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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Design for Social Change

“People ignore design that ignores people.”
— Frank Chimero

What Frank Chimero means when he says that people ignore design that ignores people is that without a human charge, design is irrelevant. If you aren’t moving and motivating people by showing them a different glimpse of themselves or their wants/needs, you aren’t using design to benefit your business.

I know using the word design seems abstract, but design is a concept hard to make concrete. What every business owner, and every person, needs to remember is that everything is designed; from your coffee cup to your computer to the books your read. A lot of it is bad. Only a little bit of it is memorable – and that’s where you want to be.

Take the Los Angeles-based Weingart Homeless Center. A non-profit organization with a limited budget, Weingart used their marketing dollars very carefully with this campaign (click either image for a larger view):

“To raise awareness for the Weingart Homeless Center, they took a non traditional approach that made people imagine themselves homeless if only for a moment. They photographed a dozen of the 70,000 people living on the streets of Los Angeles. They gave each of them a blank cardboard sign and had them write the same message: “Before you turn away, put yourself in my place.” Followed by the URL, weingart.org. Then they took those images, blew them up life-size, removed their faces and made them into photo-realistic cardboard cutouts. They placed the cutouts in upscale shopping centers in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. Soon the homeless could not be ignored. This project not only raised awareness, but it ultimately raised funds.” – Via adgoodness.com

These life-sized, cardboard cut outs are hard to ignore. Pulling on the heartstrings of bystanders helps ease donor-apathy and increase interest in a cause. They made themselves memorable by going a nontraditional route and because of it, were able to increase their visibility and gain new donors.

Non-profit or not, as a business owner you should begin thinking of ways to use your advertising dollars to get the most out of your money. First, think about your product or service. Then, think about who might need it and when or where they might wish they had that product or service. When you’ve pin-pointed those key areas, you’re ready to brainstorm ideas that meet your customers where they already are.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Entrepreneurship Week Recap: Part 2

The first half of Entrepreneurship Week was a total panel-rama. Great, expert advice came at you from all directions, and you soaked it up like a Floridian catching rays. During the latter half of the week, it was your turn to talk to rooms full of people and put all that advice to use. From where I was standing, you did not disappoint!

At our bi-annual Small Business Resource Fair, entrepreneurs flooded the stately Chemical Heritage Foundation Conference Center (operated by The Hub), tongues a-blazin’. Dozens of participants chatted up helpful vendors for hours, discussing possible partnerships and seeking answers to the many unknowns of business ownership.

Participants complemented the one-on-one interactions through a series of workshops: “SBA: Access to Capital” with Andrea Giles, “City Licensing Basics” with Shinjoo Cho, and Empowerment Group’s own “Business Start-Up 101” with Executive Director Angel Rodriguez. Big thanks to all the presenters for sharing their time and their know-how!

Friday’s “Own It: The Business of Being a Young Entrepreneur” featured a full morning of youth entrepreneurship resources, starting with a presentation on the realities of money and closing with a panel of real entrepreneurs who started out young: Danilo Burgos of the Dominican Grocers' Association and Rick Kao and Jackson Fu of Abakus Takeout. In between, the high school students and out-of-school youth got the scoop on Prodigies, a teen-owned and operated silk-screening company. Some of them even left with some hot tanks and t-shirts!

To aptly recap Friday’s Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle at Sketch Burger (413 E. Girard Ave.), I only need a handful of words: solid networking, good conversation, and delicious. Let me say that last one again. Delicious.

Entrepreneurship Week 2009 concluded with ShopPhilly!—a day of visiting and celebrating local business corridors in Mt. Airy, Kensington, and N. 5th St. Small business owners throughout the three areas offered generous discounts in conjunction with the campaign. We hope you all had a chance to put those ShopPhilly! coupons to good use and support your local businesses!

Again, I’d like to echo the sentiments of this week’s previous bloggers and the whole Empowerment Group staff by whole-heartedly thanking all of our presenters, sponsors, and participants. This city thrives because of your hard work and commitment. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Entrepreneurship Week Recap : Part 1

Just like the month of April, Entrepreneurship Week came in like a lion and left like a lamb. Torrential downpours and high winds couldn’t stop Entrepreneurship Week from starting off, but they sure did try! We started the week with rain and dare I say hail? But by the end of the week we had blue skies and warm weather for Shop Philly!

Starting on Monday, April 20th at City Hall, our Opening Press Reception welcomed representatives from City Council, including Deputy Director of Commerce Kevin Dow, other non profit organizations, and Empowerment Group’s featured entrepreneurs.

