5 Reasons Why Texas is a Great Place to Start a Business

Posted by Ashley Choate on May 25, 2016 8:34:30 AM

Starting a Texas BusinessWhile most are familiar with the belief that location means everything when starting a small business, it’s assumed this means picking the right major road, intersection, or side of town. But the concept could also be applied to the state where your business is located—and the great state of Texas has claimed a top spot in polls ranking the best states for doing business.

According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and, Texas businesses enjoy an “A+” business environment, along with only 3 other states. Texas is also home to three of the top five cities for small businesses: Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

So what makes Texas so great for running a business?

  • Reasonable tax laws. Compared to other states, Texas businesses and startups benefit from fairly low tax rates, and for small businesses, it’s even better. They sometimes pay almost no taxes at all if profits don’t exceed a certain threshold. Texas law requires businesses and startups to pay a franchise tax that is 1% of their taxable margins, with the exception of sole proprietorships. Taxable amounts for small businesses are figured differently and each business type (LLC, C Corp, S corp, etc.) is subject to certain unique rules, but the fact is that Texas tax laws are much simpler and easier to understand than the tax laws in most other states. Instead of wrapping the business owner up in loopholes and circumstantial requirements, the requirements are simple for Texas businesses, which makes setting up shop in the state much more appealing for most business owners.

  • Low regulation/easy navigation. Another major benefit for Texas businesses is the low regulation, resulting from a state legislature that meets to change business laws less frequently and also supports a more easily navigated system. As businesses operating within any state must abide by state legislature rules, some businesses struggle with the paperwork and costs associated with meeting state requirements. According to a Fraser Survey, satisfaction of business owners correlated strongly with the level of burden placed on them by state regulations—i.e. entrepreneurs rated states with less burdensome systems more highly. Since Texas businesses enjoy a more relaxed environment, satisfaction rates have remained high.

  • Spirit and spark. Another major attraction for business or startup owners in Texas is the general positivity and spark prevalent in Texas culture. The state is Southern in lifestyle and independent by nature. Such cultures tend to support the independent ventures of others. In this case, Texas startups and businesses tend to thrive due to a general atmosphere of pioneering and entrepreneurial nurturing. The people of Texas appreciate smart, independent adventurers, which is reflected in the regulatory environment, the tax environment, and the general success of the overall Texas business climate. According to one article in, “the business climate in Texas has been so pleasant during the 21st century that the state's former governor Rick Perry, who served from 2000 until January 2015, was known for storming through less business-friendly states, such as New York and California, and giving speeches to companies about why they should relocate to Texas.”

A recent Forbes article made a good point about the state of business in our country. The author reminded readers of the predictions of Alexis de Tocqueville, an early 19th century political theorist (major works published in 1835-1840), who said that a system of “soft despotism” created by “a network of small complicated rules” could be just as dangerous as the more obvious evils of a dictatorship and economic slavery. He was reported to have written that a centralized government “excels in preventing, not doing.”

States like Texas, however, have recognized the dangers in over-regulating and over-complicating business laws. The general atmosphere of daring and independence is perfect for adventurous entrepreneurs and startup owners, while the political climate is in favor of growth for small businesses. So, if it’s a great location you’re looking for, anywhere in Texas will do just fine.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of H. Michael Karshis @ Flickr CC.

Is Your Business Adapting To How Customers Want to Pay?

Posted by Ashley Choate on May 18, 2016 2:12:37 PM

7397236064_8c1a15433d_m.jpgThe first rule of business: give the customers what they want, right? While businesses may apply this rule to merchandise, mostly, it can also be applied to the way that customers shop and pay. Lately, changes in payment technology have opened up new options for consumers to pay in ever easier ways—as long as the business offers it.

Is your business current on the newest payment technology?

For smaller businesses, updating technology and keeping up with the newest methods for payment can present a real challenge. Most recently, businesses were required to undergo a major technology upgrade for payment methods when EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) chip cards became the required standard for card payments. The chip cards, a safer way to pay by debit or credit card, require a different type of reader, one that comes with a hefty price tag for both software and hardware.

