Friday, March 8, 2019

small scale business

small scale business


How virtual assistants can help you scale-up your business - TechGenix

Posted: 08 Mar 2019 01:41 PM PST

Virtual assistants are no longer confined to personal use. With growing innovation and technology, virtual assistants are now making their way to large-scale business implementations. The rise of artificial intelligence has driven the technology as it leaps from serving individual users through simple voice-based inputs to serve companies and businesses in a variety of use cases.

With a growing business, the need for more resources also increases. Companies are now implementing AI-powered virtual assistants to serve them in various. This technology can be especially helpful to SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) because virtual assistants can serve as an extra pair of helping hands for the burgeoning companies.

SMBs can be highly benefitted by virtual assistants as they can help companies grow while letting their employees focus on organizational core pursuits. A virtual assistant today can be treated as an individual that can take care of and handle various crucial aspects in several areas such as customer support, social media, HR, operations, communications, and marketing. Moreover, a virtual assistant can perform these tasks with high precision and effectiveness, saving a lot of human capital.

Ease of use

Virtual assistants are easy to set up and use. Moreover, the process can save a company from the hassle of hiring permanent employees as the business grows. If your company is not ready to hire more permanent employees but needs resources to deal with support and operations, a virtual assistant can get the work done.

There are several virtual assistant services providers such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, which supplies specialized virtual assistants to suit various company and business needs. Just like the cloud, virtual assistant services are also charged based on usage, making it transparent and cost-effective. Service providers offer pay-per-use and pay-per-device policies, making it ideal for companies of all shapes and sizes.

Helps to scale-up business

Companies that have an increasing work volume and decreasing turnaround time are in the position where they must scale-up the business. However, the process of scaling-up might involve additional resources including more employees to accommodate the increasing need and volume of work.

Unfortunately, for most small and medium-sized companies, the process of hiring a permanent employee can be very costly. Virtual assistants, on the other hand, can help companies handle the increased work volume while keeping the costs associated with that in check.

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Since virtual assistants are virtual, they can be assigned to work whenever there is a business need. Companies don't have to deal with training employees as the virtual assistants come pre-trained. On top of everything, virtual assistants do the work with higher efficiency while yielding productive results.

Helps to realign the company budget

The most common and primary reason for companies opting for a virtual assistant is to save business costs. Hiring and deploying a virtual assistant is much easier and cost-effective compared to hiring a permanent or contract-based employee. Companies can save a lot of infrastructure costs along with operational costs when using virtual assistants. It is estimated that companies using virtual assistants save as much as 40 percent on their business expenses.

All the money saved using a virtual assistant can be reassigned to other essential aspects such as security, business analysis, and infrastructure upgrades.

Organizational tasks

Every company spends a lot of time and effort on various organizational tasks such as meeting planning, arranging conferences, and appointments. Hiring people to perform these mundane tasks could possibly be a funds-eater. Virtual assistants are the ideal human replacement in these kinds of organizational tasks.

Content and email marketing

Digital marketing and content are critical for businesses to develop their brand value and reputation — and, of course, sales. However, it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to create and manage value-added content. A company can hire or sign up for a virtual assistant service that can handle the content, help the company develop sales-oriented content, and manage regular blog posts.

For every company, mailing lists and having a user engagement strategy are crucial for business development. A virtual assistant-powered service can perform these mailing activities and email marketing by using machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to provide the right content to the right audience for better user engagement.

Virtual assistants can also do online research and help organizations and companies focus on the right keywords to gain customer attention.

Customer support

It is a misconception that virtual assistants can only answer calls and respond through texts or emails. Virtual assistants these days offer a variety of services on top of providing reliable and efficient customer support. While human assistance might still be needed in a few critical escalations in the customer support domain, virtual assistants can easily take over the redundant tasks in customer service to serve customers better and efficiently.

By employing virtual assistants in customer support, organizations can free up an actual employee to do something better. Moreover, virtual assistants, unlike humans, can avoid all forms of mistakes and errors and can spot more areas of opportunities.

Virtual assistants: Helping hands at a decent cost

Almost all companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses, will at some point need reliable support while not being able to hire employees on a permanent or contract basis. Virtual assistants can help businesses grow while keeping costs in check. Virtual assistants are just-in-time on-demand resources, which you should try. Try implementing them in few areas first, monitor, learn, reconfigure, and get the most out of these virtual assistants. Hiring a virtual assistant service can foster growth and improve productivity.

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Entrepreneurs using south-side food makerspace to create businesses - Indianapolis Business Journal

Posted: 08 Mar 2019 11:00 AM PST

Michael and Kathy Shrum have been making sauerkraut and kimchi in their home in the Garfield Park neighborhood since 2012 and selling it at farmer's markets and roadside stands.

They've been seeking to expand those options. But producers who want to sell wholesale—the step to moving into stores—must use a licensed commercial kitchen to prepare and pack their products.

food-map-factbox.pngEnter the Food Beauty Center, a new food-focused makerspace in Garfield Park that aims to serve entrepreneurs two ingredients for success—collaboration and commercial kitchen space.

