Monday, November 30, 2009

Alms for the Poor Entrepreneur

Goldman Sachs and Warren Buffet have teamed up to give money to low-income entrepreneurs. But there's a catch. Most of the money will be connected to courses the entrepreneurs must take from community colleges and small business development centers. I used to run a small business center at Norwalk Community College and had a federal grant to mentor low-income people who wanted to start businesses. It was very worthwhile work. Out of 80 people we mentored, about three actually started businesses.

That's why I wish that some of the Goldman-Buffet largess ($500 million) would also go to entrepreneurs who already know what they are doing but are finding it hard to get the capital to jump-start their businesses. I know several entrepreneurs like that.

Banks have cut way back on the money they're lending to small business. They are cutting back on credit lines and credit cards. Small businesses are hurting badly, even though new small businesses are the engines of growth and employment in our great country.

I think community colleges are wonderful. And I believe it is essential for business owners and entrepreneurs to understand business. But there are many other ways I believe this money could help more businesses to get started and grow.

Read more here:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Marketers Learn From Online Chat

When I was in business school, and later when I worked at General Foods (now Kraft), one of the fundamental tenets of marketing we were taught is to focus on the end benefit for the consumer. As I built my career in marketing and advertising, that concept was always at the heart of any marketing message. While you can talk about the technical reasons a product works well, and you can show such things in a brief demonstration, the focus of any ad was on the product's benefit for the consumer. Benefits sell.

So I really had to laugh when I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that claimed big companies like IBM were surprised to learn from online chat between their customers that all the customers really cared about was what the product or service actually did for the customers - the end benefit. Gee, the customers didn't care about all the technical gee-wiz stuff that IBM executives cared about.

I must say that I was truly amazed that a company like IBM didn't already know this elementary rule of marketing and that they had to learn it from online chat. Where have they been? (Probably just talking to themselves in corporate speak.) What has their advertising agency been saying to them? Was anyone listening? At least they're listening to consumers now. Yay for online chat!

When I work with entrepreneurs to develop a business or marketing plan, the one thing I emphasize is focusing on the end benefit for the target consumer. That is the message that must be developed and must come across. You'll see this in my Ten Questions Your Business Plan Must Answer on my website:

If you want to read more about marketers learning from online chat, visit All Things Digital or the Wall Street Journal --

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Tax Break for Business Could be Good

Despite the bad spin New York Times business columnist Gretchen Morgenson put on a new tax cut for businesses, I believe it actually could be highly beneficial for struggling small businesses. On November 6, 2009, President Obama signed a law enabling businesses of all sizes to carry back current loss from 2008 and 2009 for five years, instead of only two. That means they can offset profits from the boom. This new tax break is tucked into the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009. That's the same law that extends unemployment and renews the first-time homebuyer tax credit.

While Gretchen bemoans this action as an unneeded, unwarranted gift to large, lobbying, cash-rich home developers who helped get us into our current financial mess, I feel somewhat differently. Many businesses - mom and pop stores, small contractors, manufacturers and other small businesses that make up the backbone of our country may be getting the cash relief they need to stay in business. That relief will come in the form of a tax refund, after they recalculate past tax bills from years past.

As Ms. Morgenson points out companies can "offset losses incurred in 2008 and 2009 against profits booked as far back as 2004. The tax cuts will generate corporate refunds or relief worth about $33 billion, according to an administration estimate." I will admit that when I first read her column, I was disgusted by such a gift to the already wealthy. But later, after a dinner conversation about it with my husband, I had second thoughts. I realized that this break could be good and could help the recovery, even if it rewards builders who do not plan to build until demand for new homes resumes.

Read the article in the New York Times:

Fair Game
Home Builders (You Heard That Right) Get a Gift
Published: November 15, 2009
Analysts say home builders will be among the biggest beneficiaries of a new tax break.

Friday, November 13, 2009

10 Questions Your Business Plan Must Answer

This week an entrepreneur called me to see if I could help her develop a business plan. She found me on the Internet and had been intrigued by my Web site, particularly my list of 10 questions a business plan must answer.

I told her that I had developed the questions based upon my 10 years of experience in writing business plans and my 15 years of mentoring and teaching entrepreneurs. Since I've been trying to include useful tips in some of my posts, I thought I'd put down my list of 10 Questions. These are the sorts of questions you need to answer to develop a successful business and to be able to interest investors or lenders. There are a lot of ways to express the essentials that are covered by my questions. I'm using language with the least amount of jargon.

If you want to learn the venture capitalist jargon, know more about business planning or speak to me about answering the questions for your business, email me at:

Ten Questions Your Business Plan Must Answer
1. What is your big idea?
2. What are you selling?
3. Who will buy it?
4. Why will they buy it?
5. How large is the market of potential buyers and is it growing?
6. Who is your competition and how is you business different from theirs?
7. What will it take to make and sell your product or service?
8. How will you get the news out to potential buyers?
9. Who makes up your management team?
10. How and when will you make a profit?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Events for Entrepreneurs

There are a lot of events for Entrepreneurs right now in the New York metropolitan area.

In New York City this week - New York Entrepreneur Week -

"(NYEW) is the largest entrepreneurial movement throughout New York State. For the first time, thousands of entrepreneurs across New York State will have the opportunity to actively engage the foremost entrepreneurs, investors and dealmakers both in the State and from around the world."

