Online Tips to Improve Your Business Productivity

By Nara Lee

Is your business experiencing down time?  How can we make the most of these  unexpected weeks for our small businesses? Change this time into your chance to improve your business productivity through some online activities!  Here are some tips for your work online. 

  • Prepare for incoming questions and requests

People might be facing a lot of unexpected difficulties which could last longer than what we originally anticipating. In this situation, small business owners shouldn’t panic and must prepare for incoming questions and requests from clients. For instance, the owner of a restaurant business adjust his business to now offer delivery services and prepare for cancellation calls.

  • Create and organize your client email list

You probably haven’t had enough time to create and organize your email list because of your busy schedule, but this is a necessity for all business owners. Creating and organizing email list helps you find out whom to send event information for your business marketing. When you’re organizing the list you also need to segment it, consider the type of customers you will communicate to like potential customers and current clients.

  • Make a website or rebuild your business website

After this period, you may not have the time to rebuild your business website. Take this chance to improve it which you’ve been put off for a long time. If you still don’t have your business website, I have some suggestions for website tools. Squarespace, Wix, Bigcommerce, Weebly, and WordPress are well-known website builders and Google my business also offers free website builder for small businesses.

Don’t be frustrated by this global crisis that came from the virus. You can overcome this hard time by improving your online work productivity!

DEductions for Mileage in 2020

By Carlos Nazario CPA, JD

Taxpayers have the option of choosing to deduct as costs of using their vehicle a   standard mileage rate or the actual costs involved. The best approach is to be able to compute both and take the biggest deduction.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

•        57.5 cents per mile driven for business use, down one half of a cent from the rate for 2019,

•        17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down three cents from the rate for 2019, and

•   14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

So for example if on 2019 a business used a car exclusively for business purposes and drove it 15,000 miles, with the following actual expenses: repairs and maintenance $50, gasoline $2,000, depreciation $3,000, insurance $1,500. Actual expenses total $6,550, and when compared to the standard mileage amount of $8,625 (15,000X0.575), the taxpayer may elect to take the higher deduction of $8,625.

I want to start my own business, but I don’t know everything.

By Leonardo Pozzobon

f you ask entrepreneurs why they started their businesses, motives spread all over the place, from following passion and wanting to turn a hobby into a business; being personally unable to hold an office job and needing to be its own boss; all the way to just “I saw an opportunity”, “I saw a market”, “I saw room for improvement”. After this, conversations often go into the “I wish I knew” topic, and that’s where pain starts talking by itself. You will hear stories about sleepless nights trying to solve operational problems and lost business opportunities due to lack of experience or not knowing where to find an answer. Thus, it always helps to have resources to learn from and reach out to in times of trouble.

The learning chance that helps one become a better business owner often comes as a result of a previously failed business. When the business owner is busy putting out fires day and night, it is only after failure that one will take the time to do a postmortem and understand what went wrong. Thus, it is important to stay on your feet, listen to your business, and make timely changes if/when needed.

A quick google search will get you to hundreds of “10 things I wish I knew before starting a business”, “7 things to know before opening your business”, “5 things I learned from running a business” and similar results. Of course this experience will be very different for people running different businesses and with different lifestyles, but here is a list of selected quotes I found quite relevant for most entrepreneurs:

  • Running the business takes 24/7

The biggest difference between a 9-to-5 job and being a business owner is the total lack of a fixed schedule. There is always the possibility for your client to have an issue with your product at an inconvenient time, or a supplier to have trouble in the middle of the night. Consider these possibilities, have contingency plans to address your customer’s needs, and organize responsibilities among your employees to ensure resiliency.

  • Optimize, outsource and automate everything you can

We at EGBI take our time to explain “The Four Roles An Entrepreneur Must Take” (Product Manager, Organizer and Manager, Marketer and Salesperson, Financier), and we emphasize that the entrepreneur must focus on the roles he is best at. Start by wearing many hats, but as soon as you have some traction, consider the best use of your scarce time will rely on dedicating your full attention to what you’re best at and outsourcing or hiring for other activities.

  • A part-time gig gives peace of mind

Once you give up a regular full time job in place of a business, you will be subject to the whims of seasonality and economic ups and downs. You can plan for these risks either by building a strong savings lung, or having a part-time gig to supplement the varying income from the business. This resiliency will give you peace of mind.

  • At the beginning everyone is excited and ready to help. When help is needed, it’s hard to come by.

People want you to succeed, and as soon as you start will get excited for your success. However, not everyone is willing or available to help you when you’re in such need for help. What should you do? Find access to reliable resources to help you through the hard times, find mentors, find a business coach.

