Tag Archive | "small business"


State to Hold ‘Step Up’ Business Conference

WETHERSFIELD  – There is still time for employers to register for the free Step Up conference on June 3 in Bristol.

The conference, which  will be in the Oaks Ballroom at the Hilton on located at 42 Century Drive, Bristol, is scheduled to be from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Registration will begin at 7 a.m. and a continental breakfast will be provided.

Conference topics include incentives such as a six-month wage subsidy and training grants under the Subsidized Training and Employment (Step Up) program, low-interest financing through the Small Business Express Program,  job expansion tax credits, guidelines for becoming a State of Connecticut vendor, and tax incentives for equipment purchases.

Free assistance for business planning, market analysis services and website design will also be featured.

In addition to informational presentations, program representatives will answer questions and determine how employers can optimize the various services offered to Connecticut businesses.

The Step Up conference is being hosted by area legislators, including State Sen. Jason C. Welch, State Rep. Christopher A. Wright, and State Rep. Frank N. Nicastro. Sponsors include Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Secretary of State Denise Merrill, the Connecticut Department of Labor, the state’s Workforce Investment Boards, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and a number of community partners and organizations.

To pre-register or for a list of additional Step Up conferences being offered in June, please visit the Labor Department’s Step Up website at www.StepCT.com.  For questions about the Bristol Step Up conference please contact Janice Albert at Janice.Albert@ct.gov or (860) 827-6207.

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City Certification Process for Small and Minority Businesses Creates Confusion, Room to Err

By Krishna Scully, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — When compared with other certification processes that help entrepreneurs do business with governmental entities, several small and minority-owned businesses in Hartford have to navigate a maze of conflicting information and other barriers to be certified.

Qualifying differences and barriers include, but are not limited to, the mountain of documents required and unclear language on various application forms.

According to Hartford’s Procurement Unit’s handbook, an entrepreneur should “be doing business” in the city for at least a year. However, Eloy Toppin, the city’s outreach specialist, recently told a Caribbean-American sole proprietor that she should “be registered” for at least a year. Though she has been known for doing business in the city for several years and had submitted all the required documents, Toppin denied her application.  However, the state and federal government certified her in about 30 days—and with fewer documents.

Thus, Hartford’s certification process has its critics.

Balam Soto, owner of Open Wire Lab, certified his business with the City of Hartford.  He said the process was laborious and sleepy.

“The sleepy parts were mostly the vocabulary used on the forms,” he said. “One example can be found when accessing the certification application.  The section headed, “should I apply” states, “Has your firm been in business for a year.” How should one interpret that? Must they be registered or simply “in business” for a year?

Toppin did, however, certify a Vernon-based business owner P. Nikia Pinkney, an African-American who does consulting work with nonprofits. Her company, Mission Longevity, LLC, is not registered with the city but with the state. A former employee at a construction company, Pinkney said she knows the advantages of being certified as a female-owned and minority business.

“If you’re a contractor, there’s a lot of work because the state requires a percentage of work be awarded to minority businesses,” she said. “If you’re not registered with the city, you won’t know or can’t bid on those contracts.”

The certification process also helps other kinds of businesses, Pinkney said.

“I do nonprofit consulting work and the city might not do a lot of those, but it’s just another avenue to take advantage of,” she said. “Opportunities will become available and you want to put yourself in line for that business.”

The sole purpose of certification is to ensure that businesses have access to all available opportunities so they can enjoy success, expand and hire, experts say.

According to Small Business Administration’s specialist Denis Byrne, a certification is one of the critical elements that help business grow.

“Before you can begin business with the government your business must obtain the proper certifications. Small business certifications are like professional certifications; they document a special capability or status that will help you compete in the marketplace.”

Unlike permits and licenses, you do not need to obtain certifications to legally operate. However, in order to take advantage of business opportunities, such as government contracts, you may need to obtain some certifications.

Federal, state and local governments offer businesses opportunities to sell billions of dollars worth of products and services. Many government agencies require that some percentage of the procurements be set aside for small businesses. To compete for certain contract bid opportunities exclusively for small business, you must first register as a vendor at http://www.sba.gov/content/register-government-contracting

“Certifying your business can definitely help you successfully compete for government contracts,” Byrne said.

The glaring question is then, why an unclear and cumbersome process for a sole proprietor?

Several phone calls and emails to Procurement Agent Tara Washington went unanswered. Washington is responsible for “maximizing local vendor participation.”


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Agency Issues Warning to Small Businesses

HARTFORD — In an effort to combat unscrupulous attempts to sell state-issued posters detailing labor standards, the Connecticut Department of Labor is alerting small business owners about this public service available at the agency.