Mr. Dow spoke about the importance of small businesses in our communities, and the role these community leaders play in our neighborhoods. He urged attendees and supporters of Entrepreneurship Week to contribute to their local economy by being patrons of these local stores, and supporting small businesses whenever possible.

We were happy to present our Featured Entrepreneurs with framed copies of their ads that have up until this point, been featured throughout Philadelphia, on SEPTA buses, subway cars, postcards, and posters. To learn more about our Featured Entrepreneurs visit our website!

Monday concluded with a workshop at IKEA, Finding Funds to Fuel Your Business, where reps from local funding streams explained the ins and outs of the funding world. Evelyn Montalvo of the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation pulled from her years of funding experience dishing out practical advice for all levels of entrepreneurs. Joe Matisoff of Hyperion Bank issued some much needed banking advice, and Brenda Williams rounded out the panel with her experience working with various funding streams and more recently as an Empowerment Group consultant.

Tuesday, April 21st started a little later with a lunchtime lecture at Devils Alley. Certifying as a Monority or Woman-Owner Business was led by George Murray, of the US Small Business Administration and Rubi Pacheco-Rivera from the Office of Economic Opportunity. Both speakers explained of the advantages of certifying on the federal and municipal level, leading attendees through the filing process.

Continuing right around the corner, we met at Helium Comedy Club on Tuesday evening, to learn how to sharpen our marketing toolkit. Get Noticed: Creative Marketing Strategies, was led by local marketing and media leaders. Darrell Williams pulled from his 30 years of experience with NBC 10 sharing some of his hard-learned tips for garnering media attention and keeping marketing campaigns well organized. Sharon MacWilliams of Philadelphia City Paper referred to her broad experience in advertising and radio to relay to attendees the importance of what she calls “white space”, or keeping your ads free of unnecessary clutter. Rounding out the panel was Adam Cohan, co-founder of Brio Solutions, a locally based web solution company, lending advice about staying current in social media and the web.

Wednesday morning started nice and early with EcoPreneur at the Center for Architecture, where entrepreneurs shared ways to “green” business practices. Charlie Szoradi of GreenandSave gave advice on tools to transform your work and home into an environmentally friendly space. He hopes that in the future the word “green” will be replaced with “smart”, stressing that these techniques help save not just the environment but your wallet!

Leanne Krueger-Braneky of the Sustainable Business Network shed light on the current “green” climate in Philadelphia, and recent developments in grassroots efforts, stressing the value of the SBN network for anyone looking to get started in the “green” community. Tanya Seaman, formally of PhillyCarShare, and Chad Ludeman of PostGreen rounded out our panel giving great examples of “greening” a non profit organization and “greening” a for profit business. PostGreen recently finished their 100K house, proving that green homes can be constructed at a competitive price with the right planning.

Wednesday ended at World Café Live with An Evening with Philadelphia’s Business Elite. Panelists included Hal Real, owner and founder of World Café Live, Bill Decker COO and co-founder of The Hub, and Susan Ellman CEO and co founder of FruitFlowers. Hal started the night with a video about World Café Live, explaining his long commitment to bring “new music to people and new people to music” culminating in the opening of World Café Live.

Susan referred to her experience starting a business from scratch and the ups and downs her business faced, as she described, “reacting” to business success after being featured in a national magazine. Bill described his past in the corporate world, and how he found a market that hadn’t been met: corporate meeting space equipped with full event and presentation needs all in a professional setting.


What a great start to the week! A big thank you to our attendees for making it through the touch and go weather, and to our speakers for being so generous with their time and advice.

Tomorrow we’ll post updates from the second half of Entrepreneurship Week. Missed out on Entrepreneurship Week 2009? Mark your calendars for April 2010! We’ll keep you posted on dates and times as they become available.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Networking Follow-Up Tips

Entrepreneurship Week was a blast. You went to all the events and met a ton of new people. You want them involved in your business, either as clients, suppliers or mentors. How do you turn those amazing strangers into trusted contacts?

Smart follow-up begins at the event itself. When you get someone’s business card, jot down a few notes to help you remember the situation. It’s also a good idea to ask how they’d like to be contacted. Nothing is worse than losing a potential customer by bugging them.

If you didn’t ask about follow-up, no worries. A brief call or email doesn’t have to be a bother. Just make sure contact is made soon after the meeting—within two days usually works best. You want to keep your business in their mind, so don’t let them forget who you are before you reach out.

