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Adventures in Business –

The biggest trade barrier to the kitchen table inventor, the non-business oriented innovator and individual creator is that every business, every industry and every corporation has a series of people and systems designed to protect and prevent anyone from getting through. That is because they have lawyers that told them to do that so unsolicited materials, ideas and inventions wouldn’t be seen by a known path of evidence where they would be liable for acknowledging the source of the materials. Isn’t that special . . .

Whenever there is a contest, promotion or a competition for designs, inventions, novel materials, innovations and other creative applications, if you enter it – you are giving it to them whether you win or not. Read the fine print. If you send in your comedy materials – it becomes theirs to use as they see fit including selling it, profiting from it, publishing it, broadcasting it, or incorporating it into other things they own. That is true of inventions, it is true of innovations and is true of creative materials, as well.

This doesn’t matter if you win or not. Once it is submitted and you have applied for entry into their “contest” – those materials belong to them. Read the official submission information that is not the brief guidelines but the long-winded, small print description that goes on for pages, and pages, and pages. There it will say if you enter, those materials belong to them or if they revert to you after consideration for the competition. Read it. Don’t give what you can’t afford to be without, (considering you will never have the rights to any of it ever again.)

And, if they don’t ever use it – once you’ve submitted it to them for a competition, contest or promotion – it still isn’t yours after that. There is nothing that you can do about it, whether they use it or not. Many of the materials could go in the trash and simply not be available to anyone, including you.

But the single most challenging trade barrier in America today, is the system that nearly every company has in place to discourage, thwart, evade and undermine the ability of anyone to get through to them. It is easiest to see in the publishing industry but try to suggest something to Starbucks and you’ll find the same thing in place. The William Morris Agency only considers those who are referred by someone they already have working for them and many literary agents that would be required in order to present materials to publishers do not consider anything not presented to them by someone they already know, as well. Most materials of any kind that are sent anywhere are simply sent back, put in the trash, forwarded to a secondary company hired to look it over, electronically “dumped” without anyone seeing them or dismantled by polite rejection saying they don’t want to see it in the first place.

These are the same companies and industries that are hammering for feedback, interaction, ideas, innovations, promotional campaign concepts, opportunities, new inventions, better ways of doing things and greater competitive advantages / compatible distinctions. They have assured that none of that gets to them, if it isn’t already there in-house. If they are paying outside companies to offer these things, they are being promised that they will get “thinking outside the box” and innovative inspiration, creative prototypes and exciting promotions that work, brilliant public relations opportunities and increased sales. But, do they? Or is it just that those are given the only access so anything they come up with sounds pretty good?

I don’t know that I could do a better job. There isn’t a way to tell whether anyone outside these structures could be better at it including the 19 million people who are out of work or under-employed across America right now, but I have a feeling that the intellectual inbreeding of thought and creativity wouldn’t be the problem it currently is at some levels of corporate America. It isn’t rocket science to know that a lot of them need help and in the worst way, they need that help right now.

A quickie true story –

So, once upon a time, I thought it would be great to be roofer – everyone needs roofers. The five days that my friend and I got on someone’s roof to do roofing it hit 104 and 105 degrees in a freak heat wave (during the 80’s in Atlanta). I was wearing a black leotard and blue jeans which seemed to be one of the hottest fashion choices for roofing ever considered. As much as I now have a very healthy respect for roofers, it is obvious to me that I am not a roofer.

I also made some serious errors in judgment about business doing roofing. One is, never allow a man (any man) to make the deal. Second, always – always check the contract price against the actual costs of materials. And, third, when someone says they priced something to the customer high enough to cover all the costs and pay those doing the job – don’t believe them, do not take it at their word and don’t take it at face value, because it is probably wrong somehow somewhere.

I found out the nails and particularly roofing nails should be bought at the same time as the roofing materials, like shingles and tar paper, not in fourteen separate runs to the hardware store, among other things. And, that gutter ruined when your partner mis-adjusts the ladder, means the cost of fixing it comes out of everybody’s money. I’m not a roofer. It is not a good business for me. And, if you ever decide to do any of it – check the weather first. Rain isn’t the only thing that is a problem.

