Starting your small business and growing it from the ground up takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. You wouldn’t want all your hard work and hard-earned money getting stolen by an identity theft. Our content partner Nav warns how these thieves can wreck your business and how you can protect yourself.

Starting your small business and growing it from the ground up takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. You wouldn’t want all your hard work and hard-earned money getting stolen by an identity theft. Our content partner Nav.com warns how these thieves can wreck your business and how you can protect yourself.

 

You’ve put your heart and soul into launching your small business. Now you have to help customers find you. In addition to investing in sales and marketing efforts, you can get your business in front of your prospects via a variety of online sources, many of which are offer free basic listings. Here are nine essential places to start.

1. Google My Business

Your business needs to show up in Google when consumers do a local search for it. You can create a free business listing with Google My Business, Google’s official business listing process. Your business listing provides key information about your company, including hours of operation. It will also allow it to show up in Google Maps. You can add photos, printable coupons and much more. Register it online or call 1-844-491-9665. (Note that creating a business listing is different than building a website and trying to get it found in search results for specific search terms you may want to target like “Minneapolis hair salons” or “San Jose manufacturers”.)

2. Bing

Don’t overlook Bing, another popular search engine. You can list your business for free. Check first to see if Bing has already listed your business, complete your profile, then verify your listing. You’ll find complete instructions on bingplaces.com.

3. Facebook

Your business doesn’t have to have a Facebook Page, but with more than 2 billion active daily users, you may be missing out if you don’t have one. When you create your Facebook business page, you will be able to include your business location and hours, add photos and events, and interact with individuals who comment on your page. (It’s also a great way to separate your personal activity on this popular platform from that of your business.) You can create a business page on Facebook for free.

4. LinkedIn

Create a presence for your business with a LinkedIn company page which allows you to  publish information about your company, industry news and articles. It can also help with job recruitment and business development. You’ll need a verified email address to get started. There’s no cost to create the page.

5. Trip Advisor

A popular site for those planning vacations or looking for something fun to do, TripAdvisor has more than 60 million consumers search its site each month. While it’s perhaps best known for listing hotels and restaurants, many other businesses appear under the attractions category, including classes, outdoor activities, venues for indoor activities and more. Read their guidelines to see if your business qualifies, and if it does, list your business on TripAdvisor at TripAdvisor.com/GetListedNew.

6. Yelp

Millions of mobile visitors each month turn to Yelp on their mobile devices to find restaurants, local services and more. These seekers often turn into customers. Your business may already have a Yelp listing, but you want to verify yours so you can interact with them and more. You can claim your free business listing on biz.yelp.com.

7. Manta

Manta’s small business directory gets more than 15 million page views per month from customers looking for local businesses. Your free Manta company profile will allow you to add photos to your business listing and improve the appearance of your Manta profile, boost search engine rankings with consistent business listings and links from your Manta profile to your business website and get statistics on how many customers are visiting your Manta profile.

8. Dun & Bradstreet

Dun & Bradstreet is a business credit bureau. You can request a free D-U-N-S number, the identifying number for your business in D&B’s database. Getting a DUNS number won’t automatically establish a business credit rating, though. To build business credit you’ll need to also open accounts with lenders or vendors that report to D&B. Still, this is a good first step. (Once you’ve established business credit, you can check your scores for free on Nav and track your progress every month.)

9. MapQuest

Will customers need directions to your business? Make sure your business location is correct in MapQuest to reach customers that use it. You can get a free basic business listing, but to add additional information like photos or hours of operation, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium package through partner Yext.

And There’s More

There may be additional sites it will be useful for your business to appear on, depending on the type of business you own; for example, Angie’s List, Thumbtack, NextDoor.com, ConsumerAffairs.com, the Better Business Bureau and others. Just make sure you focus on those most relevant to your business. It’s easy to waste time and money on efforts that don’t produce results.

Stay In Touch

Note that once you’ve established your listings on these sites, you’ll want to monitor them regularly for corrections, comments and complaints. Many consumers make purchasing decisions based on online reviews, so don’t let negative reviews or comments go unanswered. In addition, some small business lenders are looking to online reviews as a source of valuable intelligence about a business that’s applying for small business financing with them, and negative reviews could even get you turned down for a small business loan with some sources.

