Post-Sandy Help for Business Owners

Looking for assistance after Hurricane Sandy? Start here.

helping hand

shutterstock images

As part of Inc.’s ongoing coverage of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, we are monitoring sources of useful information to business owners about business recovery services and resources in the New York area. 

Check back regularly for updates. What you’re reading was updated at 5pm Sunday.

RECENT UPDATES

The Small Business Adminstration has set up a disaster recovery center at 900 Lafayette Avenue in Bridgeport, Conn. For more help available from the SBA, see below.

ATT is offering charging and cell phone service at 16 locations in New York and New Jersey. Find them here.

Two FEMA centers will open tomorrow at 8am in New Jersey, one at Cape May Courthouse, the other at Drum Point Elementary School. Another center has opened at 11331 Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway, NY. More openings to come. In addition, FEMA is accepting financial aid applications from residents in the eight NJ counties hardest hit by Sandy: Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union

 The federal government is providing about 200 buses that will be used to take commuters from emergency park-and-ride locations in New Jersey to ferries in the Hoboken area, as well as directly into lower Manhattan.

Con Edison has restored electrical service to 84,000 of more than 139,000 Staten Island customers knocked out of service. You can report downed power lines, outages, and check service restoration status by computer or mobile device at www.conEd.com. You also can call 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633)

Most of Manhattan has been restored to power. As of 10pm last night, Con Ed reported just 7,300 customers without power.

 The company also said it was focusing on steam restoration for the next few days. In addition:

  • The entire Fulton network should be completely restored by the end of today.
  • ConEdison’s weekend goal is to restore power to as many schools and voting places as possible.
  • Projection: Most customers will have power by November 11th.
  • ConEdison said that the Greeley network should be restored by the end of today.

Airbnb is waving its fee for hosts in Sandy-slammed areas. The company is also subtly encouraging discounts in affected areas by making it easy for hosts to lower their prices by 50%, making rooms with power and heat available to those who don’t have either. Check out the latest update on the Airbnb blog.

Red Cross

Follow the organization’s tweets for updates on deliveries, hot meals, etc. https://twitter.com/RedCross.

 Here is its updated list of food spots in New York: 

http://newsroom.redcross.org/sandy-fixed-feeding-locations/

The organization reported this afternoon that all 320 of its emergency vehicles are on the road in affected areas. As they should be.

 NJ Transit

Conductors will honor the October monthly rail pass until Nov. 9. In addition:

  • Limited service restored on three rail lines: The Raritan Valley Line, Main/Port Jervis, and North Jersey Coast Line.
  • The Atlantic City Line is up and running on a full service schedule.
  • The Northeast Corridor trains are back, but with an altered schedule. See it here.
  • The 603 and 613 line are now running, along with the 34 and 177.

MTA

  • The F train is now up and running, according to MTA President Joe Lhota.
  • Both Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North will be operating Monday on close to normal schedules.
  • The number 1 train subway service will extend south to 14th Street
  • The 2 train will go from the Bronx to Flatbush Avenue and the 3 train will run from 148th Street to New Lots Avenue.
  • The L train should be restored next week.
  •  The A will still make local stops through Manhattan and Brooklyn for Monday’s rush hour. The C train will still be closed.

Time Warner Cable

The cable provider has set up wifi and charging stations at Seaview and Quincy Avenues and 837 Father Capodanno Blvd on hard-hit Staten Island. For the location of other relief stations, see @TWCable_NYC

OTHER GOOD ADVICE

Small Business Administration

The SBA has comprehensive disaster recovery services available for business owners and non-owners alike.

Renters and homeowners, a group that includes most sole proprietors, can borrow up to $40,000 for repairs and to replace things like appliances, furniture, automobiles, and clothing. People who own homes can apply for as much as $200,000 for repairs to their primary residences. 

Business owners, whether private or not-for-profit, whose organizations are damaged in a designated disaster area, can apply for loans for up to $2 million for real property, machinery, and other equipment, fixtures, and leasehold improvements. The loans can be used for both uninsured and underinsured damages. 