With all this in mind, you should now know that you will face unexpected challenges, and learn from every opportunity you have. These common challenges I mentioned are not the end of the world, and do not mean that running a business is impossible. Challenges and obstacles are there for you to improve yourself and your business, and once you get to such a point in your entrepreneurial adventure, you will be more than welcome at EGBI for training, coaching and support.

Shirts Write Men Business Help Discussion Two


Celebrating 15 years of success: i am ready swim, LLC

No matter what are the obstacles, never give up on your dream!

Every year, we honor the achievements of our clients and their contributions to the local economy at our annual Celebrating Success event. This year we will be celebrating our 15 year anniversary from when we were initially created to improve the technology digital divide in our community to now evolved to help business owners better understand how to run a successful business.  Leading to our big commemoration we have been interviewing a client to highlight their success story each week, 15 in total.

Miranda Melendez is owner of I AM READY SWIM, LLC . Her company offers safe aquatic fun in Austin. She teaches swim lessons for all ages, and provides lifeguards and gate guards for events and neighborhood pools. I Am Ready Swim, LLC plays a huge part in making sure the pools stay nice and enjoyable for all residents.

Below is a Question & Answer we recently had with Miranda Melendez.

Q: How has your career added value to your life? To the community around you?

A: My career has added value to my life by giving me time and freedom to do what I want. The best part is I am busting my butt day and night with the rewarding feeling its for my OWN business. I love that we have impacted so many lives with safe swimming and have prevented so many drowning incidents. We sponsor most of our HOA pools. We give back by throwing Splash bashes for the residents at our pools to give the neighborhood something free and fun to do at the pools with the kids. I also go to local elementary schools and teach about water safety to the kids for their gym classes.

Q: How long have you been working with EGBI and how have they helped you?

A: I have been working with EGBI for about 2 years now. EGBI has helped me in so many ways. They have taught me how to manage my books and actually understand what I am doing. They have believed in me and helped me when not too many people would due to my age. They have also helped me understand how to negotiate contracts with my business partners and expand my business.

Q: What would you like everyone to know about you or your business?

A: I would like everyone to know that I am a strong believer in prayer and vision boards. I have watched my business grow from just me to 45 employees in 2 years. It has been so humbling to see my hard work finally start to show and I am grateful for every client and staff member I have come across.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

A: The accomplishment I am most proud of is making the newspaper for my senior project. I had recently lost my mom my senior of high school and decided to honor her by hosting a 5k walk for American Diabetes Association as my senior project for graduation. I ended being the first one to raise the most money for the foundation being a high school student in Texas.

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself

A: I am also a hairdresser and I love doing hair and making people feel good about themselves. I grew up in a salon so its kind of ingrained in me. I run the swim business in the summer and do hair in the off season. I love to hustle and stay busy.

Miranda Melendez is the 13th of the 15 clients we have shared stories about each week leading up to our 15 year celebration. Please continue to follow us to read more about the businesses we serve. If you would like to further support these businesses, consider using the products and services of our alumni. To do so, visit our CLIENT BUSINESS DIRECTORY.

Celebrating Success Luncheon is a few weeks away on September 6th, 2019. Be sure to reserve your spot as you will not want to miss! If you are interested in attending, reserving a table, or sponsoring our annual event, please contact Monica Peña at monica@egbi.org and 512-928-2594 . More information about the event HERE.

Celebrating 15 years of success: hair central

Providing the best service to look your best.

Celebrating success is our annual fundraiser and this year we will commemorate 15 years EGBI has helped local business owners become sustainable, profitable, and an asset to the community. Ahead of our big anniversary, we will have weekly interviews with customers to cover a total of 15 success stories. Previously we featured Sitotaw Degefaw.

Brenda Carrera is owner of Hair Central, which has a team of professional stylists dedicated to giving each client the time and attention they deserve while providing the services needed to look and feel their best.

Below is a Question & Answer we recently had with Brenda Carrera.

Q: How has your career added value to your life? To the community around you?

A: I always get inspired by my coworkers who are stylists in my hair salon. I give them the opportunity to grow and I can be a good leader by educating them.

Q: How long have you been working with EGBI and how have they helped you?

A: I have been working with EGBI since 2006. EGBI has specifically helped me make a business plan so that I could finish my paperwork needed for a bank.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

A: I have run my business with four professional stylists for more than 7 years. For my workers, this is not only a job, but also a career for themselves.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I read the book ‘Shine: Stepping into the Role You Were Made For’ which is about leadership and improving a manager to help coworkers. I want to be a great leader for my stylists.

