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The Do’s And Don’ts of Crowdfunding for Small Businesses

Finding the funds to get your small business dream up and running is one of the biggest challenges that most entrepreneurs will face. It’s the first major hurdle, and it’s a doozy.

The concept of crowdfunding is a relatively new one. With such easy, shareable ways to spread the word when you need some financial help via social media, it’s often one of the most cost-effective methods of obtaining the money that you need to get your business started. And it’s all done online.

Things like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, Crowdrise, Crowdfunder, RocketHub, Crowdcube, appbackr, AngelList, Invested.In, StartSomeGood, FundRazr, MoolaHoop, Peerbackers, Razoo, Fundly, or Quirky. Whatever crowdfunding website you choose to go through, it’s a simple way to ask others for money to finance your small business or idea.

But just like any rising new form of technology, there’s an etiquette to crowdfunding that you’ll need to learn if you want to be successful at it. There are faux pas that, if committed, could irreparably ruin your chances of receiving any donations. And there are ways to work the “crowd” in crowdfunding to your advantage, and rake in the cash you need to get your small business off the paper and into reality.

Here are a few of the major Do’s and Don’ts of utilizing crowdfunding for your small business:

DO: Keep Your Campaign Short

A 30-45 day campaign length is approximately the ideal time length for optimal results, according to crowdfunding experts. Much longer, and you’ll wear out your more loyal crowdfunding followers, like your friends and family. New donors will also lose interest if the campaign drags on too long.

DON’T: Assume That If You Post It Money Will Come

That’s not how this works. Just shouting your business idea into the void isn’t going to make it happen. Things don’t go viral on the internet by simply being uploaded to YouTube. You have to work it.

Share the link to your crowdfunding page every day, everywhere you can. Email it to your “fan base,” investors, family and friends, colleagues, peers in shared-interest groups online… post it everywhere, and share it once a day. (Another reason why your campaign shouldn’t last much longer than a month… it’ll drive people crazy.)

DO: Plan in Advance

This isn’t something you can do as you go. The key to successful crowdfunding is a lot of time, effort, and planning. Just like your small business, right?

If you campaign is 35 days long, you should start planning 35 days before you post the campaign and make it live online. Schedule out short snippets of information that will be sent out to inform people about your business plan (and tell them why they should invest) every day of the campaign. Plan this all in advance so that you can simply manage the crowdfunding page and post to-the-day updates after it goes live.

DON’T: Believe that Your Business Idea is All That’s Needed

If you think that your business plan is brilliant enough to generate donations by itself, think again. It’s not enough to have a great idea. You’ll need to get a few extremely important points across to your potential donors:

 

  • Tell them about your dream in detail.
  • Tell them your achievable goals.
  • Show them how you intend to reach those goals, step by step.
  • Explain how your business will affect others; including themselves.
  • Plainly state why you need their help instead of other means of funding.
  • But most importantly…. TELL A STORY ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS TO ENGAGE THEIR EMOTIONS.

 

DO: Offer Rewards

The warm fuzzy feeling that they’ll get by giving you money isn’t enough. What’s in it for them?

Offer incentives to donors in levels that correlate to the amount of money they give. Make sure that the incentives or rewards are personal, heartfelt, and something that the person will actually enjoy. A keychain with your new business’ logo on it is fine for your co-worker who donated $10. But for a backer who gave $2,000 you should involve them somehow.

For high-dollar donors, include their name somewhere… in a personalized video, in a custom wood carving from your workshop they just financed, or in a song from your new music school they just donated to. Or involve donors in the process somehow. Donors get to choose the color of the aprons at the bakery they just bankrolled, or they can vote on which of these logos they like best to represent your new business.

DON’T: Keep People in the Dark

Send them some updates! If they already gave money, they want to know that they made a difference. These people have proved that they want you to succeed. So show them your progress as it happens!

They’ll feel included, and like their money is being put to good use. Frequent updates also get new donors excited to see the process of the dream being realized in action, so share the photo of your new building space, and send out public thank you’s as goals get met.