Your Turn

Have you listed your business with these sites, or are there one’s we’ve missed? We’d like to hear about your experience.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Starting your small business and growing it from the ground up takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. You wouldn’t want all your hard work and hard-earned money getting stolen by an identity theft. Our content partner Nav warns how these thieves can wreck your business and how you can protect yourself.

Starting your small business and growing it from the ground up takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. You wouldn’t want all your hard work and hard-earned money getting stolen by an identity theft. Our content partner Nav.com warns how these thieves can wreck your business and how you can protect yourself.

 

What would you do if your business lost $25,000 to a scammer? How about $75,000? Would that be a serious setback, or perhaps even put you out of business? It’s a question every small business owner should contemplate because that’s the average amount lost by Arizona small business owners in just one identity-theft-related scam: Business Email Compromise (BEC). The FBI warns there has been a dramatic rise in these scams in recent years that have resulted in “massive financial losses totaling more than $2.3 billion.”

Unfortunately this is just one example of the ways crooks can steal from a business without ever setting foot in it. Here are six ways an identity thief can compromise your small business.

Hold You Hostage

We all know how frustrating it is when our Internet connection isn’t working well. Now imagine you can’t get access to your computer files— maybe any of them— unless you pony up hundreds of dollars in ransom. It happens all the time; the WannaCry ransomware attack that affected more than 300,000 computers around the world recently is just one example of how businesses of all sizes may be vulnerable.

In a ransomware attack, a scammer generally manages to insert malicious code into a user’s computer that locks files or prevents the user from booting up. According to a CyberScout white paper, “Nasty ransomware strains will threaten to delete data permanently if the ransom isn’t paid quickly.” Unless the victim has a complete unaffected backup she can use, she’ll probably pay the ransom in order to regain access to her computer or files.

Drain Your Bank Account

“Whaling” is an often-sophisticated phishing attack that targets a high-level executive with the goal of getting access to important data. In one popular version, the scammer will impersonate the executive to create fake wire transfer instructions. Those instructions will be sent to an employee who, thinking they are coming from top brass, complies. If the money is transferred, it ends up in the hands of the crook. Since cash flow problems are a top concern for small business owners, any missing money or funds lost to a scammer can be bad news.

A Mimecast survey of 500 organizations in the U.K., South Africa and Australia found that 54.5% of organizations saw an increase in the volume of whaling attacks at the end of 2015. And executives are a common way in for scammers, as 72% of whaling attackers pretended to be the CEO, while 35.5% were attributed to the CFO.

Get Credit in Your Business Name

It can be surprisingly easy for an identity thief to open accounts in the name of your business. Successful scammers fill out information using your business credentials. They may get business credit cards or get lines of credit, or purchase goods they can then resell. Many of the business details they need to commit fraud are publicly available through Secretary of State websites and other public information sources. And because many business owners don’t check their business credit reports, this crime can go undetected for a long time.

That’s a good reason for business owners to regularly monitor their business credit. A sudden change in a business credit score, new accounts or inquiries, or an unauthorized address change can all indicate potential fraud. You can check your business credit data for free every month at Nav.

Steal Your Business

While they say imitation is the biggest form of flattery, a scammer who hijacks or imitates your website can literally steal your business. They may direct your legitimate traffic to spammy offers, trick visitors into handing over personal information, or even collect payment from people who think they are purchasing from you. Losing a few customers can be the least of your worries here; if your customers become victims of identity theft or lose money, they may blame you. “It can destroy your reputation,” warns Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout and author of Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves.

Compromise Your Customers

Data breaches— where an unauthorized person or company accesses confidential information — often in order to then use that information for malicious purposes, is on the rise. In 2016 there were a record 1,093 data breaches tracked, according to a report by the Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout.

If your customer data is compromised in this way you’ll need to take immediate action. Your business may be required under state or federal law to notify authorities. You may need to also notify those affected or potentially affected; they may expect you to pick up the tab for identity theft monitoring services. All these steps can be costly. Can your business afford it?

Use You to Get to Someone Bigger

It’s not just your own data that’s at risk, warns Levin. “You could be the gateway into hacking for a big businesses,” he says. He points out that the massive 2013 Target data breach that compromised the credit and debit card information, as well as personal information, of millions of customers was the result of a hacker who got into Target’s POS system via an HVAC contractor’s credentials.

