Announcing “Open Line Thursdays”- Questions? We’ve Got Answers.

by Dawn Fotopulos on July 9, 2010

Solopreneur? Small business owner? Got questions? We’ve got the answers. Our expert panel can handle any problem or concern you have.

Here’s the award-winning team we’ve assembled to answer your questions:

  • Craig Venokur, CPA- Accounting, Tax- Understanding how taxes will change in 2011
  • Danielle Douglas, President Inspire Enterprises- Small Business Funding, W/MBE Certification, preparing for growth
  • Jennifer Gehrt, Founding Partner, CommuniquePR- Small Business PR, Building relationships with bloggers and journalists, Measuring success
  • Jesse Langel, Esq.- Dealing with credit and collections
  • Laura Kenway, CBP- Bookeeping Essentials
  • Melea Seward- Social Media/ Online Marketing Guru
  • Melissa Delaney Del Valle Health Insurance Expert- Healthcare for Small Businesses- Understanding the new legislation
  • Nina Kaufman, Esq.- Protecting IP Online, Partnerships, New Business Structure/ Formation
  • Phil Clements, CPA, JD, LLM- Valuing, Buying, Selling Companies
  • Valerie Coleman Morris, Personal Money Management Expert, Former CNN Business News Anchor- Money Matters at Every Stage of Life and Business

Quick rules of the road:

We’re serious but not stuffy. We reserve the right to nuke inappropriate questions. We’re serious about helping you.

We’ll answer the first twenty questions you ask. The appropriate expert will respond within 24 hrs.

You get an answer from an expert you could never afford to pay on an hourly basis. Very cool.

Post your questions on the bottom of this post. We’ll answer you here.

Any topic about growing your small business or your personal finances is fair game.

If you play ball with us, we’ll keep doing this and maybe even expand it. You’ll tell us what’s best.

First Open Line Thursday is July 15th. Mark your calendar. Copy this link.

We open for questions @ 9AM EST and close by 5PM EST.

What about Friday through Wednesday? Don’t Panic.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

At Best Small Biz, we are The Solopreneur’s Lifeline.

Dawn Fotopulos

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Barnes July 15, 2010 at 1:43 am

What advice can you give new businesses seeking loans and start-up money? What banks are particularly interested in funding small businesses? What stimulus programs has the government funded that helps small businesses? What is the minimum generally accepted personal credit score to receive a small business loan?

Dawn Fotopulos July 15, 2010 at 2:23 am

Hi There, Lisa.

Thank you for participating in


Let’s see what our funding expert, Danielle Douglas, has to say about start up funding options. She’ll probably also have some great ideas about government grants for start ups and how Women Business Enterprise status might help you get both.

Dawn Fotopulos July 15, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Hi Lisa, this response comes to you from our funding guru, Danielle Douglas, President of Inspire Enterprises.

“The advice I would give new businesses about seeking funds and start-up money is to look in your own backyard. There is a term called Bootstrapping which means looking to internal sources for potential capital like personal savings, home equity loans, friends, and family, and credit cards.

Banks are not particularly interested in funding start-up small businesses because they want to be confident that the individual/business can pay them back.

For a small business to be able to get funding from a bank, it must have strong overall credit scores and a well managed balance sheet which demonstrates a compelling business case to the lender. (You should also be able to prove your business case before asking for funding. Prove you can generate revenues by finding customers who love your product or service, even if it’s a small market test. )

The Federal government has not directly given any stimulus monies to small business owners. Nevertheless, they directed the stimulus monies to the Small Business Administration who offered 90% guaranteed backed loans to small business owners and ARC Loans that gave $35,000 to small business owners who needed working capital. You can visit their website to find out about more specific funding programs. (That website is:

The minimal generally accepted personal credit score to receive a loan is determined by the entity you are getting the loan from For instance, a minimal accepted personal credit score for a bank is about 680. For a micro lender, it may be between 630-650. Some micro lenders like the Greater Newark Business Development Consortium go even lower to about 600. Again, it depends upon the micro lender. Project Enterprise is another micro lender that provides capital to start and grow your business. They have three different loan programs to fit your needs.

The Department of Small Business Services is a great resource. They have a NYC Business Solutions site in every borough. You can speak to a counselor about your specific situation. They can tell you specifically what type of loans you should try to get and help you put together the loan package.

Lastly, in regards to grants, a lot of the monies have dried up. You can go to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, and, to see if there are any grants that meet your specific criteria. On a local level, you can try FEGS New Start Fund. They had a grant giving up to $5,000 to female entrepreneurs. In addition, do your due diligence in regards to Business Plan Competitions.
Hopefully, my response has answered your questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out again if you have any additional questions. Good luck!”