And now, there’s Apple Pay, Android Pay, and other contactless payment options—where people can make purchases by simply tapping their phones, watches, or cards on a quick, specially designed point-of-sale (POS) reader. These contactless readers can work with EMV chips or with the apps associated with phone-based payment systems (like Apple Pay and Android Pay) to securely read payment card information and deduct funds accordingly.

Admit it: modern payment technology just keeps getting cooler. But what does that mean for your business?

The simple fact is that customers like ease and variety in their methods of payment. Whether your business is small, medium, or large, you may need to consider updating to accommodate this new form of payment sooner rather than later.

Older business owners probably still remember a time when debit cards and credit cards only held marginal sway over payment methods. They might have doubted how quickly cash would become an almost obsolete form of currency. But today, cash makes up the minor portion of most merchants’ sales (less than 50 percent). I mean, who even carries cash these days? Probably 60 percent of any given crowd doesn’t have a single dollar in their wallets.

With its ease of use and backing by major companies like Apple and Google that guarantee security, it’s easy to predict that contactless payment methods will soon become a major trend in payment technology, and the need to be capable of taking those payments will be spreading through every major city and small town retailer.

But would you believe that there are other trends starting to take shape?

  • Purchasing within the aisles – According to one source, Target may be allowing consumers to purchase items on their own right in the aisles of the store via mobile payment system. They scan the item and it is immediately purchased and shipped to them.
  • Untraceable digital currency – In the near future, currencies like bitcoin may take up a bigger portion of the currency market, gaining in popularity for various reasons, chief of which may be that it’s nearly untraceable. This could present major challenges for law enforcement agencies around the world in the coming years, but merchants may also find that accepting bitcoin-like currencies could become a necessity as the market grows.
  • Implanted payment chips – While many dooms-dayers and conspiracy theorists know better than to get anything tucked beneath the skin, considering the viability of tracking that can be placed within any implant, the rest of the world might find it very convenient that technology is currently being developed to implant a chip beneath the skin of your hand that you can simply tap over a contactless pay terminal to make purchases. It’s both brilliant and a little scary.

Technology is growing and changing daily. Things that seem inconceivable today might become the most popular trend within another decade. Business owners should be readying themselves, setting funds aside and keeping an eye on the trends as they roll in, because payment technology promises to get more interesting in the years to come.

  Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Marc Falardeau @ Flickr CC.

Tags: Payments, business tips

Is It Legal? Adding Surcharges to Credit Card Transactions

Posted by Ashley Choate on May 10, 2016 3:24:06 PM

surcharge_lawsFor most of us, the question of whether or not a charge is legal doesn’t really cross our minds. I mean, we might rail about it being highway robbery. We may even visit a different merchant if possible or find another method of payment when surcharges on debit or credit cards payments are involved. We’ll just pay cash or check, and then forget the matter entirely.

As it turns out, inhabitants of 11 states across the nation legally shouldn’t have to pay any surcharges for card payments. The following states and one U.S. territory have passed laws that prohibit merchants from adding surcharges for credit and debit card payment transactions.

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Minnesota
  • Puerto Rico

However, it should be noted, each state may have exceptions to its laws. For instance, Texas allows government and education to impose a surcharge on its transactions. Paying your taxes or college tuition with a credit or debit card will likely incur a surcharge.

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you are currently residing in one of these states and a merchant tries to add a surcharge to your bill, you are within your rights to pursue legal action. That being said, just because there are laws in place doesn’t mean they’re enforced.

According to The Watchdog, David Lieber, not all merchants follow the letter of the law. In a 2014 online article, Lieber reported the story of Adam Asmar, whose apartment complex charged him $45 every month for using either a debit or credit card. In Texas, Asmar’s state of residence, surcharges were and still are illegal, but little was done about the issue when Asmar informed state regulators.

Currently, however, on the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner website, the following statement dominates the credit card surcharges information page:

“The Texas Finance Code prohibits sellers of goods and services from imposing a credit card surcharge. This means that a seller is not allowed to add an extra amount to the regular price of a good or service when the buyer pays by credit card, as opposed to some other payment method.”

Below this statement is a link where consumers can report any businesses or individuals who violate the law.