Having solid data security practices can help you maintain good relationships with your biggest clients too. No business owner wants to be the contractor that costs a big business like Target a PR nightmare and potentially millions of customers — its not great for business.

Watch Out

With so many different types threats it is essential for small business owners to “create a culture of privacy and security,” says Levin. He urges small business owners to be especially vigilant about devices that may be connected to other devices, or used both at work and outside of work. If you share your computers or tablets with your kids, for example, make sure they aren’t unknowingly putting the business at risk by downloading apps or files that can carry malware.  “Kids can become weapons of mass destruction,” he warns.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

As a small business owner, you want to take advantage of any opportunity to level out the playing field of competition. Minority-owned small businesses programs designed to help get equal opportunities. Our content partner Nav explains this certificate, why you should certify, and how to do it.

As a small business owner, you want to take advantage of any opportunity to level out the playing field of competition. Minority-owned small businesses programs designed to help get equal opportunities. Our content partner Nav.com explains this certificate, why you should certify, and how to do it.

 

In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that there were 8 million minority-owned businesses in the U.S. That’s a huge number of business owners looking for opportunities to achieve the American dream and make it as a successful entrepreneur.

If you own one of those businesses, becoming certified as a minority-owned business allows you to access certain government and private-sector programs that can help support your efforts. Here are three certifications/qualifications that can help minority business owners get support for their venture.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) DBE Certification

The DOT developed the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Certification to assist DBE companies that wish to compete for federally assisted highway, transit, airport and highway safety contracts. Any state or local government that receives DOT funding must maintain a DBE program that conforms to DOT standards.

Eligibility standards state that you must be in a socially and economically disadvantaged group and own 51% or more of a small business. The DOT uses the definition of “presumed groups” as defined in the next section. Other individuals may prove their disadvantaged status based on the DOT standards — these are handled on a case-by-case basis and is intended for groups that have disproportionately low incomes and high unemployment rates.

Contact your state Department of Transportation to learn how to apply for DBE Certification.

The 8(a) Business Development Program

The 8(a) Business Development Program was created by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. This nine-year program provides business assistance to help disadvantaged businesses succeed in government contracting and in competing for commercial business. The goal of the program is to “graduate” companies that will thrive in today’s competitive environment. Before you can apply for the program, however, you need to qualify as a socially disadvantaged individual.

Some minority groups automatically qualify as “presumed groups,” meaning they are presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged and can apply to the program. These groups include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans. In addition, Alaska Native Corporations, Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian Organizations and Community Development Corporations can also apply to the program.

Besides being in a presumed group, there are other SBA requirements that must be met by the owners of the business and the business itself. You can review the steps in the application process on the SBA website. Qualifying as a socially disadvantaged individual isn’t technically a certification, but the program is large enough that we wanted to include these standards in the article.

There are a number of benefits offered by the program. For instance, participants can receive sole-source contracts and can form joint ventures and teams to strengthen their position when bidding on contracts. In addition, the Mentor-Protégé Program pairs successful firms with companies new to the program. The mentors provide a range of assistance, including technical expertise, contracting help and more.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council’s MBE Certification

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSC) is a trade group that supports certified minority business enterprises in obtaining new business opportunities and connects them to their network, which includes corporate members. Their goal is to help MBEs integrate into industry supply chains and to help corporate members meet the increasing call for supplier diversity. The council’s efforts match more than 12,000 MBEs to their impressive network of corporate members.

The council’s regional affiliates coordinate the MBE certification process, and you’ll want to start your application by contacting the affiliate closest to your company’s headquarters. You can visit NMSDC Central to learn more about applying for certification and completing the MBE Certification Application.

This is not a government-affiliated program like the 8(a) and DBE certification. There is an application fee for processing the application. The application process also includes a site visit and interview. The Council’s Certification Committee will review your application, and final approval is issued by the Council’s Board after a review of the committee’s recommendations.

In general, your business may apply for certification if the company is 51% owned and operated by minority individuals who are U.S. citizens. The minority ownership members must manage the company’s daily operations, and it must be a for-profit enterprise located in the U.S. or its trust territories.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

You want to get the most affordable loan possible to grow your small business, but your NAICS code could be hurting you. Our content partner Nav explains how and why you should look at your classification.

