Guarantees, Warranties and Exchanges

When a consumer buys a product, he has an expectation that it will perform its intended function when he gets it home. This is true whether the product has a written guarantee or not. What’s more, if it doesn’t work, the product will likely be returned for an exchange or refund.
Small businesses deal with these issues all the time and you may already have a way of handling them that works well for you. If that’s the case, there’s probably no need to change your current policies. This article addresses some of the common themes relating to product performance and customer expectations.

A guarantee is a legally enforceable promise that something will perform for a specified period of time, and will provide a certain benefit based on its content and quality. It originates with the manufacturer and passes through to the consumer through distributors and retailers. Guarantees come in a variety of forms, so it’s important that any guarantee you offer is clearly spelled out. Here are a few examples:

Setting Up An Online Shop

The Web is prime real estate for artisan retailers willing to put in a bit of sweat equity.

If you haven’t done so already, now’s a great time to consider opening an online store to reach more customers.

According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, the percentage of people who shopped online over the weekend after Thanksgiving (which includes “Black Friday,” but not “Cyber Monday”) rose 15.2 percent over 2009, to 33.6 percent this year. And the Cyber Monday numbers were up, too: 106.9 million Americans ordered online that day (source: survey). While those are the annual heavy-lifting days for retailers, it does go to show that a lot of people let their fingers do the walking… to the keyboards of their computers or smartphones.

Looking for Affordable Advertising? The Best Deals are Online

When times are tough, businesses often cut back on advertising. But hard times are when you should be ramping up – rather than decreasing – advertising. How else are you going to reach new customers?

While a full page spread in The New York Times may be out of the question for most of us, many artisan businesses can afford web site advertising, which is usually cheaper and more targeted than print ads. And many web sites, in this tough economy, may be willing to cut businesses a deal.

Higher Education: An Investment That Pays Off

If you have a steady job and find yourself with extra time on your hands, or if you have a part-time job and are actively looking for more work, now is the perfect opportunity to review your job goals, assess where you are on your road to success, and possibly enroll in a higher education program.

Are you where you thought you’d be or where you want to be? Is there more you can do to advance your progress and improve your odds for success? In these days of a difficult economy complicated by ever-mounting stress levels, it’s easy to overlook options to take a few courses or perhaps even go in an entirely new direction. But regardless of your job status or where you are in your career, investing in higher education is a step you can take to improve your chances for success. And it’s easier than you might think to add something new to your busy schedule.

Options exist that allow you to interview over the phone or in person, or to let your fingers do the walking for you online. If your area of expertise involves learning that is best suited to in-person participation, many local area community colleges, business centers, and other specialized training facilities offer on-the-job programs to help your improve your technical skills and even learn new ones. Use your local Yellow Pages to find resources in or near your community. And remember to ask your neighbors, family, friends and business associates for their input. Word-of-mouth is still very effective in these days of enhanced communications.

Thanks to technical advancements especially over the past decade, numerous online schools and learning centers provide off-site opportunities for even the most remote areas of the world in varied disciplines, as well as hands-on talents like crafts. Some online education programs also offer accelerated classes and/or modules that allow you to work at your own pace. This option is particularly appealing to those with tight schedules and responsibilities that limit participation in an on-site learning program.

Use your favorite search engines (Google, Yahoo!, AltaVista, Bing, Ask, Twitter, Search Engine Land/Facebook, and others) to find programs tailored to your specialty or area of interest. Just enter your topic and targeted keywords (schools, training, learn, how to, classes, programs) to help narrow your search. Then email and/or call the number listed for information. It’s always best to actually speak with a live person when possible. In either case, specifically identify your interest and ask if and how that facility’s program can help you. Briefly tell them your circumstances and request information about cost, time lines, and other relevant facts. Get their name and contact information for faster service and easier follow-up.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, “Education pays in higher earnings and lower unemployment rates.” In 2009, the following data was recorded for annual averages for persons age 25 and over and earnings for full-time wage and salary workers:

• Unemployment rate Doctoral degree 2.5; Median weekly earnings $1,532
• Unemployment rate Master’s degree 3.9; Median weekly earnings $1,257
• Unemployment rate Bachelor’s degree 5.2; Median weekly earnings $1,025
• Unemployment rate Some college/No degree 8.6; Median weekly earnings $699
• Unemployment rate High School Graduate 9.7; Median weekly earnings $626
• Unemployment rate Less Than High School Diploma 14.6; Median weekly earnings $454
• Unemployment rate Average all workers 7.9; Median weekly earnings Average $774

Financial assistance programs are available through government and private sponsorships for those who qualify. Consult and your statewide resources for financial assistance for higher learning. Ask individual school programs for their financial assistance options.

When considering a higher education program, search for the most effective pathway that will meet your goals. Investigate all programs and compare them for the one that best fits your circumstances in all respects: finances, proximity, availability and accessibility. Before you begin a course, determine if getting a course extension is possible to cover any unexpected situation. Once you begin, firmly resolve to meet your commitment to complete the course. The process may be an inconvenience for a short while, but your determination will make a significant difference to your success.


CYNTHIA BULL ( is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for Debbie May (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Holiday Gift Tips That Are Sure To Wow!

To inspire your creative juices and promote seasonal profits for your artisan business this holiday season, consider these great soap making tips and home decorating ideas that are sure to wow clients and recipients.

According to, there are two ways to make seasonal soaps this Christmas: 1) Create bars suggestive of the yuletide, and 2) encase handmade soaps in holiday-themed packaging. Use traditional Christmas symbols (e.g., Santa, snowmen, angels, wreaths, pine trees, stockings) to create the perfect combinations of color and holiday theme.

Traditional colors of red, green, white and gold are always good choices. The use of micas combined with liquid colorants produce the more vivid colors: Ruby Mica or thoroughly mixed Ultramarine Red for reds, Emerald Mica for greens, and Polar Ice Mica for white. For more natural colors, the use of turmeric for gold, Moroccan red clay for red, and alfalfa for green produce less vivid hues. Adding seasonal scents, like pine and peppermint, give your product that Christmas smell certain to attract buyers, and appreciative recipients will love them.

