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05/07/2010
IconFinding Romance -- And Inventory -- In The Far East Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I'm an eBay PowerSeller, and would love to be able to order products directly from the overseas manufacturers, especially in China, to sell on eBay, but I'm afraid I don't have the skills to handle the negotiations myself. Is there any place that can help me make contact with manufacturers AND help put the deals together?" If you are new to importing, and don't have any import experience, your best resource for sourcing product from China or elsewhere in Asia is Worldwide Brands, Inc, based in Orlando, Florida ( www.worldwidebrands.com ). Worldwide Brands offers you the ability through their OneSource#8482; database to purchase through direct import buyers. These are companies who set up warehouses within the United States to have the product imported from manufacturers in countries such as China. These companies handle all the importing arrangements and you purchase directly from the distributor within the United States. This way you don't have to be concerned about handling the import logistics or the manufacturer negotiations. According to Peter Zapf, Vice President of Community Development for Global Sources ( www.globalsources.com ), eBay sellers looking to source product directly from Asia should consider three services: (a) Global Sources Direct ( GlobalSourcesDirect.com ): This is an online wholesale site offering product directly from China. That is, you go to the site, select the products you want, put them in your shopping cart, and they are shipped to you via air courier from China so you receive them within ten days. Minimum order quantity is relatively small at one carton. Global Sources Direct is also listed in the WorldWideBrands directory. According to Zapf, it's the easiest way to access China manufactured products because you don't deal with suppliers, quality control or logistics. Global Sources Direct handles all that for you. (b) Global Sources ( www.globalsources.com ): This website provides a directory of suppliers. Verified suppliers have been physically visited three times or more by Global Sources. You can search for products and suppliers and also work with them directly. The verified suppliers list hundreds of thousands of products in a wide range of categories. Examples of just some of the products are digital photo frames, ATVs, hand bags and vacuum cleaners. According to Zapf, this site is great for folks that either have experience or want to build experience with the import process. Similar to their U.S. counterparts, Chinese manufacturers have varying minimum order quantity requirements, and you will need to contact suppliers to check on their minimum order quantities. (c) China Sourcing Fairs ( www.ChinaSourcingFairs.com ): Hosted by Global Sources, these trade shows have thousands of Chinese suppliers exhibiting their products. Everyone from big box retailers down to eBay PowerSellers attend these shows in order to find and meet suppliers. The biggest shows are in Hong Kong and include consumer electronics, fashion accessories, underwear and swimwear, and household products. All you need to do is get on a plane and show up. There is no entry fee. According to Zapf, this is a great opportunity to network with other international buyers. In addition, Global Sources also hosts a "Buying From China: What New Buyers Need to Know" seminar at the show. So if you are new to importing, you can learn about buying from China and also meet thousands of suppliers. Hey, it's deductible! Many eBay sellers buy in small volumes (100 pieces or less). For these volumes, Zapf advises that eBay sellers may want to consider working with trading companies rather than buying direct from China. The advantage of a trading company is that it can act as an intermediary on your behalf and can often handle smaller minimum order quantities. However, Zapf points out, since it hasn't actually manufactured the product, there is a longer chain to go through when getting information about the products. Many eBayers ask about purchasing products from China with Western trademarks or brands. The owners of these trademarks and brands control their distribution channels closely and don't try to create pricing structures that support cross border grey-market sales. As a result, a fair number of the opportunities you see to purchase such products are, in fact, offering counterfeit products. Selling these will almost certainly get you kicked off of eBay, as well as sued by the manufacturers of these products if they can prove you knowingly imported counterfeit or knockoff goods. To avoid liability, Zapf says you can ask the seller for proof that they are an authorized distributor, and you can check with the brand owner whether the seller is an authorized distributor. Better yet, avoid Western branded products altogether: "When looking to buy from China, you should be looking for a new and innovative product, a well-priced unbranded product, or a product you can have manufactured in China and put your own brand name on it," Zapf advises. Trust me, there's plenty of stuff to choose from. