Is Your City One of the Best for Small Business in America?

best cities for small business 2015

Have you ever wondered if your city is one that’s friendly to small businesses, that attracts small businesses and has a thriving small business scene?

Well, here is a list of the 25 Best Small Business Cities as determined by Biz2Credit’s third annual analysis of The Best Small Business Cities in America:

1. Riverside-San Bernardino, California

2. Chicago, Illinois

3. New York Metro Area

4. Charlotte, North Carolina

5. Las Vegas, Nevada

6. San Francisco-Oakland, California

7. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Florida

8. Los Angeles, California

9. Houston, Texas

10. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

11. Washington, DC Metro

12. Atlanta, Georgia

13. San Antonio, Texas

14. San Diego, California

15. Detroit, Michigan

16. Phoenix, Arizona

17. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

18. San Jose, California

19. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida

20. Denver, Colorado

21. Virginia Beach-Norfolk, Virginia

22. Orlando, Florida

23. Columbus, Ohio

24. Seattle, Washington

25. Sacramento, California

Are you surprised by any of the names on this list? Do you call any of them home or do you live close by?

A Closer Look at the Data

If you own a younger business, you’ll fit right in with other small companies in cities like Orlando or Philadephia which topped the list of 10 cities ranked for the youngest businesses (in terms of months of operation).

If your business is aiming to be among the highest revenue generators, you’ll be in good company in cities like San Riverside-Bernadino or New York which topped the list for businesses with the highest annual revenue.

Meanwhile Chicago and New York topped the list for cities containing businesses with the highest credit score.

There were some surprises as well. One was the inclusion of Detroit, Michigan, one of the few old northern industrial cities on the list.

“Detroit has seen a bounce back in the auto industry, and support industries such as technology and health care have emerged in the region,” explained Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit and an expert in small business finance, responding to an email interview with Small Business Trends.

“Lower gas prices have contributed to reducing manufacturing and distribution costs, which has in turn helped domestic companies regain a competitive advantage in the industry with manufacturing coming back from China and Korea,” Rohit added.

Another surprise was Boston’s conspicuous absence.

“Boston largely benefited from the tech boom in early 2000’s, but it seems to be losing its competitiveness to New York, which has established itself as the primary small business and tech hub in the Northeast,” Arora speculated. “There has also been a significant increase in v-commerce investments in NYC, which has now outstripped Boston after Silicon Valley.”

To compile the list, Biz2Credit examined more than 12,000 small businesses identified as companies with less than 250 employees and revenues under $10 million a year.

Finally, communities were ranked by average credit score, average annual revenue, and a BizAnalyzer score to determine the final results.

Want to learn more about the Best Small Business Cities list? Join us for a live webinar with Arora and other experts on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 3 p.m. New York time.

Webinar Details

Who: Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell (@SmallBizTrends), Senior Editor of CNBC Digital Lori Ioannou (@LoriIoannou1), CEO of Biz2Credit Rohit Arora (@RohitBiz2Credit) and President of Over The Moon PR John Mooney.

What: “Best Small Business Cities of 2015″ Webinar

When: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. (EDT)

Register Now!

Map: Small Business Trends

This article, “Is Your City One of the Best for Small Business in America?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Your Customers Could Soon Be Asking for Lab Grown Leather

lab grown leather

If you sell leather goods, you are dealing in products made from animals. But times are changing and customers may soon be requesting something more in line with evolving ethical and environmental standards.

Check out Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn-based company that uses tissue and cell engineering technology to create lab grown leather.

This isn’t like the faux leather (or “pleather”) you might see at discount stores. It’s real leather — it’s just lab grown leather.

Lab grown leather doesn’t require actual animals to be slaughtered as part of the process. That’s a plus for the animals, the environment, and potentially consumers as well.

The cost of leather has gone up in recent years. That’s due to rising demand as well as some environmental factors that have impacted traditional leather production. For the same reasons, scientists have also begun working on creating lab grown meat products.

But Modern Meadow thinks that lab grown leather is headed for consumers first. And it’s difficult to argue with that.

Aside from the more relaxed regulations on leather goods in comparison to food products, lab grown leather seems to be something consumers might feel more comfortable with at this point. If consumers are going to take a risk on a completely new type of product, it seems they would be more likely to do so with something other than food.

But the company’s goal is not to create a novelty type of product that people will buy just because of its unique nature or benefits to animals or the environment.