Danielle T. Douglas

Inspire Enterprise, Inc.
[email protected]
Visit Inspire to Vision
Follow me on Twitter
Find me on LinkedIn

fran July 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I have trouble keeping a line between business and friends. When friends say “I want to buy your art” i have a tremendous amount of difficulty charging them for it, even though they are ready to pay. How can I overcome this anxiety and reluctance on my part?

Lorraine Kalal July 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm

A friend in advertising recently told me that he got better results from ads on Google than Facebook (I presume he is comparing same priced options). Do you think that trend will continue? If a solopreneur or a nonprofit wants to attract business or donors, what’s the best payperclick option?

Dawn Fotopulos July 15, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Hello, Fran,

The first question you need to answer in your own mind is: Am I running a business or do I have a hobby? If you’re running a business and you’re providing a service or product other people really like, charging them for it is not taking advantage of them. It’s merely exchanging value. If a relative or friend doesn’t understand you have bills to pay, then they’re not seeing the broadview from your perspective. You may choose to offer a birthday or holiday gift of your work to someone close to you, but that has to be at your discretion.

If a friend says “I want to buy your art”, that’s great! If they’re a friend, they’ll probably be more passionate about your work and tell others about it. If you don’t charge for what you do, people devalue it. It’s just human nature, relatives or not.

The relationship should also not influence the price. The price should be determined by what the market will bear. You’re also not begging when you receive payment! Women have a problem with this sometimes. When you bill a friend or relative, you are giving them something beautiful, memorable in return. The blessing goes both ways. Remembering that might help reduce the hyperventilation response.

The business needs nurturing and good stewardship. It is a living, breathing entity apart from you, your relatives and friends. The business needs to come first. If it doesn’t, it won’t be around to enable your generosity of spirit later on. The other thing getting paid does, is it establishes you as a professional instead of a dilettante. People will view your work more seriously, which they should. From what I know of it, your final product requires weeks of tireless, painstaking effort.

The day will come when your prices today will look like a rounding error when your work shows up in a Madison Avenue Gallery. Then your friends and relatives can boast they knew you when…..

Hope this helps. Thank you for participating in Open Line Thursdays.

At Best Small Biz, we are The Solopreneur’s Lifeline.

Dawn Fotopulos

Dawn Fotopulos July 15, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Hello, Lorraine,

A great question that I’m sure Melea will weigh in on. If you want to reach businesses in local markets, advertising to Facebook fan pages to your high potential target audience could be very efficient. Facebook fan pages collect a tremendous amount of demographic data . Also groups on Facebook can be a very efficient way to find the people you’re trying to reach. The World Journalism Institute at The King’s College uses FaceBook Fan Pages extensively to advertise their one week intensives and it has driven down the cost of acquisition. They receive greater number of inquiries to their ads per hundred impressions than they do with Google which makes for much stronger Return On Investment. The challenge with advertising to Facebook groups, which could be very beneficial, is you have to gain the permission of the group leader, which may take some doing. The good news is, Facebook is coming of age. It’s not just for college students anymore.

Facebook enables you to sift the world by geography, age, education level and a whole host of other predictive variables that Google doesn’t make available. Google’s model is deductive; “if someone’s on this site, they might like….”, as Amazon’s model is. You really only get a sense of tastes and preferences through Google vs. the level of demographic detail you can get from Facebook. Google does however allow you to limit your ads to local markets in its CPC campaigns allowing your ad budget to stretch much further, also driving down cost of acquisition. Mike Zumchak who’s the Excel guru of Easy Excel Classes uses this Google CPC approach to tell his audience about his great Excel classes. After advertising with Google for two years, he has the first and second place on Google’s first page for Excel training, which is worth gold.

I hope this helps. I’ll ping Melea to get her thoughts too. Thanks so much for participating in Open Line Thursdays.

At Best Small Biz, we are The Solopreneur’s Lifeline.

Dawn Fotopulos

Amy DeGiulio July 16, 2010 at 2:50 am

Sorry to get to this so late in the day and after the 5pm deadline, but perhaps you can answer my question next week.

I would love to learn some more from your experts about how to appropriately value a company that is looking for small investors to provide just a bit of funding, especially when it is about to take off and potentially be much more valuable than it currently is. I don’t want to over or under value myself or my company.

Thank you SO much for offering this resource to small business owners - without this website, we would have to pay a TON of money to get these questions answered. The information you’ve provided to the other posters is absolutely invaluable.

Melea Seward July 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Hi Lorraine,

Thank you for your question.

Google AdWords and Facebook ads are fundamentally different, so depending on the product or service you are selling, my advice would be different about which one to use-and how.

Google Ads are triggered by keywords or related content within the Google ad network. So, you create an ad and, using the Google Keywords tool, tell Google what keyword search string a user might put into Google to make your ad appear. If you’re a high-end ice cream store in Hoboken, NJ you might have an ad that appears when someone types in: “Gourmet Ice Cream Hoboken” or “Best Icecream in NJ”.

