empowerment group blog
Your resource for business in Philadelphia

Monday, February 28, 2011

Stormwater Management and Your Business

As of January, 2011 the City of Philadelphia is making several changes to storm water management, including billing that affects small businesses. Find out how these changes affect you and use the resources listed to help you manage your storm water runoff, green your business, and reduce your bills at the same time!

The biggest change to stormwater management affecting small business is a new billing system that charges for runoff on individual properties. The Water Department explains the changes this way:

“In the past, customers were charged based on the size of their water meter. While that method is appropriate in some cases, it is often not representative of true stormwater costs. The new method takes into account a property's effect on the system by charging the property for its gross and impervious areas.”

 

The Water Department has an extensive array of resources on their website to help businesses navigate the changes, including a tool to help you calculate the changes to your bill, details about the program, and important numbers to use if you need more information and help. Grid Magazine has a great article on the subject, too.

If you’re looking to get creative, reduce your bills, and improve the environment around your business, the Water Department has also published a great guide with ideas and inspiration for managing stormwater on your property, from rain barrels and bioswales to porous paving and green roofs. Along the same lines, if you’re looking to gain credits for management systems in place or would like to appeal the billing changes, the city has created a guide for that, too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Entrepreneur Profile: Sarah Van Aken of SA VA

Sarah Van Aken may work in an industry that creates appearances, but SA VA, her socially sustainable clothing brand, operates with an attitude of doing things right out in the open. One of four apparel brands that Sarah has developed since founding her company in 2005, SA VA is committed to considering the entire lifecycle of a garment: how and by whom it is made, what it is made with, how it is transported, and the brand’s relationship with customers and impact on the community. Sarah says she has always had a background in design but making the transition to sustainability with SA VA has been an equally creative process. “I’ve been sewing since I was a kid and went to school for fine art, but finding a way to have the most socially sustainable apparel company has been my biggest design challenge yet.”

Sarah launched her first apparel brand, a line of men’s custom dress shirts she called Van Aken, in late 2005. “I knew that no one would give me the capital I needed to start a women’s clothing brand, my real passion, so I found a way to get into business with a small amount of money.” At the time she was doing part-time administrative work for her now business partner, Wayne Zukin, a real estate developer who invested the first seed money in to her business. As the business grew, Sarah sold real estate for Zukin Realty to finance the expansion of her business.

In 2006, Sarah opened a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh and launched her second brand of clothing Van Aken Signature custom hospitality uniforms. Under this brand Sarah has designed custom uniform programs for some of the restaurant industry’s most elite chefs, including Tom Colicchio, Jean-Georges, Alfred Portale and Charlie Palmer. “That was the bulk of my business for several years, and both of these brands are great but they are not my true passion.”

In 2008, having grown her business substantially, Sarah’s focus began to shift to launching her women’s brand SA VA, and what had started as a dream to be a fashion designer turned into something greater. “SA VA didn’t originate as a socially sustainable company, but a lot of things changed over the years and eventually, I knew I had to scrap this whole designing business or do something that really did something good for other people. And as soon as I made that choice, with hard work, things started to fall into place.”

Sarah credits the city of Philadelphia for helping her transition her business into one with a strong social mission. “Philly is exceptional for entrepreneurs, particularly in the creative class. You can create a situation like I did to get yourself off the ground, and I’m not sure I could have done that in a bigger city. It’s also very small in terms of connecting to people and having access to the government and to people who can help your business grow.”

Working with the City of Philadelphia’s Commerce Department in 2009, Sarah opened her Philadelphia based garment center and launched SA VA in a flagship retail store at 1700 Sansom Street in Center City. The brand has grown to include an online shopping site and wholesale line. “We really strive to create easy, effortless clothing that can fit into the wardrobes of many different types of women while continuing our commitment to local living wage job creation and reducing our carbon footprint.”

SA VA’s commitment to social sustainability carries over into each aspect of the business. “Living into one’s belief statements changes everything. It affects how you create employee benefit packages, the clothing you design, the customer you design into, who provides your products, and the vendors you do business with. It becomes integrated into our marketing and our operations.” Another aspect of using SA VA to “do something good,” is its involvement with Philadelphia’s nonprofits. “I definitely believe in connections and relationships and community building as the answer to essentially everything. We create community partnerships with groups like the People’s Emergency Center and The Career Wardrobe because they are organizations that help women transition back into professional lives.”

