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What your ideas mean - Daily Journal Online

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What your ideas mean - Daily Journal Online

What your ideas mean - Daily Journal Online

Posted: 15 Oct 2020 12:40 AM PDT

Jason Smith

Congressman Jason Smith

Protecting our Missouri way of life, fighting for our values - these are two motivators which drive me every day in Congress. I am constantly looking at ways our government can work better for the people it serves. Where has our government overreached, encroached on our freedoms, made life more difficult for families, or lost its way? Where has it become wasteful, bloated, or gone beyond the vision of limited governance our founders had?

In that regard, I am constantly talking with the folks of southern Missouri to hear their ideas about how their government can do better for them, and how I can better serve them. I strongly believe the only way to do that is to hear firsthand the challenges and struggles you are facing. That is why during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have never stopped visiting with folks throughout Missouri. The exchange of ideas that takes place when I meet with fellow Missourians always highlights new things I can be fighting for on your behalf.

While visiting with farmers and small business owners this summer, I met with a number of employers and families just doing their best to get through this tough time. In addition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), many also talked to me about utilizing different U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) programs. When looking into how our SBA can do even more for our small businesses, I unfortunately found out that not all of the taxpayer funds utilized to support the programs of the SBA actually went to U.S. small businesses. In reality, it turned out that a number of businesses either headquartered in China or with largely Chinese based shareholders were also receiving SBA funded assistance. Chinese companies taking advantage of our system at the expense of American small businesses is unacceptable and makes no sense. So, I teamed up with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and introduced the Preventing SBA Assistance from Going to China Act. This legislation will prevent businesses owned by citizens of the People's Republic of China or headquartered in China from receiving any taxpayer funded assistance offered by the SBA. Missouri's small businesses should never be competing for aid with companies whose profits go back to support Communist China.

It's one thing to be frustrated when a foreign government is taking advantage of programs aimed at helping U.S. citizens and businesses, it's another to listen to politicians openly advocating for taking more of your hard-earned money. I have met with countless families across southern Missouri who talk to me about the struggles they face day in and day out, every week, every month, to provide for their children - to just get by. As the lead author of a proposal to make permanent President Trump's tax cuts for families, you can understand my disbelief when I hear Joe Biden or Kamala Harris talking about raising taxes on all American families. Do they not get that families need help? That they don't want the government taking more of their money? But it got me thinking, what more can we do with the tax cuts and credits for families to help Missourians even more. Preparing for a new baby is expensive, from stocking up on diapers, to bottles and formula, to putting together a nursery. Soon-to-be parents want to begin preparing as soon as possible. President Trump's tax cuts bill provided new tax cuts for every child a family has, but what if we also made those credits and cuts available to expecting parents? That would put more money back into the pockets of hardworking Americans and provide flexibility to families preparing to welcome their newborn child home. That is why I am authoring a proposal to do just that and to expand upon President Trump's family tax cuts to also allow expecting families to qualify for them.

We all know the economy in southern Missouri relies on a healthy and robust agriculture industry, and we know that cattle production is an integral part of that. I have been candid that Congress needs to do more to give our producers the tools they need to level the playing field and compete for fair prices. The need to do something was on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic when Americans were being asked to pay some of the highest prices ever recorded at the checkout counter for their meat, but our cattlemen were receiving rock bottom prices for their cattle. Something didn't add up. While I have called on the Department of Justice to fully investigate the large meat processing facilities for this price disparity, I knew more had to be done. After speaking with a number of cattlemen, we are in the final push to advance a proposal that would allow for the development of cattle co-ops so that small producers can work together and establish their own packing facilities to compete for better prices in the marketplace. Family-owned farms are the bedrock of our rural communities, and I intend to keep it that way by continuing to prioritize the products and producers here in southern Missouri.

All of these are ideas from our home. And each one of them, along with the need to fight to see them through, are why I am so honored to be your Representative. These aren't ideas you get from a lobbyist in Washington or someone who has never visited our great state, but come from the very people who you and I see every day. So, when you feel like your government is getting in the way or has lost its way all together, reach out, let me know how I can help. Hearing your stories, your challenges, and your suggestions for how to make our government smaller, less intrusive and a body which protects your constitutional rights, not infringes upon them, is what gets me motivated every day for you.

