Make a Small Business Family Friendly: Ideas for Attracting Parents to a Business

For most parents of small children, shopping can be a hectic and exasperating experience, especially when the adults need to compare several items to decide which is the best option for them. Some well known big companies have capitalized on the need for parents to shop without distractions by offering full scale child play areas. While few small businesses have a big enough budget to follow suit, there are a few less expensive options that can help them capitalize on a neglected market – parents with kids that hate to shop.

Now Showing

Setting up a movie corner is as easy as gathering together a few comfy child-sized chairs, a DVD player, a television set and a stack of DVDs that would appeal to young children. Make sure that any DVDs you choose are “G” rated to avoid upsetting parents who don’t want to spend their evenings dealing with movie nightmares.

Choosing DVDs that are in the public domain is a smart idea for businesses that want to play it safe, since some movie companies may consider a DVD that is playing in a public area as an illegal showing of their movies. A searchable listing of public domain movies is available through the Public-Domain Movie Database.

Coloring Corner

Set up a child-sized table and chairs, a small bucket of crayons and a few coloring books branded with the company name and phone number. This gives children an area to color in while their parents are shopping and allows the business to advertise to anyone who sees the coloring books after the children take them home.

To avoid a lot of mess and clean up in the coloring corner, don’t put out too many coloring books or crayons at one time. Some children will scribble on one page in every book on the table. Others will decide to upend the crayon bucket all over an aisle floor.

Set Up a Play Area

For companies that have a spare space with plenty of windows that look into the building, a little play area can be a great idea. Talk to the local child care licensing agency to find out what the legal ramifications of a play area are. Anyone who staffs the play area may need to be trained, fingerprinted and licensed.

If a separate play room is too much for the business to handle, set up a shelving unit or large basket in a corner of the store filled with books, puzzles and child safe toys.

Small Businesses can Save Electricity at Work to Save Money

While most people concentrate on saving electricity at home, business owners need to focus on saving electricity at work.

Electricity runs through your business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How many hours do you and your employees spend at work? If, like most businesses, 40-60 hours per week are spent in the building. Usually off hours or weekends are used for cleaning crews. If you deduct the usual 60 hours the building is occupied from a weeks worth of total hours which of 168, you are wasting electricity in an empty building for 108 hours per week.

Cut back

One of the first things to do to save electricity is monitor the usage when the building is occupied. You can do a few subtle things such as removing every other light bulb in non productive areas, like hallways or restrooms. But, remember not to compromise security, such as lighting in parking lots, these need to be kept well lit. If your building has separate offices, install switches that will turn off the power to the office outlets, or use power strips that can be shut off. It is important that computers and printers are all shut down at the end of each day. You can also install motion detectors which shut off lights when movement is not detected in a room. Look into using LED lighting, it is more economical than conventional lighting.

 Timers

Don’t underestimate the value of using timers in your building. By installing timers on electrical appliances such as soda machines, water coolers, and anything that is only used during working hours, you can make sure they will power off during closed hours. It is interesting to understand that if you put a timer on a refrigerator or soda machine that is set to go off two hours before you close and on two hours before you open your office in the morning, you will save 14 hours of electricity to that appliance, and still keep the items cold. Check with the manufacturer’s instructions or an electrician before you install timers to make sure you will not void the warranty, or cause an onboard computer to reset when it powers up.

Water Heaters, Furnaces, and Air Conditioners

It is important not to heat or cool areas that do not need to be climate regulated. These areas are usually non occupied areas such as basements or storage areas. In winter, you need to make sure water pipes are not in danger of freezing in unheated areas of the building. These pipes can be wrapped in a heating wrap or insulation. In hot weather, vent fans may be more economical in storage areas than air conditioning.

Remember that your building is empty more than it is used during a 24 hour period. Use timers to control healing and air conditioning. Have a timer installed on hot water heaters to turn them off during the night.

Hire a Professional

Be sure to hire a professional to audit and modify your current electrical system. They can give you suggestions on how to save money.

Building Sound Business Foundations Aids Small Business Success, Says Patrick Mackaronis

The following is a guest post to Hotel Merano from Patrick Mackaronis. Pat is the Director of Business Development for New York City-based social network Brabble. In this post, he explains how developing solid business foundations can assist in aiding small businesses in reaching great success.

Small businesses that survive beyond their initial start up phase and become successful businesses with inbuilt sustainability, are generally those which set about building sound business foundations, from day one.

Those that don’t survive their initial start up phase usually fail as a consequence of commiting one or more deadly business sins such as;

  • Financial mis-management,
  • Proceeding with inadequate business management skills,
  • Poor record keeping,
  • Sales and marketing mis-adventures,
  • Critical recruitment mistakes,
  • Unwillingness to seek independant professional advice where clearly desirable, and
  • Personal well being affecting the business owner’s ability to act as the key driver of the business.

Avoid Financial Mis-Management at all Costs

If you are not an accountant, and you plan to develop and operate a small business, one of the first things you should do is set up a business relationship with a good local accountant. This accountant should have sound experience in assisting local small businesses to properly structure their financial systems and financial reporting mechanisms.

Equip Yourself with Adequate Business Management Skills

If you own and operate a small business and you do not have well developed business management skills, the lack of such critical skills will affect your chances of success. You can easily learn business management skills, and ample resources exist to assist the owners of small businesses to upgrade their skills in this area.