The interest rate on both loans, for businesses that can’t find credit from other sources, won’t exceed 4% and repayment terms can last up to 30 years. For businesses that can obtain other credit, the percentage on the loans will not exceed 8%. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA offers a host of financial assistance for things like housing, repairs, medical and dental care, clothing, fuel, damages to vehicles, and moving and storage expenses related to the disaster. 

FEMA has a page devoted exclusively to information about Sandy and services in its aftermath, as well as a smartphone app to help locate shelters, and get dsaster safety tips and first-aid information. There is also a blog you can check for updates.

FEMA also has a number of other services, like crisis counseling, disaster unemployment assistance, legal, and tax services.  

New York State

Start with the department of homeland security and emergency management’s site for general updates on the hurricane and statewide conditions.

New York City

Entrepreneurs in the Big Apple have access to comprehensive services through the NYC Small Business Services department.

Here you’ll find information about local programs to help small businesses, including financial assistance and other storm-related help.

ConEdison

Power outages have left millions of ConEdison customers in the dark. Check here for updates about when power will be restored to your area.

MTA

Subway and bus system service has been massively interrupted. Check here for daily updates as service is restored.

Neighborhood Updates

On a very local level, check Facebook and Twitter for information about neighborhood-by-neighborhood initiatives. For example, this Facebook page has job openings related to the storm in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

If you’re looking for places to recharge or to temporarily set up and work in the five boroughs, check out this crowdsourced map of locations to do so.

Meals

Looking for a warm meal? Letsordernow.com is offering free meals to anyone working in Long Island or Manhattan affected by the storm. If there is a restaurant open and serving in your area, simply email orders@letsordernow.com, mention the NYC Startup Mixers newsletter, and they will cover costs.

New Jersey

For general information about the state’s recovery efforts start with the state’s official website.

Public Service Electric and Gas

If you are one of the millions of people without power in the Garden State, check the Public Service Electric and Gas for updates about power in your area.

New Jersey Transit

Check here for the latest on NJ trains and buses..

USA.gov

If you need general information about shelters, assistance, health, and safety you’ll find it here. The site also has links to information about federal efforts toward power restoration.

Red Cross

You’ll also find all kinds of useful information here about staying healthy and locating your loved ones displaced by the storm.

 

We at Inc. wish you a fast recovery. We know there will be a lot of work to do in the weeks and months ahead. Please feel free to email us suggestions for other post-Sandy resources that will help entrepreneurs.

What is ‘Made In America’ Worth?

Probably more than you think. As more manufacturing returns to U.S. shores, early signs show that a “Made in America” label is a serious competitive advantage.

VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm/Getty

Think of the label “Made in America.” What brand images come to mind? Odds are, you’ve conjured up a picture of one of two scenes.

First, there’s that rugged, sturdy (if underappreciated), no-frills, American quality. It’s the stuff of Chrysler Automotive’s much-praised “Imported from Detroit” ad, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” If you buy this two-fisted version of “Made in the USA,” you also likely buy American because you’re patriotic. You don’t care if elites would rather buy a BMW.

The other Made-in-America vision embraces an artisanal, moral, locavore sensibility. Think of Whole Foods, or, in apparel, Brooklyn Industries. In this vision, you buy boutique American goods because they’re holier-than-corporate and show off your elevated taste (not to mention your ability to afford such taste). 

If one of these images is all that comes to mind, though, recent research and certain branding experts suggest that you’re selling “Made in America” short. The label still has far more international cachet than Americans are likely to give it credit for. Even in the United States, buyers have proven that they’ll pay considerably more for some kinds of American-made goods–simply because they expect them to be a better value.

International perceptions of “Made in America,” are rooted in global perceptions of the country itself–and that news is surprisingly favorable for domestic manufacturers. Simon Anholt is a British branding consultant and creator of the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, which measures a nation’s international reputation. In the market-research company’s most recent survey, released in late October, the U.S. ranked first–for the fourth year in a row.

