Applying for Small Business Grants and Loans

TP Blog funding

3 minutes At some point during your career as an entrepreneur, you’ll probably need extra money to cover business expenses, replace equipment, buy materials or expand your company. If you are planning and you have the right type of business, a small business grant might be the best option for an influx of cash. If you need money fast, though, consider a small business loan. Small Business Grants When you have to time to wait for funding, a small business grant is often the way to go. That is because grant funding is free money. You will need the extra time, though, because you will have to spend a good bit of time doing the legwork required to apply. Grants are designed to help companies who stimulate the economy by providing a public service. Each grant has its own specific requirements, so you’ll need to read the full terms and conditions for each grant to see if your business qualifies. The Small Business Association (SBA) is an excellent resource for grant information. It partners with a variety of organizations that provide grant money for small businesses that might be like yours. Grants are offered for a wide range of recipients and reasons, including, but not limited to: Scientific research and innovation Export development Veteran- and woman-owned businesses Educational opportunities Micropreneurs Finding and Applying for a Small Business Grant A simple first step is to make an appointment with a local SBA counselor in your area to get advice. You can also search for grants at, your state or local economic development association, or small business development agencies in your area. You may also want to look for private grants from corporations or smaller organizations that help specific communities like women and minorities. Grants have a standard cycle that includes application, award and post-award phases. This process can take several months to complete, so be patient. Small business grants are a smart way to get free funding if you have the time to devote to researching, applying, waiting for approval, and providing reports about the implementation of your grant. Small Business Loans When you don’t have time to wait for funds — or if your business doesn’t qualify for a grant — your best option for a quicker influx of funds is often to get a small business loan. You can get $500 to $5 million in loan money, according to the SBA, depending on what you need it for and factors like collateral you can offer and how long you’ve been in business. Some lending options can even get you cash within 48 hours, while other lenders might take weeks to finalize your loan. Applying for A Small Business Loan When applying for a small business loan, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help you land the money you need. They include: Be clear about what you’ll use the money for. There are a variety of loan types. As you search for loans and talk to lenders, they’ll want to know exactly what you’ll be doing with your funds. Shop around for the right lender. Look for loans that offer the best interest rate and terms for your situation. Banks are a great go-to, but you may also want to investigate nonprofit microlenders that specialize in shorter-term loans, and online lenders that offer higher approval rates and quicker turnaround. A line of credit or business credit card might also be a good option for you. Collect all your documents. Lenders want to know a lot about your business before finalizing your loan. You’ll need to gather documents like tax returns, financial statements and legal documents. If you already have these in hand when you apply, the process will go more quickly. Update your personal profiles and business website. Lenders may look online to see how secure and successful your business appears to be. So, update your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles (both personal and business), as well as your company website. This will help ensure your business looks professional and trustworthy. This extra attention to detail could help a potential lender feel better about giving you a loan. Your best bet and first stop should be the SBA for help with grants and small business loans. Don’t forget to check out the SBA’s Lender Match program. It makes finding lenders easier than searching on your own, and SBA lending partners typically offer attractive rates. If you need a merchant cash advance, contact a Talus representative to get more information. […]

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The Latest Technology Auto Repair Shops Use

