Author: Jeff Nicely

Power Up Your Business Conference

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Are you ready to take your small business to new heights of success? Join us on October 20, 2023, at the Power Up Your Business Conference, where an extraordinary opportunity awaits you.

Why Attend?

Diverse Learning Opportunities: With over 20 engaging breakout sessions, we’ve tailored our conference to address the most pressing challenges faced by small business owners. Whether you’re interested in government contracts, securing tourism grants, financial strategies, or starting a small business from scratch, we’ve got you covered.

🚀 Main Session with Tammy Bjelland: The dynamic Tammy Bjelland will headline the event, sharing invaluable insights on making your business more efficient. Her custom business tools and expertise is a game-changer for any small business owner.

🎥 Recording Access: Can’t make it to every session? No worries! We’ll be recording all the breakout sessions, ensuring you have access to this wealth of knowledge even after the conference.

🌟 Special Tracks: Explore tracks on social media, hiring and retaining talent, and more. Gain insights from seasoned local business owners and experts Bill and Sandy Long, Patti Sollenberger, Patrick Barker, Jenna Finch, Vanessa Santiago, Michelle Brown and Justin Kerns.

🍳 Complimentary Meals: Enjoy a day filled with learning and networking, with breakfast, lunch, and snacks included in your registration.

This isn’t just another conference; it’s the small business event of the year. Don’t miss your chance to elevate your business and connect with fellow business owners. Secure your spot today and let’s power up your business together! 💼🌟 

Register here.

Listen in as our director Christine Kriz shares the details about our Power Up Your Business Conference.  We look forward to seeing you at the conference!


Successfully Hiring and Retaining Great Team Members

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In the world of small business, where challenges abound, Bill and Sandy Long, the vision and passion behind the Auto Care Clinic in Front Royal, VA, stand as shining examples of how to build a thriving business. Their journey is marked by a few key principles that have propelled them to success and can do the same for you.

Watch as their team shares insights into what makes them successful.


Motivating Employees: Bill and Sandy understand that motivated employees are the heart of any successful business. They’ve cultivated a work environment where their team members feel valued and inspired to excel, creating a workplace that radiates positivity.

Continuous Learning: In an ever-evolving industry, Bill and Sandy have made continuous learning a cornerstone of their success. They seek opportunities to expand their knowledge and ensure that their team is always ahead of the curve.

Problem-Solving Prowess: Instead of just identifying problems, Bill and Sandy actively engage with their team to find innovative solutions. This collaborative approach has fostered a culture of creativity, resilience and ownership.  Their employees are proud to be part of the team.

Leadership, Not Supervision: One of their standout qualities is their ability to lead, not just supervise. They trust their team to excel without the need for micromanagement, empowering them to take ownership and perform at their best.

But here’s the exciting part: You have the chance to learn directly from Bill and Sandy Long!

They will be sharing their invaluable insights at our upcoming Power Up Your Business Conference. This is your opportunity to get firsthand advice from true small business leaders.

Don’t miss out!

Register for the conference  and embark on a journey toward a more successful and motivated team.

Bill and Sandy look forward to answering your questions and showing you the path to small business success.

Join us on Friday, October 20, 2023 at 7:30am and let’s power up your business together!

Tips for Busy Small Business Owners to Increase Sales

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Running a small business can be a whirlwind of tasks and responsibilities, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and stretched thin. But what if I told you that there’s a powerful tool right at your fingertips that can help you increase sales and grow your business without adding a ton of extra time to your workload?

Facebook Groups may just be your secret weapon. In this guide, we’ll show you how to effectively utilize Facebook Groups to boost sales while keeping your busy schedule in check.

1. The Untapped Potential of Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are online communities where like-minded individuals come together to share knowledge, interests, and experiences. They can be a goldmine for small business owners looking to connect with potential customers and drive sales.

2. Finding the Right Groups

The key to successful Facebook Group marketing is finding the right groups to join. Start by searching for groups related to your industry, niche, or target audience. Join a few that resonate with your business goals.

A great place to personally connect with businesses in your industry and target audience will be at our “Power Up Your Business” Conference on October 20, 2023. 

Make sure you arrive prepared to connect personally then follow up on social media with business leaders who you can help and who can help you grow your business.

