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Top 10 Cities to Start a Business

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By Debbie Gregory.

Where is the best place to start your business? Below we have listed the top ten cities and chosen them based on seven key indicators that include:   rate of entrepreneurship; wage growth; job creation; population growth; net business creation; high-growth company density; early-stage funding deals:  The cities in descending order are:

10 – Portland, Oregon – Portland is experiencing a construction boom. The two sectors that are projected to grow the most over the next decade are health care and computer and electronics manufacturing. Currently, the startup areas that are booming include tech companies, early-stage food companies, and apparel companies.

9 – Orlando,Florida –  Orlando has become a high-technology hub with more than 200 aerospace and aviation companies in the city. Additionally, its modeling and simulation industry, that designs programs used for both military training and to power rides at the nearby theme parks, provides more than $4 billion in annual contracts.

8 – Denver, Colorado – Denver is growing due to technology such as A.I. and machine learning, followed by block-chain and cryptocurrency,

7 – San Diego, California – San Diego is the place for startups focused on life sciences, aerospace and biotech.

6 -San Jose, California – San Jose is home to three of the world’s most valuable companies–Apple, Google, and Facebook but there is a critical shortage of office space.  Housing is challenging with San Jose having some of the highest housing costs in the nation.

5 – San Francisco, California – Just north of San Jose, San Francisco is the birthplace of some of the most successful startups, including Uber, Airbnb, and Slack. San Francisco also has astronomical commercial rents and housing costs even higher than San Jose.

4 – Nashville, Tennessee  – Nashville has more than just a thriving music economy; the city’s biggest industry is health care. There are also more than 20 college and university campuses and is home to more megachurches than anywhere else in the country.

3 – Raleigh, North Carolina – Raleigh has been transformed into a software hub. The Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill boasts the fourth most educated population in the country, and forty-seven percent of the local talent pool holds a bachelor’s degree or higher

2 – Salt Lake City, Utah – Salt Lake has more than great snow. Tech giants such as Adobe, Electronic Arts, and Oracle all have offices there. The city is also one of the most affordable tech-centric places to live making it very desirable.

1 – Austin, TexasAustin has an extremely reasonable cost of living, loads of sunshine, well-educated people, and a fun streak.  Texas also does not have any state income tax making it highly desirable. Tech giants including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Dropbox have all established large presences in Austin. Apple has announced it will be investing $1 billion to build a new campus that can eventually hold 15,000 new employees. There are also thriving startup scenes in food and drink, computer hardware, enterprise software, and consumer tech.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

E-commerce Tips

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E-commerce Tips

By Debbie Gregory.

Many veteran business owners and VAMBOA members began their entrepreneurial journey by launching E-commerce websites. E-commerce, short for electronic commerce, is also known as internet commerce and refers to the buying and selling of goods or services via the internet, as well as the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions.

With global retail E-commerce sales are projected to reach $27 trillion by 2020 so you can see why this is such an attractive way to begin a business. But before entrepreneurs jump into the water, here are a few tips to aid in the success of an E-commerce business:

It begins with reaching your audience. If you’re looking to do business online, that’s where you are going to find the majority of your customers. So purchase your domain name, design your web site and set up your social media accounts. Blog, blog, blog. Add a podcast. Optimize your store for mobile.

If you aren’t great with technology, outsource the things you need help with. For example, when your customer adds a product to their cart, does your web site immediately let them know what others products previous purchasers have added-on as a suggested bundle? If a customer is about to abandon their cart, does your website know how to entice them back? If you don’t know how to build in these options, outsource them to someone who does.

Because you are at a disadvantage when it comes to your customers being able to see and touch (and smell) your product in-person, offer incentives such as free shipping or a money back guarantee if it makes financial sense to do so. Encourage your existing customers to leave reviews of your products by offering a percentage discount on their purchase to thank them for their time.

Start building a sales funnel. Think “Do you want fries with that order?” If your customer comes in for one thing, you’re going to ask if they’d like anything else before they cash out.

The more value you add — through freebies, up sells, and add-ons — the more trust you’ll build with your customers, and customers who trust you will spend more.

Building a good relationship with your customers will increase the chances that they will refer others to you, boosting your business even further.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

By Debbie Gregory

Veterans are uniquely qualified to secure government contracts due to the skills and experience they obtained during their military careers. Every year, the federal government spends approximately $500 billion on goods and services.  To maintain a level playing field, the Small Business Administration (SBA) works with federal agencies to ensure that at least 23% of all prime government contracts are awarded to small businesses. These are called “set- asides.”

For Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB), set-aside contracts can present outstanding opportunities.