Keep your message short and sweet. Be sure to mention some detail of the conversation you had. No one wants an impersonal letter. It feels too mechanical, and your potential customer will feel like he or she is just another email address to you. If possible, answer a question that came up in your conversation, include a link to an article you mentioned or even introduce this person to someone who might be able to help them. In networking, it’s all about giving. This establishes trust and rapport. Especially in your first follow-up, don’t ask for anything. Keep it light, friendly and helpful.

After that, wait and see. Chances are, your networking connection will write back with enthusiasm. Feel it out from there. If it seems like a good idea, suggest a sit-down meeting. Even if your contact doesn’t sound terribly thrilled to hear from you, or if they don’t write back at all, don’t worry. Persistence in business is key. Try again after a month has passed. It can take months, or even years, to cement a sale. If you keep at it, your contact will know that you’re serious and dedicated to your business and your network.

Any networking tips you’d like to share? Stories from Entrepreneurship Week? Leave them in the comments below. And thanks for coming out last week. We’d loved seeing you out there.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Target: Marketing

Just because you’re selling something doesn’t mean anyone will buy it. If you want to attract customers to your business, you’ll have to let them know who you are, what you do, and why you’re so incredible at it.

Most business owners don’t take time to really plan their marketing. For some, word of mouth has worked so long that when the buzz dies down they have no idea what to do next. Others do their marketing in bits and pieces, printing business cards here, starting a Twitter account there. But they don’t have a sense of how these tactics compliment each other, and don’t follow through on the projects they start.

Make marketing a priority. Take time to write a marketing plan for the year, even if it’s just a few sheets of paper in a binder. Try to make time each week to focus on your image. Update your website, or sign up for a networking event. Whatever strategies you choose, make sure they’re written down in your plan. Refer back to it periodically throughout the year. It’s the best way to stay consistent, and a good way to see direct cause and effect between the effort you put out and the returns you get.

But what kinds of tactics should you include in a marketing plan? I’ve listed a few low-budget ideas for getting more people through the door.

1. Give It Away

The fastest way to help clients understand the value of your product is to let them sample your goods for free. Recipients of freebies might come back to purchase your product, spread the word to family and friends, or at the least give you a testimonial for future promotions.

2. Partner with Similar Businesses

Strategic partnerships instantly expand your reach. For example, if you sell shoes, link up with a sock seller. Offer special deals for buying from both businesses at the same time. By promoting each other, both businesses have a chance of doubling their clientele.

3. Special Events

Offer an evening of entertainment, a networking mixer or a how-to seminar to create positive buzz about your business and get more people in the door than ever. Special events create a sense of community for your customers. That sense of loyalty and trust will last for years to come.

More Q&A with Phyllis

I asked Phyllis of Sketch Burger one more question about her business, and she was kind of enough to give us the scoop.

What's your favorite burger combination?
The Kobe, rare, with wasabi sauce, a little bit of raw onion and one slice of tomato. My customers definitely love to load up on the toppings, which I do appreciate as we work hard to give them the very best, but since we also use a great quality beef, I prefer to have the flavor experience to be all about the beef itself.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Community Connection: Q&A with Phyllis of Sketch Burger

This Friday night, Phyllis Farquhar, co-owner of Sketch Burger (413 E. Girard Ave.), will be hosting our monthly Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Because this month's Circle is part of our annual Entrepreneurship Week campaign, we're upping the festive factor with burgers and shakes. Read this Q&A to get acquainted with Phyllis and gear up to learn more at Friday's event. For more details and to enroll in this event, visit our Entrepreneurship Week events calendar.

What were you doing before you owned your own business?
I've been the owner of three businesses since 1989. Prior to that, I had worked in the restaurant industry as well as being a technician for the Steinway Piano Co.

What motivated you to be your own boss?
There are several motivating factors towards self-employment, but the primary one has to be the desire for independence, particularly if one’s vision cannot be fulfilled while being employed elsewhere. I think that being stubborn, strong-willed and independent (in a positive sense) naturally drives one towards autonomy. Additionally, I had particular hobbies that demanded flexibility in my work schedule.

What has been the biggest challenge of business ownership?
Of being a woman business owner? The biggest challenge of business ownership will always be finding capital and hanging on to it! Unexpected expenses always have a way of blinding an owner. I believe that as a female owner I experience no greater challenges than my male counterparts. In fact, in some regards, men are much more likely to go out of their way to assist me in ways that they would not help each other.

