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Your vote will help create jobs

Quick blog post here. I’m asking you to support a woman-owned company in its pursuit of a grant: Los Kitos Produce.

The Orange, CA-based company was featured in OC METRO several years ago as we profiled founder and CEO Martha Montoya, a talented cartoonist who used her creativity to create a cartoon strip of characters that taught children life lessons through their antics. Montoya later went on to work to reduce childhood obesity through the messaging of her characters. Today, she has launched a new company that aims to assist small and minority produce growers to gain access to distribution through the nation’s largest retailers. A grant from the Chase / LivingSocial program called Mission: Small Business would help greatly.

Please take just a few minutes to help her. In doing so, you’ll be helping independent farmers and the people that will benefit from their success. Here’s how.

Go to missionsmallbusiness.com and click ‘Log In & Support.’  Log in using Facebook (Lower right hand side of page).

    1. You must have an Facebook account to vote.
    2. Search for  ”Los Kitos Produce” OR filter by State and City  (CA, Orange)
    3. Click on the blue Vote button next to the business name to show your support.

 

Women-owned businesses are hiring again

If you’re in the job market, your next employment opportunity just might be working for a woman-led company. According to the recently released report, “Small Business: Lessons of the Recession,” which analyzed how more than 500 woman-owned business weathered the Great Recession, more women-owned firms are now hiring staff, compared to those who are reducing headcount. Forty-five percent report that, compared to their lowest quarters during the recession, they are now increasing their staff size. Less than 10 percent say they are cutting jobs.

Source: http://www.nfib.com/wobstudy

During the recession, most women-owned firms employed cost-cutting measures to survive the turbulent economy (45 percent), while fewer opted for strategies to increase sales, according to the study. Of those focused on increased sales, more than half tapped into their current customer base to add revenue, rather than seeking new accounts. Today, however, most women business owners say their sales are still lower than prior to the start of the recession in 2007.

“During the recession, women-owned small businesses did the best they could with the few choices they had available to remain open for business, and they’re stronger today for it,” said Patricia Greene, Chairwoman of the Center for Women’s Business Research. “The real silver lining is that their resiliency provides valuable lessons on how today’s business owners can adapt to challenges.”

And what a difference a few years makes. Prior to the recession, just four percent of women-owned companies had implemented social media marketing, compared to the 56 percent today who claim the strategy is a very important part of their marketing.

Finally, women claim they are working harder than ever before, with 41 percent reporting they continue to work more than they did at the peak of the Great Recession.

The survey was a joint effort by Chase Card Services, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Center for Women’s Business Research.

CrowdFundingLive.com can help you fund your idea

I attended a unique event yesterday at the Radisson Hotel near LAX: CrowdFundingLIVE

What is “crowd funding?” It’s a new way to fund your project. In short, as CrowdFundingLive co-founder Aggie Kobrin explains in the video below, it’s about asking for a little bit of money from a lot of people. Watch the video for a more complete explanation. (Kobrin’s site is targeting women business owners.) Venture capital is hard to come by. An IPO is a lot of red tape. As a result, crowd funding is catching on like wildfire!

In reality, it’s been around for years. Think Cub Scouts’ candy bar sales, your church collection basket, political campaigns. But with the global access the Web provides, your earning potential is much greater. People are funding book and film projects, their “better mousetraps,” and even personal pursuits. According to a speaker at yesterday’s event, the first crowd-funded baby was born a few months ago to a couple who wanted a baby but didn’t have funds to pay for In Vitro Fertilization.

Thanks to the passing of the Job Act in April, the limit on how much businesses can raise through crowd funding has been increased to $1 million.

If you’re looking for seed money for your business startup, crowd funding is something to consider.

Women helping women through KIVA

I was so excited when I received the following announcement from KIVA in my inbox this morning! The loan I helped fund for a woman business owner in Mongolia has been fully repaid.

 

I was introduced to KIVA through another OC METRO blogger, Albert Ornelas (OC Latino Movers & Shakers). KIVA is a micro lender that serves as the middleman for funding business loans to economically challenged entrepreneurs. When I first went to the KIVA site I was moved by the need. There was the widow with several children in Vietnam who was in need of money to buy rice for her rice farm. There was another in Africa who was selling trinkets on the street and needed money to buy inventory. As hard as it is to run a business here in this country (and especially in California, with all the regulations), imagine having to do so with so few resources at hand. It was so hard to select just one to support.

I opted to help fund the loan of 54-year-old Battumur Ayurzana — I think because we are the same age and she is the mother of grown children, including a son. (She lives in a tent in his backyard!) Battumur needed $250 to buy felt so that she could make the traditional boots she sells. I had the privilege of being the final lender (I loaned a grand total of $25!) that fully funded her loan. Over the course of the past year, she has made monthly payments, and today I got notice that the loan is fully repaid. I have my $25 back and, as KIVA hopes all lenders will do, I plan to select another entrepreneur to help fund.

KIVA, which in the past has focused on entrepreneurs in impoverished countries has, to its credit, created a funding program here in the U.S., specifically in the economically depressed state of Detroit. I will start there, searching for a female entrepreneur to support and will celebrate her success as well.

Former NBC Anchor Michele Ruiz stresses ‘thinking time’

 

 

Former NBC News Anchor Michele Ruiz stopped by my office last week to connect. I’m so glad she did. Not only did I learn more about her recent business ventures, but I was inspired to reflect more on my own.

