|How has the Small Business Resource Center helped you in planning or growing your business?
Give us the scoop along with your contact information and we'll post your business story on our website, and it may make its way into one of our newsletters.
What a great and totally free way to spread the word about your business!
Email your story to the business librarian or mail it to:
Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library St NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
All submissions are subject to editing.
NEW BOOK SPOTLIGHT
Greetings from the Spring edition of the GRPL SBRC Newsletter! We've got some great classes coming up in May, including our first ever Adulting 101 series, and our first Learning to Code series. In this issue, we've got some great book reviews for you, an interview with a micropreneur clothing designer, and of course, our New Book Spotlight!
Market Research Series
Tuesdays, May 8, 15, 22, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE
No matter your level, entrepreneurship is about risk. The most effective entrepreneurs understand how to reduce and understand their risk through information, specifically market research. But how does an entrepreneur actually do research in terms of their industry, customers, and competition? In this series from the GRPL Business Librarian, you'll learn exactly that: the tools, tactics, and strategies to make market research faster, easier, and more beneficial to any entrepreneur at any level!
Market Research I: Industry Information
Tuesday, May 8, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Market Research II: Business-to-Customer Market Research
Tuesday, May 15, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Market Research III: Business-to-Business Market Research
Tuesday, May 22, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Adulting 101: Basic Home Maintenance
Thursday May 3, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE
This Basic Home Maintenance class will cover a long list of home repairs and upkeep, including the filtering systems, venting systems, general repair and preventive maintenance. Students will also learn various ways to save energy dollars and cost savings on most repairs. Weatherization is included and sealing windows, doors and foundations are specific topics covered.
Adulting 101: Finding Work That Works
Thursday May 10, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE
Let's admit it: job searching is not exactly fun. Decisions are maddening, research is a grind, and resume writing is no cakewalk. That's a lot of pressure, and it's hard to make it fun. If we can't make the search for a career fun, how can we at least make our search effective? Come to a seminar from the Business Librarian to find out exactly how to think about the job search, how to present yourself in person and in writing, most importantly, how to plan for future work that might not yet exist.
Adulting 101: Tips to Create and Manage Your Spending Plan
Thursday May 24, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE
Everybody tells you, 'Save Save Save!' your money, whether it's for retirement, emergencies, or future goals. But how do you save when your student loans are out, the rent is due, and you still have to feed yourself on something other than ramen? With a spending plan, of course. This workshop, taught by Jinnifer Ortquist of the Michigan State University Extension, will train you to think critically about spending, save like you mean it, and show you the way a spending plan can help you make your financial future.
All our Adulting 101 sessions will take place in the Adult Computer Training Center on the Lower Level at the Main Library.
Wednesday May 2, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Wednesday May 9, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Wednesday May 16, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Wednesday May 23, 7:00 – 8:30 pmMain Library – 111 Library St NE
Do you want to learn to write computer programs, design websites and create mobile apps for free and on your own time? With lynda.com and your GRPL library card, you can get started right away.
To succeed in this class, you will need to be comfortable in using computers and the Internet. In order to use lynda.com, you will need a GRPL library card.
SBRC Interview: The Joy of Micropreneurship: An Interview with Grand Rapids Clothing Designer, Sarah Jo Saunders
by Jillian Canode
Sarah Jo Saunders always had a creative streak, and she tested that creativity on various art forms throughout her life. But it wasn't until she started Jo Clothing in 2008 that she was able to combine her love of arts and crafts with making a sustainable income. Sarah says she bases her designs on what she would want to wear, so Jo Clothing's tops and tunics are created with comfort in mind. Given the vast number of 5-star reviews on Etsy and a stream of repeat customers, Sarah has succeeded in combining style, comfort, and artistry. We at the SBRC love a success story, and we wanted to catch up with a micropreneur in our community. I recently sat down with Sarah to gain an understanding of what it's like to run a one-person business.
Jillian: Why did you start this business?
Sarah: Well, I always wanted to work doing something creative, and it just started as a hobby that turned into a business.
Jillian: Do you remember when you said, "I could do this for money?" Was there a moment?
Sarah: There wasn't really a moment, cause it just started out gradually as a hobby, and then Etsy came along, and that was an opportunity to get seen, and an easy way to get seen and sell everywhere. So I started listing a few things on there.
Jillian: Do you remember what year that was?