You want to get the most affordable loan possible to grow your small business, but your NAICS code could be hurting you. Our content partner Nav.com explains how and why you should look at your classification.

 

Even if you didn’t choose a NAICS code for your business (or have no idea what an NAICS code is), you probably have one.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes are six-digit codes used by the federal government to classify businesses into an industry. The system was created for statistical purposes but is also used for non-statistical purposes, including determining eligibility to bid on government contracts and the risk level associated with your business for some loans and financing options. There are 20 sectors and more than 1,000 industries in the U.S. NAICS system.

Because there is no agency that governs how NAICS codes are assigned to businesses, these codes are largely self-assigned or assigned to your business by an agency collecting information on businesses. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau may assign an NAICS code to your business based on a survey you took. If you applied for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) on the IRS website, information from your application can be used to assign your business a code. This code will also show up on your business credit reports.

 

How Your NAICS Affects Your Wallet

How risky your business is determines whether or not you qualify for the best loans and financing options. Some industries, as determined by NAICS codes, are riskier than others, and your NAICS code tells a lot about how risky your business is in the eyes of a lender.

There are a number of ways your industry code can cost you money.

1. By bringing down your business credit scores

NAICS and SIC codes are recorded in business credit reports. The industry in which your business is classified can have an impact on your business credit score — for example, Experian’s business credit score uses your industry code as one factor determining your score. If you are incorrectly classified in a higher risk industry than the one in which you operate, it could be bringing down your business credit scores. These scores are then used by lenders, vendors and suppliers to qualify your business for trade terms, loans, and lines of credit.

2. By lenders determining your eligibility and rates for a loan

Lenders are going to want to know your NAICS code to qualify your business for a loan. Any given lender may deem some industries too risky to work with. Typical “high risk” industries include gambling, political lobbying and businesses involved in pyramid sale distributions, but the list goes on. The Small Business Administration, for example, has a long list of ineligible businesses that they will not work with for their popular 7(a) loan program based on operating activities.

3. Determining whether your business is “small”

The SBA uses size standards to determine if you are a “small” business. Only “small” businesses can qualify for government programs designated for small business, including the SBA’s loan programs and certain government contracting opportunities.

If your business is classified under the incorrect industry, it could make a difference whether or not you are classified as small because different industries have different size standards.

For example, let’s say you are a residential remodeler, but you started your business specializing in roofing. Your NAICS code may be 238160 for Roofing Contractors, when it in fact should be 236118 for Residential Remodeler.  This might seem like it’s not worth the hassle of changing, but depending on your annual receipts, it could determine whether you are a small business. Roofing Contractors must have annual receipts of less than $15 million to be considered small, whereas Residential Remodelers can have annual receipts of up to $36.5 million.

The industry code may also determine how many opportunities are available for your business — in the case of our remodeling example, residential remodelers tend to have more opportunities available than specialized industries do.

4. Whether you qualify for contracting opportunities

Business opportunities presented by the federal government are offered to specific industries based on what the government buyer is looking for. The government uses NAICS codes to classify these solicitations for a business.

Here’s an example of where the industry code might show up on a solicitation form through fbo.gov:

This opportunity is set aside for NAICS code 236118, Residential Remodelers. If you are classified, instead, under NAICS code 236115, New Single-Family Housing Construction (except For-Sale Builders), you might miss this opportunity.

Although NAICS codes may seem a dry, complicated subject, taking the time to make sure (a) that your business has received one, and (b) that it’s accurate, could mean the difference between growing your business and being hung out to dry. You can check your business’s DUNS number, and your NAICS and SIC codes for free at Nav.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Corporate giants aren’t the only ones that Washington is interested in. Our content partner Nav summarizes how the CFPB is taking steps towards helping small businesses.

Corporate giants aren’t the only ones that Washington is interested in. Our content partner Nav.com summarizes how the CFPB is taking steps towards helping small businesses.

 

Small business owners and regulators are often at odds with one another, but a new move from the country’s consumer watchdog agency could have the two groups aligned in a common cause — better access to business credit.

In a new initiative announced in the early morning on May 10, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said it’s seeking comment and information from business owners, lenders and any related parties into how to better track and understand the financing needs of small businesses, particularly minority-owned and women-owned shops.