To accentuate holiday packaging, pack soaps in:

  • Fabric gift bags made of muslin, calico or mesh
  • Handy-sized pine wood crates
  • Gift baskets bundled up with glittery organza or cellophane paper
  • Christmas stocking-shaped nets
  • Corrugated carton sheets tied up with hay-like or ornamental string

For that polished, professional look, finish your products by using package trimmings made of strips of Christmas paper resembling colored aluminum foil, raffia ribbons, red and green checked cloth, shiny Twistee wires, and Christmas ribbons.

In her article, “10 Top Tips for Melt and Pour Soap Making,” soap making enthusiast Jennifer Christine ( offers these tips:
  1. Use a good recipe. Even though it’s easy to make soap this way, you still need a recipe to ensure the color, fragrance and optional additives are in the right amounts.
  2. Make sure you wear the appropriate safety equipment. I like to wear protective clothing, shoes, gloves and safety goggles. Melted soap is very hot! You don’t want to get burned if you accidentally splash yourself.
  3. You need suitable soap making equipment. You can melt the block of soap in the microwave, but you need a sturdy microwave safe bowl or jug for doing this. If melting on the stove, you need a double boiler. You also need rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle, measuring spoons and a metal whisk or spoon.
  4. Ensure you make soap in a well-ventilated area (e.g., with window/s open).
  5. Don’t be disturbed by children or pets when making soap. You don’t want them (or you) to be accidentally splashed, which can happen when you’re distracted by an interruption.
  6. Ensure you’re using a good quality melt and pour soap base with colors and fragrances suitable for soap making.
  7. Have fun choosing the molds you’re going to use. You can use shell molds, flower molds, heart molds, or whatever kind of molds take your fancy.
  8. Allow enough time for the soap to set. It usually takes a few hours to set in the open or about one hour in the refrigerator. Never place it in the freezer to set.
  9. If you have trouble unmolding your soap, run some warm water over the base of the mold. The soap should pop right out.
  10. Enjoy using your scentsational hand made soap! Once it’s set, you can use it right away!
A decorative holiday item that anyone would be happy to receive is Christmas Chunk soaps. David Fisher ( uses the following items for this melt and pour method:

  • Melt and Pour Soap Base: a combination of clear base for the chunks and white base for the overpour, but you could do the opposite, or use one or the other for both
  • Mica or colorant for the chunks: GemTone Ruby Mica and a bit of Liquid Red colorant for the red chunks, and GemTone Emerald Mica and a bit of Kelly Green liquid colorant
  • Basic soap mold: a 9-bar version of this Basic Soap Mold
  • Fragrance oil of your choice
  • Cutting board, knife, measuring cups

Visit for complete details on how David makes these lovely holiday soaps. There you will also find directions and videos to other soap making projects and a myriad of ideas and instructions on how to create products for sale or as gifts; for example, Christmas melt and pour scrubby soaps, hand soaps and bath salts, holiday soap on a rope, fizzy bath bombs, and budget soap and bath kits.

A great resource for quick and easy Christmas decorating ideas is, where article writers feature various materials and themes for decorating. Examples include home areas such as table settings and doors that are adorned with ribbons and bows, pinecones, candles, nuts, wreaths and swags, as well as holiday plants. If you lack ideas for your holiday business or just want new ideas for your holiday inventory, visit for easy-to-do projects that will work for most budgets and stretch your wholesale investments.

Quick-and-easy, affordable, and personalized gifts are always a big hit during the holidays, whether you make and sell the items yourself or you're the gift recipient. While your products may have advanced to more sophisticated levels over the years, always remember the basics and have some of those items in your holiday inventory. The benefits are that they’re easier and less expensive to make in an economic crunch, but they yield big rewards and add to the warm, fuzzy feelings associated with the holidays.


CYNTHIA BULL ( is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for Debbie May (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

All Your News That's Fit to Print

Converting your customer contact information database to loyal, interactive readers of your personal newsletter is easier than you may think.

At the last show or two, you put out a pad of paper that invited passers-by to “sign up for our mailing list.” And they did.

Now what?

The most important thing to consider when doing a customer communication newsletter, be it in print or, more economically, via email, is the message you want to get across to readers. Have something newsworthy to share, or else it’s going to be lumped in with the rest of the junk mail that they are bombarded with daily.

On the other hand, don’t let the fear of rejection prevent you from trying it at all. Keep in mind that they wouldn’t have signed up in the first place if they weren’t interested in what you had to say. Potential topics include:

1. Your upcoming show schedule. Let them know where they can find you at your next event.

2. Your upcoming promotions. Some readers might just need that little extra push to open their wallets, and a coupon for buy one, get one half-off or something similar just might do it.

3. A behind-the-scenes exclusive. Don’t let your newsletter be all sell, sell, sell — readers tire of being pitched to constantly. Show them why they liked your business enough to sign up in the first place. Share a couple photos from your studio, so they can see where the inspiration comes from. Discuss a recent charity project, which has the added benefit of getting the word out about the charity itself. Describe a sneak peek of what you’re currently working on, to get them curious about what you might be debuting in the near future.

4. Survey their opinions. Feedback, both good and bad, can help guide your business into becoming the best it can be. While there’s no reason to completely shift gears for one person’s dissenting opinion, it is worth considering a change if a certain criticism rises again and again — about your packaging, for example. Plus, the power of participation cannot be ignored. If you ask your readers for input about what to call your new holiday line, for example, you’re getting them thinking about your products and to have a deeper connection with them.

5. A call to action. A solid newsletter would contain elements of all of the above, always focused on what the reader can do in return. For your next event, for example, give readers an exclusive “Word of the Day” that they can mention to you at your booth for a small discount or free sample. Invite readers to email you if they know of an upcoming show that might be a good fit for you, a charity auction that might benefit from a donated gift basket of your products, a scout troop that might love to have you as a guest instructor for their next meeting.

