Women in Business: Grants for Female Entrepreneurs

The federal government offers a number of grants to small businesses owned and managed by women. Most of these grants allow flexible use of the money as long as it doesn’t go toward startup expenses. The two major houses for information about federally sponsored grants are:

Grants.gov: This is the main databases of federally sponsored grants. You can search it with a keyword of “women” to identify grants of interest. If you’d like to apply for one of these grants, you’ll have to secure a DUNS number from Duns & Bradstreet, register at the System Award Management website and then create a Grants.gov account.

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs: This website from the Small Business Administration can be used to identify grant to small businesses involved in federal research and development. A dozen federal agencies pool their grant information here for businesses with up to 500 employees.

There are also a number of national, regional and state grant programs that female entrepreneurs can tap. These include:

  • Eileen Fisher: Until 2018, this company offered a grant program for women in business. It is currently reformulating its grants program and plans to reintroduce it in 2019.
  • Amber Grant Foundation: The foundation awards $10,000 grants to women-run businesses. It is dedicated to a young woman named Amber who died before realizing her entrepreneurial dream. If you are passionate about your business, this program might suit you well.
  • The Girlboss Foundation: Grants of $15,000 each are awarded every other year to female entrepreneurs. In addition, you receive marketing assistance and press exposure for your business. Grant winners must be women owning businesses in the art, music, fashion or design industries.
  • The Halstead Grant: This $7,500 grant is awarded annually to female emerging silver jewelry artists. The program is designed to boost an artist’s career as she starts out. You must submit your design portfolio and answer 15 business questions to compete for this grant.
  • FedEx Small Business Grant: This is a grant contest for women entrepreneurs and businesswomen who are involved in logistics, trade and other related industries. Ten winners are chosen each year with prizes ranging from $15,000 to $50,000.
  • Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards: This program drives change by empowering women entrepreneurs. Each year, 21 women finalists (three from each continent) are awarded. The focus of the program is to support women who make concrete contributions to solving problems that challenge the planet’s future.
  • Grants for Women: This is an online guide for women grants and scholarships. You can search by entering a keyword, or you can peruse the site’s directory of foundations and organizations that offer grants to women. The website filters out schemes and scams to protect applicants from fraud.
  • Open Meadows Foundation: This organizations offers grants of up to $2,000 each to women who run projects that promote economic, racial and gender justice. It is an activist organization that encourages the building of community power through projects implemented for girls and women who have limited financial access. Recipient must have organizational budgets that do not exceed $75,000.

Grants are a wonderful boost for any small business, but unfortunately, aren’t always enough to go around. The next best thing is to obtain funding through a convenient, affordable small business loan, such as the ones we offer at IOU Financial. If you need up to $500,000 funding for your small business, contact IOU Financial today and we can have your money available in days.

Basic Financial Advice for Small Business Owners

Being a small business owner has lots of very difficult challenges that need to be met and overcome. Managing your finances is one of those many challenges that will no doubt be a substantial consideration for those hoping to maximize profits in a small business. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can keep your finances in order.

Keep Track of Your Finances

Organization is the key to keeping your financial situation in order and up to date. You will need to keep up with all of your receipts and invoicing to ensure that when taxes come or even a budget check, that you have an accurate number of how much you have spent and have left. You will also need to keep track of all of your loans and debts you may acquire.

Have Separate Accounts for Your Personal and Business Expenses

You do not want to mix your business and personal expenses. It is best for you to have separate accounts for each. Unless absolutely necessary, do not take money out of your personal accounts in order to “help pay” extra bills. The company should not spend more than it has made without the ability to pay it back through payments.

Be Frugal

Considering the advice given so far, we need to look at the other side of things. There will be things that you will have to spend a lot of money on for your business. Your business will not generate a profit unless you invest some money in it. However, there are several ways that you can do this wisely.

One example you consider is buying used equipment to start off. You can also eliminate unnecessary spending by looking over costs that are not absolutely necessary for the immediate growth of the business.

Additionally, if you feel like you are spending too much money on your office, then you should consider moving to another space or working out of home until you have enough money to fund the kind of office you are looking for.

