How the Baltimore Riots are Impacting Small Businesses

businesses affected by baltimore riots 2

Baltimore businesses are dealing with riots, looting and violence — as well as a citywide curfew imposed on April 28 — following civil unrest stemming from the suspicious death of a 25-year-old black man while in police custody.

Because of the curfew, enforced within the city between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., restaurants and other businesses need to close earlier than usual. In addition, some business owners have chosen to temporarily close down — either as a precautionary measure or in response to vandalism — until the curfew’s end, slated for this coming Monday.

“There’s a huge police and National Guard presence,” Steve Diamond, president of Synergy HomeCare, a franchise that provides in-home care for the elderly, told Small Business Trends.

He noted that some restaurants and other small businesses within the city are hurting from the curfew. Exponentially increasing the damage is the timing: now is when Baltimore blooms from its annual tourist infusion.

“This is the time of year when folks arrive and walk around the harbor,” he said. “Now, who knows what will happen. They’re keeping the National Guard here.”

Synergy HomeCare is based in Towson, Maryland, and serves residents in the city and in Baltimore County. While it is located outside, it employs caregivers who reside in the city. Still the company has felt minimal impact from the curfew and Diamond says his ability to provide services was not curtailed.

Because of the nature of Synergy HomeCare’s services, it is not beholden to the curfew. However, two of its caregivers who live in the city were unable to work Wednesday night.

Employee Clinton Brockenbrough loads boxes being evacuated in response to the Baltimore crisis.

Two Men and a Truck employee Clinton Brockenbrough loads boxes being evacuated in response to the Baltimore crisis.

“They were reluctant to leave their houses so we reassigned two cases,” Diamond said, adding that this wasn’t a problem as the company always has backup personnel in the event a caregiver can’t work on a given night.

“We did become more proactive,” he added. Company personnel called employees early to see who was available to work in the event that additional staff members were needed.

Two Men and a Truck, a moving service company that also offers storage solution, temporarily relocated its headquarters following the eruption of protests this week.

“There was violence one mile away from us,” said Lori Geros, operations manager for the company. Two Men and a Truck moved from the Baltimore area to Columbia, Maryland, to share space in a partner company’s facility.

“Some items were put in storage and all valuables were locked up in case there was any looting,” Geros said. “We moved all the trucks and other vehicles to the other location as well.”

The protests interrupted the company’s operations for about a day or two, Geros said. While the company lost some business due to cancellations, most customers rescheduled. The curfew didn’t pose a problem, since moving is typically done during the daytime.

Overall, “the impact wasn’t that bad,” Geros said. “Customers understood. We recovered quickly.”

Geros watches the news steadily, however, and also regularly checks social media sites Facebook and Twitter for updates. “Until the curfew is lifted, there is a threat,” she said.

Of some concern is speculation that the looting and violence could begin again based on whatever information is released tomorrow regarding the results of the investigation into the April 19 death of Freddie Gray. Gray, a 25-year-old black man, suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody.

“Things have calmed down, but we’re being very cautious,” Geros said.

Two Men and a Truck is already planning to help clean up Baltimore once the protesting ends.

“We do a lot of charity work throughout the year,” Geros said. She added that the company is nicely situated to provide any assistance the city may require. “We have the trucks and we have the people,” she added.

Robb Tacelosky operates Our Town America. The company works with sponsors, many of which are small businesses, to welcome people who relocate to the Baltimore area. He said the protests and related violence were “upsetting” because they “put Baltimore in a bad light.”

Some of Tacelosky’s sponsors operate inside the city of Baltimore. He is speaking to many of them as the situation there develops.

Overall, none of Tacelosky’s sponsors experienced looting or violence, he said. Some were even benefiting, though at a cost to other businesses, he added.

The owner of a liquor store told him that sales have increased significantly since the curfew was imposed. “The bars have to close early,” Tacelosky said, adding that some people apparently are purchasing liquor to consume in the safety of their homes since they can’t visit a bar.

Another sponsor of Our Town America is the Ultimate Play Zone, a family entertainment destination that describes itself as “11,000 square feet of pure, clean fun.” It features inflatable play stations.

Ultimate Play Zone is allowing children under age 6 free admittance on Monday.

“Families are their core business,” Tacelosky said.

He believes other sponsors will make similar gestures as well as provide help with any rebuilding and cleanup efforts required.

“I work with a lot of small businesses,” he said. “In general, small businesses consider themselves part of the community.”

