The links listed on this page are PDFs of the articles (a sampling of features and departments) as they appeared in MyBusiness magazine, a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) publication, in addition to articles that appeared on NFIB.com. Please click on the links to view the full articles.
New York City’s “soda ban” hasn’t gone flat. But its shelf life may be nearing an end.
In March 2013, a state Supreme Court judge ruled New York’s legislation limiting the size of certain sugary drinks—also known as the “soda ban”—was unlawful. Just four months later, the State Supreme Court’s appellate division affirmed the decision.
The small victories are cause for cautious optimism. As the case continues to make its way to the Court of Appeals in Albany, NFIB has joined other industry groups in filing another amicus brief asking New York’s highest court to uphold the ruling.
In its brief, NFIB asserts that consumers should be able to exercise their personal freedom to choose the products they consume. In turn, small business owners should be able to make an honest living by providing consumers with the products and services they want. The soda ban, which the New York City Board of Health asserts constitutes anti-obesity legislation, effectively negates these freedoms with little chance of achieving The Board’s purported objective.
“The ban is an irrational response to the problem of obesity. Banning 16-ounce sodas will not solve the problem of obesity,” says Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center. “The legislation succeeds only in taking decisions out of the hands of consumers and causing undue hardship on small business.”
Indeed, if upheld, the arbitrary nature of the soda ban would raise troubling issues for small business owners, ultimately putting them at a severe competitive disadvantage. For example, the ban inexplicably covers only some food service enterprises—such as street carts, restaurants and movie theaters—while excluding others such as supermarkets, certain bodegas, pharmacies and gas stations. This means that while a food cart is barred from selling a 20-ounce soft drink, a convenience store on the same block is not.
“Government should not be allowed put these kinds of restrictions on a legal product. This level of intrusion is an affront to small business owners,” Harned says.
In addition, the effects of the soda ban could be ubiquitous. “Other states are watching New York. If this ban is successful there, similar bans will come up in other areas,” Harned says. Other cities considering this type of ban include Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Court of Appeals in Albany, New York, heard oral arguments on the soda ban in the city’s appeal on June 4.
This kind of portion restriction legislation could be on the rise. Florida, home to a burgeoning microbrewing industry, is looking to restrict the sale of growlers, an industry standard for craft brewers nationwide.
It all started when craft brewers tried to close a loophole that prohibited them from selling 64-ounce growlers directly to customers as they were able to do with 32-ounce and gallon-size containers.
Jen Gratz, owner of Fort Myers Brewing Company in Fort Myers, Florida, says that 47 states sell and fill 64-ounce growlers, so customers often come to her store with empty bottles and assume the brewery can fill them. “We’ve had some customers from out of state actually get angry at us for not filling the 64-ounce bottle. They simply don’t believe that this nonsensical regulation exists.”
Efforts to close this loophole backfired. Lawmakers backed by the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association attempted to pass legislation in the state senate that would require craft brewers producing more than 2,000 kegs per year to sell their canned and bottled products through the state’s established system of beer distributors. Since a large number of microbrewers meet the 2,000-keg standard, nearly the entire industry would be put at a disadvantage.
The final version of the legislation that passed in the state senate would legalize 64-ounce growlers and allow craft brewers to sell bottles and cans on their premises, limiting sales to no more than 20 percent of a brewery’s production. Breweries with fewer than 2,000 kegs would face no restrictions. While this is more favorable than the previous iteration, it still hinders the success of small breweries in the state.
“Proposals like this give small and independent craft breweries no incentive to grow their businesses,” NFIB/Florida Legislative Director Tim Nungesser says. “NFIB defeated the most damaging portions of these anti-small business and anti-competition efforts during legislative session this year, but there’s little doubt that the fight will continue in 2015.”
Most people think about quitting their jobs twice a week, and 57 percent of them have an idea for a new business or product, according to an April 2014 survey conducted by Wakefield Research and sponsored by Weebly. So what stops people from pursuing their entrepreneurial passions?
The survey says people don’t take the plunge for five reasons:
Here’s how you can make sure these common hurdles don’t stop you from taking the critical first steps toward achieving your dream.
“I always tell my clients, ‘You are much closer to infinite money than infinite time,’” says Brad Farris, small business advisor at Chicago, Illinois-based Anchor Advisors and publisher at EnMast.com. “If you have a great idea and market and sell it, money will follow.”
