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N.J. sets disclosure rules for starter interrupters

AutoNews - Wed, 2017-03-22 12:30
New Jersey is increasing disclosure requirements for the use of starter interrupters with subprime, used-car auto loans. But it won't tie use of the devices to reduced loan rates.
Categories: Latest News

Animoto Update Targets Small Business With Square Video Capability

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-03-22 12:00

Designed partially so small businesses and their marketing departments can compete with bigger budget firms and utilize the online and mobile space more effectively, the social media video sharing company Animoto has launched a square format for its Marketing Video Builder.

Animoto Square Video Format Targets Mobile News Feeds

The Animoto square video format enables marketers and small businesses to better utilize Facebook and Instagram with a technology designed to allow videos to stand out more on these platforms. Like the name suggests, square video is shot in a box format to bring the results in line with the best practices of leaders in the social media space like Facebook and Instagram. When it comes to increasingly important components like the mobile news feed, these square videos provide 78 percent more screen space than the other option, landscape videos.

Animoto responded with the update to its Marketing Video Builder after Facebook recommended brands start swapping out their 16:9 aspect ratios for 1:1 ratios that are more square and designed specifically for mobile. Adweek reports that, in one study, the new square format outperforms its predecessor by 54 percent when measuring view through rates for the first ten seconds of a video.  The same study also found that people are 67 percent more likely to watch a square video over the landscape version because of the increased screen space.

“Communicating with video on social networks is quickly becoming mandatory for businesses of all sizes, particularly on Facebook as they rapidly move towards creating a ‘video-first’ user experience,” said Brad Jefferson, CEO and co-founder of Animoto.  “By making it easy for businesses and marketers without professional skills or big budgets to create great looking videos in square format — a format that is proven to get more views and better engagement on Facebook’s mobile newsfeed, where over 90 percent of Facebook consumption happens — we are helping businesses create the type of thumb-stopping, high performing content that, until today, was once only available to big brands.”

Animoto ’s Marketing Video Builder is designed to create video content for that market segment termed a video-first world. Facebook CEO Mark  Zuckerberg has used the phrase to describe a trend whereby he sees video at the heart of all the apps and services people use in the near future. Animoto ’s  Marketing Video Builder includes other features like pre-built storyboards and a drag and drop interface.

The company has locations in San Francisco and New York City.

Image: Animoto

This article, "Animoto Update Targets Small Business With Square Video Capability" was first published on Small Business Trends

3 ways to reach Millennials - Wed, 2017-03-22 12:00
Are you capitalizing on the fact that Millennials check their phones up to 43 times a day, and nearly half think brands should offer loyalty programs and allow mobile payments through mobile? If not, now is the time to reel them in and foster loyalty that lasts.

10 Homemade Veggie Fries That Will Put Your Fast Food Favorite to Shame

Topix - Wed, 2017-03-22 10:32

As much as we love French fries, the greasy favorite can get a little boring from time to time. So much so that sometimes it feels like we're really only in it for the crispiness and the Enter veggie fries.

Categories: Today's Food News

Ginjan Brothers Brand Uses Social Media Strategy to Win FedEx Prize

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-03-22 10:30
Sponsored Post

America is the home to ingenuity and small business success. Meet the founders of Ginjan Brothers, LLC, a Harlem-based beverage company that specializes in traditional African beverages. It is a small business that develops, markets and sells a delicious Ginger juice called “GINJAN.”

Two entrepreneurial brothers, Mohammed and Ibrahima Diallo, run the company. Originally from West Africa, they both live in New York City today. They won the grand prize in the 2016 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.

I was granted a video interview with them recently (embedded below). When asked about winning the grand prize Ibrahim said, “It’s amazing, to be honest with you. Beyond just the actual winning, it’s the messaging that it comes with. The fact that we competed, with so many people in so many industries across the nation, and being selected the Grand Prize winner, it’s quiet humbling, and it feels great.”