State officials have learned that individuals were reproducing a variety of state and federal posters, laminating them and selling them.  Connecticut business owners looking to obtain posters addressing a variety of workplace issues for display in their workplace are reminded that many of these items are available at no charge.

“The agency has heard of instances where individuals or companies attempt to sell posters that can be obtained at no cost from our agency,” noted State Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer.  “These materials, which employers are required to post for all employees to view, address minimum wage and unemployment compensation laws, Family Medical Leave Act, and safety and health regulations.”

Palmer noted that small business owners are often unaware that they don’t need to purchase state and federal posters, adding that employers are welcome to contact the agency or visit the agency website for a full listing of required posters and regulations.

By ensuring that residents are knowledgeable about workplace rules and responsibilities, the agency is helping employers comply with state and federal regulations and alerting workers to their rights and responsibilities, Palmer said.

A  comprehensive list of available posters and postings can be found by visiting the agency’s website at www.ct.gov/dol and then typing “free posters” in the search box.  The site also provides contact numbers for ordering related materials from other agencies, such as workers’ compensation laws and electronic monitoring guidelines.

Postings can be obtained by sending a written request to the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Wage and Workplace Standards Division, 200 Folly Brook Boulevard, CT, 06109 or by calling the unit at 860-263‐6790. Business owners should provide a company name and address, Federal Identification Number, and Unemployment Registration Number.

Gary K. Pechie,Director of Wage and Workplace Standards Division said small business owners should contact Wage and Workplace Standards to request any materials.


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CLP to Present Small Business Energy Saving Workshop

HARTFORD —  The Connecticut Light & Power is inviting small business owners from greater Hartford to attend a free workshop to learn about ways to reduce their energy expenses.

The event, presented by Operation Fuel, will be from 6 to 7 p.m. on June 26 at  Vibz Uptown, at 3155 Main St. in Hartford.

Organizers said the workshop will provide an overview of Operation Fuel’s “Project BEST,” which helps small businesses become more energy efficient while offering financial assistance and incentives for implementing energy-saving changes. The program is funded by grants from the Energize Connecticut initiative and Dominion. A wide range of small businesses are eligible to participate in Project BEST including retail stores, restaurants, professional services, and personal care services. Women-owned and minority-owned businesses, in particular, are encouraged to participate.

“Project BEST offers the greater Hartford small business community a great opportunity to make energy improvements now that will continue to save them money and energy month after month, year after year,” said Pat Wrice, Executive Director of Operation Fuel. “Not only does Project BEST provide a much needed financial resource, we have designed the program to be easy and convenient so that businesses can take action quickly and start to see real energy savings.”

Additionally, CL&P Program Administrator Tim McGrew will present information on energy conservation and utility-run programs available to small businesses, including the Small Business Energy Advantage Program which provides energy audits for small businesses. Guests are will have the opportunity to ask questions following both presentations.

Any business that has not received a commercial energy audit in the past year will be eligible for a $250 credit on their CL&P bill upon completion of the workshop and the audit. Any businesses that attended a Project BEST workshop last year is automatically eligible for the $250 credit upon completion of the energy audit.

Additionally, any business owner choosing to install recommended energy efficiency measures as a result of the audit may be eligible for financial incentives to offset the cost of the upgrades. To qualify for special funding toward their project, the business owner must attend a previous Project BEST workshop and submit a completed application to Operation Fuel.

For more information on Project BEST, please contact Operation Fuel’s Small Business Advocate Beth Auerbach at beth@operationfuel.org or 860-243-2345, extension 308.


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A Jack of All Trades – Good or Bad?

By Dante Lee

Contray to popular belief, it is perfectly okay to be a Jack of All Trades (or a Jack of Many Trades. These phrases are commonly used to describe an enterepreneur or busienss owenr that possesses many skills and offers many different services to customers.

If this describes you, this is a good thing – not a bad thing. Many well-known entrepreneurs such as Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Ted Turner, Warren Buffett, etc. have several different companies that offer a variety of services. They understand that it’s smart to have multiple streams of income, in case one particular industry begins to take a downturn.

Even rap artists have found great success doing this. They own rap labels, film companies, clothing companies, shoe companies, jewelry companies, and often local restaurants in their hometown.

While it is perfectly okay to be a Jack of All (or many) Trades, don’t make the fatal mistake of combining all your services into one company. For instance, it’s a terrible idea to indicate on your business card or web site that you’re a lawn mower, web developer, photographer, and interior designer.

Instead, create a different company (and web site) for each unique service that you provide. This way, your potential customers won’t be inundated with services and products that they really have no interest in. They will only see information pertaining to what they’re inquiring about.