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconHow to Effectively Present Your Content to Online Editors By Anne Leedom netconnectpublicity.com One of the most common misconceptions regarding an online campaign is that editors for this unique medium should be approached in the same manner as traditional radio, TV and print media. Interestingly, nothing could be further from the truth. Let's look at how to approach online editors and what you need to offer to capture their attention and their imagination. Online editors answer their email. The beauty of an online campaign is the simple fact that these editors are now ACCESSIBLE due to this basic fact. Send your email to the top contact and you will likely make the connections you couldn't in traditional methods. Online editors are very busy and are choosy about which emails they read. Therefore, the most important part of your online presentation is the 42-character subject line of the email. Say it briefly and say it well. Online editors do not want you to send attachments, nor do they want to scroll through lengthy emails that include your articles, bios and reviews. Once you have established interest you can follow up with these tools. Your only goal in the initial email is to create interest and inspire the editor to respond. This means a brief email expressing who you are, what you have to offer, and given your research of their website, why they might want your work featured on their site. Answer their question: What is in it for us? Include links (don't go crazy here) to your site, relevant articles and press releases, etc. in the email presentation. This way they can conduct further research if they so desire without being overwhelmed with a lengthy and time-consuming email. You do NOT want to be placed in the "I better read this later" pile. Writing an online email presentation allows you to be more personal than traditional methods. Since its very nature is to be brief, it becomes a wonderful tool to follow up on little details you learn about the contact editor and visa versa. The concept of letter writing is a personal form of communication and it can be used very well to your advantage to build a sincere rapport and create camaraderie between you and the editors whom you contact. Even if the editor doesn't immediately respond to your work, through regular emailing you can build the necessary rapport to eventually learn what the editor is looking for and tailor your material to fit their needs. Avoid any distracting fonts, graphics and bold lettering. Your email should be very professional, very easy to read with short sentences that clearly state what you have to offer and how it is of benefit to the editor you are contacting. The more your email presentation matches the look of the articles on the site, the more the editor will tend to read your email. Above all, check spelling and grammar. Bear in mind your email presentation should be designed to capture their attention and guide the editor to your site. If you have built your website correctly and featured your content, NOT your product, than they can learn all they need to know about you. If you include too much in your initial email you will end up in the dreaded "I'll read that later" pile. Follow up on your initial presentation weekly. Editors are overwhelmed with email and it can easily get lost in their desk or even in cyberspace. If they truly do not wish to work with you, most editors will have the courtesy to let you know, especially after a persistent campaign of emails that are pleasant and brief. Tie in your presentation to current events or seasonal content as much as possible. You many be the best financial advisor in the world and have great information on a variety of topics, but come January the only content the editor may wish to see is content offering tips on taxes. Overall, a successful online presentation combines quality material presented to the right editor with a knowledge of the website you are targeting and how your material might fit their needs. When this is done well, and it is done in a brief, pleasant, professional and consistent manner, placements can be made on virtually any website. Editors are looking for you to make their job easier and make them look good. Ultimately, offering content that is a strong match for the site's audience will secure a long-term relationship and open doors for greater promotional opportunity within each site. Anne Leedom founded Net Connect Publicity, an online content management agency for authors, experts and websites who wish to promote their work via the Internet. Net Connect opened in 1999 and handles clients in various topics including parenting, health, business and spirituality. The company is based in the Sacramento, California region. Contact Anne at anne@netconnectpublicity.com . In addition to online placements, Net Connect offers traditional media placements in radio and print. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconWhat People Really, Really Want When They Buy Online Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I'm in the process of setting up a Website to sell antiques and collectibles. I'm not exactly sure what type of merchandise I should be carrying. Do you have any advice on what people are looking for when they shop online, and what sort of content I should have on my Website?" Oh, boy, do I ever . . . When people search online, there are four things they are looking for (some people look for all of these, others just one or two). First, they are looking for information. The Internet is all about "content," and making it accessible to interested people free of charge. Your Website should not just be a "store". It should be a source of information about certain types of antiques and collectibles that people are interested in knowing more about. And not just any kind of information. I've said it before in this column and will do so again now: everything that appears on your Website should be "cool, compelling content." People these days have short attention spans, and expect to have a measure of fun, excitement or drama when they do stuff online. Your content must be interesting, captivating and entertaining - the sort of stuff people will e-mail their friends about, creating positive "buzz" for your Website. Second, they are looking for stuff they can't find in their local stores. I have a Smith Corona typewriter that I bought in the early 1990s. Because I'm a fairly fast typist, I just find it a lot easier to use an old-fashioned typewriter to address envelopes