TP Blog Auto

4 minutes In the 21st century, it sometimes feels as if our cars are computers on wheels. Automakers now routinely install rearview cameras, blind-spot warning systems, infotainment gear and other advanced technology in today’s vehicles. Such driver-friendly gadgets “have moved down the ladder from luxury to more basic vehicles,” according to a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Transportation Science and Technology. At the same time, the technology that auto repair shops use to conduct day-to-day business also is evolving. And just as auto repair shops need to stay on the cutting edge to work on today’s tech-loaded vehicles, they also should have the latest technology to ensure their operations are running as smoothly as a finely tuned engine. According to Bolt On Technology, a technology provider for auto repair shops, installing the right tech tools at a repair shop can: Increase the efficiency of day-to-day activities Lift the productivity of employees Shore up the shop’s professionalism Improve the accuracy of information about vehicles Strengthen communication with customers Here’s a look at some of the technology that auto repair shops need to travel at the speed of business. Shop Management Systems Shop management systems are critical to running an auto repair shop in today’s business environment. Among other things, these management systems can: Track data and finances to help boost the bottom line Handle point-of-sale functions Monitor purchases and inventory Deal with accounting and payroll tasks Organize customer relations Schedule appointments Manage personnel In other words, a shop management system like Talus Pay POS can serve as a one-stop shop for a few everyday business activities. “If a shop is not using software to help manage and integrate these responsibilities, it is working WAY too hard,” according to Audatex, a provider of technology for the collision and insurance industries. A 2014 survey of repair professionals by Audatex found that mobile was perceived as the most disruptive technology in their industry (32%), followed by social media (30%) and data analytics (30%). Audatex didn’t do a follow-up survey, but it’s safe to say that mobile, social media and data analytics probably would be viewed as disruptive technologies today. Elsewhere in the survey, repair professionals ranked the six most important technology capabilities in their businesses: 1. Accuracy of estimates (35%) 2. Real-time customer communications (24%) 3. Employee productivity (22%) 4. Business analytics (12%) 5. Advanced vehicle identification technology (6%) 6. Parts efficiency (4%) Again, Audatex has not repeated this type of survey, but it’s likely that the list would appear much the same today. Electronic Devices Tablets, laptops and smartphones speed up communication – both on the shop floor and between shop staff and customers. These technologies are rapidly becoming “must-haves” for the modern auto repair shop. Shop workers who use these tools also can quickly search for information about parts, vehicle models and so forth. This results in better-informed, quicker decisions about repairs. These tools also help technicians complete repair orders digitally, enabling them to provide faster estimates for parts and labor. Audatex cites device-enabled digital inspections as one of the benefits of portable technology. Digital inspection software relies on pictures and videos to help inform customers about repairs, such as what needs to be fixed, which parts will be required and how far along the repair job is. Among other things, digital inspection software can eliminate time-consuming paperwork, monitor billed hours, and provide real-time repair updates to employees and motorists. Incorporating a suite of tablets, laptops and smartphones into the operations of an auto repair shop is a smart move that customers are bound to appreciate. Websites It sounds obvious, but every auto repair shop should have a website where car owners can learn about service offerings and schedule appointments. Making it easier for customers to interact with your business frees up a shop’s employees to deliver better one-on-one, in-person customer service. That level of service can, in turn, generate repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals. If your shop does have a website, how robust is it? In the 2018 National Independent Auto Repair Shop Marketing Survey, 94% of shop owners said they employed some form of online search marketing, even if it was just a one-page website. Today’s internet-savvy consumers might be less than impressed with a single-page website, though. A 2016 survey by Vistaprint found that having a poorly designed website is worse than having no website at all. Nearly half of the consumers surveyed said they’d be unlikely to buy products or services from a small business that had a poorly designed website. So, do you remain unconvinced about the power of a strong website? In the 2018 National Independent Auto Repair Shop Marketing Survey, 48% of shop owners ranked online search (including websites, reviews and marketing) as delivering the best return on investment in terms of attracting new customers. Additionally, 60% of shop owners said they were pleased with the ROI of their online search investment. And online search was the marketing category with the heaviest amount of spending. Setting up a new website — or improving an existing site — is crucial to your success. SCORE, a mentoring organization for small businesses, says “the internet is just as important as word-of-mouth in building your business — and that trend is only going to increase.” Are you an auto repair shop looking for information about your industry? Check out our auto benchmark report to gain valuable insight from other shop owners on how they grew their business! […]

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Ways to Sell Resale Items Outside of Your Thrift Store

