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by Mark Courts on 06/02/20

Greetings family. We are happy to inform you that we have added a sister site and our latest blog can be found there. We have a new blog from a guest writer Elena Stewart and you can read this article on our new website: I invite you to read our newest article: 3 Steps to Take Before Reopening Your Business after COVID-19. hope . you will go read it.

Build a Home Office That Works for You

by Mark Courts on 01/11/20

This article is another one of the articles from our guest writer series. we are honored to share an article with you from guest writer Tina Martin from Tina shares some tips that could benefit anyone interested in adding a home office. I hope you find it informative. Thank you for visiting our site. Without any further delay:

Build a Home Office That Works for You 

Whether you are a creative type or simply fortunate enough to work from home, creating an environment that is perfectly suited to you without hindering productivity can be very tricky. From buying a new home to building or designing the ideal workspace for your home-based business, exercising caution and following a few guidelines can help keep you on track without giving up your personality in the room. With a few helpful tips and suggestions, you can create a home office that fits your lifestyle and work habits just right.

Consider Space

Establishing a workspace will help you to segment that area of your life off from the rest of your day-to-day activities. Whether you use an entire room, a reading nook such as a window seat with a table or desk, or even a fold-down desk in the laundry room, your home office does not have to be big or small to be functional. Even floating shelves on an open, clear wall or the corner of a room can add just enough organization and space for a highly-functional space.

Keep in mind, however, that if you do have a large space, you also do not need to fill every corner with decor. Sometimes, having a clean and minimalistic space is enough to help motivate you through work. Keeping everything in its place will alleviate stress as well. Privacy may help some to focus, and painting the room a favorite color can make the space a place you want to go each day for others. However you customize your space, just remember that it should reflect form and function that best suits your needs and personality.

Rebuild or Add-On

If your home is already tight and you need more space than simply placing a workspace on a wall or in the laundry room, consider adding on or rebuilding a room. For some homes, it is possible to hire a contractor to add a structural element or two, such as a wall that can divide one large room into two smaller rooms -- one of which can become your home office. For many, however, adding on would be the better option of the two.

Consider adding on a sunroom or an enclosed porch that can double as a home office too. Another option is an extension near the back door that includes a small room for a home office and a mudroom. If you do plan to rebuild or add-on, be sure to work with an architect and contractor who understands your vision and can help you implement the things you want-including additional windows and skylights. Such additions may even add value to your home, which can increase the selling price in the future.

Expand in a New Home

Should you find that there simply is not enough room to incorporate your home office into an existing space or the will to add on, then opt to expand in a new home. Sometimes, buying a new home -- especially if you were already looking -- makes more sense for growing your home business. Remember to consider what you can realistically afford and get pre-approved for a loan. Try searching online for a property or hire a real estate agent that understands exactly what you are looking for in a new home. 

However you decide to build or design your home office, it's important to stay within your budget -- even if it is an investment. Remember to make the office appealing yet functional and a place to be productive every day. With minor adjustments and the right organizational outfit, any nook in your current or future home can become a home office that works for you. 

Tina Martin, the creator of Ideaspired, stays busy as a life coach and works hard to help herself and her clients achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Money Management Tips for Recently Discharged Young Veterans

by Mark Courts on 01/05/20

Good Evening and Happy New Year. This is another one of the articles from our guest Writers. This article has been submitted by Cheryl Conklin, a free lance writer, tutor and blogger. You can fing out more about Cheryl following the article. Cheryl offers money managment tips for recently discharged young veterans. I hope you enjoy it. Individuals who engage in military service and then return to civilian life face unique challenges. In their personal lives, they must reconnect with family, friends, and their community at home. They will have to return to a job and adapt to the new structure of working life. Finally, they must get used to day-to-day tasks like money management. This can be especially difficult for younger individuals who started their service before they had the opportunity to gain much "real world" experience. If you are a recently discharged young veteran, follow the money management tips below for financial security. 