Sarah: I started with the clothes in 2008, and for about two years it was a few sales online, and then, 2010 is when it jumped pretty drastically.
Jillian: Have your sales maintained the same amount over time, or have you seen a decrease?
Sarah: They grew and grew and grew every year until 2015. And now, they're a little slower every year. It's kind of scary. But it's just because there's so much more competition on there [Etsy].
Jillian: When you were starting out, did you know anybody that made clothing that you could ask about this stuff?
Sarah: No all on my own. I didn't know anyone.
Jillian: So you just figured out how to sew on your own.
Sarah: Yeah. I really just kept making things and learned from trial and error.
Jillian: Are you glad you turned that hobby into a business? Do you have any regrets?
Sarah: No. It's amazing. It's the best thing ever.
Jillian: Do you have a concern about constantly getting new customers?
Sarah: I do, but I've built up a pretty big following, so that I feel pretty good about that. I have return customers at least a couple times a week. It's a lot of word of mouth from those repeat customers. And that's something I need to think about more because Etsy made it so easy in the beginning; I didn't have to do any advertising at all. But now, it's something I'm thinking about more. That's why I've been looking into doing more craft shows and maybe selling in some shops around here.
Jillian: Do you still love it [the business] as much? Is it still enjoyable for you?
Sarah: Yeah it is. During the winter when I'm hunkered down working all day long it gets physically difficult and mentally difficult. But yeah, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. I feel pretty lucky to work at home.
Jillian: How many hours a week do you work?
Sarah: It's different every week. When I'm super busy in fall and winter I'm probably working every day, all day, but will take several breaks. I can't really add up the hours.
Jillian: What do you consider "all day"?
Sarah: I'll get up at 8 and write messages to customers, then cut some things and sew some things, and work all day until around 8 at night. I'll take one day off a week, usually Saturday, and not do as much.
Jillian: If I said, I want to start my own business, Sarah. What advice would you have for me?
Sarah: Just keep making stuff and doing something different from what everyone else is doing.
Jillian: Do you ever see people who've bought stuff really early on that are still wearing it?
Sarah: I have people tell me all the time that they still wear stuff from 2010-11. So I guess that's a good sign.
Jillian: What's the best part of running your own business?
Sarah: Doing my own thing, working at home, getting to do something creative, having my own schedule. It's just freedom to do what I want and I get to do something I enjoy all day. I don't feel like a businessperson. I feel like a craftsperson.
Book Review: The Big Life by Ann Shoket
By Jillian Canode
If you're a woman in the Millennial generation with big ideas about your future, Ann Shoket's book is for you. The Big Life (2017) aspires to help you find the right job, the right squad, and the right romance. This quick read from the former editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine will leave you energized and inspired, ready to take on the world.
Shoket believes it's up to you, and not someone else, to define success. The working world isn't what it used to be. She says we live in the "new work order," and we have to adapt accordingly. If you imagine yourself in a certain career, ambition and determination will get you there. But you can't be afraid to fail – failure is a crucial part of success! Be a sponge. Mess up. Grow in that job and then move up. Have passion for your work. Have a side-hustle that's fulfilling. She doesn't just want you to dream big, she also wants you to act big.
To do this, you need a support system, a squad—women who will have each other's backs. Your squad shouldn't just be your friends. You should have a "wingwoman" for networking, a "connector" who'll introduce you to everyone, a "suggester" who has all sorts of ideas you didn't think of, a "sympathy sister" to whom you can vent, and the "insider" who has been through it all. Cultivate this squad; they're the ones who get that you want that big life, and they can help you attain it.
What’s a big life without romance? More than once, Shoket refers to the right romantic partner being the one whose eyes light up when you walk in the room and the one whose eyes light up when you talk about your plan for your big life. Do not settle for less. Shoket doesn't deal out how-to's on dating, but she does offer that the right one will be the person who helps you plan your big life, who wants to share in that life. Until that person finds their way to you, you keep working on your game plan.
Of course, all this is messy, and to be embraced. Have a plan, but don’t be afraid of making changes as you go. Set your eyes on the prize and snag greatness: "Be fearless, try everything, and don't plan too much!" Pick up this book if you feel like living big.
Book Review: Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford
By Steven Assarian
In 1998, Americans worked 194 billion hours.
In 2013, Americans worked... 194 billion hours.