And although this has added to the success of SA VA in Philadelphia, it certainly requires sacrifices. “There are certain choices you have to make. Even if you love a garment, sometimes you can’t sell it at a reasonable price. We try to keep our prices in line with Banana Republic and Anthropologie because, I don’t want to buy really expensive clothing so why would I want to sell it?”

Despite this struggle, Sarah has certainly seen the city respond positively to both how SA VAis run and what it offers. “We operate our store, garment center, and manufacturing factory all here in Philadelphia, and people really care about the fact that we’re creating local jobs. But when they come into the store, they like us even more when they love the clothes and can afford them."

                                  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Quick Tips for Facebook Business Pages

Do you have a Facebook page and don’t quite know what to do with it? Are you not getting the hits or traffic you would like. Most people know that Facebook is a great tool for businesses, but few truly know how to use it. Most people try it out for a few weeks, but give up after not seeing any significant effects. However, if you invest a little bit of time and follow these tips, you will begin to see results. 


Carefully Name Your Page
Name your Facebook pages using keywords from your business or website. It is important to use keywords in everything you do. The goal is to have readers know what your page is when they land on it. 


Promote With Badges
Get a badge or link to promote you business page to customers and fans. You can create a large box like the one below that includes all of your fans. Here’s a video demonstrating how to place a Facebook box on your website.





Brand Your Page
Don’t just simply throw any picture onto your page; create a branding banner for the side of the page. It’s more free advertising!


Get the Word Out
You’ve promoted your page with a badge, but there’s still so much more you can do to spread the word. Add the link to your Facebook page in your email signature, business cards, and correspondence.


Update Your Page
Post blogs and articles to your page. Interact with your customers and encourage conversations on your page. This will keep your page from becoming dead. One you build a connection, those users are much more likely to spread the word themselves. Post occasional funny statuses to keep your fans engaged. 


Consider Creating a Custom Landing Page
You can create your own landing page where you can add photos and videos. Watch this video to learn more about making a Facebook markup language tab to use as a landing page.






Network!
Communicate/network with other Facebook business page owners who have similar businesses. See if they will post your updates on their pages as well.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Free EG Resources for Buying Local in Philadelphia

How well have you explored Empowerment Group's website?

Click here to access EG's Buy Local page, and see a map of small businesses in Philadelphia and a series of articles that will help you support entrepreneurs in your area! Included on the page is everything from farming, crafting, and art blogs, to various City Guides, to Neighborhood Directories!

Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Entrepreneurship Week Development! Events Calendar

Get psyched for EWeek 2011! We'll keep you posted as plans get finalized, and use the link below to access the newly updated Events Calendar.

Events Calendar





Thursday, February 10, 2011

InvestLocal Officially Starts

InvestLocal

Now accepting applications for this great fundraising opportunity, go to the website to learn how your business can apply! And spread the word to entrepreneurs! Tell them to learn more and increase their chances of being accepted by visiting our website, and by adding our Facebook page and following us on Twitter @EGEntrepreneurs and @EGEWeek!


Invest Local. Show the Love.
 
Calling all business owners!  Invest Local is a business funding campaign that will allow business owners to rally members of their business community—employees, customers, partners, supporters, and friends—to spread the word and fundraise for a particular item or project that they believe is critical for their business to thrive.  EG will accept applications and select five entrepreneurs to feature on our Empowerment Group website.  The five finalists will be able to collect web-based donations through a page highlighting their individual business.  To reach supporters and their fundraising goal, participating businesses will have to fully utilize their social media networks and online presence.


The first group of finalists will be selected by March 31, 2011

Apply today on the website! Please call Alex Hosford or Chloe Carter at (215) 427-9245 with any additional questions.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

InvestLocal Begins Tomorrow!


Invest Local. Show the Love.
Calling all business owners!  InvestLocal Philadelphia is a business funding campaign that will allow business owners to rally members of their business community—employees, customers, partners, supporters, and friends—to spread the word and fundraise for a particular item or project that they believe is critical for their business to thrive.  EG will accept applications and select five entrepreneurs to feature on our Empowerment Group website.  The five finalists will be able to collect web-based donations through a page highlighting their individual business.  To reach supporters and their fundraising goal, participanting businesses will have to fully utilize their social media networks and online presence.
The first group of finalists will be selected by March 31, 2011. Apply today on the website! Please call Alex Hosford or Chloe Carter at (215) 427-9245 with any additional questions.

