Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SBDC advising helps boutique owner add retail store for tourist products

This is a great story out of Sequim. One of my colleagues helped a client start a second, unique business operation. The onwer had a women's boutique and frequently had requests for tourist souvenirs and local products. There wasn't one in town, so she took the initiative and started Forage Gifts and Northwest Treasures.
Store front, Sequim, WA
SEQUIM, Wash. – Theresa Rubens is a third-generation resident of Sequim whose grandchildren attend the same schools she and her husband once did. She knows as much about her community as anyone, but she didn’t know where a visitor could buy a Sequim souvenir. And that, she said, was a problem.
When a 1,000-square-foot retail space became available in the main downtown core, just two doors down from her women’s boutique and retreat, Solar City, she knew the time was right to create a shop for Sequim-branded souvenirs and gifts, Forage Gifts & Northwest Treasures (

Read more:
By Hope Belli Tinney

Thursday, September 15, 2016

5 upcoming changes-laws-trends that will impact YOUR small business

We will have more updates as these issues progress, but here are five things to keep an eye on. Chances are, at least one of these will impact YOUR Washington small business. 

  1. New US Department of Labor overtime rule: Changes to overtime pay exemption effective December 1, 2016
  2. City of Spokane Earned Safe and Sick Leave Ordinance
  3. WA State ballot initiatives: Increase minimum wage starting in 2017
  4. Cybersecurity and small business
  5. Washington State Driver's License - REAL ID non-compliant

1. New US Department of Labor overtime rule: Changes to overtime pay exemption effective December 1, 2016

Think your salaried
employees are exempt?
Better make sure.
Effective December 1, 2016 exemptions from Federal minimum wages rules may increase the number of your employees eligible for overtime pay rates.

What changes on December first is the limit on when exempt position are eligible for overtime pay. The annual wages limit will double from $23,660 to $47,476.

Any employee positions classified as exempt should be reviewed and reclassified to non-exempt and thus will be eligible of overtime pay.

Job positions that are already eligible for overtime pay are not affected. 


2. City of Spokane Earned Safe and Sick Leave Ordinance

The City of Spokane passed a Safe and Sick Leave ordinance that goes into effect January 2, 2017. Any business in the Spokane city limits is impacted:
Are you ready for
flu season?

  • Beginning on January 1, 2017, employees of companies which have fewer than 10 employees can use 24 hours of paid sick and safe leave in a year. 
  • Employees of companies which have 10 or more employees can use 40 hours of paid sick and safe leave in a year. 
  • Employers can allow employees to use more, however, depending upon company policy. 
  • Employers can accrue this time on a fiscal year or calendar year basis.

The earned sick and safe leave ordinance will be in effect for all employers in Spokane beginning on January 1, 2017.

In addition, new business start-ups will have one year from receiving their first City business license to come into compliance with the law. For example, if a new business starts up on June 1, 2017, that business would have until May 31, 2018 to start providing sick and safe leave to their employees.

3. WA State Initiative 1433 would increase the state minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020

This initiative is not just for King County. This state-wide ballot measure would gradually increase minimum wage starting in 2017 and also require employer paid sick leave.

4. Cybersecurity and Small Business

Security threats are happening every day for America's small businesses. Business owners must be aware of threats to customer data and to its IT infrastructure. Cyber attacks cost small businesses BILLIONS of dollars each year. A small company is at more risk than a larger corporation.  

Congress has moved forward with a Small Business Cyber Security Improvement Act of 2016  which would enable the SBA’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) to work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assist small businesses in planning for and protecting against cyber security attacks.  In addition, WA State has passed cybersecurity legislation.

The Spokane SBDC intern research team has developed a three-part workshop for small business owners to learn more. Workshops will be held September 28, October 6 and 13th.

Workshop series: Recognize Threats - Restrict Access - Risk Management. For more information or to register, click here. Event is Co-sponsored by: Women’s Business Center INW and Whitworth University, Dornsife Center.

Read more in the FCC free download: 10 Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses.

5. Washington State Driver's License - REAL ID non-comp

This may be more of a personal inconvenience rather than a major business concern, but it is something to keep in mind if  you have employees that are flying or conducting operations on military bases.

According to a Fox Q13 press release
"More than two dozen states and territories aren’t in compliance with a 2005 federal law that requires state driver’s licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and be issued to people who can prove they’re legally in the United States. Eventually, Washington residents who only have standard licenses will need additional ID in order to board commercial aircraft. Already, they are no longer able to use their standard state driver’s licenses as identification to get a visitor’s pass onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord or the Yakima Training Center."

Conclusion: Planning matters.

The more you know about upcoming legislation and recent laws that have passed, the more prepared you will be in running your business. If you have a business in the City of Spokane or have exempt employees, you are at risk of non-compliance and monetary fines if you are not aware of recent changes. Some larger companies have already started making changes; Boeing announced September 14th that it is changing OT rules for 80,000 workers.