The bureau, in a white paper released later that day, estimates that small business access roughly $1.4 trillion in financing, but that the data surrounding where they access those funds, and whether there are significant differences in capital availability depending on location, gender and race, is incomplete or outdated. CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a Los Angeles field hearing on May 10th that he has seen first-hand the struggle for many small businesses to access financing.

“When I served as the Treasurer of Ohio, we had a reduced-interest loan program to support job creation and retention by small businesses,” Cordray said. “The way the program worked was that the state could put money on deposit with banks at a below-market rate of interest, and this deposit was then linked to a same-sized loan to a small business at a correspondingly below-market rate. This so-called ‘Linked Deposit’ program had been authorized more than 20 years earlier, but had gradually fallen into disuse.”

After streamlining the program, rebranding it and moving the application process online, Cordray said it found new success.

“Only about $20 million had been allocated when we started, but in less than two years we deployed more than $350 million, helping about 1,500 small businesses create or retain approximately 15,000 jobs across the state,” he said.

Levi King, CEO and Co-Founder of Nav, is familiar with the challenge of getting a small business loan — he’s started five businesses.

“In my first year of business, I had a crash course in the importance of financing,” he said. “Regular financing eliminated my need to dip into personal funds to run my company. It enabled me to hire new employees and buy better equipment. In short, it brought order to chaos, as a surge in liquidity meant that I could react quickly to new opportunities without upsetting operations.”

The CFPB is tasked with certain oversight functions under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. One of those is to create regulations on small business lending data that financial institutions are required to report to the agency. May 10th’s announcement kicks off the comment period, during which all interested parties can weigh in and give the bureau advice and guidance on how to best implement and design the new regulations. The goal is to ensure any new data collected will help the agency spot any credit access issues small business owners may be facing. Once the comment period is over, the agency generally reviews the input and crafts proposed regulations. If new and better data sources are added, that data could potentially be made publicly available on the CFPB website like much some consumer lending and complaint data is currently.

The CFPB’s news comes just a few weeks after 12 Federal Reserve banks from across the U.S. released their Small Business Credit Survey, finding that most small businesses faced a financial challenge in 2016 and that the most common challenge was getting business financing when they needed it. Business owners leverage both their personal and business credit scores in order to obtain financing, with many starting with business credit cards. (You can get tips for establishing business credit and check your business credit scores for free at Nav.)

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

As a small business owner, you want to take advantage of any opportunity to level out the playing field of competition. Women-owned small businesses have a program designed to help get equal access to funding and federal contracts. Our content partner Nav explains this certificate, why you should certify, and how to do it.

As a small business owner, you want to take advantage of any opportunity to level out the playing field of competition. Women-owned small businesses have a program designed to help get equal access to funding and federal contracts. Our content partner Nav.com explains this certificate, why you should certify, and how to do it.

 

If you own a business, you’re undoubtedly always looking for ways to increase its growth. Fortunately for female business owners, the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certifications give you access to resources and government contracts that can help you stimulate your company’s growth.

What Is the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification?

The WOSB is a program coordinated by the Small Business Administration (SBA) with the goal of giving women-owned businesses more easier access to the resource they need to grow their business. The Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) certification is a subset of the WOSB program. These certifications offer the chance to compete fairly for federal contracts and gain access to resources tailored to promoting women in business.

Advantages of Certification

Over 20 years ago, the federal government set a goal for awarding 5 percent of government contracts to small businesses owned by women. That goal has been elusive, but was finally met in 2015 when 5.05 percent, or $17.8 billion, of all federal contracting dollars that were eligible for small businesses were awarded to WOSBs.

In addition to the contracting goal, federal contracts can be “set aside” for WOSBs in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented. This helps ensure that small businesses owned by women are competing on a more level playing field with other similar companies.

The federal government uses the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to classify businesses. In fact, the SBA has authorized 113 new NAICS Industry groups for WOSB and EDWOSB set asides, 92 NAICS groups have set asides for WOSBs and 21 for EDWOSBs.

Requirements for Certification

To qualify as a women-owned small business, or WOSB, your business must meet the following requirements:

  • Your company must qualify as a small business based on SBA small business size standards. The standards are usually stated in terms of employee size and/or annual revenue, and vary depending on your industry code.
  • Your company must be 51 percent owned by women who are U.S. citizens.
  • Women must manage the operations on a daily basis.
  • Women must make long-term decisions for the company.
  • A woman who works full-time for the company during normal work hours must hold the highest officer position in the company.
  • There are no rules governing time in business.