Establish a budget and learn how to track it

The first step in understanding and monitoring your finances is to create a budget. Start by calculating your expenses. Make a list of everything you spend money on, from food to gym memberships and entertainment. Keep in mind that many businesses offer discounts to veterans, which can help you save. For example, as a veteran, you may be eligible for lower premiums on your car insurance, and you can save even further if you add a security device to your vehicle and bundle insurance policies. 

Once you have an idea of your monthly expenses, create a list of your monthly income, including salary from a job and any veteran’s benefits you may receive. The goal is to create a "zero budget" that accounts for every cent of money that goes out, whether it’s for food or savings. 

Creating a budget alone is not enough. You also have to track your spending and income to make sure you are sticking to it. If you allot $200 per month for food, for instance, you don't want to exceed this. You can download handy apps to your phone to track your spending. Mint is a favorite because information on bank accounts, bills, credit cards, and investments can be found in one place. You can view your balances and transactions, manage bills, and even benefit from free credit score monitoring. 

Plan for the unexpected with savings

When you create your budget, allot one section for savings. Even if you don't have a huge income, setting aside even a small amount of money every month is beneficial. Say you put just $100 per month into your savings, for instance. Within one year, you’ll have saved $1,200. This is enough to cover all kinds of emergency costs, from medical expenses to car repairs to a new phone if yours breaks. An automated savings account is the easiest option. Studies show that people who enroll in automated savings plans save more.

Your savings can also help cover costs such as life insurance or end-of-life services. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs actually provides some coverage for a non-service related death (up to $780). That said, a funeral or cremation can cost more than $10,000. If you set aside money and preplan your own service, you save your loved ones the hassle of this expense as well as the stress of trying to figure out what you would have wanted for your final wishes. When you preplan, you can decide everything from whether you want to be buried or cremated, to what kind of casket you want.

Prepare for the future by improving your credit

Another important part of preparing for the future involves building up good credit. Young veterans may not have had the opportunity to do this while they were serving. You can start now by taking out a secured credit card, which requires you to make a deposit in the amount of credit desired, and using it (and paying off the balance) regularly. You can then eventually get a standard credit card. You should further diversify your credit, as GoBankingRates explains, with a loan such as a car loan. When you establish a good credit rating, you will be more easily able to take out larger loans for long-term goals, like getting a mortgage for a house.


Young veterans have to adapt to civilian life in various ways. With a bit of assistance, however, the transition doesn't have to be difficult. The above tips can help you at least get a handle on your finances. With solid money management abilities, your day-to-day life will be easier and less stressful. 

Cheryl Conklin is a freelance writer and tutor by trade and a blogger, adventurer, traveler, and creator of Wellness Central in her free time, Cheryl Conklin created Wellness Central because she believes one can't have physical health without mental health and vice versa.You can visit Cheryl online at

3 Tips To Help You Find Your Dream Job

by Mark Courts on 11/16/19

Are you unemployed? Are you stuck in a rut? Are you looking to get your career back on track? If any of these situations apply to you, pay attention to the following information. These three tips may be just what you need to find your dream job. I ran across this article while exploring the thought of how to start my job search and I thought it had some great tips. While the article is pushing a resume writing service, I wanted to share the advice.I will share the link t the end of the article so that you can see the article in its entirety if you would like.

When I graduated college 8 years ago and got my first job, I was super excited to be done with the job hunting process for awhile. Because after all, job searching can be a super stressful and frustrating time. After years at the same firm, I was ready to take the next step in my career. When I started my search, I realized was more than a little bit rusty. It had been so long since I even applied for a job, much less went through the whole hiring process. Luckily, a friend of mine has some hiring experience in the past and had a few tips to give me. Even better, she pointed me to a service that helped me tremendously.

Use A Professional Resume Writing Service

A professionally written resume makes you 38% more likely to be contacted, 31% more likely to get an interview, and 40% more likely to land the job. You can also earn up to $5,000 more per year. The main advantage is getting around the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that most employers use to scan resumes. The ATS scans your resume and searches for specific keywords and phrases as they relate to the job qualifications. If the ATS doesn't see the right ones on your resume, it might not even be seen by an actual person.