Managing risks is more than just preparing for a natural disaster or off-season. As a small business owner, it is one of your most important functions. Staying on top of crucial legislation, national laws, state initiatives and trends can at least help you prepare and plan ahead. 

Your SBDC advisor can help if you need to learn about why cybersecurity is a serious concern, plan out a budget to estimate salary increases or develop a personnel manual or job descriptions.

6 Ways to get the most out of a Conference

If you have worked with a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Advisor, you are probably aware that we are part of a national network. There are SBDC's in every state and also some international locations.

We are coming up on our annual conference for America's Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) and I've been prepping for it. Over the years, I have attended many International conferences and found some completely overwhelming. Doing some homework in advance of attending a trade show or conference can help you get the most out of your time.

Here are some things I've found useful in attending past conferences.

1. Do your homework.
2. Plan ahead.
3. Go digital and social.
4. Put down the laptops.
5. Volunteer.
6. Aim for some free time!

1. Do your homework. 

It's a good idea to visit the conference website in advance. This is beneficial for many reasons. You can:

  • Learn about special pre and post conference workshops. Some are free as long as you pre-register. A conference may also offer a pre-conference orientation webinar.
  • Review the session schedule, special events and attendee, vendor and speaker lists.
  • Find out about events for niche groups: first-time attendees, millenials, marketers or guests.
  • Get a feel for the geographic area you are attending. Plan hotel and transportation routes accordingly.

IRCE - Break out session
Last year I attended the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago - along with over 10,000 attendees. The exhibit floor alone was larger than a football field and housed over 800 exhibitors. I ended up spending way too much time on one row of the exhibit hall - I should have been more selective. By the time an hour was up, I realized I still had 750 booths to check out. At this point, I realized I needed a different strategy to work the room to gather the information I was seeking.

Another benefit at IRCE was that the conference offered bus transportation from a few select hotels in downtown Chicago. This turned out to be not only convenient but save a lot of time and money. The convention center was located quite a distance from downtown. If I had stayed nearby, I would have had to personally pay for a taxi if I wanted to hit the Miracle Mile or visit any sights in Chicago. The buses got through traffic efficiently and the drop off location was a short walk to my hotel.

2. Plan ahead and follow up. 

Advance contact
could get you
invited to a special event!
Set goals for attending. If your agency is sending you, perhaps they want you to focus on one track and expect you to report back to your peers. For example, this year at ASBDC, I am focusing on marketing, e-commerce and business finance sessions.

Schedule meetings ahead of time. Conferences are for networking, learning and building relationships. If you are in a purchasing or decision-making position, a conference is a good time to schedule visits with potential vendors. The vendors are there to sell services and it is an opportune time to find out about prospective vendors.

Take advantage of opportunites that can help your bottom line. At IRCE, I met some attendees that were highly courted by a few e-commerce vendors. They were there to research potential providers for a robust e-commerce site and in return, were wooed with a VIP reception by a company trying to gain the account.

As part of your planning process, make a follow up plan. Take notes on the back of his or her business card when you meet a person. Connect on LinkedIn. If you met the person in a social setting, you can make a note of what you discussed, perhaps a recent vacation or other common factor.

3. Go digital and social.

The days of taking a gigantic stack of business cards have passed. I haven't given up the habit all the way, but found that the last two conferences I attended I really only needed a few cards, not the 150+ that I packed. Pro tip: our address changed and I take my old business cards to use on drawings and raffles. As long as your email address is the same, that is sufficient.

Trade shows are equipped with QR readers and they can scan attendee badges. They are very efficient at following up, trust me.

Apps are very popular among large conferences, as well as social networking. At our last ASBDC conference, they did not have printed schedules and relied on the app for social activity, session updates and even workshop evaluations.

Most groups will have a hashtag that they encourage attendees to use across social networks. This is a great way to meet your peers as well. I've seen groups form to hit the town, go to dinner or engage speakers.

4. Put down the laptops.

A large conference can be intimidating. It might be out of your comfort zone, but try meeting new people instead of concentrating on your phone.

Unplugging can not only help you focus on the sessions and get a break from work, it may even help you retain information by taking hand-written notes.

5. Volunteer as a moderator or workshop host.

This could be a fun way to get to meet a desired speaker and even take home a special host gift. Conferences rely on numerous volunteers. With hundreds of sessions, they need a large group of volunteers to introduce speakers, moderate panels or distribute handouts.

6. Aim for some free time to recharge your batteries.

Whether it is bookending your travel with an extra vacation day or two or just taking advantage of a free evening, in my opinion, this is one of the most important take-aways from business travel. Sitting for eight hours a day in sessions, maintaining active listening skills in meetings and networking with new people can be exhausting.

Extroverts may thrive on the activity, constant interaction and busy schedule; if you are introverted you may seek out some quiet time to absorb new material or just like to have a quiet dinner alone.

Cloud Gate - Chicago
Followed by a solo dinner!

I am fortunate that the Washington SBDC is supportive of learning, professional development and also encourages employees to use time away from the office to recharge and refuel internally. It is what makes our network of advisors even stronger and valuable to our bottom line - helping our clients.