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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

I'm a tax accountant. I'm considerably young in this profession, 26. I've realized that it's not all that easy to start your own business. I want to start as simple as possible being that I'd be a sole proprietor. I want to extend my services to predominately Hispanic and other minority communities. My question is, "How can I obtain information about any kind of special programs to get me started right away?"

Thank You!

Answer from our Guest Expert Lillyvette Montalvo

Hello, there!

First off, I think it's great you're seeking to market your services to predominantly minority communities; however, don't limit yourself to just that particular market. It can definitely be your priority, but don't let it limit you from marketing your services elsewhere!

Meet and Mingle at the Chambers of Commerce

Since I don't know where you live, I'll simply assume minority communities are predominant in your area. If they are, you can find chambers of commerce specific to certain minority groups. For instance, in Miami, you'll find the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce and the Cuban Chamber of Commerce. Join these groups and meet and greet your target market on a consistent basis. The key, however, is to participate in these groups. It makes no sense for you to dish out your hard-earned cash to join an organization and only go to the lunches or dinners. Find committees that'll help you and the organization achieve goals -- in your case, you could sit at the head of a financial committee table. It could be a match made in heaven! Likewise, consider becoming an ambassador in a chamber of commerce. This is an effective way to meet other members, learn about incoming members, and participate and network in many of the activities.

Keep an Eye Out for Biz Happenings

Besides chambers, look for professional groups in your area that are industry-specific. You'll find lots of help (and potential clients) there. Many of these groups list their activities in the calendar of events section in either your local business journal or in the business section of your local newspaper. Since these newspapers are great sources of information for determining which groups are actively seeking greater participation from people like you, subscribe today!

Talk the Talk in More Ways Than One

In addition, it'd help immensely if you knew the language of your targeted minority groups. If, for example, you're fluent in Spanish, it's a definite plus. Not to say that the Hispanic community doesn't communicate in any other language except its own, but it gives you yet another opportunity to have similar qualities with this community. The more things you have in common with them, the easier it is to communicate.

Put Yourself on Paper

To communicate with your targeted groups, print up simple brochures or info sheets about your services in both English and Spanish. Name any and all services you provide, including specialties, without going into extreme detail. (You don't want to clutter your sheet with a lot of text.) Make certain your company name, address, phone numbers, pager number and e-mail address is clearly visible. Explain very briefly why you would be best person to meet their accounting needs. You can do all of this in a fairly inexpensive manner.

For instance, if you have a computer and a printer and some good desktop publishing software, you can do-it-yourself and have it look very professional. If you can't do this yourself, you can always go to a place like Kinko's and use their paper, computers and printers. You could even ask them how much it would cost for them to design a simple brochure for your business. (Quick tip: always ask for a quote from at least three local print shops before deciding on who's gonna do your brochure.) You may find that it's fairly inexpensive to let an experienced printer take care of this for you.

Start a Small PR Effort

You can let people know that your business is up and running by faxing or mailing this information to the calendar section of your local business journal or local newspaper. They might very well print your information, or request an interview for a feature article. And best of all! This is free! In your news release, be brief and to the point (company name, location, services, phone number and who you're targeting and why.) Don't write an article about it -- that's their job! Keep it to one-page doublespaced, if possible.

Word-of-mouth marketing can make or break you. If you provide services to other business owners or individuals, and you do a bang-up job, ask them for a referral. There's nothing wrong with that. If clients are satisfied with your services and with you, they'll tell others and the cycle will begin. On the other hand, if they're not happy with you, they'll be sure to tell others, and that's not good.

The bottom line is you don't have to belong to a huge firm to get plenty of business. You can indeed keep things simple and be very successful. A lot of this depends on you: how you treat people, how and where you market your services, and added-value services you can provide. Thanks for dropping by the Idea Cafe and asking such a great question! Hope this helps get you started!

Best of success in your new business!

Lillyvette Montalvo

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