Tell A Story In Your Cover Letter When Applying

Too often, people use their cover letters to just explain their resume in greater detail, but that's not what a cover letter is about. It's a way for you to tell a story about your career and specify why you would be a great match for the particular position you're applying for. If you don't research the company thoroughly and specify why you would be a good fit for the company, it may seem like you don't understand the culture.

Take Advantage Of LinkedIn During Your Job Search

These days, your LinkedIn profile is almost as important as your resume, if not more. Not only do most employers check your LinkedIn page after you apply for the job, LinkedIn itself is a great way to find a job. I tried to keep my LinkedIn profile as up to date as possible while working at my last job, but like my resume, I just never found the time to do it properly. A professional writer can make a difference by rewriting your LinkedIn profile to make sure it was compliments your resume. After that, I was having way more success getting responses from places I applied to, and I even started to see more recruiters reach out to me about jobs.

No one likes writing their resumes, and figuring out how to sell themselves to potential employers. Some people are naturally good at it. For those of us that aren't, these tips and can make a huge difference. They certainly did for me.

To see the complete unedited article, visit this link:

Six Reasons Entrepreneurs of Color Need a Small Business Mentor

by Mark Courts on 11/13/19

Where does America's entrepreneurial spirit lie? If you're picturing a white guy in Silicon Valley, you're way off base. African-American women are 300% more likely to launch a new business than a white person, and Latinas are 180% more likely – but both groups are also more likely to fail. Part of the reason? Many female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color say they lack mentors. The U.S. Small Business Administration says half of all new businesses fail within five years. But for business owners with a mentor, the difference is striking: 70% thrive with revenues increasing an average of 20% each year. This is why having an advisor or mentor is crucial.

Mentors Can Help You Focus Your Ideas

Many business owners began their companies after pursuing their skills and passions: be it designing jewelry, curating a shop, opening a restaurant, even starting a salon. Then they start wearing all of the hats: CEO, marketing, supply chain, and sales.

Lila Owens launched Cupcakin' Bakeshop in her Berkeley, California home in 2007. Cupcakin' began to grow and Lila relocated to a nearby storefront. The success happened fast, and Lila had a lot on her plate, so she went in search of a mentor to figure out the best ways to scale her operations to manage this growth. Lila came across a nonprofit called and they paired her with Robert Bonner, a business consultant based in New Jersey who specializes in operations. Over a series of months, he and Lila walked through how to scale and streamline her operations while maximizing her budget.

Lila says, "Robert has played a key role in grounding me and ensuring I'm analyzing things, and critically thinking about ideas and strategies before chasing pipe dreams." Lila says she feels like she on the right path to achieve her long-term goals. "Working with a mentor like Robert has been super instrumental in our growth - absolutely amazing."

Mentors Act As A Sounding Board

Most small business owners realize early on that to be successful they have to surround themselves with people they trust, with complementary skills and knowledge they can bounce ideas off of.

"We manufacture locally, and wanted to increase our revenue through more effective marketing and a better-thought-out business strategy," says Johnny Travis of San Francisco clothing company FAZE Apparel. "It's not something we'd ever done before, so we worked with a mentor, a marketing CEO named Joe Cain, who suggested we use some of our supporters' photos in our Facebook ad campaigns. It was a great idea and gave our supporters an incentive to share photos featuring our clothing. It really strengthened our brand and increased our website traffic by at least 30%."

While surrounding yourself with the right people can mean the people you hire, in many situations your employees might not feel comfortable giving you critical feedback or questioning your ideas. But a mentor can call you on it, as they have no financial relationship with you.

Mentors Can Help You Navigate A New Area

"I'm a long-time entrepreneur," says Reign Free of Red Door Catering. Red Door is a business that supports local businesses. They work with local farmers and producers to gather organic, seasonal ingredients. Chef Reign herself has been in the kitchen since she was nine, seated on a stool beside her mother cooking traditional West Indian dishes for her family.

The actual day-to-day needs of growing your business are beyond the skills of any one person. For example, you may have made a name for yourself at farmers' markets or popup. But now that you're ready to open a storefront, how do you write a business plan? Navigate city permitting? And who has the time for all this?