Ginjan Brothers also shared the social media Facebook strategy they use to help propel their successful campaign to win the big prize. According to Ibrahim, they created a Facebook page just to put their friends on it so that they could message them directly and ask for their votes. “We did everything from the ground up with a lot of love, of course” Mohammed said.

Through the $25,000 grant and support of FedEx shipping services, Ginjan Brothers are now able to ramp up production to fill their current orders and produce enough inventory to support expanded distribution.

They also contributed a portion of the cash prize to securing organic and GMO-free product certifications. Part of the prize money would also go towards opening new accounts to help the brothers sustain growth.

They also plan to expand their eCommerce business, especially now that they understand the resources FedEx offers to help small businesses with packaging and logistics. What they have walked away with after being a part of the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest has been life changing for these young entrepreneurs.

You could be the next big $25,000 grand prize winner, registration is now open at

Watch the FULL interview with the Ginjan Brothers:

Image: Ginjan

This article, "Ginjan Brothers Brand Uses Social Media Strategy to Win FedEx Prize" was first published on Small Business Trends

Lankford Pushes Flexibility Act to Limit Small Business Regulation

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-03-22 09:30

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) has introduced The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2017 aimed at streamlining and improving the regulatory process for American small business.

Co-sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Jim Risch, chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, the bill seeks to prioritize the needs of small businesses with passage of any new regulations that might impact them.

“Small businesses are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the job growth in America, so it is important that Washington fully analyzes regulatory impacts on small businesses before a rule is finalized,” said Lankford in a release from his office on the new bill.

“This bill is desperately needed because federal agencies frequently use loopholes in the process to avoid the full economic analysis of a proposed regulation on small businesses. The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act will ensure that the needs and priorities of small business are fully taken into account early in the rule making process.”

What’s Driving The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2017?

According to a recent National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Problems and Priorities (PDF) report unreasonable government regulations are the second largest problem facing small businesses. The new bill would make government agencies analyze how regulations being passed impact small businesses.

It would also close loopholes the bill’s champions claim exist in the existing Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) and Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act (SBREFA).

Legislators claim regulatory agencies routinely use these loopholes to get around laws already in place to protect small businesses from over regulation.

Some of these supposed loopholes include considering only the direct economic impacts of a regulation, exempting IRS regulations from consideration and allowing agencies to declare a regulation to have no economic compact with requiring any detailed analysis.

“Washington bureaucrats don’t fully understand the degree to which new regulations increase costs and uncertainty in the business world,”claims Risch in the release announcing the new bill. “We need stronger controls to limit what D.C. agencies can do to stifle growth, and this bill will ensure appropriate analysis occurs before a new regulation is implemented.”

The importance of small business to the American economy can’t be overstated. For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration reports there are 28 million small enterprises in the United States accounting for 54 percent of the sales in the U.S. Small businesses also occupy 20 to 34 million square feet of commercial space representing 50 percent of the total commercial space available in the U.S.

So supporters believe the new legislation will positively impact not just small business owners but the U.S. economy in general. And those sponsors believe this will lead to broad bi-partisan support.

“We need to pick up eight Democrats for this bill to be considered on the floor, and we are confident that once Senator Lankford’s colleagues on the other side of the aisle see that we are finally addressing small business concerns, they will sign on,” Lankford spokesman D.J. Jordan, told Small Business Trends.

“Senator Lankford’s goal over the next few weeks is to pick up as many democrats as possible and we hope to have far more than just the eight needed.”



