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Category Archives: business

7 Fun Businesses Started for Kids

Parents know how hard it can be to keep children entertained and healthy. Especially in the digital days of internet surfing and video games, it can be hard to get kids to step outside and experience the world.

The good news is from cooking classes to science expeditions, there are plenty of businesses out there that cater to children of all interests. These companies not only give children and young adults something fun to do after school, but also help them learn valuable skills, develop their creativity, or improve their fitness. What’s better than having fun and growing at the same time?

These 7 successful businesses were made just for kids.

Rebounderz helps kids soar! If you’re children are the acrobatic type, then look no further. With locations throughout the U.S. and franchising opportunities, Rebounderz is spreading to serve kids (and adult children too) everywhere. Not only does the indoor trampoline park offer an opportunity for fun, but it also helps promote fitness in children, not to mention get their energy out before bedtime. Currently, the franchise maintains locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, California, Florida, Texas, and Panama City.

Young Chefs Academy (YCA) offers cooking classes to children so they can learn their way around the kitchen in a safe, creative environment. Along with giving lessons on how to make food, the company’s kid-friendly cooking classes teach children everything from menu planning and table setting to etiquette and kitchen safety. YCA offers camp, field trip and birthday party services as well. The franchise has U.S. locations in California, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Virginia, as well as international locations in the Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia and more.

Cartoon Cuts knows that haircuts can sometimes be a trying experience for anxious or impatient kids, and that’s why it tries to make the experience more fun. The hair salon is designed especially for children — the waiting room is filled with art tables, video games and toys; the shampoo station (known as the “trunk wash” station) is shaped like an elephant named Ellie; and children can choose cartoons and movies to watch or games to play during their haircut. Cartoon Cuts even gives kids a “First Haircut Certificate” after their first visit, and offers salon services for parents, too. The salon chain currently has locations in Florida, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and Puerto Rico.

Drama Kids International is a children’s acting program that helps kids to learn and pursue the art of stage work, as well as to build important skills and qualities like confidence, public speaking, leadership, teamwork and creative thinking. The company offers programs for kids ages 3 to 18, with different classes for each age group, as well as summer and holiday camps. Drama Kids International has more than 1,500 locations, including in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe.

Abrakadoodle is a mobile art program that brings fun events, like art parties and summer and holiday art camps, to kids at schools and other community groups. Abrakadoodle aims to help kids immerse themselves in learning and creative art through hands-on, interactive programs that teach them different art techniques, forms and styles. The program also teaches kids about art history and modern artists. Abrakadoodle has locations throughout the United States as well as three international locations in China, Japan and Singapore.

Fitwize 4 Kids helps kids ages 5 to 15 learn how to stay fit and live a healthy lifestyle. The company is a small chain of health centers just for kids, with locations in Florida, New York and Virginia (and locations in eight other states coming soon). These centers offer weight training, cheerleading, boxing and kickboxing, yoga, self-defense and more, and even provide parent-child classes and an educational nutrition program. Fitwize 4 Kids also offers fitness and academic services to schools, as well as after-school programs and summer fitness programs for kids.

The Tumblebus is a gymnasium on wheels made just for children, converted from a full-size school bus and filled with equipment like trampolines, monkey bars and zip lines, among other kid-friendly gymnastics staples. These buses are taken to schools and day cares to provide kids with a way to make physical fitness more fun, and they can even be used at birthday parties and other special events. Currently, there are more than 300 Tumblebuses in the United States, and interested entrepreneurs can purchase fully outfitted buses and acquire training through the company to start their own Tumblebus business in their area.

7 Unique Food Trucks Serving Up Business Inspiration

“Street food” has been around for a long time, but these days, tiny food carts, stands and trucks are more popular — and more gourmet — than ever. The culinary entrepreneurs who run them know you don’t need a huge sit-down restaurant to give customers a delicious dining experience.

These 7 food trucks from around the country are serving up so much more than just mobile meals — aspiring business owners can learn a lot from their creativity and innovation, too.

Bacon can do more than just top off breakfast platters and sandwiches, and that’s exactly what San Francisco-based food truck Bacon Bacon is out to prove. The truck offers a dozen different bacon-centered dishes and several sides, including a bacon bouquet. There are even some interesting dessert options: candied bacon chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate-covered bacon. In fact, the only thing on Bacon Bacon’s menu that doesn’t include bacon is their french fries — and even then, you can order the truck’s special “Porky Fries,” an upgrade on the basic potato dish, which includes pork shoulder, pork belly, bacon and peppers.

