Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Small-business owners: What are you doing Christmas?

If you're a small-business person working Christmas Day, we'd like to hear from you for an upcoming story.

What does your work involve? What will you be doing, and what types of customers are depending on you?

Tell us about it: Email Celeste Smith at Please include your name, business information, and phone number where you can be reached.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Charlotte foodie entrepreneurs get set for Small Business Saturday

Expect a festival vibe at the Shop Micro Local event on Nov. 30, which will feature several local food and products producers, according to organizer Olive Stewart.

She and other local and regional foodie entrepreneurs are uniting at a one-day-only pop-up store, open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at 1320 S. Church St. as part of Small Business Saturday. The location is near All Nations Coffee and The Unknown Brewing Company, which Stewart says will also be open on the shopping day dedicated to promoting local merchants. There's free parking.

Stewart is the founder of Bushelle Seasonings, whose homemade marinades are on the shelves at Whole Foods

In a press release, Stewart explains why she's organizing the temporary retail site:
"For this special event, Shop Micro Local will feature local and regional small businesses that sell their goods to stores, online, and at special events. These businesses do not have their own brick and mortar store - yet. They count on events such as these to help build their audience and sales. At this pop-up event, much like any festival, small company owners will display their goods and introduce their product for the first time to many attending. Expect delicious food samples to be available."

"The timing of this event, branded 'Shop Small' by American Express, couldn’t be better. This weekend is famous for kicking holiday shopping into high gear. Shop Micro Local business owners want to help you to put something local under your tree. For the person on your holiday shopping list who has everything, try a gift of something new. Like Sadie’s Caribbean fish cakes, Fresh herb blends by Bushelle Seasonings, Garnet Gals handmade jams, Sweet Neecy homemade cake mixes, Guava Love fruit and butter spreads, All Nations fair trade coffee, Hey Sugar Shop truffles, or a whole array of other wonderful food and gift options. Gift baskets featuring locally made products will also be available for purchase."

Stewart said CPCC Small Business Institute, Whiteside Industrial Properties, and American Express are supporting the pop-up event. 

Follow the planning on Facebook, at

And read more in this Wednesday's ShopTalk about how Charlotte merchants are using pop-ups stores as temporary retail sites during the holidays and beyond.

Monday, November 18, 2013

In Wednesday's ShopTalk: Pop-up shops, a traveling painting party

Watch this video for a preview of what's coming up in Wednesday's ShopTalk:

Friday, November 15, 2013

10 ways to boost your business's holiday sales

As small businesses gear up for holiday sales and Small Business Saturday Nov. 30, retailers should also take a look at the way they're selling -- the storefronts, the curb appeal, the experience for the shopper. 

American Express OPEN and retail expert Patricia Norrins offer their tips: 

1. Spruce up the curb appeal. Research has shown that retailers have thirty seconds or less to attract a customer, and much of a customer's decision to enter the store is based on how inviting the store looks. Before you begin holiday merchandising in earnest, tidy up the outside of your store. Wash the windows. Sweep the outside. Consider adding festive holiday garland and decorative holiday planters.

2.  Think of window displays as billboards for your stores: They communicate an important message about the products you sell. Showcase products you have an ample supply of, use vertical height and width to make a statement, use creative signage or props to tell a story, balance the amount of merchandise you include, and get creative. If your store windows are really clever, customers may even take pictures and share them via social media. That can help you build foot traffic exponentially. 

3. Give your store space a different and distinctive look for the season. Move merchandise around in the store. Freshen displays. Give customers a reason to notice merchandise they may overlooked on previous trips. 
Don't just relegate holiday fare to a small section of the store. Create festive displays throughout the store to give a sense of cohesion. Consider positioning the most popular holiday products as a focal display where everyone who enters the store is sure to see and buy them.  

4. Create themed displays within your store. Group merchandise by theme to make it easier for customers to shop. It also makes for a stronger visual impact.

5. Mix natural and handmade elements in displays: Getting crafty with some of your display props by using Pinterest to learn DIY tips for making garland, wreaths, store props and signs. Add in natural floral elements such as pine and spruce to add fragrance and a warm, inviting feel. 

