City of Austin, Small Business Development Program

29 May

Our Website    Classes & Events
Exploring Entrepreneurship:
Design & Manufacturing of Your Idea

Join us for an informed panel discussion as we tackle these questions and take a look at what goes into taking an idea for a physical product and making it real.

We’ll tap the knowledge, experience and expertise of industry veterans alongside a business owner who recently turned his idea into a reality that landed him on the reality TV show Shark Tank.

May 31 | 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM | $10 No-Show Fee | Register

Important:  There is no charge for this session. However, if you cannot attend for any reason, you must give notice no less than 24-hours in advance to avoid a $10 “no-show” fee.

BizAid Evening Classes

BizAid Business Orientation covers key questions you must ask when starting or expanding a business and provides you with the information necessary to answer those questions in order to get you to the next step in the development of your business.

June 10 | 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM | No-cost | Register

Upcoming Business Classes
June 3rd
Alternative Financing & Microloans
Financing session on SBA’s Guaranty Loan Programs and other resources available for the small business community. Start-ups and existing businesses can gain access to capital for their business needs such as, working capital, purchase land and building, equipment, inventory, leasehold improvements and other legitimate business purposes.
Fee: Free | Register

June 5th
The 7 Most Important Secrets of Small Business Success* 
This course provides a practical template for the successful creation and operation of a small business. Whether you are a start-up still in the planning stage, or an existing business, these seven essential principles must be followed throughout your business life to achieve maximum success. They have been tried and proven over many years and will help you execute your business plan with passion and precision.
Fee: $35 | Register

June 11th

How to Get Investors for Your Business*

Whether you are looking to start a new business or to expand the operations of an existing business, you will always need capital. How to Get Investors For Your Business explores a wide spectrum of opportunities in seeking venture capital or risk capital investors. From friends and family to professionally managed venture capital funds, all potential sources of capital are reviewed and considered. This course explains the processes of determining capital needs for the small business and will help you to understand the difference between equity investors and business partners.  

Fee: $35 | Register    


June 19th

What is a Marketing Plan and Why Your Business Needs One*

Developing a thorough marketing plan for a small business startup or expansion is vital to the success of any business. Once complete, a marketing plan becomes a work in progress and can help give your business a significant competitive edge. This course will teach you how to look at the economic, sociological and financial factors which influence the consumer decision-making process and how to forecast industry trends to meet consumer demands.

Fee: $35 | Register   


June 20th

Intermediate QuickBooks*

This course is a more advanced look at how to use QuickBooks Pro to best meet your business’ accounting needs.  This course covers these advanced topics:  sales tax, payroll setup and processing, billable expenses, time tracking, budgets, estimates, sales orders and year end closing procedures using QuickBooks Pro accounting software.

Fee: $85 | Register


June 24th & 26th

Roadmap to Success: How to Write a Business Plan*

Two-part session

This course provides a practical, step-by-step instruction in how to develop a business plan for a small start-up business or the expansion of an existing business. Upon completion, a business plan can be submitted to a financial institution or private investor for funding or used for implementation. Emphasis will be placed on a plan’s components, format, marketing and financial projections and analysis.

Fee: $45 | Register


*These classes are taught by a University of Texas Adjunct Instructor and count toward the 6 course requirement needed to earn your Business Success Skills Certification.
Annual Women’s Entrepreneurial Luncheon  
Austin area women entrepreneurs are invited to join us in recognizing the contribution of local women business owners. Our panelists will share their insights and experiences in achieving entrepreneurial success.
Join Lolis Garcia-Baab, as she interviews Lori Schneider of The Cupcake Bar, Lorraine Jordan of The Entermedia Group, and Blair Smith of Dirty Dog.
June 27 | 11:30 AM – 1 PM Hyatt Regency Austin
$35 includes parking + lunch | Register 
Crowdfunding and Small Business Lending 
Crowdfunding and lending are two options available to help you fund your small business. However, they are not mutually exclusive and actually both work quite well with one another. In this workshop we’ll show you how you can combine crowdfunding and lending to help you raise up to $50,000 for your small business. Presented by Lance McNeill, the Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at the Business and Community Lenders (BCL) of Texas.