DO: Have a REAL Plan

If you post a crowdfunder page with only half of a vague idea, no one will donate. Would you invest in a small business plan that doesn’t seem to have a real plan? No.

If your small business idea isn’t going to work, people won’t want to be a part of it. If it’s clearly attainable with some money and time, then you’re golden.

Communicate your concrete plan. Show them what you’ve done to achieve your goal thus far, and explain exactly where their money will go and how it’ll further your business.

If you don’t have some of the first steps toward starting your business already completed, don’t post a crowdfunder page at all. Come back when you’ve made some progress, and have a clear plan of action.

DON’T: Overlook Stretch Goals

If you quickly and easily meet your first, baseline goal, it’s ok to keep going (to a point). Plan out your stretch goals in advance. If you meet your first goal and want to proceed to your next stretch goal, you should have extra content ready to post about it, and extra incentives ready to go.

Be sure to thoroughly explain what the stretch goal will be used for. People will want to know that you’re not just getting greedy; you have a specific plan in mind for that money. Tell them about it!

DO: Keep it Personal

Remember, you’re telling a story to your audience, first and foremost. Tell them about yourself and how you came to this business plan. Answer their important questions. Tell them…

 

  • “Here’s who I am, and here’s what I can do.”
  • “Here’s what I want to do.”
  • “Here’s what I plan to do next to achieve that.”
  • “Here’s how you can help.”
  • “Here’s why you should help.”
  • “Here’s what’s in it for you, the community, and the world.”
  • “Here’s who I am and this is what I want to do; you can help.”

Happy crowdfunding, entrepreneurs!

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Offshore Tax Avoidance Isn’t as Big a Deal as You May Think

There are some things we just love to hate. Like Nazis. Or Fiat cars. To that category, we can add greedy corporate executives.

Don’t you detest how they sit in their lavish offices all day counting money while the rest of us work our keisters off just to fatten their pockets. Those despicable one percenters will do anything to get out of paying their fair due to the country, including moving money to off shore account in tax haven countries. Surely it doesn’t get any lower than that, right?

Well, the truth of the matter isn’t as black and white as it sounds.

It’s true that big American companies have a lot of money deposited in foreign accounts. A combined study by members of Citizens for Tax Justice and the US PIRG Education Fund found that US firms hold about $2.1 trillion overseas, which would provide Uncle Sam with $620 in taxable income. That’s a lot of paid vacation days for our elected officials.

Among the perpetrators is Apple, which at $181.1 billion, holds more money overseas than any other US company. Everyone in the world loves the iPhone. Also on the list are GE, which has $119 outside the country, and Pfizer, whose tax-haven funds amount to $74 billion.

These corporations deposit the money in nations like Ireland, Bermuda, the Netherlands, and other tax havens. These companies are moving money around shadily to escape paying taxes and should be made to swiftly pay back every cent they’ve stolen from the American people, right?

That’s the kind of sentiment echoed by UC Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman, who’s gone out of his way to write an entire book dedicated to exposing the evil of offshore tax evasion. But on closer reflection, it’s a sentiment that’s based on a mistaken understanding of how businesses manage their foreign operations.

Do these companies want to avoid paying taxes if they can do so legally? Of course. Don’t we all? Don’t we take every tax deduction possible, writing off our gas expenses and even a cup of coffee if we can somehow tie it  in to our small business? Trying to save your hard-earned money is human nature, and if the law provides a way to do it, you’re going to take advantage of the situation.

These major US firms are being smart, maybe even sneaky, but not necessarily illegal or even malicious. The IRS is all about cracking down on people who owe the federal government. Considering they’ll bring down their authority on Joe Schmoe for a few thousand bucks, why aren’t they taking definitive action against huge corporations when their offshore earnings are no secret? Such a course would make for the IRS’s single biggest payday.