Former NBC anchor turned entrepreneur

Ruiz stopped by OC METRO to talk "entrepreneurship"

Ruiz’s time in front of the camera goes back some eight years (she won five Emmy awards as a broadcast journalist). Since then, she’s launched two companies and is about to announce the launch of a third. The Orange County, CA-grown entrepreneur has roots in Stanton and at Cal State Fullerton. She also attended Cornelia Connelly High School in Anaheim. The mother of two is as impressive in person as she was on the air at NBC. To her credit, she has repackaged herself, building on her own personal brand, and is now a “brand ambassador” for companies like IBM and Sprint.

“My Life as a Latina Entrepreneur” is the name of her blog where you can follow her each day. She shares her experiences as she builds her own business. Stay tuned for her debut of a new company that is designed to help all entrepreneurs package THEMSELVES for financing. Ruiz will be providing education and certification so that business owners seeking financing are prepared for the process and can increase their chances for funding. Much like pre-qualifying for an auto or home loan, the idea is that entrepreneurs will be well-prepared for the process.

As we chatted about entrepreneurship she stressed the importance of scheduling “thinking time.” Not just hoping to think something through when time allows, but actually booking time for the process of dwelling on goals and strategies.  I’m an action-oriented type person, always wanting to do something that produces results. I realized after talking with Michele that thinking time is not wasted time. It’s an investment in clear-headed leadership and strategic planning.

Do you book meeting times with yourself?  If so, how often and where do you “meet?”

Get noticed. It can lead to great things.

As editorial director for our portfolio of media brands (Churm Media), I’m involved in the selection of many of the individuals featured in our pages. Our flagship brand, of course, is OC METRO magazine, a 21-year-old business/lifestyle magazine that covers Orange County, CA. One of the things we’re known for is our “list issues” that highlight groups of business people in specific categories. We’ve branded “The Hottest 25 People in Orange County,” “20 Women to Watch,” “40 Under 40,” etc.  I have to tell you that when people submit nominations, the ones that stand out are those that have already been endorsed by a third party.  For example, if a woman is being submitted for consideration for our “20 Women to Watch” list and her accomplishments have already been noticed by other entities, we weigh that in our decision to include her. It validates her worth.

The problem is that when you’re just starting out, you don’t yet have any “claim to fame.” But, you have to start somewhere and that first “hit” is often hard to come by. It’s like getting your first job. You likely need to have experience before you can be hired, but you can’t get that experience until someone hires you.

So my suggestion is to just get started. Start submitting your information to media outlets and associations that recognize the accomplishments of women business owners. You’ll be amazed at how one award, honor or editorial feature can lead to other things.

In a previous venture of mine, I had my product featured in Working Mother magazine. Shortly after that, I got a call from a writer at Business Week who wrote about me. That eventually led to a feature segment on NBC’s “Today Show” where I was interviewed by Katie Couric.

So get started.  If you’re a woman who owns a business with at least $1 million in revenue for the last two years, Ernst & Young wants to know about you. Their program for high-potential women entrepreneurs could lead to great things. Thanks to Rachel Bondi, founder of Men Matter and an author and speaker, for sharing the information.

 

World’s biggest customer seeks W.O.B.s

This is your chance to learn how you can tap into the $27 billion in government contracts that are set aside to award to women-owned businesses. Mark your calendars for May 25 and register for the FREE American Express OPEN and Women Impacting Public Policy Webinar.

On the agenda:

• 4 required steps to compete for a WOSB contract

• How to grant the contracting officer access to your certification in the repository

• WOSB review and protest issues

• Mandatory reading: regulations and compliance

Touted as the world’s largest customer, the U.S. government is obligated to look to women business owners as vendors. It’s the result of the SBA’s Women Owned Small Business Program (WOSB) legislation that went into effect on February 4.

Additional information can be found below:Give Me 5 131: Using your WOSB Certification to Win .: Wednesday, May 25, 2011Time: 3-4 p.m. ET / 12 p.m.-1 p.m. PTWhere: Virtual

To register: Business owners who are interested in joining the Webinar should visit http://www.wipp.org/events/event_details.asp?id=156000


A profile of America’s woman business owner

Here’s a closer look at today’s woman business owner. She’s likely running a service-oriented business, has funded her venture with her own money, and continues to work alone.  This, according to the recently released “Share Your Woman-Owned Business Story” survey, conducted by Wobwire.com.

The survey is the result of input from more than 150 women business owners in more than 20 states and it offers a glimpse at today’s female entrepreneurs. Check out the stats on annual revenue, average age and education level and family life.

The survey is downloadable here.

Aggressive advertising during recession pays off

Technically, the recession has been over for almost two years. Most businesses, however, are still waiting for the wave of recovery. If you’ve been one of those who has cut ad dollars, thinking that was how best to survive, take a look at the chart below. According to several surveys, those companies that aggressively advertised during a recession saw not only an increase in sales, but an increase in profits.

The surveys were published by Penton Research Services, Coopers & Lybrand, in conjunction with Business Science International.

Women biz owners: Grab your share of federal contracts

If you’re a woman business owner, a government contract can make a huge difference in your bottom line. Janet Cronick, president of Fountain Valley-based Ultimate Gifts, told me that when the U.S. Census contracted with her company for the 2010 census, it gave her business a big boost. Most women, however, aren’t sure how to go about the process of applying for contracts.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is trying to simplify things, and it all starts with understanding what that process is. The SBA will be hosting a web chat with Michele Chang, senior advisor, U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Government Contracting and Business Development. The subject is the SBA’s new federal contract program for women.

Federal agencies are required by law to award at least 5% of their contracts to women-owned small businesses and/or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses. Be at your computer tomorrow, March 31,at 1 p.m. EST to participate in this free information program that could boost YOUR business.