What is the most important piece of advice you wish you’d received before opening your business?
Building a business in Philadelphia has to be one of the most frustrating experiences anyone can survive. I wish I had had a mentor or adviser to guide me through all of the bureaucratic nonsense that this city throws our way. It is a paperwork nightmare with no central agency to offer guidance to new businesses. Unfortunately, it can be a slow learning process riddled with expensive errors. Keeping them to a minimum becomes the challenge indeed

Big thanks to Phyllis for taking the time to speak with me! We hope to see all you established and aspiring women entrepreneurs at Sketch Burger, this Friday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's So Taxing About Taxes? The Small Business Owner & The Business Privilege Tax

It’s no surprise that a large metropolitan such as Philadelphia thrives on small businesses. They make up nearly half of the businesses in the city and employ half of its residents. With a population stretching over the million mark, many people living and working in Philadelphia survive off the backbone of entrepreneurs who began only with a vision. This is a part of what makes being a small business owner in Philadelphia so unique. And there are a few ways in which Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania work tirelessly to make this city small business friendly. But those efforts are not without their concerns.

Pennsylvania’s Business Privilege Tax policy states that businesses outside of the city but sell their products here pay gross receipts. Gross receipts are a huge component of Philadelphia’s income. While businesses headquartered in-city pay only net income. The bottom line is, starting a business in Philly will be less tax strenuous. More of a general understanding of Business Privilege Taxes can be found here.

But the tax policy is not as simple and beneficial as it may seem. A focus group conducted found that “all participants expressed an intense desire to eliminate the gross receipts portion of the Business Privilege Tax” because it seems unjust. The discussion about business taxes in Philadelphia rendered more negative than positive responses. This thorough study by Alexis McGill & Associates can be found here.

Use these resources and weigh the options for yourself. Ask, how much will I gain or possibly lose by starting a business in Philadelphia? And remember, stepping out to start a business based on an idea derived from your passions and personal interests is all about risk. The reward of being a small business owner exceeds beyond taxes and policies. Your small business will have a huge impact on the lives and the neighborhood it inhabits.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

DIY Business Cards for Entrepreneurs on a Budget

As a graphic designer, one of my biggest pet peeves is receiving generic business cards from start-up entrepreneurs. Sure, business owners need cards to give away their contact information as they network, but their look and feel can both help and hurt business prospects. In the same way that handing off a creative, thoughtful card will make you more memorable to potential clients, handing off a sloppy and ill-thought card will make you, well, easy to forget.

When you’re employed by a big company, your business card is a reflection of their corporate philosophy. But as an entrepreneur, your business card should reflect your brand, your value proposition and most importantly – your personality!

I don't want to tell you your business card has to look like one of
these, because even though they're great for inspiration their cost breaks most start-up entrepreneurs’ piggy banks. So what can you do to leave an impression without breaking the bank?

First, avoid these common mistakes:

1. Don't use clip art in place of a logo. If your business isn't at the point where you're ready to hire a design professional to develop a logo, keep your cards plain & simple. Rather than using clip art, add a visual element with lines, shapes and/or fonts.

2. Don't "do it yourself." I don't mean you shouldn't use a program like Microsoft Publisher or Adobe Illustrator (because you should, if you follow these rules) to design your cards, but never print and cut your own cards at home. Save it for the professionals through affordable websites like
UPrinting, ColorPrintDirect or VistaPrint.

3. Don't ignore the back. For the extra couple bucks you'll spend printing double-sided cards, the impact is worth it. Use the back to explain your product or service in a few words or sentences (less than 2 sentences), or consider using it to place your tagline.

Next, try these simple solutions to make yourself stand out from the crowd:

1. Learn to make your own. If your computer has Microsoft Publisher, take an online tutorial like
this one to learn step-by-step how to create your own business card. Experiment often and try different things before you settle on a design. Ask for feedback from friends, family or even me.

2. Find a font that speaks to you. There are thousands of free fonts on the Internet. Visit
dafont.com and browse through their selection, but be sure to choose one that is free (not "free for personal use"). When working with fonts, you'll want to keep it simple: choose one decorative font and one plain font. After you decide, stick to your choices!

3. Explore the meanings of color. Experiment with colors to bring excitement to your card. If your business brings to mind a certain color (like a landscaping company makes you think green), use it. If not, look into
what different colors make people feel and choose a hue that matches your brand promise.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to create an elegant, thoughtful way to present your contact information to prospective clients without compromising your brand. Here are some examples of what you can create on your own:

Happy designing!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Community Connection: Speaking of supporting your local economy…

Something that I love about Philadelphia is the constant motion in our small business community. Established businesses remain, but continue to offer new and enticing products along side old favorites, and new business spring up to shake up the routine, infusing new energy into our neighborhood offerings.