Hire a Certified Public Accountant

A Certified Public Accountant can help you manage your business finances. They will also be able to tell you about the tax laws and how they apply to your business, which is extremely important, considering just how much rules can change from businesses from state to state in the US.

Furthermore, a CPA can also assist as a tax advisor who can give you professional advice to help you save money in the long term. You may be eligible for a number of tax advantages as a small business owner and a CPA can give you the best advice on how to make the most of that opportunity.

Make Sure That You are Insured

It is estimated that 1 in 12 small businesses will have to close their doors due to the injury or illness of their employees. That is why it is important to have disability insurance. You will also need to have personal life insurance. If you are unsure about the type of insurance that you need, you should speak with an insurance agent. On the off chance something goes wrong, it is good to make sure your financial future does not hang in the balance.

Surround Yourself with Experts

One of the reasons that many business owners fail is because they do not have the right people in their corner. You will need to have a network of people who can support you and give you the valuable advice needed to run and keep up a business.

In addition to an accountant, you will also need a tax advisor, lawyer, and just find ways to mingle with other business owners or investors at conferences that allow you to meet people who have been through your situation and have better insight than you might.

Pay Yourself First

When many business owners get paid, they invest all of their money into their business. They take care of their business expenses and buy new things to help the business grow without first making sure their own personal dues are met. It is important to make sure that when the money comes in, you pay yourself first. You should be saving 10 to 20 percent of your income and make sure you are getting what you need to make a living while running the business.

In summary, it can be very difficult running a successful business. Staying ahead of finances can be one of the most important parts of building a company that will succeed and grow continually. Tools such as Quicken can help you personally keep your finances in order so you always know how much you have in the bank and how much you can spend. This is not just important in the business world, but your personal life as well.

Guest Post: About the Author

Hi, I’m Austin Winder, a Public Relations Specialist and contributing author for Uppercut Box. I live in Memphis, TN and graduated with a business and marketing degree from the University of Memphis.

Four Ways you can Boost Social Engagement for Your Business

As a business owner, your priorities should not only be to make a sale, but to create a loyal customer from a one-time shopper. These days, offering a quality and innovative product or service is no longer enough to stay competitive in your niche. One of the biggest factors that separate successful companies from those that fail is an excellent social engagement strategy. What is social engagement, and how can you implement it for your company?

Social Engagement Explained

Just like any relationship takes work, so does the relationship with your customers. Although you likely do not have the time or resources to communicate with each person on an individual level, you can start a conversation online.

Social engagement involves communicating with your target audience in an online setting. Platforms such as social media, blogs, forums and your own website make it possible to stay connected to your online community.

Writing blogs with how-to tutorials on using your offerings, answering questions on forums and starting conversations relevant to your industry are all great ways to engage with your customers.

One study found that customers tend to spend upwards of 40% more on companies that they are engaged with! Utilize the tips below to boost your social engagement and raise sales!

Four Ways to Increase Social Engagement

Utilize Images

A picture is worth a thousand words—and boosts interaction rates by 85%! Online users are so overwhelmed by the information they digest online that imagery helps them notice your content and interact with it better. Including images in your content helps with free marketing, as that copy is shared 35% more than copy without images.

Utilize CTAs

You have a goal in mind when sharing content with your audience, so tell them what that goal is! Including a call to action (CTA) can have tremendous benefits to your marketing strategy—CTAs on Facebook have been found to increase click-through rates by 285%.

Consider what action you want the user to take—whether it is to visit your website, subscribe for your blog or share your content with others, indicate that in your CTA.

Create a Giveaway

Everyone loves to be a winner, so why not create a contest to increase your social engagement? Giveaways provide excellent opportunities to collect consumer data, market your brand to a new audience, generate leads and grow your social network.

Carefully think about the goal of the giveaway and create specific rules for entry. For example, if you want to focus on brand recognition, make it a requirement that entrants must share the contest with three of their own contacts to be eligible to win.