The answer: The IRS doesn’t have a solid case against these firms, because what they’re doing isn’t a true evasion of US tax law. While there are more than likely some cases of true tax evasion out there, most of the funds in tax havens are revenue made abroad. Apple may be a US-based company, but its holdings in Ireland come from manufacturing products in China and selling them in the UK. The US was never involved, so it has no claim to the money.

If the federal government were to start taxing corporations higher to get more of that cash, they would only end up hurting the good, ordinary people who work at and invest in these highly influential businesses. If making the rich pay their due is a priority, taxing individuals is the better way to go. Meanwhile, let’s not create cases of corporate excess where they don’t exist—there are enough real ones to worry about already.

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Less than Half of High School Graduates in the State Ineligible for Arizona’s Major Colleges

Many might find it hard to believe that less than half of high school graduates throughout the state of Arizona have been found ineligible for admission to three public universities in the state. A new study took information from 2014 high school seniors in the state, as well as statistics from public colleges in the state. The three public universities available to students, who wish to stay in state, are University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University. Eligibility for these universities remained relatively low, which is a cause for concern since half of high school graduates did not meet the standards set forth by these colleges. This is especially important because these universities are actually at an all-time high and making record for the number of students enrolled. These students are just not coming from Arizona.

Eligibility Requirements

Information from the Board of Regents for Arizona’s Public Universities, states that there are several standard eligibility requirements for admissions. First, high school graduates must have at least a 2.5 GPA and complete 16 required core courses, with no more than two deficiencies, which cannot be in both math and science. This includes four units of English and math, three units of science, two units of social science and foreign language, and one unit of fine arts or technical/career education. These are requirements throughout all three public universities, and are on the same scale as most other public state universities. The study found that only 46.5% of high school graduates actually met these eligibility requires. This is a scary number, and many parents, school officials, and staff are wondering what might be the contributing factor to such a low percentage.

High school consistency across the state

Many believe that not all high schools throughout the state are providing students with the proper classes to meet eligibility requirements, and if they are, students are not taking those courses. This is where school counselors come into play, and should be aware of university eligibility requirements. Some even say that there should be a statewide standard for high school graduation requirements that also meet the university eligibility requirements. The study found that most students had a problem with the math requirement, and 41% of students actually failed to meet the math requirement. This shows that math curriculum needs to be reevaluated, in order to figure out a new way to teach students the material.

The study also showed that compared to White and Asian students in the state, fewer African American, Native American, and Latino students met the admission requirements. Female students had significantly higher eligibility rates, compared to male students. An achievement gap exists between a student’s race and sex, when it shouldn’t. All students should have equal opportunity to meet eligibility requirements.

Arizona graduates in the workforce

This study is worrisome because it means that there might not be enough college graduates going out into the workforce and filling positions. If students at Arizona public colleges are coming from other states, it is good for enrollment, but not for the state’s workforce. Most of these out of state students will head back to their hometowns upon graduation. High school graduates who do not attend college will also have a hard time finding a job that pays well. Most jobs in the state require some kind of post- secondary education. This includes a four year Bachelor’s degree, 2 year Associate’s Degree, and certificate program completion.

How to make a change

In order for the percentage of high school graduates meeting college eligibility requirements to go up, changes must be made. Certain counties throughout the state are more or less likely to meet eligibility requirements, which is due to an abundance of resources and access to courses, or not enough. Results from the study showed that out of 488 high schools in the state, 51 of these schools did not send a single graduate on to a public university. This is where you see a need for change. Access in rural areas of the state are key to providing equal opportunity to all high school students. With the growth of eLearning platforms, a good option for schools who do not offer all classes that a student needs to meet eligibility requirements, is online courses. If a student wants to learn and needs to take a course in order to be accepted into college, then allow them the opportunity for school credit by taking an online course.