***

This story is specifically to say, that a simple idea is not necessarily the best. People (including me) are complicated, complex and dynamic. Business that are simple, direct and fill a need in the community may be geographically efficient, but are not automatically efficient and appropriate for any given individual. The match really needs to be found.

Everyone is uniquely suited to be more appropriate to some things than others. Needs are out in the greater world in varying degrees of all different types. There are business opportunities that exist everywhere by finding those needs, problems to be solved, direct access to situations that need resolution, processes and solutions along with innovations and inventions that could be applied to numerous different needs and problems.

At the point where I want to do a business thing, most everything in the world around me is not on my side to do it. That just happens to be where I stand. But, for most people there are some sets of things going for them and some that are not. I have time on my side that some people don’t, but many people out of work right now have that asset as well.

The competitive marketplace is not easy to enter, every industry and business wants the share you or I would take and it is not a “gentleman’s game.” So, that means every last shred of knowledge, access to information, idea, thought, procedure that works, innovations, inventions, designs, distinct diverse advantage that you or I have is going to be necessary to us for success. That fact is already known by the competition, and hard to keep in mind all the time when starting out. But, it is critical.

Some people will say to run around to everyone you know and tell them about your ideas to build some excitement about it presuming that they will then invest in you doing it. I will tell you from experience, that you need to decide intelligently about that. It is one way to do it but it runs the risk that someone will complete the task without you, being better positioned to do so.

It also lets any and all potential competitors know what you are doing, what you plan to do and how you are going to go about it, in a way that gives them the lead time to defend their business position from it and possibly to undermine your efforts and opportunities. It simply needs to be considered before running all over the place telling everybody what you are going to do. This method can build excitement, sometimes it does yield investors and occasionally it will inspire friends and family to help you get started with money, knowledge, networking contacts or help. But, they might not, and then you’ve taken the risks of letting everyone know about it before doing what is necessary to protect it. And, nothing is going to inspire bankers, venture capitalists and business leaders to help regardless, – unless you don’t need the money they can loan because you are borrowing against the cash you already have sitting right there in front of them.

– cricketdiane, 05-08-09

***

ASSISTANCE FOR SMALL AND DISADVANTAGED BUSINESSES

8(a) Business Development Program

The SBA’s Section 8(a) Business Development Program provides various forms of assistance (management and technical assistance, financial assistance, government contracting assistance and advocacy support) to foster the growth and development of businesses owned by socially
and economically disadvantaged individuals.

SBA assists these businesses, (during a nine year tenure in the 8(a) Business Development Program), to gain access to the resources necessary to develop their businesses and improve their ability to compete in the mainstream of the American economy.
Business development assistance includes one-to-one counseling, training workshops, and other management and technical guidance required to expand into the federal government contracting arena.

The SBA enters into contracts with other federal agencies and subcontracts the performance of such contracts to 8(a) program participants.

Eligibility Criteria:

To participate in the 8(a) program, a business must be:

• a small business concern

• owned by a U.S. citizen

• at least 51 percent unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more an individual(s) who qualify as socially and economically disadvantaged

• established for two full years before applying (or qualifying for a waiver of the two-year rule)

Social disadvantage:

Socially disadvantaged is defined as individuals who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual capabilities.

The following individuals are presumed to be socially disadvantaged: Black Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans,Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans. An individual who is not a member of one of the groups presumed to be socially disadvantaged must establish individual social disadvantage by a preponderance of the evidence. Anyone may
apply for 8(a) Program certification.

For additional information regarding evidence of social disadvantage, please visit:
http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/8abd/index.html

Economic disadvantage:
Economically disadvantaged individuals are socially disadvantaged individuals whose ability to compete in the free-enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities as compared to others in the same or similar line of business who are not socially disadvantaged.

Net worth:

For initial 8(a) Program certification, the net worth of an individual claiming disadvantage, must be less than $250,000.

