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Top Online Communities for Small Business Owners

Top Online Communities for Small Business Owners“In unity lies strength” is a very true saying, whose applications we see every day around us. Nobody makes it on their own, no matter what path in life they choose. It always matters who you can rely on for advice, for support, or for joining forces for success. Entrepreneurs know it particularly well. As a startup founder, you realize how much you have to learn, apart from your specific expertise, about running your business.

And as your business grows, so do the challenges you face. Even for small business owners it is hard to forecast financial results for the next five years, understand what the stock exchange variations mean for their business and find efficient ways to cut costs.

This is why online communities for small business owners appeared. They are generally under the mentoring of a large corporation or several thought leaders and they give entrepreneurs a voice, for sharing their knowledge, asking questions, and finding solutions to their problems.

Some of these communities are thriving, others are not so popular – so we decided to look at them and recommend to you only the most vibrant and active websites which you should join. These are:

1. Startup Nation
The top three categories of this online community are dedicated to: starting a business, growing a business and managing a business. This means that you can find useful advice here from day one when you start operating your business, and continue being inspired and contributing to the community as your business grows.

You will find case studies, how-to tutorials, recommended books, legal advice, tips for obtaining financing, and much more. The Community page allows you to share your input, open conversation threads and grow your network of business acquaintances. Startup Nation also has a radio show, whose recordings are published on the website.

2. American Express OPEN Forum
There is no need to introduce American Express, its financial power and business expertise. This company decided to open a business intelligence and development hub, which focuses advice and insights into the key elements of entrepreneurship: growth opportunities, research, marketing and sales, leadership, and digital tools.

The vast range of articles, tutorials and case studies will help you understand the nitty-gritty of tax preparation, product development, branding, competitive research and any other topic connected to running your business. As a contributor to this forum, your guest posts, if approved, will help you grow your reputation and build trust for your business.

3. Small Business Forum
This is exactly what it says it is – a 100% online forum accessible to registered members, where communication never stops. There are thousands of open threads where other small business owners like you can share useful information, ask and answer questions, post business opportunities, and so on. The only aspect which will make it harder for you to access the exact information you need is the lack of a search field. However, the main topics are logically structured (Sales and Marketing, Accounting and Taxes, Business Law, etc.), therefore you will quickly find a conversation thread dealing with the precise issue you want to learn about.

4. Entrepreneur
This is one of the largest online resources for people running businesses – large or small. Apart from in-depth articles, market analyses and forecasts, and interviews with market leaders, you will also find actual business opportunities, especially franchises.

Entrepreneur is one of the most thriving online communities for business owners, with up-to-date and reliable information from the most sensitive areas of business management, especially finances, taxation and legislation.

5. Various LinkedIn Groups
While the online communities above deal with aspects and problems applicable to all businesses, LinkedIn has very specialized groups where you can join other entrepreneurs from your specific niche. There are groups for freelance web designers, shipping companies, accounting firms, and so on – a simple search will help you find dozens of groups where you can discuss the specific challenges in your line of business.

Last but not least, remember that these communities work on the principle of reciprocity – this means that you have to be active and get involved whenever you can share useful information or answer a question.


Top Business Ideas You Can Run from Anywhere

Top Business Ideas You Can Run from AnywhereSo far, the main topic of our articles has focused on home-based businesses. Some of our readers have raised the legitimate question of whether you are required to actually stay at home in order to run these businesses. This is an interesting topic, because the concept of a home-based business is not really connected to a location, but to the freedom of staying in a friendly and cozy environment, and creating a fair balance between work and personal life.

It is true that some business ideas we have discussed require you to have an established home office to conduct meetings with customers or to develop your products or services. However, there are lots of business opportunities which allow you to be as mobile as you want. In the fast-paced world we live in, your spouse may get a job opportunity in another city or even in another country, or you may simply be the rolling stone type who cannot be bound in the same place for a long time.

Whatever the case may be, today we will present you with the list of the top five business ideas which can be run from any place in the world without limitations.

1. Web or Graphic Designer
Talent for design knows no borders or limitations. If you have this talent, have developed your skills and have a consistent portfolio, you can offer your services to clients all over the world and from any location you wish. You could be in a chalet in the Alps or on a beach in the Caribbean and still work for your clients. After all, you only need your laptop with design software installed on it and internet connection.

Extra tip: Adobe, the main supplier of graphic and web design software, has launched a suite of its most popular products for mobile, so you can make adjustments to your projects on the go as you wait between two connecting flights.