There are two types of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides. With competitive set-asides, at least two small businesses may perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.

Sole-source contracts are the type of contract that may be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations when only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a specific contract.

Pursuant to the SBA website, In order to qualify for the disabled veterans’ business program, your business must:

  • Be a small business
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more service-disabled veterans
  • Have one or more service-disabled veterans manage day-to-day operations and also make long-term decisions
  • Eligible veterans must have a service-connected disability

The certification process varies depending on the SBA contracting program. In some cases, you may self-represent your business to the federal government as being owned by a service-disabled veteran.  You need to update the socio-economic status section of your business profile at in the System for Award Management (SAM) at http:www.sam.gov.

The VA sets aside contracts for veterans through their Veterans First Contracting Program. Their program is not the same as the SBA’s program. To obtain access to set-aside Veterans Affairs contracts, your business must be verified through the Vets First Verification Program at https://www.va.gov/osdbu/verification/

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

Avoiding Tax Return Preparer Fraud

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By Debbie Gregory.

It’s tax time again, and many Americans who are uncomfortable with doing their own tax returns will hire a third party to do them. While there are many legitimate professional tax preparers who have solid reputations, not all tax preparers have your best interests at heart.

For example, the “Go Navy Tax Service” company, which was deemed off limits by the Marine Corps and located near Marine Base Camp Pendleton in California.  It is alleged that this would lure young Marines with promises of free tax preparation and other perks and subject them to high-pressure sales tactics to get them to deposit their refunds into various financial products.

There are very limited requirements for any type of certification, training, registration, or competency testing for tax preparers.  Anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number but that is about it.

There are three areas to check out when looking into a someone to prepare your taxes.   They include how long the preparer has been doing taxes, how much experience they have, and how they are making their money by doing your return.

In addition to the above alleged tactic used by Go Navy Tax Service, other red flags include a return with creative deductions, or any fabricated information in order to increase the size of your refund, or a “cash only” payment policy. Be wary of anyone promising large refunds.

Do not under any circumstances sign a blank return or allow your refund to be deposited into any bank account other than your own. Always double-check the tax forms before signing them and mailing or e-filing them. You’re the one who has to answer if you are audited by the IRS, and you could be in serious trouble for providing fraudulent information. Double check both the routing number and the account number to make sure they are yours and the refund is not going to anyone else.

Of course everyone wants to receive the largest refund possible, but don’t let the promise of a big payoff keep you from doing a thorough check on your tax preparer.

Many military installations and numerous community locations offer free tax preparation assistance through the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs.

For more military-specific resources, visit the IRS military page at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/military

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

 

Image result for Young and older business owners teaming

 

By Debbie Gregory.

One can start a business at any age.   When you are young, there clearly is more time to recover if things don’t work out.  At the same time, many younger Veterans are raising their families and cannot afford to take some of the risks associated with entrepreneurship and beginning a new business.     When one is more mature in years and life, often it comes with more time, experience, knowledge and financial stability.  It may be the perfect time to begin a new venture as a Veteran Business Owner.  Older Business Owners bring a lot of assets.  Can you imagine a dream team of both older and younger joining forces to start a Veteran Owned Business?  Below are some of the assets that older Veteran Business Owners bring:

  • Financial Stability  – They  have had more time to build up savings and invest your money. As a result, they likely have more money to invest in a business without it being as a big of a risk.   They are often done with mortgages, car payments and college expenses.   It is much easier to secure investments and get loans with better terms as an older business owner too.
  • They Know What You Want Now – Older Veteran Business Owners have had more time to consider what type of business they want to begin.  They know themselves better, what they like to do, what they are good at doing and can create a business that is the right fit for them.
  • Their Level of Experience – Hands down older Veteran Business Owners have more experience than younger Veteran Business Owners.  They have already made more mistakes and can use this experience to avoid them in the future.  Their level of insight is much greater than someone younger without the same life, work and business experiences.  They understand how important it  is to have a comprehensive business plan or roadmap.  Additionally, they also understand how important it is to live within their means and adhere to their budget.
  • Networking & Connections – They have been living life longer and have a much larger professional network of connections that are established in specialty areas of technology, finance and accounting, legal, marketing and more that can be a network of excellent “go to experts”.

I love the combination of young and more mature entrepreneurs joining forces.  Younger entrepreneurs have grown up with the latest technology and understand how to make it work.   Often older entrepreneurs make awesome mentors too.  They have a special level of energy and enthusiasm and a completely different point of view.  If you combine younger entrepreneurs with entrepreneurs with greater maturity who are more financially secure, with experiences and established connections, it can be a winning team.

We invite you to join VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association.  Membership if free and here is the link to join:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

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