I live in Fishtown, and have always loved the area; the mix of family run businesses, pubs, and music venues. The proximity to Northern Liberties and its rich mix of restaurants, café’s, boutiques, and parks. The convenience of public transportation that whisks you straight to downtown shopping. End of the day, I love that I can fulfill all of my shopping needs and then some, within a locally owned business community that provides consistently diverse and high quality products.

In the coming months I’ll sift through this great city and highlight the openings of some newcomers to the Philadelphia business community and spotlight some business veterans whose establishments have been frontrunners through the test of time. Starting with what I know best, there are two additions to the Northern Liberties area that gain merit based on their unique and focused offerings.

Casa Papel opened its doors the beginning of February featuring specialty decorative papers and paper services that include custom design, specialty printing, and solid ink printing. Tired of drab invitations that leave you lukewarm? Stop by and chat with co-owners Cecilia & Nester Torres about the unique services they offer, and ways to spruce up your event, business, or personal stationary for a custom feel.

If you haven’t had a chance to peruse their products, stop by for their Grand Opening tomorrow, April16th from 6:30-8:30!

(Casa Papel | 804 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA 19123 | phone: 267.761.9149 web: www.casapapel.com )

After you’ve crusied 2nd Street, bat an eye at Girard Avenue where HomeBody owners Deneen Jackson, Cyndora Bellamy, and Kelli Waters have established an all-in-one boutique. Under one roof, these business savvy ladies offer makeup and skincare consulting to revamp your beauty routine. Offerings include Novalash extensions in The Lash Bar, boasting a natural but voluminous boost for your baby blues (or browns, or hazels, or…you get the point).

Lucky for us, HomeBody is offering special promotions during ShopPhilly! Now is the perfect time to try something new. Don’t worry, these extensions are waterproof, so they won’t cut into our beach time.

(HomeBody | 219 East Girard Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19123 phone: 267.918.8319 web: www.homebodypa.com )

Tune in for monthly updates of a business opening near you! Something new opening around your corner? Leave a comment and share the wealth!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Corridors: Bridging Business & Community

Every city has particular areas where people gather for food, culture, and to experience the history of that area in the present. Philadelphia is not unique. We often describe ‘the best’ places to get those particular experiences and goods by neighborhoods, those tight knit communities that are woven with a specific focus and specific businesses that cater to a specific group of people.

Known as business corridors, the small businesses created by local entrepreneurs that play an important role in making certain neighborhoods what they are today. Think big when it comes to your business as a part of a neighborhoods growth as well as its history!

Such an example as Fabric Row located on South 4th street between South and Catherine streets has been a continuously thriving district for over a century. Today Fabric Row is a blend of 3rd generation family-owned and emerging green businesses. The aesthetic appeal and friendly nature of the neighborhood keeps it at the top of the list of the city’s best corridors. Sewers, crafters, and the do-it-yourself folks of young and old convene to fix their habits and lifestyles with what the corridor is known for.

With Entrepreneurship Week looming, we wanted to highlight additional business corridors in our effort to keep dollars within our local economy with Shop Philly! that’s set to take place Saturday, April 25th in the New Kensington, El Centro de Oro, and Mt. Airy shopping districts. All three areas have blended their own histories with the businesses that call these neighborhoods home.

El Centro de Oro for example located in the Fairhill section from North 5th (Huntington & Allegheny Avenue) street to 6th and Front Streets. It’s an area with a wealth of Latino-owned businesses that cater to the community surrounding it with restaurants, music, health services, and more. This corridor alone employs hundreds of its occupants, a shining example of what Philadelphia can and will become with the participation of local entrepreneurs: a city where every community is accelerates in growth due to the backbone of the businesses that make them unique.

Don’t forget to visit www.entrepreneurshipweek.com daily for updates and how to get involved!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Creative Capital

So you’ve got a business idea that's nothing short of groundbreaking. This idea will save lives, end hunger and walk the dog, all for a fraction of the cost. You’ve got a name, marketing plan and your licenses in place. Now all you need is a little start-up capital.

Finding funding is one of the first and most daunting challenges in business ownership. Between writing a business plan, cultivating your credit and successfully presenting your idea, bank loans take a lot of effort. And that was before the credit crunch. Now securing loans with anything less than a stellar score seems impossible.

What can you do if you’ve got a great idea but nothing in your wallet? Most tried-and-true financing options fall into two categories: personal financing and institutional financing. Let’s explore both sides of the game to let you know where you stand.

Personal Financing

For many start-up entrepreneurs, personal financing is a hugely attractive option. It means not having to depend on others. It means no strings attached, no banks setting deadlines for your business success.

