6 min read
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The rules governing your retirement accounts have been loosened in the year 2020. You have more time to put money in, can take money out early without penalty, and the required minimum distribution rules (RMD) for those 72 and older have been removed entirely.
July 15, 2020 is the deadline for making 2019 contributions to your IRA, Roth IRA, Health Savings Account (HSA) or Coverdell education savings account. It’s also the SEP IRA deadline for sole proprietors and independent contractors who file their income on schedule C with their personal tax return. The typical deadline for prior year contributions is April 15, but these were extended by the IRS in response to the pandemic, along with the extension of the personal tax return deadline. While you can extend your personal tax return deadline until October 15 with the filing of an extension request to the IRS (form 4868), you cannot extend the 2019 contributions to your IRA, Roth IRA, HSA or Coverdell past July 15. For those who are self-employed and want to contribute to a SEP IRA for 2019, you can extend that contribution deadline if your company return is also extended. For sole proprietors, the company deadline is your personal tax return deadline, which is now July 15, 2020, but can be extended to October 15, 2020.
IRA, SEP IRA, and HSA contributions are great last-minute tax savers. A self-employed person could generate more than $60,000 in tax deductions by maxing out SEP IRA and HSA contributions by July 15. For example, a self-employed person who had $250,000 in self-employment income could contribute 25 percent of their income (the SEP IRA contribution rule) up to the maximum of $56,000. Because of their income, they would be able to contribute the maximum of $56,000. And, if they had a high deductible health plan (HDHP) in 2019, they could also contribute $7,000 (family amount, $3,500 if single) to their HSA. In the end they could generate $63,000 in last-minute tax deductions. Assuming the person is in a 35 percent federal and 10 percent state tax bracket, they would save over $28,000 in taxes by making these two last-minute contributions. They will also see their SEP IRA grow tax-deferred, and their HSA will grow and come out tax-free for medical expenses.
Related: ITR Filing and Tax-Saving Investment Deadlines Extended. Check the New Dates
Many self-employed persons with no employees opt for a solo 401(k) instead of a SEP IRA as it has more benefits, but the solo 401(k) must have been established back in 2019 to make 2019 contributions. The SEP IRA, on the other hand, has a major advantage to last-minute persons still making 2019 contributions as it can be set up and funded up until the 2019 deadline of July 15, 2020. The 2019 contribution limits for the accounts you can still contribute to for 2019 are as follows….
The CARES Act gave us stimulus checks and PPP loans, but it also created penalty-free early distributions from IRAs and 401(k)s for those who are financially affected. These distributions can occur from 401(k)s, IRAs, SEP IRAs, Simple IRAs, pension plans, 457 plans and 403(b) plans. These COVID-19 distributions are exempt from the usual 10 percent early withdrawal penalty that would apply when taking funds from any of these plans before you turn 59½. Congress decided to unlock these funds and remove the penalty people would incur when accessing their own retirement savings.
To qualify for a COVID-19 distribution, the account owner must have experienced “adverse financial consequences” from the pandemic. This is a broad definition and one that the account owner self-reports and claims with their account administrator. Adverse financial consequences include being subject to a quarantine (most states have had shelter in place by now), being furloughed or laid off, having your business closed or negatively affected, or hours reduced or being unable to work due to childcare changes and availability (closed schools, closed childcare facilities). The rule also includes anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with the virus. The limit on penalty-free COVID-19 distributions is $100,000, and they can be taken up until December 31, 2020.
One additional perk to the COVID-19 distribution is that any tax due on the distribution can be spread over three tax years. This three-year rule helps ease the burden of the tax due from taking a distribution, as those amounts would otherwise be included entirely in your gross income in the year taken. However, if the distribution is a COVID-19 distribution, you can spread the income and tax liability over three years (2020, 2021 and 2022).
You are also allowed to return the funds to the same account or to an IRA of your choosing within the three years, and you can avoid the taxes owed and can get that money back into a tax favorable account for future investing. The IRS has issued guidance on how to recoup any taxes you may pay on the distribution if you return the funds in later years. For example, if you end up re-paying a 2020 COVID-19 distribution to an IRA in 2022, but already paid tax for 1/3 of it on your 2020 tax return and another 1/3 with your 2021 tax return, then you can amend your 2020 and 2021 returns to seek a return of the tax paid. The goal of Congress was to provide penalty-free access to those who needed it, while easing the tax due on the distribution and giving investors up to three years to get the money back in. It is a careful balancing act, but it is one Congress did an admirable job at when crafting the retirement account provisions found in the CARES Act.