But right below all that sits the following statement: “Texas law also prohibits debit card surcharges, but the OCCC does not enforce this prohibition. Additional information about debit card surcharges is available on the Texas Department of Banking's web site.”

The site then redirects to a banking page, which then summarily informs the weary, internet-wandering consumer that the laws prohibiting surcharges on debit cards are now being enforced by the Attorney General’s office. A complaint form and consumer protection hotline are available on that page for consumers needing to report an infraction.

The situation brings up important concerns about consumer legal rights. While laws may be in place within these states, federal law makes no such requirement and therefore states are responsible for enforcing their own internal statutes in whatever way they see fit—or not at all, as the case may be. This is not to say that all states are lax in their enforcement, but to push consumers to know their rights.

Debit and credit cards are the primary form of payment for most consumers these days. If you depend heavily on debit and credit payment cards, it’s in your best interests to know your rights and the rights of consumers, as determined by your own state laws.

For business owners and merchants, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with state statutes as well as federal regulations. You don’t want to be caught unknowingly violating state statutes that could result in legal penalties—all of which can be avoided by doing a little online reading and setting your charges (and surcharges) accordingly.

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AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood.

Tags: processing charges

15 Website Resources Business Owners Should Know About

Posted by Ashley Choate on May 4, 2016 10:59:37 AM

happy business ownerWhile ‘who you know’ is still invaluable in business, sometimes ‘what you know’ is just as important. After all, knowledge is power—and that means having access to the right resources to answer questions, direct decisions, and ease processes, especially when you need it most.

For small business owners, who often possess specialized skill sets and lack the funds to hire the exceptionally knowledgeable, a good understanding of various web tools for business and the World Wide Web’s many offerings is vital. These days, you can find anything you need if you just know where to look.

Below is a list of valuable websites for business owners. These web tools and business resources will come in handy when dealing with some of the more esoteric aspects of running a business, or when you’re just trying to find an easier way to get things done.   

  • Starting and Managing a Business, For small businesses just getting started, this site will provide practical guidance for getting started, including overviews on financials, basic business law, and general business concerns.
  • Online Small Business Training, This site offers training courses for small business owners on a variety of topics, including basic sales, customer service, development and growth, and understanding technology.
  • Small Business Tax Center, Finding good web tools and business resources for tax preparation is essential for any small business owner. This site provides reliable information to make tax preparation less of an ordeal each year.
  • AccountingWEB, This site is another resource for tax preparation and basic accounting knowledge. It offers a variety of useful articles small business owners will benefit from.
  • Mint, For budgets and money management, this site provides web tools for creating budgets, understanding your credit, and good financial management for your small business.
  • Fundability, Small businesses on the lookout for investors or other project funding sources will find this site helpful.
  • VentureDeal, Budding entrepreneurs will find this site useful, as it provides guidance to basic venture capital techniques and other useful information and services.
  • Word of Mouth Marketing Association, This site is helpful for small business owners seeking to understand word of mouth marketing techniques. Other useful web tools and events/resources can be found here as well.
  • Kauffman Foundation, The Kauffman Foundation website is another useful resource for business owners who want to better understand entrepreneurship and the steps to becoming an innovator in business.
  • Survey Monkey, This site offers free web tools for conducting surveys and gathering customer/employee data. All small business owners need feedback in order to improve; this site makes that easy.
  • Wufoo, Every small business owner knows that creating online forms is a necessary but tedious evil. This online resource makes it easier to create the necessary forms for your business, without as much of the hassle.
  • Entrepreneur Connect, This site is a social media website specifically for entrepreneurs and offers another useful resource to business owners looking to expand their circle of entrepreneurial contacts.
  • Catalyst, For female small business owners, this site provides a variety of information, business resources, and web tools, such as online webinars, on topics specific woman-owned businesses and greater business diversity.
  • National Federation of Independent Businesses, NFIB works to protect rights to own, operate, and grow small businesses. Their state and federal advocacy programs, business advice, and membership benefits cover a range of small businesses across many industries.
  • Hoover's, For businesses focused more on marketing and lead gathering, this site provides guidance on how to begin and techniques on getting the most for your time.