Image: Sen. James Lankford

This article, "Lankford Pushes Flexibility Act to Limit Small Business Regulation" was first published on Small Business Trends

First Shift: Uber execs defend 'scrappy' CEO

AutoNews - Wed, 2017-03-22 09:15
Uber execs defend 'scrappy' CEO; Report: Audi board to discuss raids, Stadler; FCA probe; Tesla Model 3 owners to be less forgiving on quality, Power says; Ford's oval back in blue.
Categories: Latest News

BMW chases volume growth in large cars, less so in small ones

AutoNews - Wed, 2017-03-22 09:01
BMW is chasing volume growth mainly in the large car and SUV segments, while the less profitable small car segment is not being pushed as hard, CEO Harald Krueger said.
Categories: Latest News

Spotlight: SupportYourApp Helps Tech Startups With Customer Support

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-03-22 08:30

Customer support is an important function for any business. But it can be especially vital for tech startups. And that’s specifically the type of business that customer service outsourcing company SupportYourApp aims to help.

The company provides outsourcing services and other customer support for startups and software companies. Read more about the business in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Provides customer support for tech startups.

CEO Daria Leshchenko told Small Business Trends, “SupportYourApp provides customer support outsourcing services exclusively for tech companies. Our company offers tier 1 & 2 support. The company’s main focus is inbound and outbound support, but we also handle social media customer care. Our clients are mostly startups, commerce companies, and SaaS companies.”

Business Niche

Focusing on customer support, even at the top.

This philosophy can be best demonstrated through the company’s CEO, Daria.

Leshchenko says, “Just like all of our employees, [I] started as a customer support agent, so I know all of the ins and out of customer support better than anyone.”

How the Business Got Started

Through a renewed focus on outsourcing.

Leshchenko says, “Our company started in 2010 as an in-house support team for a software development company in Kyiv, Ukraine.”

Due to changes in company management, Leshchenko had been appointed the role of interim Support Manager and told to do whatever she saw fit with the team for an entire month. So Leshchenko restaffed the entire support team and put a renewed focus on outsourcing.

Biggest Risk

Taking on too many projects at once.

Leshchenko explains, “In the beginning SupportYourApp focused on quantity over quality. At any single time one agent could be handling support for up to 10 different companies. We ultimately decided to reformat the way we operate, thereby losing a large number of clients who did not feel that our new approach was what they needed. Today, SupportYourApp offers dedicated and shared support: each agent supports a maximum of 2 client companies at once. This allows our agents to become true experts of the products they are supporting.”

Lesson Learned

Don’t limit yourself.

Leshchenko says, “In the very beginning, our company was targeted specifically at supporting Mac software developers. While we love Macs and Mac applications, this really limited us in terms of clients and we decided that we should start working with other types of software companies as well as hardware developers. Our only regret is that we hadn’t come to this conclusion sooner, having focused almost three years exclusively on applications for Mac computers.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Supporting the team.

Leshchenko says, “We would focus on team building activities and invite speakers to our office for training seminars and lectures, maybe even take the whole team for a corporate vacation. At SupportYourApp, we believe that our employees make our company truly special.”

Favorite Team Activity


Leshchenko says, “[I’m] an avid runner and love to get the whole SupportYourApp team involved. Every year our employees take part in marathons and charity runs for all types of causes. Last year we took part in the Kyiv Chestnut Run.”

Favorite Quote

“We’re just enthusiastic about what we do.” – Steve Jobs

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: SupportYourApp; Top Image: Vitaliy Liakhovich – Dedicated Support Agent, Nikolai Riabchenko – Chief Integration Officer, Bohdan Shevchuk – QA Manager, Victoria Pryshchepa – Dedicated Support Agent, Vladimir Dreval – Supervision Manager, Daria Leshchenko – Chief Executive Officer, Anastasia Burlakova, Ann Kuss – Chief Operating Officer, Oleksii Bulavintsev – Sales Assistant, Mariia Sirychenko – HR Manager, Anna Kryvych – HR Assistant; Second Image: Nikolai Riabchenko – Chief Integration Officer and support agents; Third Image: CEO – Daria Leshchenko and the SupportYourApp team

This article, "Spotlight: SupportYourApp Helps Tech Startups With Customer Support" was first published on Small Business Trends

RLHC Integrates Its Hello Rewards App With Concur To Simplify Business Travel

Hotel Interactive - Wed, 2017-03-22 08:29
SPOKANE, WA—RLHC (Red Lion Hotels Corporation) (NYSE:RLH) today announced the integration of the Hello Rewards app with Concur®, the leading provider ...

