Does your business have a blog?

Look at these tips that were suggested by Eric Siu who is the CEO of Single Grain and Founder of Growth Everywhere to improve your own blog:

Radical transparency. Want to really blow people away? Give them your secrets! The idea of radical transparency is often used on financial posts, in which business owners or individuals talk about their income, their outstanding debts or other interesting monetary tidbits (as in the case of Pat Flynn’s income reports on his “Smart Passive Income” website).

A complete “how-to.”“How-to” posts are always mentioned on lists of recommended blog post formats because readers really respond to them. But how often have you clicked on a “how-to” post, only to discover a sparse list of bullet points that doesn’t leave you any more educated than you were before you arrived on the site? If you want to really make your mark, make your posts so epic that people walk away with a complete understanding of the process you’re trying to teach.

Massive list posts. Again, list posts are a popular blog post format because they do tend to capture more attention than other structures. But that said, it’s getting harder and harder to stand out with lists of five to 10 items. Want to be truly epic? Create a massive list post with around 100 entries (or even more, if you’re feeling ambitious).

Explore a hard truth. There’s so much BS online that readers are sick of it. Despite your spin team’s best efforts, most people know when they’re getting the whitewashed “truth” rather than the real deal.

For this reason, one of the easiest ways out there to gain attention with epic blog content is to explore a hard truth. As an example, check out Common Health’s controversial post, “Why I Quit Medicine.” It isn’t always fun to be so blatantly honest, but your readers will absolutely love you for keeping things real.

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Small Business Grants? Maybe…

A popular question over the years is if one can obtain a grant for their small business. Unfortunately, despite what those in the media would have you believe, the answer, in most cases, is no.  The federal government DOES offer grants for highly specialized businesses which are beyond the scope of most entrepreneurs.  The reality is that obtaining money for funding, running and especially starting a small business is scarce.  Even loans are not easy to get, but not impossible if one has a sound business plan.  Most businesses have to get their funding in other creative ways such as savings, personal loans from friends and family, and credit cards (which should be executed carefully and wisely).

Every once in a while, articles and advertisements appear that assert they have information on obtaining small business grants.  It is important to use caution when investigating these claims. Scams are common and most of it is repackaged free information, so never pay for it.  Anyway, here is an article that lists information on small business grants for minority owners, and others really. It may be worth your time to look at them, although they are probably not a panacea for funding, or easy to get.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not worth your time.

http://www.blackenterprise.com/small-business/top-10-grants-financing-black-businesses-minority-entrepreneurs/

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Winter Driving in Ohio

As our recent round of Ohio weather has shown, winter is not nearly done yet.  February is the shortest month, but its placement-at the end of winter-always makes it seem the longest!  Icy weather like we have experienced recently often results in treacherous driving, not to mention even more stressful navigation of sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways.  Our friends at the Ohio Department of Transportation have supplied us with an internet tool to help us on our travels.  OHGO (www.ohgo.com) is the streamlined and updated successor to Buckeye Traffic.  OHGO lets you select your area of the state on a map and immediately lists local traffic alerts and areas of slowdown.  Buttons on the right side of the page allow display of construction areas, road sensors which detect freezing, and cameras showing real time traffic flow.  A very handy feature is the Winter Conditions button which displays whether to anticipate icy, wet, or dry road conditions for a given area and is frequently updated.  This stripped down and easy to use website allows a quick check of major roadways.  If only there was such a thing for those always problematic side roads!

Another concern this time of year is the burgeoning number of new potholes and the increasing size and depth of those already in existence.  Downtown Akron routes as well as other major throughways throughout the city are the worst.  Stephanie Warsmith of the Akron Beacon Journal reported recently on this year’s bumper crop of potholes and steps which City Council has taken to add  an additional $1.3 million to the $2 million already slated for road resurfacing, which includes pothole repairs, in the city of Akron (http://bit.ly/1E0G5Dp).  The Summit County Engineer’s office also spends much time and effort on late winter/ early spring pothole repairs.  Their website provides a link for your enjoyment which clearly explains how potholes form (http://www.summitengineer.net/resources/learning/52-potholes) and how to report a pothole to their office (http://www.summitengineer.net/component/content/article/45).