“The strengths of America’s international standing continue to be innovation, opportunities and vibrancy,” Anholt said in a press release. Germany placed second and the U.K. third. China didn’t crack the top 10.

None of this would come as a surprise to Drew Greenblatt, president and owner of Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire Products, an Inc. 5000 honoree that manufactures only in the United States.

“American manufacturers have a reputation for getting it right the first time,” Greenblatt says. “And a lot of clients are comfortable that, if they don’t get it right, American companies will bend over backwards to make good on it quickly.” Since companies that manufacture in America often can’t compete on price, they have to compete on quality, service, or speed–and they have a reputation for doing all they can to defend that brand edge.

Part of the advantage Greenblatt enjoys is technological. Forced to compete with companies that benefit from lower labor costs overseas, American manufacturers have invested heavily in advanced plants. That tends to provides an edge in manufacturing precision and flexibility.

“I can manufacture to tolerances of 10 microns,” he says. “My Chinese competitors can’t match that.”

And domestic customers? While U.S. buyers tend to be less impressed by American quality and innovation, they are willing to cut the “Made in USA” label considerable slack. In a study of consumer perceptions of clothing made in the United States vs. that made in China, Jung Ha-Brookshire, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, found that when offered a choice between a shirt made in the U.S. with U.S. cotton and one made in China with local materials, American consumers strongly preferred the “Made in USA” label. They also valued the American-made garment nearly twice that of the Chinese one.

American Giant, a San Francisco-based maker of cotton shirts and sweats, trades on that preference. But it’s also cautious not to presume too much about consumers’ patriotic tendencies.

“We try to bring business savvy and innovation to bear so that we can compete on price and quality with foreign-made apparel,” says CEO and founder Bayard Winthrop. “By shouting that you’re American-made, you’re asking people to make an exception for you and accept lousy quality or higher prices for a ‘Made in USA’ label. You can’t build a scalable business that way.”

Contrary to the thrust of much election-season advertising, America’s reputation seems to be improving, not receding. In the Nation Brands Index, the United States was the only nation among the top 10 to improve its standing. A lot of this has to do with the American economy. While the United States has emerged sluggishly from the 2008 financial crisis, its recovery is firmly established, and is now more than three years old. The U.S. faces nothing like the 25% unemployment of Spain or the shrinking GDPs of most European nations. “Success is a major dimension of the American brand,” as Allen Adamson, managing director of global-branding outfit Landor Associates, told Businessweek.

At the same time, the labor-cost penalty that American manufacturers have to compensate for continues to shrink. Greenblatt says that his Chinese competitors used to pay workers 28 cents an hour but now pay $2.38, not including the 50% tax for the Chinese version of social security.

The U.S. is still not a cheap place to manufacture, admits Greenblatt, but he is content to compete internationally on U.S. companies’ reputations for agility and quality.

“We’re not selling to ignorant people,” he says. “Our clients have plenty of choice, but they choose us because they are confident we’ll deliver what we promised. Regardless of what anyone says, the rest of the world has a lot of faith in American ingenuity.”

Let’s Make Small Business Heard on Tuesday

Entrepreneurs need to influence the election by voting.

shutterstock images

Small business owners often go into business for themselves because they want control. Control of their lifestyles, how they run their businesses, how they treat employees. One of the things that’s been difficult this year is that too much has been out of their control. With alow growth in the U.S., economic turmoil in Europe and, sadly, a deadly Hurricane that swept across the East Coast, it’s hard to be too optimistic.

While the most recent government report shows a gain of 171,000 jobs (unless the figure is later revised), the unemployment rate ticked up a tenth of a point to 7.9%. Part of the reason is that more people are looking for jobs, but unemployment is still too high. And SurePayroll data shows the job gains don’t reflect what’s really happening with small businesses.  

In October, the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard found only 68% of small business owners are optimistic about the small business economy. And optimism has hovered in the 60s most of the year. When times are good, small business optimism is usually around 80% because entrepreneurs are naturally that way.