It’s easy to think of newsletters as a one-way form of communication, with you controlling the message you want to get to readers. But it’s a better business move to think of them as a two-way form of communication: You tell them something that elicits a response. It’s just as much of a relationship builder as being in person at a show or a networking event.

Getting started
With the holiday season under way, there’s no better time than the present to gather your thoughts — and your customer database — for an introductory newsletter. Just a couple of final tips before you begin:

1. To comply with the CAN-SPAM law, make sure that your e-newsletter has an opt-out feature for readers who wish to unsubscribe. Third-party newsletter mailing sites like and, which do charge a small monthly subscription fee, not only help you easily design a customer newsletter from one of their many templates, but help you track who is opening your newsletter, who has unsubscribed, who has forwarded it to someone, etc.

2. Be consistent in the look and feel of your newsletter. If you don’t have a logo already, now’s the time to create one. Base your typeface font on something that compliments the logo. If you like to keep things casual, reflect that in the tone of your newsletter. Likewise, if you cultivate a romantic, Victorian image in your products and branding, make sure that carries over to the newsletter content and imagery.

3. Use the newsletter as a jumping-off point for other social media. Make sure your website, Twitter and Facebook profiles are listed in the newsletter, and vice versa — that your Facebook, Twitter and website fans are aware they can sign up for a free monthly newsletter bursting with special announcements, updates and exclusive discounts just for them.

Your newsletter doesn’t have to be lengthy, and it doesn’t need to change the world. All it needs to do is reflect who you are and what you do. It builds your reputation and keeps your business top of mind for your readers. Everyone benefits!

Developing an Apprenticeship Program

Historically, an apprentice was someone who assisted a master craftsman and learned his trade by helping and observing. In modern times, this has expanded to include anyone that engages in on-the-job and classroom training to learn a skill or craft. This is usually a formal program that is established by an educational institution or government agency, but can also be an informal program that you organize in your own small business. An apprentice is normally paid a fair wage commensurate with their education and experience.


The goal of a structured apprenticeship program is to enable employers to teach applicable industry standards and practices and to achieve improved quality and productivity. Registered programs allow the participants to earn certifications that are recognized within their state or nationwide. This entitles the apprentice to immediate acceptance by the industry as a skilled journeyman. Many apprenticeships feature incentives and wage structures designed to attract and retain the trainees once they have completed the program.

How a Registered Apprenticeship Works

The business owner can do this alone, or a group of businesses can join together and sponsor a program. Registered programs must abide by established standards for the particular job or industry. This ensures a consistent approach so that certifications will meet all the basic requirements for specific industries and occupations.

The sponsors determine the eligibility criteria and content of the program within these guidelines:
  • Identification of skills to be mastered to qualify for beginner through expert level
  • Definition of the selection criteria and process for applicants
  • Duration of the training program (generally one to six years)
  • Number of hours of classroom instruction needed
  • Wages to be paid throughout the program
  • Provide private instruction, or contract with government-funded school districts or community colleges
If the training is conducted through public institutions, apprentices are normally exempted from registration and workshop fees.

There are few limits on what type of instruction can be provided under an apprenticeship program. Some of the more common trades include auto mechanic, environmental analyst, childcare professional, insurance claims adjuster, chef, baker, optical technician, tool and die maker, machinist, firefighter, painter, dental assistant, truck driver, dairy technician, horticulturist, laboratory technician, bricklayer, and computer programmer. In the construction industry, the programs are targeted toward sheet metal and structural steel workers, plumbers, electricians, pipefitters, carpenters, roofers, and heating & air conditioning specialists.


An apprenticeship has multiple benefits to both the employer and apprentice:

Employer --
  • Can train the apprentice to replicate their unique processes and procedures
  • Develop employee loyalty which reduces turnover and absenteeism
  • Improve productivity
  • Recruit and retain better qualified employees
  • Reduce overall training expenses by sharing costs and taking advantage of state and federal funding
  • Establish a framework for training employees outside the scope of the apprenticeship
  • Business may qualify for financial incentives such as state tax benefits
  • Allows your business to network with other similar businesses
Apprentice --
  • Obtain specialized, hands-on training for their chosen career
  • Acquire a broad skill level
  • Develop a working relationship with the employer
  • Earn competitive wages while learning on the job, with increased wages as they progress
  • Potential for college credit for completed courses
  • Most programs feature guaranteed employment upon successful completion
  • Establish contacts in the industry
  • Obtain certification that will benefit your career wherever you decide to work
  • Avoid incurring large debts for educational expenses
  • Allows you to focus on long-term career
Registered Program Information

Businesses have the option of sponsoring an existing apprentice program or developing a new one. While a new program will involve more time and effort to set up, the advantage is that it can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

The duration depends on the specific occupation and whether it is competency-based, time-based, or a combination of the two. The average is four years within a range of one to six years. The majority of the training is on-the-job which is supplemented by classroom instruction. The size of the program can range from one apprentice to hundreds.

At the state level, apprentice programs are administered by state agencies such as the department of education, career development, adult education, or apprenticeship programs.

At the federal level, the United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration manages the Registered Apprenticeship program from its headquarters in Washington, DC. Its national network extends to all fifty states.

Candidates for registered programs must apply and meet minimum requirements set by federal rules. Selection criteria are job related and are tailored to the specific needs of each occupation.


An apprenticeship program can benefit your small business in many ways. If you are looking to expand, this is an efficient way of setting up a flexible and customized training program that will benefit both you and the employee. In addition, you may be able to get financial support as well as tax advantages to help fund the program. This is a win-win situation that could be of significant value during tough economic times.

Webinar: Understanding Intellectual Property - Trademarks, Patents, Trade Secrets

As a business owner, it is imperative that you understand the differences between the different types of intellectual property (trademark, copyright, and patents) and how each of these types of protection can offer critical support to your success.