3. Establishing Your Presence

Once you’re in the right groups, it’s essential to establish your presence as a valuable member before diving into sales tactics. Here’s how:

  • Complete Your Profile: Ensure your Facebook profile is professional and includes information about your business.

  • Participate Actively: Engage in group discussions, answer questions, and provide helpful insights related to your industry.

  • Build Relationships: Take the time to connect with group members, network, and genuinely contribute to the community.

Remember that social media is a long-term game that takes time, just like building relationships in person…it all takes time, respect, and social skills.

4. Sharing Value-Driven Content

As a busy small business owner, your time is precious, so make the most of it by sharing valuable content that showcases your expertise:

  • Educational Posts: Share informative articles, how-to guides, and tips relevant to your industry.  If you need help coming up with great post ideas, message us because we have a ton a resources to help you excel at creating posts.

  • Behind-the-Scenes: Offer a peek behind the curtain with posts showcasing your business’s inner workings.

  • Customer Stories: Share success stories and testimonials from satisfied customers.

5. Thoughtful Promotion

When it’s time to promote your products or services, do so thoughtfully and strategically:

  • Highlight Benefits: Craft persuasive posts that emphasize the benefits of your offerings.  Consider the possibility of using AI technology to help you save time while creating posts that will increase engagement. 

  • Exclusive Deals: Offer special discounts or promotions exclusively for group members to create a sense of belonging.

  • Ask for Feedback: Seek input from the community on product ideas or improvements to involve them in your business.

6. Running Engaging Contests and Giveaways

People love contests and giveaways. Organize interactive contests within the group and offer your products or services as prizes. This can generate excitement and word-of-mouth promotion.  Please note that when running contests on social media, you must play by the rules of each platform or run the risk of being warned before having your page closed down completely.  We have seen pages closed for not complying with the platform guidelines.  Here is a link to Facebook’s Contest Guidelines.

7. Leveraging Group Admins

Build a positive relationship with group admins as they can help you navigate the group’s dynamics and potentially promote your offerings.

8. Analyzing and Adjusting

Regularly assess the effectiveness of your Facebook Group efforts:

  • Use Facebook Insights: Track engagement, reach, and sales generated from group activities.

  • Adapt Your Strategy: Based on data, adjust your approach to maximize results.


Facebook Groups offer a unique opportunity for busy small business owners to increase sales and build lasting customer relationships. By finding the right groups, establishing your presence, sharing valuable content, and promoting your offerings thoughtfully, you can turn these online communities into a valuable sales channel. Remember, it’s not just about making sales; it’s about building trust, authority, and a loyal customer base in the process. So, roll up your sleeves, get started, and watch your small business thrive overtime, in the world of Facebook Groups.

How To Maximize Your Expo Booth Impact

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Are you a solo small business owner gearing up for an upcoming business expo?

Participating in such events can be a game-changer for your business, offering opportunities for networking, lead generation, and brand exposure. However, to make the most of your investment, it’s crucial to have a well-thought-out strategy. In this blog post, we’ll explore effective tips to help you maximize the impact of your expo booth as a solo entrepreneur.

1. Set Clear Objectives

Before you dive into the whirlwind of an expo, take a step back and define your goals. What do you want to achieve? Are you primarily looking to generate leads, make sales, or increase brand awareness? Having clear objectives will guide your booth setup, engagement strategy, and post-expo follow-up.

2. Plan and Budget Wisely

Expo participation comes with costs, including booth rental, marketing materials, travel, and accommodation. Create a detailed budget that covers all expenses, and stick to it. Allocate resources strategically, focusing on areas that will have the most impact on your goals.

3. Booth Design Matters

Your booth is your business’s physical representation at the expo. Invest in an eye-catching booth design that reflects your brand’s identity and values. Ensure your signage and graphics are professional and enticing, drawing attendees in.

4. Create Engaging Materials

Prepare promotional materials like brochures, business cards, and giveaways. Make sure they’re not only visually appealing but also informative and memorable. Quality materials can leave a lasting impression on expo attendees.

5. Elevator Pitch Perfection

You’ll have limited time to capture attendees’ attention, so craft a compelling elevator pitch. Clearly and concisely communicate what your business offers and why it’s valuable. Practice until you can deliver it confidently and persuasively.

6. Staffing Strategy

As a solo entrepreneur, you may not have a large team, but that’s no excuse for not having the right people in your booth. Ensure you or your staff are knowledgeable about your products or services and can engage with attendees effectively.