For continued 8(a) Program eligibility after admission, net worth must be less than $750,000. In determining such net worth, SBA will exclude the ownership interest in the applicant business and the equity in the primary residence.

Day-to-Day Management:

• Management and daily business operations must be controlled by the disadvantaged individual(s) upon whom eligibility is based.

• The individual(s) must have management or technical expertise.

For additional information on the 8(a) Business Development Program, please visit:
http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/8abd/index.html

Small Disadvantaged Business Certifications

To qualify as a small disadvantaged business, a firm must be owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged. Congress has directed that individuals who are members of certain ethnic groups are presumed to be disadvantaged. Other
persons, including women and persons of any race, can also qualify by establishing their
disadvantaged status.

Once certified by the SBA, the firm can be added to an online registry of SDB-certified firms maintained in CCR/DSBS. Firms remain on the list for three years. Contracting Officers and prime contractors may search this registry for potential contractors.

For additional information on SBD Certification and Eligibility, visit the SBD Web site at: http://www.sba.gov/services
and select “Small Business Certifications” from the “Contracting Opportunities” menu in the
center of the page.

Online 8(a)/SDB Application

The online 8(a)/SDB application allows small companies to apply for 8(a) Business Development and Small Disadvantaged Business certification directly from SBA’s Web site. The 8(a)/SDB online application incorporates features including context sensitive help, real-time validation, printer friendly versions and integrates with the CCR/DSBS.

You may access the electronic 8(a)/SDB application by visiting:
https://sba8a.symplicity.com/applicants/guide

If you are having difficulty with SBA’s General Login System (GLS), please e-mail SBA at ITSecurity@sba.gov

If you are having difficulty with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR), please go to
http://www.ccr.gov/help.asp
for contact information.

If you are having difficulty with the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS), please contact Robert.Connolly@sba.gov

Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) E-application, please contact
SDB@sba.gov

8(a) Business Development E-application, please contact
8ABD@sba.gov

The Mentor-Protégé Program for 8(a) Participants
Through the SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program, 8(a) Program participants can receive in-depth business advice to assist them in becoming more competitive in obtaining federal government contracts. The SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program encourages private-sector relationships and broadens the agency’s efforts to address the needs of clients in the 8(a) Program.

If you are an 8(a) participant, mentors can provide you with technical and management
assistance, financial assistance in the form of equity investments or loans, subcontract support, and assistance in performing prime contracts through joint-venture arrangements with 8(a) businesses.

For additional information, please visit:
http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/8abd/index.html

MANAGEMENT AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

SBA’s Section 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance Program authorizes the SBA to enter into grants, cooperative agreements and contracts with public or private organizations to pay all or part of the cost of technical or management assistance for individuals or concerns eligible for assistance under sections: 7(a) (11), 7(j) (10), or 8(a) of the Small Business Act. Specifically,
the following are eligible to receive management and technical assistance including businesses which qualify as small under 13CFR part 121 of this title: concerns located in urban or rural areas with high proportions of unemployed or low-income individuals, or which are owned by such low income individuals; and businesses eligible to receive 8(a) contracts.

The types of assistance available to eligible individuals through the Management and Technical Assistance Program include counseling and training in the areas of:

• Finance

• Management

• Accounting
• Bookkeeping

• Marketing and presentation analysis

• Advertising

• Loan packaging

• Proposal bid preparation

• Feasibility studies
• Industry specific technical assistance

• The identification and development of new business opportunities

More information is at:
http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/ 8abd/index.html

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC)

PTA Centers provide assistance to business firms in marketing products and services to the Federal, State and local governments at no or nominal cost.

SERVICE-DISABLED VETERAN-OWNED SMALL BUSINESS

In 1999, public law established federal procurement opportunities for veterans and service-disabled veterans. In 2003, the Small Business Act established procurement vehicles for small businesses owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans. Contracting officers may award a sole source or set-aside contract to a small business owned by a service-disabled veteran if:

• The business is a responsible contractor able to perform the contract, and the
contracting officer does not reasonably expect two or more small businesses owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans will submit offers.