To qualify as an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business, or EDWOSB, your business must meet the WOSB requirements, and the owner of the company must demonstrate economic disadvantage in the following ways:

  • Personal net worth is less than $750,000 with some exclusions
  • Adjusted gross income averaged over three years of $350,000 or less with some exclusions
  • Fair market value of all assets (no exclusions) of $6 million or less

How to Get Certified

There are two ways to become certified. You can self-certify, or one of the organizations approved by the SBA can certify your company.

Self-Certification

You can register at Sam.gov and wait 24 hours before registering at Certify.SBA.gov to complete a self-certification. To register via these websites, you will need a DUNS number, an EIN, and MPIN. You can get an EIN now by applying online, however registering for a free DUNS number will take about 30 days.

While the self-certification process has been eliminated for contracts set-aside under the WOSB program, that change isn’t currently effective. Until the SBA implements the change, you may continue to self-certify.

Third-Party Certification

Currently, the SBA has approved four organizations as “TPCs,” or third-party certifiers:

TPCs charge a fee to provide certification and annual recertification that currently ranges from approximately $200 to $400.

Bottom Line

Once you are a certified WOSB, you can search for federal contracting set-asides on FedBizOpps.gov. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to qualify for grants specified for women owned businesses. (Learn more about grants for women-owned businesses here.)

A WOSB certification can help make it easier for you to grow your business. As an entrepreneur wearing a dozen different hats, anything that “makes it easier” to obtain one of your business goals is worth considering incorporating into your business plan.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital for maximum online impact for your small business. It’s also one of the hardest skills for busy entrepreneurs to master. Our content partner Nav makes it simple for you to get started with 3 easy tips for managing local SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital for maximum online impact for your small business. It’s also one of the hardest skills for busy entrepreneurs to master. Our content partner Nav.com makes it simple for you to get started with 3 easy tips for managing local SEO.

Did you know that nearly half of all Google searches are local? Or that the 50% of consumers who perform a local search from their mobile device end up visiting that store within a day? Local search is on the rise, and for most smartphone wielding consumers, that’s probably not a surprise.

Many of us turn to our smartphones to help guide our purchasing decisions, whether that’s finding the perfect place to dine or to locate a good or service we need. Just type a few keywords into the Google search bar, and contact information, maps, reviews, and even some photos are at our fingertips, helping us decide where to go. Of course, chances are that if a business hasn’t taken the time to optimize their local search efforts, then they’ll go unnoticed by the tech savvy consumer. And that’s a shame.

Optimizing your Google local listing and capitalizing on the growing consumer base that relies on local searches is easy and yields big results, especially when it comes to foot traffic and conversions. Here’s a few simple ways to make sure your business is visible to all the customers near you.

Sign up for a Google My Business Account

In today’s mobile based economy, signing up for a Google My Business account is as important as unlocking your doors every morning or getting a telephone number. It’s essential for success.

The free service allows businesses to list all relevant details, making their info readily available for consumers searching within your geographic location. This listing includes vital contact information (address, phone number, website) as well as reviews.  It also will place your business on the map, literally, at least on Google Maps and any app that utilizes Google Maps (Yelp, for example).

Provide thorough and precise information about your business

Google uses search algorithms to serve its users with the most accurate results it can, and for those hoping to optimize their local search efforts, that means including all relevant info. Business owners must provide accurate information for their business (phone number, address, hours of operations, and any URLs available (for example, if you’re a restaurant, you’d want to link to your menu where applicable) if they want to increase the their chances of appearing in top search results.

It also means choosing terms to accurately describe your business. Take for example a furniture store that specializes in vintage or refurbished pieces. It’s not enough to simply describe your store as a “furniture store.”  Instead, specific words, like “vintage furniture” can improve search results by funneling relevant traffic to your listing, putting your store information in front of the exact consumer base you want to reach.

Be mindful of your reviews

According to a recent Pew study, 82% of consumers consult reviews before making a purchase. And almost 50% of consumers are using their mobile devices to check reviews while they’re in the store. Reviews are integral to the overall success of a business, and that’s true when it comes to attracting customers via local search results.