7. Interactive Elements

Consider incorporating interactive elements into your booth. Live product demonstrations, engaging presentations, or hands-on activities can create memorable experiences and draw a crowd.

8. Lead Generation

Implement a lead capture system to collect attendee contact information. Use technology like tablets or mobile apps to streamline this process, allowing you to focus on engaging with prospects.

9. Networking Opportunities

Don’t just stay confined to your booth. Attend seminars, workshops, and networking events within the expo to connect with other exhibitors and potential partners. Building relationships can lead to valuable collaborations.  For networking opportunities beyond the expo, check with your local Chamber of Commerce.

10. Follow-Up with Finesse

After the expo, promptly follow up with the leads you’ve gathered. Send personalized messages and offers that align with attendees’ needs and preferences. The follow-up is where many opportunities are lost or won.

11. Evaluate and Adapt

Take time to evaluate the success of your expo participation. Measure your return on investment (ROI) by analyzing sales generated, partnerships formed, and other key metrics. Document what worked and what didn’t so you can improve for the next expo.

12. Stay Consistent

Consistency is key in marketing. Maintain the momentum generated at the expo by continuing to market your business through various channels, such as social media, email, and content marketing.

In conclusion, solo small business owners can maximize the impact of their expo booth by setting clear objectives, careful planning, and strategic execution. Remember that expo participation is an ongoing learning process. Each event provides valuable insights that can help you refine your approach for future expos. So, go out there, make an impact, and watch your business grow!

Success Strategies to Power Up Your Business

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In today’s small business landscape, it is crucial for companies to constantly seek ways to boost their performance and stay ahead of the competition. This article will explore some powerful strategies that can help businesses achieve growth and success.

Develop a Strong Brand Identity

Create a Memorable Logo

  • Choose a design that reflects your company’s values and resonates with your target audience.
  • Ensure that your logo is versatile and can be used across different marketing channels.

Craft a Compelling Brand Story

  • Define your company’s mission, vision, and values.
  • Tell a story that connects with your customers and differentiates your brand from competitors.

Consistent Branding Across Channels

  • Maintain a consistent visual identity across all marketing materials, including website, social media, and print materials.
  • Use consistent messaging and tone of voice to reinforce your brand’s identity.

Embrace Digital Marketing

Build a User-Friendly Website

  • Ensure that your website is easy to navigate and provides a seamless user experience.
  • Optimize your website for search engines to increase visibility and attract organic traffic.  Small Business expert Cameron Nelson will be addressing this specifically at our Power Up Your Business Conference.  Check out the schedule of speakers here:  Small Business Conference Schedule

Leverage Social Media Platforms

  • Identify the social media platforms that are most relevant to your target audience.
  • Create engaging content and interact with your followers to build brand loyalty and increase brand awareness.  You can learn this and so much more at our Power Up Your Business Conference on October 20, 2023.

Implement Email Marketing Campaigns

  • Build an email list of interested prospects and customers.
  • Send targeted and personalized emails to nurture leads and drive conversions.

Foster Customer Relationships

Provide Exceptional Customer Service

  • Train your employees to deliver outstanding customer service.
  • Respond promptly to customer inquiries and resolve issues in a timely manner.  Bill and Sandy Long, owners of Auto Care Clinic in Front Royal, VA will be speaking about customer and employee loyalty at this years Power Up Your Business Conference

Implement a Customer Loyalty Program

  • Reward loyal customers with exclusive discounts, special offers, or VIP perks.
  • Encourage repeat purchases and referrals through a tiered loyalty program.

Gather and Act on Customer Feedback

  • Regularly collect feedback from customers through surveys, reviews, and social media.
  • Use customer feedback to improve your products, services, and overall customer experience.


By implementing these power strategies, small businesses can enhance their brand presence, attract more customers, and ultimately boost their overall success. It is important to continuously evaluate and adapt these strategies to stay relevant in an ever-changing business environment.

How Do I Hire A New Employee in VA?

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When you’re ready to hire a new employee in VA,  you’ll need to consider several key elements to ensure you get your hiring done right the first time.

Employee or Independent Contractor?

Determine whether you want an employee or an independent contractor. There are certain factors that define a worker as an independent contractor.