Del Popolo is a mobile pizzeria in San Francisco, and it’s one of several food trucks out there changing the way people see food trucks — literally. Del Popolo is a food truck created out of a repurposed trans-Atlantic shipping container, complete with a wall of glass doors so customers can see the interior. The truck comes with a traditional Italian-made wood-fired oven and serves “rustic Neapolitan-inspired pizza using ingredients sourced from small, generational producers,” according to its website. Some of their mouthwatering pizza creations include an oven-roasted asparagus pie with green garlic pesto and fresh mozzarella and pecorino; a fennel sausage pie with crushed tomatoes, Calabrian chili and spring onion; and a traditional Margherita pie.

This New Jersey food truck company serves up fresh empanadas and tamales throughout the state. Empanada Guy maintains a fleet of eight trucks, with a ninth on the way. True to the empanadas history as a versatile food, there’s a wide variety of fillings available, from beef and chicken to pulled pork and even lobster. New Jersey residents are used to seeing the truck pop up around town and at festivals, usually with a sizable line at the window. “Empanada Guy Food Truck has given me a chance to do exactly what I set out to do from the beginning, bring my product to the people. It brings me great joy to interact with my customers and watch their reactions when they first try my stuff,” Carlos Serrano, founder of (and also the) Empanada Guy, said on his website. In addition to their common public appearances, Empanada Guy can also be hired to cater private events

Made from a repurposed fire truck, Fire Truck Crepes is run by two emergency medical services professionals who were fascinated by the food truck industry. The Denver-based truck serves a variety of sweet crepes and savory crepes, so whether you’ve got a taste for cheesecake or chicken, this menu has a crepe for every craving. You can even add ice cream to some of the truck’s crepe creations by ordering them a la mode (though we wouldn’t recommend it with the steak and cheese). According to the company’s website, Fire Truck Crepes can be booked for parties, company events, luncheons, concerts and even weddings.

If you ever find yourself in Atlanta on a hot day, track down King of Pops. This truck is all ice pops, all the time — and not the boring, sugary, fake-fruit-flavored treats you’re used to from the grocery store. With both fruit- and milk-based options, and flavors like blueberry lemongrass, cereal milk, creamy avocado, honeydew lime zest, Mexican chocolate and tangerine basil to choose from, you can’t go wrong. The best part: If you’ve got food allergies, you’re in luck, as the company’s website lists which ice pops contain milk and gluten. And since King of Pops uses locally sourced ingredients, you can see exactly where the fruits, veggies, herbs and even dairy products come from on the website, as well. King of Pops also provides catering services for events.

Love macaroni and cheese? Mac Mart Cart in Philadelphia puts its own unique spin on the staple noodle dish. You can order Mac Mart’s classic seven-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese if you want to keep things simple, or turn things up a few notches by trying dishes like the Buffalo chicken cheesesteak mac or the “crabby mac,” which includes crab meat dip, cream cheese and Old Bay-seasoned potato chip crunch. For the vegetarians out there, there are plenty of options like spinach artichoke mac, jalapeño popper mac and even tater tot mac. And you’re not limited to a boring bowl of pasta — you can turn your macaroni and cheese order into a sandwich between Texas toast or hash brown patties, or order it on top of french fries or a hot dog.

Seattle-based food truck Maximus/Minimus is all about options — that is, the option between hot and spicy foods, and sweet and tangy foods. Each item on the truck’s menu comes in a hot variety (“maximus”) or a mild, sweeter variety (“minimus”) even down to the drinks. For main dishes, Maximus/Minimus serves up pulled pork sandwiches, vegetable sandwiches and grilled chicken sandwiches, with side dish options including coleslaw and macaroni and cheese. If you’re more of a maximus kind of person, you can always order extra maximus sauce to further spice things up. And did we mention that the truck is designed to look like a huge metal pig? That might be why Maximus/Minimus is best known for its pulled pork.

7 Unique Businesses That Make Gift Giving Easier

Whether it’s a birthday, holiday or other special occasion, there are many times throughout the year that people need to purchase gifts. But finding the perfect one isn’t always easy, and sometimes, you just don’t want to give the same old predictable present.

Fortunately for gift givers, plenty of startups offer unique and exciting ways to show someone you care. From mobile gift cards to video gift messages, these 7 businesses are putting a new spin on the art of gift giving.

If you’re mailing a gift to someone far away, you might wish you could be there in person to give your recipient a thoughtful, face-to-face greeting along with his or her present. Vift, a video messaging service, allows you to record or upload a video for your recipient that arrives digitally the moment that the physical package arrives. All you need is the person’s contact information (email or mobile phone number) and the package tracking information, and your Vift message will arrive within 60 seconds of the carrier’s delivery confirmation notice. Alternatively, you can schedule your message for a specific date and time. Giving your recipient the ability to hear and see you right when he or she receives the package you sent adds an extra-thoughtful touch to your gift.