As a Google advertiser, you are also competing against other advertisers for your ads to appear, so there may be many sponsored ads on the Google Search Page Results. (SERPS).

You can also choose to have your ads show up on similar/related sites as Adwords next to content that is similar to what you are selling. Are you a direct-to-consumer used book seller? You could have an ad on a book review blog (who has opted in to be part of the Google Network of advertisers).

Facebook, on the other hand, lets you target people not by keyword and search, but by social relationship, and also by people’s interests. If you have a Facebook fan page for your business, you could create an ad touting that. If someone is looking at the ad that appears on their Facebook page and sees that seven of their friends likes a business, product, service, band, etc., they may click because there is social proof. They are more likely to like that thing to…

When writing a Facebook ad, remember that Facebook ads also appear on the page differently than Google Ads and they appear not when people are specifically searching for a thing, but when they are browsing around Facebook. You can include images and it pays to be catchy.

Facebook and Google ads: Apples and oranges, really. I would use them differently, and the ads I write for each would certainly not look the same since they are very different mediums.



Philip Clements July 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm


In fundraising for very small companies, the value of the enterprise before funding tends to be extremely low to non-existent. The reason is that the enterprise is too small to be a going concern. It is the going concern nature of a company that gives it true value. Therefore vary early stage companies or very small companies, what Cathedral refers to as hobbies or practices, have no intrinsic value out side of their assets replacement cost. The key exception is technical knowledge, such as a patent or copyright. Such assets have value and the value of these assets can be greater than their costs.

When doing a financing for a very small or early stage company, the risk is very high that the financing will be insufficient or that the business will simply not work. Therefore, a normal investment rate of return is not enough. Most venture capital funds look for between 25% to 60% return on investment in a 3 year period. The 3 year period is for 2 reasons: 1) usually the company works or fails within this period and 2) each year the investment is outstanding substantially reduces the return. This is why so many good ideas actually are financed by friends and family – the venture capital finance costs are generally too high or the business success too unclear. Whatever terms friends and family will give, is what the right price will be.

We recommend the following basic starting point for all friends and family financing structures:
a) Have the funds advanced to the company as debt. The debt will be subordinated to all bank loans, but will be senior to founders’ interest.
b) The debt should carry an interest rate of 10%, which should be paid after the first year. The key is the discipline of paying the interest on a timely basis. This interest obligation, if respected, will enhance the focus of the founders on making the company profitable and creating positive cash flow. Too often this obligation is ignored to the company’s detriment.
c) The debt should mature in 5 years. Again maturity keeps the founders focused on creating a financeable going concern in the 5 year period.
d) The debt financing source should also get 1/3 common equity, please note that LLC’s do not have stock. The equity is not a controlling interest, so the founders’ maintain control as their reward for making the company work. The debt gets the equity return in addition to the interest to give it the upside that the opportunity seems to justify. There must be a buy-sell agreement so that the 1/3 interest has liquidity. Generally we recommend a 10 year buy-out triggering event. It lowers the return, but if everything else works according to the loan agreement, the buy-out is very satisfactory and does not over burden the company.

Cathedral has all of the needed formats for this kind of financing. Please feel free to call.

Faith Bowen July 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Dear Professor Fotopulos,

I have two questions for your team:

Once contracted with outside consultants, what is the best way to monitor and control costs?

When should a new business start filing and paying taxes?

Thank you.

Faith Bowen

Dawn Fotopulos August 2, 2010 at 8:29 pm

There are two questions here, Faith. Let’s start with managing outside consultants or contractors. First, all the expectations, project scope, invoicing and payment parameters need to be spelled out up front and in writing. It’s not that most people are dishonest. Often, they just forget or the players change. That written document should be a formal contract. The document should also have an “out” clause in case people don’t play well in the sandbox. Often a “kill” fee is included in the agreement.

Next, any project should be managed with what we affectionately refer to as “interim deliverables”. Never, ever hire a consultant and expect everything to get done in one stroke. The consultant should be providing proof of added value on a regular basis. In my experience, that translated to a monthly basis. In fact, I had to present a status report in order to initiate the billing cycle. No status, no payment. It kept me on my toes and reminded the client of how my efforts (and those of my team) were helping to advance their business. When clients cut the check every month, they knew what they were paying for.

Your second question regarding filing and paying taxes, my experience has been that a new company should be filing and paying taxes for the calendar year the company started operations. It doesn’t matter if the company has not been operating all twelve months. The taxes will reflect the amount of revenue generated by the company in that calendar year. If you are accounting for revenues and expenses on a cash basis, then you would recognize those respective revenues and expenses in the month they were received or disbursed. If you are using the accrual method of accounting, you would recognize or capture revenues and expenses when they were commited to. That is, when the purchase order from a client was signed (but the cash not yet received) or when a bill was received from a vendor (but not yet paid).

