Preview ‘B.E. Business Report’: The Unyielding Spirit of Act-1 CEO Janice Bryant Howroyd

Act-1 Group Founder and CEO Janice Bryant Howroyd (Image: Courtesy of Black Enterprise Business Report)

Janice Bryant Howroyd represents the unyielding spirit of African American entrepreneur. In 1978, she opened Act-1 as a one-woman staffing company in the back of a retail shop and has since grown the business into a $1.8 billion-dollar enterprise offering a range of services from employee background checks to executive travel management. This growth has earned ACT-1 the distinction of being the largest woman minority-owned employment agency in the United States and the honor of being named the 2012 BLACK ENTERPRISE Industrial/Service Company of the Year.  Black Enterprise Business Report host Caroline Clarke recently caught-up with this Power Player at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference hosted by Nationwide to learn how she keeps her competitive edge and exceeds expectations.

As the saying goes, there are two things you can’t avoid in life—death and taxes. All too often, improper filing can lead to costly mistakes.  This week in Wealth for Life, our expert Al Colbert, co-founder of Colbert/Ball Tax Services shares the inside secrets of how to achieve real savings the next time Uncle Sam comes knocking.

Next, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Correspondent Shannon Lanier goes behind the scenes with Freddie Winston, founder and CEO of F&L Construction, Inc.  For more than 20 years, this Entrepreneur of the Week has secured multiple contracts for government trash removal in the District of Columbia and Maryland, to the tune of millions in revenue.

Plus, Executive Style correspondent Sonia Alleyne shows busy executives new ways to break a sweat with fun workouts that venture outside the box.
Black Enterprise Business Report airs every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on TV One, on the NBC Non-stop Digital Network, and in syndicated cities across the country.  Visit for local times and station information.

Preview ‘Our World’: Media Entrepreneur Michael Baisden

Baisden shares his love of entrepreneurship on Our World with Black Enterprise.

With the release of his new book The Maintenance Man II, radio personality Michael Baisden continues to raise eyebrows and attract attention.  After first coming to the nation’s attention with his first foray into writing, 1995’s self-published Never Satisfied: How and Why Men Cheat, the Chicago native continues to tackle controversial topics with his latest work. Our World with Black Enterprise host Marc Lamont Hill caught up with the airwaves icon at the 2012 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference hosted by Nationwide to talk about his latest publishing venture, his love of entrepreneurship, and a new mission that makes him proud.

African-Americans make up nearly one third of all missing-person cases but seldom appear as the topic of choice on the national news. This weekend Our World goes On the Record to delve into the horrifying high numbers of people of color who go missing each year with panelists Dr. Jeff Gardere, psychologist; Derrica Wilson, co-founder and president of Black & Missing Foundation; and Larry Stackhouse Sr., whose 19-year-old son disappeared in 2005. Plus, TV One, which carries Our World with Black Enterprise, continues to shine a well-deserved spotlight on the issue with Find Our Missing. The docu-drama is designed to put names and faces on people of color who have disappeared without a trace and is hosted by Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson (Law & Order). Each episode tells the story of the missing, beginning with the day they vanished and the frantic searches by loved ones and investigators to find them. The series also offers a call to action and is partnered by a robust online component where viewers can learn more information and provide tips, as well as learn pointers on how to keep their families safe. The new season of Find Our Missing is slated to return to TV One January 2013.

Plus, grab a Slice of Life as Our World profiles 2004 U.S. Olympic Silver Medal winner Martiza Correia, who is spending her free time helping children learn water-safety and how to swim.

Our World with Black Enterprise airs this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. on TV One and on local stations across the country.  Check your local listings and visit for additional time and station information.

Our World with Black Enterprise is the nationally syndicated television series offering a fresh mix of interviews with today’s top newsmakers and celebrities, eclectic roundtable discussions concerning the hottest topics affecting African Americans, and profiles of some of the world’s most intriguing people.