It is a shame that more than half of high school graduates are not able to attend college because they do not meet eligibility requirements. An overall change needs to take place, statewide, in order for these numbers to change. Last year it was less than half, next year it might be 25%. As a nation, we do not want to see these numbers drop, but would rather see a rise in the number of students able to attend college. Only time will tell if the proper changes are actually made to allow all students an equal opportunity.

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Starbucks Now Offers Nationwide Mobile Ordering Service

Starbucks has been on the forefront of all things mobile for quite some time. Long before Apple Pay was a thing, they allowed customers to load their Starbucks card information onto the mobile app, which was easily scanned at the counter when it came time for payment. It’s not a surprise then that Starbucks is having major success with its mobile ordering service now available nationwide at any Starbucks store near you.

How it Works

Pull up the Starbucks app on your smartphone – iOS or Android, it doesn’t matter. Select the order option and pick the store you’d like to pick up your product from. Pick out the drink you’d like, customize it to your taste and add a snack or two to complete your order. Pay the total and receive a time estimate as to when your drink will be ready from your selected store. Could it get more straightforwward? It doesn’t seem so.

Starbucks Thought of Everything

There are many facets of the system showing that the company truly thought out the app and how it would work in real time for their customers. For instance, let’s say you want to order a snack but the pastry just ran out of stock. The barista can immediately update the store’s inventory which will then show up on the app. There is no need to worry that you are paying in advance or an item they don’t have. Let’s say you have a complicated drink order – you’re a Starbucks snob. That’s okay and you don’t have to type in all the details every single day all over again. The app saves your recent orders so you can just click to repeat the drink. There is less of a chance your order will get mixed up and you’ll be disappointed – the specifications will be clearly shown right on the printout for the barista.

This app is the end to your frustrations due to the Starbucks line making you late for work. Starbucks knows it has good products. It knows it has loyal customers. It also knows many customers wait an unusual amount of time to get their desired product, so it is making easy, reasonable changes to an ordering system to provide more convenience and less of a hassle. That is the sign of a company that understands the customer experience and wants to make their clients happy.

The Future of Fast Food?

With the high level of success Starbucks has enjoyed so far with the service – they just expanded the program to their London stores as well – it is reasonable to think that it’s only a matter of time until other coffee shops and fast food joints join in on the mobile ordering fun. With less manpower focused on taking orders and sharing that information with other staff, employees can work more on raising the quality of the product. There is no mix-up during the ordering process, since the customer is hand selecting what options they want, rather than depending on an employee’s hearing to deliver to their satisfaction. Mobile ordering may become the norm in the next few years for more companies than Starbucks alone.

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Bugging Out at Arizona Insect Festival

Insects. Arizona is full of them, and though we often consider them pests, they actually constitute an important part of our ecosystem.

That’s what the staff at the University of Arizona’s annual Insect Festival want people to see. All day on Sunday September 20, the Univesity’s Student Union Grand Ballroom will be filled with interactive booths displaying the state’s most extraordinary critters. The event is in its fifth year and will feature 25 booths.

The faculty and student body putting together the event come from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including ecoloy, entomology, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology. The researchers present are the among the leaders in their respective fields. They’re joined together by a love for insects and a desire to showcase to Arizona citizens the state’s rich ecological heritage.

Some of the local insects on display include the Apache cicada, the noisy bug selected as this year’s mascot; butterflies; rhinoceros beetles; praying mantises; and vinegaroons. There are also notable related arthopods like scorpions and spiders.

The Insect Festival is designed to be a fun and hands-on learning experience for the entire family—including the kids. The organizing staff has gone beyond putting up mere displays. In the petting zoo, visitors get to touch and feel the six-legged creatures.

Children can also express themselves creatively at the crafts booths. These include the Build-a-Bug workshop. As the name suggests, kids are given materials and allows to create an insect according to their own imagination. These are sure to become a favorite stuffed animal at home!

At the food both, you actually get to taste insects used as food. Delectable treats include mealworm tacos, cricket cookies and chips, and cricket protein bars.

There’s also some real fast-paced excitement to be had at the cockroach races. Place your bets and see which of these crawly athletes makes it across the finish line first!