If your goal is to grow your lead base, ask entrants to like your page or subscribe to your blog, which will help you communicate with your audience later to promote your brand.

Become Your Brand’s Ambassador

Some of the best known companies have a face attached to their name, such as Elon Musk for Tesla and Mark Zuckerberg for Facebook. Become your own brand ambassador to help your audience create a true relationship with you and your company.

Share your story with your customers so they can get to know you, and understand your journey. Share tips on the best ways to use your products, and share images of yourself using them in your daily life. Create live videos where you interact with your audience and answer their questions. All of these strategies will help you forge a loyal relationship with your customers, and will keep them shopping with your company time and time again!

IOU Financial wants you to invest in your social engagement strategy. Imagine how much faster and more efficiently you can connect with a new audience if you had upwards of $500,000 to invest in marketing! Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to find out how you can get approved and funded for a small business loan in under 48 hours!

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How to Improve Internal Communication in Your Small Business

A vital component in being a successful business is effective communication. While that may seem like a simple concept, poor communication strategies seem to be a common theme in all businesses, no matter their size. Improper communication practices can create problems and pitfalls for teams working to accomplish their goals, and can even impact your business’ bottom line. So, where do managers and business owners start? By implementing tools and improving internal communication frequency to create a more unified business.

Communication Tools

In this digital age, we are able to access news and information almost instantly with our many devices. We expect the same in the business world; becoming a workforce that expects information to disseminate instantly. To keep up, it is essential that small businesses empower their workforce to communicate in a fast and timely manner. In other words, businesses need to empower their employees to communicate. Here are some examples how:

  • Implementing the use of an instant messaging platform can provide every employee direct access to one another. Tools like Google Hangouts Chat can connect employees no matter where they are. Whether in the office or working remotely, questions can be asked and answered instantly. These messaging platforms allow for constant communication among peers. Each employee has the ability to manage and monitor multiple discussions at one time. Additionally, teams can utilize this chat ability to set up a virtual room with the team in its entirety. This type of communication channel promotes more frequent knowledge transfers, the desire to collaborate, and serves as a knowledge bank of archived conversations; allowing employees the ability to refer back to previous conversations and eliminate redundancy in workflow.
  • Providing employees with the opportunity to have face to face conversations is another avenue for enhanced communication. This is especially relevant for any small business that employs remote workers. Utilizing telecommunications applications like Skype can bridge the gap between employees in the office and off location. Messages can sometimes become lost in translation through text, so having the capability to video chat can further ensure that teams remain on the same page. Not only does it allow those working remotely a seat at the conference room table, but it also facilitates the ability to read facial expressions, be aware of body language, and form real connections with their peers on the receiving end.
  • Another option for consideration is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service in exchange for a traditional landline. This means that instead of dealing with traditionally hardwired phones, you’re able to make phone calls over the internet. There are three different VoIP service options in use today: ATA, IP phones, and computer-to-computer. Each VoIP method converts analog audio signals and turns them into digital data that is transmitted over the internet. VoIP phone services can both save your company money and effort by streamlining all communication efforts to one service.
  • To further set your employees up for success, consider utilizing Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to support all of your diverse communications systems. 8×8 offers cloud based unified communications that combine instant messaging, video conferencing, and VoIP services into one suite; further streamlining your business efficiency by uniting all of your current communication tools.

The continuous development of strong communication skills will further strengthen all aspects of your business. While these tools impact things like timeliness, and the ability to share information instantly; you are also facilitating more opportunities for collaboration. The more that employees are able to work together, the stronger their work relationship becomes resulting in more productivity.

Guest Post: About the Author

Steven Maxon, is a communication advocate dedicated to helping businesses make integrated communications decisions.

Lending Terms Business Owners Need to Know

Many business owners haven’t had the opportunity to attend fancy college programs in business and finance. Nonetheless, there are many terms related to loans and credit that you need to understand, especially if you are about to apply for your first business loan. Here is IOU Financial’s rundown of important lending terms.