Personal financing appears in many forms. A few favorites include:

  • Personal savings (savings account, IRA, 410(k), etc.)
  • Borrowing from family and friends
  • Home equity loans
  • Credit card financing

Businesses with low start-up costs can use such strategies to find their footing. By borrowing money from yourself or a friend, focusing on cash flow and gradual, smart growth, most entrepreneurs can get build their business over time into something much bigger. Tips on how to leverage personal finances for business growth can be found at the following links:




The main drawbacks of personal financing are the risks you take. Gambling your house, retirement savings or friendships on the success of your start-up can have disastrous consequences. Be honest with yourself about the potential of your idea. Make plans for repaying friends, family and yourself. If using a credit card, take time to shop for a good interest rate, understand fees and create a solid payment plan so you don’t get in over your head.

Institutional Financing

Entrepreneurs often turn to institutional financing to jump-start businesses in need of more capital, such as storefronts, restaurants and manufacturing companies. Examples of institutional financing include:

  • Bank loans
  • SBA-guaranteed loans
  • Microcredit loans
  • Angel investors
  • Venture capitalists

Angel investors and venture capitalists are individuals who put up personal funds to see a business started. In exchange for capital, they’re usually looking for a stake in the company. Most investors want to fund specific type of project, usually in the field of science or technology. Venture capitalists are few and far between, so unless you have some leads, it’s not the best idea to hold out for this type of funding.

To tap into any kind of institutional funding stream, entrepreneurs must demonstrate how much money they need, what they’ll use it for, and when they’ll be able to pay it back. You should be clear about the answers to these questions before approaching a funder.

Even in today’s economic climate, loans from a bank or microcredit lender are still the best way to go for many business owners. And while loans are harder to get these days, they’re not impossible. Come learn more about successfully assembling a loan package and applying for loans during Entrepreneurship Week, April 20 – 25.

Finding Funds to Fuel Your Business, a financing panel, will be held at IKEA (2206 S. Columbus Blvd.) on Monday, April 20, from 6:30 – 8:30pm. All Entrepreneurship Week events are free and open to the public.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Innovative, Attention Getting Marketing

Some of the best examples of marketing I’ve seen lately are so good because they directly interact with their audience. The way I see it, the difference between seeing an advertisement and interacting with it is a lot like seeing a box of crackers in the food store and trying to decide whether to buy that box versus tasting a sample cracker from the box, loving it and then buying it.

Interacting with advertising is important because it makes purchasing decisions easier by helping potential customers really get to know your product and your brand before they spend any money.

Interactive marketing isn’t for every business. Marketers that use interactive advertisements successfully have a few things in common:

  1. They spent a lot of time developing their brand promise.
  2. They spent even more time researching their target demographic.
  3. They spend the most time engaging their customers in a conversation.

There’s a lot of ways to use interactive marketing, and it’s not just about the Internet. Even though social networking tools, like Facebook, MySpace or blogs, help advertisers get to know their customer base and allow them to begin a conversation, it doesn’t always have the “wow” or “shock factor” that makes some interactive marketing better than the rest. We know its hard to get our consumers to pay attention, so we need to meet them where they already are.

Here are 2 examples of great interactive marketing:

Why does this work? It’s entertaining, simple and very memorable. The messaging is clear and unique and, according to the pet store that funded the advertising campaign, the result was “less fleas, more sales.”

Why does this work, and more importantly, what is it for? It's an advertisement in Japanese ski resort bathrooms for Coca-Cola's Georgia Mac Coffee, with the brand messaging emblazoned on the toilet paper holder and the back wall. It works because the initial reaction elicits surprise, curiosity and ultimately: product realization. Not to mention that it’s one bathroom you wouldn’t forget using!

So, how can your business effectively use interactive marketing? The answer is different for every business. If you want some advice, think about posting a question with your product/service on Empowerment Group’s Discussion Forum* or come to Helium Comedy Club on April 22 to get some advice from the experts at our “Get Noticed: Creative Marketing Strategies” event during Entrepreneurship Week!

*To view this page, you must create a user account with Empowerment Group.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Community Connection: Tips from Philly's Social Entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurship. Sounds kind of vague, kind of amorphous, not all that dissimilar from those other buzzwords being thrown around lately. When I first heard the term, I thought it sounded a little counterintuitive. It’s not. In the most general sense, social entrepreneurs harness the innovation associated with entrepreneurship to tackle systemic societal problems. The social mission is both explicit and integral to their endeavors.

