Unity within the community leads to business growth

By Hye June Park

The number of black-owned businesses in Austin is growing. February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history. To celebrate Black History Month, Economic Growth Business Incubator (EGBI) recognizes two clients that operate an African food mart and a nonprofit that highlights black history. One brings Ethiopian food to the Austin community, while the other helps youth shape their identity and learn from their past.

Sitotaw Degefaw, one of the owners of Selam International Mart & Café on North Lamar, sells imported Ethiopian and East African foods and spices in his grocery store. Visitors can explore East African culture while enjoying traditional Ethiopian food without the need to travel to Ethiopia. Selam International Mart & Café is a place where the East African community in Austin can come and enjoy their native Ethiopian culture, as well as a place for non-Africans to try something new in a very friendly environment. Degefaw’s favorite part of owning his business is meeting new people and having a place where his community can gather.

He started his business with just an idea. He came to EGBI to get the support he needed for his small business, with the idea of starting a slaughterhouse for a particular type of beef important to Ethiopian food. EGBI helped him to understand the governmental regulations around processing meat, and as his idea got better defined, he had the opportunity to purchase a grocery mart that had space to add a butcher shop for his specialty meat.

He worked with Joni Foster, EGBI’s Program Director, through one-on-one coaching sessions. “She connected me to the supplier that slaughters the specialty meat according to my country’s custom,” Degefaw offered. “She worked with me side by side to make my dream happen.” He continues to visit with Joni once a month to talk about this business. For more information about Selam International Mart & Café, visit selamcafe.com

The Living History Foundation was founded in February 2018 when the first group of people sat around the table and called the meeting to order. In the past year, the organization has received its 501(C)(3) status from the IRS and presented three living history programs in Central Texas. Edgar B. Garza, the Board President of Living History Foundation, said, “The mission of the Foundation is to inspire children and the young-at-heart to learn about the contributions people of color made in the building of this great nation from the time before the first Europeans to the present day.

“History is an important part of our personal lives,” Garza continued. “It is the key to understanding who we are as humans. The youth will ultimately develop their own perspective on human life and society. One that is based on stories about ordinary people just like the youth that are in the program. They will also learn from ordinary people lessons in courage, leadership, and constructive protest.

It is the first time for many of the board members to be a part of a non-profit organization, but EGBI meets with directors a couple of times per month to help them put everything together. The board gathered in December 2018 to make plans for 2019, and Joni Foster, Program Director at EGBI facilitated the conversation. Keep a lookout for one of the 12 living history programs the organization will offer in the months to come. For more information about the Living History Foundation, visit facebook.com/livinghistoryfoundation.

Board members of Living History Foundation
Black History
Salem Mart

Membresia de camara y eventos de febrero

Por Monica Peña

Estamos orgullosos de la asociación comunitaria que tenemos con las cuatro cámaras; incluyendo  Austin Young Chamber, Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce (GAACC), Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce (GABC), y Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GAHCC). Cuando nuestros clientes se gradúan de la serie de talleres Buils Your Business PLAN, califican para la membresía de un año en una de éstas cámaras. Cada cámara tiene diferentes beneficios de membresía que ayudan a sus miembros a aumentar la visibilidad en línea, y tarifas especiales para eventos de desarrolo profesional/de red.

Siempre animo a nuestros alumnos a visitar cada cámara o visitar al personal de la cámara  para ver qué organización se adapta mejor a sus necesidades comerciales. Estas son algunas de las oportunidades que las cámaras tienen éste mes para aprender algo nuevo o conocer a otros dueños de negocios.

21 de febrero – Power Networking Breakfast con GAHCC

27 de febrero: Leadership Talk with Minoj Saxena quien compartirá su experiencia como empresario con GAACC.

28 de febrero: Reúnase, salude y asista al Mixer con la Austin Young Chamber.

Asegúrese de visitar cada uno de sus sitios web para obtener más información sobre las cámaras y sus eventos. Por favor déjeme saber si usted es un ex-alumno y tiene alguna pregunta sobre las cámaras.