Instead, they hope to create a product that’s actually useful for consumers and businesses that produce leather goods. Modern Meadow’s CEO Andras Forgacs told Fast Company:

“Our goal is not perfect biomimicry. We’re not looking to create the, “I can’t believe this is not slaughtered leather, or I can’t believe this is not a slaughtered hamburger.” It’s to create products that if you were to design from the ground up, you could actually imbue with better properties in truly desirable ways.”

If the company is able to create leather that’s up to, or even higher than, the same quality standard as regular leather, it could absolutely make a huge difference in the leather industry. The ethical and environmental benefits could be an added bonus too.

Leather Jackets Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Your Customers Could Soon Be Asking for Lab Grown Leather” was first published on Small Business Trends

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4 Steps to Dealing with Addiction in Your Business


For some of your company’s employees, the struggle may be very real.

Variegated data from 2008 to 2012 suggests that on a yearly average 8.7 percent of full-time employees between the ages of 18 and 65 have abused alcohol within the past 30 days; 8.6 percent have used illicit drugs in the past month; and 9.5 percent have become dependent on alcohol or other substances during the past year.

Employees that come to work hungover, or otherwise impaired in their ability to function fully and productively are a problem in businesses across the board. This is NOT a private or personal matter that employees must be left alone to work out for themselves — not when it impacts your business.

Professionals in the field of addiction behavior suggest following these steps to deal with substance abuse in the workplace:

Know the Level of Risk in Your Business

Not every job carries the same amount of stress or satisfaction. Every profession varies when it comes to opportunities and motivations to abuse chemicals. Treatment centers such as Futures of Palm Beach have developed detailed profiles of addiction by profession. Lawyers, doctors, food and accommodation services and law enforcement personnel are more at-risk than accountants or scientists.

Check the latest job description of your employees to see where they stand when it comes to incidents of substance abuse.

Be Aware of Substance Abuse Signs

According to the NCAAD, these include, but are not limited to:

  • Bloodshot eyes, or constricted pupils
  • Nose bleeds
  • Sudden weight loss, or gain
  • Unusual body odors or halitosis
  • Sudden obsession with money
  • Poor grooming
  • Chronic tardiness and increased use of sick days and sudden emergencies
  • Sudden mood swings; increased irritability or unexplained fits of laughter
  • Complaints from co-workers of sloppy work, unsocial behavior or alleged impairment

Preliminary Steps

Before confronting an employee you suspect has an addiction problem that is impacting their work, check out the resources in your community that offer help for addiction and abuse.

Your employee may actually open up to you when you talk to them and if you can offer some specific places to go for help, it will reassure them that you really do care about them.

Call your insurance company to see what kind of coverage your employee has when it comes to rehab. This can be very reassuring to them if they are having financial problems. And talk to your business lawyer before you have any contact with an employee. Make sure you understand your workplace policies concerning alcohol and drug use on the job and what you can and cannot tell or offer an employee.

It may not be a bad idea to have your attorney or some other reputable second party with you when you finally talk to your employee.


You may be the one initiating the discussion with an employee, or they may be the one who comes to you demanding to know why they have been passed up for promotion or why their last job performance review was so negative. Either way, experts suggest you begin the discussion with some general questions, such as “How are you feeling lately?”

Listen to what your employee has to say. They will probably begin sensing where you are going to take the discussion, and may become anxious or defensive. Make sure you have scheduled plenty of time for this important conversation. You are about to influence someone’s life and career in a major way.

Be gentle, but be firm. Let your employee know that their problem has real costs for your business.

Offer them options and let them respond to your offer. Decide ahead of time, with your attorney and HR people, just what is an acceptable response from the employee.

Make it clear and sincere, and then let the employee have the final word and make their decision.

Act appropriately. And document everything that has been said in the meeting. If you are keeping the employee on probation, make sure to schedule a follow up meeting no more than five days later.

Intervention Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “4 Steps to Dealing with Addiction in Your Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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EnMast: Drop Consulting Costs, Make More Money

brad farris

Can you make more money from your consulting business by offering lower costs?

No, this is not suggesting that you cut prices on the services you already offer. But is it possible to develop new less expensive services for potential customers who couldn’t afford your current services anyway?

