Santa Rosa SBDC

California Bicycling Development

Author: Frances Hanson

Coworking Spaces And Incubators In Santa Rosa

As the workforce becomes decentralized, coworking spaces and coffee shops continue to rise in popularity.

But what if you could create a startup “hive”? Some place where startups could not only work but work in a location where visibility was easy to obtain, coaching was around every corner, and venture capital was waiting with open checkbooks (ok, so now we are dreaming.)

Across the country, we see these incubators take shape. In 2011, the Share Exchange opened an incubator for our area.

Now, six years later, it appears that this project is technically still running. Whether you are struggling with funding or marketing or manufacturing, you are welcome to apply for coaching.

Our local culture revolves around the food and crafts industries. When you look at some of the current incubator projects, you see these industries heavily represented.

Unfortunately, it appears that these dreams didn’t work for many. The websites for the Spiral foods coop, Katzi designs, Preserve Sonoma and Spacious Economy Media, are all dead. (I could link to their old websites, but what’s the point? You can see their dead links, here )

Ironically, it looks like the incubator needs a Savior as much as our local small businesses do.

The idea is a good one. We have had a SCORE in our local area that not nearly enough companies take advantage of https://northcoast.score.org/. SCORE is free and pairs you with a mentor. Not only can you get needed advice from them, but they can also connect you to a much wider network of people for increased exposure or resources.

They also offer workshops and events to help you hone critical business skills.

Coworking Spaces In Santa Rosa

There is still coworking space available inside the Share Exchange. Besides, here are a few other locations that might help the small business that needs office space but wants to control costs.

Share Exchange
529 4th Street,
Santa Rosa CA
707-331-6850

Sphere Pa
1714 Stockton Street #300
San Francisco, CA, 94133
415-413-4700

Work Petaluma
Two locations. Call 707-721-6540

 

California’s New Electronic Employee Submission Requirements

Small businesses will now be required by the Employee Development Department to submit electronic employment tax returns, wage reports, and payroll tax deposits as of January 1st, 2018.

While this requirement was rolled out to business with 10 or more employees for the 2017 year, it is now being forced to any and all California businesses for the upcoming year.

The penalties for not filing electronically are fairly steep — if you don’t pay through the new system, then you will be charged an addition 15% of the payment due. That’s hefty. Also, there are per wage item and per return fees that would stack up very quickly if you had a few employees!

If you know someone running a small business who isn’t likely to be able to file electronically, there is a form they can fill out for a waiver that extends their freedom to pay the government through old fashioned post office services for another year. It can be found here and needs to be mailed or faxed to:

Mail:
Employment Development Department
Document and Information Management Center
PO Box 989779
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9779

Fax: 916-255-1181

The goal with this new system is to improve data collection and security, reduce overheads, and eliminate lost mail issues. It also speeds up the payment process. While I’m all for efficiency and speed, mandating immediate changes and micromanaging small business owners with potentially thousands of dollars in fees seems to be fairly intense overreaching, in my opinion.

Grandma’s corner book store with its three part time college student employees could be put out of business with a pile up of fees because she didn’t get her waiver approved in time.

I would love to see small businesses prosper, but if our state keeps demanding more and more from our business owners and entrepreneurs, it’s going to get increasingly more difficult to make a go of a start up.

Hopefully, this change doesn’t cause some of our elderly owners to throw their hands up and surrender their family business.

For the rest of us, it may be a breath of fresh air to not deal with the stacks of paper, but for them it could be the final straw.

 

 

 

Excellent, 6-Part Training Series From Florida SBDC

One of the keys for a small business’ success is to have clear guidance and a team willing to tell you when your idea sucks.

In lieu of that, sometimes a robust training course can suffice. The challenge is being able to take this training and to critically look at your idea and correct the issues. All too often we interrupt our business analysis or refuse to give truthful answers.

Getting rid of the rose-colored glasses is an excellent place to start.

In this 6-part series, the Florida Small Business Startup Network does an excellent job showing you the questions you should be asking yourself. I realize that it is easy to skim past some of these questions, but each one of these are key questions that other business owners have had to ask. Perhaps it feels like a question does not apply to you right now. However, by answering that question, now, you can often save yourself from headache down the road.

Some of the questions they start of this series with include:

  • Why do you want to start THIS business?
  • What experience and skills do you bring to this business?
  • Have you saved any money? Enough money? How will you fund your startup?
  • Are you prepared for the long hours this business will require to be a success?
  • Are you a self-starter?

Theses questions deal a lot with YOU the business owner. Just as when you hire an employee, you need to take a critical analysis of yourself and decide whether or not you should be “fired” or have a “coaching conversation”.