• The anticipated award price of the contract (including options) won’t exceed $5 million in case of a contract opportunity assigned a North American Industry Classification System code for manufacturing; or

• $3 million in the case of any other contract opportunity;

• In the estimation of the contracting officer, the contract award can be made at a fair and reasonable price.

Additionally, a contracting officer may award contracts after competition restricted to small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans if the contracting officer reasonably expects two or more small businesses owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans will submit offers and that the award can be made at a fair market price.

Veterans and service-disabled veterans may participate in all SBA procurement programs. To determine your eligibility, contact your local veterans business development officer in your nearest SBA district office, visit the various program Web sites or contact the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development at
http://www.sba.gov/vets

SMALL BUSINESS INNOVATION RESEARCH PROGRAM

The SBIR Program encourages small businesses to explore their technological potential by reserving a specific percentage of federal research and development funds for small businesses.

The program serves to fund the critical startup and development stages for a technology and encourages commercialization of the technology, product or service. In turn, this stimulates the U.S. economy.

SBIR Requirements:

Small businesses must meet the following eligibility criteria to participate in the SBIR program.

• Be 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens in the U.S. or be a for-profit business concern that is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by another for-profit business concern that is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are citizens of, or permanent resident aliens in, the U.S.

• Be organized for profit.

• Principal researcher must be employed by small business.

• Company size cannot exceed 500 employees.

For more information on the SBIR Program visit
http://www.sba.gov/services
then scroll down the “Contracting Opportunities” menu along the bottom and click on “Contracting Program.” From there, select “SBIR/STTR Programs” from the menu that appears on the right-hand side.

Participating Agencies:

Each year, the following eleven federal departments and agencies are required to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for award to small business: Departments of Agriculture; Commerce; Defense; Education; Energy; Health and Human Services; Homeland Security; Transportation; Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and National Science Foundation.

SMALL BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER PROGRAM

This STTR program reserves a specific percentage of federal R&D funding for award to small business and nonprofit research institution partners. Small business has long been where innovation and innovators thrive. But the risk and expense of conducting serious R&D efforts can be beyond the means of many small businesses.

Conversely, nonprofit research laboratories are instrumental in developing high-tech innovations. But frequently, innovation is confined to the theoretical, not the practical. STTR combines the strengths of both entities by introducing entrepreneurial skills to high tech research efforts. The technologies and products are transferred from the laboratory to the marketplace.The small business profits from the commercialization, which, in turn, stimulates the U.S. economy.

STTR Requirements:

Small businesses must meet the following eligibility criteria to participate in the STTR Program.

• Be 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens in the U.S.

• Be organized for profit.

• Principal researcher need not be employed by small business.

• Small business must conduct at least 40 percent of the work.

• Company size cannot exceed 500 employees. (No size limit for nonprofit research institution).

The nonprofit research institution partner must also meet certain eligibility criteria:

• Be located in the United States and be one of the following:

• Nonprofit college or university.

• Domestic nonprofit research organization.

• Federally funded R&D center.

• The research institution must conduct at least 30 percent of the work.

Participating Agencies:

Each year the following five Federal departments and agencies are required by STTR to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for award to small business/nonprofit research institution partnerships:

Department of Defense;
Department of Energy;
Department of Health and Human Services;
National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and
National Science Foundation.

TECH-NET

TECH-Net is an Internet-based database of information containing Small Business Innovation Research awards, Small Business Technology Transfer awards, Advanced Technology Program awards, and Manufacturing Extension Partners centers.

It is a search engine and electronic gateway of technology information and resources for and about small high-tech businesses. It is a tool for researchers, scientists, state, federal and local government officials, a marketing tool for small firms and a potential “link” to investment opportunities for investors and other sources of capital.

TECH-Net is a free service for those seeking small business partners, small business contractors and subcontractors, leading edge technology research, research partners, (e.g. small businesses, universities, federal labs and non-profit organizations), manufacturing centers and investment opportunities.

TECH-Net is available at:
http://tech-net.sba.gov/index.cfm