Brenda Carrera is the sixth of the 15 clients we will share stories about each week leading up to our 15 year celebration. Please continue to follow us to read more about the businesses we serve. If you would like to further support these businesses, consider using the products and services of our alumni. To do so, visit our CLIENT BUSINESS DIRECTORY.

JOIN US! Celebrating Success Luncheon will be on September 6th, 2019. If you are interested in attending, reserving a table, or sponsoring our annual event, please contact Monica Peña at monica@egbi.org and 512-928-2594 . More information about the event HERE.

Steps to moving forward with your business

By Joni Foster

The first step to starting a business

One of the first questions I ask a new client is, “When do you want to open your business? Tell me a date.”

I often get a blank look from my client. “I don’t know” is not acceptable. We sit together and come up with a date because setting the date makes things fall into place.

Once my client has said the date out loud, she often gets a look on her face of excitement and terror at the same time.  Excitement because it now sounds real. Terror because she doesn’t know how to make it happen. 

Once we make the goal, though, we can start making a plan. We quickly start making a list of what must be done before that date arrives. The list starts telling us other things like what she or he needs to buy and how much money she needs to get started. If we need to adjust the date, that’s okay. We just need to make a goal to get the process started.

Goals

Goals are aspirational destinations. Goals are not what you have to do. Goals are how you know when you have arrived. Goals tell you WHY you are doing what you are doing.

Plans are your best guess today on HOW you will get to your goal. There are many “almost right” ways to get there and almost never “the perfect way” to do it. There are a few “horribly wrong” ways to get there. Horribly wrong ways are often great stories at a party five years from now.

Goals tells you the destination for your journey, but the journey will only be fun if you stay flexible along the way. If this is your first time on this journey, there is so much to see and do along the way. Set up your journey so that you don’t have to be in a rush to get to your goal.

Fail fast, fail often, fail forward.  You can’t start something new knowing how to do it.

Your best advisor is someone who has done it before. They can tell you all their mistakes so you don’t have to make them, too.

It has to be okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow.

Research, plan and go!

My husband and I moved out to the country a few years back. It was a very strange environment for us having lived in the city most of our lives. But together we had dreamed of having our little plot of land and now here we were.  Pretty quickly, we realized we didn’t know how to do all the things that this new environment required. How do we build a chicken coop? How do we fix a leaky roof? How do we keep critters out of the house?

Ten years later, here’s my recommendation for tackling new things:

  • Research: Find local folk who know more than you do; and use the internet to ask questions
  • Plan: Lay out your plan including how much it’s going to cost.
  • Action: Just do it.

The last one has been the hardest for me, being a perfectionist. I don’t want to start something new until I know exactly how to do it. Thankfully, early on, my husband and I made a pact: we weren’t going to let “not knowing” stop us from “doing”. We gave ourselves permission to fail.

I have learned to just start with what I know, make a bunch of mistakes, and do it again. We look around our property today and feel very proud at all the improvements we have made. I can also tell you stories about what didn’t work, but we had to do it wrong many times before we got it right.

Celebrating 15 years of success: Smiley’s Junk Removal & Recycling

Recycling with a smile!

Every year, we celebrate the achievements of our clients and their contribution to the local economy at our annual success celebration. This year, we will celebrate the 15th anniversary of EGBI supporting local businesses so they may become profitability, sustainability and an asset the community through our training, coaching, and support services. Ahead of our big anniversary, we are having weekly interviews with 15 of our clients to share their success stories. If you missed last week’s story, you can read about Silvia Solorzano and Jason McClain HERE.

Spencer Costley is owner of Smiley’s Junk Removal & Recycling, a company that hauls off most junk, trash or unwanted items. His services are both residential and business locations.

Below is a Question & Answer we recently had with Spencer.

Q: How has your career added value to your life? To the community around you?

A: Ever since starting Smiley’s, it feels like I’m living my purpose and making a difference in the world. I’m able to help others and the community by recycling and donating what we can to minimize the impact on local landfills.

Q: How long have you been working with EGBI and how have they helped you?

A: I have been working with EGBI since 2011. EGBI has helped me in numerous ways, from taking care of my bookkeeping, being a mentor, and having access to information to help my business succeed. The staff are always just a phone call away.

Q: What would you like everyone to know about you or your business?

A: I am proud of the fact that I do have a successful business and grateful for it. I do feel I am making a difference. What I do at Smiley’s helps residents and businesses with their junk or trash problem. I try to donate or recycle as much as we can before items ever go to the landfill.