and create mailing labels than printing them from Microsoft Outlook. Needless to say, I'm not able to find replacement parts, print wheels, ribbon cartridges and correction spools for a 1990s-era typewriter in my local Staples or Office Depot outlet. So where do I get these typewriter supplies when I need them? eBay! There are several eBay Stores that actually specialize in typewriter parts, and I'm one of their best buyers. If you're selling antiques and collectibles on eBay (or anywhere else online), do some research and find out if there are any antique or collectible categories that are underrepresented on the Web. Online retailers generally do best when they focus on a "niche" and become known for their knowledge and expertise within that niche. So, for example, you might want to focus your Website on "tobacciana" (tobacco related paraphernalia, usually from the 1800s), or "hippie/counterculture artifacts" from the 1960s. Third, people are looking online for stuff they CAN buy at their local stores but at deep, deep discounts. To put it bluntly, a lot of people online are shopping for wholesale prices; they won't pay retail on eBay or anywhere else online if they can find the products locally at the same price. If you've got a baby, you need diapers. Lots of diapers. You can always find them locally, and if you need to buy in bulk, there's a Wal-Mart, CostCo or B.J.'s Wholesale Club within a short drive of your home (although no drive is short enough with a screaming infant in the back seat). If people are shopping for diapers online, they are looking for prices that beat even Wal-Mart's "regular low, low prices". If you can source diapers very cheaply, and can offer bulk lots of 50 packages each for half the "big box retail" prices, you probably can find customers for them online. Otherwise, don't sell diapers online. Fourth, and finally, people are shopping online for people with like-minded interests. Social network sites such as MySpace and Second Life are built on the principle that people are still interested in living in "villages" or communities, but no longer strictly geographical ones. Like it or not, the communities of the future are likely to be virtual ones - you will find you have more in common with someone in Timbuktu than you do the person who lives on the other side of the privet hedge in your back yard. Always have a space on your site where buyers and other visitors can interact with you and each other. This can take the form of a Weblog or "blog", a "community chat room", a "discussion board", or a series of "webinars" on topics of interest to the people who buy from you. If you sell cast iron antiques from the 1800s, for example, you might want to post a request for "tips" from collectors on how to remove rust from these items without damaging them. Trust me, you will get responses, and the search engine "spiders" love stuff like that. One more thing -- always be sure that everything on your Website is what your customers want to see, not what you think they should see. I read a lot of blogs in my line of work, and far, far too many of them remind me of that old song from the 1970s movie "Midnight Cowboy": "Everybody's talkin' at me, I don't hear a word they're sayin', only the echoes of my mind . . . " Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconFour WAHM Perspectives Summer Months vs. School Days When Running a Business Jill Hart CWAHM.com School supplies abound in department stores; moms are purchasing new clothes for their grumbling kids and counting down the days until summer ends. It's that time of year again - the back to school frenzy has begun. This time of year is chaotic for all parents, but it may have the most impact on those who are also trying to manage a home-based business. Most moms say it's easiest to run their business while the kids are at school, but surprisingly there are a few that embrace the juggling act year-round. Tami Barker Stayin Home and Lovin It is a fitting name for the business that Tami Barker, mother of two, has found success with. Barker helps educate others about the toxic-free products as well as the Wellness Company that carries them. Working out of her Washington home, she is truly "lovin" life as a work-at-home-mom (WAHM). Barker, who runs her business primarily by phone, explains that she finds it easy to run her business during the school season. "My kids are older, so it's easier during school months when they are gone most of the day. During the summer I like to spend as much time as possible with them having fun, although I do still have some business hours." "My business is very flexible, so even during the school year I can be the one that takes my kids to sports and after school activities. I also have the flexibility to go on field trips and help out in the classroom when I can. I always have my calendar by my side to prevent any conflicts with my personal and business schedules." Lorie Kelley When asked whether running her business goes smoother during summer months or the school season, Lorie Kelley, feels it's about the same for her year-round. The mother of two children says, "When you have your own business, you make your own hours. I just change my schedule to fit my lifestyle." Kelley, whose home business is run from her West Virginia residence, works as a travel agent through Coastal Families Worldwide. Despite homeschooling her children, she has built her business up to a place where it can support her family when necessary. Kelley states, "My husband had no work one winter. I was just 5 months into the business, but I was making enough to support us! I thank God for what he has done for my family!" Gina Neef Eco-friendly business mom, Gina Neef, agrees that running a business during the school year is as equally demanding as in the summer-time. Neef is an Executive Director with The MOM Team(tm) whose two children