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Getting your new business off of the ground today

Many companies never come to fruition due to fears about funding, planning, and execution. Here are some quick tips for getting over the hurdle of being new.

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Getting your business off of the ground

If after all of the thoughts, mental anguish, questioning friends, family and coworkers for input, you still decide starting a business is something you want to do, then do it, and do it well!

That said, we all know there’s nothing worse than a small company taking up space and bringing a bad or boring brand to any business community. Pour your heart into it and dive in. This is still the fun part. The part you look back on so naively and wonder “if I only knew then what I know now…” Enjoy this.

Daydream of your company name and logo on a sign panel, thousands of drivers passing it daily on a freeway and running into people that know more about your company than they know about you personally.

So where do we get the funds to start a business?

For most people, the 99%, funds aren’t coming from wealthy trusts, parental gifts and padded estates. They come from good old fashioned savings, small loans from friends and family (don’t do it, just don’t), or maybe even a small business loan from a bank when they are feeling willing and able.

In the beginning, cash is the way to go. Even if it takes you longer, the lack of a headache for one thing such as not making a monthly payment on a debt is well worth it. You will have enough other headaches than that! As you continue to grow, a small business loan will be something to consider. Once you have enough business there will come a time when the next phase of growth may require an influx of cash to really move forward.

Steps for getting started

The basics you will need to budget for:

  • Brand design
  • Basic legal documents like your DBA, LLC, etc.
  • Basic collateral- business cards, sign panels and name riders, laptop, maybe a printer (go all cloud and digital docs if possible!)
  • Office space? Could you work out of your home for the first few months?
  • Virtual phone line

My budget wasn’t huge and yours doesn’t have to be either. Save your hugeness for your vision right now! I had a dream one night of a logo and color scheme that I wanted. I didn’t see red, blue or yellow as any part of my vision, nor a house, key or city silhouette.

I had to find a designer who wasn’t super expensive. I had some designer friends but didn’t want to risk free business with friends and waiting forever for something that wasn’t their main job. So etsy.com it was. There are other freelance sites out there where you can get quality logo design with not spending thousands of dollars.

When setting up a solo practice, or starting a small business, try to keep it simple. Revisions will come with growth and future changes to your business mindset. So take baby steps, and get started, whether it is funding your dream, or getting your first logo out there.

Amanda Lopez is a real estate broker and founder of Style House Realty in Baltimore, Md. She has worked in the real estate industry for over 6 years and prior to that studied advertising, branding and web design. Refusing to believe the real estate industry had to be bland and boring in design and appeal to everyone, she set out to bring some style and technology into the mix. Amanda can most likely be found with coffee that got cold, great shoes, her mind in the sky and her evernote app open.

Business News

Walmart+ hopes to beat Amazon at their own game

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart has long been trying to become a serious Amazon competitor. Is their new membership program the edge they need to make that happen?

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We at AG have been watching Walmart’s moves in the online grocery shopping market for a while now. Their latest attempt to usurp Amazon’s throne is called Walmart+, and it’s being billed as a competing service to Amazon Prime. For $98 per year, they’re offering perks like same-day home delivery from stores and discounts on fuel. Walmart+ is promising, but whether it will truly rival Prime remains to be seen. They’ve tried a few times now, but Walmart has yet to substantially threaten Amazon’s near-monopoly on internet retail.

In 2016, Walmart rolled out Jetblack, a startup from their Walmart Labs incubator, that offered a text message-based shopping experience. Jetblack charged an eye-popping $50 monthly membership fee and, perhaps because of this, it drew very few users. Jetblack was scrapped in May of this year, but not before hemorrhaging $2 billion. Reportedly, Walmart was losing nearly $15,000 yearly per member.

…Ouch.

Way before this, Walmart Labs also introduced a short lived food box subscription service – remember those? They called it Goodies Co., and it barely lasted a year before being killed in 2013.

Now flash forward to one year ago when Walmart submitted a patent for what they dubbed the “Fresh Online Experience”. This came after Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods brought the two retail behemoths into direct competition.

The FOE system would incorporate real images and 3D scans of store products. The patent goes on to propose that employees filling these online orders will photograph individual fresh items like produce or meat, presumably in order to build consumer confidence in their quality when buying online, rather than in person. However, this has the potential to be a labor-intensive and slow process for stores, and it remains to be seen if this will be worth it for Walmart.

It’s unclear exactly how much Walmart+ intends to take out of the Amazon Prime playbook. It hasn’t announced features like video and audio streaming, for instance. Certainly they’ll have big plans for incorporating the “Fresh Online Experience” in there somehow, and that could be a game changer for Walmart.

One thing is for sure, though: Walmart+ faces an uphill battle to climb out of Amazon Prime’s shadow. Honestly, it’s just hard to imagine Walmart really competing with an entity like Amazon. Roughly 40% of all online purchases in the U.S are made on Amazon, and it is almost synonymous with the concept of buying stuff on the internet in general.