JUNE 11 | 6 PM – 7 PM
Fee: $20 | Register
Managing Your International Distribution Network  
This session will provide you with information from a local exporter on how to qualify a new distributor, what to discuss when establishing a relationship, and what to avoid. A local attorney will provide some tip for the
establishment of a distribution contract.
9 AM – 11:30AM
Fee: $35 | Register
Mayor’s Health & Fitness Council – Business Group on Health
City launches new Zoning Profile Report web tool  
How does it work? When an address is entered in the tool’s search bar, a corresponding map, as well as current zoning, applicable ordinances, overlays, and future land use & regulating plan information is displayed. To get started using the tool, visit the zoning profile tool and enter an address in the search bar.
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The #1 Marketing Mistake For eCommerce Businesses – Accurate Tracking

25 Feb

You are watching the traffic numbers and referral data from each of your campaigns but do you know the full story? The real data is extracted from your knowledge of human behavior and sociology. Each are based on environmental factors and cultural evolution. Our priorities in the 80’s were very different than now. Just take a look at Google Trends and type in a keyword related to your company. We will use the travel industry as an example. Type in “travel resorts” in Google Trends and you see that there is a sharp decrease in searches (interest) since 2005 to 2012.

Google Trends Travel Resorts

Now overlay the trends to your eCommerce data. Is your month to month percentages averaging at the same rate of decrease? Why? Take a look at the Google News archives next to find out the over arching mood of your audience. Is it the economy? Is it severe weather influences?

Next look at blog posts from your target market during the same time period. What are individuals experiencing during their travels? When they return from their trips what are they telling their friends? Their blogs will indicate their mood.

Which type of fan pages are being created by individual on Facebook? What is being pinned on Pinterest? Which destinations are people talking about on Twitter?

Now think beyond the obvious. Take a look at divorce rates.  If the divorce rate is high the travel rate will be influenced. Family trips to Disney will change to friend trips to singles resort vacations. Look at the number of births year to year. Was it higher than normal one year? How will this influence behavior?

In summary, the data will help tell the results of behavior but the why is the question that needs to be answered and reported to stakeholders. It’s gathering ALL the information and being able to successfully put the puzzle together that separates mediocre answers to the complete  story.


Blind Shenanigans of Marketing

16 Nov



I’ve seen millions of dollars spent by corporations knowing that in many cases there were some behind-the-scenes blind shenanigans going on. It is not our intention for this to happen but it is our responsibility to gain some awareness so we can take action.

A few examples of shenanigans:

1. Agency Timesheets – I heard a talk by Alex Bogusky formally of Crispin Porter + Bogusky.  He said their agency spent so much time filling out client time sheets and stopping client work before it was polished to prevent from being penalized for overworking accounts that they failed the clients. Their solution was to stop tracking client hours and start providing client results. Once this happened creativity and productively improved.

2. Noise – When you are surrounded by the noise of the day such as rushing work, forcing solutions and co-workers whirling around you it is impossible to be creative. Think about where you really get your inspiration – in the car, shower or sitting quietly outside. This is the moment that the client is paying for. Not the extra 5 hours you worked producing nothing useable. It’s the time you spent taking a break from the noise which allowed your brain to function. Leave the office on time and return with solutions.

3. Learning – We have the ability to learn anything. Malcolm Gladwell discusses the 10,000 hour rule in “Outliners.” He believes it takes 10 years to master something. I believe that once we spend 10 years mastering the violin, yoga or marketing any offshoot can be easily integrated. But it requires daily maintenance. In marketing we can get so focused on the project that we may delay a necessary ritual of daily learning. What changed on Facebook today? How does the economic situation impact our client and what can we do to help?