both attend public school. "When they are in school running my business is a little easier," Neef says, "but I do manage both well. Neef's business, which she runs mostly online and over the phone from her Texas home, takes plenty of planning ahead of time to make the balancing act of business vs. family work. "I schedule time with my kids and don't take calls at certain times of the day. I schedule my time well and have great support from my husband," says Neef. Diana Ennen Florida-based mom Diana Ennen has worked from home for over twenty years. This experienced WAHM finds the summer months much more difficult in terms of running her business. "My business is much easier to run during the school year." she states, "In fact, even when summer camp is in session, it's still more difficult in the summer." "As I'm working primarily on the computer, they can't see how busy I am at times. For example, I might be in the middle of a huge publicity blitz for a client who got national recognition and I need to spread the word, but my kids just see me typing. They interrupt and I lose the focus that I had. As a writer it's tough, too, because I could be really into writing a press release or something for a book I'm working on and then they come in and interrupt, I again lose my train of thought and often never get it back." "You feel like you need to entertain your kids during the summer. Even though I plan ahead and have lots of activities, crafts, etc., they still get bored. It's hard for me to focus on getting work done during the summer months." ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com . Jill is a contributing author in The Business Mom Guide Book and I'll Be Home For Christmas and co-author of the upcoming book, Home Based Blessings. Jill has articles published across the web on sites like DrLaura.com and ClubMom.com. Jill and her husband, Allen of CWAHD.com reside in Nebraska with their two children. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconThe Best "Summer Beach Reading" For Entrepreneurs Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I'm a big fan of your column, but I do have one question. I notice that you don't do 'book reviews' very often. I'm looking for some good 'summer beach reading', and would love to hear a list of your favorite business books." While I refer to business books often in my columns, I don't generally do "book reviews" as such, for two reasons. First, there are so many new business books coming about that nobody can keep track of them all. Once I start reviewing some of these, I will have to start reviewing all of them, and this will become a "book review" column to the exclusion of everything else. But more importantly, I don't do business book reviews because I've found that the best books for entrepreneurs have little if anything to do with business per se. Let me explain . . . . When you're starting out in your own business, your first and biggest challenge is to get customers or clients. It's the "biggest challenge" because in business you have absolutely no control over the customer and what they want. You can be the greatest business genius since J. P. Morgan, but if you're selling products and services no one wants to buy, you will find yourself in bankruptcy court along with all of the ignoramuses. Getting customers and generating sales does not require a knowledge of business so much as it does an appreciation of human nature. Virtually all of my most successful small business clients spend a lot of time and effort crawling inside their customers' heads and learning what makes them tick. Show me an entrepreneur that understands how the human mind works, and has a keen understanding of the forces shaping and changing American society and culture, and I will (almost always) show you a successful entrepreneur. To understand your customers, and spot market opportunities before your competition does, I would strongly suggest you leave the "business" section of your bookstore behind and mosey on over to the "psychology" and "sociology" sections. Very often, the best books for your business can be found there. Here are some excellent "non-business" books that will help you build a successful business. They are also fun to read. "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" by Neal Postman. Anybody who wants to understand how American society works today needs to read every book written by Neal Postman. Originally published in 1985 (before the Internet!), this groundbreaking book describes the corrosive effects of television on American society. Postman's theme is the decline of the printed word and the ascendancy of the "tube'' with its tendency to present everything -- murder, mayhem, politics, even weather -- as entertainment. "Life, The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality" by Neal Gabler. A leading Hollywood historian and biographer of Walt Disney, Gabler takes Postman's thesis a step further and argues that the omnipresence of media in our lives is causing us to lose our grip on reality. Instead of confronting life as it is, Gabler argues, we develop and act out "scripts" as if we were acting in a movie or theatrical production. Anyone who has ever waited in line at a Starbucks(r) will understand completely what Gabler is talking about. "Rejuvenile" by Christopher Noxon. A funny but sobering account of how Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers have cast aside traditional notions of "maturity" in favor of indulging their "inner children" well into middle age. "Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There" by David Brooks. Observers of the Baby Boom generation have long noted two contradictory impulses - their ruthless drive to succeed in business and their adoption of the bohemian, "hippie" lifestyles and beliefs of the 1960's and 1970's counterculture. Brooks' book attempts to reconcile these