TP Blog Thrift

5 minutes Looking for ways to expand your thrift store sales and get new customers into your shop? Try expanding your sales and marketing efforts beyond your doors. Many consignment stores bring in extra revenue and get marketing exposure by selling items online or setting up satellite booths. Junior League of Atlanta member Elizabeth Beasley shares that when she worked at their charity thrift store, the Nearly New Shop, “We started an online resale program where we took brand-name specialty items that were donated and sold them on eBay. We were usually able to fetch a higher price and our regular shoppers often bid on the items, too. It made those products feel exclusive and exciting to purchase. It also added a nice bump to our revenue.” Beasley also suggests that, “It’s ideal to have one person manage sales happening outside of the shop, so they can handle the marketing, shipping, and other details that are different than the usual in-store processes.” Before you start a campaign in outside sales, do your homework to track which items sell best in your ideal markets, both online and offline. Like any business startup, you need an audience, a plan, and a budget. Best Items to Sell Every platform has a different audience and during your research phase you may find that vintage items sell better at antique malls and flea markets, while new clothing and accessories are more popular with online resale outlets. Here’s a quick look at the hottest items shoppers are seeking online and offline.  Accessories and Shoes: If you run a thrift shop that sells donated or consigned clothing, keep your eyes peeled for popular brands and styles of shoes and accessories. A little online research will reveal what vintage wear buffs and sneakerheads are looking for these days. Electronics: Vintage electronics will be your best bet here. People are looking for items they can’t get in stores anymore. This could be a relatively new item that they loved but is no longer on the shelves — like an iPod shuffle. Or retro tech like 8-track tape players and boom boxes. Whatever you sell, be clear on the condition of the item and if it works. eBay is a great place to check what’s hot and what’s not. Collectibles: Collectibles cover a lot of ground, but toys are always in demand because they tug at our nostalgic heartstrings and appeal to a wide range of generations. As a bonus, vintage toys are usually easy to pick up at garage sales and resell. Look for dolls, toys with movie or TV tie-ins, Legos and other classics. Books: Looking for an easy item to buy and sell? Books are the way to go. As you shop for stock, you can quickly check current resale prices on sites like Selling and shipping is simple when you list them on a site like Amazon. Again, always be honest about the condition of the book. Brand Name Clothes: Not everyone enjoys sifting through thrift store racks to find a brand name gem. Make it easy by selling higher ticket items online or at a specialty booth. The great thing about designer resale is that new and vintage items are both popular and there are a wide range of sites where you can sell them — from eBay to thredUp. Keep in mind that clothes can take longer to sell, so make sure you have a place to store your inventory. Setting Up a Booth Sold on selling outside of your thrift shop? Then a small, satellite booth could be a smart option for you. This is the place to market your highest quality items or products that target a specific audience. Sometimes you can even find local artisans to share a space with. It doesn’t matter who you team up with as long as your products complement each other, instead of compete. Before you get out your card table and start setting out items, map out a plan for where and when you want to sell, how you’d like your booth to look and how you’ll price your goods. Flea markets, antique malls, and pop-up markets Flea markets and antique malls stay open year-round and draw a broad and varied audience, so you aren’t limited to seasonal sales and can market a wide range of products. On the flip side, short-term pop-up markets have the advantage of targeting specific audiences and attracting impulse buyers, since they won’t be able to come back and get your goods next weekend. Booth design and style To avoid visually overloading customers, stick with one style in your booth. It doesn’t matter if you’re shabby chic or cabin cozy, commit to a theme and make it memorable. That way shoppers can easily remember your booth as “the one with the vintage French vibe” and have no problem finding you on their next trip. Pro tip from Christy James of Include items with a variety of heights in your space. James says, “I try to keep a tall piece or two in my booth at all times, just because it makes the booth look better. If I don’t have any tall pieces at the time, I try to stack items (safely) to add height If everything is all at the same level, it’s boring.” Appropriate pricing Pricing your flea market or antique mall booth may be a bit different from your in-store prices and that’s okay — the audience and location are unique. The good news is that sometimes you can raise the prices! If you find your products are flying off the shelves this may indicate that your pricing is a little low. And if your sales are stuck, your prices could be too high. Remember, you should include a range of prices, so everyone has a chance to find something they can afford. That first small purchase could lead to a repeat customer who spends more later. Selling Resale Items Online Posting your products for sale online can […]