4. Communication  – We struggle with this at home and work. Everyone communicates differently and this can cause missed deadlines, hard feelings and negative environments. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz are what we need to put into action for ourselves and those around us. In a work situation it is a disservice to make a client pay for our inability to communicate. The first step is simply to respond to clients. We don’t need to have all the answers, we just need to hear them.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Agreement 1
Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Agreement 2
Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Agreement 3
Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Agreement 4
Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

IBM Has Figured Out What Employees Need: A Paid Day Off With a Purpose

7 Oct


From:        MP/Austin/IBM
Date:        10/07/2011 08:39 AM
Subject:        Team Bytes: a unique paid day

My name is MP and am a CTP for the Lotus Brand.  But for today – your second line manager – has appointed me to be your team leader.  Today is a unique paid day (don’t ask why – just know that it is) … and because it’s a paid work day, it means you have to do the following :-D.  The whole team has until 3 PM CT to do these sequential actions:

For the next 20-30 minutes, I would like for you to surf around the internet (youtube, vimeo etc) and find a short clip or video that you find to be really funny… one that actually makes you laugh out loud.  One that makes you laugh or smile regardless of how many times you see it.  When you find it, send a public link to me directly.

Each of us are quite fortunate compared to most in this distressed economy.  So it’s time to help – find 3 items in your home that you can donate that could help someone out (pots, pans, clothes, appliance, electronic, books, blankets, etc).  These are items you will be dropping off today at a non-profit organization of your choice.  Make note of the 3 items in the “Activity” (you’ll be email a link to it shortly) under the section “3 donated items.”  If you cannot find 3 items, then list the 1 or 2 things you can find to donate.

With potential travel and unusual schedules, it’s time take a break.  Reach out to your significant other, kid, friend, colleague, customer, stranger or whoever that is nearby and grab lunch with them.  It might take a little bit of extra time, but find and support a local eatery or a chain that was started in your town.  But most importantly, don’t talk about work (you can talk about technology, but just not about your work) ….  if timed right, this should start near 11 AM…and you have until 2 PM … nearly 3 hours.  Come back ready to report in the “Activity” where you ate, who joined you for lunch, and what you talked about (generically speaking of course).  And as far as what you ate – take a picture of your meal before you start with your mobile phone and send it to my email.

Before or after lunch, swing by the non-profit place and drop off your donations – take a picture of the organization’s sign with your mobile phone and send it to my email.

Make it back to your desk by 2 PM.  By this time, Activity for Team Bytes will have all the videos posted from ACTION #1.  Click thru the video links and hopefully we’ll each get a laugh or few over the remaining hour.  But while you are watching your video – you have one last thing to do …. create a standing figure with items that are in your office … it can be small or large, and can be made of anything … books, paperclips, binders, wires, tape, paper, coins, or whatever else you have in your office.  It has to be self standing.  If the videos are over in the duration of creating your figure, play some music on iTunes or Pandora while you create your office “Frankenstein”.  When you are done creating your figure – take a picture of it with your mobile device and add it to the Activity under the Section called “Picture of your standing figure.”

Happy Friday and have some fun doing this.  If you have any questions, please join my conference bridge for the next 30 minutes at and I would be happy to answer your questions.

Technical Collaboration Leader, Great West
Lotus Software  |  IBM Corporation

The Final Straw: When Work Has Killed Your Life

17 Jul

Ostrich Pillow

I don’t need to say anything about this new product although I’m concerned it may stop your breathing so I really encourage you to read the advice below. Here is the company description:

OSTRICH offers a micro environment in which to take a warm and comfortable power nap at ease. It is neither a pillow nor a cushion, nor a bed, nor a garment, but a bit of each at the same time. Its soothing cave-like interior shelters and isolates our head and hands (mind, senses and body) for a few minutes, without needing to leave our desk.

Hopefully you have not taken a job position that would require you to need this type of product. Follow age old advice -do what you love, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep… at night.

Starbucks Not Interested in a Slice of 8 BILLION Dollars of Unclaimed Gift Cards

13 Jul

Gift cards provide retailers with an extra 8 billion dollars a year in unclaimed purchases. 80 billion dollars in value are purchased each year but consumers either lose the card, forget about the card or don’t patronize the retailer.

There are online companies who are trying to facilitate gift card exchanges such as Gift Card Rescue , Plastic Jungle and Card Pool among others. Despite the services there continues to be a massive infusion of cash for the retailers.