two extremes by pointing out the ways in which Boomers are increasingly using capitalistic means to achieve socialistic ends. "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less," by Barry Schwartz. A persuasive argument that human beings can only handle so many choices at a given time, and that a marketer's challenge is to find the "optimum" number of options for customers, without attempting to customize products and services for every single individual on Earth. "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," by Bill Bryson. The dust jacket calls Bryson a "humorist," which I don't think is right, because he isn't really funny ("droll" would be a better word). But this collection of newspaper articles, written by an American who returned to the U.S. after a 20-year stint abroad, contains some very sharp and subtle perceptions about how America changed during the 1980's and 1990's. "Democracy in America," by Alexis de Tocqueville. Observations of America by non-Americans, intended for an overseas market, are always worth reading. This is one of the oldest, and still the best. If you didn't read it in college, now's the time - we may look a lot different than we did in de Tocqueville's time, but we're still basically the same people. Or, as the French say, "the more things change, the more they remain the same." Happy reading, and happy end of summer. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconMore Taxing Issues When Selling On eBay Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "If someone has been selling on eBay as a 'hobby', and wants to get a sales tax number to sell as a 'business' with a new name, should the person first take all their auctions off eBay, and if so, for how long? In my state, the rules for applying for a resale license say that you should not be conducting business for 20 days prior to applying for the resale license, and warn that you could be fined up to $10,000 if you engage in business before you get the license, which takes approximately 20 days. I imagine a lot of people in this situation would just apply for the resale license and leave their eBay auctions going, but if there's a better answer on what to do I would really appreciate it." First, some basics. When you are selling stuff on eBay, you are required to register with your state tax authority to collect and pay sales taxes. When you register, you will be issued a document that, depending on the state, is called a "sales tax permit", a "business license", a "resale license", or a "certificate of authority". The name on the document doesn't matter. What's important is the tax ID number, or "resale number", that appears on the document. That number must appear on all sales tax and other tax returns you file with your state tax authority. It doesn't matter whether you treat your eBay selling as a "hobby" or a "business". When you sell stuff on eBay (or, indeed, anywhere on the Internet) to people who are residents of the same state you live in, you are required to collect and pay sales taxes (unless, of course, your state doesn't have a sales tax). Frankly, your sales on eBay right now may be in violation of that requirement - if you have sold anything on eBay to people living in your state, you are subject to the $10,000 penalty for doing business without a sales tax permit. You are correct that most people in your situation would just apply for the sales tax permit, pay their sales taxes going forward, and not worry about their closed or pending eBay listings. Most people would not willingly pay the $10,000 penalty, even if they can afford it, for fear of "waking a sleeping dog" at the state tax authority and triggering a broader audit of their personal and business finances. I would recommend that you review your past eBay sales and, if there were any sales to residents of your state, calculate and pay the sales tax for those in-state listings to your state tax authority as soon as you have obtained your sales tax permit. You will still have to pay the $10,000 penalty if they audit you and discover you were "in business" before you obtained your permit, but this is not highly likely to happen, and you will at least "stop the clock" on any interest or penalties that may be due on those unpaid taxes. "I am an eBay Education Specialist and teach eBay classes at local colleges and adult education programs. What kind of tax form do I need to fill out for this? How do I pay taxes on revenue I generate through teaching, lectures, and private training sessions?" For those who don't know, an eBay Education Specialist is someone who has been trained by eBay (for a fee) to conduct adult education and other classes that teach other folks how to sell on eBay (if you're interested in becoming one, go to www.poweru.net/ebay for details). An eBay Education Specialist has to pay income taxes, just like anyone else, on the income they make from teaching classes. If you are a sole proprietor, you will have to fill out Schedule C (income or loss from a trade or business) each year and pay your taxes on April 15. If your tax liability is more than $1,000 in any given year, you will have to "estimate" your income taxes four times a year (on April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15) and pay them in quarterly installments using IRS Form 1040-ES. The good news is that in virtually all states educational activities are exempt from state and local sales and use taxes. The bad news is that in many states if you are using the word "education" or some variation in your company name, you will have to get permission from your state Education Department to do so. Check with a local attorney to find out if this is necessary in your state - if it is, you will have to pay a small fee and wait several weeks to get the Education Department's certificate authorizing you to hold yourself out as being in an education-related business. