the formation of the business, ownership, location and the legal contact. They are registered with the Secretary of State for the State of Kansas here. The fee is $160 –  $165. They need to be renewed annually and the registration needs to be renewed here. For for-profit businesses, the renewal cost is $50.

An Operating Agreement is a legal document that spells out important information for the ownership of the business. It is an internal document that does not get filed with the State of Kansas but should be retained by the business whether it is a single-member or multiple-member LLC. (See #4 below for more information below.)

More information about options for business legal structures can be found at the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.

6 Reasons to form an LLC

(1) To reduce personal liability on the part of a business’s owner or owners: By separating an owner’s personal assets from the business’ assets, a limited liability company limits an owner’s personal liability to the amount invested in the company should the business be sued. It does not completely eliminate the potential for personal liability in case of a law suit, it does not eliminate liability for debts for which any personal guarantees are given, and it does not protect the business from law suits.  Another way to help protect assets is to carry adequate and appropriate insurances. (Read more about insurances here.)

So, questions to ask include: What personal assets do you have to protect? How much do you foresee your personal assets growing and, in turn, needing protection? What types of liability risks are associated with your business/industry? How severe are they? How likely are they to occur? How well are you personally covered by insurances for any liabilities potentially associated with your business? How comfortable are you with these risks?

(2) To establish some protection for the name of the business: By registering an LLC with the Secretary of State’s Office for the State of Kansas, no other business entity in the same industry has the right to use that name in Kansas. The restriction does not apply to businesses in an unrelated industries or to businesses outside of the State of Kansas. (You may also file a trademark with the State of Kansas. Read about state trademark registration here.)

So, a question to ask is: Would my business or brand be damaged if someone else were to open up another business with the same name, in the same industry, somewhere else in the state of Kansas?

(3) To validate the business as “a real business” in public perception: Some people think that a business is not reliable, serious, or legal, if it is not an LLC or a corporation. They think that it is just a hobby business, a fly-by-night business, not quite trustworthy or not quite legal. For some businesses, being able to put LLC at the end of the business name is an important part of branding.

So, questions to ask  include: Are most other businesses in my industry structured as LLCs? Do my vendors, customers, or lenders expect businesses in my industry to be an LLC?  Would being an LLC make my business look more professional ?- or is it acceptable to be a sole proprietor/partnership? – or is the expectation even higher, that businesses in my industry be corporations, e.g., for reasons specific insurances or bonding?

(4) To reduce some of the risks associated with having multiple owners of a business: In forming an LLC, it is important to have an operating agreement. An operating agreement is a legal document that spells out things such as how much each member has invested in the business in cash or other capital contributions, the purpose of the company, its management structure and the responsibilities of each member, how profits and losses are to be divided, how disputes will be resolved, what happens if someone wants to leave the company or if an owner passes away, the duration of the existence of the company and the terms and procedures for its dissolution. Having important information of these types written down and agreed upon literally helps multiple owners be on the same page.

So, questions to ask  include: Do the owners of my business have a contract or other written documents that ensure that we are on the same page about important issues about which we, our spouses, or future owners of the business might need to agree? What is at stake if we do not have these things spelled out in writing?

(5) To avoid the double-taxation issues faced by shareholders of corporations: Typically, LLCs are structured so that the income tax liabilities of the business “flow through” onto the owners’ personal income taxes. Corporations, on the other hand, are taxed on profits and so are their owners – called “double taxation”. (Another option for avoiding double-taxation is to have the corporation set up as an S-Corp. Note, LLCs, can also be set up as S-Corps.)

So questions to ask include: On how much income in total do I need to pay income taxes? How much business income would I pay taxes on under the different structures? Do I, my spouse, other owners of the business have other sources of income on which we need to pay income tax? What are the tax rates for the different types of income?

(6) To enhance the value of the business in the context of succession planning: Related to the previous points, businesses that have operated as sole proprietorships or partnerships, sometimes elect to form LLC’s when they are in the process of getting ready to sell a business or transition it to new ownership as a way of enhancing the apparent and real value of the business.

So questions to ask include: Do I eventually plan to sell the business (or my portion of it)? Do I plan to transition it to employees or a family member? Given all of the various considerations, would having the business structured as an LLC make it more attractive to a future owner or owners?

If you are considering forming an LLC, evaluate what you want to accomplish and your options for achieving these goals. You may also need to discuss these things with your attorney and or accountant, as well as with other owners of the business, particularly when it comes to drafting your operating agreement or deciding on the best tax structure. Choosing the right legal structure can be to both the advantage of you, your family and your business.

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

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8 Things to Do Before Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign


Crowdfunding might be right for your business if you don’t qualify for a commercial loan (e.g., because you haven’t developed a credit history or don’t have collateral), if you are good at social networking in particular and networking in general, or if it can be utilized as a marketing tool to generate a lot of buzz about your products, services or technology.

Before deciding to launch a crowdfunding campaign, if its success is important to you, then do everything that you can to prepare to achieve your funding target. Most crowdfunding campaigns fail: slightly less than 1 in 3 reaches their financial goals. In many cases this is  due to lack of advance planning and preparation.

Here are 8 things to do before you pitch for money on a crowdfunding platform.