Except for Starbucks.

They understand that unclaimed gift cards may equal disinterest in a retailer. It may seem obsessive to remind a consumer they have a $5 dollar balance on their card but it reengages them with their consumers. The message also evokes the same emotions as someone who drops a $5 bill on the street and the person behind them says “Hey, is this yours?” Although someone paid for the $5 dollars remaining on the Starbuck’s card it feels like free money or in their case, a free coffee.

Here’s their customer service letter that was sent this week:

Starbucks Gift Card Letter

Isis Mobile Payments Piloting in Austin with AT&T, Verizion & T-Mobile

11 Jul

Michael Koploy
by Michael Koploy

Isis, the mobile payments venture that is teaming up with AT&T, Verizion, and T-Mobile to bring NFC to the US, is piloting its program in Austin, Texas in 2012. While NFC adoption has begun to pick up in the rest of the world, it has been slow to become popular in the US for a number of reasons, mainly the lack of compatible hardware.

Isis will attempt to change that as it pilots its program in Austin and Salt Lake City in 2012. But will retailers to adopt this technology? As it stands, NFC payments will affect retailers similarly as contactless credit card payments available from Mastercard and Visa today (e.g., PayPass and payWave). To be successful, Isis and other mobile payments groups will have to focus on the marketing benefits of mobile payments, such as loyalty programs, mobile coupon opportunities, and mobile advertising.

Software Advice, an Austin-based retail software consultancy, had provided an overview of how it thinks Isis can spearhead adoption for this new mobile retail technology, including:

  1. Spreading the word via conferences and festivals
  2. Working together with the University of Texas and the Austin Technology Incubator
  3. Having the food truck scene adopt NFC
  4. Work with high-end supermarkets such as Whole Foods
  5. Work with local merchants in trendy neighborhoods such as Austin’s “SoCo”

For more on Isis and NFC in Austin, check out: Five Ways Austin Can Springboard Mobile Wallet Adoption.

Random Act of Customer Service from LinkedIn

8 Jul

Reid Hoffman LinkedIn

There was absolutely no reason for Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, to send me the following “thank you” email, but he did anyway. It got my attention and I’ll be placing ads in their channel for a client. Looks like random acts of thank you’s work. Plus, it does not hurt to play upon my ego. Marketing at its best!


Dear Sherry,

I want to personally thank you because you were one of LinkedIn’s first 100,000 members (member number 27,502 in fact!*). In any technology adoption lifecycle, there are the innovators, those who help lead the way. That was you.

We hit a big milestone at LinkedIn this week when our 100 millionth member joined the site.

When we founded LinkedIn, our vision was to help the world’s professionals be more successful and productive. Today, with your help, LinkedIn is changing the lives of millions of members by helping them connect with others, find jobs, get insights, start a business, and much more.

We are grateful for your support and look forward to helping you accomplish much more in the years to come. I hope that you are having a great year.


Reid Hoffman
Co-founder and Chairman

Why Does Mashable Get to Choose Social Media Day?

30 Jun

Social Media Day

Have you ever wondered how these random theme days like “Talk Like a Pirate Day” get started? Maybe I think too much about popular culture, rituals and sociology but we all have hobbies, right?

Today is Social Media Day. What does that mean exactly and why did Mashable get to choose the date and orchestrate the meetups? Obvious answer– “because they’re Mashable.” But there is a more complex answer to this question.

The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences from 1968 has some fascinating thoughts & facts on the subject. Here is the summary: in the fourteeth centuary two trends in rituals, ceremonies and customs appeared:

1. Rituals include English handshaking plus obsessve handwashing which is a private ritual. Hindu’s washing their hands for purity is a ritual of value. So, a ritual is associated with the body and usually coupled with religion.

2. Ceremonies & customs are secular activities and separated from religion thus spiritually falls into this category since it is not associated with a specific religion. This is also where Social Media Day exists.

What actually happened over time is that the terminology mashed up together and the definitions got muddled.