With Sugarwish, you can send anyone a personalized assortment of candies without even asking them about their favorites. All you have to do is select a size — 4, 8 or 16.25-pound (0.11 kilograms) bags of candy — personalize an e-card and send the gift to your recipient. Your recipient will receive an email with your e-card and a coded link to the Sugarwish website, where he or she can select candies for the box. Once your recipient has submitted those choices, Sugarwish packages up the gift and sends it out. If you’re sending this sweet-tooth-approved gift to friends, family, employees, clients or even your boss, Sugarwish makes it easy for you to send a thoughtful gift by giving someone exactly what he or she wants.

Giftsnideas is an international gift-sending website that allows customers to send special gifts to more than 180 countries. The staff hand-picks a wide variety of gifts from around the world, and customers are able to browse the wide array of products. You can find the perfect gift for every occasion, knowing it can be sent to your loved ones, no matter how far away they live.

Gift baskets are a fun and exciting way to give a variety of items that your recipient can use. However, compiling and packaging a basket on your own can be time-consuming and expensive. GiftTree creates beautiful themed gift baskets, all hand-assembled, that are designed to have an impact on the people who receive it. You can search baskets by price, occasion and gift type. In addition to its keepsake baskets, GiftTree also offers an extensive collection of personalized and engraved gifts for all occasions.

This company allows you to design and send a custom bottle of wine to anyone you wish. Personal Wine offers red, white and sparkling varieties in standard and mini bottles, and all options are sommelier-tasted and approved. Once you’ve selected the wine you want to give, you can design a custom label, complete with personalized text and photos. Custom labels come free with your wine purchase, but you can also engrave a bottle for an additional fee.

Personal Creations offers a personalized gift-sending experience, selling a wide range of thoughtful and fun gifts. All products offered are available to etch, monogram or embroider with names, initials or a personalized message. Personal Creations focuses on major holidays, and releases limited-time items for each occasion.

Collecting cash from a group to buy a gift for your boss, friend or a loved one can get complicated. The next time you plan to collaborate on a group gift, make it easier with GiftStarter. This business combines crowdfunding and gift giving to help you give personalized, meaningful gifts without the hassle of keeping track of who owes how much. You can search GiftStarter’s website to find a gift (there are currently more than 4 million products to choose from) or work with a concierge to create a custom gift. From there, you can split the cost evenly into “pieces” that can be adjusted, depending on the number of people contributing. Once you’ve chosen your gift and you have split it up, you can invite the rest of the gift-giving group to contribute online. GiftStarter will then deliver the gift with a card featuring the contributors’ personal messages.

7 Online Business Ideas You Can Start Tomorrow

When you dream of opening your own business, you might envision four white walls and a mess of boxes to unpack in a commercial space. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With today’s technology, you can start and run a business online, often with little to no cost.

By focusing on your strengths, you’ll be able to build a client roster and get your online-based business started. Here are 7 great ideas you can run with.

Do you know the ins and outs of search engines and have skills in platforms like Google Analytics? The owners of a lot of smaller companies don’t realize how much of an impact search engine optimization (SEO) can have on their business. Educate those business owners on the power of SEO to help transform their websites into a more SEO-friendly property. Use your skills to show business owners how to read and use their analytics data the right way, and how to properly use keywords and structure content to get more traffic.

If you possess a great deal of business experience and knowledge, why not create a business that helps aspiring entrepreneurs find success? You can use your skills to help new business owners get off to a good start and help experienced entrepreneurs keep up with demand. To show off your knowledge and skills and bring in clients, you can also write articles about business on platforms like LinkedIn.

There’s an audience for everything, whether it’s making dollhouse furniture or creating organic dog food. With a specialty e-commerce store, you can reach those customers who are seeking your specific products. All you need is a web-hosting service with an integrated shopping cart feature or with e-commerce software, and your business will be operational in no time. You can even work with vendors to ship products to customers on your behalf, which means you don’t need to own a lot of inventory.

Larger companies can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts, but small businesses often have to handle their own social media marketing. With so many responsibilities, business owners are often too busy, overwhelmed or undereducated about the importance of social media to spend time developing and implementing a great social media strategy. As a consultant, you can help them determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower count grows, so will your business.