(1) –Do your research on whether your type of business/product/service has much success in crowdfunding and, if so, on which platform(s).
–(2) Chose the type of crowdfunding – donations, rewards, lending or equity – that is appropriate for your stage of business, the amount of money that you need and what you are going to do with the funds.
(3) –Study successful campaigns and learn from what they did right. Try to find someone who has had success in crowdfunding to coach you.
–(4) Develop and follow a pre-launch marketing plan. You want to generate interest before you start asking for funding. The start is crucial.
(5) –Prepare a plan of action for what you are going to do when, what you are going to offer, and how you are going to follow-up. Don’t promise rewards or results that you won’t be able to make good on (e.g., because you won’t have the production capacity).
(6) –Develop your story so that you can pitch with passion and keep the buzz going after the launch.
(7) –Know what’s in it for the crowd that you are going to pitch to so that you can make what you offer attractive to that group; i.e., know your audience and market appropriately.
(8)  Be aware that sometimes it is unwise to try to go it alone, especially if you are needing to raise large amounts of capital. You may need to hire a professional, e.g., an attorney (to help protect your interests and make sure that you are operating legally in offering equity positions), a graphic designer (to develop marketing materials) or a marketing consultant (to manage your campaign).
At the Kansas SBDC, one of our areas of advising is how to access capital; and, we recognize that financing solutions are not one-size-fits-all. Our business advisors can help you figure out how much money you need to bring in to launch a business start, new product or expansion. We can also help you evaluate options for bringing together the financing you need and prepare you to work with the resources you chose.
Related articles:
Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.
Business Advisor
Washburn University SBDC
America’s SBDC Kansas
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Tips for Writing an Executive Summary Aimed at Potential Investors

Having decided to seek investors, one of the next steps is to prepare an Executive Summary. Business-Deal

Access to capital to complete the development of products, technologies or platforms to deliver services – and to then to rapidly scale the growth capacity of their business – is a nearly ubiquitous need for entrepreneurs with a big vision. One option for companies with high-growth potential is to seek qualified investors. An entrepreneur considering this route should do his or her homework first.

Understand your goals. Talk with trusted advisors about your financial needs, options for meeting them and implications of each possibility. Consult with resources such as your state’s Department of Commerce or Securities Commissioners Office before soliciting investors. Learn about the experiences of other entrepreneurs who have sought and worked with investors and about what investors are looking for. Research what investment groups or individual investors might be interested in your company. 

Having decided to seek investors, one of the next steps is to prepare an Executive Summary. Here are some tips.

Keep in mind that your potential investors are likely to busy people with many demands on their attention. Write in the 3rd person so that the document looks professional and also so that they remember who you are while they are reading. Keep the paragraphs short. Limit yourself, ideally to 1 -2 pages, but to no more than 3. Use graphics or images if they help make your points more clearly than words alone do.

Put your bottom line up front. What is your company? What problem are you working on solving? What are you asking for?

Then go into details.

• What is the problem that you are solving? Why should anyone care? How are you solving it? What is the market for this solution? Why is solution original or better than competing solutions?

• What success have you had so far in solving the problem? What are the indicators that key resources believe in your potential for success? For example, have you won any grants or received interest from government agencies or other potential big customers?

Keep in mind that you are writing for investors who want expectation of a return.

• Who is the management team? What, if any, success have they had in commercialization of products/technologies/services? What other credentials do they possess that demonstrate their capability for moving this solution and this company forward toward successful commercialization?

• What is your business model? What is the commercial potential for your products/technologies/services? What, realistically,  could potential gross revenues and net profits look like?

• What is the expected structure for investment and what is the expected strategy for investors to receive a return? If this requires the sale of the company, what is your exit strategy? What is the anticipated timeframe for return on investment?

Invite a connection. Sometimes the difference between interest and investment is having the opportunity to go into more depth on the proposal in person.

At the Kansas SBDC, one of our main areas of advising in working with our clients is access to capital. Our business advisors can help evaluate needs and options, assist with market research and cash flow projections, and connect entrepreneurs with valuable resources to help them along the road to commercialization.

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

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Growth Resources for Women-Owned Small Businesses


Recently, I attended a conference for entrepreneurs, business support resource professionals, angel investors and venture capitalists. One of the themes that came up repeatedly was that communities in which female entrepreneurs thrive have healthy business ecosystems – with cause and effect moving in both directions. That is, in healthy business ecosystems woman-owned businesses have access to the resources that they need in order to be successful and woman-owned businesses contribute back to those ecosystems in many ways.

Though business ownership by women – especially women of color – has grown significantly in the past few decades, there are several measures by which women-owned businesses lag private sector businesses in general: access to capital; access to markets in certain industries; and gross revenue and jobs supported.

On May 3rd, the WU Kansas SBDC is hosting a day of workshops for Woman-Owned Businesses at the Milford Lake Conference Center at Acorns Resort in Geary County. The four workshops are  Financing, Marketing, Certifications and Government Contracting for Woman-Owned Small Businesses. We encourage women and men looking to grow and create more economic impact from woman-owned businesses to register for the day and attend any or all of the workshops! This is an opportunity to learn about resources, make connections and network with other people involved in the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Our very knowledgeable presenters include: Imagene Harris of NetWork Kansas, Brande Stitt of the Kansas Women’s Business Center and of Women’s Capital Connection, Sheila Ellis-Glasper of SEG Media Collective, Teri Taylor of the U.S. SBA, Kristi Dunn of Kansas PTAC and Laurie Pieper of the WU Kansas SBDC.

Ways to register: Register online here, by emailing

Thank you to our sponsors for helping us to put on this day of workshops. Junction City and Geary County Economic Development Commission, Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation, the U.S. SBA, Kansas Department of Commerce, Washburn University Kansas SBDC and America’s SBDC Kansas.

Related Articles:

7 Things Women Business Owners Should Embrace

Government Contracting for Woman-Owned Small Businesses

Celebrating Women Business Owners

Behind the Numbers: the State of Woman-Owned Businesses in 2018


Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

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