Chamber Membership and February events

By: Monica Peña

We are proud of the community partnership that we have with the four chambers; including Austin Young Chamber, Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce (GAACC), Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce (GABC), and Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GAHCC). When our clients graduate from the Build Your Business PLAN workshop series, they qualify for one year membership to one of these chambers. Each chamber has different membership benefits that assist their members increase online visibility and special rates to network/professional development events.

I always encourage our alumni to visit each chamber or visit with chamber staff to see which organization would best fit their business needs. Here are some of the opportunities the chambers have this month to learn something new or meet other business owners.

February 21st- Power Networking Breakfast with GAHCC

February 27th- Leadership Talk with Minoj Saxena who shares his entrepreneur journey with GAACC

February 28th- Meet, Greet, & Give Mixer with the Austin Young Chamber

Be sure to visit each of their web sites for more events and information about the chambers. Please let me know if you are an alumni and have any questions concerning the chambers as we are active with each of them.

Yelp Logo

The Yelp Experience

By: Michelle Rutan, owner of Prescription Pest and EGBI volunteer

Three years ago I bought an existing pest control company.  I had large dreams and not always realistic expectations, but despite some missteps, owning my own business is amazing and going great.

Our company’s differentiators are that we are family owned, good values and no contracts.  I have learned many times over that thinking big will not get us as far as focusing on doing the best job possible and those people will tell others.

Our Yelp profile started to bring in organic leads so I started to focus on it. I made sure to have compelling pictures and content to make things personable.  We do everything we can to keep customers happy so they leave more good reviews. After a couple months, I decided to do some paid advertising to try and build up our customer base and review count.

One of my first jobs out of college was buying online advertising for a large tech company, so I was familiar with the terminology of online advertising contracts. When reading the Yelp contract I came across this verbiage.

Cost-Per-Click (“CPC”) Auction-based Auto-bidding Program: Yelp delivers a variable and unguaranteed number of ad impressions to the Site to promote Client’s business, as determined at Yelp’s sole discretion based on available inventory and other factors, and Client pays Yelp for the number of clicks during a given period of time. A “click” is a single instance for which Yelp records that a user acts on an ad impression, such as clicking on it (including clicks that drive traffic to Client’s Yelp listing or that lead to phone calls and reservations) or sending Client a message in connection with it.

There are several alarming words and phrases in here: variable, unguaranteed and Yelp’s sole discretion. So they decide how many impressions (views of your ad) they give and only charge you for the clicks you get.  This is standard in the industry.   I asked the account representative what the CPC would be and she said it varied and gave me an estimated range.  It is not standard that they only list how much you are willing to pay per month rather than CPC in the contract. We discussed my goals and I assumed everything would work out. At $350 per month for 6 months, we would need 5 new sales a month (or 30 overall) to pay for this experiment which seemed reasonable. We created our ads and we were off.  I always put people on everything as it makes things more personable, especially when one of our main differentiators is family owned. You can see one of our ads below:

The first thing I learned is that Yelp “clicks” are just to your Yelp profile, not to your website. I was, in essence, paying Yelp to make even more money by having people click around on their site. After a week or so, I was not seeing conversions from clicks to leads or actions and I called Yelp support.  They looked over my profile and said that everything looked good and that it might help to add more pictures. We had 6 professional pictures and I couldn’t see how more would help.  I believe an issue with conversion was once visitors made it to your Yelp profile they could get distracted by ads by other pest control company ads (see Image 2).  There are no real guarantees on leads, since CPC is based on a “formula”.  For example, in July, I spent $335 for 31 clicks to see my Yelp profile, which resulted in 11 calls, emails or visits to my company website. This did not result in 5 new sales.

I contacted Yelp support weekly and it was painful. They had pleasant young women answering the phones that would only repeat pre-authorized phrases even if they didn’t answer or address my question, which was maddening.  Right away I could see this was going to be an issue.  I did everything I could to get credits and see what they could change to better fit my company’s needs.

