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small business improvement grants

Commercial building improvements can help businesses stand out with potential customers. But it’s not always possible for small companies to fund these important projects. Luckily, some recent grant programs aim to help businesses make these changes – including one launched this week in Atlanta. Read about this grant and other opportunities in cities around the country below.

Atlanta Commercial Property Improvement Grant

The city of Atlanta is launching a new $3.5 million grant program to help small businesses improve their locations. The Commercial Property Improvement Grant program will provide grants of up to $50,000 for exterior and interior enhancements. United Way of Greater Atlanta and Invest Atlanta are facilitating this program as a part of the Atlanta Open for Business Fund, which is funded by a $20 million donation from Wells Fargo. Recipients must provide a match of at least 10 percent of the award and meet other eligibility criteria. Applications will be accepted until funds are allocated, or until the program ends in 2024.

San Antonio COVID Impact Grants Program

San Antonio, Texas just unveiled a new round of COVID Impact Grants. The $17 million program provides grants of between $15,000 and $35,000, along with a construction impact supplement of $10,000. Funded through the city’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds, the program will be administered by nonprofit small business lender LiftFund. The city and LiftFund have already provided more than $42 million in grants to small businesses since the start of the pandemic. Applications for this round are due August 22.

Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Festival Vendor Impact Grant

Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival is accepting Vendor Impact Grant applications from local businesses that need support to participate in the event. This is the second year of the program, which offers funding to help minority-owned, ethnically diverse, and/or LGBT-owned businesses participate in one of the city’s signature events. The grant covers vendor fees, which equal about $2,500, for ten local businesses. Last year, the program supported five businesses, which will receive funding again if they choose to participate. The grant application deadline is August 12.

Boston Black Male Advancement Grants

The city of Boston’s Office of Black Male Advancement is awarding $100,000 in grants to support Black men and boys. The grants go to 25 organizations and are funded through My Brother’s Keeper. Each organization receives $7,500 to support its operations and further its mission. The city is specifically focusing on organizations that help in key areas like financial literacy and entrepreneurship, youth development, and civic organization.

Akron ARPA Grants

Akron, Ohio is launching a new program that will provide $10,000 grants to eligible businesses. The $1 million program is funded through the city’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds. The Greater Akron Chamber will administer the grants. The online application portal is slated to open on August 15, and applications will be due by September 2.

St. Cloud Entertainment District Construction Grants

St. Cloud, Minnesota is offering grants of up to $1,000 to help downtown businesses impacted by ongoing construction in the area. This grant program includes $50,000 in total funds and is part of the City’s COVID recovery grant program. Grants are intended for businesses in the Entertainment District between 9th and 13th streets and between Florida and Massachusetts avenues. The application period will close on September 15 or when all funds have been awarded.

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This article, “$17 Million in COVID Business Grants Set Aside in 1 US City” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Building a personal brand is all about capturing attention. If you work in a “boring” industry, it can be tough to communicate the key benefits that differentiate you from competitors. Especially when you work in an industry that’s not usually the topic of conversation or trending on social media.

Take the VoIP industry, a very boring industry. It’s hard to make VOIP stand out or make it “sexy”. People don’t usually turn to VoIP companies for engaging content, actionable educational or entertainment. But with the right attitude and the ability to produce quality content, leaders even in the boring Cloud VoIP industry can gain recognition and build an audience. (I’ll show you a real life example in bullet #1 below).

In this article I’ll show you real examples of how to capture your target market’s attention, convert them into stark raving fans, and build your personal brand even when you’re in a boring industry.

Ready? Let’s roll!

1. Be Bold. Be Authentic. 

Wallflowers and shrinking violets don’t build brands. People who are bold and enthusiastic do. For executives looking to make their mark and build a brand, being a hands-on, in the trenches type of person translates into authentic experience.

You don’t want to be the kind of exec that takes all the credit and not know how anything works. If your team does the heavy lifting while you get the kudos but you can’t explain how your widget works, then people are not going to respect your opinion.

Someone who shows they know what they are doing and can express their “Why” is going to be more authentic.

Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and share it, even if it happens to touch on the politics of the day. If it is earnest, authentic and well-thought-out—not some emotionally charged overreaction—then boldly proclaim it and let the discourse begin. That is what builds engagement, followers, and brands. 

Those who take a position and confidently support their way of thinking are more likely to stand out 

People value leaders who are confident and don’t flip-flop on their beliefs just to appease the masses. Sure, some feathers may get ruffled, but how many low-key, wishy-washy executives can you name? Exactly. You can’t name many because they don’t stand out and nobody knows who they are.

2. Share Actionable Expertise

Just because your industry isn’t interesting doesn’t mean no one is interested. You can still share your knowledge and expertise to build your brand. Take Ryan Stewman, the sales and marketing expert who runs a sales training called The Hardcore Closer.

Ryan gained a loyal following talking about lead generation. He has built a multi-million dollar business by taking what has worked for him, sharing it, and monetizing it.

Ryan was on the cutting edge of using social media and videos to promote himself and connect with people when he started in sales. Because of his success, he started to teach other salespeople how to use social media to connect with people and use tools for lead generation. 

He built a lead generation software company called Phonesites that helps salespeople create their own sales funnels. He offered free training on Facebook live and produced free content in the form of articles and training videos.