That’s just what Brad Farris (pictured above), founder of Chicago-based Anchor Advisors, Ltd., did. About four years ago, he launched EnMast. Today, it functions as an online extension of his small business consulting firm.

“I was getting a lot of calls from people out of the Chicago area and small companies that can’t afford to hire a consulting firm,” Farris told Small Business Trends.

Eventually, Farris hit on the idea to found a “self-service” website to assist these companies unable to work with Anchor.

Small business startups stand to benefit the most from hiring consulting firms.

But in one of the many paradoxes of life and business, startups also are less likely to hire consultancies because of cost.

For these businesses, EnMast offers resources such as document templates, advice and motivational content, videos and webinars. And all of this is at a lower cost than working one-on-one with a more traditional consultant.

Both entities — the website and the consultancy — provide small businesses with assistance and strategies to help them grow and operate more effectively.

EnMast is for small businesses that have hired 2 to 10 employees, Farris said. It is designed to serve as a tool to help “accelerate growth.” Anchorage, meanwhile, is for small businesses with 10 or more employees. But the companies are connected. Anchor Advisors’ now offers EnMast as an additional service to its prospective clients.

The companies also are connected via the naming strategy. As EnMast notes on its website:

“The mast of the ship is the connecting point. The sails are attached to the mast to drive the ship; in stormy seas sailors lash themselves to the mast to keep them from falling overboard. “En Masse” means all together, as a group. So we put them together to create a place where we can come together, as a group and get connected.”

Small businesses, by nature, are accustomed to navigating stormy seas. They face many uncertainties early on.

“There are so many ways to do it wrong,” Farris added.

In fact, EnMast has even used that fact to create some helpful content on things that can go wrong when  starting a business. Creatively packaged, the website offered it one year as a holiday content selection the New York Times described as “business horror stories in honor of Halloween.”

EnMast is there so small businesses are don’t to start with a blank piece of paper, Farris explains. “There is a template for a job description, in case they have never written one,” he says. Also available are templates for sales plans and for other key documents that small business owners need to write.

“The templates are only a starting place. Business owners can customize from there,” Farris said.

EnMast began as a blog. But today the website also offers a comprehensive assortment of these templates and tools numbering at around 70 and growing. Also offered is a steady flow of small business related articles, ebooks, videos and webinars.

“We are starting to really build it out now,” Farris said.

Interested parties can visit EnMast and gain access to the site’s five most popular tools for free.

Then, if they want to dig deeper and use more of the site’s resources, they can pay a onetime fee of $300 for full access.

Farris said around 1,500 small business owners now subscribe to EnMast.

He added that the site’s clients generally are service providers rather than product companies.

“We have a lot of writers, graphics designers, Web designers,” he said.

Podcasts are an additional resource EnMast is working on providing soon.

Image: Brad Farris, EnMast

This article, “EnMast: Drop Consulting Costs, Make More Money” was first published on Small Business Trends

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What You Need to Know About .sucks Domain Names

.sucks domain names

The sunrise period for trademark owners to register their .sucks domain names has started. That means owners of federally registered trademarks (and celebrities) can pay around $2,000 to get their brands’ .sucks domain names before those domains go on sale to the general public on June 1, 2015.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The cost to secure your .sucks domain name before anyone else can get it is at least $2,000. If you wait until June 1, you can register any .sucks domain for $249 per year.

If you’d prefer, you can get a discount and pay just $10 per year but you have to agree to redirect your traffic to Vox Populi’s discussion network at

Vox Populi (a division of Momentous) is the company that won an Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) auction to operate and sell the .sucks domains. Last year, over 500 new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) were approved by ICANN (the non-profit organization that sets policies for the global domain name system), including .sucks and .porn, and 1,300 more are expected to debut in the next few years. However, most are far less controversial.

The reason the .sucks domain is getting so much hype is because of the exorbitant prices Vox Populi is charging trademark owners.

ICANN has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into the matter and determine if Vox Populi’s pricing scheme is predatory. For now, brands like Apple, Walmart, Microsoft, and Home Depot, as well as celebrities like Taylor Swift and Oprah Winfrey, are paying big bucks for their .sucks domain names.