The websites listed above are just a few of the amazing web tools and resources for small businesses that are available online. There are also a variety of tutorials on YouTube and some amazing courses on websites like,, and Whatever your passion or your particular flavor of business, the tools are available to help you turn your simple ideas into vehicles for success—as long as you know where to look.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood.

 Top Photo Courtesy of Worak @ Flickr CC.

Tags: business tips, business tools

Tech Trends for Businesses in 2016

Posted by Ashley Choate on Apr 20, 2016 12:48:28 AM

2016 business tech trendsBusiness is an ever-changing beast, especially the technology required to do it right. Every year, the game changes, and the gadgets become more complex and more capable.

This year’s trends are in line with what you’d expect to follow last year’s constant stream of cyberattacks and advances in mobile technology—spurring an expectation of mobility and a desire for added security that consumers won’t be denied in 2016.

If you hope to keep up, you’ll need to start pushing your business towards the following major trends in the 2016 world of business.

  • Mobilize. Mobility is no longer a luxury—it’s now considered a basic human right to most consumers. Websites, purchasing options, social media, marketing tools, etc. are all expected to be easily accessible from any location at any time via tablets or mobile phones. And if you hope to tap into the real consumer market this year, mobile technology should be your primary priority. America is a land of impulsive shoppers and I-want-it-now consumers, and tech trends in business technology development have risen to meet that need. If every form of outreach and purchasing options available in your business isn’t currently mobile compatible, change that immediately.

  • Know the net, own the net—Online Marketing. Cable and radio advertising have gone the way of the do-do bird in modern business. Internet marketing and media interaction will dominate in 2016. Business technology has been merging with online media for a while now, trending towards a heavy online content focus for most business marketing campaigns. This year, effective use of graphics, keywords, location monitoring, analytics of browsing habits, etc. will be the key tools for effective business and marketing management, so get the tech to make it happen now. The more you know, the more you can own the online sales market—and that’s where all the cool kids hang these days.

  • Real content streaming. So, modern consumers aren’t like the 50’s kids who were susceptible to any kind of marketing push from even the worst commercials back in the old black and white TV days. Modern consumers are smart, savvy, and they want to know that what you’re offering them is really what they want. So, nix the cheesy commercials approach. That’s about as likely to attract quality customers as roadside sign waving in this modern era (unless your roadside guy is Channing Tatum-esque material). The current tech trends are leaning towards streaming information, real content that provides real information to your customers. Behind the scenes shows, live event coverage, discussions between industry experts, and other bits of interesting information are more effective for modern consumers than any marketing gimmick you can devise. Give them something real, and you’ll see some real money in return.

  • Cybersecurity. The biggest and most important tech trend in business technology for 2016 is cybersecurity. The last several years have seen hundreds of attacks that compromised several hundred thousand pieces of personal and payment card information. For the larger businesses, the threats were mitigated as quickly as they were discovered, but for many small businesses, the thefts had a significant and detrimental impact on the future of the business. The loss of consumer trust is one of the biggest factors, and it’s not an effect than can be easily remedied. For that reason, if you invest in nothing else this year, invest in good cybersecurity. Update to an EMV system card reader, add encryption to your website, make your firewalls virtually “bullet proof” where you can. There are never any guarantees, but the more layers of protection you can add to your systems, the less likely cyber criminals will be to continue pushing into your system when they can go for easy prey instead. Don’t be the easy prey.

Technology is a many splendored thing, and the advances in business technology continue to amaze. Don’t let your business fall behind the rest of the herd—be ahead of them by focusing on improving your mobile options, tightening up security measures, and letting the internet work for you. Connect with your customers, offer them the technology they crave, and 2016 could be your year.

Five Ways Your Business Is Losing Money Without Knowing It

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Magicatwork @ Flickr CC.

Tags: 2016 business tech trends

Five Ways to Be an Awesome Employer

Posted by Ashley Choate on Apr 13, 2016 3:57:16 PM

ways to be a good employerMillennials, more than any other generation, are a picky bunch. Fortunately, they’re also wildly talented with technology and innovative thinking. Modern businesses choke or thrive based on how creative they can be with regards to attracting customers, creating useful products, and marketing themselves in an interesting way. All of that requires happy employees who not only look forward to workingk each day, but who also derive immense satisfaction from immersing themselves in the work that they do.