 

Some of the other questions you should ask will pertain more to your market:

  • Is there a demand for your service?
  • What differentiates you from your competition?
  • How will customers find you?
  • How will you keep them coming back and use them to spread word-of-mouth advertising?

It is terrifying how many people cash out their retirements and dive into business ideas without having these basic questions answered.

We can’t stress enough how essential it is that you lose the rose-colored glasses and focus on building a business that will last. After all, time is moving forward and you don’t want to waste your life, dreams and ambitions on  a plan that is a guaranteed failure.

The foundation of success is the ability to answer the hard questions.

Start the series with this video:

Small Business Spotlight: Echelon Cycling

Echelon. Cycling definition: The formation a peloton uses navigates a side wind.

This isn’t just a cool word that speaks teamwork and power, it’s also the name of one of Santa Rosa’s small business gems. Echelon Cycling and Multisport is an owner operated shop that breeds a loyalty in its customers that is hard to match.

Referred to by its followers as “THE Tri Shop”, the staff and crew at Echelon are well versed in all three sports — cycling, running, and swimming. They have carefully chosen brand lines and products that are the best possible fit for the individual sports as well as competition triathlons.

These people are in touch with their community and work hard to have small town familiarity in a high-quality setting. They will get to know you, and spend whatever time is needed to get you and your bike fitted to each other. They are the go to for maintenance and repairs, as well as upgrades and accessories.

A few key notes:

Their ride maps on their “Local rides” page are tried and true by real life riders, not just some pre-mapped cycling routes. We’ve all experienced the frustration of following a “bicycle route” only to find ourselves in heavy traffic with poorly marked intersections or walking our bikes because of too many hazards on the pathway. Not gonna happen with the hand picked routes they have ready for you as a free resource.

Their fitting system is in depth and worth the money. It’s hard to find a shop that will spend several hours with you to make sure that you are getting the most efficiency possible out of your bike and your body, and then be willing to follow up with you! This quality feature that their store offers make them worth setting an appointment and driving.

If you follow their facebook page, you will have noticed that they keep it up to date and offer a great many opportunities and group activities to their followers. From the Women’s Wednesday rides to pilates and yoga events, to helping organise and take part in larger community events, there will be no shortage of chances for you to get out and get active with like minded people.

The soaring reviews and faithful followers of this company make it an invaluable addition to our Santa Rosa community. Shops like this, with staff that are passionate about their work and their customers, are not only an essential to the cycling and triathlon world, but are a model for niche shops all over the country.

 

 

Bike Commuting Campaign To Boost Employee Productivity

As the summer wraps up, it’s important that we squeeze the most out of every moment. Many families are taking last-minute vacations and dragging their kid from preseason workout to preseason workout, trying to make sure everyone is ready for the school season to start.

However this is the time of year when it begins to sink in that the year is almost over and we begin to realize that we have not yet hit our fitness goals.

The poor diets and late nights of this back-to-school season has your employees feeling stressed, depressed and exhausted.

Which means they are not bringing their  best to the workplace.

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One of the best ways to boost productivity is to improve your employee’s health. And an easy way to do this is by encouraging folks to bike to work.

For many, cycling to work does not require a huge commitment in terms of their commute, and requires less commitment then a gym membership.

Getting your clients on board with this workout plan and deliver an instant boost to your business’s bottom line. Here are six tips to launching a successful campaign.

1. Bike Parking

The first thing you need to decide is where you want your employees parking their bikes.

If your employees have nice machines, they won’t want to leave them in a bike rack, and you’ll need to setup a place inside where they can be brought. We would commonly stash them in an empty cubicle, but if you are serious, you might consider setting up indoor bike hanging.

Depending on the level of trust in your culture, you may need to have a place where your employees can lock their cycles or create parking close to where they work.

Theft is always a huge concern, and you must answer that concern 100% or your folks will refuse to get on board.

2. Clothes Changing

Hygiene is top of mind for everyone. Most commuters know that a simple wipe-down and reapplication of deodorant is more than enough refreshment after a ride.

However, it might be helpful to have a quick discussion on that. Depending how invested your company wants to get, you can offer extra changing rooms, wet wipes and hooks for hanging clothes while changing.

3. Competition

As you well know, there is nothing like friendly competition for getting humans engaged in an activity.

You can create charts where the athletes compete with each other. And if you want to take it up a notch, incentivizing your riders by tying their mileage into a cause that the company than donates to, or offering them a prize based on their mileage are two excellent ways to keep your riders involved.

The key is to update the “leader boards” frequently and create enough depths to the prizes so that even lower-ranked riders have enough incentive for staying engaged.