Individuals with IRAs, SEP IRA, 401(k)s and other employer plans are required to take certain required minimum distributions (“RMD”) from these accounts at age 72. The previous age limit was 70½, but this was increased to 72 beginning in 2020 courtesy of the SECURE Act, which was signed into law late last year. The good news for those 72 and older who must take RMD is that they are not required to do so for 2020. The rationale is that while the markets are low it would be unwise to force someone to sell their investments during the pandemic while their account values are low. The benefit to those 72 and older is that they skip RMD for 2020 if they want. They can keep their entire account invested and look to 2021 to sell and then take their annual RMD.
Related: How AI-Based Software Can Optimize Your Tax-Prep
There are strategic moves that can be made in 2020 given the favorable rules for retirement accounts found in the CARES Act and from executive action from the IRS. Whether it is tapping a 401(k) or IRA to help survive financially or whether you are looking to make late 2019 contributions for retirement, health or education savings accounts, the laws for 2020 give you more options and flexibility than we’ve had in years.
Jobvite’s annual Job Seeker Nation Report found sharp changes in survey responses between February and April.
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1 min read
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that a few short months ago the stock market was riding high and unemployment was a mere 3.5 percent. Now, three months into social distancing and lockdowns, Americans’ job prospects have taken a dramatic turn.
Recruiting software company Jobvite puts out an annual report on the behaviors, views and preferences of the modern workforce, and its 11th edition of that report comes amid a global health crisis that’s causing soaring unemployment rates and job insecurity.
Related: 10 Job Search Tips to Help You Find Your Best Opportunity Every Time
In this year’s report, Jobvite looked at data from two surveys — one done in February and a second in April during the nationwide shutdown. The differences between the two surveys were stark: In February, 28 percent of workers were afraid of losing their job sometime in 2020, and by April that number had climbed to 47 percent. By April, nearly half of survey respondents planned to find a second source of income this year.
Related: Ecommerce Entrepreneurship Grows as Unemployment Rises
Read on through this infographic for more information on how job-seekers are feeling about the American economy.
9 min read
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Maybe your article should be titled “What to Do When Your Panties Are on Fire. ha ha”
That’s what Spanx founder Sara Blakely emailed me after we talked. It was March. The pandemic had just begun.
Blakely is famous for a few things: She’s a rare female billionaire, the defining personality in the estimated $1.8 billion global shapewear category, and just about every photo of her features a showstopping smile bright enough to reach the nosebleed section.
But she has fallen on that happy face more than once.
“I believe a lot of really important, incredible innovation comes out of dark times,” she tells me. Spanx turns 20 this year, surviving September 11, the 2008 recession, and personal tragedy — and she expects no different now, despite closing her stores, watching sales slump, and losing a line of new product when a cargo ship caught fire. When we speak, she’s working from home, punting four kids under the age of 11 before they tackle her, and boldly reinventing herself and her company once again.
Related: Spanx Founder Sara Blakely Has 99 Pages of Business Ideas
“Actually,” she confesses, “I’m hiding in a closet.” Here’s what she’s learned about crisis management.
Crisis: Childhood trauma
Strategy: Train your mind
“When I was 16,” Blakely says, “my friend was run over and killed by a car in front of me, and my parents separated. I was in a very, very dark place.” Before her father left home, he handed her a cassette series called How to Be a No-Limit Person, by the self-help author Wayne Dyer. “I put the tapes in,” she says, “and they changed my life forever.” She practiced letting go of what other people thought and not worrying about being embarrassed; she embraced the idea that the only way to fail was not to try. She learned that times of despair contained hidden blessings. And this, she believes, is what set her up for success.
First she got a job selling fax machines. It was brutal being kicked out of offices all day, every day. “I knew it wasn’t the right path,” she says. “After a really bad day, I wrote in my journal, ‘I’m going to invent a product I can sell to millions of people that will make them feel good.’ And through tears, I looked up at the ceiling and said, ‘OK, universe; give me the idea.’ ” The universe didn’t deliver quickly; two years passed, and her father suggested that she get a job at CNN or Coca-Cola in Atlanta, where she was living. She said no. “I actually made an intentional decision to stay in a dark place, because I felt that if I became content at a job, it would keep me from an opportunity to achieve something much greater.”