We have several articles in our book keeping section and accounting section that can provide more information for you.

Thanks for asking!

Susan Shargel July 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm

For Melea,

What are some effective strategies for finding out how potential clients are searching for the services your company provides? We have used SEO firm to give us the first page placement on the key words we thought people would search. These have not brought people to our site. (We are insurance brokers who assist small business with their employee benefits needs)

Dawn Fotopulos July 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Hi Susan,
Thank you for your question. Melea usually says, find out where your people live online, then go meet them there. Your service is fairly specific; small businesses that have employees would probably be your primary audience. Also, insurance brokers tend to draw their clients from a geography close to them. You might also find certain regions are strong in particular industries, so geography and industry verticals are ways of “narrowing the world” as Melea would say. Chambers of Commerce both on and offline are usually pretty active and do a great job of attracting different cross sections of small businesses. There are bloggers of influence in different industry verticals and in different geographies you can search online and join the conversation. Add comments to articles they’ve written. Add value by providing some tips and resources that might help others. Also, industry trade journals or publications cover all kinds of articles on topics small business cares about. Becoming a guest blogger or contributor to some of these publications on or off line is one of the most effective ways to publicize the value you bring to clients.

Become “incredibly helpful”. Always provide a link back to your URL so people can find you and to learn more.

What to write about? Capture client stories and talk about it online. There’s nothing new under the sun. Most small business owners struggle to solve similar problems. Write about mini-case studies, situations you’ve solved for your clients and how you did it.

We always use the same structure to talk about these: Describe the Problem, Describe the Strategy You Employed to solve it, Describe the Outcome and quantify the benefits of your solutions as specifically as possible. That’s what we do at Best Small Biz

We’ve gained very loyal followers. Need more? Our training video library talks a lot about how to leverage your existing client base to build revenues faster. Go here to sign up: Small Business Marketing Training

If you have something important to say, we’d consider publishing it here!

Thank you for your question!

Susan Shargel July 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Certainly some good ideas. But I would very much appreciate your addressing the question about how best to identify key words.
Thank you.

Will Rico July 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Hi Susan,

You asked the following question: “What are some effective strategies for
finding out how potential clients are searching for the services your company provides?”

When CommonMind performs keyword analysis projects for clients, we always start with research in the Google External Keyword Tool. This is a free online tool that Google provides to help their AdWords customers, and prospective AdWords customers, research potential keywords and get an idea of the volume of searches different keywords can provide.

Once you bring up the tool, you’ll have two options:

Type in words or phrases related to your business (i.e. phrases you think prospects might be typing in).


Enter the URL of your website in the “Website” field.

With the first option, Google will return data based on your words you entered, including similar phrases. With the second option, Google will look at the Web page located at the URL you specified and bring back keyword phrases related to the content of that page.

There is a checkbox for “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms.” In the brainstorming phase, keep this box unchecked. You’ll get a larger variety of keywords that way. If the resulting set of keywords is overwhelming or your further along in your research process, check this box to limit results to keywords more tightly related to your business.

A few additional hints:

1. Local Monthly Searches refers to the number of searches in your region (e.g. the United States). Global Monthly Searches refers to the number of searches worldwide.

2. After you click “Search” and a keyword list is returned, change the “Match Type” selection in the left column from “Broad” to either “Exact” or “Phrase.”

3. You have the option of signing into Google when using the keyword tool.

If you sign in, you’ll get more results returned. If you don’t have a Google account, it’s free to create one.

4. You can download the results to Excel and work with the data there, to further filter and sort your results.

Another way to build a keyword list is to start a paid Google AdWords campaign. Use “broad match” keywords in this case, which will allow Google to match your ad to synonyms of the keywords you bid on. In your AdWords reports, you’ll see keywords Google matched to your ads and might be surprised to find some quality keywords you never thought of.

In addition, with the righting tracking in place, you’ll be able to tell not only which keywords have a high search volume, but which convert to inquiries and/or customers.

The risk with the AdWords strategy is that unless properly managed, your ads may match to too broad a spectrum of search possibilities. Consider this option as either a short-term experiment to gather some data or a longer term effort that will require active management and possibly outside assistance.

Ultimately, be prepared for the possibility that you won’t find any keywords with high search volumes. SEO isn’t the right strategy for every business. At least if you determine this, you’ll know to spend your time & money elsewhere.

Dawn’s suggested finding where your audience lives online; contributing blog comments and guest blog posts; and developing “incredibly useful” content (for both your sign and distributing on other sites). These suggestions are key regardless of whether SEO is the right strategy for you.

If SEO is the right strategy, these approaches will help make your SEO efforts successful. If SEO isn’t the right strategy, these are ways you can get in front of your target audience online without relying on Google or other search engines to get you there.

Good luck!
CommonMind AdWords & Consulting

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