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSingin' The Old Franchise Blues Again, Mama... Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I'm beginning to talk with a newer franchise company about buying a franchise territory. They are asking for a non-refundable $1,000 deposit along with a signed confidentiality form before I can talk 'seriously' with them. If they decide against me, I get it all back. If I decide not to pursue a franchise, I lose my $1,000. Is this standard operating procedure?" Wait a minute here . . . this is a "newer" (by which I think you mean "early stage") franchise and they want you to give them money just to TALK to them? Frankly, they should be getting on their hands and knees and praising the Almighty that you are even willing to talk to a franchise that hasn't yet proven its concept nationwide! This has a real smell to it, and I wouldn't give them the money if I were you. Some franchises will want you to put a small "earnest money" deposit up front, but only if (1) they will be incurring significant out-of-pocket expenses on your behalf (such as visiting your area and scouting out potential locations for your franchise outlet) that will need to be recouped if you change your mind, and (2) they will credit that amount against your initial franchise fee should you desire to go forward and purchase a franchise territory. If those two conditions are not met, walk away. "My wife and I bought a franchise territory for a nationwide fast-food franchise over a year ago, but still haven't found a suitable location within the six Zip Codes that were assigned to us. We recently learned that the franchise was talking to another franchisee who is interested in opening a store in one of our Zip Codes. Can the franchise do this - essentially sell a piece of our franchise territory out from under us while we're looking diligently for a suitable location?" Franchises make money by selling franchise territories, setting up stores and reaping a percentage of their franchisees' sales - as quickly as possible. Most franchises don't "assign" territories as such (the federal antitrust laws prevent them from doing that), and many won't want to tie up a potentially lucrative territory while you and your spouse take months or years to decide on the "perfect" location. Your franchise agreement may contain a clause saying they won't open another store in your territory. But you have to read the contract language very carefully - often this "exclusivity" applies only after you open your first store (for example, "we will not sell a franchise to anyone within an X-mile radius of your store"), such that specific locations within those Zip Codes will be "up for grabs" until franchisees actually open stores. Have your attorney look at the contract you signed last year and see if this is indeed the case, as I suspect it is. Also, don't hesitate to ask the attorney to write a stern letter to the franchise. "My husband and I bought a franchise several months ago, and we have been having a Dickens of a time trying to find the right location for our first store. The franchise referred us to several local real estate brokers, but none of them knew the franchise territory we had purchased. One broker handed us a roadmap and asked us to help him with directions to specific addresses in his listings. Another broker had only obtained his state license five months previously. Needless to say, these experiences didn't exactly boost our confidence in the franchise's site selection process. Doesn't a franchise have a legal obligation to run its business in a competent manner?" Believe it or not, this is one of the trickiest questions in franchise law right now. State laws are "all over the place" as to whether a franchise owes its franchisees a "duty of competence". Most reputable franchises will stand behind the "criteria" they use to determine if a particular location will be successful for the franchisee or not. They will, however, be quick to admit that they know nothing of the real estate environment in your town, county or state, especially if their corporate headquarters is located halfway across the country. I would think that a franchise does have a duty to refer you to competent, experienced commercial real estate brokers in your area who are at least somewhat familiar with their franchise concept. I would have an attorney look at your franchise agreement and see what specific disclosures were made to you about the site selection process and what the franchise would and would not do for you. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconA Trademark Is A Trademark, Even When It Isn't... Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "Last year I set up a small Internet business to sell products on eBay, Google, Amazon and other online retail venues. I was especially interested in advertising my Website on Froogle, a specialized search engine provided by Google that helps people find low-priced items on the Web, so I registered a domain name that included the word Froogle - www.xxxxxfrooglexxxxxx.com [actual name deleted for privacy reasons]. I notice several other people have done this with their Websites, and I haven't heard of Google suing anyone to prevent them from using that name. In fact, I understand Google has recently renamed this service, and is no longer using the Froogle name. I think 'Froogle' is still pretty cute, and I really don't want to call Google if I don't have to. Am I okay to use 'Froogle' as part of my Web domain name and business name?" One of the toughest challenges in starting any small business is to find a good name for the bloody thing. The law says that if someone else has registered a name as a "trademark" or "service mark" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ( www.uspto.gov ), you cannot use that name as part of your business name, Web