ACH Transfer:

An electronic, bank-to-bank transfer from one account to another, processed by the Automated Clearing House network. Lenders typically deposit loan proceeds and collect payments via an ACH transfer.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR):

An annual interest rate that reflects the cost of a loan, including fees. Because APRs are standardized, they allow you directly compare loans from different sources.

Application Pre-approval Rate:

The percentage of loan applications that a lender pre-approves. A good lender should have an application pre-approval rate of at least 85 percent and should provide the pre-approval within minutes.

Better Business Bureau Rating:

A rating from the BBB that assesses your business’ overall practices. The top rating is A+ .

Business Credit Report:

If you run a corporation, limited partnership or limited liability company, a business credit report functions for your business the same way as consumer credit report does for individuals. Providers include Dun & Bradstreet and FICO.

Fixed Loan Payments:

A fixed amount, paid daily, weekly, or monthly, to cover the interest charges and principle repayment of a loan. IOU Financial offers automated daily or weekly loan payments to avoid large monthly payments.

Funding Time:

The time it takes receive your loan proceeds after you submit your loan application. The funding time can vary from 24 hours (for online lenders) to weeks or months (for banks).

Interest Type:

Interest types are fixed and variable. A fixed interest loan maintains the same payments throughout the loan term. A variable interest loan uses an interest rate that can change over time, thereby changing how much you repay each month.

Loan Application:

A questionnaire you fill out to apply for a loan. Some lenders, such as banks, use very detailed and complicated applications that require large amounts of financial data. On the other hand, online commercial lenders often have short applications that you complete online.

Loan Renewal:

An optional feature offered by some lenders like IOU Financial that allows you to apply for a replacement loan when you repay a set percentage (e.g., 40 percent) of the original loan.

Loan Term:

The amount of time you have to fully repay your loan. If the loan term is for less that one year, it is a short-term loan. Loans with terms of one year or longer are long-term loans.

Maximum Loan Amount:

The maximum amount a lender will lend to you.

Prepayment Penalty:

This is a fee some lenders charge when you pay off your loan ahead of time. Always use a lender that does not charge a prepayment penalty.

Pre-qualification Requirements:

A set of standards that allow you to immediately prequalify for a loan from some lenders. The standards might include business ownership, frequency of daily deposits, time in business, average daily ending balance in your business bank account, and annual revenue.

Simple Interest Loan:

A loan that charges interest on a daily basis, meaning you only pay interest on the unpaid principle amount. Contrast this to a compound interest loan, in which you pay interest on your interest. IOU Financial is a simple interest lender.

Small Business:

Typically, a business with fewer than 250 employees. Many of the best lenders specialize in loans to small businesses.

Upfront Costs:

These are fees, such as origination and processing fees, that some lenders charge. Always choose a lender who charges no upfront costs.

Looking for more information about small business lending? Our small business loan consultants have the know how to answer any question you throw at them.  As industry experts, our staff is ready to find the answers even your toughest business questions!

Tips and Tricks to Write a Content Plan for Your Business

Introduction

According to the latest data, successful b2b marketers spend around 40 percent of their budget on content marketing. However, spending millions of dollars on content marketing won’t do you any good without a proper content marketing plan. Before you venture into promoting your business, there are a few tips we’d like to share with you in order to help you design the best content strategy which will help you achieve your goals.

Know your audience

If your business offers products or services that include different types of customers, it is important that you address each audience type separately. It’s a good practice to mingle with your leads and find out what they are looking for in a product, what problems they need to resolve, what keywords they include in their searches. This way you can create content that will hit the spot with your target audience.

Your content should be valuable to your audience and help them improve their business. Remember that there are those that already use your product or service, so you should build content that will make their user experience even better. In addition, there are those that are yet to become your customers – these people should receive such content that will show how your business can solve their problems.

Create a calendar

Publishing content on a regular base is the essence of good content marketing. Nevertheless, you can’t just plan topics at random and publish when you feel like it. Create a calendar with a dedicated time frame for each post. This will remove the pressure from your writers and give them enough time to write deeply researched quality content. Moreover, this way you will have enough time to edit all the content long before it’s time to publish it.