So, where do you, the for-profit business owner or the aspiring entrepreneur, fit into this model? Small businesses are integral players in the propagation of social entrepreneurship, thanks in large part to their flexibility, level of control, and connection to the local economy. It’s a natural leap.

Incorporating a social mission into the framework of your business, however, does not supplant the importance of profit. You’re not doing anyone any good if your business goes under. If you want your business to make an impact, economic viability needs to be the foundation.

Today, I had the opportunity to listen to three small business owners who are working hard to put their profits to good use: Jill from Mugshots CoffeeHouse, John from John & Kira’s Chocolates, and Bill from Philadelphia Brewing Co. (who is also an Entrepreneurship Week “Featured Entrepreneur”). These busy business owners volunteered their time to speak at the Fox School of Business Social Entrepreneurship Conference. I’ve outlined some of the more prominent tips below.

Social entrepreneurs take care of their employees. Funneling your profits into the pockets of your employees not only means more dollars in your communities, but also better retention and harder workers. They’re worth the investment.

Think critically about who you’re going to sell to and how you’re going to sell it.

Know your people: your customers, your vendors, and your neighborhood.

Decide where you’re willing to compromise and where you draw the line. At what point does your business become too estranged from the ideas you value? Determine this point, and try not to cross it.

Don’t feel compelled to do everything at once. Incorporate social value into your business as the resources become available. Incremental change is still change.

Use social networking to convey your story.

A big “thank you” to Jill, John, and Bill for their sage wisdom. For more tips on socially-responsible business ownership, check out Entrepreneurship Week’s EcoPreneur panel on April 22. Our panelists will discuss practical and cost-effective ways to incorporate green practices into your business.

Do you have some ideas about what social entrepreneurship means and what it looks like? Include them in the comments below—we’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Graduating High School as a CEO: Entrepreneurship As An Option For Youth

“I always wanted to an opportunity to use my own ideas and I don’t think a regular job could afford me that opportunity. I was glad I was able to collaborate with like-minded individuals to create a business that we all contributed our ideas and perspectives to.”

-Khasera Corinaldi, YAM [Youth Academic Mentors] Vice President of Sales and Marketing discussing what she enjoys most about being a young entrepreneur

Khasera was a part of a talented group of entrepreneurial-minded high school students from Imhotep Charter who won first prize in a business competition hosted by the Empowerment Group last year. They were awarded $5,000 in start-up funds for their business. Khasera and her partners discussed the academic challenges young people face and decided to start the process of improvement early by creating a service catered to elementary students to help them stay focused and encouraged about enhancing their educational experience. That is how Youth Academic Mentors, better known as YAM was created. YAM’s mission is “focused on delivering the best in peer-tutoring and mentorship to select groups of underserved urban youth in need of one-on-one academic and social support.”

Teenagers globally are hungry for innovative ways to turn their interests and gifts into something that will make them financially independent. And many understand that entrepreneurship is a great way to stay out of Mom or Dad’s wallet. According to the United States Department of Labor, 68.6 percent of teenagers want to become entrepreneurs. Most if not all of this percentage find it difficult to find the guidance to pursue entrepreneurship as an alternative.

The Empowerment Group understands the value, intelligence, insightful nature, and the potential youth in Philadelphia possess to be successful given the opportunity of being one’s own boss. Although entrepreneurship has often been an afterthought in the improvement of a teenager’s livelihood, economic success and entrepreneurship is fast becoming standard for school systems nationally. Here are just only a few from the many ways entrepreneurship education can have a huge impact not only on the entrepreneurs themselves, but the lives and conditions surrounding them.

Leadership Development Youth involved in entrepreneurship gain a sense of ownership while they watch their business come to life through critical decision making, problem solving, and learning to network. With a sense of leadership, young entrepreneurs can gain confidence in their ideas, express to others, and implement them.

Community Impact With a full grasp of the condition of their communities first hand, youth learn to use effective problem solving skills to re-imagine community through the use of entrepreneurship. They understand that a locally owned business on the streets they tread today can have positive implications tomorrow through access, opportunity, and job creation.

Improved Academic Performance With entrepreneurship education, students are able to connect their everyday lives to skills that will be useful to them in the present as well as their futures. With the question How is this useful to me? no longer an issue, youth connect personal goals to the mainstay educational system and are inspired to work within it to attain their dreams.

Opportunity for Work Experience Teenagers are already highly motivated to work in order to meet their wants as well as needs. Instead of working at a job after school that offers minimum wage at least (which is $7.15 - $7.25/hour), entrepreneurship is an even greater driving force to get students involved in a work experience that’ll allow them not only full ownership, but the utilization of their interests so it becomes about more than making money.

