Expert Blogging Tips and More

Blogging can be a key factor in driving traffic and business to your website, but where do you start? Choosing a blogging platform, brainstorming, and creating an editorial calendar can be overwhelming. In addition, mental challenges like working through fears and developing writing habits can make it even harder. Arm yourself with a comprehensive mindset to overcome these obstacles and become a successful blogger with these blogging tips.

Don’t forget to catch up on this week’s online marketing articles worth reading!

Small Business Online Marketing Roundup #1

Featured Post:

Do you have a hard time focusing your efforts when it comes to online marketing? If so, you’re not alone. You can overcome this problem in three simple steps. Read more.

Don’t forget to catch up on this week’s online marketing articles worth reading!

Update from Cultivating Capital

Thanks for stopping by the Cultivating Capital Blog! You might have noticed that it’s a bit quiet over here. It’s not that I’ve stopped blogging. In fact, I’ve been blogging over at the Cultivating Capital marketing blog: CC Marketing Online. Some of the topics that I blog about over there include SEO, business blogging, making the most of your business website, and other things related to marketing your business online.

The Cultivating Capital site will be redesigned soon to make it easier to share with you information to help you green your business and market it online. In the meantime, please visit CC Marketing Online and stay in touch!

Best,

Carolina

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #10

Benefit Corporations (a legal designation) and Certified B Corporations (a third-party certification) are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

B Corporation

  • Momentum continues to spread: Pennsylvania has become the 12th state to sign B Corporation legislation into law!
  • Ready to become a Massachusetts B Corporation on December 1st? The Massachusetts Secretary of State has released guidance on benefit corporations to help you.
  • Best read this week: a great summary of the B Corp movement from the New York Times, which labeled B Corps as the yardstick for socially conscious companies.
  • Ben & Jerry’s is now a B Corp! The Guardian provides a great summary of why this news is so big: Ben & Jerry’s is not only a huge, well known company, they are also the first subsidiary of a publicly traded company (Unilever) to become a B Corporation. For more details on the Ben & Jerry’s B Corp story, see what the Huffington Post, Fast Co, and Triple Pundit have to say about it. To read an interview with the Director of Social Mission at Ben & Jerry’s, check out CSRWire. Craving more? Ben & Jerry’s has made their B Impact Assessment public, which you can download here.
  • For Etsy, simply passing their B Corp certification wasn’t enough. Soon after their certification was announced, Etsy employees dedicated a day of work to improving the company’s B score. In this Harvard Business Review article, B Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert writes, “[this] may result in better policies and a higher B Impact Score, but there’s more to it than that. It’s already spurred employee initiative, innovation and intrapreneurship – all in the name of making Etsy better.”
  • What are the biggest benefits to becoming a B Corp? Sustainable Industries notes 5 huge benefits noting that, “while other third-party certifications like LEED, Fair-Trade, and Energy Star are beneficial for any business, B Corp certification is particularly noteworthy and well-respected because it evaluates your entire business model.”
  • But does it pay to be a socially conscious company? You bet it does! Forbes outlines 7 ways it pays to become a triple bottom line business and highlights B Corps as a means to this end.
  • Ever enjoyed an article or infographic from GOOD? Now they’re a B Corp too!  You can read more on the GOOD website or check out Triple Pundit’s article on how GOOD bolsters the B Corp network.
  • Congratulations to Easy Office (nonprofit accounting), Alterrus Systems (vertical farming systems for urban gardens), Lotus Foods (fair trade and sustainable rice), and Sleep with a Purpose (socially conscious bedding) for joining the B Corp Movement!

Finally, watch Ben and Jerry’s Director of Social Mission explain the company’s excitement in joining the B Corp community.

What’s your favorite piece of B Corp news from this list?

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #9

Benefit Corporations (a legal designation) and Certified B Corporations (a third-party certification) are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

Finally, watch B Lab co-founder Andrew Kassoy get recognized at Clinton Global Initiative!

What are your thoughts on the latest B Corp news?

Alameda County Recycling Rules Go Into Effect

Photo by Brittany Murlas

As of July 1st, 2012 California state law (AB341) makes mandatory commercial recycling a legal requirement throughout the state.

In preparation for the new state law, Alameda County’s Waste Management Authority created an ordinance specifying which materials must be recycled, the recycling services required by East Bay cities, and how the law will be enforced in Alameda County. Beginning January 1st, 2013 if business or property owners who are not in compliance with this new law, they may be subject to warnings and possible fines.

Until now business and residential properties were not required to recycle. The new county and state laws target the two groups that recycle the least. Alameda County’s ordinance was designed to help the county reach its long-term goal to ensure recyclables and compostables make up less than 10 percent of landfill by 2020.