To make that environment a reality, employers have to rethink the concept of employment. It’s no longer a case of people just being happy to have jobs, with a few powerful individuals leading a large body of barely educated masses. The rise of the middle class, the growth and proliferation of technology within every home, and the accessibility of information and education have all contributed to a rather uniquely talented bunch of potential employees.

Now, does that mean they’re all worth hiring? Absolutely not. For every byte of information available on the internet, there’s an idiot who thinks he knows more than he actually does. But, within the masses, are those beautifully talented and employable few who could be the vital spark that makes your business boom.

And your job is to attract them. To do that, you have to make your business into the best place it can be. You have to become an awesome employer.

Below are the qualities of an awesome employer. Take a moment to consider how you might apply these to your business. Certainly there’s no one size fits all model for making your business a happy place to work, but the best employers understand that sometimes the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact, giving good employees a reason to sign on and stick around.

  • Embrace the whole person inside of each employee. Sometimes it’s hard for employers to remember that, while employees have to fill a certain role within their organization, they are also people with personal lives and private obligations outside of the workplace. The best employers embrace that fact and encourage employees to meet their personal needs as well as their professional.

  • Freebies or discounts. Everyone loves freebies. Again, employees have lives outside of work, which means they have bills and other obligations. Doing something nice every once in a while, like providing free food, is always a touching gesture. Setting up inter-business partnerships that provide discounts for employees for certain services are also beneficial for creating happy employees, not to mention what those professional relationships can do for drumming up profits if you’re smart about the arrangement.

  • Encourage creativity. Invite color. Encourage your employees to have a voice. Give them external outlets where possible. Obviously, not every work environment can be a relaxed, carefree kind of place, but encouraging creative thinking through fun exercises or providing a colorful workplace, or just letting employees dress however they want on Fridays—whatever method you choose, trust that your employees will appreciate being able to exhibit some creativity and relaxation in their workplace.

  • Abandon overly rigid structures/expectations. Along with that, step out of the overly rigid structures that normally resemble a “chain of command” or that require certain protocols for every interaction. Rigidity is stifling for many younger employees these days. They simply aren’t comfortable with the old cultural norms of specific acts of deference or overly rigid behavioral expectations. Casual and comfortable interactions with fluid behavioral expectations are generally the best way to set up a comfortable environment for employees. Again, will this model work perfectly for all businesses? No, of course not. However, the majority of workplaces that have had the most success in creating happy employee environments (Google, Starbucks, DreamWorks Studios, etc.) allow their employees to be individuals and also encourage them to pitch ideas that might not even be perfectly in line with their job titles. A good idea is a good idea, whether the janitor came up with it or the company’s CFO. We are a multi-talented society with a variety of personal and professional niches. Just because someone fell into one level of employment doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of so much more.

  • Go for fun. If you want happy employees, encourage them to enjoy themselves. If you can’t embrace the fun every single day, then set up a day once a quarter where employees can do something different, something that lights them up and makes them happy. This world of cubicles and number crunching and depressing news stories is burdensome enough. Accept the idea that work doesn’t have to be only tedious. Sometimes, it can be fun.

While there’s no perfect fix for every work environment, managers and business owners can go a long way to encourage happy employees with just a few simple steps. It boils down to trusting your judgment in hiring employees and then trusting your employees to make good choices. In between, give them incentives to do better and provide them with reminders of why they are valuable. The satisfaction such small acts will inspire can go a long way to bringing your business to a new level of success.

Five Ways Your Business Is Losing Money Without Knowing It

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of @ Google CC.


EMV and Mobile Have a Long Road Ahead

Posted by Ashley Choate on Apr 6, 2016 11:33:20 AM

ThinkstockPhotos-506611350web.jpgThe transition to EMV cards in the U.S. was destined to be a complicated process. In fact, nearly six months after the transition should have been fully implemented (October 1, 2015 was the final liability shift deadline) many merchants are still lagging behind, particularly for EMV mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) systems.