3 Unique Ways to Increase Your Conversion Rate

Your product is so good that if it appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” they’d pronounce you the winner after the first episode. Your website is so beautifully designed that your screen caps could hang in an art gallery. Your employees? They’ve got more ability than the Justice League and the Avengers combined. So why isn’t your product selling? If you’re adding up your profits and scratching your head, there’s hope that your conversion conundrum might not require a complete business overhaul. Perhaps you just need to pull a few more tricks out of your e-commerce sleeve. That’s where this guide comes in. Through it, you’ll discover three unique ways to boost your sales, and you’ll make some waves in the process. Time for some ideas…

1. Conduct a Q&A. When it comes to online shopping, something as small as a lingering question can stop a customer in their tracks. Questions like “Will these pants shrink in the wash?” or “How long do these ink cartridges last?” might seem relatively inconsequential, but unanswered concerns like these can kill your conversion rate. So what can you do? Use tools that help shoppers interact with past buyers so that they can get the info they need, and fast. Social Q&A tools do just that.

When added to your website, these tools allow consumers to ask and answer questions. That promotes confidence, and confidence leads straight to the checkout. When Inkjet Superstore began using a social Q&A tool, they discovered that customers who asked or answered questions had a conversion rate 80% higher than those who didn’t. You don’t have to be a business guru to know that’s no small difference.

2. Check Up on the Checkout. Did you know that for most online businesses, 60% of carts never make it to the checkout? Customers get distracted or decide they’ll shop around for sales – or they simply forget to return to your site to complete their orders. So if you’re a business owner, what do you do with all those abandoned carts? If you want to boost your conversion rate, you follow up with the would-be customer via email.

This would be nearly impossible to do manually, so online commerce experts have created tools to help. These programs can automatically track abandoned carts and email the shoppers after a certain period of time has elapsed. They can also offer special discounts or rewards for shoppers who commit to checking out. The result? An increased e-commerce conversion rate of up to 15%.

3. Follow the Code. QR codes can be used so many ways that it’s hard to grasp their full conversion potential. When placed in-store, these newfangled, scannable bar codes can connect mobile users to your website. This provides people with more information, including customer reviews, additional size and color options – you name it. QR codes don’t have to be placed in the store, either. You can attach them to products, advertisements and receipts. Technically, you could even attach one to yourself, just to see what happens.

When you connect your codes to your social media profiles and let consumers do things like scan the code to “like” your product on Facebook, you’ll be boosting boost brand awareness, connecting shoppers to the tools and information they need and boosting your conversion rates, all in one shot. Need one more reason to go the QR- code route? Experts believe that 60 million Americans will own iPads or other tablets by the end of the year, so if you put QR codes to work for you now, a growth in sales will be the likely result.

Running a business is a bit like being a fisherman: no matter how skilled you are at reeling them in, a few of your customers are always going to get away. But just as award-winning anglers have tricks to help get them out of their rut, there are plenty of tools out there that will help you capture consumer attention and convert it into sales. If your product is perfect and your sales team is stellar but your checkout is seeing more tumbleweeds than carts lately, give one of these conversion-boosting tools a try. Then sit back and smile, and watch those numbers change.

Cathie O’Callaghan is the Director of Marketing for TurnTo, the leader in Social Q&A. She is fascinated all things ecommerce  – whether it’s the front-end or back-end of the store.

Get Recognition and Valuable Rewards from These Small Biz Contests

Applying for an award or contest can bring your business added recognition and publicity. Awards also fire up your employees! Customers pay attention to awards, too.

Winning awards or contest won’t happen by chance e.  It’s up to you to take action.  Here’s a list of awards and competitions we recommend checking out:

* * * * *

DYMO – Win Expert Advice for your Small Business

DYMO Endicia has partnered with ecommerce and business experts Marsha Collier and John Lawson to bring small business owners the chance of a lifetime:

Two lucky business owners will win a 1-hour phone consultation with either Marsha or John. Ask your burning business questions, get expert advice, and discuss your management strategies with online sales and marketing gurus.


Dell $100M Innovators Credit Fund

Dell has launched a $100 million Innovators Credit Fund, with the purpose of helping entrepreneurs “maximize potential for innovation, speed to market and job creation.” The credit fund will offer both funding and technology resources with IT support, depending on what each start-up needs.

To be eligible, you must have already received some angel funding or venture capital before you can apply. Start-ups can get up to 10% of its current funding or up to $150,000 with limited credit terms. See website for details and application.