Recycling Costs and Requirements

As a business owner, you might have a common question: Will this cost more money? Recycling could cost more money, but the good news is that it is more likely businesses and landlords will be breaking even or possibly even saving money. Most recycling services cost half as much as garbage rates. According to OaklandLocal.com, if high waste generating businesses are appropriately distributing their recycling and garbage, the total cost for both recycling and garbage may be less than one would pay for just garbage collection.

All businesses, commercial property owners, property managers and institutions such as hospitals and nonprofit organizations that generate four or more cubic yards of garbage per week are required to:

  1. Arrange for recycling collection,
  2. Provide containers for recyclables
  3. Mark recycling containers with information on how to separate, and
  4. Provide employees/tenants with information on recycling.

It is possible for businesses to receive a waiver of exemption for reasons such as financial hardship, limited space, and lack of service. Some East Bay cities have opted out of the county-wide ordinance for a period of time or indefinitely, in which case Alameda County Waste Management is working provide the city’s recycling options. For information on recycling collection services available in your city, see the county’s City by City information page.

Resources to Help You

Do you need help setting up or improving your business’s recycling program? Help is available! You can:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #8

Benefit Corporations (a legal designation) and Certified B Corporations (a third-party certification) are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

B Corporation

Finally, even former President Bill Clinton takes notice of B Corps:

What are your thoughts on the latest B Corp news?

East Bay Small Business Symposium

East Bay Small Business Initiative

The East Bay Small Business Initiative is an effort to provide resources for local entrepreneurs and small business owners via online resources and four symposiums held throughout the East Bay. The second Small Business Symposium was held last week on July 31 at the Hotel Shattuck in Berkeley.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson delivered the opening remarks and Elizabeth Echols, Regional Administrator, Region IX, US Small Business Administration, introduced the Featured Speaker, Jim Horan. She took the time to point out the three C’s that all small businesses need: capital, counseling, contracts.

Tips on Growing a Business During a Recession

Jim Horan, President and CEO of the One-Page Business Plan Company, was the Featured Speaker. His topic was “Stress-free Sales and Marketing: How to Build a Profitable Business in a Recession.”  He noted that he built his business without ever cold-calling and shared the following five tips based on his experience growing a global businesss:

  1. You must be supported. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs. Learn from other entrepreneurs. If you’re not in a group where entrepreneurs can support each other, find one!
  2. You have to be seen. He shared a story about a friend who had moved to Houston and who was stuck trying to build his new consulting business. His advice was, “Houston doesn’t know you. You need to get to know Houston, and Houston will get to know you.” If you don’t have enough business, you’re not out there and you’re not being seen. You need to be out and about and see how you can be of service.
  3. Ask really good questions. Most entrepreneurs instantly want to do a monologue about how great their product/service is without knowing if people care. Get good at asking good questions. You sell by the questions that you ask that show the value of what you’re offering. If you’re talking more than 25% of the time, you’re talking too much.
  4. Far too many entrepreneurs are stingy. Be smart with the use of free. His example was to give away two books  and asked the person that he gave them to to give away the second book. It’s easy and fun to give things away.
  5. Make people smile. Help somebody solve their problem, and success will follow you. Sales and marketing is about making new friends.

Advice for Young Businesses

There were four tracks available, depending upon the age and needs of the business: Start-ups (0-1 years), young businesses (1-3 years), growth businesses, and mature businesses.

The breakout group that I attended was for young businesses. These were some of the main takeaways from the panel, which was moderated by Rick Ohlrich of the Alameda County Small Business Development Center:

  • Hank Levy, Hank C. Levy & Company: Compliance issues that new businesses have to deal with include registering with the city, county, and getting a fictitious business name. Remember that you get what you pay for when it comes to services.
  • Erwin Reeves, Mechanics Bank: You must know how the cash flows through your business.
  • Philip Milestone, Mod4llp: Find an attorney that you like and trust. Because they are expensive, an attorney should give you at least a half hour of their time. Remember that if you operate as a sole proprietor, your home, car, etc. may all be at risk if something goes wrong.
  • Jack Opet, East Bay SCORE: The basics of a business regardless of size are pretty fundamental.
  • Anca Mosoiu, Tech Liminal: As small business owners, you have to use technology tools that help you to be more efficient.
  • Lowell Rice, Oakland Private Industry Council: The Private Industry Council works with businesses to help them find the most qualified people available locally and to identify incentives that are available. There are incentives for hiring formerly incarcerated individuals, youths, and vets.
  • Noah Sochet, DonationPay: As entrepreneurs, you should connect to the resources that are available through events like this.

Two more Small Business Symposiums are scheduled for this year: September 18 in Danville and November 8 in Fremont. They’re a great resource. I highly encourage you to attend!