An independent contractor does not rely on the business as the sole source of income, works at his or her own pace as defined by an agreement, is not eligible for employer provided benefits and they have a degree of control and independence.

Hire A New Employee

1. Develop a job description for the position. What do you want this person to do? What are the clear expectations?
2. Develop a job posting and interview questions.
3. Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
4. Register with the Virginia Taxation department
5. Register with the Virginia Unemployment Commission

Forms For VA New Hires

Once you are ready to hire there are new hire forms you will need.
1. Ensure new employees return a completed W-4 form and VA-4 tax form
2. Have the employee complete the I9 form.
3. Have the new hire complete a Contact Information form and Direct Deposit
Authorization form
4. Work with a bookkeeper to do your payroll or learn the state and federal tax laws and
how to report and pay your taxes.
5. Schedule pay periods to coordinate tax withholding for IRS
6. Each employee should have an employee file. If you offer benefits there should be a
separate file for anything health related.
7. Develop an employee handbook
8. Create a compensation plan for holiday, vacation and leave
9. Decide who will manage your payroll system
10. Learn which records must stay on file and for how long

The IRS maintains the Employer’s Tax Guide, which provides guidance on all federal tax filing requirements that could apply to the obligations for your small business.

The State of VA Taxation department has a business checklist.


**Thanks to our SBDC Director, Christine Krize for these insight.

Do You Want to Bake Your Business?

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You’re asking what does “Bake Your Business” even mean?

I like analogies, so bear with me.  

If you wanted to bake a cake you would need certain ingredients, like flour and eggs and maybe butter or some flavoring, right? And you may have to get some culinary training to be able to bake the best cake you can bake, right?

When you make a cake you want everyone to rave about the cake and you want people begging for more, right?

Having your own business is something like working to make the best cake that others will want to eat.   

There are some common ingredients you need in order to be succesful.


You need to know what problem your products and service will solve.

How is your product or service going to uniquely solve this problem better than anyone else?


Once you know who you customer is, ask yourself, “Where is my customer today?”  “Where is my customer spending time today?”  “What social media platform(s) is my customer hanging out on today?”  

Every successful business needs to solve a problem that their customer already perceives is a problem.

If your target customer doesn’t see their problem, you are going to need to invest a lot more time and money to educate and convince your customer that there is a problem. 

You may want to start with the problem your customer already understands and recognizes before you start solving a problem your customer doesn’t see or recognize. 


  1. Who is my target customer?
  2. Where is my target customer
  3. Are there enough of these target customers in my market?
  4. Identify everything you possibly can about your customer?  What is their age?  What is their financial situation?  What is their level of education? You should be able to describe your target customer as completely as you can. The better you understand your customer the better your product or service will solve their problems and fit with their needs.  This, my friend, is a major key to your success or failure as a business owner. 
  5. Do the research. Going with your gut is not always a good plan.   You think you know how to make that cake and you think you know the flavor that people will want, but are you 100% sure? There are direct ways to do your research like observation, interviewing. There is also research tools that can give you an overview of the market and the particulars of that market, like profitability, fixed and variable cost ratios, but this does not take the place of being in and knowing the market.  Getting experience or partnering with someone who does have the knowledge.
  6. Talk about your idea with folks who are likely to be in your target audience.   You need to test your concept. If you want, you can use a non-disclosure agreement but you do need to get other people’s perspectives.  
  7. Consider where you want to locate your business.  Consider what particular skills will you need, who you will serve, and think about how much capital will you need to make your business work in this locality.

Whatever you do, please make sure you have a particular audience that you want to serve, now their problems and solve those problems better than anyone else in your industry.

I know that starting small requires a slower approach than most people would like.   But the slower approach is also the least expensive way to set up your business for long term success.

Before you sink a lot of money into a new business idea, test the market and see if there is a market for your product or service.

Our team is always available to help you with these tips and more.  We want to see you launch, run, grow, and make your business successful.  We’re here when you need us.  You never have to run your business alone…you have experienced, trusted partners in us.

Reach out to us anytime!

**Thanks to SBDC Team Member Dale Maza for these insights. 

Should I Register As A Business?

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Whether you are a full-time independent contractor or are operating your own small business, you may not need to register as a business.

However,  you may be required to obtain a business license from your municipality if you make over a certain amount of money in a year.

By not registering as a business, though, you may miss out on personal liability protection, legal benefits, and tax benefits.