4 Things About .sucks Domain Names

Should you pay to register your brand’s .sucks domain name during the sunrise period? Should you register it after the sunrise period ends? Here are four things you should understand about domain names so you can make the right decision for your brand and your business:

1. If You Don’t buy your .sucks Domain Name, Someone Else Probably Will

It is very possible that if you don’t register your .sucks domain name, someone else will do so. There are a number of things they could do with the domain after they register it:

They Could Squat and do Nothing With It

They could sit on the domain and never use it to publish any content. In this case, there isn’t any harm to your business, but that could always change in the future.

They Could use it to Complain About Your Business and Brand

See point number four below to learn more about how this could impact your business.

They Could use it to Sell Products or Services That are Similar to Yours

If this happens, then there is a likelihood of confusion between your brand and theirs. If you have a trademark registration for your brand name, then you can send a cease and desist demand letter asking them to stop using your brand name.

If they don’t comply and you own the trademark, you can file a Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) complaint, which will cost you at least $1,500 but will get the site taken down if the other party doesn’t have a legitimate use for the domain.

They Could use it to Sell Products or Services that are Completely Unrelated to Yours

If the products and services are not similar to yours, then it is unlikely that consumers would confuse your business with theirs even though both use the same brand name.

In this case, there isn’t really anything you can do to stop them, but be sure to read point number three below to learn more about brand dilution considerations.

They Could use it to Publish Content That you may or may not Like

If the content they publish is related to your business, see point number four below to learn more. If the content is completely unrelated to your business, then there isn’t much you can do, but you should read point number three below to understand how this could lead to brand dilution.

2. You are Responsible for Policing Your Brand, Including use by Others Online.

The law will not protect a fool from his own folly. You are responsible for policing your brand and the use of your brand by others — both online and offline. If you own the registered trademark for your brand name, you’re responsible for enforcing that registration. If you don’t enforce your rights, you might lose them.

Therefore, you don’t have to register your .sucks domain name, but you do need to have a program in place to monitor your brand, identify problems and enforce your trademark rights in a timely manner. That includes use of your brand name in any domain name, including .sucks domain names.

3. You Shouldn’t Ignore the Potential for Brand Dilution

If you allow someone else to register your brand’s .sucks domain name, and they use it to publish content that could indirectly cast your brand in a negative light, you can’t stop them or the resulting harm to your brand reputation.

That negative association with your brand name can dilute your brand in the marketplace causing it to lose value.

With that in mind, don’t ignore uses of your brand name that are not trademark conflicts, because they could still hurt your brand reputation and dilute its value.

This is a time when a focused marketing and public relations campaign is essential to separate your brand from the negativity so you don’t have to invest in an expensive rebranding in the future.

4. .sucks is Just the Tip of the Iceberg.

If someone wants to publish negative content about your brand and business online, they’re going to do it. In the United States, free speech allows people to express their opinions, and the Internet and social media make it extremely easy for anyone to do so.

Think of it this way. If your brand is “Ampic” and a dissatisfied customer wants to start a website to complain about your brand, they could register and start publishing negative content within minutes. Let’s say you spent $2,000 to secure your .sucks domain name. That wouldn’t deter an angry customer. He could register,, or any other creative variation he wants.

Even the largest businesses in the world can’t register every negative phrase combined with their brand names using all of the available gTLDs. Again, unless a site that includes your brand name in its domain name is selling products and services that could cause consumer confusion about the source of those products and services, there isn’t much you can do to stop them from continuing to use the domain name or publishing content on their site.

What Should Small Businesses Do about .sucks Domain Names?

Remember, there are limitations to every law, including trademark laws.

However, if you don’t have a federal trademark registration for your brand name, it will be very hard to stop others from using that name to sell similar goods and services. And if you do have a federal trademark registration for your brand name, you’re responsible for policing it and enforcing it.

Turning a blind eye to infringements could lead to the loss of your trademark rights.

Only you can decide whether or not you want to invest in your brand’s .sucks domain name.

If you’re doing so in an effort to stop people from complaining about your brand online, then you could get your .sucks domain name as a pre-emptive measure of protection. But where there is a will to complain, there is always a way to do so. For every .sucks domain name, there are thousands of other creative options available.

And remember, in the next few years, another 1,300 gTLDs are coming, which will give people even more options.

Domain Image via Shutterstock

This article, “What You Need to Know About .sucks Domain Names” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Can Buying Installs Aid Organic App Ranking?

In regular Google SEO, paid links and advertising are negative link-building signals, but sometimes Google works with double standards. It seems both Google Play and the iOS App Store love all your installs, paid or not.

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