10 Resources to Help Your Business Go Green in Alameda County

I recently wrote about the sustainability progression for East Bay businesses and how we have so many resources available here to help businesses to go green. Below, I’ve listed just 10 resources to get you started.

green business

© Marincas_andrei | Dreamstime.com

  1. Stopwaste: Stopwaste is focused on reducing the waste stream in Alameda County. How do they do this? By offering technical assistance, funding assistance, and a wealth of resources to help businesses reduce what they send to the landfill.
  2. Recology: An employee-owned business that provides recycling, composting, and disposal services for businesses, Recology is a great resource. They’ll even do a free waste consultation for you to help you determine how you can save money by implementing recycling and composting services while reducing your waste pick-up.
  3. Smart Lights: Would your business benefit from a free energy audit that would help you identify how you can be more energy efficient, saving both money and natural resources, while also identifying available rebate opportunities for the retrofit? If so, Smart Lights can do just that and help you if you’re in Oakland, Berkeley, Albany or parts of Contra Costa County.
  4. B.E.S.T. Program: Is your business in an area not covered by Smart Lights but still interested in a free energy audit and assistance with rebates? The Business Energy Solutions Team offers a similar service to businesses in other parts of the East Bay, including San Leandro, Hayward, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek.
  5. Smart Solar: Have you ever wondered if installing solar panels would be possible for your business? Smart Solar can help you answer that question. They offer free solar assessments and project assistance to businesses that are PG&E customers throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
  6. Food Service Technology Center: If you’re in the restaurant industry, the Food Service Technology Center is an amazing resource for you. They specialize in promoting energy efficiency in food service and can help you with site surveys (free to PG&E customers), finding rebates for kitchen equipment (did you know you could get a $500 rebate for an energy efficient fryer?), and more.
  7. Bay-Friendly Landscaping: Stopwaste is one of the sponsors of the Bay-Friendly Landscaping and Gardening Coalition, which promotes sustainable landscaping that conserves water and reduce pollution. If your business has landscaping, consider using a Bay-Friendly Qualified Professional (and be sure to use drought-tolerant, California native plants!).
  8. Sustainable Business Alliance: The SBA is a business association committed to building a vibrant community of locally-owned, sustainably-minded businesses in the East Bay. SBA offers networking and business development for members, educates the public about the benefits of local economies and spending money locally, and supports public policy changes that promote sustainable economic development.
  9. Green Chamber of Commerce: The Green Chamber is a growing and diverse business network dedicated to promoting the success of its members, supporting the development of sustainable business practices, and advocating for  green public policy.
  10. Green Business Program: Last but most certainly not least is the Alameda County Green Business Program, which can provide your business with resources and support to receive Green Business Certification. The Green Business Program sets standards in areas such as energy efficiency and water conservation and partners with cities and utilities to help businesses to reduce their environmental impacts.

I know there are more resources out there! What would you add to this list?

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #7

Benefit Corporations (a legal designation) and Certified B Corporations (a third-party certification) are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

  • B Corporation Benefit Corp legislation is still pending in Michigan, noted in this article that explains how Benefit Corps are different from regular corporations. Care2 also has an online petition supporting legislation in Michigan. In South Carolina, one of the legislators who introduced legislation in that state explains how his plan mixes doing well with doing good.
  • It seems like every day there’s a new blog post trying to explain what benefit corporations are – even Bill Moyers is getting in on the action with this post.
  • B Corps are driving a new ecology of commerce, as detailed in this great post that explains how to become a B Corp, why companies choose to do it, and how they’re changing the corporate playing field.
  • “Advancing the benefit corporation” tops the list of 10 ways finance can be a force for good, in an interesting post by a Yale Professor of Economics and Finance.
  • California is currently home to 142 of the 505 Certified B Corps nationwide, and 61% of those are in the Bay Area, as noted in this piece on Oakland North that shines the spotlight on Oakland-based Give Something Back and Berkeley-based Sun Light and Power.
  • A misconception continues to persist, in some circles, that doing good comes at a price for a business. Certified B Corp Harvest Power, however, shows that’s not true as they raise $110 million to turn waste to energy.
  • Certified B Corp United By Blue brings sustainable apparel to the mainstream in a big way – its first production run of t-shirts made in the US has been picked up by Nordstroms.
  • Have you met Aunt Bertha? You should. This Certified B Corporation is doing something quite interesting – picking up where Uncle Sam leaves off.
  • Can a new kind of corporation save us and our economy? That’s the question asked in this article on Alternet, which showcases Certified B Corp Equator Coffee as a “B Corp in Action.”
  • Congrats to Dogeared Jewels & Gifts, which recently announced their official certification as a B Corp!

Finally, in a piece prompted by their original B Corp profile (included in The Latest Buzz #6), PBS takes a closer at LEED Certification:

What are your thoughts on the latest B Corp news?