There’s nothing more off-putting than a poorly designed website, and often, it kills credibility. If you know HTML and have a good eye for design, you can launch a service to create attractive, easy-to-use websites for small businesses. Put your skills to good use for business owners who want to take their online presence to the next level. Build a comprehensive portfolio, and then create your own website to show it off and attract a steady stream of clients.

It’s a tough truth to swallow, but a standout resume and cover letter can make all the difference when you’re applying for a job. While listing career accomplishments might seem like an easy task, the fine art of “humble bragging” eludes some of us. Find work by helping others to get hired with the aid of stellar resumes. Capitalize on the increasingly important social media branding bandwagon and offer to fix LinkedIn profiles as well.

Do you have impeccable organizational skills? What about cleaning skills? Can you quickly and efficiently carry out these tasks? Maybe it’s time to put those skills to good use by becoming an online personal assistant or task manager. Companies like TaskRabbit or Zirtual allow you to sign up for tasks you want to complete — including data research, virtual assistant or running errands — and begin building clientele.

Find Your Dream Business Ideas

Starting a business takes, before anything else, a great idea.

Inspiration is everywhere, all around us just waiting to be articulated. Sometimes, that inspiration comes from looking at existing businesses and thinking about how they succeeded where others might have failed. New and aspiring entrepreneurs can learn a lot from other companies, especially those who saw a unique need and filled it with an innovative product or clever service.

If you need some serious inspiration for your business ideas, then check out these stories. They profile companies in industries from food and travel to art and music, and everything in between. You may even find some to be quite out of the box, exactly the way you need to think to create a truly successful company.

For when you’re searching for holiday gifts for your clients and co-workers, shopping for the perfect birthday present for your boss, or just looking for business inspiration, here are five companies with unique business models that can help. From mobile gift cards to personalized sweet treats, these businesses put a whole new spin on gift giving.

Now more than ever, the best food often comes from tiny carts, stands and trucks. These 10 food trucks from around the country are serving up so much more than just mobile meals — entrepreneurs can learn a lot from their creativity and innovation, too.

These companies don’t just give children and young adults something fun to do after school or when school’s out for the summer. They also help them learn valuable skills, develop their creativity, improve their health and further their education in other ways — keeping parents everywhere happy, too.

The legal cannabis industry is rapidly growing as more states adopt both medicinal and recreational cannabis laws. An industry research group projects that cannabis will be worth more than $20 billion in less than 5 years, meaning now is the time to get in on the ground floor of this fledgling business.

Back-to-school season isn’t always easy, but there are plenty of businesses out there that can help make starting a new school year a lot less stressful for students, parents and teachers.

From facilitating new ways to display art in your home or office, to giving artists new mediums to showcase and sell their work, these businesses put the “art” in “startup.”

Whether you’re looking for products or want to start a business that brings it back to basics, you need to check out these inspiring all-natural businesses.

Beyond record labels, major streaming services, equipment retailers and concert venues, there are a lot of ways business and music intersect, and these music businesses are really changing the game.

From virtual-reality sports platforms and game-footage analysis to family-friendly youth sports programs, these six businesses put a whole new spin on sports, helping coaches, athletes and families do what they love.

Fortunately for all you vegans out there, more and more stores and brands are dedicated to this animal- and eco-friendly lifestyle, covering everything from food and cosmetics to clothes and accessories.

While many organizations do their part by increasing recycling efforts, sourcing local materials and using energy-efficient equipment, some have taken their eco-friendly efforts to the next level by basing their entire business models on these principles.

7 Places to Find Businesses For Sale Online

Want to be an entrepreneur? You don’t necessarily have to start and build your own brand-new business; sometimes the best move is to buy and grow an already-established company.

Aspiring owners who don’t know where to start should consider looking into websites, which direct you to the best businesses and properties for sale. From there, you can decide which best fits your entrepreneurial goals and budget.

Here are seven companies to find a business to take over:

BizBuySell.com boasts that it is “the Internet’s largest business for sale marketplace” and offers users options to buy a business, buy a franchise, sell a business, get help with financing and more. Users can search for businesses by category, state and country, and even set a minimum and maximum price. You can also search franchises by type, state, and amount of capital you have available to invest. Or, you can search for a business broker near you.

Search on BizQuest.com for your desired businesses, franchises or business brokers by location and business type or industry. And perks for sellers are good, too: BizQuest.com allows you to post ads in just five minutes. The ads are then shared on the company’s partner websites, like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. BizQuest.com also gives you the option to browse listings in top cities as well as the most popular franchises and industries.

BusinessBroker.net has more than 30,000 business-for-sale listings just waiting for you to sift through. As with the other websites, you can search for businesses and franchises, find brokers and see listings by industry and location. BusinessBroker.net also has a finance and loan center that offers professional help to guide you in your business purchasing decisions.