If You're in Franchising and Need a New Bank, Ask These Questions - Entrepreneur

Posted: 15 Oct 2020 05:55 AM PDT

Now more than ever, franchisors and franchisees alike need to work with a bank they can trust. Here's how to get the most of your financial partner.

4 min read

This story appears in the October 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

1. Start Out with the Smaller Banks

From Geoff Seiber, CEO, FranFund

You tend to get your first loan wherever you can. A lot of the time, that's a bank that lends nationally, especially with franchises. But the real bank you want to use for your operations from that point forward is an entirely different bank. The big banks have their place, but at a community bank or a smaller regional bank, you may actually get to know the president or members of the board. That bank may be the right size for you, especially if they're willing to lend you money for additional units. After you've been with them a year, that's a fair question. Go in and say, 'This is my plan. I'm going to need money here and here. Is that something I could come to you for?' If they say yes, you've hit the home run. If they say no, well, you might want to look for another bank. But you can't judge them until you give them enough data. You need to know your banker and leverage that professional relationship, just like you would your accountant or your lawyer. Don't let the first time they see you be when you're going in with a life-or-death need. What happened with the PPP is just one instance. A good banker can make you a lot of money, and not just on the finance side of it. They can make valuable introductions. But the key is building the relationship."

Related: 5 Signs It's Time to Switch Your Business Bank

2. Banking Benefits

From Glenn Read, franchisee, Allegra Marketing Print Mail

Glenn Read opened an Allegra unit in Schenectady, N.Y., in 2017. By 2019, he struggled with cash flow. He applied for a $100K loan from Pursuit, a community-focused lender, and refinanced his debt. Since then, Pursuit has…

1. Financed additional units.

"Almost immediately after getting the first loan, I had an opportunity to purchase a competitor," Read says. "I contacted the folks at Pursuit and we put together an SBA 7(a) loan. There were a lot of challenges to overcome. I had less-than-perfect credit and limited cash reserves, but they held my hand to make sure I got to closing."

2. Reached out in times of crisis.

When the pandemic hit, Pursuit was proactive. "They contacted me about deferments and some of the benefits the SBA was offering, including the PPP program," Read says.

3. Provided capital to build savings.

"I'm working on purchasing the building that houses my business, which will save me thousands in lease payments," Read says. "I'm doing this with a loan from Pursuit and a local bank, so our relationship keeps going strong."

Related: Entrepreneur buys a bank building that denied him credit for his business

3. Unexpected Success

From Aaron Suriff, national franchise director, The Whimsy Cookie Company

What he expected: This 14-year-old Tennessee-based franchise had good relationships with Wells Fargo and Bank of America…until COVID-19. "When we started applying for PPP, it was way too hard to get through to anybody," Suriff says. So they applied through Independent Bank in Memphis, hoping for better communication.

What he got: "We got our PPP money faster than just about everybody," Suriff says. "We didn't hear back from Bank of America for nearly a month. But at Independent we have somebody I can call anytime, and when she says yes or no, you know it's correct. Because they're a smaller bank, they want to retain our money. So as the pandemic starts to end, we will be moving more of our accounts over there."


Resort owner, baker, independent filmmaker: Entrepreneurs flip the switch on the pandemic - MarketWatch

Posted: 15 Oct 2020 01:59 AM PDT

This article is reprinted by permission from

The pandemic pivot is a stark reality for droves of older small-business owners resolute to stay in business.

That kind of grit is the spine of the midlife entrepreneurs I've interviewed in recent years, several of whom I profiled in my book: "Never Too Old to Get Rich: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting a Business Mid-Life."

I talked with four pandemic pivoters to find out what they've done, what they're doing and how it's going:

The baker

For Jo-Ann Barett, owner of the Aromas Boutique Bakery in Harlem known for its singular custom cakes and catering, the on-off switch flipped in what felt like a blink of an eye.