Have a backup plan

Furthermore, your writers could be unavailable for any reason, which could put you in a bad spot. The calendar allows you to hire a writer before the deadlines come knocking. In addition, there are so many online writing services you can hire like UK Best Essays, Essay Writing Lab, SuperiorPapers, EduGeeksClub Service and others that could deliver the content for you just when you need it.

Mix it up

Your audience is everywhere these days – they follow social media of all sorts, watch YouTube videos, scan job opportunities on LinkedIn, and surf the web for helpful textual content, or inform themselves via infographics. Therefore, it would be unwise to base your content strategy solely on a single channel rather than using all the possibilities that the internet has placed before us. Combining resources and mediums will help you achieve much higher reach.

However, if in your research you find out that certain channels don’t hold enough potential or your business it’s best not to waste your resources betting on the wrong horse. Do your research and find out which channels serve your purposes.

The same goes for various content types, sometimes a video placed on YouTube will not show the same results as it would show if it were posted on Instagram or Facebook. Don’t throw away the chance to reach your audience via video content just because it doesn’t show expected results on one platform, rather do some research and see how the content behaves with other platforms. If you get more views or shares on Facebook, focus your video posts there.

Set measurable goals

Your Key Performance Indicators depend on your campaign goal; it could be sales, pageviews, email subscribers, or anything you set as a business goal. Measure your campaign success progress against your final goal and you will be able to fine-tune your strategy on the run, depending on your current indicators. This is also a good way to check if a particular member of your team is doing a good job or you should consider getting a better solution for your team.

Conclusion

If you set a clear campaign goal, perform deep research, distribute your resources carefully, and create a strong plan of action, you will be able to craft compelling content which will engage your audience. We hope these tips will help you develop a swift content plan or your business so you could enjoy a larger pool of customers and a higher return on investments.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lilian Chifley is an IT specialist, teacher, and blogger from Sydney. She loves to talk about artificial intelligence and modern education. You can find Lilian on Facebook and Twitter.

Strayed From Your 2019 Goals? How to Get Back on Track!

Although January has only just ended, how many of us can truly say that we have stuck to the goals we set out for ourselves for 2019? The truth is that only about 10% of people actually carry out the goals they set out too, so if you have strayed from your objectives, you are not alone. Follow the tips below to get yourself back on track and committed to your 2019 goals.

Set SMART Goals

The first rule of thumb when setting goals you are committed to realizing is to set specific and time driven objectives.

SMART can be broken down into the following:

  • Specific: Specific and detailed
  • Measurable: Clear objectives with measurable results
  • Achievable: Goals that are possible within the timeframe and with available resources
  • Relevant: Vital to the success of the individual and the organization
  • Time-bound: Time-specific with a clear deadline

Whether personal or specific, most of us make general goals that make it difficult to hold ourselves accountable.  For example—you may wish to automate your work processes this year, but without planning specific actions within a specific time frame, you will likely never get around to doing so.

Break down objectives into small, detailed tasks, and create a reasonable timeframe in which to get them done. By going down the list and crossing off the tasks that are completed, you will be motivated to keep going and ultimately realizing your goal.

Be Flexible

When you start to carry out a specific goal, you may become unmotivated to keep going because you realize that it is not important, or too difficult to carry out. It’s important not to give up and empower yourself to achieve your goals; however, it is just as necessary to reevaluate your objectives monthly to make sure they are still relevant to your short and long-term plan.

It is advantageous to be flexible to fine-tune your goals, or change your strategy if you truly feel it is not in line with your objectives. Changing your goals will ultimately be more valuable than becoming disillusioned and abandoning them altogether.

Reward Yourself

Most of us have a lot on our plate, and tend to get tired and stressed out when we take on too much. To stay focused on  your goals, it’s vital to create rewards once you have completed a certain objective.

We are psychologically wired to positively react to rewards—research has found. By utilizing positive reinforcement, we can train our brains to get excited about achieving goals because that process will be associated with the positive feelings of getting rewarded.