Choice Hotels International Brings Cambria hotels & suites To McAllen, TX

Hotel Interactive - Wed, 2017-03-22 08:21
ROCKVILLE, MD—Choice Hotels International, Inc. (NYSE: CHH), one of the world's largest hotel companies, joined with partners O'Reilly Hospitality Management, LLC, ...

Freshii is trying to lure franchisees of rival fast-food chains to switch

Topix - Wed, 2017-03-22 08:15

With an open letter to Subway franchisees, Freshii founder Matthew Corrin takes a second run at a tactic that previously brought a $10 million lawsuit Freshii Inc. founder Matthew Corrin has a penchant for using open letters as a marketing tool to promote his health-conscious restaurant chain. His latest, released today, is aimed squarely at Subway Restaurants.

Categories: Today's Food News

What Is a Verification of Employment Letter?

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-03-22 07:30

If you own a business that employs people, you’ve got to assume a wide range of responsibilities. A lot of those responsibilities are pretty obvious, like conducting payroll or fulfilling new tax requirements.

Yet every so often, an employee will come to you asking for something that might seem a bit less straight-forward — such as the provision of evidence of employment to help them secure a bank loan or snag a new tenancy.

But this sort of request is actually a lot more common than you might think. And when it happens, the easiest way to help out is to issue a Verification of Employment (VoE) letter.

What is a Verification of Employment Letter?

A VoE letter is a short document that an employee can use to prove they are currently employed at a particular company. Banks and mortgage companies will often request potential borrowers to produce a VoE letter before they agree to offering a loan, and landlords will usually ask for a similar reference before letting a property out.

At the end of the day, lending institutions and other agencies ask for VoE letters to prove the individual in question is on top of their finances or will be in a position to make regular payments to repay a debt obligation. If you employee foreign nationals, a VoE letter could also be a crucial visa requirement.

Bearing that in mind, chances are most of your employees will need to ask for a VoE letter as some point over the course of their work. It’s not something individuals need very often, but it isn’t a rare request. What’s more, it can be a very important request.

As an employer, you aren’t legally obliged to issue a VoE letter in most situations. Various states have different rules relating to when and how these references are issued. That being said, these rules are generally quite similar – and it will only take a few minutes out of your day in order to write one.

What Information is Included in a Verification of Employment Letter?

A VoE letter isn’t an ordinary, long-winded employment reference. The organizations requesting a VoE letter typically only want employers to confirm a few of the key facts relating to an individual’s employment. These include: the date employment began, the individual’s name and title, their salary and how often they are paid and whether the employee is part-time or full-time.

The letter itself follows the style of an ordinary business-style letter – but if you’d like to see an example or two, there are plenty of websites that offer easy-to-use templates. If your business has official stationary, this is a good time to use it – and you should generally include business contact details in case the ultimate recipient of the VoE letter has further questions concerning the letter.

You should also seal the envelope before issuing it to your employee.

It might not seem like much, but VoE letters can make a world of difference to an employee’s personal life. That’s why authorship of these letters is a relatively crucial admin task that comes hand-in-hand with taking on staff.

Laptop Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Is a Verification of Employment Letter?" was first published on Small Business Trends

13 Best Ways to Prepare for Publishing Your First Book

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-03-22 06:30

Writing a book gives authors a chance to share stories of challenges overcome, talk about skills they’ve developed or offer guidance on how to handle a complex subject. Considering online options such as Smashwords or Amazon’s CreateSpace, publishing a book (in both dead tree and electronic formats) has never been easier. That’s why we asked 13 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:

What is one piece of advice for entrepreneurs interested in publishing their first book?