Big Break for Small Business
Enter by July 13, 2012

Five small business owners will receive house calls from American Express OPEN and Facebook branding experts who conduct in-depth marketing makeovers. Winners will also receive $25,000 in cash to implement the social strategies they learn from the makeovers.

The local communities of the winning businesses will also benefit. Winning businesses can invite other local entrepreneurs to meet a panel of social media and marketing experts to teach them how to use social channels for their business. See website for details and to enter.


Crain’s 2012 Best Places to Work in NYC
Enter by July 13, 2012

This survey and recognition program is dedicated to identifying and recognizing New York City’s best employers. Publicly or privately held businesses with at least 25 full or part time employees are eligible to enter.


SMB Influencer Awards 2012Small Business Influencer Awards 2012
Enter by July 15, 2012

The 2012 Small Business Influencer Awards are now open for nominations! The Influencer Awards honor companies, organizations, apps and people who have made a meaningful and lasting impact on the North American small business market. Impact may mean (i) providing products widely used by significant numbers of small businesses, or (ii) influencing significant numbers of small businesses by being a thought leader, or (iii) providing information or services of note to significant numbers of small businesses. Nominate here.


Rock Your Biz Blogging Contest
Enter by July 30, 2012

Join for the Rock Your Biz Blogging Competition through July 30, 2012, to learn some great tips on how to take your business to the next level with online networking, blogging, or social media. Gain exposure for your company and a chance to win some cool prizes including an iPad3 from Grafton Media, incorporation or LLC filings from, mind mapping subscriptions from MindMaple, Amazon gift cards, and credits from JustRetweet.

To enter, simply write and publish a blog post on your blog, sharing tips or advice on how to use online networking, blogging, or social media in a small business. Then submit it for voting at BizSugar under the “Rock Your Biz” category.


DailyCandy Start Small, Go Big Contest
Enter by August 3, 2012

The 2012 “Start Small, Go Big” contest, sponsored for the third year in a row by Ink(SM) from Chase, includes mentors from some of the biggest names in fashion, home, beauty and food including Rebecca Minkoff, Jonathan Adler, Lauren Moffatt, Christiane Lemieux of DwellStudio, Lev Glazman & Alina Roytberg of Fresh, Alison Pincus and Susan Feldman of One Kings Lane, and more. Categories for entry include Fashion, Home, Food & Drink, Health & Beauty, and Digital & Tech. See website for entry details.


Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition
Enter by August 8, 2012

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is an annual international business plan competition in Michigan. The event is the world’s largest business plan competition with more than $1 million in prizes. The goals of the competition are to promote Michigan as a venue for innovation and opportunity and stimulate job creation.


The New York Times Make Your Pitch Contest
Enter by August 29, 2012

Submit your pitch on video, telling about your product or service, your marketing plans, your customer base. Tell what makes your business different — why it is one to watch? Do you need capital? If so, how much and what for? Most important, how are you going to make money?

All video pitches that meet the submission guidelines will be featured on The New York Times small-business Facebook page and selected pitches will be featured on the New York Times You’re the Boss Blog.


Enter by August 31, 2012

After hosting the successful 5th Annual PITCH 2012 in the Silicon Valley, Women 2.0 is excited to launch the inaugural PITCH NYC Conference & Competition 2012 (PITCH NYC 2012).

Open to early-stage high-growth ventures around the world, PITCH NYC 2012 invites companies with at least one female in the founding team to apply. Applying companies must be in beta stage and have received less than a million in funding. They are looking for the most disruptive web/mobile ventures, connected device companies, double and triple bottom line ventures, etc. Prizes include $25k cash, services and more.

See website for entry rules (you have to send in your business plan on a napkin!)


The list of awards and competitions is brought to you by Small Business Trends and

To find more small business events, contests and awards, visit our Small Business Events Calendar.
If you are putting on a small business contest, award or competition, and want to get the word out to the community, please submit it through our Small Business Event and Contests Form (it’s free).

Please note: The descriptions provided here are for convenience only and are NOT the official rules. ALWAYS read official rules carefully at the site holding the competition, contest or award.