Remember that Google algorithm we talked about briefly above? Reviews are factored into that algorithm and impact rankings; good reviews bode well for businesses and help establish themselves as top in search results.

Great reviews do help businesses gain traction in search results, but reviews are important for another reason. Reviews create unique content that is often, by proxy, filled with keywords that help you rank better. Google sees unique and relevant content as a major plus, so reviews can help drive your campaign (so can your responses).

To leverage the power of reviews, be sure to stay engaged with your customers. You can even consider developing a campaign that incentivizes your clients to leave reviews.

I know what you’re thinking: what about bad reviews? Despite the fact that there will always be customers who are simply impossible to please, responding to poor reviews is important, and over time, customers can see that you’ve made attempts to reach out and remedy any issues (you’ll also be creating more unique content); they may even consider changing their review once you’ve addressed their concerns.

For businesses that rely on local clientele and regular foot traffic, local SEO is essential for success and must be part of long- and short-term marketing strategies.  While some facets of online marketing, particularly SEO, may seem daunting, these three simple yet powerful local SEO tips can help any business stake a claim in their local economy.

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses.  In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Running a business is a lot of work if you are the sole proprietor. Even if you have a partner and excellent staff, sometimes you need the support and opportunities of external groups. Our content partner Nav introduces four online groups you can join to network with other small business owners and resources.

Running a business is a lot of work if you are the sole proprietor. Even if you have a partner and excellent staff, sometimes you need the support and opportunities of external groups. Our content partner Nav.com introduces four online groups you can join to network with other small business owners and resources.

 

The work of entrepreneurs and small business owners is filled with pitfalls and challenges, and sometimes you just need to talk to someone who can share a few pieces of good advice. Business networking groups are a great way to meet advisors and mentors who can help during the journey, as well as to find new professional connections, opportunities and ideas.

Whether you’re looking for suggestions for your next product, emotional support or advice on taking your business to the next level, there’s a variety of small business groups and associations willing to assist. Even better, many of them allow members to join and access resources for free. Here’s a list of four organizations with free services for small businesses that can help no matter where members are on the path to entrepreneurship.

U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent U.S. federal agency that aims to help people start, grow, finance and sell their small business. The agency’s website contains valuable information in written and video format about a variety of topics, from drafting a business plan and registering your business to obtaining permits and applying for SBA loans. Those who are interested in a more personal approach can visit one of the SBA’s district or regional offices nearby, as well as connect with business centers supporting female entrepreneurs and military veterans.

The SBA is also known as a great resource for business financing. The agency guarantees billions of dollars in small business loans every year and can help you understand how to qualify for an SBA-backed loan or other types of business financing (here’s a comparison chart for a quick guide). SBA loans require an established business credit score —specifically, the FICO SBSS score — to secure financing. (You can check your personal and business credit scores for free on Nav.)

SCORE

SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a U.S. nonprofit association that provides members with free business mentoring and education, thanks to the support of the SBA and more than 11,000 volunteers who have signed up to share their expertise. The organization provides free, confidential business mentoring in person or online, as well as free resources, tips and tools through its website. Those willing to invest a little money in their education can also sign up to attend local workshops or webinars about topics as diverse as social media, taxes and branding.

Meetup

Meetup is a social network that allows members to find others who are interested in the same topics and activities and meet them for offline events and activities. To date, the website has helped organize more than 25,000 entrepreneurship meetups on six continents, from massive chapters in cities such as New York, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco to smaller and more specialized groups across the U.S. Most scheduled meetups are free to attend, with annual larger events charging admission to cover costs throughout the year. Meetups can be a great opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs, recruit from a specific talent pool or even market your business.

StartupNation

StartupNation is a website and content platform for current and aspiring small business owners that offers a wealth of information about a variety of topics, authored by industry leaders and visionaries. The community was founded in 2002 by Jeff and Rich Sloan, brothers who also host the nationally syndicated StartupNation radio program. Users who sign up for the StartupNation newsletter can receive free content such as articles, case studies, podcasts, book excerpts and webinars directly in their inbox.

Final Thoughts

Running a small business can sometimes seem overwhelming, so it’s comforting to know that these and other associations are available when entrepreneurs are looking for advice, insights or new contacts. After all, the importance of having a community where members can share experiences and knowledge with other business owners can’t be overstated.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Opportunity Fund. Working Capital for Working People. opportunityfund.org