EMV (which stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa), also known as a chip and pin, has been used in Europe for over two decades, but only recently did the credit card companies really push to institute the system here in the U.S.

Still, even after multiple deadline extensions, many merchants are struggling with the technology of EMV mobile POS systems—and not all of that is their fault.

The fact is the EMV systems are just much more complicated than the old magnetic strip cards, which is exactly why they’re so useful. The complex encryption capabilities and unique code transfer characteristics of the chips within the EMV cards provide layers of security for card users, to prevent hackers and cyber criminals from easily obtaining payment card information.

Thus far, the EMV cards have proven more secure than magnetic strip cards, although nothing is perfect.  Unfortunately, these complex capabilities also make it difficult to develop reliable technology to support the chip and pin cards and systems.

Below are some of the major challenges that merchants are facing with EMV mobile technology. Hopefully, with attention from entrepreneurial tech developers, these issues can eventually be overcome.

  • Creating the technology. As previously stated, EMV cards are simply more complex than the old magnetic strips. Creation of the technology for both in-store and mobile options is both expensive and time consuming. Particularly for mPOS systems, however, is developing the technology to interact with multiple streams of data in a compact form that can interact with smart phones or tablets in the same way the old magnetic strip readers did. Independent software vendors (ISVs) who build the applications, as well as developers and other software engineers, simply don’t understand all the needs of mobile merchants in all cases and the complexity of the technology is creating resistance in developing the right tools for the job.

  • EMV certification costs and queues. Another barrier in the creation of reliable EMV mobile software and hardware is the cost and wait lines for integrating software, which is largely developed by ISVs who are not always directly employed by merchant service providers, with EMV-certified mobile card readers. Once the technical side is handled, then the acquirer/process of choice and the card brands must also certify the software. The whole process is time-consuming and expensive. There’s also a massive wait for EMV mobile solutions since the priority was given to in-store or stationary options over mPOS options at the time. Currently, a backlog is preventing many potentially useful solutions from hitting the market.

  • Costly hardware. A final challenge complicating EMV mobile options is the cost of the hardware. For many merchants, free magnetic strip hardware is the only option, as paying for the EMV-capable readers cuts into the bottom line.  Until the hardware is more developed and more commonplace, many merchants will continue to utilize the cheaper magnetic strip readers, at least for mobile purchases. Unfortunately, the realities of immediate cost will often win out over the risk of having to take on the liability for card fraud in the mobile realm.

With today’s business moving steadily towards mobility, reliable EMV mobile solutions are in high demand to meet the needs of merchants across the U.S., and most developers are working diligently to make this happen. For merchants, however, the realities of cost and the complications of buggy software that’s still in the early stages of development represent a real barrier.

Making the change to an EMV mobile solution is a big decision, and hopefully more reliable options will be available on the market soon. Until then, the merchants who are choosing to stay with magnetic strip readers might want to have a good lawyer on speed dial. Full liability for fraudulent purchases is a very scary thing indeed.

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AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .


Tags: Mobile Payments, EMV

Blue Box Confectionary: Sweetening Up Dallas Businesses

Posted by Ashley Choate on Mar 29, 2016 1:43:28 PM

12801212_10206960964875007_4475803097211861007_nKaren Wicks, the owner of Blue Box Confectionary, didn’t start baking cookies because she wanted to open a business. Ultimately, she started baking cookies because . . . well, she liked baking cookies.

“I love baking, especially my sugar cookies (an old secret Midwestern family recipe),” says Wicks, discussing what moved her to turn a baking addiction into a small cottage food business based out of her home in Plano, Texas. “I would bake constantly and have to find people to give them away to because my husband found it detrimental to his waistline being surrounded by cookies.”

As Michel Fortin so eloquently stated, “Do what you love and the business will follow.”

In this case, the adage has proven true. Armed only with a love for baking, Wicks decided to start Blue Box Confectionary as a side business in January of 2015, while maintaining life as a full-time employee—of the cubicle-confined variety—and a committed mother of two active children. Then, after an unfortunate layoff at the end of the year, Wicks decided it was time to go all in.