Records Management Systems are Critical

At the very least, from day one, a business owner should;

  • Know exactly what records need to be created, kept, and the storage duration required by law,
  • Understand the importance of safe, secure and well organised storage and provide for same,
  • Implement systems to ensure that policies and procedures relating to records management are followed by all, and
  • Provide for back up copies for all critical records.

Sales and Marketing Strategies Impose Discipline

A well thought out and very clear sales and marketing strategy is required to prevent negative cash flows caused by ill-considered and costly marketing and advertising campaigns that fail to deliver anywhere near the sales revenue anticipated.

Proceeding to commit funds to such activities, without the support of a definitive strategy, is a well trodden path to business failure, one that should be avoided at all costs. A strategy provides the necessary discipline to prevent costly mistakes.

Choose the First Employees Wisely

Initial hiring decisions are often the cause of a lot of subsequent pain for a start up business. Often expediency rules and little thought is given to the core essentials such as;

  • Formalising roles with role statements, position descriptions and selection criteria,
  • A structured recruitment and selection process that satisfies all legal requirements,
  • Formal letters of offer of employment containing all agreed terms and conditions,
  • Ensuring that the business cash flow can actually support full time employees plus their considerable overheads,
  • Recruiting the skills required by the business right now, rather than recruiting people with skills that may be helpful in the future but come at a high cost for little return in the short term, and
  • The capability of those employed, to grow with the business and become part of the desired business culture.

Utilise the Services of Professional Business Advisors and Management Consultants

The services of business advisors, management consultants, legal advisors and financial advisors can be the difference between success or failure for a small business, especially where the owner is not completely competent in all aspects of operating a business.

A general attitude of many small businesses in their start up phase is that they cannot afford to engage the services of professional advisors and business consultants. The reality is, that few can afford not to engage such professionals, as it is the providers of these professional services who can ensure the correct alignment of the business objectives with the resources available to the business and also validate that the business is operating within the relevant legal constraints.

Looking After Number One

In the start up phase of any business, the business owner is a critical resource. It is therefore beholden upon the business owner to ensure that they are initially fit for the journey ahead, and that they institute a plan to ensure that they do not burn out before the business has a chance of achieving business success. These actions will ensure that the owner remains part of the business foundations and can contribute effectively towards the business building process and the creation of long term sustainability in business operations.

Key Elements of Building a Sound Business Foundation

The key elements involved in building a sound business foundation to aid in future business success are;

  • Utilising the services of an accountant as a key business partner,
  • Ensuring that the management skills of the business owner are adequate,
  • Identifying record keeping requirements and implementing a complying records management system,
  • Introducing the discipline of a sales and marketing strategy,
  • Formalising selection and recruitment policies and processes,
  • Investing in the services of professional business advisors and/or management consultants, and
  • Ensuring the ongoing health and well being of the business owner.

By making sure that each of these elements are key components of the business foundations, the chances of being a business owner who successfully negotiates the start up phase, and then goes on to reap the benefits of owning and operating a sustainable and profitable business, are greatly increased.

Amber Grant – Up to $1000 for Women for Small Business Financing

Readers on the Internet are inundated with ads for free grants. The idea is appealing; getting a grant is “free money” and receiving this cash can help small business owners to launch a new company or strengthen and expand an existing one. How can readers figure out the difference between a grant scam and a legitimate grant program? Throughout this series of articles readers can learn about free grants for women, small business financing, and how to find grants for small business that are real. Read on to learn about the Amber Grant, which awards amounts between $500 and $1000 four times per year.

Free Grants for Women

Started in 1998, the Amber Grant program is designed to help female entrepreneurs to start new businesses, expand existing companies, or upgrade equipment and services. At $500 to $1000 these free grants for women won’t make a huge difference for female owners of companies, but the money is enough to help with small business financing and to give women owners a boost.

Finding Free Money for Small Business Financing

Many free business grant programs involve extremely complicated applications, requiring over one hundred pages in the application, including a business plan, letters of reference, financial statements, and more. The Amber Grant is different, fortunately. The application is simple, and applying for this source of free money for small business financing involves a simple web form. The application can be completed in under an hour, and if the applicant wins, that is quite a return on time invested.

How to Apply for the Amber Grant

To apply for the Amber Grant, female entrepreneurs need to meet a few basic requirements:

  • Age: must be 18 or older
  • Newsletter: automatically subscribed to the Women’s Net newsletter when submitting the application

The entire application process can be completed online for this grant for female business owners. A few important tips:

  • Don’t rush when applying for small business financing. Write a first draft of the application answers and wait a day or so. Return to the application and proofread.
  • Be specific when applying for this grant for women. Give exact timelines for business goals.
  • Be truthful. Don’t try to claim to have experiences or credentials that aren’t real.
  • Don’t sit around waiting for an answer. Move on to the next grant for small business owners.

The Amber Grant is given four times per year, and applicants must reapply for each new quarter’s awards; applications from one grant period to the next are not saved. That’s four times per year to have a chance at a $500 or $1000 award that can help felame owners launch or build a new small business.

As with any venture, search for new grant and funding opportunities from information found in print and online. To learn more about other grants for women, please continue reading.