SurePayroll’s hiring and average paycheck numbers are similarly uninspired; in October, hiring among the 40,000 small businesses we track, was down 0.1% and paychecks were down 0.2%. These downticks are similar to what we’ve seen throughout the year.

The good news, though, is that the take charge group that is the small business community finally has a chance to be heard on Nov. 6. Regardless of where your political allegiances lie, there’s no better use of your time then to get out and vote, and assert the power and control you have in determining where this economy and country is going.

At this point, it seems like we’ve been waiting forever for this election to play out and now we can control our destiny. As someone who helped start a small business and who now works exclusively with small businesses, I know controlling our destiny is what we’re all about. Let’s not let this key decision-making moment go to waste. 

Saturday PM Update: Post-Sandy Help for Small Business Owners

Looking for assistance after Hurricane Sandy? Start here.

helping hand

shutterstock images

As part of Inc.’s ongoing coverage of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, we are monitoring sources of useful information to business owners about business recovery services and resources in the New York area. 

Check back regularly for updates. What you’re reading was updated at 4:30 Saturday afternoon.

RECENT UPDATES

Though an actual NJ office hasn’t been established yet, FEMA is accepting financial aid applications from residents in the 8 NJ counties hardest hit by Sandy: Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union

 The federal government is providing about 200 buses that will be used to take commuters from emergency park-and-ride locations in New Jersey to ferries in the Hoboken area, as well as directly into lower Manhattan.

Con Edison has restored electrical service to 84,000 of more than 139,000 Staten Island customers knocked out of service. You can report downed power lines, outages, and check service restoration status by computer or mobile device at www.conEd.com. You also can call 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633)

As of 2:00 p.m. Con Ed said it was still on target to return power to all of mid and lower Manhattan by the end of today.

 The company also said it was focusing on steam restoration for the next few days. In addition:

  • The entire Fulton network should be completely restored by the end of today.
  • ConEdison’s weekend goal is to restore power to as many schools and voting places as possible.
  • Projection: Most customers will have power by November 11th.
  • ConEdison said that the Greeley network should be restored by the end of today.

Airbnb is waving its fee for hosts in Sandy-slammed areas. The company is also subtly encouraging discounts in affected areas by making it easy for hosts to lower their prices by 50%, making rooms with power and heat available to those who don’t have either. Check out the latest update on the Airbnb blog.

Red Cross

Follow the organization’s tweets for updates on deliveries, hot meals, etc. https://twitter.com/RedCross.

 Here is its updated list of food spots in New York: 

http://newsroom.redcross.org/sandy-fixed-feeding-locations/

The organization reported this afternoon that all 320 of its emergency vehicles are on the road in affected areas. As they should be.

 NJ Transit

Conductors will honor the October monthly rail pass until Nov. 9. In addition:

  • Northeast corridor trains are back, but with an altered schedule. See it here.
  • The 603 and 613 line are now running

MTA

  • The L train should be restored next week.
  •  The A will still make local stops through Manhattan and Brooklyn for Monday’s rush hour. The C train will still be closed.
  •  Full service on the Q train between Astoria and Coney Island later this afternoon
  •  The R train is expected to resume full service between 34th St. and 71st Av.
  •  The 2 and 3 should have full service between Manhattan and Brooklyn later tonight or first thing tomorrow

OTHER GOOD ADVICE

Small Business Administration

The SBA has comprehensive disaster recovery services available for business owners and non-owners alike.

Renters and homeowners, a group that includes most sole proprietors, can borrow up to $40,000 for repairs and to replace things like appliances, furniture, automobiles, and clothing. People who own homes can apply for as much as $200,000 for repairs to their primary residences. 

Business owners, whether private or not-for-profit, whose organizations are damaged in a designated disaster area, can apply for loans for up to $2 million for real property, machinery, and other equipment, fixtures, and leasehold improvements. The loans can be used for both uninsured and underinsured damages. 

The interest rate on both loans, for businesses that can’t find credit from other sources, won’t exceed 4% and repayment terms can last up to 30 years. For businesses that can obtain other credit, the percentage on the loans will not exceed 8%. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA offers a host of financial assistance for things like housing, repairs, medical and dental care, clothing, fuel, damages to vehicles, and moving and storage expenses related to the disaster. 