For lovers of butterflies (perhaps the most aesthetically agreeable guests at the event) there are several booths dedicated to them. The multi-booth display is created by a collaboration between Tucson Botanical Gardens Butterfly Magic, e-Butterfly, Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association, and Meet & Pet a Caterpillar.

For those struggling with insects ruining their property, there’s also useful advice in the form of several pest control booths, including Home Pest Solutions, Backyard Vampires, and Stings N’Things.

There are also a number of booths dedicated to showcasing the research performed by the many scientists present.

The Arizona Insect Festival helps people appreciate a unique part of our state heritage that often goes unnoticed. The State of Arizona, in fact, has some of the most diverse insect life in the world. For instance, the world’s highest diversity of solitary bees lives in our very own Tucson Mountains. A lot of insect life comes out during the summer Monsoon.

Many consider insects nothing more than a nuisance. But they actually contribute in important ways to the overall health of the ecosystem.

Just take the Insect Festival’s mascot—the Apache Cicada. These critters spend much of their time underground digging and eating roots. Their activities help move water from deep plant roots to more shallow layers of soil. This helps keep soil healthy and capable of promoting growth.

To fully enjoy the beauty of bugs, come to the Arizona Insect Festival on Sunday, September 20 from 11am to 4pm.!

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How Do We Feel About a Border Fence?

Arizonans are affected by the U.S. immigration policies – that’s a fact. They are more affected than a midwestern or northern state simply because of geography. When illegal immigrants make their way across the Mexican border, they’re quite likely to end up in this state. No one disagrees that conditions are terrible in Mexico and no one blames parents for wanting a better life for their children. But the immigrants crossing over aren’t always those in need of help – they might be criminals, drug runners and weapon smugglers. There’s two ways to enter the U.S., the legal way or the illegal way. Is a border fence the correct method of preventing illegal crossings on the Arizona Mexico line?

Is a Fence Effective and Worth the Money?

It might be the federal government financing the border wall, but that comes from Arizona citizen’s tax dollars too, and they have to live with the results which is why car title loans have become so popular in the state – does a border wall work or not? There is significant debate about the effectiveness of a wall along the border. The common argument against a border wall is that it is only a bump in the road for determined illegal immigrants who will not be deterred from their goal. They may climb the wall. They may tunnel beneath the wall. Another concern is the length of the wall, which would have to cover over 1,900 miles to secure the entire length of the state’s border. Besides the immense cost of initial building, the government would have to acquire vast sections of private land from Arizona property owners before the wall is built. They must design the wall and build it in such a way that it does not disrupt or harm the environment.

Then there’s the question of patrols. How will the wall be monitored throughout the day and night, throughout the years and the decades? Will the manpower required to enforce the wall’s symbolism be too costly to sustain? What about when the wall needs repairs? Arizonans know more than other states that unless the measure is going to actually be effective the cost will be much to excessive – the desert is too vast and wide to possibly police every square inch of wall without a regular, ongoing billion dollar budget.

Are There Other Solutions?

If building and enforcing a wall is out of the question due to the lack of money and/or effectiveness, what other options are left? Some Presidential candidates talk about forming a path to citizenship program for current illegal immigrants located within our borders. Some politicians say deportation is the only option. But the question remains – how can we prevent future illegal immigrants from using the border as a drug smuggling operation that harms individuals, families and whole communities? Not every illegal immigrant is acting from this motivation, but border security is still an issue that must be addressed. The American economy is struggling to support those who have been here for generations, never mind thousands of new immigrants sneaking in without permission.

Simply put, Arizonans are tired of living through the results of failed experiments. What’s going to work most effectively to keep communities safe, keep drug activity low and keep the economy functioning at a high level? Is an illegal immigrant transition program the answer? Is a wall going to help in the least? Stop wasting tax dollars on unstudied efforts and make a comprehensive plan for change that all Arizonans can get behind.