Images: Two Men and a Truck

This article, “How the Baltimore Riots are Impacting Small Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Fashion Revolution Calls for More Ethical, Sustainable Manufacturing

fashion revolution

There’s a revolution happening within the fashion industry. And big brands and high-profile designers aren’t the ones leading the way. Instead it’s a series of startups and independent designers with quality, sustainably, and ethical manufacturing on their minds.

Fashion Revolution Day, which started last year, is a special day set aside for these goals. Designers Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro started the initiative, which encourages consumers to ask their favorite clothing brands one simple question: “Who made my clothes?”

It shouldn’t be a complicated question. But some of the big players in the fashion industry don’t always utilize the most ethical and eco-friendly manufacturing processes. Maxine Bédat, co-founder of New York City-based ethical eCommerce brand Zady, told Entrepreneur:

“It’s re-educating our generation because we grew up with fast fashion and we’re all exhausted by it.”

Fast fashion, which is the cornerstone of many major fashion brands, relies on quick, cheap manufacturing methods. That makes it possible to offer trendy, runway-inspired styles at extremely low prices. But it doesn’t come without some drawbacks.

In fact, the movement was originally launched to honor the anniversary of a factory collapse in Bangladesh, where 1,133 people were killed and about 2,500 more were injured. The factory created fabrics that were used by some large retailers including JC Penney, Zara and Children’s Place.

But because so many of those large brands use such extensive supply chains to source their materials, they don’t always even know where all of their materials come from. The Fashion Revolution wants to change that and create more transparency in the industry.

For some fashion brands, this type of movement could force some changes. But that would require a lot of consumers to get involved and demand more ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices.

For brands like Zady, which source materials and items from independent makers and other ethical sources, the movement could call some attention to them from consumers who are concerned about where their fashion comes from.

Image: The Fashion Revolution>

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Protestors Demand Police Accountability: State of Emergency – Baltimore, Maryland (Dispatch 2)

VICE News speaks to residents of Baltimore as they wait for an official announcement regarding the investigation into the case of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died from a severed spine while in police custody on April 12. Protests calling for accountability for Gray’s death have been largely peaceful. Protesters are also calling for police reform — Gray’s is not the first death occurring in the custody of Baltimore police, and the city has paid more than $10 million in compensation and legal fees since 2011 to settle cases of police abuse. Watch “First Night of Baltimore’s Curfew (Dispatch 1)” – Read “Baltimore Police Reveal Van Carrying Freddie Gray Made Fourth, Previously Unknown Stop, But Don’t Say Why” – Read “A Tale of Two Cities: How Baltimore Reached Its Boiling Point” – Subscribe to VICE News here: Check out VICE News for more: Follow VICE News here: Facebook: Twitter: Tumblr: Instagram: More videos from the VICE network:
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Social Media Recruiting and Hiring with the LinkedIn Job Feature

social media recruiting linkedin job feature

Many small business owners I know, myself included, don’t think of social media as a source of hiring.  That’s the realm of big business with big budgets.  The reality, however, is that we’re missing out on some large opportunities.

The New 800-Pound Gorilla

Every savvy business owner uses LinkedIn to promote themselves and their company.  It’s a great way to find new customers/clients, establish yourself as an expert in your field, and to engage in conversations with influencers in your industry.

A 2012 study showed that fewer than 25 percent of LinkedIn members used the jobs feature.  It’s time to think of LinkedIn in terms other than marketing and sales.

LinkedIn does a great job of taking your job posting and finding possible candidates, assigning them a rating as to how good of a fit the candidate is. LinkedIn purchased a company called in 2014 to power these searches, and the results are impressive.  The price is very reasonable and is based upon the city in which you are advertising.

Here in Oklahoma City, it’s $195 for 30 days, compared to’s $395. Additionally, LinkedIn allows you to reach out through their InMail to ask candidates to apply. The jobs feature isn’t restricted in any way by your network. In other words, it looks across all potential candidates, not just those in your network.

LinkedIn recently purchased, a leading provider of online learning. LinkedIn’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, has touted the synergy between the two companies. His vision is to create a detailed profile on every company, individual, and job on LinkedIn and provide a platform for them to interact and connect. They’re well on their way.

Lynda will allow an employer to specify more clearly his or her job requirements and include specific certifications provided by LinkedIn. Additionally, potential employees will see what requirements they’re lacking for a specific position, and decide if they want to pursue further education and certification.

Let ‘A’ Players Find More ‘A’ Players

The most under-utilized aspect of social media, including LinkedIn in hiring for small business is the way you can leverage your existing team members.

Just like good customers, good employees are the best source of referrals.