domain name, or anything else. If you do, even if you are not offering the same products or services as that other company, you may be "infringing" the other company's trademark and are likely to receive a nasty "cease and desist letter" from that company's attorneys warning you to cease using the name . . . or else. Because the other company is usually a lot bigger than you are, with millions of dollars to throw at lawsuits to protect their trademarks, you will have no practical choice but to back down, lick your wounds, and find another name. If "Froogle" were a registered trademark of Google (or indeed any other company), that would be the end of the story. But wait . . . this gets interesting. A quick search of the Patent and Trademark's Office records shows that Google at one time did try to register "Froogle" as a service mark, but "abandoned" their application at a later time (meaning they withdrew their application). Without looking at the underlying trademark file, we can only speculate as to why that happened. Perhaps the trademark examiners felt that "Froogle" was too close to "frugal" - a word that has been in the English language for hundreds of years. Or perhaps the fact that a number of people tried to register "Froogle" at the same time convinced the trademark examiners that the word was a generic or "descriptive" name for something and that therefore no one should have the exclusive right to use it. The plot thickens. Another service mark application, for "Froogles", was filed two years prior to Google's application and is still pending in the Trademark Office. Furthermore, Google has (as you correctly point out) ceased calling its shopping service "Froogle". It's now called "Google Product Search", although its Website still appears as froogle.google.com. Without calling Google and getting their permission, you really don't know for sure whether or not you can safely use the "Froogle" name as part of your Web domain name. I sympathize with your desire not to call Google directly - after all, what incentive do they have to say "okay"? But I don't think it's a good idea to use the Froogle name. Even if Google is no longer seeking to register the name as a service mark, they may still consider it a "common law" service mark and will send you a nasty letter if they find out you are using it to drive traffic to your site (which is, I presume, the reason you wanted to include it in your domain name). Also, don't forget that other guy that applied to the Trademark Office to register "Froogles" - he's still out there as far as I can tell, and might well send you the nasty letter Google wouldn't bother sending you if indeed they are "abandoning" the Froogle mark. There are plenty of good names out there that do not conflict with anyone else's. Sometimes the best name for a company has nothing whatsoever to do with your business - what does "Monster," for example, have to do with looking for jobs online? Unless the "Froogle" name is essential to the success of your business, I would steer clear of using it until Google specifically states they no longer consider "Froogle" a trademark or service mark. Using the name as a "keyword" to optimize your Website for Google's search engine, on the other hand . . . Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconTeleseminars: Five Tips For Getting Your Moneys Worth Jill Hart CWAHM.com Teleseminars are a great way to learn from experts without leaving the comfort of your home. No travel expenses, jet lag or cafeteria food to deal with makes them the perfect way for work-at-home moms to expand their business knowledge and skills. More and more experts and authors are offering teleseminars on topics such as business, marketing, advertising and more. Many of these subjects are of interest, but can we as business owners really learn enough to make it worth the time and expense? In short, yes. However, there are a few important steps you should take when attending a teleseminar. Make sure the speaker is qualified. It's fairly simple to set up a teleseminar and virtually anyone could do put one together. So, before investing in a seminar, do some quick research on the speaker(s) to be sure they are experienced in the areas they will be covering. Search for their name using a search engine such as Google or Yahoo and see what results are returned. Also, if they have authored a book, take a look on Amazon and read any reviews/comments posted there. Take notes. If you're like me, you have multiple projects on your mind, as well as your children, spouse, etc. With all of the information running through my brain, I tend to recall very little of what I hear during the day, even if it's good information. In order to retain the information given during a teleseminar, don't just sit and soak it up. Make the effort to listen closely and take notes. You'll remember more of what was discussed and you'll be able to refer to your notes in the future if necessary. Speak up. A teleseminar is similar to a massive conference call with one main person speaking. Because of the size and the virtual setting, many people feel unsure about speaking up and asking questions. However, you'll do both yourself and the speaker a favor by voicing your thoughts when appropriate and asking honest questions. Chances are good that others in the group have the same questions and will appreciate you stepping out and asking. Do be careful not to ask too many questions. This isn't a personal training session and if too many questions are asked, especially by the same person, the speaker doesn't get to cover all the material they have planned. Enlist a Friend. What better way to get the most out of a seminar than to take it with a friend? If you have a friend of colleague that is interested, you can both participate in the teleseminar it will give you a great topic for discussion afterwards. I tend to learn