Sharing his expertise helped grow his personal brand which has allowed him to scale into other successful business ventures. He’s doing it right.

Chris the founder of SalesMessage is another great example. He has been using SMS texting to communicate with anyone who contacts their business or even subscribes to their webinars, events, or blog. 

He shares actionable tips, tricks and information while trying to covert some of the leads who contact him and gets a whopping 70% response rate on SMS texts. He recently shared the complete set of sample text messages to send to customers on his blog. He engages his potential customers and build his following.

But, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in personal branding is to be and act like someone you are not. You will eventually be outed, caught, or exposed. 

When building a personal brand, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not or have expertise when you don’t.

Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of the once highly-touted blood-testing startup Theranos, was once the darling of Silicon Valley. She was seen as an influencer and visionary in the same vein as Steve Jobs.

Theranos WAS Elizabeth Holmes and her personal brand of being a healthcare wunderkind carried the firm. Unfortunately for many people, the whole company and the whole story was a massive fraud. She faked her expertise and knowledge, the company was exposed and now it is no more.

A personal brand built on lies and half-truths will come back to bite you.

3. Be the MVP of Value

If you want to really stand out, you must be useful and add maximum value at all times. Do this by offering free info, training, and content about your industry and share that info while speaking at events and on podcasts.

We’re talking about sharing real expertise, not just thoughts or opinions, but practical knowledge that comes from actually having done the work.

Jack Kosakowski kills it here. Jack has been providing actionable social selling advice and content for over 5 years. With his SkillsLab social selling site, he has been helping salespeople to increase their presence through social media and how to correctly connect with—and sell to—their target clients. 

Value comes from experience. Jack has churned out content on social media, his blog, publications like The Harvard Business Review, and on podcasts—continually sharing what has worked for him, and how it took him from a newbie salesperson to the CEO of the US division of a Global Digital Agency.

4. Stop Selling and Build Trust Instead

Look, you don’t need to be Billy Mays or the ShamWow guy, pitching and promoting all day while operators are standing by. Constantly pushing product is exhausting. But talking and engaging with people in your own voice—your true self—and showing them how to succeed with examples and actionable ideas will build trust.

When you let people see the real you, trust is built and your brand strengthens and attracts new prospects.

Trust isn’t built by speaking AT people. It’s built by engaging and speaking WITH with your audience.

People like to do business with people they know, like and trust. And that’s usually not the guy with the bullhorn shouting “Look at me! Look at me!” Differentiate yourself by sharing knowledge from real-world experience in an authentic, engaging way that creates value and trustworthiness. This will build your personal brand.

When someone needs to seek out info in your industry, you will be top-of-mind because you will be the rockstar of your “boring” industry. They will come to you for the value you provide because you’ve built trust due to engagement, value, and expertise. 


The post Personal Branding Tips For Executives In “Boring” Industries appeared first on Personal Branding Blog – Stand Out In Your Career.

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Small Business Confidence Survey

The confidence of small business owners is overwhelmingly high. According to Provident Bank’s Small Business Confidence Survey, 80% of owners feel this way.

Small business owners expect the revenue of their business to improve over the next year. And another 60% also believe the current economic climate is having a positive impact on their business. So much so, they plan to hire more workers.

Small Business Confidence Survey

The survey from Provident Bank is backed by a May 2019 Report, the Small Business Optimism Index from the NFIB Research Foundation. The National Federation of Independent Business has collected Small Business Economic Trends data with surveys since 1973.

In the report, NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan, said “Optimism among small business owners has surged back to historically high levels, thanks to strong hiring, investment, and sales.”

Duggan attributes this optimism to lower taxes and fewer regulations, which is leading owners to reinvest in their businesses and employees.

Josephine Moran, Executive Vice President, Director of Retail Banking, echoed the results from the NFIB. Adding, their survey matches the, “…reported increased sales, strong job creation and hiring, improved business conditions, and credit conditions for small businesses.”

Positive Economic Climate

Small business owners feel the current economic climate is positive, and this is delivering better numbers across the board.

However, not everyone feels the same way as 10% of the respondents say it is hurting their business. But considering 9 in 10 are experiencing positive growth, there is hope the remaining 10% will also get there.

For those with a positive outlook, they are expecting growth in several key areas. They plan to offer new products (22%), increase spending (16%), move or expand locations (11%) and pursue additional financing (10%) over the next year.

In order to fund the growth, business owners have to get financing. And when it comes to dealing with financial institutions, most businesses also have a positive experience.

Almost half or 41% say they are extremely pleased, with another 43% saying they are somewhat pleased. This was followed by 15% who are neutral, and 1% indicating they were very displeased with their financial institution.

Small and large banks now approve more small business loans in the U.S. since the financial crisis.

Challenges for Small Business

Even though the economic climate is positive, small businesses still foresee some challenges. According to the survey, 23% are concerned about finding ways to grow revenue. Going hand in hand with this very issue, 16% say maintaining cash flow is a problem.

Health care costs (15%) and corporate taxes (10%) are also part of the financial challenges small businesses are facing.

When it comes to finding and retaining qualified talent, 16% say it is a concern. While the strong economy is good overall, the low unemployment number makes it difficult to find help.

The Provident Bank polled more than 400 small business owners online in May 2019 for its Small Business Confidence Survey.


This article, “80% of Small Business Owners Say Their Confidence Remains High” was first published on Small Business Trends

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