The Personal Care Products Council is offering a 1.5 hour webinar on this topic.  It is titled: 

Understanding Intellectual Property - Trademarks, Patents, Trade Secrets

The webinar is open to association members and non members.    Registration is easy...simply complete this registration form and follow the instructions!

This business lead is brought to you by Debbie May (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Contract Law for Small Business

For most businesses, there is no more important legal concept than contract law. Businesses couldn’t run effectively without contracts, whether written or oral. There was a time when most business was done with a handshake and some small businesses still function that way. Either way, it’s very beneficial to understand the concepts and principles that underlie contract law.

While oral contracts are valid in many instances, there are certain contracts that must be written depending on state law. Generally, they include:
  • Contracts which have a period of performance exceeding one year
  • Lease for real property that exceeds one year in duration
  • Contract that extends beyond the lifetime of the person performing under the contract
  • Sale of real property (e.g. houses, condominiums, apartments, industrial buildings, commercial buildings, raw land)
  • Promise to pay the debt of another
  • Contract which has a value or consideration exceeding the state threshold
  • Transfer of property in the event of death of the performing party

A Promise

A contract is an exchange of promises that form a binding legal agreement. If that agreement is breached by any party, it is enforceable in court or through arbitration.

A contract is formed through an offer, acceptance, sufficient consideration, and adequate terms to define the obligations of all parties to the agreement. When this occurs, there is a “meeting of the minds” and the contract is enforceable. The consideration for the promise to perform is sufficient if a party: (1) agrees to do what they have no obligation to do, or (2) agrees not to do something they are entitled to do.

Types of Contracts

An “express” contract is formed through an oral or written understanding of an agreement. The terms, conditions, and all the elements of a valid contract are specifically stated as part of the agreement.

An “implied” contract is assumed by the circumstances and actions of the parties, or by operation of law upon someone that receives a benefit he is not entitled to keep. For example, if you order and eat dinner at a restaurant, there is an implied contract that you will pay for it at the stated price before you leave. To deny the existence of a contract would unjustly enrich you at the expense of the restaurant owner.

Contract Analysis

When evaluating the existence of a contract and the remedies for nonperformance by either party, the following questions should be addressed:
  • Was a legal contract formed?
  • What type of contract was formed?
  • Has there been a breach of the contract obligations?
  • If there has been a breach, what remedies are available?
  • Is there a statute of limitations that would prevent any recovery?

Breach of Contract

If any party fails to perform according to the terms of the contract, without a legal excuse, they have breached the contract. The performance failure must be significant enough to be material in nature and cause the injured party to be relieved of further performance.

A minor delay in delivery would not be considered material unless the contract specified that time is of the essence and the schedule milestone is a critical element of the bargain.

If you suffer a breach by another party, you must take all reasonable actions to minimize damages. This duty to mitigate means that even though you are not at fault, inaction on your part is not acceptable when there are things you can do to avoid further damages.


If a contract is breached, the non-breaching party is entitled to certain remedies that are summarized below:

  • Compensatory damages – An award of money intended to compensate the injured party, to the extent the damages can be measured in monetary terms.
  • Punitive damages – Used to punish the breaching party and act as a deterrent. While they are available in addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages are rarely awarded in contract cases, and only if a wrong is proved that is independent of the breach.
  • Specific performance – Awarded where monetary damages would not adequately compensate the injured party. It forces contract performance where the subject of the contract is unique, such as the sale of real estate or a work of art.
  • Restitution – This returns the non-breaching party to the position they were in before the contract was formed.

Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)

The UCC is a detailed compilation of suggested laws for dealing with commercial transactions. Most U.S. states have adopted some or all of the provisions contained in the nine articles.

Of particular interest to small business owners is Article 2 that deals with sales and contracts. A full discussion of Article 2 is beyond the scope and space available here, but anyone engaged in commercial sales should gain a basic understanding of its provisions.


There are legal services available that allow you to develop customized contract templates without the expense of hiring a lawyer. These provide a cost-effective, standardized format that you can use over and over again.

The principles covered in this article represent basic contract law and its application to your business. There are many complexities of contract law that extend far beyond what has been discussed here. Since the success or failure of your business may depend on the validity and enforceability of your contracts, seek professional advice if you have doubts about signing any contract. If you are unable to solve a contract dispute on your own, find an attorney that specializes in these matters.

Always remember rule #1 when dealing with contracts: carefully read the entire contract before signing it. While this should be obvious, many disputes arise when one or both parties discover a provision that they were unaware of, or did not fully understand.

Michael Sanibel is a freelance writer specializing in business, marketing, personal finance, law, science, aviation, sports, entertainment, travel, and political analysis. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and is also licensed to practice law in California and New Hampshire.  Michael wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Vote for Your Success!

Vote for Your Success! How to Edge Out Your Competition
By: Cynthia Bull

As Election Day approaches with candidates vying for your vote, now is the perfect time to take your own poll to see how your business stacks up against your competition. While you may not have millions to spend on your campaign to promote the attributes of your business, you can definitely beef up its selling points. In this election climate, take a few minutes to think outside the familiar box of how you do business and draw a parallel to the upcoming elections by asking these questions about your business:

  • What is your campaign slogan? What is your mission statement, your purpose? Do you need to refine or redefine your goal, your intent, your reason for doing business?

  • Are you an absentee voter in your own business? How much actual time do you spend in and how much attention do you pay to your business on a regular basis? How much of your business do you conduct yourself? How much do you rely on others to make your business decisions? (Hidden profits and losses could be disguised in the answers you find!)

  • How do you get voters to cast their ballot for you, your products and services? What are your marketing tools and how effective are they? Are they creative and do they meet the demands of today’s economic times, or are revisions needed? Is it time to consider adjusting fees?

  • Will voters select your name and company at the ballot box? Who are your competitors and how do you measure up against them? What makes you special? What do you offer that your competition doesn’t offer?