FEMA has a page devoted exclusively to information about Sandy and services in its aftermath, as well as a smartphone app to help locate shelters, and get dsaster safety tips and first-aid information. There is also a blog you can check for updates.

FEMA also has a number of other services, like crisis counseling, disaster unemployment assistance, legal, and tax services.  

New York State

Start with the department of homeland security and emergency management’s site for general updates on the hurricane and statewide conditions.

New York City

Entrepreneurs in the Big Apple have access to comprehensive services through the NYC Small Business Services department.

Here you’ll find information about local programs to help small businesses, including financial assistance and other storm-related help.

ConEdison

Power outages have left millions of ConEdison customers in the dark. Check here for updates about when power will be restored to your area.

MTA

Subway and bus system service has been massively interrupted. Check here for daily updates as service is restored.

Neighborhood Updates

On a very local level, check Facebook and Twitter for information about neighborhood-by-neighborhood initiatives. For example, this Facebook page has job openings related to the storm in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

If you’re looking for places to recharge or to temporarily set up and work in the five boroughs, check out this crowdsourced map of locations to do so.

Meals

Looking for a warm meal? Letsordernow.com is offering free meals to anyone working in Long Island or Manhattan affected by the storm. If there is a restaurant open and serving in your area, simply email orders@letsordernow.com, mention the NYC Startup Mixers newsletter, and they will cover costs.

New Jersey

For general information about the state’s recovery efforts start with the state’s official website.

Public Service Electric and Gas

If you are one of the millions of people without power in the Garden State, check the Public Service Electric and Gas for updates about power in your area.

New Jersey Transit

Check here for the latest on NJ trains and buses..

USA.gov

If you need general information about shelters, assistance, health, and safety you’ll find it here. The site also has links to information about federal efforts toward power restoration.

Red Cross

You’ll also find all kinds of useful information here about staying healthy and locating your loved ones displaced by the storm.

 

We at Inc. wish you a fast recovery. We know there will be a lot of work to do in the weeks and months ahead. Please feel free to email us suggestions for other post-Sandy resources that will help entrepreneurs.

24 Things You Can Do With an Extra Hour

Daylight Savings is ending giving you an extra hour every day. Here are 24 things you can do to get the most from that extra hour.

Extra Hour

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How odd that so much of life is dependent upon time. Lives are measured in years. We count down the minutes and seconds in a game and measure our productivity by months and quarters. The clock speeds when you’re enjoying a project and drags when someone is droning on and on in a meeting. Your ability to control time is nonexistent, which can be frustrating when you really need it. And who doesn’t want just a bit more time, an extra hour each day? Well here’s your chance.

When daylight savings time ends this weekend you can actually gain the benefit of an extra hour. We’ll set the clocks back one hour on Sunday and yet our body clocks will still be on Saturday’s rhythm. Instead of waking up at 7 a.m. it will magically be 6 a.m.  As long as you maintain the same wake up pattern you now get to start your day with an extra hour. Its like manna from heaven. For the next 126 days you have been granted an additional 60 glorious minutes for whatever you want. So that you don’t waste this precious time, I have put together a list of 24 ideas on how to make the most of this gift. If these ideas aren’t sufficiently inspiring, by all means share your own hourly activities in the comments.

  1. Catch up on all of your email.
  2. Hand-write and send five thank-you notes to people who support you.
  3. Brainstorm with a couple of colleagues on how to make the office run better.
  4. Plan a romantic evening for your significant other.
  5. Investigate two of your competitors.
  6. Google yourself. If that takes five minutes, Google all your co-workers.
  7. Make a list of pros and cons about yourself as a contributor to the company.
  8. Identify a role model and send them a handwritten invitation to lunch.
  9. Get in that much needed physical work out.
  10. Plan a weekend trip with your family.
  11. Learn a foreign language (This will require all 126 hours).
  12. Have lunch with your boss, partner or colleague.
  13. Call an old friend or relative you have neglected.
  14. Update your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter profiles and your resume.
  15. Sharpen your powers of observation by watching people in a crowded area.
  16. Volunteer for a charity you like.
  17. Make a playlist of inspiring work music.
  18. Meditate.
  19. Clean up the desktop on your computer (or your desk).
  20. Plan the perfect dinner party.
  21. Read that business book that’s been waiting.
  22. Write a short story.
  23. Give yourself a clothing makeover. (Yes, that means shopping.)
  24. Read all my previous columns. (If you found value in this one of course.)

