Will Karen Gordon Mills Stop the SBA’s Diversion of $100B a Year to Fortune 500 Companies?

Karen Gordon Mills SBA

Photo taken from WSJ Blogs

When Barack Obama became President, he quickly tapped a private equity fund manager named Karen Gordon Mills to the head of the SBA. Some background research reveals some interesting facts about Mrs. Mills -

- Her parents are owners of the candy-maker Tootsie Rolls.

- A graduate of the Harvard Business School, Mrs. Mills went on to co-found a $250M private equity firm Solera Capital, which she ran from her house.

- Her husband is the President of Bowdoin College.

I honestly can’t say whether this means she has the best background for being the head of the SBA, but only time will tell. I do agree with blogger Lloyd Chapman who wrote on a WSJ blog post:

 

“Mills should focus on the only problem at the SBA that has been the focus of over a dozen federal investigations and hundreds of stories in the press, the diversion of $100 billion a year in federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms. She needs to develop policies to implement President Obama’s February 2008 campaign promise, “It is time to end the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants.”‘

In 2008 the SBA lost a Federal suit which forced them to present data that showed exactly how much money originally allocated for small business owners was being diverted to large corporations. While the SBA, since 2002, had claimed computer glitches as a reason for not being able to present this data, a now estimated $100 Billion a year goes to legacy contracts to Fortune 500 companies.

Will Karen Gordon Mills make this a priority before Obama’s (first) administration ends?

 

 

 

Product Review: InvoiceASAP.com (produce invoices from your iPhone)

Rating: 4 Stars.

What it does: Lets small business owners create sales invoices and receipts from their mobile phones.

Cost: Free version, $7/month for customization capabilities, $10/month for Quickbooks-integrated version.

Invoice ASAP reviews and ratingsA simple user interface is always nice

So many small business owners do business door to door or at a retail level that we often find selling “on the road” and sending customers invoices is a two tiered process – one sells at the customer premise and then later creates an invoice in Quickbooks to email or mail to the customer.

InvoiceASAP.com is an app for the iPhone (coming soon on Android) that allows small business owners to create an invoice “on the spot.” So salespeople can sell door to door, consultants can create an “instant invoice,” and quite frankly – small businesses can get paid faster.

Why I like it: In consulting or professional services (legal, accounting, marketing) the customer being serviced may know what the invoice is about, but by the time that customer’s accounting department receives it, questions like, “what is this for?” often arise. This delays the invoice being processed by the customer until phone calls or email inquiries to the serviced customer get answered. Example:

“What is this invoice for Bob? It just says ‘Legal Services.’”

“Oh yeah Linda. I think it was for the trademark we filed. How much is it again?”

Invoice ASAP reviews

Adding voice recordings and pics to invoices is a brilliant move.

Invoice ASAP lets you attach a voice recording where one can record a description of rendered services, or attach pictures of delivered items (here’s my truck unloading your styrofoam cups to your office). This one feature alone should go a long way in eliminating those “what is this invoice about again?” delays.

What I don’t like: To charge $7 a month for an application is a nice “small biz friendly  price,” but why charge us $3 more a month for a Quickbooks integrated version? Double entry is still double the work – if one is already paying $7 a month, it seems a bit chintzy to not offer this integration for a premium product release.

Invoice ASAP funding VCs prices

$3 more a month for Quickbooks integration? Really?

Upshot: Beautifully detailed invoices generated, sent and saved to the “Cloud” by a mobile phone is not just a cool app, it’s one that potentially shortens the time from services to paid-status, and for so many small businesses that live on a capital crunch, this is a potentially mission-critical application. And who said the iPhone was not for business?

Invoice asap iphone

Would adding your picture make it harder for the customer not to pay your invoice?

* I predict as such services become more commonplace, an integration to mobile payment devices like Square are coming… and credit card companies will begin taking a look at such services to reduce the charge-back schemes done by unscrupulous customers.

Check out the video demonstration InvoiceASAP video demo

Product Review: InvoiceASAP.com
John Sung Kim
2011-05-26

The New SBA (Small Business Administration) Website Kicks @ss!

I suppose most of us are so jaded by politics that it would be odd to hear someone gush about a website from the Federal Government. But the new Small Business Administration website deserves the praise.

Packed with immense amounts of new content, the SBA site provides tutorials on writing business plans to detailing the types of grants offered by SBA backed programs. It even has a community forum where, because of the relative newness of it (or they’re just trying to get the community going) actual employees of the SBA will answer questions on the forums.

It slices! It dices!

But really. It is nice. Way to go Fed. You did a swell job with our tax payer dollars. This time.

Small Business Administration Website Online

 

With answers from the SBA too?

SBA On Line Website for Small Business Loans

StartUp Spotlight: Profounder helps small businesses raise money

Raising money from investors can be a daunting task for any small business or startup. My first business ended up raising $17M in two rounds of funding, and later raised much more. It was a boatload of work each time, and it always felt raising $500,000 was just as much of a hassle as raising $5M.

From an entrepreneur’s view – especially ones with some track record – you know that you’re a domain expert and know where the market is headed, knows the customer base and the pains you can solve for $__ price, the profitable costs of customer acquisition, market growth over 5 years, etc.