  • Do customers register and vote for you? Are your existing customers buying from you? Are you getting new clients? Is your message strong enough to win clients? Have you explored every possible option to narrow their choice in your favor?

One approach to finding the answers is to simulate a town hall meeting. If your business is brick and mortar, hold a special on-site event that includes a speaker, bonuses and/or special sales items for attendance and participation. Have questionnaires and surveys ready and request that they be filled out before bonuses or other special items are handed out. Using what you already have, like space and products, will automatically reduce your expenses to hold the event.

If your business is virtual, your virtual office allows you to host the event at no extra cost. All questionnaires and surveys can be posted via the Internet as you ask clients for suggestions on how your business can improve and better serve them. A good follow-up strategy is to hold a teleseminar or webinar with a guest and bonuses as a thank you for participating in the virtual town hall event. You might incur a small charge for this post town hall event; it depends on your resources. But more than likely, the payoff will far exceed the expense to find out what is and isn’t working in your business.  

On questionnaires and surveys, be specific and ask about any problems customers might be having with your product or service. Keep all questions simple, clear, direct and relevant. Face-to-face questions can and should be answered immediately. If at all possible, record or videotape any presentations and all Q&A. In the virtual meeting, respond to all questions with a quick email of appreciation that includes information about the upcoming teleseminar or webinar, where you answer all questions as well as any new customer concerns. These days, the ability to interact with clients is easier than ever before. So if you've been reluctant to step out of your comfort zone and try these resources, now is definitely the time for innovative action.    

A dominant characteristic of successful candidates is that they believe in themselves. Not only are they able to persuade others to actively espouse their agenda through the strong qualities they possess, but they openly ask for monetary contributions – and get them!

Claim these characteristics of a successful business person for yourself:

  1. Believe in yourself and your business. If you lack a positive, enthusiastic approach to your business in any way, then you shouldn’t be in business. It’s that simple. Virtually all business owners possess the quality of believing in themselves more than any other person they know, regardless of the sincere support others may offer.

  1. Be bold enough to take the necessary risks of business. This means succeeding in some parts of your business and missing the mark in others; the very definition of risk. And while it’s easy to become discouraged during disappointing times, hanging on when it’s tough separates ultimate winners from losers.

  1. Remain flexible in your approach to business. It makes rolling with the punches easier and helps you to keep an accurate finger on the pulse of your business. Nothing remains the same, and feeling uneasy about your business may be an indicator that it’s time for a change. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but pay attention to your instincts.

  1. Offer the best product and/or service you possibly can, because a competitive marketplace will recognize and reward the best of what it sees. Research what others offer in your niche and adjust your business model so that it measures up, not only to your standards, but also to what the marketplace determines. Set your own yardstick, but rate your progress to that of others as objectively as possible using measureable databases.  

  1. Always think forward rather than backwards. Meeting one goal is always replaced by another goal (a natural condition of business), but prioritize goals in results that can be measured. Stay focused on one goal at a time and maximize what can be achieved at each level.    

Remember, you already have the popular vote of your active customers because they buy from you. But in today’s uncertain economic climate, it may be necessary to restructure your platform in order to meet the needs of your clients as well as outshine your competition. Innovative thinking and actions teamed with minor changes where necessary go a long way to keep your business successful.

Now ~ Go Out and Vote!


CYNTHIA BULL ( is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

The Benefits of Blogging

The Benefits of Blogging

By Heather Gooch

The term “blog” is a shortened form of "web log," which is essentially an online journal. Blogs can have as wide or narrow of a focus as the author sees fit, offering opinions, analysis or even just a diary entry of how one's day went.

In fact, some companies have taken things to the next level: Their business models are based on such niches as offering, on a specially designed and hosted site, engaged couples the chance to chronicle their wedding preparations online (, for example) or new parents keep friends and family updated on the trials and tribulations of their pregnancy and beyond (, for example).

For artisans, though, blogs can have several benefits:

Blogging can strengthen your relationship with your customer base. By adding a blog component to your established website — or even serve as your main website page — you let people get to know who the artist is behind the designs or products. For the most part, consumers like to buy from someone whom they feel they know and trust, even if they may never meet you in person. And for customers who have met you at a show, shop, class, etc., it’s a way to keep that connection going.
• Blogging can keep your business focused. By consistently (and yes, consistency is key when maintaining a blog) setting aside some time each day, week or month to focus on what you want to say to the online world, you start to develop a deeper understanding of what your business is all about. Writing about how personally excited you are about your holiday card line, for example, can help you fine-tune your sales points for your next show.
Blogging is an easy way to optimize your site for search engines. In laymen’s terms, the more times key words and phases like your company’s name and product names are mentioned on a given Web page, the more likely it is to be ranked near the top of a search engine’s results for those particular words. This is essentially what that buzzword phrase “search engine optimization,” or SEO, is all about. Posting something like the inspiration behind your new Halloween soap, for example, and using the name of the soap throughout your explanation, will raise the visibility of your new product’s name when customers go searching for it on Google,, etc.
Blogging is an inexpensive way to spread the word about news for your business. If you’re stuck with fall inventory, create a post with product photos and the announcement that you have a clearance sale going on. Host a contest, with your merchandise as prizes. Survey your readership to get input on your spring color palette. Treat your blog space as you would a conversation with a guest in your studio.
Blogging can lead to feedback on how the public perceives you and what they like about your business. As alluded to above, the interactive nature of blogs — letting readers comment and/or contact you — is a very important feature. Even negative feedback can at least spark some thought about “What could I be doing better?” However, some negative comments should be taken with a grain of salt —the anonymity of the Internet lets some people hide behind a username and say things they would never otherwise say.

Getting started
First, decide how you want to handle your blog. Is it a feature that can just be turned on by your website provider, or will you have to sign up for WordPress, Blogger or other third-party blogging platform site? Many of these sites offer free hosting and easy setup.