Yet, it’s difficult to discuss Amazon’s success without also thinking about the enormous elephant in the warehouse that enables it; Amazon is becoming increasingly notorious for having inhumane working conditions. Their treatment of employees has incited boycotts and protests, most recently due to the company allegedly ignoring COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in their warehouse facilities. And spoiler alert, Walmart also exploits their workers. If there’s going to be a big, exciting disruption in online shopping any time soon, it’s hopefully going to be an ethical one.

Either way, it’s about time we stop thinking of Amazon as king of the jungle. Consumers and workers are begging for a change, and it’s only a matter of time until the right challenger steps forward. But let’s face it… that’s probably not going to be Walmart.

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Business News

Walmart teams up with ThredUp: The online market for second-hand fashion is heating up

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart has teamed up with a new partner to sell second hand clothes online, hopefully this partnership works out better than the last.

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In the beginning of May, Walmart announced its collaboration with ThredUp, the online secondhand fashion giant. The deal now allows users who order off ThredUp, through Walmart, to take advantage of big-box perks, such as free shipping and convenient returns at local franchises.

The alliance of the two stores is a good business deal for Walmart, whose effort to enter the fashion market has failed despite numerous attempts to embrace millennials. Walmart recently had no choice but to cut its losses and cancel a deal they made in 2018 with Jetblack, a text-based, world-at-your-fingertips shopping experience. The dominant grocery supermarket has also teamed up with notable celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Kristen Bell, and Sofia Vergara to create fashion brands, but failed to create high traffic volume.

So, the attempt to pick up their clothing sales yet again may seem pointless. However, the difference with this deal is that, instead of investing (serving as a potential risk to lose capital), Walmart PARTNERED with ThredUp. Walmart is essentially opening up its fashion market, exchanging its notoriety for variety, while giving light to a smaller fish in the sea (ThredUp). It’s a win-win for both companies.

The collaboration does come with a price to smaller businesses whose doors have been forced shut due to the recent pandemic. The closures and restrictions have created a lack of game in the fashion market right now, and Walmart was quick to pick that up, expanding their clothing department and online services, at juuuuust the right time. For Walmart, a company that’s been looking to expand, this was the perfect opportunity.

Small thrift shops depend on in-person shopping, and many heartened thrifters believe the experience of secondhand buying can’t be replaced online. There’s something about walking into a hard to find, crowded thrift store, spending $9 and leaving with the two tops meant for you that you just can’t get online. The collaboration of Walmart and ThredUp do however, open up the door for secondhand fashion to many who would usually overlook the option. As so, as many other retailers watch what Walmart does, hopefully the partnership will also inspire a commercial way to expand into an eco-friendly, sustainable fashion market among other companies.

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Business News

Amazon sellers’ information will now be available to stop scams

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon cracks down on scammy sellers in the U.S by requiring sellers to list their real names and addresses on their accounts.

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A Department of Homeland Security report to the President from January 2020 states, “Counterfeiting is no longer confined to street-corners and flea markets.” The report estimates that counterfeits made up over $500 billion in sales internationally in 2016. As one of the biggest third-party platforms, Amazon has one of the most “notorious” counterfeit problems, at least according to The Motley Fool. Even though they spent over $500 million in 2019 to combat fraud and abuse, the problem has not abated.

Seller information will be available to consumers.

Amazon recently announced to its sellers that effective September 1, a seller’s business name and address will be displayed on the Seller Profile page. This information is already made available to consumers in Europe, Japan, and Mexico. According to the announcement, Amazon is “making this change to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions.”

The United States makes up the biggest proportion of Amazon’s sellers. This move is to provide transparency, not only to consumers, but also to brands who are trying to go after counterfeits. The Washington Post reports, “”For Amazon to do this is a big deal,” said Rob Dunkel, CEO of the data analytics firm 3PM Solutions, which works with brands to spot counterfeits online.”

Consumers should still be on guard when shopping on Amazon.

This move by Amazon doesn’t mean that consumers can afford to let their guard down. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Before ordering from a third-party seller, check their reviews…not the product reviews, but the seller’s reviews.
  • As with any seller, if a price seems to be good to be true, it’s probably fake. Don’t buy from new accounts, especially those with thousands of items listed.
  • Look for “Fulfilled by Amazon” when using third-party sellers. Make sure the “A” is capitalized. Fulfilled by Amazon means that the item is shipped to one of their fulfillment centers. It’s a little safer when ordering from a third-party seller.
  • Always use Amazon for communications and transactions. This gives you some protection if you do get scammed.
  • Don’t give out your personal information to sellers as Amazon doesn’t require this.
  • Also, watch out for payment scams.

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