Ritual (or Ceremony) as Social Communication (as mentioned in 1968)

“Our day-to-day relationships depend upon a mutual knowledge and mutual acceptance of the fact that at any particular time any two individuals occupy different positions in a highly complex network of status relationships; ritual serves to reaffirm what these status differences are.

“It is characteristic of all kinds of ritual occasion that all participants adopt special forms of dress, which emphasize in an exaggerated way the formal social distinctions that separate one individual from another.

“Thus, ritual serves to remind the congregation just where each member stands in relation to every other and in relation to a larger system. It is necessary for our day-to-day affairs that we should have these occasional reminders, but it is also reassuring. It is this reassurance perhaps that explains why, in the absence of scientific medicine, ritual forms of therapy are often strikingly successful.”

The answer to who gets to choose the day of the event circles back to market share and first to market. It is also based on the person or group who care about having a ceremony (or gathering) whether it be to celebrate the potatoe harvest or Social Media Day.

One passionate dancer, Ines Markeljevic, was able to convince thousands in the world to dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller at the same time on the same day yearly, since 2009. She became a niche icon. In turn Mashable, who already has a large following can reaffirm their status, pick Social Media Day and thousands will follow.

I now wonder how Sidewalk Egg Frying Day on July 4th got started. Origin unknown.

List of More Bizarre Holidays.



Can an Employer Force You to Exercise at Work?

29 Jun

LifeBalance Desk and Chair


Since I’ve started working with clients from a home office I’ve developed two physical issues: lack of exercise and nerve compression syndrome.

Most people assume that working from home would give you more time to exercise. You do gain a more flexible schedule but you tend to work when most people leave the office. That said, I think the real reason that my active regiment stopped was because I DO have a flexible schedule. When I had to get to work by 9am I knew that I had to get up early and exercise at the same time everyday. I followed this by a banana protein shake and oatmeal once I got to work.

When I get up now I think that I have plenty of time to exercise. I can do it anytime of the day or fit it in-between calls. I lost my habit and stopped being active.

The second physical issue, nerve compression syndrome, is due to how I sit in my desk chair and the length of time I sit without moving around. You get it when you consistently put pressure on a nerve, similar to your arm falling asleep. One day I noticed a rough area on my left & right ankle. When I investigated the situation I discovered that the area was numb, really numb. I thought it would go away in a day or so, but it got worse.

As I began wondering if I should go to the doctor I noticed that I was sitting in my chair with my legs crossed. I sit in an Aeron chair which has hard plastic sides sloping up. The plastic had been pushing on the nerve in my ankles for weeks, maybe months. In short, they are still numb because I have not broken the habit nor asked for medical assistance. It’s on my to-do list.

The crazy computer “chair” (pictured above) called the LifeBalance Station, was featured in The Next Web yesterday which at first made me laugh until I thought about my issues and the U.S. obesity rates. It’s predicted that 3 out of 4 Americans will be overweight by 2020 and today more people are overweight than malnourished.

Would it be wrong for an employer to make exercise mandatory? I don’t need to list all the ailments associated with obesity and not exercising but I bet you did not think about nerve compression (since I’m not getting up from my desk enough +sitting wrong).

The benefit of an employee exercising is huge. Exercise reduces stress and less stress means less sick days and happier more productive employees thus saving the employer money.

BUT WAIT, obesity may have another culprit. In a 2007 research paper by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) they examined job stress related to obesity.

“It was hypothesized that work may promote weight gain in three ways: 1) job stress may be linked with alcohol consumption and sedentary leisure activity; 2) psychological strain could lead to modification of hormonal factors related to weight gain; and 3) long work hours, shift work, and overtime could result in fatigue, decreasing the amount of time that the individual may spend in physical activity off the job.”

Interesting. Therefore the job itself can cause obesity. So, maybe we need to listen to Oprah (and 100’s of others) and DO WHAT YOU LOVE. It’s easy to find the stories of a 1,000 people who did just that.

Back to the question. Should it be mandatory to make employees exercise at work? I’m talking about a Yoga break or the LifeBalance Station if the employer can afford it.

Before I commit to an answer I need to talk to my boss (me) and mandate a structured exercise regiment….. and make that doctor appointment.