Chef Reign was chosen to cater Super Bowl 50's VIP Tailgate, and during that time had the opportunity to work with mentors from local nonprofits that support supplier diversity programs. One of those nonprofits, Pacific Community Ventures, paired her with advisor Mike Hannigan, founder of Give Something Back, who helped assess the company's financial performance, and offered advice on their operations.

"Red Door is my second business, and I've been at it for 10 years. My company is doing something right because the business is growing and we have great reviews and a good record of maintaining clients. But as we're growing, I see the need for more strategic planning in areas like sustainable growth. This is where I think a mentor helps me."

Mentors Have Been There Before

Having smart advisers is essential for any business owner, but it's doubly true for minority business owners navigating challenges that others in their communities may not have faced before.

Krystell Guzman is the founder of La Plazita Preschool in Oakland, California. They're a Spanish immersion preschool where the teachers themselves are immigrants who have degrees from their home countries, and the preschool helps them get their degrees transferred to the U.S. La Plazita,s first location quickly became successful, but when it came time to expand Krystell realized she needed some help to navigate that growth and success.

She also met her first mentor, Alina Ball, a corporate governance expert from UC Hastings College of Law, through "When you have a small business, you're really entrenched in what you're doing on a daily basis," Krystell says. "For us to take away from that to dive into concepts that are beyond our expertise, like law, is hard. Working with a mentor was amazing, and let us open up a whole new aspect of our business."

Since she started working with a mentor two years ago, Krystell's opened two new locations, has a total of 31 new employees working full time, and over 150 students enrolled across the schools. Her mentor even helped her to successfully apply for a state tax credit for creating jobs in California.

Mentors Can Open Doors

People of color in business face the same challenges as all entrepreneurs, such as a lack of affordable funding. But they also have to contend with social and structural obstacles as well: lack of role models in high-level business positions, and a harder time finding good professional partners in the community. This all adds up to business owners of color not getting as many crucial introductions, as much leeway on their loan applications, etc.

Towanda Scott owns Staffwear2, a provider of corporate, event, and venue apparel in McDonough, Georgia. She's been in the industry for over 20 years, but needed some additional advice on her long-term financial strategy.

She began working with a mentor, John Poelker, Founder of Poelker Consulting, who among other things introduced her to a new accounting firm that gave her insights into her finances and firmed up her operational picture, letting her scale. Towanda says, "I love that my mentor seems totally invested in our company, results, and process. We've implemented several of his suggestions and look forward to his continued mentorship."

Mentors Can Get You Capital-Ready

Every day, 8,000 small business loan requests are declined by banks across the nation. Even though people of color start businesses at rates higher than any other group, they are three-times as likely to be turned down by a bank.

Fernando Diaz of Proyecto Diaz Coffee in San Leandro, California, is from a four-generation coffee-growing family, going back to his grandfather's farm in Oaxaca, Mexico. He started his own business roasting these coffee beans on a shared roaster, which was limiting his growth. He needed funding, but was turned down by banks and didn't qualify for SBA loans. He was working with a mentor, Erica Lawler of EmPower Media group, on his marketing plan, who recommended he go to a CDFI. He did, and was quickly approved. Fernando secured equipment and space to double the amount of coffee he roasts and sells each day.

Fernando is open to hiring anyone, but he believes because of his unique understanding of Latino culture he can offer a lot to this specific demographic -- allowing them to explore and work the different coffee sectors; from roasting to marketing to management. He wants his company to be a springboard. "There are people in the community interested in developing skills," he says. "They can work here, make a career here."

Find Or Become A Mentor 

Small businesses as a whole create better jobs, keep more money in local communities, and drive the social and economic health of our entire country. But they face so many challenges: a harder time accessing capital, less favorable distributor and wholesale pricing than big companies, and an uneven playing field against online mega retailers.

So how can you help? If you’ve built up a body of experience, volunteer your time as a mentor or advisor. And tip off a small business owner you'd like to support to the value of mentoring through a platform like ours. If you’re an entrepreneur yourself, find your mentor today.

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