"At the beginning of March, we had 100% cancellations — mostly large wedding and graduation cakes," Barett said. "Giving refunds was terrifying. We didn't have to, but we recognized the situation our couples and customers were in, and we gladly did that."

Barett and her sister, chef Eileen, looked at their options: "We asked, 'OK, what's next for us?'" Barett said. "How do we stay in business? Not if, but how?"

"A lot of customers immediately called to check on us and ordered cookies and cakes to be delivered," Barett said.

Pre-pandemic, the Baretts' bakery was run from a shared office space and a private commercial kitchen, so the financial overhead of a storefront bakery hasn't been an issue.

The sisters' COVID-19 lifeline was a $10,000 small business relief grant from the Verizon VZ, -0.74%   Small Business Recovery Fund, allowing them to shift to 90-minute virtual cooking classes as a revenue source.

Also see: Pandemic startups: These N.Y. entrepreneurs did the unthinkable during COVID-19

They used some of the money to buy things like stands, clamps, backdrops, and portable cooking equipment and built a recording studio in the dining room of the home where they live together. Other outlays were earmarked for marketing the videos via a Zoom ZM, +4.09%   account and social media platforms such as Facebook FB, -2.67%   and Instagram.

Jo-Ann Barett has also taken photography and editing classes.

"Our virtual classes have been a big hit," she said. "We focus on nutrition and creating healthy gourmet food and Latin dishes like empanadas and rice and beans inspired by memories of  childhood meals cooked up by our parents. Mom is from Puerto Rico and Dad is from The Dominican Republic."

Some of the recorded classes are paid for by attendees (typically $40 per person); others are posted free on YouTube as a marketing outreach. Teen classes go for $10 an hour and cover cooking basics such as preparing a grilled cheese sandwich or making scrambled eggs.

So far, they have recorded more than three dozen classes and are producing a series in partnership with Active Plus, a New York City-based health and wellness nonprofit for youth in at-risk local communities.

One stumbling block: "Flour and sugar were hard to find in the early days [of the pandemic]. I was looking everywhere from Amazon AMZN, -1.88%   to Costco COST, -0.65%   to Target TGT, +0.36%  ,"  Barett said. "Prices were going up, and I was keeping my fingers crossed the items would be available when I needed them."

Right now, "we are probably six months out from paying ourselves modest salaries again, but we are covering our basic costs," Barett said. "Thankfully, I'm an optimist. Despite what's happening in the world we still get to do what we love."

Her advice for midlife entrepreneurs: Keep going. "There are days when I struggle. I say, 'Let me read something, let me learn something.' The biggest fear is doing nothing," Barett said.

The midlife resort owner

In November 2018, Chip Conley, a Next Avenue Influencer in Aging and hospitality entrepreneur, opened the Modern Elder Academy, a boutique resort for midlife learning and reflection in Mexico. Conley calls the academy, which has enrolled 500 students from 17 countries, "the first midlife wisdom school."

The pandemic forced him to close its doors on March 15, 2020. On October 4, Conley will reopen the Modern Elder Academy, but now only with Sabbatical Sessions of two-week minimum stays, rather than the earlier, more expensive, one-week workshop bookings.

The Sabbatical Sessions, which cost $3,500 for two weeks ($2,500 per person for a double room), focus on themes ranging from cultivating awe and wonder to crafting an encore career to improving your relationship with money. Guests receive chef-crafted three meals a day, COVID-19 enhanced protocols, upgraded Wi-Fi and more space than before.

"Airbnb's success during the pandemic has proven that people want longer stays in outdoor, nature-filled environments that feel safe," Conley told me. "So, our sabbatical program is leveraging that consumer need with the icing on the cake being our programming."

Conley sold out the first month and a half within the first two weeks of announcing Sabbatical Sessions.

"The biggest challenge has been letting go of dreams and expectations, " said Conley. "We'd developed an amazing workshop calendar with guest faculty. The beautiful jigsaw puzzle was complete and then the COVID earthquake shook the table and the puzzle fell on the floor."