The 2,400-square-foot facility, at 2628 Shelby St., is owned and operated by Riley Area Development Corp. It went into operation in December and already has signed up nine startups that make everything from wine to dips.

The center offers food-based startups affordable access to commercial kitchen space—something that is hard to find, yet necessary for growth.

The Shrums hope it's just what their company, Metta Gardens, needs to move to the next level.

The couple considered renting space at another local kitchen, but it was a shared space that would have offered them only limited hours of access.

In the Food Beauty Center, the Shrums found what they needed to produce their goods. They have access to shared kitchen equipment, and they also have a dedicated workstation all their own.

"This commercial kitchen will allow us to put [products] in local restaurants, local grocery stores," Michael Shrum said. "We can work here five days a week, anytime we want."

Riley established the Food Beauty Center to help entrepreneurs succeed in a burgeoning industry—and in a neighborhood it believes is primed for this type of development.

The coming Red Line bus service and the art-focused redevelopment activity spearheaded by the Big Car Collaborative convinced Riley that Garfield Park was the right place to nurture food entrepreneurs.

Big Car launched an affordable-housing program for artists in Garfield Park two years ago, and its Tube Factory and Listen Hear arts spaces are both close to the Food Beauty Center.

"We know the area's going to get a lot of restaurants—but how would the neighborhood get involved?" said Eric Strickland, Riley's immediate past executive director. Terri Skipper is Riley's new executive director, but Strickland was in charge during development of the Food Beauty Center.

Riley purchased the Shelby Street building, a former auto shop called Car Beauty Center, in 2016. The cost to purchase and redevelop the site was about $325,000, funded by both Riley and a $224,000 federal housing grant administered by the city of Indianapolis.

Strickland Strickland

Food Beauty Center participants pay user fees of $180 to $300 per month, which helps Riley cover operational costs. Riley envisions entrepreneurs using the Food Beauty Center for two years or so while they scale up their businesses.

Riley sees the food coworking space as a complement to its other small-business offerings.

Riley also operates two facilities along Massachusetts Avenue's industrial corridor: the Ruckus makerspace in the Circle City Industrial Complex at 1125 Brookside Ave. and Micro-Mfg, a business incubator/accelerator and small-scale production facility at 1417 Commerce Ave. Riley also operates the Riverwest Works coworking space at 2226 W. Michigan St. in the Haughville neighborhood.

Food Beauty Center users have access to Riley's other three facilities and their programs at no additional charge. They could, for instance, use equipment at Ruckus to print T-shirts that advertise their company. They can also attend free monthly workshops on topics such as selling to retailers and understanding business contracts.

The concept is to put entrepreneurs in touch with resources and people that can help them grow their businesses.

Klein Klein

The networking aspect of the Food Beauty Center appeals to Rachel Klein, owner and president of Revival Food Co. Before moving to the Garfield Park facility, Klein produced her almond butters at a catering kitchen inside a downtown apartment building her father owns.

That facility was a certified commercial kitchen, and Klein already has a number of wholesale customers, including more than 75 Kroger and Fresh Thyme stores.

But Klein was looking for ways to connect with other food-based businesses, which is what she's found at the Food Beauty Center.

Working alongside other entrepreneurs, Klein said, could open the door to creative collaborations and networking. "I think there's just so many opportunities on that."

Outsiders also see merit in what the Food Beauty Center has to offer.

Deering Deering

Amanda Deering, clinical assistant professor of food science at Purdue University, said she's aware of only a handful of commercial kitchens around the state. This, she said, poses a challenge to startups that want to grow beyond the farmer's-market circuit.

"There's not many resources for people to go to," Deering said. "It seems to be the bottleneck, that people can't make that leap."

Local entrepreneur Carrie Abbott said she sees great value in the connections entrepreneurs can make through the Food Beauty Center.

Abbot is majority owner of candy company Newfangled Confections, which she founded eight years ago.

"I see a lot of potential in that space. I would have died for somewhere like that when I started in 2011," Abbott said.

Abbott Abbott

Having people who will offer opinions about your ideas and provide unbiased taste-testing for your creations is important, she said. "You don't want to ask your friends and family because they're going to support you no matter what."

Abbott's company has grown beyond the startup phase. She has five full-time employees and her products are carried in more than 100 area boutique shops; regionally at Fresh Thyme, Kroger, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond; and nationally in The Fresh Market, Books-A-Million and discount department chain Bealls.

The Food Beauty Center, she said, is giving the next generation of entrepreneurs a chance to achieve similar success. "I guarantee you, there's probably one [business] there right now with enough energy and hustle that they could totally be in the same place."•

Oyetola Reiterates Support For Small Business Owners - Leadership Newspaper

Posted: 07 Mar 2019 06:04 PM PST

Osun state governor, Mr Gboyega Oyetola has expressed the readiness of his administration to continue to support the growth of medium and small scale businesses to boost the economy of the state.

Oyetola stated this in Osogbo yesterday while declaring open the 2019 Osun Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise opportunities, with the theme "Expanding Market Frontiers for MSMES".

The governor in statement issued by the information officer, Ministry of Finance, Mr Kingsley Omoyeni stated that Oyetola who was represented at the event by the Supervisor for Finance, Mr Bola Oyebamiji described Osun economy as one dominated by the informal sector.