more from discussions post-seminar than I do while listening to the lecture. I think talking it over with another attendee helps me to process the information and see how it applies to my daily life and business. Follow up. If a teleseminar is especially helpful to you, send a thank-you to the speaker. Try to send a written note or if this is not possible, an email will do. By making contact with the speaker and showing your appreciation you're not only providing encouragement, you are networking. You just never know what type of response you might receive and you may even make a new friend or find a mentor. The key to getting the most out of teleseminars is to find the ones that are by true experts in their field and that interest you the most. So, the next time you find a teleseminar that catches your interest, gather up your pen and paper and tune in. If you can find a colleague that interested in joining you, you'll be all the better for it. You'll learn more and have more fun in the process. About the Author:Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com . Jill is a contributing author in The Business Mom Guide Book and I'll Be Home For Christmas and co-author of the upcoming book, Home Based Blessings. Jill and her husband, Allen of CWAHD.com reside in Nebraska with their two children. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconFree Samples, Taste Tests, And The Law Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I am in the process of starting a specialty foods business with a focus on high-quality baked goods. As part of my market research, I plan to host 'taste testings' in my home, at local fairs and church functions, and eventually in supermarkets and local gourmet stores. Is there anything I can do to limit my liability in case somebody gets sick? I'm especially concerned about people with food allergies who don't realize it until it's too late." Sooner or later, every specialty foods business has to learn a bit about taste testing, as it's often the best way to predict the market success of any new food product. Simply put, people won't buy a food product unless it tastes at least somewhat good. And they don't know if something tastes good if they don't try it first. Just remember that whenever you put ANY product out into the marketplace - even just for testing - product liability law comes into play. Basically, you have two things to do here. The law requires you to KNOW if any of your ingredients, or the manner in which you cook or bake something, poses a health or safety risk before you put it out for market testing of any kind. And, if it does, you must make a reasonable effort to WARN consumers about the risks before they try it. First of all, I wouldn't do any taste testings out of your home, because inviting total strangers into your home FOR ANY REASON is usually a bad idea. You just don't know about some people - they give you good feedback about your product, but then later that evening you notice some precious knickknacks have gone missing. Also, doing product testing out of your home doesn't exactly send the signal that you are a serious business. You're on stronger ground with the local fairs and church functions. Here are some rules: make sure your packaging is professionally done, and meets all federal, state and local labeling laws - to learn more about these, go to www.cfsan.fda.gov/label.html ; you have to be especially careful when listing your ingredients - too much detail and you've given away your recipe, too little and you haven't sufficiently warned people with food allergies (for help with disclosure laws regarding the most common allergens, go to www.foodallergy.org/advocacy/labeling.html ); make sure to state clearly, both on the label and verbally to each "taster", if there are any ingredients (such as peanuts or gluten) that you know a significant number of people in your community are allergic to; most attendees at street fairs and church functions won't sign liability releases, but you CAN give each "taster" a one-page flyer about your products (perhaps with a coupon towards a future purchase) that contains all of your liability disclaimers and warnings; and if you yourself do not know the Heimlich maneuver, make sure there is someone nearby who does (please don't laugh - when people are eating and giving you verbal feedback at the same time there is a greater than usual choking risk). "I've created a new product, and want to offer it free on my Website to get people excited about it. Any ideas on how to do that legally?" Offering free samples of your product is a great way to generate "buzz" in the marketplace, but it can easily be abused by greedy consumers and, again, the product liability laws apply. Here are some tips: make sure your samples use your standard packaging, and include any appropriate legal disclaimers (for example, "NOT A TOY - may be a choking hazard to children under 10"); limit your samples to "one per customer", and build in some controls so you can determine if some crazy person is ordering 50 free samples one at a time; be sure to state clearly on your sample "for promotion purposes only - not for resale" - and be sure to check eBay every once in a while to make sure your samples haven't been "repurposed"; condition your sample on some marketing feedback from the customer, or offer him something else if he answers a short questionnaire about the sample; consider using one of the better known "freebie" Websites, such as www.all-free-samples.com and www.thefreesite.com , to push your product samples - these sites already have all the necessary controls in place to prevent sample abuse, and for a small fee will help you target your market research in a more effective way than just offering free samples on your Website will. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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