From Small Business Trends

Get Recognition and Valuable Rewards from These Small Biz Contests

How to Avoid the Spam Filter in Your Email Marketing Efforts

Email marketing is a great way to communicate with prospects as well as current and past clients. That being said, there is a lot that goes into sending a high quality, highly targeted email. Along with this, you have to concern yourself with spam filters. In other words, is your message going to make its way to the recipient? Or will a spam filter pick it off along the way?

Before you do anything, it is important to plan your email marketing campaign. With the proper strategy in place, you have a much better chance of avoiding the spam filter attached to your target’s email account.

Tip: once you have an email newsletter template that works, stick with it in the future. Not only will this ensure that you avoid the spam filter, but if it converts well you will know that you are going to get the results you are looking for.

Are you new to the email marketing game? If so, it is safe to say that you may not know much about spam filters and how these work. For this reason, you have the potential for making mistakes along the way – many of which are sure to slow you down.

The bad thing about a spam filter is that you don’t get a second chance. Once your email ends up here, there is nothing you can do but sit back and wait for your next chance at the prospect.

No matter if you are new to email marketing or have been engaging in this method for many years, there are several things you can do to avoid accidental spam filtering:

1. Do not use “spammy” phrases. These include everything from “deal of a lifetime” to “click here” to “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Spam filters can detect these phrases, especially if they are included in the subject of your email.

2. Do not treat your email newsletter the same way you would a sales page. This means avoiding the overuse of exclamation points. While there is nothing wrong with emphasizing your content here and there, using more of these than necessary will improve the chance of your email ending up being marked as spam.

3. All CAPS should be avoided at all costs. This is one of the most common subject line mistakes that people make, even those who have been using this marketing tactic for a long time. Why would you want to use all CAPS? This is the equivalent of screaming at your audience. This does not improve the click through rate of your email. If anything, it will scare people away as it appears to be extremely spammy.

4. Using color for your fonts. If I add bright red to the beginning of my email people will think it is important, right? Think again. The more colors you use, the less likely somebody is to read through your email. And of course, this can set off the spam filter from a mile away.

5. Messy HTML. When you attempt to cut corners by converting a Word file to HTML, it is safe to say that you are going to end up with a sloppy HTML email. In turn, it is going to be flagged as spam almost every time.

With these five tips in mind, you should find it much easier to avoid the spam filter with every email newsletter that you send. Once you know what you are doing in this regard, you will find that your read-rate is much higher – and that is exactly what you want.

If your email is not read, the recipient cannot take action. And if he or she cannot take action, there is no point in sending the email in the first place.

When you start with a good plan and follow it up with the above tips, you can beat even the most strict email filters. Subsequently, you will find that your newsletter is converting better and allowing you to get in touch with a larger number of people on your list. Don’t let the use of spam filters stop you from achieving all your email marketing goals.

Author byline: This guest post is from Endre Rex-Kiss, a small business advocate with a keen interest in sustainability and green tech. He currently works for Jangomail, an email marketing and newsletter system provider based in the US. Follow his occasional guest blogging activities on Twitter.

Find Under30CEO on Flipboard

Flipboard is a beautifully designed mobile application for Android and iPhone smartphones that allows users to integrate their favorite news sources with their social media accounts. So you can see what your friends are doing this coming weekend on Facebook before you read the latest business news from Forbes.

Now you can use this application to keep up with Under30CEO’s latest small business advice and entrepreneurial interviews.

Just select the search icon in the red ribbon on the top right of the screen. Type in ‘Under30CEO’ and add either our Twitter, Facebook, or RSS feed. It’s that simple!

By Joe Gregory – @joe_gregory

Reading The Good Fail Can Make You Successful

The Good FailThe other day I was talking to a friend of mine who is the CEO of a local plastics company.  Somehow the conversation meandered toward the topic of learning from others’ mistakes.  We talked about the blessing that it is to have someone in your life; a parent or business mentor, who openly shares the lessons they’ve learned in their life.  And for those who really pay attention, learning from others’ mistakes can not only save you time and money, but heartaches and relationships.

To that end, I’m recommending my latest summer read —  The Good Fail: Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Rise and Fall of Microworkz.  As those of you who read my reviews know, I’m not always the biggest fan of entrepreneurial war stories (but that’s just me).  When I read a business book, I’m looking for practical advice and actionable strategies.  And this is what makes The Good Fail a book that I really enjoyed.