His advice to midlife entrepreneurs: "Don't take the pandemic personally. It didn't happen to you. It happened to all of us. The question is how will you use it as a call to action to prove your business is more needed than ever."

Conley also urges small-business owners to stay curious. "Be open to the shifting needs of your customers as well as new business models," he said. "Our revenues won't be even half of what they would have been with our workshops; we've had to cut back a lot of costs. Being open to these kinds of changes allowed us to create a new business model that was more suitable to the time."

The nonprofit market owner

Five years ago, Doug Rauch, a former president of Trader Joe's, opened Daily Table, a 3,500-square-foot nonprofit market in the lower-income Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston. The idea: to sell groceries and produce at ultra-low prices as well as healthy cooked and ready-to-serve meals at prices intended to vie with fast-food restaurants.

Rauch wouldn't let the pandemic shut down operations.

"Because we are front line and a mission-oriented grocery, we had to stay open," he said. "Now more than ever, people needed us. They were getting laid off. They didn't have money to buy groceries."

Read: 'I can't believe this is America.' Confronted with unprecedented need, New York food pantries try to fill in the gaps

So, first, Daily Table put up plexiglass shields in its stores and gave employees gloves and masks. The 40 retail, kitchen and driver employees got a $2/hour pay raise for the upcoming weeks, too.

"Our staff was dealing with a very high level of emotion and fear," Rauch said. "We talked to them over and over again about the critical role they were playing in the neighborhood."

The grocer also shifted from preparing healthy meals customers picked up at the store to offering boxed raw materials, so they could prepare their own meals at home. "Instead of us putting the labor into it, they wanted the beans and raw chicken because they could cook themselves," Rauch said.

He was able to secure grants to deliver ingredients for about 50,000 meals free.

"We offer SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients a 2-for-1 discount [up to $10 a day] for all fresh produce, through a partnership with the City of Boston's Double Up Food Bucks program," said Rauch.

He'll soon launch an online delivery service for SNAP-eligible customers, letting them place orders on the Daily Table website and get them delivered by a service like UBEREATS or DoorDash. "We cover the delivery fee," Rauch said.

"It is heartbreaking," he noted. "The need is immense."

His advice to midlife entrepreneurs: "Be honest in your assessment. Don't ignore and gloss over the questions: 'Can we weather this storm? What do we need to do differently? How can we innovate? How can we respond to the changing environment?'"

And, he added, "remember, this too will pass," he said. "Yes, this is a tragedy. It shocked everybody. But you want to be positioned to survive and thrive on the other side of it by focusing on what are goods and services that people need."

The independent filmmaker

For Mike Kravinsky, an independent filmmaker running Nextnik Films, in Arlington, Va., the pandemic shift meant making movies differently.

As soon as his short film "Bird's Eye" finished shooting in January 2020, Kravinsky switched to lockdown mode.

"I edited it, and then the outside work like audio mixing and color correction were done remotely at postproduction facilities where no one else was in their rooms," he said. "It was actually pretty seamless."

Kravinsky's biggest challenge during COVID-19 hasn't been financial as much as human. Making films and TV is a group effort.

"Although many can work at home, and we make it work, there's something about working directly with people, getting their immediate thoughts and ideas because they're standing right in front of you," Kravinsky said. "I miss that."

Also see: How to retrain for your next career in three months — free

His ability to shift seamlessly has a lot to do with the technology — not just web conference apps, but organizing video files, editing and music creation.

Still, Kravinsky notes, some people need to be on set during filming, like camera and field audio people. "So far, I haven't heard of any bad outcomes, but I worry about them," he said.

As for offering advice to others, Kravinsky demurs. "I just hope everyone can get through this. Many are hanging on by a thread," he said.

Kerry Hannon is the author of "Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home." She has covered personal finance, retirement and careers for the New York Times, Forbes, Money, U.S. News & World Report and USA Today, among others. She is the author of more than a dozen books. Her website is Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

This article is reprinted by permission from, © 2020 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved. It is part of America's Entrepreneurs, a Next Avenue initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange.)


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