Assuming that you’re aligning your team around a common mission with a distinct culture, nobody knows better who’s a great fit for your company than your existing team members. Have your team actively promote the positions via LinkedIn or other social media by sharing the position Scorecard with potential candidates in their network. Hopefully it will come with some “recruiting” by the satisfied team member.

Again, if they’re the right fit, they understand how critical it is to recruit the right person for the position, and should be excited at being part of building a team.

Recruiting is an Always Thing

Social media is a great way for you, the company, and your team members to stay in front of potential candidates even when you aren’t actively hiring. Most small businesses, unless they’re brand new or in a rapidly growing segment, have pretty consistent (and infrequent) hiring needs. That means that normally most businesses aren’t hiring all the time.

There are obvious exceptions, but recruiting isn’t seen as an “always” thing. It’s not a big deal until it’s a big deal. An employee leaves, and you’re scrambling to find a replacement. This often leads to hasty hires and incompatible team members.

By including key potential candidates in your social media posts, either by you or through your team, you build your brand with them. When you do have a need, these candidates should have a much better understanding of your company, its culture, and its vision.

If you do your job right, you’ve developed a dialogue of sorts with these candidates, and greatly increased your opportunity to hire them when a position does open. Depending on the geography and the candidate, it might make sense to take the relationship offline, and take them to lunch to further develop the connection.

LinkedIn Photo via Shutterstock

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The Worst Internship Ever: Japan’s Labor Pains

Japan is facing a serious labor shortage, a problem that can be traced back to an aging population and a prevailing fear that immigrants will dilute the country’s pure gene pool. In order to keep the world’s third-largest economy afloat, the Japanese government offers an internship program that attracts foreign workers from China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The program, which allows workers to stay for three years, is advertised as providing laborers with transferrable new skills for when they return home. VICE News recently traveled to Japan to investigate the internship program. We found that many interns are underpaid, saddled with insurmountable debt, and forced into a form of indentured servitude. Many are illegally placed as oyster shuckers, construction workers, and other unskilled positions. And, despite international condemnation, Japan plans to use thousands of new foreign interns to build the infrastructure for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Watch “The High Cost of Cheap Clothes” – Watch “Japan vs. the Islamic State” – Read “How the Sharing Economy Could Make the Labor Movement More Relevant” – Subscribe to VICE News here: Check out VICE News for more: Follow VICE News here: Facebook: Twitter: Tumblr: Instagram: More videos from the VICE network:
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Windows 10 Preview Reveals Mail and Calendar Upgrades


The launch of Windows 10 is set for later this summer, the official Windows blog reports. And excitement is building,

The latest technical build preview was recently revealed, giving more of a taste of what customers can expect from Windows 10. Here are some takeaways from this sneak-peek:

Windows Insider Program members will recognize this latest preview as build 10061. Members of Microsoft’s “Fast Ring,” customers who have signed up for Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program to receive builds of the latest Windows operating system early, already have access to the latest release. The rest of the Windows buying public will simply have to wait.

However, the Windows blog did give some information on the new features in this latest build.

The mail and calendar upgrades in the technical preview promise improved performance. The Windows blog claims the Mail app features a “familiar” three-pane email interface that can toggle quickly between your email and calendar.

Users will also be able to customize Swipe Gestures in the Mail app. This will allow you to swipe left or right to perform actions such as delete, flag, or mark email read or unread.

The Windows blog also notes that the Mail app uses Word to allow users more feature options for their emails. That includes being able to easily add bullets, insert tables and pictures, and add color to text in emails. Mail and Calendar both support Office 365, Exchange,, Gmail, IMAP, and POP among other popular accounts.

Other areas of Windows 10 got visual upgrades. The Start menu, taskbar, and action bar got a facelift with a new black theme and personalization options. The Start menu can now be resized to suit your needs and allow more room for tiles on the right side of the list of apps.

The taskbar can now also be resized thanks to a new tablet mode. The tablet mode causes the Start button, Cortana, items in the Notification area, and the Task View buttons to size up and space out to better suit a touchable screen.

Build 10061 has fixed some of the bugs found in the previous builds, such as not being able to index a new email in Outlook.

The latest build is far from ready to go. The Windows blog also provides a list of known issues that have come up in this latest version.

Some of them are rather amusing. Apparently there is a bug in Mail and Calendar that causes every letter you type to appear twice. “Which might be funny if it weren’t so irritating,” the Windows blog explains. A simple update to both these apps should fix this issue.

There have been a large number of improvements on Windows 10 since a briefing in January. Even with a list of bugs that still need to be worked out, there is hope the latest Windows version will be ready on time.

Image: Microsoft

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