4. Lead By Example

There is nothing as powerful as seeing the leadership cycling up to work. I’ve been part of many different workplace incentive programs, and the ones where the leaders are actively having mini competitions amongst themselves or going out on lunch time rides together are the workplaces with the most engagement.

The key thing is to be visible. So even if you have to get to work 2 hours before your team, make sure they see your bike and your sweaty riding clothes. It sounds gross, but being real with your employees is the biggest thing you can do to get their buy-in.

5. Culture

Being vocal about your fitness culture is key. Frequently retouching the issue throughout the month with new incentives or new twists on the competition can keep the workout fresh for everyone.

Some riders may take several weeks to get engaged. Having a shorter,mini competition can help add life to the big competition and get new people into the game.

Adding in team rides or after work activities can serve double duty as team building exercises.

6. Discounts

Don’t overlook the power of partnering with local bicycle shops to offer gift cards and discounts. The group buying power of a corporation can be enough to help get your employees preferential treatment and possibly engage some that otherwise wouldn’t participate. Some shops will even send an employee over during your team’s lunch hour to show them how to do simple bike repairs or to discuss with your team how to choose best commuter bike http://www.davescheapbikes.com/best-commuting-bikes/.

Our very own Santa Rosa bike club can be another great resource for finding about additional rides happening in the area. Perhaps your business would like to go a step further put together a team that can fundraise together for an upcoming charity event. Some companies go as far as to have  matching jersey’s they wear for the upcoming ride.

This type of community engagement can be invaluable in demonstrating to your team how serious you are about encouraging exercise and well-being.

Ways to Incorporate Your Small Business, LLC, or S-Corp

If you happen to be a sole proprietor, you may consider incorporating your small business. There are a number of reasons why today’s small businesses have turned to incorporation. It’s challenging for a sole proprietor to increase capital since they don’t have any company shares to sell. At the same, it’s also difficult for banks to finance their small business.

Taxes are a big concern for owners running a small business since they’ll be required to keep up with the federal tax rate and self-employment taxes. In other words, you’ll be taxed twice (Depending on the structure of your business). One of the biggest risks when it comes to sole proprietors is the never ending liability they’ll end up with if their business is facing a lawsuit. This can place your assets and finances at risk. It’s through these reasons that owners of small businesses need to learn the aspects of incorporation.

If you intend to incorporate, there are small business solutions that involve internet-based incorporation. Currently, there are a number of such online services offering necessary information to help you attain the right kind of incorporation adequate for your small business needs.

When you’re thinking about incorporating, there are multiple options available. You may opt the Limited Liability Company structure (LLP), an S-Corporation or C-Corporation (S-Corp or C-Corp), or a non-profit model format. Through these structures, there are forms that need to be filled out and fees to cover in any state where you’ll be doing your business.

An LLC basically combines the upsides of being a sole proprietor with liability and tax protection that come with business incorporation. An LLC can consist of a single owner with other branches made up of a board of directors. Through this format, you’ll typically make self-employment tax payments on earnings you make out your current business. There are no shareholder meetings involved and keeping records is simpler compared to other incorporated business models.

Business owners often go for the C-Corporation model. Through this format, you’ll be required to select a board of directors and make shareholders in charge of making major business considerations. Meanwhile, the board of directors is in charge of managing the company on a daily basis. You can sell company stocks to shareholders — a good way to raise money for business ventures and operations — and you can minimize worker benefits from your current tax obligation. C-Corps typically have annual meetings with minutes being recorded. This model works ideally for bigger companies.

An S-Corporation is essentially named after a Subchapter S code of the tax laws from the IRS. A business owner/shareholder can hand over corporate earnings and business profits on his personal tax return. Employees in an S-Corp tend to receive acceptable compensation standards. Dividends of an S-Corp are needed for distribution to shareholders according the number of shares they’ve possessed.

Wrong Reasons to Start a Small Business

Entrepreneurship through small business is an enticing path but it’s not something for everyone. A good business idea, the need to create something, or a smart market opening can be a good foundation to starting a small business. But on the other side of the coin, it’s essential to know the wrong reasons for kicking off a business. Jumping into the small business bandwagon for the wrong reasons can doom one to fail even before they get started.

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Here are the biggest bad reasons to staring a small business:

  • Making a quick buck

Regardless of how simple or inspiring your small business start-up appears, it’ll never take off. In other words, there’s no shortcuts to making a mint, much less if you happen to do it without help. Starting a small business is similar to prospecting. You may have heard of striking gold in business but the truth of the matter is, prospectors work hard to gain minor successes in the process. If you’re into small business for that lone nugget, there’s a good chance of you not finding any small nuggets that are highly essentially in get there.