The campaign did result in leads, but we had two main issues with the people that contacted us. The first was that people expect to hear back right away, and we have specific business hours.  If Yelp flooded our impressions over the weekend and people contact us, we didn’t respond until Monday, which was too late. Yelp support said they had no control over what days the ads were shown.  The other issue was people primarily shopping for bargain priced pest control.  Some companies will offer $25 pest control and they don’t do much.  We provide a quality service, guarantee it and treat our employees fairly, which is not cheap.  This meant that many of the leads Yelp generated for us were not good match. Over all the advertising campaign did not meet our goals of 5 new customers a month and resulted in a lot of work and frustration on my part. Below is a snapshot of three months .

On the bright side. The organic leads we get from Yelp are usually good so we switched went back to that model. The leads we received in 2017 were about steady with what we did in 2016.  In 2018 our leads shot up. I am not sure if it was how long we had our profile up or that our reviews increased, but we got better in their “formula” and got more leads .

While my experience was not great with Yelp paid advertising, their organic leads are great.  I believe if a company has a more expensive service, or product, it could be more beneficial. I don’t believe Yelp will be flexible with their pricing, duration of contract or other details to make businesses more successful, but you can always try. Yelp itself is a good platform for our business as we get more leads than through Google or other advertising methods.  I would suggest going into it knowing exactly what you need to get out of it. For us it was not enough to continue paying and the organic leads far outweigh the paid. Free and better is good enough for me, even if it won’t double our business.

The Metal Wizard Turns Talent into a Growing Business

By: Hye June Park

Jason McClain and his wife, Silvia Solorzano, had a vision four years ago to start McClain Metal Works.  From a modest beginning in 2014 working from their garage with one client, Jason and Silvia now have a shop, a team of six employees working full time, and lots of ideas to grow in 2019.

Over the years, Jason grew a reputation in Austin as “The Metal Wizard”. Jason learned on old school 1940 machinery and his talent earned him recognition which in turn encouraged him to open his own business.

Jason and Silvia manage the business together from fabrication to office paperwork. “We are constantly learning from our projects. Every project is unique. Some are designed as a piece of art or as décor, some are designed for industrial or commercial purposes. Sometimes both architectural and art are integrated to meet functionality and décor at the same time. We never get bored with this kind of challenges. McClain Metal Works’ goals for the business 2019 is to expand their services.”, explains Silvia.

Currently, they have a nice variety of clients, from interior designers, architects, construction companies, to DIY homeowners.

The McCain’s story is one with lots of sweat and hard work combined with training, coaching and support from Economic Growth Business Incubator (EGBI) . Silvia took classes at EGBI years before the two of them met. “The people at EGBI are there when we needed them the most, not only with the classes but during the process of the business growing, and to help us to find the solutions that we need.”

“We are so happy at how fast we have expanded our capabilities.  Today, we are a team of six people working full time in our shop. The more we grow and expand, the more help we need on operating the business.  We always go to Economic Growth Business Incubator (EGBI) when we need help, they provide us the coaching we need.”

For more details on McClain Metal Works, visit mcclainmetalworks.com.


10 Essential Contracts for Every Small Business

By:  Roberto A. Ramirez with Law Office of Roberto A. Ramirez, PLLC 

Starting and running a small business often involves a staggering number of legal contracts.  Below are a list of essential contracts for small businesses.

1. Business Contracts – You need more than a handshake. Make sure it’s a done deal with a professional Business Contract. When it’s in
writing, it’s easier to prevent miscommunication because the details of your agreement are clearly outlined.

2. Service Contracts – Service contracts outline exactly what you will provide as a business. Service contracts are agreements for
specific acts, such as painting your house or tuning your car, and are distinguishable from contracts for goods.

3. Independent Contractor Agreement- Independent Contractor Agreements are a way of clearly outlining the scope of the work, payment schedules
and deadline expectations of a freelance arrangement. Make sure you have signed agreements with every
consultant or short-term employee you use.

4. Release of Liability – As an operator of a business, use this form to release your company from liability for any injuries or damages
sustained by a participant in an activity either owned or sponsored by your business.

5. Equipment Lease – Use this contract if you will be leasing equipment or plan to lease out your own equipment. You’ll want to
complete your equipment lease agreement before the equipment changes hands. That way, if either party has
any questions or concerns, you can refer to your lease agreement to resolve things.