Also, they will perceive you as a highly-skilled professional that knows what you’re doing. If they see too many different services offered, they may assume that you’re not an expert at anything – but just have a lot of casual knowledge. That, of course, is not the impression you want to give.
Dante Lee is an award-winning entrepreneur and best-selling author. His daily blog, www.DanteLee.com, features business advice and interviews with Black influentials.

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State Welcomes “Entrepreneurship Week”

After one course in Entrepreneurship at Manchester Community College, Brian Rankl used what he learned to start his own junk removal business, Mr. Junk.

“The Manchester course equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to start my own business,” Rankl said. “Entrepreneurship education gives you the essential tools to become successful in today’s business environment.”

Rankl is continuing to work towards his associate in science degree at Manchester Community College while running his small side business. “Community college has given Brian the flexibility he needs to pursue his degree at the same time that he’s putting what he’s learning to work to build his own business,” said Janeczek.

Rankl and others will participate in “Entrepreneur Week” supported but the state Connecticcut Community Colleges. The event is a part of the National Entrepreneurship Week from Feb. 21 to 28, with special activities offered in conjunction with the CCCs’ innovative Entrepreneurship and Small Business academic programs and initiatives.

Among the special activities at the CCCs celebrating Entrepreneurship Week will be “preliminary elevator speech” competitions at Gateway Community College in New Haven, Manchester Community College, and Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport. The activities are free and open to the public.

This is the third year of the annual National Entrepreneurship Week, which encourages support for the growth of entrepreneurship education as a lifelong process. The Week is promoted by The National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education, whose mission is to champion entrepreneurship education, provide advocacy and leadership, and promote quality practices and programs.

“Our economy grows because of our entrepreneurs and their creative thinking,” said Professor Rose Bednarz-Luglio of Gateway Community College. “Our students are either going to be entrepreneurs or work for entrepreneurs, since approximately 99% of businesses in the U.S. are small businesses.”

The theme across the state during National Entrepreneurship Week is “Entrepreneurship Empowers Everyone!” In her proclamation declaring the special week in the State of Connecticut, Governor M. Jodi Rell emphasizes that “entrepreneurship is vital to Connecticut’s growth and prosperity in both the near and distant future in this highly-competitive, global economy,” and ” entrepreneurial education can bring together the core academic, technical and problem-solving skills essential for future entrepreneurs and successful workers.”

“Entrepreneurship is truly a win-win situation for all involved,” said Theresa Janeczek, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and business at Manchester Community College. “It empowers individuals to generate their own jobs while stimulating our local economy.”

The United States is transforming into a global, entrepreneurial and knowledge- and innovation-based New Economy, according to the 2008 State New Economy Index released in November 2008 by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). “Being well positioned means that state economies need to be firmly grounded in the New Economy,” reports the study, which defines the New Economy as rooted in information technology and “a global, entrepreneurial, and knowledge-based economy in which the keys to success lie in the extent to which knowledge, technology, and innovation are embedded in products and services.”

The Index gives Connecticut an overall ranking of sixth in the nation regarding the degree that the structure of the state economy matches the ideal structure of the New Economy.

According to the Kauffmann Foundation, “States at the top of the ranking tend to have a high concentration of managers, professionals and college-educated residents working in ‘knowledge jobs’-those that require at least a two-year degree.” The Index ranks Connecticut second in the nation based on seven Knowledge Jobs indicators, reporting that “In today’s New Economy, knowledge-based jobs are driving prosperity…Such skilled and educated workers are the backbone of states’ most important industries, from high value-added manufacturing to high-wage traded services.”

The Index stresses that “the current slowdown, caused in large part by higher energy prices and excesses in the housing market that have spurred turmoil in the financial services industry, will not last forever.” The most effective companies take advantage of slowdowns to better position themselves for subsequent periods of strong economic growth, it reports, and states should be focused on “whether their economies are well positioned for robust growth and innovation over the next decade.”

The Connecticut Community Colleges educate new entrepreneurs through both credit and non-credit programs and courses, ranging from Associate Degree and Certificate Programs in Entrepreneurial Studies to specialized programs, such as the arts entrepreneur, a credit certificate program offered by Quinebaug Valley Community College. Numerous workshops and seminars in business planning, marketing, and small business finance are also offered by the CCCs.

Gateway Community College hosts the Gateway Small Business Center in collaboration with Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE); SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business”; the U.S. Small Business Administration; and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Other Connecticut Community Colleges will be developing similar Small Business Centers.

For more information, go to www.nationaleweek.org.

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