What’s a Good Fail?

Richard (@icarmagic) defines a “Good Fail” as a “failure that has a learning value that’s greater than the offset collateral damage.”  It’s a failure that one is unlikely to repeat, but that helps to positively develop the person’s managerial style and business acumen.   And Latman has had more than his share.  He’s started 11 different businesses, contributed to many others and stumbled through quite a few.  He’s become rather adept at failing quickly and cheaply, and that is a lesson every entrepreneur needs to have.

When You Fail, It’s Personal

This is Latman’s personal story and he starts it at the very beginning.  He describes his idyllic childhood in the San Fernando Valley and even tells the story of the sudden death of his girlfriend at the age of 13.  Latman’s father was a baseball player turned entrepreneur — who failed a lot.

But Latman was undaunted.  He was always looking for a challenge and didn’t seem to recognize the the boundaries that hold so many of us back from going after our objectives.  But at the same time, his inattention to boundaries was often a mixed blessing.  It was that kind of perseverence that got him into college and it was that same kind of oblivion to boundaries that got him arrested and put in jail for taking VHS videos out of his work environment to watch at home.

Granted, he didn’t “realize” that this was against company policy, but you can already see the pattern of going for it that would ultimately be at the root of the demise of MicroWorkz.

Inside The Big Fail

When you think about it, it seems rather counter intuitive to purchase a book on failure and how to avoid it.  I mean, aren’t we aiming for success? Will focusing on failure and how to avoid it actually put the wheels of the Law of Attraction in motion and draw me toward failure?  Not to worry.  Latman offers advice for “getting good” at failure and the 19 ways to avoid a Good Fail.

Here are just a few of the suggestions:

  • Build it then sell it.  Be ultra-conservative in your sales approach and enter the market completely confident in your product and your ability to deliver it exactly the way you promised it.
  • Surround yourself with hunters and not farmers.  Hunters are proactive in their search for information and opportunities and execute with precision.  Farmers gather and process information buut don’t get much done with it.
  • You are your own worst employee.  If you see yourself as an expert — or THE expert in what you do, then you are actually setting limitations for what’s possible in your business.  This is a variation of “not thought of by me” syndrome.
  • Accept “No” as an answer.  Listen to what’s behind the “No” and don’t just rush in for the sake of doing what you “know” is right.
  • Worry about success.  In the case of MicroWorkz, it was the success and PR exposure that was at the root of their downfall.  They simply couldn’t keep up.

The Good Fail Can Lead to Big Success

I have to admit that I enjoyed reading The Good Fail so much more than I expected.  Remember, I’m not much into biographies and war stories, and while this book had elements of both, Latman really put the focus on the lessons about failure that would really help entrepreneurs learn from his mistakes.

Small business owners, presidents, CEOs and managers will really enjoy this book.  It’s an excellent read for a business trip or a quick summer vacation.

From Small Business Trends

Reading The Good Fail Can Make You Successful

In Brazil, Babies Mean Business

A small crop of Brazilian baby retailers are gaining traction–and funding from high-profile investors.

Baby boom? It looks like there is a burgeoning baby e-commerce sector in Brazil.

Most recently, Baby, a Brazil-based online retailer of baby goods, just secured $16.7 million in financing, led by Accel Partners, according to The New York Times.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of more Brazil baby start-up success: Another online retailer, Bebestore, recently raised more than $10 million from London-based venture capital firm Atomico, reported The Times.

Overall, Brazil’s economic growth forecasts continue to drop, but e-commerce still entices investors. Why? Brazilians spent 26% more online last year than they did in 2010—or $10.1 billion. This year, experts estimate total spending to increase to $12.6 billion.

While the sector is growing, it does offer unique challenges for entrepreneurs. The two Americans who founded Baby, Davis Smith and Kimball Thomas, told the paper they struggled with a shipping infrastructure that is very different from that in the United States.

“Being an entrepreneur in Brazil is not for the faint of heart,” Smith told The Times.

Congress Forestalls Student-Loan Rate Hike

Just in the nick of time. Today, while the nation is still reeling from the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the health-care law, Congress voted to prevent the doubling of student-loan interest rates on July 1 — resulting in a collective sigh of relief across college campuses, no doubt.