How to Prepare for Publishing Your First Book

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Understand Your Goals and Audience

“Before starting, it’s important to deeply understand your goals and your audience. Ask yourself, “What do I need to accomplish for this to be worthwhile?” and “Who do I need to reach to accomplish those goals?” Answering these questions, you’ll be able to discover what that audience needs, and ensure your book is properly positioned to reach them and solve their problems.” ~ Zach ObrontBook in a Box

2. Start Writing Today

“Just start writing. Set aside time, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, and write down your thoughts and stories regarding the topic of your book. Before long, you’ll have a lot of great content that you, or a copywriter or editor, can start organizing into book form. It’s easier than ever to publish a book these days, but good content will always be the driver of success!” ~ Jeremy

3. Create Quality Content

“Some entrepreneurs get into publishing a book just for the sake of publishing it. While a book will boost your authority, and open you up to new opportunities like speaking engagements, if the book doesn’t contain quality content, it might do more harm than good. After all, people will be paying for your book to read it, and if it sucks, why should they care?” ~ Ismael WrixenFE International

4. Focus on the Story and the Marketing Plan

“Focus on creating a great and inspiring story, and come up with an equally great way to market it. With so many aspiring authors and businessmen out there, we are all competing in a very crowded and saturated market, in which you can only stand out if you have a truly inspiring, moving and motivating story, and a plan to communicate it.” ~ David TomasCyberclick

5. Research Self Publishing and Crowdsourcing

“Sites like Publishizer are great for raising money and getting awareness for your book in order to either work with a publisher or raise funds for self-publishing. Understand how the process works, and research what might work best for your genre and budget.” ~ Angela RuthDue

6. Define Your Objective Clearly

“One thing I learned early on while publishing my first book and having spoken to several published authors and agents is to have your objective clearly defined. Whether it is to help generate leads, project yourself as a thought leader, getting more speaking engagements or generate income; defining this will at the beginning will help you achieve your goals faster.” ~ Rahul VarshneyaArkenea

7. Hire a Strong Editor

“Find the best editor available to help you polish your manuscript into the best possible shape. An editor can help you find gaping holes that need filled and ways to get your message across succinctly and persuasively. To help you save money, make sure that you’ve performed your own self-edits before you send it to your editor so she doesn’t have to correct punctuation and grammar.” ~ Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

8. Hire a Literary Agent

“Most large publishers will only work with agents. If you are writing your first book, you want to work with an expert that will help you clearly outline your objectives and already has the connections and knowledge within the industry. Be the master of the subject you are writing about and hire an expert that will have the best chance at putting in the hands of your future readers.” ~ Hillary HobsonHighest Cash Offer

9. Consider Partnering With an Established Author

“Most entrepreneurs are busy running businesses, and, let’s face it, writing a book takes a lot of time. Also, drafting pithy, easily consumable and conversational content does not come naturally to many people. It may be worth the investment to partner with an established author who can shepherd your book through the often daunting process from idea to outline to finished manuscript.” ~ Alexandra LevitPeopleResults

10. Don’t Do It to Make Money

“I wrote my first book out of passion for the topic (financial literacy education for kids). I was told over and over again by authors that few books make money (the margins are just so small). Go into it knowing that it should be something you either simply must do and has nothing to do with the money, or do it because it builds your brand and meshes well with your existing platform.” ~ Darrah BrusteinNetwork Under 40

11. Lower Your Expectations

“Don’t assume you will be the next bestseller out there. With so many places to get content nowadays, you may start to get traction after your first book. Be patient and keep going. Publish it anyways and make sure to share it as much as possible. Just don’t start with the assumption you will be rich doing it.” ~ Zach BinderRanklab

12. Packaging Is Everything

“While the contents of the book are important, the most important part of publishing a book is making it look professional and polished. Spend money to get a great cover design, get influencers to comment on the book, and promote it heavily. You are not going to make money from your book. Publishing a book establishes credibility for yourself that you can then leverage in the future.” ~ Ryan ShankPhoneWagon