Eventually, she did hit on a brilliant new idea. It was Spanx.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Spanx
Crisis: September 11’s impact
Strategy: Stick with your strength
Blakely launched Spanx out of her apartment in October 2000, and its Footless Body-Shaping Pantyhose quickly caught the interest of Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom. But she knew this wasn’t enough; consumers and salespeople might not understand the new product. So she went on the road, doing promotions for seven hours a day in fancy department stores.
Related: 3 Survival Traits for Any Leader
“I took pictures of my own butt in white pants with and without the product, went to Kinko’s, got it laminated, and stood there showing women what it could do,” she says.
This gained her traction — but her enthusiasm would soon be tested. Blakely made a big decision to invest in an advertising insert, which would be sent out by Saks. And it arrived in mailboxes exactly five days after the attacks of September 11, when nobody wanted to think about shopping.
She wondered if she should stop her daily appearances. That fall, there weren’t many customers in the stores. But she did it anyway — and kept at it even after her best friend and roommate died in a horse riding accident a few months later. Emotionally drained as she was, she sensed it would pay off.
First there were the insights. Spanx was sold in the hosiery department—and because she was actually in the stores, she saw that almost nobody walked through there. So Blakely got busy. She stuffed envelopes with Spanx and placed them by cash registers throughout the stores. “I also realized I had to win over the sales associates,” she says. “So before my appearances, I would run around and ask everyone individually if they would come to a morning meeting, and I offered them free product.” Then she’d bait them with contests, like whoever sold the most Spanx that day would get $100.
“I ended up building a sales force, not on my payroll,” she says. “Store associates would grab their customers and say, ‘I have to take you to the hosiery department. You have to buy this new thing.’ It was this really intense time of bonding, because everybody was hurting and vulnerable, and I made very deep connections, even down to the ladies in the gift wrap section. That ended up being an incredible boost to the business, because once people started going back into the stores, all these salespeople were selling for me and rooting for me.”
Image Credit: Courtesy of Spanx
Crisis: The 2008 recession
Strategy: Choose profitability over growth
Many of Spanx’s competitors follow a Silicon Valley–style playbook: They raise a lot of money and then spend it aggressively to gain new customers. Spanx did the opposite. Even as the company took off, Blakely ran it with the tight grip of its new Power Panties. “We spent what we could to grow,” she says. “But we’ve never put growth for the sake of growth over profitability and running the business in a way that we felt we could weather storms.” That strategy kept Spanx stable during the 2008 recession.
To this day, Blakely has never taken outside money, owns 100 percent of the company, maintains zero debt, and does all PR and marketing in-house. “One thing that has sustained Spanx through a lot of obstacles is that we have a zero-based budget plan internally,” she says. “Every manager starts at zero each year and has to make a case for how the money they’re asking for is going to have a return on investment. It doesn’t matter what last year’s budget was — you have to start again from scratch and build it up.”
Although Spanx won’t reveal revenue numbers, Blakely says it has been profitable since its first month in business.
Related: 4 Simple Techniques for Successfully Branding Your Business During a Crisis
Crisis: Mission drift at Spanx
Strategy: Check your internal culture
In 2002, two years after founding Spanx, Blakely hired a CEO to run the business so she could travel as the face of the brand. That worked for a long time — but by 2016, she felt that the company was off track. So she took over as CEO again and looked for what needed to change.
First she tried on every product, both produced and in the pipeline, and tossed about 80 percent of them. “I thought, Let’s dive deep and focus on only the best of the best,” she says.
Then she addressed the culture, which had veered from the mission. “I wrote down the things that contributed to my ability to overcome odds and take risks,” Blakely says. The list wasn’t exactly out of a business school textbook. It included her stints in sales, public speaking, debate, and stand-up comedy, and once she had it in hand, she created the Be Bold Bootcamp. Now every employee, regardless of their job, gets coaching in those subjects. The goal is to help people think out of the box while also being quick to see the upside in down times. “We’ll rent a comedy club, and everybody stands on stage and works on how to frame things in a funny way,” she says. “We’ve also held debate-offs at Emory [University]. Debate is about listening and compassion and seeing the other person’s point of view. It isn’t about ‘I win; you lose.’ It’s trying to find that win-win scenario.”