Financial Literacy Getting young people excited about math can be a challenge. But youth already understand the value of learning how to manage, save, and budget money. Entrepreneurship education takes basic money management a bit further by applying its principles to owning a business.

The important part about entrepreneurship education is that every aspect relates to another. With guidance, support, and the window of opportunity, youth can transform a nation and become a positive economic force for the future.

That window will be brought to you by Empowerment Group’s Entrepreneurship Week event entitled, “Own It! The Business Of Being A Young Entrepreneur” April 24th from 9am-12pm at the Central Library on Ben Franklin Parkway.

Want to learn more about Entrepreneurship Week? Find it here!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Q&A with Iola Harper

Creating a healthy work/life balance proves to be a stressor for nearly 65% of entrepreneurs, male or female. Women business owners are more stressed by trying to create this balance than men (71% vs. 62%) and often report making personal sacrifices for their business. So, how does one successful women business owner deal with the challenges of balancing family & business?

Read our interview with Iola Harper, owner of IgC Consulting and Empowerment Group's Women Entrepreneurs' Circle facilitator.

Q: Do you think men and women business owners face different challenges as far as creating a work/life balance? Why?
I am not going to say that men have it easier – because in some instances they do not. But many women have the added challenges of household management. I happen to have a fantastic husband who does a great deal in our home, but I still feel the pressure of making it all come together.

Q: What stresses you out the most as a woman business owner? Why?
I get most stressed because of the choices that I have to make. So often after I have dealt with working, household, homework, activities for my child, church, etc - there is no time left for Iola! But I have vowed that I am going to make time for me. I have literally had to schedule it – just like an appointment. And to do that, I most often have to sacrifice billable hours, or some other thing that I "should" be doing. That sacrifice doen't seen fair - but it is my reality. When I schedule something for me– I honor it, just like it was an appointment for a million dollar contract. This is one of the best ways that I have been able to deal with the stress that comes with trying to do too much. Also, I have had to leave the notion of perfection far behind. I may not be able to make every board meeting, or every networking event – and yes, my house may be a mess some days.
I prioritize and from there just try my best.

Q: How do you deal with the challenge of balancing family and business?

One of the best things that I have done to reduce the stress level is to plan fun activities with family and friends. It is much easier to get through an insane week of work, when I know I have something fun planned over the weekend with my husband or with some friends.

Q: With all the technology people use to stay connected these days, do you think it’s really possible to leave work at work?
Technology is a great thing for business, but I admit that I have an unhealthy addition to being connected. My Blackberry – or “crackberry” as my husband calls -- is ever present, like a sixth finger. I am working on it.

Q: What is the single most important piece of advice you wish you’d received before opening your business?
The single most important piece of advice that I wish I had received would have been to measure your success by your own standard – not those set by others. Would it be nice to have my business become a Fortune 500 firm? It depends. Would it be great to make millions of dollars – heck yea! But for me right now in my life, I need to be present for my son and family. I want to be at basketball games, parent’s night, and school plays. I need to make sure that the people I care about know I love them. It is also critical for me to make a difference in the communities that could most benefit from the talent and intellect that I was blessed with. I lost my Mother in July of 2008. She was the single most important force in my life – and even at her bedside in the hospital, I was on my laptop. I will never again allow things and pursuits to supersede what is most important to me – sharing my heart, infecting people with a positive spirit, and leaving a legacy of love.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Marketing Entrepreneurship

When I started thinking about how to get people excited about being an entrepreneur, I immediately thought back to all the interesting start-up stories I've heard from different business owners. I knew that to get the effectively get the word out, I had to focus on the most important part of any business: the owner. For me, the most inspiring part of my work and the thing that makes me want to be my own boss is talking to people that are living the dream.

Even before Empowerment Group started this ad campaign, we knew that our entrepreneurs were the driving force behind our work. We've always known that entrepreneurs epitomize the standard of drive, innovation and passion that it takes to succeed in the small business world, and we wanted to share their passions and their stories with you.

If you ride SEPTA, maybe you've noticed our "Are You Ready to Be Your Own Boss" ads that feature 5 unique Philadelphia business owners: Bill & Nancy Barton, Eugene Ewing & Sergei Panov, Judi Graham, Danilo Burgos and Napoleon Garcia.
What I discovered by talking to each of them is that they love what they do, where they do it and why. Not a single one complained about their job. Not one of them had a bad word to say about their boss.

Check out the ads below, and read more about our featured entrepreneurs here.

Have you seen the ads in person? Tell us what you think.

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