So armed with these handy tools and information, we shall all just hang in there, drive carefully, and watch out for potholes!  Spring will come!

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Find Financial Aid for College or Career School

Are you or someone in your household college bound? If so, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – and don’t worry, it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds.

The U.S. Department of Education created this video, which leads you step-by-step through the application process. Please note, every school has their own deadline for when the FAFSA is due – so it’s best to get it done sooner rather than later, to be on the safe side.

Figuring out how to pay for higher education can be overwhelming and confusing, but there is lots of help out there to make it simpler for you.

The FAFSA Home page is here.

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Important 2015 Tax Prep Notice

January 23, 2015

For over thirty years, the Akron-Summit County Public Library has been proud to assist the IRS and the State of Ohio during tax season, serving as a distribution point for tax forms and publications. Due to recent federal budget cuts, however, the IRS is no longer providing instruction booklets and most tax forms to public libraries. (Only the Federal 1040, 1040-A, and 1040-EZ forms will be provided.) Additionally, the State of Ohio will also be sending a greatly reduced supply of state tax forms.

We will continue to assist you in locating tax materials on the IRS website or in a notebook of reproducible forms that will be available at all ASCPL locations. (Copies or computer printouts cost five cents per page.)

For more information about tax assistance and filing, please visit the links below:

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s tax season! Either you love it or hate it.  Here are some dates to keep in mind as you prepare to file your taxes for 2014:

January 5, 2015 is the first day that the IRS will have most, if not all, of the forms needed to file individually.  Many companies open up their e-filing on this date too.

January 23, 2015 is the date that the IRS will start accepting returns and also when their e-filing begins.

January 31, 2015 is the employer deadline for mailing out your W-2s.  This is simply a postmark date not a “receive by” date.  Check with your company to see if you are able to view yours online (usually the same website that allows you to view your checks). This is the same date that the state will mail their 1099-G for those on unemployment income.

April 15, 2015 is the day! Hopefully you have finished all your forms.  Your forms must be postmarked before midnight in order to be considered on time by the IRS.  However, you are able to file up to three years later with no late fees. It is technically the deadline to have already filed and paid to avoid late fees.  This deadline does not apply if you are anticipating a refund.

October 15, 2015 is the date that is given to those who have petitioned for an extension to file their taxes.  This is the absolute last date to file and pay any fees owed.

If you are filing taxes yourself, the library has a limited amount of books to help you file for 2014.  We do have some tax forms however it is first-come first-serve and are extremely limited. Keep in mind that as much as the library wants to help its patrons we are not tax experts and are unable to help you fill out your taxes.

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Register Now For Grantseeking Workshops at Main Library

The following programs will be held in the Main Library auditorium.

PROPOSAL WRITING AND BUDGETING BASICS

Proposal writing is easier than you may think. This seminar is geared toward the novice grantseeker and will provide a solid foundation for writing a successful  grant.

In this session, you will learn:

  • How to gather information to make a case for support
  • Tips for writing and structure
  • How to prepare and present a budget
  • How to determine the perfect request amount in relation to what you expect to accomplish

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Click HERE to register.

YOUR BOARD AND FUNDRAISING

This class helps you think through the process of getting your board involved with fundraising.

What we will cover:

  • The role of your board
  • Why board members may be reluctant to fundraise and how to overcome these concerns
  • Ways the board can participate in fundraising activities
  • Tips for strengthening your fundraising board

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Click HERE to register.

INTRODUCTION TO CORPORATE GIVING

Join us for an introduction to the world of corporate support for nonprofits and funding research tools to help you identify corporate prospects.

We’ll answer such questions as:

  • Why do companies give and why might they give to my nonprofit?
  • What do companies give and how do they do it?
  • How do I determine if my organization is ready to seek corporate contributions?
  • How can I match my organization’s needs with the interests of a corporation?
  • How can I use the Foundation Center’s resources to locate corporate funders?
  • How do I approach a potential corporate supporter?