6. Non Disclosure Agreement – Nondisclosure agreements are fairly common in many business settings, as they offer one of the most surefire
ways to protect trade secrets and other confidential information meant to be kept under wraps. Ask potential
employees or current employees to sign this so your proprietary information doesn’t leave your business.

7. Provisional Patent Application-  Protect your product or invention in advance of a full patent filing. A provisional filing allows you to use the
“Patent Pending” notice and establish an official patent filing date.

8. Noncompete Agreement- Noncompete Agreements are intended to help you protect your business. They restrict your employees, business
associates or clients from directly competing against your company.

9. Employment Agreement- This agreement between an employer and employee specifies the rights and obligations of each party. The
employee’s compensation, job duties, expense reimbursement, benefits, and confidentiality obligations may be
described in detail.

10. Employee Handbook- Employee Handbooks are an important part of your hiring package. They include necessary legal statements,
outline employment expectations, relate your business vision, and define benefit packages.

Upcoming Events

National Small Business Week
April 30 – May 4, 2018
Join The City of Austin Small Business Program for five days of free sessions covering funding, marketing, legal, and business planning.
Check out sessions below and reserve your seat!
Business Planning Sessions: Woman getting advice from a business coach
Tuesday – May 1, 2018
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Business Coaching Open Office Hours
Wednesday – May 2, 2018
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Test Before You Invest
Thursday – May 3, 2018
10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Writing a Winning Business Plan
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Business Coaching Open Office Hours
List of more offered by the city HERE. 
Other events you may want to be a part of:
April 21st, Saturday 10 AM to 1 PM
Join PeopleFund for a free credit review.  Confidential and personal credit checks are available through the experts at BB&T! On Thursday, April 20th, experts from BB&T will be on site to review your personal credit and evaluate credit reports for FREEAvailable in English or Spanish.
Here’s your chance to access your free credit report, notice any errors or discrepancies, and learn what you can work on to improve your credit!
Contact dbranch@peoplefund.org to reserve your spot.
 April 30th, Monday 8 AM to 10 AM State of Small Business in Austin Breakfast

The City of Austin Economic Development Department will host the 5th Annual State of Small Business in Austin breakfast at the Norris Conference Center on Monday, April 30, 2018 from 8:30 to 10:00am.

As the kickoff to National Small Business Week, the program will focus on small businesses issues in Austin. Keynote speaker Rosa Rios Valdez, President and CEO of Business and Community Lenders (BCL). Ms. Valdez will discuss the role of economic development organizations to ensure equitable economic development for all small businesses (including creatives). Ms. Valdez will discuss how small businesses are dealing with affordability challenges, funding/ finance issues and trends toward social entrepreneurship. Our intention is that Austin’s civic leaders and small business partners will be able to translate this message into actionable items to prepare our entrepreneurs for upcoming opportunities.

Following the discussion, City of Austin Small Business Awards will be presented to recognize entrepreneurial excellence in our community.


May 9th, Wednesday 9th at 9 AM to 12 PM  8 AM to 10 AM Vietnam and Southeast Asia Briefing
Join us for a briefing on Vietnam and Southeast Asia by US-ASEAN Business Council and Becamex IDC. They will present on business opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs looking to expand to Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
Who should attend?
• Manufacturers
• Supply Chains Enterprises (packaging, components, parts)
• Medical Device, Pharmaceutical, Healthcare
Related Industries
• High-Tech, Electrical & Home Appliances
• Electronic & Telecommunication Equipment, IT, Gaming, Software
• Food & Agri-Business (machinery, processing technology, animal feed)
• Property Developers (retail, condo, hospitality, entertainment & sports)
• Investment & Banking

9:00 AM Registration & Networking
9:30 AM Welcome & Program
11:00 AM Q&A
11:30 AM One-on-One meetings
This event is presented by in partnership with the Global Business Expansion City of Austin Economic Development, World Affairs Council of Austin, Becamex, and US ASEAN Business Council.

May 15th