He described SMEDAN as an agency that has performed tremendously well since it was created through the various programmes that has touched  millions of lives across Nigeria, stressing that it is a testament of their performance on the stimulation and development of MSMEs across the country.

Oyetola explained that his administration will in the next few weeks role out series of empowerment programmes for women and other small scale enterprises in the state.

In his address, the director general, SMEDAN, Mr Umar Dikko commended Osun state government for creating the enabling environment which has allowed SMEs to grow rapidly in the state, noting that this has made their job easy in Osun.

He explained that the major priority of the agency is to promote, "made in Nigeria products and services" as well as enhancing the competitiveness SMEs which he said the state government of Osun has done tremendously well on.''

He added that, "the agency is positioned as  a 'One Stop Shop' for growing and resuscitating micro, small and medium enterprises in the country and we must commend the state government of Osun for having done much in this regard.

Also speaking, the Zonal Coordinator for SMEDAN, Mr Gbenga Ogundeji urged participants at the open fair to explore the opportunity of using the medium to interface with government regulatory agencies who are present at the event.


Federal program for women entrepreneurs urged to do more to help firms scale up - CanadianBusiness.com

Posted: 08 Mar 2019 01:35 PM PST

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government marked International Women's Day on Friday by touting its collection of measures designed to support — and boost the number of — female entrepreneurs.But a year after the Liberals unveiled about $2 billion worth of commitments under its women's entrepreneurship strategy, some business leaders say the effort needs work if it's going to benefit female-led companies on the rise.On Friday, the government announced a first group of recipients under the strategy's female-entrepreneurship fund. The list includes 13 businesses that will each receive up to $100,000."We're helping them grow their businesses," Mary Ng, the minister responsible small business and export promotion, said in a recent interview. "My mandate is to double the number of women entrepreneurs by 2025."Ng said only about 16 per cent of Canada's small- and medium-sized businesses are female-owned or -led.But business leaders like Audrey Mascarenhas, CEO of Questor Technology Inc., argue the federal strategy needs improvements to truly help women entrepreneurs and, by extension, the broader economy."I'm zero for 12," Mascarenhas said of her own application success rate for the female-focused programs. "So, I don't apply any more because it's just a waste of my time."Questor is an Alberta-based company that makes incinerators for waste gases in settings such as landfills and refineries.Mascarenhas knows the federal effort well — she served as chair of the Liberals' economic strategy table on clean technology. The table was one of six industry-government groups assembled by Ottawa to find ways to ensure Canada takes full advantage of its strengths and reaps the economic benefits.In her case, Mascarenhas said she's been told her clean-tech company, which has gone public, is too successful to get any of the support.She said her challenges are the same as those of high-growth tech firms in general. The sector has voiced concerns that Canada offers little support for emerging companies already beyond the fragile start-up phase."How are we going to create the role models for future women if we only focus on the ones that are struggling?" asked Mascarenhas. "We've got to start to be strategic — not sprinkle fairy dust on everything, not focus on the people that are struggling and give them all the money and never expect a return on that investment."She said 98 per cent of her company's business is now outside Canada and it's increasingly difficult for her to stay in the country.In recent years, she said, high-ranking American government officials have tried to woo her to the United States. Former U.S. ambassador Bruce Heyman and former U.S. commerce secretary Penny Pritzker have contacted her to ask what they could do to help Questor grow south of the border, she said.Connie Stacy, president of Growing Greener Innovations, said she's also had difficulty accessing Ottawa's funds for women entrepreneurs. Her swiftly expanding Edmonton-based company makes portable power packs meant to replace generators and she said it's been attracting significant international interest.She recently secured $30,000 in federal support for the first time to develop web material and to attend trade shows in the United States. Stacy also lauded the work of Canada's trade commissioners.But she said the funding is a small sum when one considers the high costs of manufacturing.Stacy has been trying to access financing through the Business Development Bank of Canada, from which Ottawa made available $1.4 billion over three years in new financing for women entrepreneurs.But for the most part, it's been frustrating, she said."The other federal programs, we've been flat-out denied on every one," said Stacy, who also wants to keep her firm in Canada, but sees opening up to foreign investment and, possibly, moving as the only ways to continue growing."I certainly know lots of women business owners. I don't know that I've really come across any that have really been successful in accessing some of these programs."Asked about support for middle-stage companies, Ng said she's heard concerns that much of the funding has been directed to start-up firms.She insists the government is acting on it. She said the Business Development Bank, for example, will fund firms that are already scaling up.Ng said she's also listening to her special adviser, former Ryerson University Sheldon Levy, on what's needed to support scale-ups — and added that under his guidance the tweaks and changes are already underway.The government will also hear from a newly formed panel of experts on women's entrepreneurship.Asked about calls for more help for firms already scaling up, panel co-chair Laura McGee said the answer can't just be about government funding. It should also involve Canadian venture-capital firms, banks and possibly asset managers, she said."I think that is something we're getting better at as a country, but something there's certainly lots of room for improvement on," said McGee, the founder and CEO of the data analytics firm Diversio.Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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