6. Use bold signs and props: They'll help you communicate what you're selling and attract customers throughout your store.

7. Incorporate fragrances, sounds and tastes of the season: Remember, vision is just one of the five sense. Engage smell, sound and taste and you're likely to sell more products. Fifty-five percent of customers make a purchase when they had not planned to after being able to taste-test a product, according to a recent study conducted by Iowa State University. Also consider playing holiday music, burning holiday scented candles or selling holiday scented potpourri. 

8. Sprinkle in holiday signs throughout the store. Use holiday signs to attracts customers to various displays throughout your store, but make sure they communicate a quick message about the products being sold and contribute to the overall holiday feel within the store.

9. Merchandise your cash wrap. Think strategically about which small stocking-stuffer items, should be sold near the cash register. Prominently display your holiday gift wrap and signage indicating if gift wrapping is free of charge. Create an attractive holiday gift card or gift certificate display, along with adding signage to promote holiday store specials and special events taking place in the store throughout the season.

10. Remember, your holiday merchandising is an extension of your store's brand. Your merchandising strategy should express the essence of your store's brand and personality. This will help you attract customers, keep them shopping longer, and ultimately, encourage them to buy more products. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Small Business Saturday is Nov. 30

Small-business owners and entrepreneurs: What are you doing to attract shoppers on the Saturday after Thanksgiving?

Tell us your plans and show us what you're doing. Tweet your best #smallbizsat photos to #shoptalkclt. We'll publish some of them here on this blog and on our ShopTalk website.

And check out what Charlotte-area retailers are planning for shoppers, here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rep. McHenry touts new crowd-funding legislation at Packard Place

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina met with two dozen entrepreneurs and investors Wednesday at uptown startup hub Packard Place to discuss the impact of new crowdfunding legislation he helped write. 

The legislation -- part of last year's bipartisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which was designed to help businesses grow and hire -- will make it easier for startups and small businesses to gather small amounts of money from non-accredited investors in exchange for equity in the company.

Previously, businesses could only take on investors with a certain net worth, income or personal relationship.

"Small businesses are starved for capital," said McHenry,  a Republican who represents the state's 10th district stretching from Gaston County to Asheville.  "We have to lighten the load so funding can flow." 

Critics worry the new rules could cause small, inexperienced investors to lose money. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently released nearly 600 pages of rules dictating the new provisions. The rules are open for public comment for the next 90 days. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

JCSU students get audience with Federal Reserve

A small group of Johnson C. Smith University students talked education, the power of persistence and what it takes to succeed in today's economy with officers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond over breakfast Tuesday morning. 

The four students are part of Innovo Laboratory, a nonprofit run through JCSU, a historically black university designed to guide the city's next generation of entrepreneurs. Students who are a part of Innovo Lab meet with business leaders and entrepreneurs, get training on writing a business plan, have webcam discussions with students in other countries and hear lectures from the area's top leaders. 

And though the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker spoke briefly, these students did most of the talking -- and impressing. 

The goal is to "help young adults understand the possibilities out there," Lacker said, hours before he gave a speech on workforce development to area business leaders at the Fed's Charlotte branch. 

And many of those possibilities are going to be in new areas. There may be fewer jobs for manual laborers in manufacturing, but there are emerging jobs for people skilled enough to operate the computerized technology, he said. 

Communications major Dineo Seakamela, 21, is from Johannesburg, South Africa, and left her home for the first time in 2010 to study at JCSU. She says her experience at the university has equipped her to spread her wings even more -- possibly to other areas of the U.S., Europe or to Asia.

 "When you look in history, a lot of the upheavals were student-based," Seakamela said. "We have a voice and mind and power in unity."

Lacker praised the students' ambition and desire to get a bachelor's degree. He said people who graduate from college make, over a lifetime, 80 percent than people who have only a high school degree. People who complete just a couple of years of college make 15 percent more, he said.

"The societies that succeed and grow unlock more potential from young people," Lacker said.