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself

A:  I’m a workaholic and stay busy, but I’m creative and I like to smile a lot.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In my down time I like reading comic books and creating art.

Spencer Costley is the fourth of the 15 clients, we have shared stories about leading up to our 15 year celebration. Please continue to follow us to read more about the businesses we assist.  If you would like to further support these businesses, think about using the products and services of our alumni. To do so, visit our CLIENT BUSINESS DIRECTORY.

SAVE THE DATE! Celebrating Success Luncheon will be on September 6th, 2019. If you are interested in attending, reserving a table, or sponsoring our annual event, please contact Monica Peña at monica@egbi.org and 512-928-2594 . More information about the event HERE.

Celebrating 15 years of success: Siller preferred services

Creating opportunity through jobs.

Every year, we honor the achievements of our clients and their contributions to the local economy at our annual Celebrating Success event. This year we will be celebrating our 15 year anniversary from when we were initially created to improve the technology digital divide in our community to now evolved to help business owners better understand how to run a successful business. Leading to our big commemoration we will be interviewing a client to highlight their success story each week, 15 in total .

Christina Paz is owner of Siller Preferred Services, an employment agency that specializes in the hospitality and warehouse industry.  Her company works closely with their clients to help them secure and maintain jobs that will allow their workers to grow their financial freedom.

Below is a Question & Answer we recently had with Christina.

Q: How has your career added value to your life? To the community around you?

A: I have more freedom, independence, and can support my family. Also, I take pride knowing my business helps workers support their family.

Q: What are struggles you have overcome?

A: Originally I had a partner.  Now I have my business alone without my old business partner. It was hard to start, but now running my business is better.

Q: How long have you been working with EGBI and how have they helped you?

A: I have been working with EGBI for 5 years. I took a class in which Barbra Boeta was an instructor, as a Program Coordinator (now Executive Director).  EGBI helped me successfully establish my business. They gave me a huge help and much support as far as business coaching and we office out of their incubation space. EGBI is always available when I need them. I highly recommend EGBI to others.

Q: What would you like everyone to know about you or your business?

A: I approach every client with customized advice to fit their situation and I pride myself on treating each client individually. Additionally, I greatly value my employees and create a family environment for the business.

Christina Paz is the first of the 15 clients we will share stories about each week leading up to our 15 year celebration. Please continue to follow us to read more about the businesses we serve. If you would like to further support these businesses, consider using the products and services of our alumni. To do so, visit our CLIENT BUSINESS DIRECTORY.

SAVE THE DATE! Celebrating Success Luncheon will be on September 6th, 2019. If you are interested in attending, reserving a table, or sponsoring our annual event, please contact Monica Peña at monica@egbi.org and 512-928-2594 . More information about the event HERE.

CHAMBER MEMBERSHIP AND March EVENTS

By: Monica Peña

We are consistently encouraging our alumni to increase their circle of influence by attending professional events in the area. We are proud of the community partnership that we have with the four chambers; including Austin Young ChamberGreater 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 unique opportunities for business owners.

Here are some of the opportunities the chambers have this month to learn something new or meet other business owners.

March 20th- Coffee Connection Presented by Rudy’s

March 22nd and 23rd- Asian Eats Night Market

March 28th- Small Biz U

The joy of trying out new recipes

By Hye June Park

The spring is a good time to learn how to cook. I recommend you visit Tye Cooks Austin website which has plenty of recipes.

Tye Lewis, an owner of Tye Cooks Austin loves teaching people to cook a healthy gourmet meal using staples found in most pantries. Her business combines her training as a teacher and her passion for food. She offers highly personalized one-on-one and small group cooking classes. Additionally, she offers on-site team building cooking lessons for organizations in the Austin area. She is happy when her clients realize that they can cook healthy flavorful entrees in their own kitchen.

However, it has not always been easy starting a business. She faced obstacles like developing a clear mission, finding her “client”, and startup funding. She got help from Economic Growth Business Incubator (EGBI). EGBI helped her learn the basics of how to set up a business from scratch. “Also, the value of insurance, pricing, refining my elevator pitch, and seeing the full value of the service I provide to my clients.” Tye offered. “Now my goals are to expand into more markets here in the Austin metro area as well another Texas city. I am working on publishing a multi-cultural cuisine cookbook geared for those who have food allergies or intolerance.” You can find her own recipes on her website, which consist of ingredients found in most people’s pantries, but also one ingredient that can easily be found in a local grocery store but is versatile. Anyone can try one of the free recipes and building confidence in your own cooking skills.

For more information about the Tye Cooks Austin, visit www.tyecooksaustin.com.