Thanks to the measure, which was attached to a two-year, $100 billion construction-spending bill, students will now get a one-year reprieve on seeing their Stafford student-loan rates double from a current 3.4 percent.

For young entrepreneurs like Andy Grant, the move is most welcome. “This is great news,” says Grant who now pays $1,400 a month on his roughly $170,000 student loan, which he racked up as an undergrad at the University of Miami. “If I ended up having to pay $1,700 or $1,800 a month, it would be really difficult.”

Andy Grant, owner of a Soccer Shots franchise, welcomed Congress’ move to pass a bill that would prevent student loan rates from doubling on July 1.

But even paying what he does is a challenge, says Grant who also runs a children’s health and fitness franchise called Soccer Shots in Birmingham, Ala. Though the business is doing well — he expects to pull in $75,000 in revenue this year — the loan payments are taking their toll. “Last year, I paid off roughly $16,000 in student loans, but I accrued $16,000 in interest. It is like I take three steps forward and three steps back.”

A similar frustration is fomenting among students and fellow recent grads. At the end of May, hundreds of students converged on the Newark, Del., headquarters of Sallie Mae to protest the lender’s student-loan policies. One big annoyance, young people say, is the roughly $50 forbearance fee. Basically, every time you have to put a stop on paying your loans because you’ve run into a rough patch, you have to pay a fee.

The Student Labor Action Protection and the United States Student Association and other groups, which helped lead the charge on Sallie Mae, are advocating for the passage of The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, which was proposed by Rep. Hansen Clarke (D., Mich.). Overall, the measure would push for student-loan forgiveness, caps on interest rates on federal student loans and refinancing opportunities for private borrowers, among other things.
Considering that the unemployment rate among new grads remains stubbornly high, forbearance fees and other pesky policies will likely continue to confound the nation’s youth. Tack on trying to start a business — and the many financial encumbrances that are attached — and many young people today have sizeable handicap to address.

“I went in knowing and never expecting any help,” says Sam Gordon, the 27-year-old co-founder of the Oona, a smartphone-stand maker, who pays around $800 to $900 a month in student loan payments “But it can be frustrating at times especially when I want to pursue something where there’s no clear path, as an entrepreneur.”

To be fair, the President did announce a plan to help ease student loan payments for certain lower-income borrowers like start-up entrepreneurs. Starting this year, the President moved to lower borrowers’ payment caps to 10 percent of their discretionary income — that is a person’s income after accounting for other living costs. The new measures also shorten the forgiveness timeline to 20 years from 25 years. So, if someone had $100,000 of federal loans and earned an annual salary of $30,000, that person’s monthly payment might amount to $1,150. Through the program, that borrower would pay just $116 a month, and, after 20 years, the leftover debt would be forgiven.

The proposal builds off of the existing Income-Based Repayment, or IBR, option for low-wage earners with federal student loans. The program currently caps federal-student loan payments at 15 percent of discretionary income — falling to 10 percent in 2014.

Although Grant similarly says he isn’t looking for handouts from the government, he would like there to be more responsibility among those who are charged with giving advice to young people. “It’s kind of messed up that high-school guidance counselors and college admittance advisors to tell you to not think about the price — just do what you love,” he says. “I don’t regret what I studied or where I went, but that’s horrible advice. I would have appreciated someone sitting me down and saying ‘Listen, this is what you can afford.’ I would have gone to a state school.”

What would you fix about the current student-loan system? Leave a comment and let us know.

The Supreme Court’s Healthcare Decision Ignites 13,000 Tweets Per Minute

(Image: Twitter Government)

President Obama’s State of the Union address held the record for most tweeted event in recent political history, producing a peak of 14,131 tweets per minute.  However, reactions surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the Affordable Healthcare Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” knocked the annual address from the top spot.

The Supreme Court decision generated a lot of buzz on Twitter with interactions peaking at 13,166 tweets per minute, according to @gov.

Based on the political-focused Twitter handle, the highest amount of activity pertaining to the decision took place at 10:17 a.m. ET—the time when Twitter users attempted to discern between accurate and inaccurate reports.

Read more at Mashable…