MergerNetwork.com has more than 15,000 active business-for-sale listings around the world. It allows sellers to post ads for their business for free and connect with over 14,000 entrepreneurs, investment bankers and business brokers.

This website currently has more than 62,000 business listings in the United States and around the world, including available franchises. Users can search by business sector and location to find the perfect business for them.BusinessesForSale.com also has features like email alerts and a services directory for those who need accountants, brokers, lawyers and more.

With more than 800,000 listings available, it’s easy to understand why LoopNet.com is a reliable resource for discovering businesses for sale in your region. If you’re already a business owner or an entrepreneur with a busy schedule, LoopNet is available in app form (on Google Play and in the App Store) to peruse listings on your schedule, from wherever.

Additionally, the site is partners with commercial real estate firms like Century21, Chusman & Wakefield, CBRE, Sperry Van Ness, and Re/Max Commercial.

On the other end of it? If you’re looking to sell your current business, LoopNet provides the opportunity to list your business.

BusinessMart.com, like many of the other websites, has both businesses and franchises available as well as resources and services to help you get funding. It also allows you to search by location and business category, or search franchises by your available capital.

Business Plan Tools for Startups

Have a killer business idea? A killer business plan can help you turn it into a successful business. Creating a well-crafted business plan is no easy task, however. You’ll need to not only flesh out your idea, but also have a deep understanding of the different aspects of running a business — before you even start one.

Figuring out how to do this correctly is hard enough, but there are several tools available to make this arduous task a little bit easier for would-be entrepreneurs. Instead of starting from scratch, here are a collection of business plan templates, software, apps and services to help you start a business the right way with a professional business plan.

Business plan templates show you exactly what a business plan is supposed to look like and what goes in each section. You can find them as downloadable sample business plans that you can copy and modify to fit your business, or as fill-in-the-blank or question-and-answer forms. There are also different types of business plans: simple business plans that cover the essentials, comprehensive ones that cover every aspect of a business, and those designed for a specific purpose, such as to raise funding or find business partners. Here are some business plan templates worth considering.

The $100 Startup One-Page Business Plan. One-page business plans take the fuss out creating a business plan by getting down to the basics of what your business is about and how you intend to meet its goals. Think of it like writing down your business on a napkin, but with a purpose. The $100 Startup’s One-Page Business Plan is one such business plan template. Simply answer a few questions like “What will you sell?” “What will you charge?” and “How will customers learn about your business?” in a couple sentences and you’re good to go.

SCORE Business Plan Templates. Small business resource SCORE has a collection of free PDF and Word business plan templates for startups, established businesses and even nonprofits. The organization also offers additional types of business planning resources and templates, such as financial projections, market research, sales forecasts, SWOT analysis and more. Once your business plan is finished, you can meet with a SCORE mentor for feedback and guidance.

Bplans.com. Looking for free sample business plans? Bplans.com offers a wide range of them for all types of businesses, including retailers, online businesses, service providers, restaurants and more. These sample templates come complete with a table of contents and sections like executive summary, company summary, products and services, financial planning, market analysis and other standard business plan sections. Bplans.com offers more than 500 sample business plans that can be downloaded as Word, PDF and other file formats.

Rocket Lawyer. If you need to make your business plan a legal document, check out Rocket Lawyer. Rocket Lawyer lets you create your own legal documents and provides access to various legal services. Its business plans section lets you create business plans in three steps: build, save and sign. You can also print and share your business plans for easy access. Rocket Lawyer business plans come with standard parts of a business plan, as well as sections for funding requests and appendix for supporting documents.

You don’t have to be glued to your desk to create a business plan. There are several business plan mobile apps that will let you write a business plan anytime, anywhere right on your smartphone or tablet. Here are two worth checking out.

StartPad. Recognized by Entrepreneur and Forbes, StartPad is one of the top business plan apps available for the iPad. This app offers a wide range of business planning resources, such as strategic business planning tutorials, professionally made sample business plans, financial projections and other reports. Business plans created on StartPad can also be exported as high-resolution PDFs or printed out. The basic version of StartPad is free to download and use, but requires in-app purchases for additional features. Get StartPad from the Apple App Store.

Business Plan & Start Startup. Are you an Android user? Business Plan & Start Startup is the app for you. This app isn’t just for creating a business plan, however. It also aims to do three things for entrepreneurs: help start a business the right way with a well-crafted business plan; keep them motivated and on track; and provide a community of fellow entrepreneurs, small business owners and experts to help guide users in creating their business plan and running their businesses. Business Plan & Start Startup can be downloaded from the Google Play marketplace

Don’t want to use any of the above? Try an online business plan service, which guides you throughout the business plan writing process. The services offer similar tools as business plan software — such as document collections and chart generators — with the difference being that they typically offer business and legal specialists who can help you better understand complex aspects of your business and business plan. Two online business plan services to consider are LivePlan and the SBA Business Plan Tool.