We will include a case study illustrating a corporate-nonprofit partnership.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Click HERE to register.

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Government Document Goodies

Come up to Business and Government on the 3rd floor of Main Library and allow us to show you our Government Documents Collection.  Some are rather old and dusty, composed of tables documenting statistics and trends which no one seems to show an interest in.  Then, there are the publications which we wish people would take notice of. Recent examples are two series of booklets published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History The U.S. Army Campaigns of the Civil War Commemorative Brochures are perfect for the history buff or Civil War sightseer.  These “brochures” are booklets of 50 to 75 pages in length.  They are bright and attractive, with wonderful portraits and illustrations, and clearly rendered maps.  They are concisely written by well-established military historians.  A few of the titles in this series are The Civil War in the Western Theatre, The Shenadoah Valley Campaign, and The Vicksburg Campaign.  As a depository library, we have booklets available for checkout.  They are also available for download to read online or to print off.  (http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/cwcb.html)

Another historically timely collection is the U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812 Series.  Like the Civil War booklets, these are attractive, well-written, and concise.  Once again, we have some copies available to take out, or they are available online.  (http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/wo1812-bseries.html)

The Center of Military History website is full of treasures readily accessible to history lovers. Visit this website at http://www.history.army.mil/ for these and other publications.

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Top Four Year-End IRA Reminders

Individual Retirement Accounts are an important way to save for retirement. If you have an IRA or may open one soon, there are some key year-end rules that you should know. Here are the top four reminders on IRAs from the IRS:

1. Know the limits.  You can contribute up to a maximum of $5,500 ($6,500 if you are age 50 or older) to a traditional or Roth IRA. If you file a joint return, you and your spouse can each contribute to an IRA even if only one of you has taxable compensation. In some cases, you may need to reduce your deduction for traditional IRA contributions. This rule applies if you or your spouse has a retirement plan at work and your income is above a certain level. You have until April 15, 2015, to make an IRA contribution for 2014.

2. Avoid excess contributions.  If you contribute more than the IRA limits for 2014, you are subject to a six percent tax on the excess amount. The tax applies each year that the excess amounts remain in your account. You can avoid the tax if you withdraw the excess amounts from your account by the due date of your 2014 tax return (including extensions).

3. Take required distributions.  If you’re at least age 70½, you must take a required minimum distribution, or RMD, from your traditional IRA. You are not required to take a RMD from your Roth IRA. You normally must take your RMD by Dec. 31, 2014. That deadline is April 1, 2015, if you turned 70½ in 2014. If you have more than one traditional IRA, you figure the RMD separately for each IRA. However, you can withdraw the total amount from one or more of them. If you don’t take your RMD on time you face a 50 percent excise tax on the RMD amount you failed to take out.

4. Claim the saver’s credit.  The formal name of the saver’s credit is the retirement savings contributions credit. You may qualify for this credit if you contribute to an IRA or retirement plan. The saver’s credit can increase your refund or reduce the tax you owe. The maximum credit is $1,000, or $2,000 for married couples. The credit you receive is often much less, due in part because of the deductions and other credits you may claim.

 

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Need some help with starting your business?

We are very happy to be host to speaker Monique Cox-Moore from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office and her program entitled “Making Yourself Legal.” She will talk about the services available through the SOS website which includes filing online forms, name availability searches and so much more.  The program will be offered at Main Library the second Tuesday of every month from January through April and the times will be staggered so that everyone has a chance to attend.  The dates are posted below:

 

January 13th   10am – noon

February 10th 5:30pm – 7:30pm

March 10th     10am – noon

April 14th        5:30pm – 7:30pm

 

Main Library – First floor

Computer Lab

 

Take advantage of this opportunity to get your business established correctly and legally right from the start.  For any questions please call the Business & Government Division at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 330-643-9020.

 

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