Next, decide on content. Ideally, try to sketch out how often you want to update it, and even some ideas for each post. For example, this week maybe you want to talk about your most recent show (ending with a plug for where you can be seen in the coming holiday season). Next week, you might give a sneak peek at what you’re currently working on. The week after that, give a shout-out to other artisans who inspire you — it brings the added opportunity of starting dialogues with them. Regardless of how you approach it, having at least a few “evergreen” ideas waiting in the wings helps you avoid the “What am I going to write about?” panic that can otherwise set in. Only you know your editorial schedule, so only you would know when you stray from it. This means you can include an inspirational photo from your summer hike, for example, when you had on your calendar to write about how to dye yarn. After all, there’s always next week!

Photos and links enhance the reader’s experience, so try to incorporate both whenever possible. Also, an occasional guest blogger can change up the pace (and give you a break!).

Finally, promote your blog as much as possible. Put a link to it on your main site (and vice versa), include it on your business cards, share it wherever you can. The goal is to incorporate your blog as an everyday part of your business.

For excellent tips specifically for artisans who blog, check out Etsy’s Guide to Blogging here:

Gooch is an editorial marketing specialist and co-owner of Gooch & Gooch LLC, Medina, OH. Visit her blog at  Heather Gooch wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

How To Stay Cool When Giving A Speech

Sooner or later, as a business owner, you will be asked to give a speech—be it at a Rotary luncheon or at your local Chamber of Commerce event. 

Does that make you scared?  You are not alone—universally, public speaking frightens many people. Some research shows that most people have a greater fear of public speaking (glossophobia) than even death (necrophobia)!

While you may feel completely at ease talking one-on-one or even to a small group, standing before a large crowd can unnerve even the most extroverted of artisans. 

What can you do to calm your jitters—or even your sheer terror—of giving a speech?   Here’s how:

Admit You are Afraid

It can be embarrassing—even to yourself—to be afraid of giving a speech.  After all, you are an adult and what is the worst that can happen?  It is good to admit to yourself that you are afraid, that it’s okay to be afraid, and also to think about what exactly you are afraid of.  Is it that people will be staring at you? Or you might lose your train of thought? Or you might lose your notes, or trip over your feet?  Take time to write down exactly what your worse fears are about giving a speech.


Based on each fear you list, think about how you can prepare for the worst.  For example, if you are afraid that you won’t know what to say, or lose your train of thought, write your speech (or the points you want to cover) all on 3x5 index cards.  “It may feel like you are giving a book report in 4th grade, but it will keep you on track and focused,” says Jacqueline Wolven, a small business marketing consultant and strategist with Moxie Works (

Take the Mystery Out

Visit the place where you’ll be giving the speech.  You can even sit in a few chairs where your guests will be seated in the room.  “The more you take the ‘mystery’ out of what to expect, the less nervous you will be,” says Mark Grimm, a professional speaker and author of Everyone Can be a Dynamic Speaker: Yes, I Mean You!  This means also taking the mystery out of your audience.  Find out who you will be speaking to by researching the group that will be listening to your speech.  You can easily do this by asking the person who asked you to speak in the first place: Will the audience be students, professionals, mostly men or women? Ask what the audience want to learn from you and why.  This will give you a clearer idea of what you will talk about.


The more you rehearse, the more confident you will become.  Skip the mirror and practice in front of family or friends and ask for feedback (or take a camcorder and film yourself). Keep your tone conversational, as if you are talking to one person rather than a crowd of a hundred.  “Never simply read the text,” suggests Barry Maher ( an author and professional speaker who has appeared on NBC Nightly News and CNBC. “Speak from notes, glancing down when necessary, and then looking up to make eye contact with the audience member, holding each person’s glance for an entire thought then moving on to continue carrying the conversation with another individual (in the audience),” says Maher.

Don’t Let Them See You Sweat

While many people do this before a speech, don’t make the mistake of telling your audience you are nervous, says professional speaker Steve Siebold ( “No matter how hard your heart is beating or how much you sweat, no one in the audience can hear or see it unless you tell them. Calling attention to nervousness is a distraction that minimizes your message,” says Siebold.  Maher adds not to worry about little vestigial nervousness. “Use that nervousness to make your presentation more lively. As a professional speaker, I get worried if I'm not a little nervous. I'll actually try to make myself a little tense to get my energy level up,” says Maher.

Talk to People Before the Speech

It helps to ease the jitters if you connect with some members of your audience before the speech so that you are not talking to a roomful of strangers.  Greet people, shake their hands, make small talk.  You’ll feel like you have some friendly faces in the audience.

Don’t Think of it as a “Speech”

Think of your talk as a “conversation” not a “presentation,” says Michael Souveroff, presentation skills consultant and owner of Natural Speech Coaching ( “Delivering your speech as if you're talking to one person as opposed to many can be very freeing, and thus relaxing,” says Souveroff.

Stay Grounded in the Moment

Souveroff also notes that it helps to focus only on the segment of the speech you are talking about at the moment.  “By staying grounded ‘in the moment’ or the ‘here and now’ the fear of thinking, ‘My God, I’ve got 45 minutes to get through how will I ever do it?’ can be dissipated,” he says.

Focus on Your Audience, Not Yourself

Public speaking coach and presentation specialist Debbie Fay says that every audience member is like every 15 year old you have ever known: they only care about themselves.  “You’re shaking, sweating? They could care less.  In fact, they don’t even notice it because its got nothing to do with them and why they’ve come.  Remember that! Focus on them and your message to them, not on yourself.  It will make you way less nervous,” says Fay, who is founder of Bespeak Presentation Solutions.

Lastly, Patricia Johnson, a writer who has given many presentations, says that the best advice she has ever received about giving speeches it to practice it six times before your presentation.  She adds that the common advice to visualize the audience in their underwear has never helped ease her jitters.  But she does have one recommendation before walking on stage: “Men should check their zipper; women, their bra straps.”