Bizplan.com. Need funding? Check out startup.co’s business plan service, bizplan.com. This web-based business plan comes with a step-by-step guide to help you build your business plan and optimize it for investors. Business plans can also be completely tailored to your business with logos, graphics, layouts and custom designs to fit your brand. After building your business plan, you can share and publish it on startup.co’s crowdfunding site, fundable.com, where you can connect with investors and add elements like photos and videos to highlight your business.

LivePlan. LivePlan is a cloud-based business plan service that offers everything from document generation to planning tools, financial calculators, guidance resources and more. The service guides you through each component of the business plan and provides step-by-step instructions and advice based on the objective of your business plan (starting a business, business development, funding, etc.)

SBA Business Plan Tool. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Business Plan Tool covers everything from executive summary and company description to market research, product line, marketing and sales, and financial projections in detail. You can also personalize your business plan with your company logo, as well as save, print and update your business plan as needed.

6 Small Business Loan Mistakes to Avoid

 For many entrepreneurs, a small business loan is an essential way to finance a new business or expand existing operations. However, obtaining funding for your business is no easy task. Here are six barriers that can prevent you from getting the small business loan you need and a few tips on how to avoid these roadblocks.

Credit reports are one tool lenders use to determine a borrower’s credibility. If your credit report shows a lack of past diligence in paying back debts, you might be rejected when applying for a loan.

Paul Steck, former president and CEO of the international franchise restaurant Saladworks, has worked with hundreds of small business franchisees, many of whom have bad personal credit as a result of illness, divorce or other extenuating circumstances.

 “Sometimes, very good people, for reasons beyond their control, have credit issues,” Steck said. “And, unfortunately, that’s a real barrier to entry in the world of small business.”

People with bad credit should consider nontraditional financing options — which tend to place less emphasis on credit scores — before giving up on getting a loan.

Cash flow — a measure of how much cash you have on hand to pay back a loan — is usually the first thing lenders look at when gauging the health of your business. Insufficient cash flow is a flaw that most lenders can’t afford to overlook. Therefore, it’s the first thing business owners should consider when determining if they can afford a loan.

“Really thinking through that cash-flow equation is like preventative medicine for your business,” said Jay DesMarteau, head of regional commercial specialty segments for TD Bank. “You can either wait until [your business] gets sick, or you can do things to prevent it from getting sick.”

One of the preventative measures DesMarteau recommends is to calculate cash flow at least quarterly. If business owners take that step, they may be able to optimize their cash flow before approaching potential lenders.

Having a plan and sticking to it is much more attractive than spontaneity in the finance world.

“Banks require that business owners have an organized, detailed and quantitative business plan in order to move forward with the loan process,” said David Goldin, CEO, president and founder of Capify, an alternative small business lender.

However, Goldin noted that it’s common for very small businesses to not have a formal business plan or any plan at all, for that matter. In these situations, he recommends that business owners at least forecast their future earnings before applying for a loan, so lenders will have an idea of your profitability.

 You should also be prepared to explain your plan for the money you want to borrow.

“Lenders’ … biggest single complaint is that small business owners aren’t able to articulate very well how they’re going to use the capital that they’re looking for, how they’re going to make repayment and what impact they think [the loan] is going to have,” said Ty Kiisel, who writes about small business for online lender OnDeck.

According to Kiisel, your pitch to lenders doesn’t need to be eloquent, but it must be straightforward. At the bare minimum, loan applicants should be prepared to explain why the want a loan and how they plan to repay it.

When it comes to approaching potential lenders, business owners should have their act together. That means having all the paperwork you’ll need for your loan application on hand.

“One of the things that can be a problem when applying for a loan is if [business owners] don’t have the documentation that the bank will require [such as] back tax returns,” Steck said.

There are plenty of resources that business owners can refer to when putting together their loan applications. The Small Business Administration, for example, provides a highly detailed loan application checklist for borrowers. Using these resources can decrease your likelihood of coming across as disorganized or unprepared.

When it comes to making financial decisions for your business, lenders want to see that you’ve sought guidance from knowledgeable advisers.

“Accountants can be an important source of advice for small business owners. That’s why Bizfi has partnered with theNational Directory of Certified Public Accountants,” says Stephen Sheinbaum, CEO of alternative lender Bizfi. “But there are many other places to find good people to talk to, such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a free mentoring service that is supported by the Small Business Administration.”