Conveying all of that, and the opportunity that lies within those metrics, can often be challenging. Probably more so to less sophisticated investors (like your friends and family).

Profounder is a recently launched SaaS company that allows small business owners to raise money from their friends & family as well as other interested 3rd party angel investors registered on their site They will charge 5% of the raised fee or $1,000. In addition to the record keeping and potential introductions to new investors, they also help take care of the regulatory and compliance issues that vary from state to state, and even help distribute payments.


profounder helps small businesses raise money

Some of the founders who have raised money from profounder.com.
small business profounder
how small business owners can meet investors
small business fund raiser
small business venture capital

The inspiring small business story of Blake Lively and TOMS Shoes

When Blake Lively told his college professor he wanted to start a small shoe company, he was told “you’re going to need a million dollars.” Other experts told him “retail was dead” and that “shoes are a crowded market.”

Did that stop him from pursuing his small business dream and create TOMS?

Heck no! In fact, it drove Blake even more to produce and sell his canvas slip-on shoes to the world.

By hiring interns off of Craigslist, his statement that “they didn’t know it couldn’t be done, just that it was fun to work together” underlines the spirit of small business entreprenuers who, despite all the odds, start something great. Now, with dozens of employees and millions of dollars of annual sales, Blake hasn’t rested on his laurels and has started a non-profit to donate shoes to children in impoverished countries in Africa.

Blake and company – you are an inspiration. Keep going!

TOMS started as a small business

Blake Lively (right) with one of his employee-partners.

 

The smart money thinks LinkedIn shares will continue to rise

* This is not investment advice, just a piece of envy from one small business owner who is both in awe of such talent and a tinge jealous success has come so relatively quickly for the founders.

The trio of investors in LinkedIn as well as the CEO Jeff Weiner and founder Reid Hoffman are holding on to their shares of LinkedIn even after the IPO set for Thursday. Does that mean the smart, insider money sees something bigger than a $4B valuation?

Check out the WSJ deal post on LinkedIn investors holding onto their shares.

One of my favorite top 10 rules of entrepreneurship are also from their founder Reid Hoffman.

Reid hoffman gives small business advice

Reid was also one of the founders of Paypal.

How Rose Corrick made her small business comeback

In 2008 Rose Corrick started a boutique clothing company which she decided to take from her apartment to a 4,000 square facility, signing a three year lease and buying the necessary equipment to manufacture her clothes. And while business was initially brisk, the Great Recession hit and suddenly she was running out of customers, orders and revenues – while her bills kept piling up.

She had to turn to her credit cards to make payments, cancel important events at fashion shows to promote her brand, and lay off people who worked for her.

Still, she didn’t give up.

She had a belief in the uniqueness of her clothes and vision, and instead of throwing her hands up in the air – she went for help.

Rose hired a fashion consultant to give her a fresh opinion on the “hot” new trends emerging, hired sales people on 12% commissions only, and trimmed her manufacturing costs at every corner.

Slowly but surely, sales started to go up, and up, and up. Until she could project $1.2M in sales for the year. Her’s is an inspiring story of not just a successful small business, but of the grit and determination it often takes to be an entrepreneur. For as some know, the ride is not always up, nor even steady. Congrats Rose!

Small Business Owners Need Telecommunications

Rose Corrick made her own turnaround story.

Google has a search engine… for blogs!

Often, useful tips and marketing methods (or even just a supportive, helpful opinion) can be found on blogs. And while Google has been good for searching for information online, many of the listings in search results are nowadays filled with ads, large brand websites, or filler content known as doorway pages.

Recently Google released a search engine just for blogs. I’m finding that the more I use it, the more helpful, targeted information I find that’s useful for small business owners. That’s because blog content is often written by other entrepreneurs and professionals that speak to other the SMB. Try it – you’ll most likely find tons of useful information you won’t find in a normal Google search!

Startups can find more blogs on Google Blog Search

Many don't know Google has a search engine just to find blogs.

The 100 Fastest Growing Inner City Businesses of 2011

Even during the recession, these inner city businesses found ways to grow. Topping this list is the inspiring small business success story of Ken Novotny of CSI. Selling IT services alone is hard enough, doing it in Oklahoma City and to the Federal Government must be a lot tougher. So when Ken decided to start his business in 2004, no bank would lend him the money he needed to fund his idea.

A small loan from his father and 6 years later, Ken and his company who made $14M in revenues last year tops the list from this year’s CNN Money’s list of ‘Fastest Growing Inner City Businesses in America 2011.‘ Congrats Ken, you’re an inspiration to us all.

Inner city small business phone systems list

These small businesses are turning the inner city around

How come no one leaves voicemail anymore?

An interesting article in the New York Times titled “You have voicemail. Do you care?” shows that up to 70% potential customers don’t leave voicemails anymore. Why?

The article suggests that even amongst the older population, consumers have become accustomed to ‘instant gratification’ features such as SMS text or even e-mail.

It’s even more compelling that at a couple of dollars per answered call, on demand answering services (can I plug Halloo’s Live Answering Service here?) make ROI sense. It’s not just about better customer service anymore, it’s about making sure you don’t lose your customers to voicemail.

On Demand Cloud based Live Human Answering Service Prices

I'll check my voicemail later...