Article Author:  Marcia Passos Duffy

MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY ( is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire and is a member of the state’s artisan and business organization, NH Made.  Marcia’s articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC,,, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. She is also the publisher and editor of Our Local Table magazine ( and The Heart of New England magazine (  Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights

Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights
By:  Michael Sanibel

It’s important to protect your business from others who may want to steal your valuable ideas and products.  The purpose of this article is to describe the different types of legal protections available and how they work.  While these protections perform similar functions, it’s important to understand that they each serve a distinct purpose.


Patents are granted by the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The first patent was issued to Samuel Hopkins for a new apparatus and process of making the fertilizer ingredient called potash.  It was personally signed by President George Washington on July 31, 1790.  

A patent is a property right granted to the inventor that is enforceable for a period of 14 years (designs) or 20 years (products) from the date of filing.  With the exception of certain pharmaceutical patents, it takes a special act of Congress to get an extension.  It gives the holder "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States, and, if the invention is a process, of the right to exclude others from using, offering for sale or selling throughout the United States, or importing into the United States.”   

Once a patent expires, the property right is lost and the inventor can no longer exclude others from making or profiting from the invention.  One advantage of a patent is that it can be sold like any other piece of property.  It’s not uncommon for inventors to transfer all their patent rights to established companies rather than undertake the time and expense of making the product themselves.  This is usually done in consideration for a fixed fee or future royalty payments.


A trademark can be a name, symbol, logo, or any device used in business that distinguishes your goods or products from those of another source.  Examples are McDonald’s hamburgers, its iconic golden arches, and Ronald McDonald.  A service mark differs from a trademark only in that it identifies the source of a function or service, rather than a specific product.  An example is a landscaper that uses his or her name as the service mark for their business.  It’s very common for the words "trademark” and "mark” to be used interchangeably.  

Trademark protection is available by registering the mark with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Once registered, the trademark grants exclusive rights to the mark and prohibits others from using it or any other mark that closely resembles it.  However, it does not prevent the production of the same products or services under a different mark.  The protection extends to both interstate and international trade and is valid for ten years from the approval date.  It can be renewed every ten years thereafter so long as it remains in current use.


The Copyright Act of 1976 represented the first major revision to copyright statutes in the United States since 1909.  Much had changed over the years, including the advent of motion pictures, radio, and the recording of sound through various methods.  Copyright protection extends to all "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”  

"Works of Authorship” are defined to include:

  • Literary works (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.)
  • Motion pictures and videos
  • Sound recordings (phonograph records, tape recordings, CDs, digital music files)
  • Sheet music, including lyrics and chords
  • Photographs, drawings, and graphic renderings
  • Works of architecture and sculpture
  • Dramatic works, pantomimes, and choreography
Copyright protection generally lasts for the life of the creator of the work plus an additional 70 years.  If the work was made for hire, anonymous, or pseudonymous, the protection lasts for the lesser of 95 years from its first publication or 120 years from its creation. 

The rights are exclusive to the owner of the copyright and include the performance, reproduction, distribution, and sale of the protected work.  The U. S. Copyright Office registers claims to copyrights and is the official office of record.

Fair Use Doctrine  

A copyright is not infringed if it is done under the umbrella of "fair use.”  This includes the use or reproduction of copyrighted material "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.”  

The purpose of the use, the nature of the work, and the amount of the work used in relation to the whole are all considered when judging the applicability of this exception.  The effect that the use will have on the future value of the work in the marketplace is also a factor, especially if the use is commercial in nature rather than educational.

If you have created something of commercial value, it’s important to protect it to preserve your legal rights and potential profits.  The type of protection you should get depends on several factors including cost, time, and the uniqueness and market value of your idea or product.  Obtaining a patent can be a costly and time-consuming process that may never actually pay off, and this must be weighed against the expected benefit.  

If you believe it may be worth the time and effort to file for a patent, trademark, or copyright, you should seek the counsel of an attorney who specializes in this area of the law.  He or she will be able to independently assess the viability of your claim and whether or not someone else has already staked such a claim.  If these options don’t pan out, consider protecting your discovery as a
trade secret which costs nothing and lasts indefinitely.

Michael Sanibel is a freelance writer specializing in business, marketing, personal finance, law, science, aviation, sports, entertainment, travel, and political analysis. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and is also licensed to practice law in California and New Hampshire.  Michael wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Social Media Basics: Do You YouTube?

Social Media Basics:  Do You YouTube?

On April 23, 2005, three former PayPal employees debuted the first-ever video on their new creation, The 19-second clip, featuring co-founder Jawed Karim, was titled "Me at the Zoo” — which pretty much summed up its content.  

Talk about coming a long way in a short time: Now owned by Google Inc., YouTube is one of the lynchpins of today’s social media. And while many users are on this video-sharing website for fun, not profit, an increasing number of businesses are turning to YouTube to get their message out to the masses.  

Getting Started
If you are one of the remaining few who has yet to watch a video on YouTube, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. The site houses scores of videos, from first-hand accounts of current events to the efforts of an as-yet-undiscovered songwriter, from viral commercials to cute babies and cute cats doing cute things. Viewers not only watch these videos, they can share them with friends, rate them and comment on them.  

For artisans, there are plenty of business opportunities to harness the power of YouTube, including:  

• video galleries of your work;
• overviews about your business missions;
• instructions on the use of your products;
• explanations of techniques and processes;
• you-are-there spots from your latest exhibition at a fair or show;
• virtual tours of your shop or studio; and
• profiles on staffers and their special areas of expertise.  

Your video doesn’t have to be long to be effective. YouTube recently raised its maximum time to 15 minutes, but most videos are much shorter. Once you poke around the site, you’ll realize it doesn’t have to be done with expensive production values, either. Many cell phones and inexpensive video cameras can be used to record and post videos to YouTube. Users with a webcam can instantly record video onto the site rather than having to prerecord and then upload the video.  