“I found myself out of a job after cutbacks at the end of 2015 and saw this as my opportunity to grow the business into something more serious,” says Wicks. 

At the moment, Blue Box Confectionary is still small and is known as a cottage food business, which limits the company’s potential clientele. A cottage food business is a home-based, cooking/baking company run out of a person’s private residence, which was actually illegal in Texas prior to 2011 due to an inability to regulate food quality and standards.

The Texas Cottage Food Law now allows small food businesses, like Blue Box Confectionary, to exist, 10403131_10204007161871778_8339685873781847103_nbut it strictly regulates the types of foods that can be sold, the amount of profit the business can gross, and the venues or methods through which goods can be offered.

“Ideally, it will grow enough steady business to rent commercial kitchen space and become licensed as a commercial bakery business so I can ship and use ecommerce tools,” says Wicks.

Once she’s secured a commercial license, Wicks hopes to attract the larger business market instead of simple private consumers.

“My general plan is to cultivate business clients rather than private individuals. Custom cookies, cupcakes, petit fours, et cetera make great gifts for new and valued clients, as well as tasty treats for business presentations, meetings, and just because in the break room,” says Wicks.

Already, the Blue Box Confectionary Facebook page features a variety of drool-worthy photos: a cookie pyramid with ninja faces for one special birthday boy, Halloween cupcakes with fearsome candy knives protruding from pink icing brains, and beautiful leaf-shaped cookies with icing shaded in autumn yellows and reds. Clearly, these desserts are something special.

Wicks is optimistic about her future plans for the small business, and, more than anything, she’s enjoying the satisfaction of seeing her love of baking manifest into something profitable for her and enjoyable for her customers.

“It's still tiny,” says Wicks, “but I love the chance to be creative and it is very satisfying to see others enjoy something I made.”

To place an order or learn more about Blue Box Confectionary, you can visit their business page HERE. Or email Karen at .

Six Business Functions on an iPad


AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .


Tags: Texas Small Businesses, Texas Bakery, Dallas Business

3 Strategies for Running a Successful Takeout Restaurant

Posted by Ashley Choate on Mar 22, 2016 12:11:37 PM

takeoutIn the modern world, takeout is a part of life. Seriously. According to the National Restaurant Association, roughly 33 percent of consumers have indicated that takeout restaurants are a key element to their lifestyles. That’s a pretty big chunk of the population who rely on takeout or delivery services at least once or twice a week.

Most restaurant owners are going to want to cash in on that market, especially since adding in that small bit of flexibility—the option to call in and pick up an order, at least—is not really all that difficult.

Below are a few essential, easy ways to push your restaurant’s takeout business into popularity and success.

1) Nurture your online presence. People who love takeout also love accessibility and ease. They appreciate businesses that are capable of taking advantage of the tools available to them (Well, that, and it’s hard to do anything these days without having a strong online presence). You want to make your restaurant’s image and menu available at the click of a button, so when someone tells someone about this awesome restaurant he visited, all either has to do is look you up. You should take advantage of as many forms of exposure as possible, including joining online ordering locations where possible (certain local delivery services can even take care of the hard part for you!) and taking advantage of every form of social media out there. The more exposure, the better.

2) Make ordering as easy as possible (online ordering). So it goes without saying that anyone who appreciates takeout also appreciates easy ordering. Sometimes your customers can’t talk on the phone and it’s easier to just hop online to a website and make a quick order for pickup. The easier you make it, the more likely your customers will be to return to your restaurant repeatedly for those quick meals or last minute food emergencies.

3) Use website and social media to run weekly promotions. The best invention in the world for small businesses was social media. There are dozens of popular forms of social media where a restaurant can build up exposure and make connections to current and future patrons in a way that has never been possible. In the days of mom and pop joints and less travel, there was certainly a bigger sense of community built up around many restaurants, but these days you can attract customers from the other side of the city who may not have even known about your place before—all through word of mouth advertising that is statistically proven to draw in more customers than any paid-for advertisement. Social media allows for tracking and documenting your exposure in a way that restaurants have never seen before—and it’s a beautiful thing. So, use it. Make sure you post pictures of food, of your restaurant, and of patrons. Also, run weekly promotions or special coupons so you can build up business on slow nights—or just because. Social media can make your small takeout business into a big part of your weekly revenue.