Learn more by visiting our website

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

CURATOR WORKSHOPS at POP UP STUDIO feature FOUND-PAPERS, VINTAGE SILKS...Feb 5-20.

The Green on Greene building houses and promotes sustainable business. It has been home to several successful, new sustainable enterprises, including the Environmental Homestore, the Moving Arts studio (MaMa), and Philly Electric Wheels.

This winter, owner Pam Rogow has organized a series of Pop Up shops and studios in the building’s anchor space. In December, a combination of three emerging enterprises “worked together like a dream team here,” she says. “They really complemented each other, and sales were terrific.” Pam invited two Etsy stores to join the Urbane Tea Company, which donated its proceeds to the international “Charity: Water.”  A musical trio performed on the Saturday of that extended weekend.

“The great pleasure in all this is making a match for start-ups that want some brick-and-mortar experience.  So I got to thinking about other ways that ‘spontaneous retail’ and performance can fit with our street life right now.”

Along those lines, the winter roster will feature several more unique pop ups. (The March/April roster is open; applicants are welcome, and the rental fee is incidental where applicable.)

Just up:  “MaederMade”, Feb. 5-20, with textile artist and curator Edward Maeder.  His long list of accomplishments includes 15 years as Curator of Costumes & Textiles at the L.A. County Museum of Art, Founding Director of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Head of Exhibitions at Historic Deerfield, and more recently, Artist in Residence at Quimby Colony in Maine.

Now, Maeder brings his love of sewing, stitching and sustainability to Philly for a series of workshops and other events. The work he will be creating and teaching here indeed re-purposes the old cliché that one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

Maeder’s works here include fashions constructed from Q-tips, paper towels and other recycled papers. He will display historically inspired dresses and men’s and women’s clothing fashioned from paper--including a dress for Valentine’s Day.

Vintage silks are the second material that he uses. Edward has long stored a trove of unused striped silk samples that were manufactured in New York for men’s ties. Dating to the 40s, 50s and 60s, these samples will be used in workshops to make ascots, hats and other personal items. (All materials are included in the price.) He’s bringing along a big selection from a trove;  they will be for sale as silks and workshop kits as well. Artists and non-artists are welcome; sewing machines are optional.

The other key presentations during Maedermade are a hat-decorating workshop, a kids’ day, and a talk about color (like you’ve never thought of it before).

Finally, Edward will give an illustrated talk on Color/Historic Inspiration.  This isn’t color as design and art schools teach it, he says, but rather about color in history…and how colors in history can inspire us today.


Featured workshops:

Accessories from Found Paper
Using everyday papers such as napkins, doilies, crepe, tissue papers
Tues, Feb 15, 6-9pm; Wed, Feb 16, 6-9pm; Sat. Feb 19. 3-6 pm.  $38, 3 hours

Found Paper 3D Creations For Artists and Teachers
A special workshop geared towards art educators
Wed, Feb 9, 6-8:30pm; $35, 2.5 hours

Crowning Glory: Hat Decoration 
Start with a straw hat base, leave with a completed hat; optional decorative materials available
Sat, Feb 19, 9-3pm, Sun, Feb 20, 1-6pm; $48, 4-5 hours

Serious Stripes: Vintage Silks to Household Goods and Personal Accessories
Silks provided from Maeder’s vintage trove
Thurs, Feb 10, 6-9pm or Sat, Feb 12, 9-12pm; $38, 3 hours

A Special Illustrated Talk and Q&A on “Color: Historic Inspiration”
Maeder will discuss colors, referencing a historic framework.
Sat, Feb 12, 4-5pm, $10/$5 for students


Adults and Kids Workshops:

Make Accessories from Found Paper
Bring one or more photos or photocopies of yourself that can be cut
Sun, Feb 13, 10-12pm, $12 (minimum 8 years of age)

Old Fashioned Valentines
Bring one or more photos or photocopies of yourself that can be cut
Sun, Feb 13, 1:30-3:30pm, $12 (minimum 6 years of age)