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Grow Profits Using Video

Grow Profits with Video

3 minutes Video has come a long way. No longer just a form of Saturday-night family entertainment, it’s a versatile and widely used medium that boosts business visibility, customer traffic and profits. The number of organizations creatively and strategically using video — in multiple formats and across social media platforms — to boost marketing efforts and revenue increases each year. Video Helps Increase Revenue Videos capture the interest of potential clients and can lead to an expanded customer base. Increased sales often follow. In fact, businesses that use videos grow company revenue 49% faster than organizations that don’t, according to the Aberdeen Group and Vidyard report “The Impact of Video Marketing.” 90% of customers indicate that product videos help them make buying decisions, according to Vidyard. Video drives revenue because it helps the company come to the customer, who then becomes familiar with the brand. “Increased engagement with your content helps build trust and affinity for your brand and can increase demand in your product or service,” says Pierce Nudd in his WireBuzz article “32 Video Marketing Statistics That Matter In 2018.” Nudd writes that when people know, like and trust you, “they’re more likely to give you their money.” How Video Can Help Your Business You must bring your brand to life, and video can help. Ashley DeLuca, principal of Ashley K. DeLuca Consulting, uses tutorial videos to link to her ideal clients — creative entrepreneurs — with information and strategies to help them take their business to the next level. DeLuca emphasizes that videos extend her reach, expand her audience and generate paying clients. After watching DeLuca’s videos, her clients seek her professional expertise in digital marketing to design their campaigns. The impact? DeLuca’s income has doubled! Maia Hariton, owner of her own web design company, promotes her services and expertise through tutorial videos. For example, she walks viewers through the process for building a blog in Squarespace. While the videos don’t generate income directly, Hariton says they draw in clients who hire her for web design projects. Courtney Moody, owner of the content and digital marketing agency Mood Marketing & Events, says the video campaigns she creates for one of her spa clients have been especially effective in boosting retention of existing clients and bringing in new ones. In addition, the videos have helped increase web traffic, spa bookings and retail sales. Where Can You Feature Videos? Where do videos go? According to Vidyard, on websites, where 86% of businesses share video content; and social media, a primary video-placement medium for 77% of businesses. Email is not far behind. According to Animoto, 64% of consumers who watch a marketing video on Facebook say it influences their purchasing choices. DeLuca says a good part of her success comes from consistently running the videos on social media platforms. This regular and steady presence generates a lot of followers and paying customers. Hariton’s YouTube videos enhance SEO and lead to queries about her services. This marketing tactic can also lead to brand loyalty and consistent customers. Moody says her spa client posts videos on all of its social media channels, primarily targeting existing customers who follow the spa regularly and always want to know what’s coming up by way of services and products. Crafting The Right Strategy Katie Pritchard, in her Impact article “25 New Video Marketing Statistics to Fuel Your Strategy in 2019,” shares some insights into the value of crafting a refined marketing strategy: She says video marketers get 66% more qualified leads per year than other businesses, and that businesses using advanced video analytics were twice as likely to report that returns on their video investments are improving. Moody explains that video content is a large part of her marketing strategy. For example, Moody’s video campaign for one of her clients involves creating weekly videos that promote a monthly treatment special to highlight skin-care advice, along with related product reviews. Moody says such videos generate business for her client in a few ways. “They have established a solid brand and put a ‘face’ behind the brand,” she says. “They promote products and services in a fun, quick way, and they provide a way to establish the brand/company as experts in what they do by offering tips and tricks to clients –or potential clients — for free.” Establishing The Video Advantage Many companies believe in video. They invest a good portion of their budgets into video creation, with 60% of businesses saying they spend more than 25% of their marketing budgets on video, according to Magisto. Know how you want to leverage video to maximize messaging and profits. Typically, businesses use videos to: • Connect with the targeted and existing audience • Build customer engagement • Drive leads • Boost conversion and sales • Position brands or build brand awareness • Target and educate a particular market Also, determine the types of videos you want to produce. Remember, you don’t have to limit them. Varied formats tap into unique audiences in different ways. Videos clearly can benefit a business’ bottom line. They are a critical part of the customer journey, with purchases often being the final leg of that journey. You worked so hard to gain the customer’s interest with a professional video, make sure their transaction is smooth. Reach out to Talus Pay for a quote today! […]

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