Block off time that’s dedicated to your idea, even if it means waking up at 5 a.m. to work on your business idea for two hours each day. “Some of my clients will say, ‘I have 15 vacation days, so I will take off one day per week for the next 15 weeks to work on my business,’” Farris says.
If you are selling a service, you begin making money as soon as you start providing that service to a customer. For product-oriented startups, it takes longer to make money. If you are selling a product, online crowdsourcing platforms such as Kickstarter are a great way to go, Farris says. Small business owners have better odds receiving funds through these platforms than from bank loans.
In December 2010, Emmy’s Organics conducted a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo that helped raise $15,000.
“We used part of that crowdfunding money to redesign our label and make custom-printed bags. Our sales increased by 150 percent with the new packaging,” says Samantha Abrams, co-founder of Emmy’s Organics, maker of vegan and gluten-free snacks and cereal in Ithaca, New York.
“It’s important to settle issues of self-doubt and fear of failure before you start,” Farris says. One way to do this is to test your product on a small scale.
He suggests launching a website that describes your product or service. Ask website visitors for an email address to solicit feedback from potential users.
“You can hear directly from your potential customers,” Farris says. “Once you test your product and get their feedback, you can refine your idea based on their responses.”
When it comes to determining the best way to run her business, Abrams has never shied away from asking questions. “Walking into our first tradeshows, we met and talked with as many industry people as we could. We networked and developed relationships over time—people who we could call when we were in a bind,” she says.
Farris agrees with Abrams’s approach. “Find someone who has a similar business to yours; ask that person to point you in the right direction,” Farris says. “People are generous.”
Back from the Brink
By the time Brandon Eley realized the business he started with a former co-worker was in trouble, the company was nearly bankrupt. “As my partner began to struggle with his personal finances, he began to take more and more money out of the business—money we didn’t have,” says Eley, an NFIB member and co-owner of 2bigfeet.com, a LaGrange, Ga., company that sells large shoes for men. “We were left with very little money in the bank, a lot of debt and no revenue.”
Though it became clear his partner wanted out, Eley saw the business’ potential and wasn’t willing to walk away. He and his wife, Tracy, took over 2bigfeet.com in 2007. It was the first step on a long journey toward bringing the business back to life.
While there are thousands of options for leaving a business, there are truly only two ways to exit: the right way and the wrong way. Establishing a plan early on will help you make the best decisions.
Many small business owners work their entire lives building their businesses. Still, many don’t have a good plan when it comes time to make their exit.
Business owners are busy running day-to-day operations and, for many, their identity is so closely tied to their business that it’s too difficult to imagine leaving. For those reasons, many haven’t prepared for—or even contemplated—their exit. But not planning for the inevitable, experts say, comes with a wealth of risks, especially in a soft economy.
“Many small business owners are very uncertain about their futures for a lot of reasons,” says John Brown, CEO and co-owner of Business Enterprise Institute Inc., a Golden, Colo., organization that trains business advisers in small business exit planning. “People should plan when things are uncertain.”
Taking Stock of Your Investments
Saving your money at the bank just isn’t the boon it once was. Investing, however, can help you grow your business, preserve your wealth and secure your retirement. Here’s how to get started.
John Stubbs always wanted to be his own boss. So, after a stint in the insurance business and as the general manager of a car dealership, he used his home’s equity and stock he received as a college graduation present and bought the Chevrolet dealership where he worked. He paid the business off and sold it for a profit after just three years, enabling him to buy a Nissan dealership, which sold 19,000 cars during the 26 years he owned it.
Like any business owner, Stubbs attributes his success to a combination of working long, hard hours and a bit of luck. But he also credits the financial strategy he employed from the time his dealerships turned a profit: He made investments outside his business, establishing a growing “slush fund” that gave him peace of mind during hard times.
A glut of universities is suddenly catering to small business owners. Could more education help your business?
Patrick Burch was looking for answers. He knew he wanted to eventually add new partners to his small business and secure new property. He needed to think bigger, but he wasn’t sure how or where to begin.
Experience as both a vice president of operations and a financial controller of large corporations served him well through the start-up phase of Neurotherapy Northwest LLC, a Spokane, Wash., company that specializes in holistic treatment for children and adults suffering from neurological disorders such as ADD and autism. But when the time came to put together a strategic plan for his company’s future, Burch decided to do something he had contemplated for years: go back to school for an MBA.
June/July Owner’s Manual