  • Working for your own

In any position within an organization, you’ll have to answer to somebody even if you happen to be a lone worker. The people you answer to may include employees, business partners, bank, investors, etc…

There’s accountability tied in any business relationship you make. As a result, you’ll have to answer to all of them. If you’ve dwelled in an illusion where you won’t have to deal with what anyone has to say or want, you’ll likely fail. Working and answering to others is an essential aspect of a successful small business.

  • Demanding more time

Ask any small business owner — finding time for oneself is nothing but a myth. Running a small business is constant. As a matter of fact, your schedule may not be as flexible since you’re frequently on call even if you’re away from communicating with others. Even if things have come to a standstill, you’ll still be thinking about your business regardless. So if you think entering a business is to give more time and flexibility for yourself, then going for a start-up should never be pursued in the first place.

  • Everybody is doing it

If you want to start a business because everyone else is doing it then something is wrong with you. It seems everyone wants to get into business nowadays. Even if people don’t have any business, they’ll start talking about a start-up. It’s important to keep this mind: the main reason to start a business is because you have a good reason to so. Talking about a business may be easy but the process of starting one is difficult. Ensure you start one for the right reasons.

If you’re thinking of starting a business and taking the plunge, look into the reason why you want to make the move. If you want to succeed in a small business by working with others and dedicating your time to expand your customer base and product/services, by all means, pursue it!

Small Business Internet Marketing Tips for Entrepreneurs

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Online corporate giants frequently intimidate business owners who want to start a small business over the internet. Obviously, these online giants have the finances, employees, and time to make their businesses even more lucrative. Internet marketing in a business can cost a lot of money and as a result of this, small business owners are often discouraged from venturing further despite their planned internet marketing strategies.

A lot of people have no idea that internet marketing isn’t always costly since it’s a matter of being efficient. For any small business owner who want to know about internet marketing on their own, here are several useful tips to help carry out an effective internet marketing strategy:

  1. Opt for free tools

Small business owners with little or no experience are easily influenced to buy any internet marketing tools via alluring advertisements. The best advice: go for a free internet marketing tools that help market your website, create traffic, and learning online marketing strategies in the process. You could make a purchase of an internet marketing app only when you have a complete idea on how it works. Never waste money on a software that won’t maximize your internet marketing potential.

  1. Start working on an e-mail campaign

An e-mail campaign is known to be the most effective and personal method for internet marketing. Connect with customers who have shown interest in your services or products. By doing so, your internet marketing efforts will ultimately pay off via direct sales from customers who openly subscribed to your e-mail updates.

  1. Use social media for marketing

Try to connect with as many people as you can through popular social network outlets such as Twitter or Facebook. Signing up is simple and you can easily spot potential customers by adding contacts and posting updates regularly. Social network contacts are virtually unlimited and you’re completely in charge of making your network grow.

  1. Offer freebies

An ideal marketing method for small business is by providing freebies and other online downloads to lure visitors. Participate in forums and impart your business knowledge and experience. Prove to people that you’re a small business owner who’s interested in your customers as opposed to going for a money-grabbing strategy.

  1. Involve YouTube and other Social Channels

Nowadays, people prefer watching videos than reading text. Try to be active in YouTube and post any videos related to your business. These can be things such as simple DIY repairs (if you’re a plumber or an electrician) or something else. This internet marketing method is very effective in reaching out to local audiences.

Kicking off a small business through internet marketing is an aspect that almost anyone can perform. While it may not be difficult to start a small business, doing it correctly may pose some challenges. By paying attention to the internet marketing tips indicated, you can gain exposure of your small business and eventually profit as your customer base grows.

Photo Credit: Flick’r User Bruce Clay Inc

How to Set Up a Small Business with a Small Capital

Starting a small business entails a lot of thinking and planning since faulty ideas, start-up capital, and monetary issues have led to a huge percentage of small business failures. Successful small business owners all too well that businesses should begin with small expenses in order to succeed. By keeping such expenses under strict control, there’s a good chance a small business to make huge profits in the long run.

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Photo: Flick’r Dean Myers

Here are some ways to help you start a small business with minimal capital:

  1. Be knowledgeable of today’s business

Adequate research and a good knowledge of the latest business trends are a representation of essential requirements for a profitable small business. While there are certain business consultants who charge a lot of money to conduct such services, a successful business owner utilizes a number of hard copy and online sources to look into business requirements, determine possible competitors, and make start-up assumptions. Some businesses, such as medical and tech firms, require a huge capital and can’t be launched cheaply. There are other companies that lets entrepreneurs start off a small business with minimal capital.