Note:  Yes, of course I realize that technically you must go to bed later to gain the hour of time each day. But honestly, aren’t some of the ideas above worth sacrificing an hour of sleep?

Best Advice I Ever Got: Andrea Lake

Serial entrepreneur Andrea Lake, founder of StickerJunkie.com and YogaJunkie, skipped college in favor of starting companies–a lot of them. Here’s what she’s learned along the way.

Andrea Lake's Yogajunkie

Courtesy Company

Andrea Lake’s Yoga Junkie.
“All of the super-successful entrepreneurs I know have one thing in common: They love getting out of bed in the morning and working on their companies.”

Andrea Lake, the founder of StickerJunkie.com and YogaJunkie (among others), skipped college in favor of starting companies. Here, she shares her favorite business advice.

I love business the way some people love football.  It’s a passion for me: most kids at 18 years old are just entering college, but I was busy starting my first real company. At the time, I just couldn’t imagine taking two more years of required courses before digging into what I really loved, so I skipped college and sought out mentors to show me the way instead.

Here are three of the best pieces of advice I got along the way to help ensure I’d be a successful entrepreneur:

1. Put a dollar figure on your time–and any task that you can outsource for less, do it.

When I first started out, I was doing everything in my company, including shipping, data entry, you name it.  One of my first mentors said, “I promise that you can pack boxes better than anyone else at your company, but is that what you want to be doing all day?” I decided my time was worth $20 an hour (a whopping figure at the time)–which meant no more shipping boxes for me!  Instead, all of that time saved went into things that were going to make money for my companies (like sales calls, marketing, etc.).  That decision changed my life, and within one year of implementing that advice, I went from $150,000 in sales to more than $1 million.

2. Once you know how to run a business, you can run any business. 

I’ve started 14 companies since I was 18 years old, and I currently own seven.  My first company was a juggling toy company, Rhythm Styx. Honestly, I didn’t even really think of myself as a “business owner” until I was two years into it. But after figuring out the basics–how to find suppliers, manage accounts, attract retail clients, present at tradeshows, and so on–it occurred to me that I could apply what I had learned to any venture.  So I took all that knowledge and started my first clothing company (today, I own several of those) as well as a company that sells information, a product incubator and a sticker company.  Taking on trusted partners who can guide the direction and help handle the load is a must for me these days, but the basic principles of running the different companies remain the same. I am all for diversification.

3. If you’re having fun, you’re winning.

A few years ago I started a company because it made sense.  It was in a fast-growing emerging market, we were featured on Oprah, and it had all of the key components you would want in a company–except one:  it wasn’t fun. At all. I poured a lot of time and energy into that company and disliked almost every minute of it.  Still, I kept at it because of the “worth” of the idea–but the market tides shifted and the payday never came. I eventually shut it down.  In the process, I came to the realization that I got into business because it’s fun, period, and there is no tradeoff for that feeling. Don’t sell your life away today for some exit down the line that may or may not ever come.  A happy life is just a series of happy moments strung together, so make sure you’re having fun now.  All of the super-successful entrepreneurs I know have one thing in common: They love getting out of bed in the morning and working on their companies.  One of my friends says, “If you’re not having fun, it doesn’t count,” and I live my life by that motto.

    Andrea Lake is the founder of StickerJunkie.com and YogaJunkie, and co-founder of Lessons on Becoming a Millionaire.  She also created Delinquent Distribution and is heavily involved in several other product-related start-ups as well. @andrealake101