2. Fitness or Nutrition Coach
In the age of fast food and increasingly sedentary people, advice for eating healthy and exercising properly is valuable. A lot of nutritionists and gym owners are running online coaching websites and their online side-business is almost as profitable (if not even more profitable) as the main one.

This type of business is also free from the constraints of an office or gym. Any place where you can find a quiet corner to record your videos and demonstrate a few simple fitness exercises is sufficient in order to continue running your business. Actually, travelling is very good for your online nutrition business: you can discover new superfoods and delicious and healthy recipes to share with your subscribers.

3. Copywriter or Content Curator
There are very few space and technological restraints for people who are talented at writing, considering the fact that the latest generation smartphones are equipped by default with an Office suite, including text, spreadsheet and slide editing tools. Many freelance copywriters say that they are most inspired to work in a park or in the middle of nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This is one of those lines of business which allows you to search for your comfort zone – whatever and wherever it may be – and be able to keep doing what you are the best at.

4. Business Consultant
Liberal professions and consultancy are two niches which will always be in demand and which do not need you to be in a specific place to supply your services to clients. With the abundance of free video conference software and secure data transfer and storage, you could be anywhere in this world and continue to look over company documents, prepare your reports and advise your customers on the best approach to solve their issues.

5. Social Media Specialist
Social media is the most efficient marketing platform currently available to small and large companies. If you are one of those early birds who understood the importance of social media ahead of many others and learned the ins and outs of engagement, reach, likes and shares, then you can run a successful business as a social media specialist or account manager for many companies. The best part about this business idea? You can run it from any place on this world (except for a few countries which do not like social media and where you wouldn’t really want to go to, anyway).


Top Benefits of Becoming Certified as a Minority-Owned Business

top-benefits-of-becoming-certified-as-a-minority-owned-businessA savvy entrepreneur always knows how to take advantage of all the facilities offered by the law in opening and running a business. For example, social and economic disadvantaged groups – called minority groups – are encouraged to open businesses and get them certified as minority-owned businesses. This certification will give your business preferential access to various educational and financial resources, which we will be talking about in this article.

How to Get Certified as a Minority-Owned Business
The two main authorities that offer the minority-owned certification are the Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) and the National Minority Supplier Development Center (NMSDC). The criterion for being eligible for this certification is that at least 51% of the share capital of the business should be held by a member of a minority group.

You can claim that you belong to a minority group if at least 25% of your ancestry belongs to the following ethnic or racial groups:
⦁ Native American: any group or tribe of American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts or Native Hawaiians;
⦁ Asia-Pacific: originating from Japan, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand or the Philippines;
⦁ Asia-India: originating from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh;
⦁ Black: any Black ethnic group of Africa;
⦁ Hispanic: originating from Mexico, Central and South America, or the Caribbean Basin.

You must prove that you belong to any of these races or ethnicities with official documents in order to be recognized as a minority group member.

Now let us see why it is worthwhile to get your business certified as minority owned:

1. Financial Assistance
Minority-owned businesses are granted access to specific loan programs with low interest rates or even grants. These loans are grants are available through third party affiliates of the MWBE and NMSDC. This is one of the most important facilities granted to minority business enterprises in a general effort to offer disadvantaged social and ethnic groups the opportunity to grow and improve their lives through entrepreneurship.

2. Ongoing Education and Technical Assistance
As a member of MWBE or NMSDC, you are eligible to take part in various training courses and business seminars. What’s more, through the 8(a) program developed and maintained by the Small Business Administration, you will be connected to top mentors in your industry who will help you acquire the technical skills you need to run your business.

3. Access to Databases
Minority-owned businesses can access large databases, which are also used by large corporations in the US. These databases will list your company’s description and contact details, helping potential customers find you, but also allowing you to seek business opportunities and customers on your own.

4. Enlarging Your Network
As a member of minority-owned business associations, you will be invited to attend various business and educational events, meet other entrepreneurs and form partnerships or simply exchange ideas. Networking is the key to success in the modern business world, where everything is interconnected.

5. Obtain Government Contracts
This is a special facility reserved for minority-owned businesses. Once your business has grown enough to be able to tackle complex contracts, it can benefit from special set-asides which include being on a preferred list of suppliers for government agencies.

As you can see, there are so many advantages to being certified as a minority-owned business, so it is really worthwhile taking the time to obtain this certification.

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