According to Sheinbaum, SCORE connects you with retired businesspeople with experience in your market.

“This is important because they will know about the kind of capital that is most important to people within your industry,” said Sheinbaum.

He also recommends that business owners get financial advice from business networking groups and conduct research on the websites of the leading alternative funders, since many have detailed resource sections for small businesses about the many kinds of available capital and the best ways to prepare for funding.

Too many business owners approach lenders with an apathetic attitude, Steck said. In other words, they simply don’t demonstrate why they, rather than someone else, are a good candidate for a loan.

“You have to exude a passion,” said Steck. “I’m going to do this, and I’m going to be the best in the whole wide world. You have to go into it with that sort of mentality, and a lot of [potential borrowers] don’t do that.”

Tips to Launch Your Own Clothing Line

 Have you ever dreamed of being a fashion designer? Maybe you could never find clothes you liked so you made your own, or maybe you fell in love with your home-ec class in middle school. However this path started for you, it has the potential to end in a successful fashion brand.

You might not be showing your line at New York Fashion Week, but you can still create and launch your own line. The founders of independent clothing lines shared their secrets to success.

Matthew Johnson, owner and designer at Seventhfury Studios andSeventh.Ink Shirts and Apparel, founded Seventh.Ink in 2007 as a way to showcase his artwork on clothing. Before he began producing and selling his shirts, hoodies and accessories, which includes patches, pins, and art, he took the time to learn everything he could about the fashion industry.

“It really does pay to do your research,” Johnson told Business News Daily. “Read articles and interviews from your favorite brands, talk to those brands and check out websites like How to Start a Clothing Company (HTSACC) to get as much insight as you can.”

In an article for Entrepreneur, contributor Toby Nwazor said that knowing where to produce the clothing line is an extremely important decision because the clothing line’s initial quality will be what the business’ reputation is based on, for better or for worse.

The fashion market has always been a crowded one, so to stand out, you need something truly unique. Albam Clothing, a U.K.-based menswear brand started in 2006, started with co-founder Alastair Rae and his business partner designing with eight original styles, which would become Albam’s line of high-quality men’s fashion.

“The idea was borne out of a joint frustration that we had over the price and quality of men’s clothing available at the time,” Rae said.

Albam’s success stems from its founders’ dedication to producing something different than what was out there on the market. Similarly, Johnson stressed the importance of bringing something fresh to the table.

“If you squeeze out the same thing that everyone else is making, people are going to go with the existing brand instead of you,” he said.

To build up your initial inventory, you’ll need the money to produce it. HTSACC defines an “indie” clothing line as one that wants to produce high-quality products and plans to expand in the future once the brand grows. The site estimates that indie brands need a minimum of $500 to get going. If you want in-house production, it could take as much as $10,000 in startup costs. Five hundred dollars to $2500 is usually where most indie brands land.

“I ended up doing preorder designs once I got the hang of the business,” Johnson said.  “I was able to get an idea of what was selling and have the funds up front to pay for production.”

Nwazor wrote that to ensure a profit, the entrepreneur must establish wholesale and retail rates higher than the expenses. A target for these rates would be to earn a profit margin 30 to 50 percent higher than associated expenses, he said.

Making your own clothes by hand is fine when you only have a few customers, but as your brand grows, you may need to outsource in order to scale your operation. Johnson enlisted the help of a screen-printing friend to produce the clothing for his Florida-based company. Rae, on the other hand, was developing new fabrics for Albam clothes and wanted to find local manufacturers right off the bat.

“A big challenge for us was convincing factories that we were serious about manufacturing in the U.K.,” Rae said. “They were not used to new businesses approaching them.”

To prepare for manufacturing, Nwazor suggested securing capital through investments from others, typically loans, or from the entrepreneur’s personal money. The initial investment will range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending upon inventory and quality.

Knowing how to market is critical for success. Having a good website for you brand makes it easier for customers to shop for your products, but advertising is what drives them to the site. Johnson quickly learned that paid advertising just wasn’t worth it.

“I realized that word of mouth was the best way to spread the news about my brand without dropping a lot of money,” he said.

Nwazor agrees that a great online presence is important.

“You have a lot to lose if you don’t move your business online, because the online commerce market is more important than brick-and-mortar location,” he wrote.

“Listen to your customers’ feedback,” Rae advised. “Don’t be afraid to remake old styles that customers are asking for, or kill a best-seller if it feels like the right thing to do.”