After creating a YouTube account, the next thing to do is create a YouTube "channel” for your business, so that all your videos are stored in one place for viewers to find easily. AAB has its own channel, for example, at  

Next, decide whether you want your video to be private or public. The public option means anyone can stumble upon you based upon a keyword or "related video” link.  The private option lets you choose who sees it upon upload. This is not only good for uploading personal videos that you don’t necessarily want the world to see, but it also opens up interesting marketing avenues — like telling only your handpicked viewers that they get an extra 10% off their holiday purchase.  

Another great benefit to YouTube is its video embedding feature. Upon upload of a public video, the site provides an embed code that you can copy and paste onto your website, Facebook page or into email messages so that visitors can see the video on those spaces. Other sites can also embed your videos, increasing the potential views they will receive.  

Encourage customers to become subscribers to your channel, so that whenever you upload a new video, they’re notified and can check it out. You can also build a network by "friending” your suppliers and business partners’ videos to increase each others’ views.  

Return on investment
Target Marketing
magazine recommends measuring four sets of data to determine your video’s success:  

1. Number of people who viewed it;
2. Average amount of video that was viewed;
3. Click-though rate to different next steps (email you, visit your site, watch your other videos); and
4. Transmission rate of the video.  

It’s also important to monitor feedback, good and bad, to help you determine the direction of future videos.  

To help you analyze all this data, try YouTube Insight. This free tool offered by YouTube allows anyone with a YouTube account — users, partners or advertisers — to view detailed statistics about the videos they upload to the site.  

Consider this: Every 60 seconds, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube. Are you part of this phenomenon?

HEATHER GOOCH  ( is vice president of Gooch & Gooch LLC, an editorial marketing services firm.  She specializes in marketing for the needlework and craft industries.  Heather wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Have You Outgrown Your Home Studio?

Have You Outgrown Your Home Studio?

Christine Mason Miller (, an artist based in Santa Monica, CA, had worked in a 144 square-foot home studio space for many years.  

While the small home studio served her well over the years it was challenging to work on larger pieces.  "I’m a mixed media artist so I tend to create quite a mess,” she says.  

This summer, Miller took the plunge and sublet a larger studio -- just to see what it was like to have more space.  

"It was an eye-opening experience,” says Miller.  Subletting a larger studio for a short time in the summer gave her taste of how it would feel -- and what it would mean to her creativity -- to operate in more spacious digs.    

Her time in the bigger studio rewarded her in ways she had not expected, says Miller:  "Aside from the absolute glee I felt at being able to leave things in a state of disarray at the end of the day, it also made a huge difference to have a wall to hang my work.”  She was able to comfortably rearrange pieces to better prepare for shows.   

It also freed her from all the distractions she had at home: "Things like laundry, dishes and the Internet tend to drain my time on any given week…but in the sublet studio I felt I was in a quiet, creative bubble where no one could reach me unless I allowed it,” says Miller.   

Is Home-Sweet-Home the Best Place for Your Studio?  

As Miller discovered over the years, having a home studio has its wonderful perks: It is a short commute, you can work in your pajamas if you’d like, and you can go from at-home mode to work mode at almost any time of the day or night.  

But as your art and business evolves you may find that your home can no longer accommodate what you need for your business to reach the next level.  

Like Miller, it could be that you need to get away from a claustrophobic home studio in order to be the best artisan you can be.  Or it could be that your work stuff has outgrown the space and spreading, octopus-like, into other areas of your home.  

If you are tripping over boxes of inventory in the kitchen and bedroom, or your studio is so filled with materials and paperwork that you can’t even work comfortably anymore it may be time to consider moving your studio outside the home.  

More Space or Better Use of Current Space?  

However, before you make the leap to spending money to lease a studio outside your home, take a good look at why you feel cramped in your current home studio.  

"I think there’s a fine line between an outgrown studio and an overgrown studio,” says Debra Baida, professional organizer with
Liberated Spaces ( of San Francisco, Calif. "On some basic level the latter has to be ruled out before the former can be declared.”  

One way to find out is to answer this important question: Is what you are tripping over clutter or creativity or some combination of the two?  

"Before throwing your hands in the air and saying you need a bigger space, it’s important to determine if the existing space really can or cannot handle the function and necessary tools to carry out your creative functions,” Baida suggests.  

"I've walked into home studios where the floor was barely visible … Once we got finished clearing and appointing ‘homes’ for the tools of their creativity, suddenly the room serving as home studio was more than adequate,” says Baida.  

However, there are times when the reality is that the physical size of an artisan’s work, such as in Miller’s case, exceeds the current space and stifles creativity -- and even safety.  "Then you have some sure signs that its time to move on to a larger space,” says Baida.  

Bigger Space: Bigger Expenses  

Going from no rent to a monthly expense of a studio outside the home can be a financial shock. But with a little creativity you can ease the pain.  

For example, Miller was able to supplement her sublet studio rent with other artists and teachers who needed temporary and limited use of the space. One friend taught a six-week improvisational class, another taught singing lessons twice a week, and another artist friend shared the space with her for the month of August. "In addition to this, I rented the space for a show organized by someone else and hosted a weekend-long art workshop that covered almost all of my July rent,” says Miller.  

But in many cases, you can’t count on your studio bringing in revenue, so before you sign a lease make sure you can swing the added expense.  Remember that you probably won’t just be responsible for rent alone: ask if you will have to pay a portion of the electricity, gas, trash, water, etc.  Also, make sure you are not locked into a long-term lease should you want to move back into your home studio, or rent a bigger studio.  

Miller’s summer sublet is now over, but she will be working out a longer term arrangement so that she can use the studio for her larger work.   

The added expense is was worth it to her, she says, because during her time in the bigger studio she made more money than she has in a long time: "Between generating other types of activities in the space and the flow of people in and out…resulted in more sales of my work.  It was a win-win-win all the way around.”  

MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY ( is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire and is a member of the state’s artisan and business organization, NH Made.  Marcia’s articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC,,, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. She is also the publisher and editor of Our Local Table magazine ( and The Heart of New England magazine (  Marcia
wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.