Coming up in Connecticut - December 9:

The SEVENTH ANNUAL CVG EARLY STAGE VENTURE FAIR is designed for entrepreneurs seeking capital to launch or expand a business. Selected companies receive:

  • Time on the agenda to deliver a 4-minute PowerPoint presentation to investors
  • Exhibit table
  • Write-up in conference book
  • Complimentary admission to November 19 Orientation and Early Stage Bootcamp, including feedback on dry run of presentation

WHEN: December 9, 1:00-7:00 pm (Orientation for presenters Nov 19)

WHERE: New Haven Lawn Club


  • Applicants should be seeking between $100k and $1mm.
  • All industries and locations are eligible.
  • $225 participation fee for accepted companies (Limited to 30 companies)

WHO WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE: Angel Investors and Early Stage Venture Capital firms.

More information at:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Women-Owned Business

The Center for Women's Business Research says they're surprised by their research showing that women's businesses contribute significantly to the economy. Why are they surprised? I've known that for years.

What surprises me is that only 28% of businesses are owned by women. My bet is that a lot of the entrepreneurial activity going on is not picked up by studies. Perhaps that's because many businesses stay small and don't employ many people.

The ones that do, contribute a lot to the economy. That's why several experts quoted in an article about the study said that the nation should do more to help women grow their businesses and take them out of the bottom tier to move into the mid-sized range.

Making that kind of leap is very difficult for any business. It means a different form of management and space. Cash flow changes. A lot of businesses that can't make the transition die. At least, that is what I've seen personally. The nature of what you do day-to-day changes when you have employees. But it is good for the economy as a whole.

The actual study cannot be accessed online. I got computer code, when I tried to do it. To read about the study, see this article in the New York Times:

Practically Speaking
One in Four Businesses Calls the Owner ‘Ma’am’
Published: November 5, 2009
More than a quarter of all businesses are women-owned, but a high proportion of those are one-woman shops. Organizations are working to help them size up.

CVG - Alternative Energy

CVG & ACG-CT Breakfast Meeting:
Investing in Alternative Energy

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
7:30 am - 9:30 am
Sheraton Hartford Hotel, East Hartford, CT

The alternative energy sector offers the promise of profits and employment creation as it attracts private investment and public sector support. Join with members of CVG and ACG-CT at our annual Hartford Breakfast meeting to hear what our distinguished roster of panelists have to say about the emerging regulatory and investment climate. Topics will include a preview of the most promising technologies and innovations, firm strategies for coping with the lack of credit, access to capital, and how to navigate the political and regulatory landscape.

Participants Include:
Moderator: Jon Coifman
Vice President, Social Innovation & Environment
Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
Panelists: Michael F. Foley, Ph.D
President and CEO
Reflexite Corporation
Peter V. Longo
President and Executive Director
Connecticut Innovations
Joseph G. Mahler
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
FuelCell Energy

Dr. Michael Werle
Founder and Chief Scientist
FloDesign Wind Turbine, Inc.
Conference Fees:
CVG Members: No Charge
Non-Members: $75
Click here for Directions
Click here to Register

Presented by:


CVG Sponsors:

Lead Sponsor
Connecticut Innovations

Gold Sponsors
Economic Development Corporation of New Haven
Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge
Fiondella, Milone & LaSaracina
Robinson & Cole LLP
Shipman & Goodwin LLP
Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C.
Webster Bank
Wiggin and Dana
Yale University

Silver Sponsors
Business New Haven
Capital Advisors Group
CHL Medical Partners
Fairfield Partners Executive Search
FirstMark Capital
Hartford Ventures
Murtha Cullina LLP
O'Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins
Pullman & Comley, LLC
University of Connecticut

Media Sponsors
Connecticut Business Magazine
Fairfield County Business Journal
Hartford Business Journal
Mass High Tech

© 2009 Connecticut Venture Group · 203.256.5955


From The Connecticut Venture Group

THE 2009 EARLY STAGE VENTURE FAIR is designed for entrepreneurs seeking capital to launch or expand a business. Selected companies receive:
• Time on the agenda to deliver a 4-minute PowerPoint presentation to investors
• Exhibit table
• Write-up in conference book
• Complimentary admission to November 19 Orientation and Early Stage Bootcamp

ORIENTATION November 19, North Haven Campus of Quinnipiac University, Room 250
1:30 pm – Registration
2:00 pm – Tapping into SBIR grants as a source of capital
2:30 pm – Capital Sources and Current Valuations
3:15 pm – Pitching Investors
4:00 pm – Logistics at December 9 Early Stage Venture Fair
4:30 pm – Dry runs of PowerPoint pitches, with expert feedback

To attend the November 19 orientation register at

The orientation is free to companies that have applied to present on December 9. All others, $125.

Click here for directions:

VENTURE FAIR December 9, New Haven Lawn Club
1:00 pm – Exhibitor Set-up
2:00 pm – Presentations by entrepreneurs
3:30 pm - Break
4:00 pm – Presentations by entrepreneurs (con’d.)
5:00 pm – Reception in exhibit area

To present and exhibit ($225 including two admissions), apply at

To attend only, please register ($55) at

Click here for directions to Lawn Club:

For more information please visit, or call Bernie Lynch at (203) 256-5955.

SPONSORS: Business New Haven • Capital Advisors Group • CHL Medical Partners • Connecticut Innovations •
EDC • Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge • Fairfield Partners Executive Search • Fiondella, Milone & LaSaracina • FirstMark Capital • Hartford Ventures • LaunchCapital • Murtha Cullina LLP • O'Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins • PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP • Pullman & Comley, LLC • Robinson & Cole LLP • Shipman & Goodwin LLP • UHY Advisors • University of Connecticut • Updike, Kelly & Spellacy P.C. • Webster Bank • Wiggin and Dana LLP • Yale