Johnson also recommended getting customer input before making major changes, and if you do modify your brand, do it slowly.

“A sudden switch is not only going to make customers question [your brand], but it’ll likely cause sales to plummet because people have a tough time with major changes when they have a good thing going,” Johnson said.

Like any startup, clothing lines take a lot of hard work and dedication. You will meet some challenges along the way, but if you believe in yourself and your brand, you’ll succeed.

“Owning a clothing line isn’t an easy or glamorous endeavor,” Johnson said. “It’s tough work that pays off successfully if you give it your all and enjoy what you do.”

6 Businesses to Mend Your Broken Heart

 Breakups are terrible. There’s no way around how painful it can be; it can commandeer your life until you’ve found a way to move past it. Learning to cope is part of the process, and sometimes your favorite ice cream or sad mixtape aren’t enough.

These businesses understand how you’re feeling and are here to help you get back on the up-and-up. Here are six breakup inspired businesses to help you learn to love again.

Mend

Breakups are a special class of unkind. It disrupts your life and often can derail your every day. Mend aims to help the recently single with a heartbreak cleanse.

According to the site, they believe that you can not only mend, but thrive, after a breakup. “We believe an end, in whatever form it takes, is just the beginning of rebuilding the life and love you want.”

Mend comes with a blog with advice on how to move on, a newsletter, an app that acts as your “personal trainer” for heartbreak. The site offers a heartbreak assessment to better understand your level of heartbreak and the type of healing you need.

Breakups are rough. Someone is hurting from the events that transpired and often, items tied to the relationship are mementos of pain. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, the Museum of Broken Relationships may be a great place to visit to commiserate with the jilted.

According to the museum’s website, the exhibits reflect the full range of human emotions.  Some are sad; but many are amusing and hopeful and remind us that people change, grow and recover. Love relationships may end; relationships with family members, business partners, cities, religions and even with our former selves may end. But we learn and move on.

Though the museum’s location is on the west coast, anyone can donate an object anonymously. The dislocation of a broken relationship may be isolating, but the experience is universal.  No one is alone in this, the site says.

The end of a relationship can be infuriating and sometimes, unfair. If you don’t have a healthy outlet to channel that anger, consider visiting the Anger Room in Dallas, Texas, could be a good alternative for you – especially if thinking about your ex makes you want to break things.

Sign up to reserve a room and choose a package that meets your stress level. Options include “I need a break,” which lasts for five minutes, “Lash Out,” at 15 minutes, and “Demolition” mode, lasting 25 minutes. Head over 10 minutes early to get suited up in protective gear and goggles, and prepare to break things.

If you want to help others experience such smashing satisfaction, Anger Room accepts donations of items like old computers, mirrors, tables, chairs, vases and more.

When you’ve finally passed the breakup rage stage, it’s time to start ridding yourself of everything ex-related. It’s bad enough that you’re newly single and not so happy about it, but social media makes getting over it that much more painful.

Every time you sign online, you’re forced to look at Facebook posts and all the photos you’re tagged in together.

Luckily, there’s an app for that. Killswitch gives you the power to set and identify your target (your ex) and what kinds of posts you want to hide, like photos and status updates, then the app goes through your account to hide everything.

Killswitch also saves all of those old photos in a hidden album on your Facebook page. So if you and your old flame rekindle your relationship (or you just want to laugh at them later when you’re finally over it), they’re not gone for good.

The app is available free in the App Store and in the Google Play store. The company also donates a portion of its proceeds to the American Heart Association “so broken hearts can help broken hearts.”

Never Liked It Anyway is the website you can turn to when you realize you really never did like that necklace those poorly-chosen gifts from your ex.

With Never Liked It Anyway, you can sell all the gifts your old partner gave you and buy new items to treat yourself.

The best part? Each item displays the original cost of the item and the new “break up price” so you can see what kind of deal you’re getting. You may not be able to put a price on love, but with Never Liked It Anyway you can put a price on getting over it.

I Do Now I Don’t is the more serious version of Never Liked It Anyway. Instead of selling your old unwanted gifts, I Do Now I Don’t is there for you when your wedding gets called off or you get divorced and you need to sell your engagement ring, wedding band and other expensive pieces of jewelry.

The business operates on the concept that jewelers often markup diamonds by 200 to 300 percent, and when you try to sell your pieces back they offer you much less than what you paid. Another alternative, pawn shops, will probably offer you only 10 percent of what your items are worth, according to the I Do Now I Don’t website.

The company boasts that sellers can earn up to two times more for their diamond jewelry using their marketplace. And while nobody wants to be left at the altar, getting more of your money back does soften the blow a little.