By registering as a business, you separate the entity itself from you as an individual, which in turn helps you avoid certain legal and financial liabilities that may occur for your business.

What this means is that if anything is to happen to the business, your personal property or credit may not be impacted or affected as strongly.

Second, it is much more credible and safe for a consumer to work with a business over an individual. As a registered business you are able to protect your personal assets, which is important in the event something goes wrong with your business.

Another great benefit of going the business route is the tax benefits.

As a registered business, you can take advantage of business expense deductions, which means you can use all your business expenses to offset the earned gross income of your business.

Another big advantage is that by taking dividends instead of a salary, you have more flexibility with the company’s income, which allows you to meet diverse needs, especially when starting out.

In conclusion, incorporating a business may not be required, but it is a benefit with a rather small cost.  I say that it is worth registering as a business to avoid potential losses.

For more information:,legal%20benefits%2C%20and%20tax%20benefits


**Thanks to SBDC Team Member Diana Patterson for these insight

Why Do I Need A Business Plan?

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Why do I need a business plan and how in the world will I know what my sales will be?
Great question, your business plan is the story of your business. 
It is there to provide proof of concept and without that we can’t get a banker to understand what you are doing and how they are going to get paid back for the loan we need them to provide.  Making the story clear and concise is the design of the business plan and the numbers need to be validated by the text. 
The sales are definitely tricky. 
Most people struggle with this, but think about why you think this business will be successful. 
You have in your head an idea, a goal, a dream about that you will generate X number of sales and revenue and turn those into profit.  Let’s pull that from your head and put it down on paper so we can begin to prove the model. 
Most will prove the model by gathering 3rd party data, which can be done from different market reports as well as other similar businesses in similar areas.  If you find businesses that are not competition for you, they may be willing to provide some information to assist you so you don’t run into the same pitfalls they did.
**Thanks to SBDC Team Member Cort Maddox for this insightful article.  

2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report

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On February 1st the National Restaurant Association issued a report that included forecasts for 2022 and the “new normal” eateries face as the nation attempts to move away from COVID.  The report provided the following industry insights:

  • Industry sales are anticipated to reach $898 billion in 2022
  • Foodservice jobs will likely grow by 400,000, for total industry employment of 14.9 million
  • 2022 will not be normal for multiple reasons, including food, labor, and occupancy costs, which will be elevated, all of which will impact industry profits
  • 96% of operators experienced supply delays or shortages of key food or beverage items, starting in 2021 and likely to continue
  • 51% of adult consumers stated that they aren’t eating as often as they would like, an increase of 6% from pre-pandemic levels
  • 70% of eateries state that they are not adequately staffed to serve customers
  • 50% of operators believe that hiring and retaining staff will be their greatest challenge in 2022
  • The industry anticipates adding 200,000 jobs per year for the next decade
  • 75% of operators plan to devote more resources to recruiting and retaining employees
  • Operators plan to reduce their menu offerings and work to improve the quality of take-out and delivery food products
  • 88% of consumers stated that they would be likely try take-out or delivery options if restaurants would use packaging that helps the food maintain the same temperature, taste, and quality as when it’s served in the restaurant
  • Technology advances will continue to help the industry, with fully 80% of members stating that their use of technology helps to give them a competitive advantage
  • Many operators will expand online ordering, reservations, mobile payment, or delivery management, along with back-of-the-house technology
  • Consumers also prefer technology where it doesn’t diminish hospitality
  • Outdoor dining is also favored by many consumers, and 40% indicate that they would select eateries with such options over those that do not have it
  • To-go alcohol sales are also popular with consumers
  • 54% of adult consumers say that takeout or delivery food is essential to their lifestyles, including 72% of millennials and 66% of Gen Z 
  • 50% of operators think the availability of sidewalk, parking lot, or street seating will become more common during 2022
  • 70% of Gen Zs and 62% of millennials stated that to-go alcohol along with take-out or delivery orders would make them more likely to choose one eatery over another without these options

As with many other surveys and data dumps, the results for this critical industry are mixed at best.  For those operators that have successfully pivoted during the pandemic and those that continue to do so, 2022 should be OK, but for those that remained viable only due to federal support programs, the coming year will not be a return to “happy days”.  

Article thanks to Mike Austin of the VASBDC network.