In the end, running a successful restaurant business is definitely about the food—but the beginning is about getting people in the door. The more options you give to patrons, the better. Patrons who get what they want when they want are more likely to return and tell their friends about their awesome experience. If your restaurant is currently dine-in only, take a moment to consider the benefits of expanding your patrons’ options. Easy access is definitely the best way to appeal to hungry, impatient bellies.


restaurant marketing online

AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Mark Goebel @ Flickr CC.

Tags: restaurant marketing

Three Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Business

Posted by Ashley Choate on Mar 16, 2016 12:03:48 PM

19372598892_1d0654982e_mEach season has its own unique flavor. Fall is a period of transition that usually coincides with relief from the summer’s oppressive heat and harvesting the fruits of your labors (although summer, being bikini season, might be the more appropriate owner of that last bit). Winter is usually a time of hibernation or endings. But spring is the most celebrated of all, for its connection to rebirth and new growth.

And, of course, in celebration of this glorious season, most of us take some time to spruce things up a bit—aka spring cleaning.

But spring cleaning doesn’t have to apply only to your home. While cleaning baseboards, scrubbing those hard to reach places behind the stove or refrigerator, and laying down new coats of paint are all fine and well, a good sprucing up within your business might be the better way to breathe new life into your world.

And no, I don’t mean getting the carpets cleaned.

Think of your business as a garden (yes, I know it’s cheesy, but roll with it for a moment). It requires tending in order to produce results. This tending could be weeding, watering, or clipping off the dead bits on a regular basis, but once a year you have to take care of the deeper work of making things grow. You have to fertilize, you have to plan for what crops you want during harvest time (learning from what you grew last year), and you have to consider ways to prevent pests from spoiling your hard work.

Below are a few steps for sprucing up your business this spring cleaning season, in order to make way for the fruits of your labor to grow and bloom.

  1. Polish your purpose. To start, you have to reconsider your business’s goals. What is your mission? Why is it important? What goals did you set last year to accomplish that objective? Did they work? How can you make them better or set them on track for meeting your mission statement while creating profit for everyone involved?

These are all valuable questions. It’s so easy to get lost in the mire and muck of everyday work. We sometimes lose track of our purpose. This spring, revisit your goals, your brand, and your marketing image—and pull out the polishing rag. Even if you don’t change them, you can still buff them up and make them shiny and new.

  1. Get rid of the dead bits. It’s true of plants and it’s true of business: the dead bits will drag you down. Take a good look around your company and really try to see where the edges might be blackening a bit around certain people or projects. A bad manager can ruin an entire department; an ill-conceived or misdirected project can suck the lifeblood from other more vibrant parts of the business by taking up resources or time—without you even realizing it, if you’re not careful.

Take a moment to evaluate the future of each employee and each goal. Do they match your company’s mission? Do they bring value and growth to your business? If not, you need to try to rehab the situation or you need to cut it loose, so the rest doesn’t suffer as a result.

  1. Make sure you have the right tools for the job. The tools you use to accomplish your mission might be people, technology, good taste, a unique perspective, or the right bit of knowledge. All of these are valuable and can be cultivated. Look at your staff and ask yourself how you can make them better, fertilize the skills they already have to bring new life into their roles. Sometimes bringing in someone new, a new position or a helpful asset can also liven things up a bit as well.

But while investing in people and technology might seem like a good idea, be careful you don’t put too much value in dollars as opposed to simply shifting approaches. If you’ve spotted an area in need of change, make sure you are certain that you’re using the tools you have to their fullest value. Rehabbing undervalued materials, for instance, and adjusting your perspective on the use of certain people or things can be very helpful. Repurposing an individual whose talents are better suited to a different position or approach can be a great way to loosen up the soil and create room for new growth.

However you choose to go about your business spring cleaning, the above steps are a good start to shaping up your business for a new harvest in a new year. May your soil be fertile and your pests few.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Jason Trbovich @ Flickr CC.


Tags: business tips

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