That statistic is mind blowing in a lot of different ways. There were 40 million fewer Americans in 1998 than there were in 2013. Thousands of new businesses were created during those years. On top of that, American businesses were able to produce 42% more output with the exact same number of hours worked. That 42% increase amounts to an inflation-adjusted 3.5 trillion dollars worth of output.
The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford is a book-length an explanation of that statistic. How could US businesses increase their output by that much, but not increase the number of hours worked? Automation, of course, is Ford's answer.
When we think of the jobs that are destroyed by machines, we think of factories, places that employed much larger swaths of American labor. But with modern processing power and software technology, any routine job can be automated, or at least augmented by automation. Offshoring, while prevalent, is only a stepping stone to automation. Much of the service economy, from customer service to fast-food prep, Ford argues, can and will be automated in the next few years.
For businesses, this seems like a great development. After all, software doesn't take sick days, always upsells, and doesn't need a salary or a career path. The problem comes later, when those un- or underemployed workers can no longer purchase products and services. Our economy is a consumer economy, dependent on people buying things. If your workers have no money, it doesn't particularly matter how cheap it is to make or deliver a product; the population can't afford it. It's a negative loop.
The new companies that are replacing the old aren't employing many people. They make the people they do employ fabulously wealthy, but for the rest of the population won't have good opportunities, especially because the routine jobs that software will obviate are often the first steps in a career.
But even with high level skills and education, there's simply less work to go around. It's as good explanation as any I've read about the credential arms race American workers have to fight. There's simply less of it, regardless of how much we educated ourselves for new work.
This is an unprecedented challenge. When agricultural jobs began to be automated, that labor went to factories in cities. When the factories closed, workers sought service jobs that needed a human touch. When the service jobs get automated, where do we go? More importantly, what will we do that will help lessen the negative impacts of this trend?
Ford argues that a UBI, or Universal Basic Income, is the answer. Basically, it's the idea that as a country, we'll dismantle the social safety net, increase taxes, and give that money directly to people regardless of if they work or don't work. The idea of the negative income tax, while it would only reward those people that file a tax return, is nearly the same idea.
This is probably the weakest part of the book. The UBI isn't necessarily a bad idea. But there are lots of different ways that we could deal with this phenomenon: raising the minimum wage, decreasing the working week across the board, etc. There's lots of different ways to attack this problem, and I wish he would've explored them more.
But this is a minor quibble. Just the fact that he's outlined the problem here is relevant and useful. I came away with this book with a new understanding of the future of work, and that's a pretty difficult thing to impart in a single book.
You can find Rise of the Robots in our Books by the Stack collections specifically for book clubs and discussion groups.
Book Review: How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb
By Bastian Bouman
Psychology, neuroscience and behavioral economics have all been steadily gaining insight into the workings of our minds, but how useful are these insights in our day to day lives? In the hands of author Caroline Webb, the answer is 'very.'
In her book How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, Webb’s strong voice delivers a combination of cutting-edge research and practical applications in a way that is not only very readable, but also very enjoyable. Webb has the personal experience to back up her claims, and brings in anecdotes from professionals in a wide variety of fields and locations, each one relating the ways that they've seen these practical truths played out in their own workplaces.
How to Have a Good Day breaks down research from different branches of study and separates it into seven broad categories, then give practical, grounded advice on how best to live into each category. Webb starts with priorities, and moves on through productivity, relationships, thinking, influence, resilience, and energy. She goes in depth on each category, giving actionable and impactful advice on how to practice different aspects of each, and telling stories that illustrate what that might look like applied to real-world scenarios.
Webb's style is easily accessible to different kinds of learners; for those who prefer a narrative style, Webb's anecdotes are well written and deliver their points clearly, and for those who'd rather skip any extraneous storytelling, each chapter has bullet points and sidebars that encapsulate the main ideas of the chapter. Both styles of reader will be presented with plenty of opportunities to think about how to apply the lessons and ideas of the book to their own lives.
Webb's advice doesn't feel overwhelming, and she encourages readers to start small. Adopting even one or two of the principles outlined in the book is a start, and even a small start is a big step towards a better day.
Still, the book's title isn't a promise, and Webb is up front about that. Reading a book won't guarantee you have a good day, or a good career. But she says, "My experience has led me to a heartening conclusion: we have more room to maneuver than we generally realize."
And really, who doesn't want to have a good day?
Small Business Resource Center funding is provided by the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation – Titche Family Fund. Support your public library. Consider a gift today!
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111 Library St NE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
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