  1. Maximizing Open-Source/Free Resources

A majority of success in today’s business depends on a consumer’s view in terms of company size. While commercial resources employ costly integrated voice response phone systems and virtual conferencing, there are other efficient resources available for free via open-sourced channels over the internet.

For instance, Google Voice lets small businesses acquire a phone number and create a big business phone image free of charge. On the other hand, Google Wave lets business personnel conduct virtual office meetings, collaborate on projects, and share documents. A plethora of open-sourced apps today lets small business owners create quality documents, spreadsheets, and presentations for free.

  1. Pay attention to cash flow

Know the essence of cash flow and recognize that poor cash flow can lead to failure in any small business. When certain big customers make an order placement, they typically hand out a purchase order as opposed to a pre-paid transaction. You’ll need to gain the required items, keep them stocked, processed, and have the order send prior to any payment. One thing that can really help cash flow is the astounding number of tax benefits that the business owner gets from the IRS.

Payment may take up to 60 to 90 days. Initially, you’ll need to foot the bill on the items and tie useful cash to be utilized for other essential business operations. Keep track on any cash flow or expenses to ensure your small business will remain profitable.

  1. Setting up a website

With a huge percentage of the world having access to the internet, small business owners shouldn’t ignore the power of a well-made and professionally designed website. While there are web designers that charge a lot for setting up a site, there are a plethora of free tools available that can create attractive web pages in a cheap and simple manner.

Certain open-sourced apps lets users craft a professional site with little effort, and there are even some that have a direct interface with e-commerce bundles that process internet-based sales. Utilizing an open-sourced app to create a web page minimizes expenses related to making an online presence. At the same time, business owners can find a dependable web hosting at an affordable monthly cost.

Regardless of the kind of small business you have, a little of bit of cash is necessary. This is due to the fact that it plays a big role in today’s business. The good news is, there are numerous small business opportunities available that involves a small capital. By playing it smart and being efficient with startup costs, small businesses will eventually be rewarded with profits in the long run.

5 Things Small Business Owners Should Do During Tax Season

Tax season is already stressful for a person dealing with personal finances. But when it boils down to finances of a small business, it can be highly stressful. Just like you would typically deal with your own finances, your current small business will need to be ready for that time when business taxes are due.

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Here are some things to help your small business be ready when tax season comes around:

  1. Organize your books and records

This process entails gathering your previous tax forms, expense receipts, invoices, bank statements, and other pertinent documents for bookkeeping. Organizing your records should happen way before tax season hits. Secure your receipts in one area. You can even convert your receipts digitally, but keep your original receipts in case something goes wrong with your PC. Making use of file binders or cabinets to keep your documents can be of big help when you need to file taxes.

  1. Keep in touch with your tax advisor

Regardless of how long you’ve been doing taxes, when it boils down to any small business, you’ll want to have a tax advisor look into your taxes before submission. They’ll help you by getting the necessary tax deductions you’re qualified for and hopefully save your small business money along the way.

  1. Gather the necessary documents required

When it comes to your employees, you’ll need to hand out their W-2 forms by the end of the first month of next year. You’ll also need to send them to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The W-2 indicates the overall earnings that were paid and the withheld taxes from the previous year.

Aside from the W-2, you’ll need to submit a W-3 form before February closes. The W-3 form basically indicates the overall W-2s. For workers making at least $600 in the past year, you need to have kept track of certain things from the previous year. Possessing W-9 form records — business licenses and certifications of a contractor — can aid you in getting the 1099-MISC form ready for those contractors. The form should be sent to the contractor by the end of January. This will highlight payments made by each contractor.

  1. Do research

Doing so will help you determine the kind of deductions you can use and see if any write-offs is applicable to your small business. This may include anything from the latest equipment purchase to your company vehicle. One deduction you haven’t thought through is business insurance. In certain business insurance policies, insurance premiums may be factored as a business expense and are considered to be tax deductible.

  1. Make paperwork a priority

You have a lot on your end when it comes to running a small business. You may be tempted to prioritize less on your financial paperwork. It’s important you look into your tax issues in a timely manner. Missing out on a specific file date will lead to penalties and accumulation of back taxes. Putting off your back taxes can snowball the situation up to point you’ll be overwhelmed with tax debt. It’s best to stray from tax liens, wage garnishment, and other fines by making the right payment prior to the deadline.

Tax laws are complex for anyone especially for small business owners. They may, at times, seem like impossible to comprehend. In addition, a tax error can lead to severe consequences. Whether you have plans on collaborating with a tax consultant or you’re confident enough to file taxes on your own, you’ll need to keep the previously mentioned tips in mind to ensure the financial future of your business.

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