Whether the reward will be a shopping spree or a relaxing massage, simply doing something good for yourself after working hard is a great strategy to keep working on your goals and yourself.

Regardless of how motivated you are to achieve your goals, sometimes your dedication is not enough. If you need financial assistance to make certain objectives a reality, IOU Financial is here for you. We work with small and medium-sized companies to fund their projects within 24 to 48 hours. Contact us today to find out how you can be approved and funded for a loan up to $500,000.

6 Useless But All-Too-Common Expenses That Turn Your Business Into a Money Pit

It takes a lot of money to keep a small business going – especially if you’re trying to make that business grow. When money is so important, every single cent needs to be spent wisely.

Many small businesses wind up spending a lot more money than they actually need to spend. Those funds would be better off allocated for growth or expansion. Cut the fluff out of your budget and use your newfound cash to help you build a brighter future.

Unnecessary Office Supplies

You’re always going to need office supplies, but changing the way you do things can reduce the amount you’ll spend. Going paperless is one of the easiest ways to save money. Keeping things digital allows you to save on paper, recycling, toner, and printing supplies. Many small businesses burn through mountains of these materials, and paperless businesses barely use them. Going paperless also makes your business eco-friendly, and that’s never a bad thing.

Leasing a Huge Building

You need to give yourself some room to grow for the next year or two, but not for the next decade. While it is a wise move to opt for an office space or retail space that will give everyone some room to move, it’s not a wise idea to overspend on something that you’ll never completely use. It may be wiser to choose a shorter lease on something slightly smaller. If you have your heart set on that huge building, try to negotiate the lease. You might be able to get it for a little less.

High Health Insurance Costs

You need your employees to be healthy, and offering decent insurance is a surefire way to attract top talent. There’s something else you can do that would benefit both your business and your employees. Start a wellness program. A wellness program is much less expensive than high insurance costs, and people who prioritize their wellness are a little less likely to need to use their insurance. Offer up some healthy snacks and partner up with a local gym for a discounted membership. Encourage your employees to use their sick days to discourage them from spreading germs around the office.

Advertising to the Whole World

Small businesses want to acquire as many customers as possible. They take to the internet to spread their message far and wide in an attempt to be heard by the right people. The problem with that overzealous approach is that casting a wide net is expensive. In addition to its hefty cost, it’s more of a gamble when it comes to locating an ideal customer.

Focusing on highly targeted ads will help you obtain customers and spread your message with little effort. If you don’t sell your products online, limit your advertising to people who live within a tight radius of your physical location. If you do sell online within your country, only advertise to people who fit your demographic within that country. It’s the most efficient way to spend your ad dollars. When you expand your business, you can begin to expand your reach.

Having Too Many Employees

It takes a lot to run a small business, and this means you’ll need people to make things run smoothly. Hiring people whom you can barely afford to pay may hinder you more than help you. It might be worthwhile to spend a little more on a rock star employee who is content to wear many hats, rather than paying several people the minimum to deliver an average amount of effort. Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to small business employees.

You can also reduce workload by automating as many processes as possible. The right tools can help you achieve a whole day’s work in just a few hours. Don’t do anything manually unless it absolutely requires live human involvement.

Failing to Follow Rules and Regulations

Making legal mistakes is one of the most expensive situations a small business can wind up in. Small businesses try their best, but sometimes fail to secure the right permits or licenses they need to operate or expand the way they’ve planned. Running a business is a learning experience, but you can’t afford to learn with your money.

It might be worthwhile to retain a lawyer for your small business. You need someone to look over the money, the rules, and the licenses as you grow and change. A lawyer might seem expensive now, but nothing is more expensive than finding yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Many small businesses work with tight budgets, but sometimes those budgets are tighter than they need to be. Keep a close eye on the books to be sure you’re not tossing away the funding for your success.

Guest Post: About the Author

Alana Downer is an avid finance blogger from Sydney, Australia, currently writing on behalf of Learn to Trade– money and finance experts. Interested in all things connected to growing a stable income, Alana might often be found online, sharing her financial tips and participating in discussions. Feel free to reach out to her on @alanadownerLTT.