13. Think of Your Book as a Brand-Building Tool

“As an entrepreneur, one of the most important things to keep in mind is building your reputation and brand. Your first thought should be providing information your customers need. Answer some of their most pressing problems and use the book to establish your expertise. Then you can sell it or even give it away as a lead generating machine.” ~ Shawn PoratScorely

Typewriter Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "13 Best Ways to Prepare for Publishing Your First Book" was first published on Small Business Trends

China's Geely doubles earnings as Volvo tech boosts sales

AutoNews - Wed, 2017-03-22 05:43
China's Geely Automobile posted its biggest profit growth in eight years in 2016, as improved product design and engineering following its 2010 purchase of Volvo helped to propel it to record sales.
Categories: Latest News

What Can Small Business Learn From the Rich and Successful?

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-03-22 05:00

I’m a big fan of learning from the people I admire, and while I certainly know that money isn’t everything, I do take notes when I encounter a successful business person who’s made it big.  Why?  Because I already have a firm handle on my values and needs, but I can certainly learn more about how to scale my business for big growth.  Here’s what I’ve observed:

What You Can Learn from the Rich 1. Don’t Borrow Money

Debt is a set of shackles.  You have to work harder to pay money back than you would have to earn it in the first place.  The ultra-rich understand that sometimes it’s best to defer a purchase until you can pay for it in cash.  You’re far better off learning to accomplish your goals with creativity and determination than you are if you ask others to shoulder your risk for you.  Find ways to cut costs, create a new way to make money…do everything you can to be beholden to nobody.

2. Put Others to Work for You

All the money in the world doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have the time to enjoy it.  If you insist on doing everything yourself, then your earnings are determined (and limited) by your hourly rate and the finite number of hours in each day.  Say you can bill $100/hour for your time.  If you work ten hours a day, then your earnings are $1000.  But if you need more than that to keep your business and family afloat, then you’re in a pickle!  But imagine that you employ ten people who earn you $15/hour.  You’re instantly pulling in $1500 for a ten-hour day, and if you add more employees, you can continue to grow your company.  Think big!

3. Memories > Stuff

One thing you’ll discover if you observe rich folks is that while they may have expensive things, oftentimes, their focus is on experiences rather than stuff.  If you’re contemplating purchasing a frivolous item — like a sportscar or a Rolex — consider instead what it could mean to your family to take a trip of a lifetime.  When we’re old, we’re unlikely to wish we’d had more stuff.  Instead, we’re likely to wish we’d spent more time living it up with the people who matter to us.

4. Love What You Do

When I’m giving advice to entrepreneurs who are looking to refine their niche, one question I like to ask is “What would you be doing if it weren’t about the money?”  Now the answer can’t simply be “Drinking margaritas in Mexico.”  The point is that if you can find a way to incorporate your passion into your work, then you’re learning one of the rich folks’ secrets.  They don’t derive pleasure simply from amassing wealth.  They feel motivated because they love what they do.  You can do that too!  Ask yourself what matters to you apart from money … and then find a way to make money from it!

It pays to learn from the experts.  And if you’re looking for ways to improve your financial standing, it only makes sense to look at the folks who’ve already done it.

Champagne and Caviar Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Can Small Business Learn From the Rich and Successful?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Expedia Enhances Partner Knowledge With New Sentiment Analysis Tool

Hotel Interactive - Wed, 2017-03-22 04:16
SEATTLE—Expedia, Inc., the world’s largest online travelcompany, today announced Guest Review Insights, a new sentiment analysis tool tohelp hotels manage and ...

Hot for homemade tots - Tue, 21 Mar 2017 PST

Topix - Wed, 2017-03-22 04:02

Don't want - or have time - to make your own? We got you. Here are six spots to get tots in Spokane.

Categories: Today's Food News