Old Fashioned Valentines
Bring one or more photos or photocopies of yourself that can be cut
Sun, Feb 13, 4-5pm, $12 (For kids 3-5 years of age, with an adult)               

Illustrated Talk: Color and History
Sat. Sept 12, 4-5 pm, $5 students/ $10 others.
 ---------------------------------
*Participants can sign up at workshops for free additional studio time. Fees include all supplies, although personal wingdings and whatnots are welcome. Portable sewing machine optional. Reservations advised! See also:  http://www.maedermade.blogspot.com/ or www.facebook.com/maedermade.

Contact 215-842-1040, or muze@erols.com. The Green on Greene building is located at 6819 Greene Street, two blocks west of Lincoln Drive, in Mt. Airy. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Big News! Introducing: Invest Local Philadelphia

Empowerment Group is creating a business funding campaign that will allow business owners to rally members of their business community—employees, customers, partners, supporters, and friends—to spread the word and fundraise for a particular item or project that they believe is crucial for their business. Empowerment Group will accept applications in the next few weeks for deserving businesses, and then select five businesses to be featured on our EWeek website, and each business will have a dedicated page that will provide background information about the business and business owner, objectives for their fundraising campaign, and an opportunity for web-based donations. 
So think over who you know that should apply, and tell them to keep an eye on our website next week to access an application!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

EG Events

This past weekend the other VISTAs and I spent our time at two great events. One was a seminar at the Clay studio on Taxes for Artists, and the other was our January Women Entrepreneurs Circle held at the University of the Arts and hosted by multimedia artist extraordinaire Candy Depew. Participants at both seemed to get a lot out of the presentations, and those at the WEC even got to make their own screen print Valentines!

As we head into the new month and really hit our stride for 2011, I wanted to keep you all posted on our events and projects coming up with EG. Hope to see you at some (or all!) of these!



Entrepreneurship Training Course
This 6-week Saturday course will walk you through all the steps of opening your own business, from personal readiness, to financial and time management, to marketing and effectively presenting your business. It offers 24 hours of training and a ton of individual attention and consulting for your business. The cost of this course is $240.

Tools of the Trade
We are partnering with the Free Library of Philadelphia to host this "introduction to entrepreneurship" workshop monthly at different library branches around the city.And best of all, it's free! Here is the schedule for the coming months:

Feb 15, 2:30-4:30pm              Charles Santore Branch                
Mar 15, 5:00-7:00pm             Bushrod Branch                               
Apr 26, 6:00-7:45pm              West Oak Lane Branch                 
May 17, 4:00-6:00pm             Lillian Marrero Branch (in Spanish)      
Jun 22, 6:00-7:45pm               Wynnefield Branch                      

Women Entrepreneurs Circle
We have two great WECs planned for February and March and two great reasons for you to get out and mingle with your fellow female business leaders! At the end of February we will be visiting Sarah Van Aken of SA VA Fashions at her boutique and workshop in Rittenhouse. She is a true inspiration with her dedication to sustainable and ethically produced clothing and a major powerhouse in the Philly design community.

At the end of March, we will be hosting the Women Entrepreneurs Circle at Bario-Neal Jewelry just off of eclectic South Street. Ana Bario and Page Neal design all of their own jewelry and create it using reclaimed metals and ethically sourced stones. Come learn about their design process, and how they got into business with each other. They have much to share about business success and creative inspiration!

In The Works
We also have a few things coming down the pipeline that are still in the works. In April we will be hosting Entrepreneurship Week and with it 4 days of workshops and panel discussions to help you start or grow your business. One event that we're particularly excited about will be a dinner and business funding competition styled after Stake. Business owners will get to present their businesses and a project or reason why they should receive the money raised at the dinner. At the end of the night the audience will choose a winner who will take home the pot! the next couple of weeks we will be posting a Request for Proposals for business who are interested in being a part of this competition.

In January, we also ran a test version of a marketing workshop that we are going to build into our regular event offerings. Partnering with Media Bureau and the Corzo Center at the University of the Arts, we presented three days of online marketing strategy tips and helped participants build their online networks. Look for that to happen again sometime in March!

You can register for and learn more about any of these events on our Events Page

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