Not only did the reboot avert disaster; it led to innovation. Spanx had defined shapewear but now needed to be more. So it aggressively pushed its new Faux Leather Leggings. “That was an extremely pivotal moment because we truly became an apparel company,“ says Blakely.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Spanx
Crisis: Happening right now
Strategy: Stay nimble and optimistic
After a career of navigating (and gaining strength from) hard times, Blakely is eager to inspire a new generation to do the same. Most important to her is developing a strong personal mindset: “As an entrepreneur, that’s your greatest asset, and you should work on it daily,” she says. “I do.” One thing she has done is partner with 3DE, a national education nonprofit, on a module for high school students that teaches them to think for themselves and see opportunities. Currently it’s in 13 public schools and on track to grow.
Related: 9 Inspiring Quotes From Self-Made Billionaire and Spanx Founder Sara Blakely
Now, in the face of COVID-19, she’s been counting on that same mindset. Since March, Blakely has cut costs, scaled back inventory orders, brainstormed new products, and donated $5 million to help other female founders. With all her past crises, she was prepared for this moment and continues to ready for what lies ahead. “I’m in survival mode, but I have faith that it’s going to change,” she says. “We’re already learning as a company, and I have no doubt I am going to have some amazing inspiration.”
13 min read
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Mustafa Nuur was born in Somalia but fled after terrorists killed his entrepreneurial father. He eventually settled in Lancaster, Pa., where he launched a startup called Bridge. It hosts cross-cultural experiences — dinners, gatherings, and so on — so that immigrants, refugees, and locals can better understand each other. “There’s nothing that can replace sitting across from someone who’s different from you and hearing their story,” he tells me.
But something would have to replace it, of course. When COVID-19 swept through America, sitting across from someone wasn’t an option. Nuur was scared. Then he had an idea. The immigrants and refugees he works with could become essential workers, helping homebound residents. For example, he has a Syrian refugee family who, just days before the lockdown, hosted a dinner in their home. One attendee was an elderly woman who lives alone. When the lockdown began, the family began delivering this woman’s groceries, running her errands, and calling daily at 6 p.m. to check in.
Related: 5 Tips to Leading Your Company Through the Chaos
“It really made me think about how life should be every day,” Nuur says. “We should be having these relationships.”
I agree. And I think we can get there.
I have the privilege of meeting many entrepreneurs, which means I also witness their great collective irony. Even during good times, entrepreneurship feels lonely. We have chosen a path of self-determination, which can be maddening and isolating. And yet, here’s the crazy thing: We all deal with the same problems. Everyone has impostor syndrome. Everyone wrestles with management, or finances, or plans gone awry. We are alone together.
Now our barriers are coming down. We are all, for the first time in our lives, openly wrestling with the same problems at the same time. Confidence isn’t expected; clarity is impossible. We felt isolation and then doubled down on connectivity. We came to share openly with others and rely more heavily on them, too.
That’s what we wanted to honor in this issue, which has been a long time in the making. To understand it, here’s the backstory.
In March, as lockdowns began, the team here was preparing for our June issue. (We work months in advance.) Then June was canceled, a victim of uncertain economics. Our next issue would be in July — a time that seemed impossibly far away, in a world we couldn’t envision. We didn’t know where to begin, so we started with a question: Who should be on the cover? In normal times, our covers feature a celebrity…but that seemed like the wrong tone.
“Nobody wants to be the face of a pandemic,” someone on our team said.
Related: How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed During the Coronavirus Pandemic
What could we predict about the future? We agreed on this: Entrepreneurs would not give up. They’d join together and shift from panic to adaptation. By July, we figured, people would have plans. They’d find opportunity. They’d collectively carry the world forward.
So who should be on the cover? Entrepreneurs should be on the cover. “Let’s fit as many people as we can,” I said, which turned out to be 137. We wanted them to be a representative sample of entrepreneurial ingenuity — people who work at every scale, at every experience level, running solo businesses to international powerhouses. Our sole filter: They had to have done something adaptive during the pandemic, whether it was helping their team, their community, their customers, or others. We’d include everyone who was quoted in the magazine, as well as people we’d simply heard about and admired. One day, for example, I read a local news story about Maya Gilliam, who saw no future in the spa she’d run for years — so she transformed it into a boutique farm and upscale hemp dispensary called Hempress Farms. I loved that. On the cover!
Does this sound messy and haphazard to you? I agree — but what else is there, really? Entrepreneurship is also messy and haphazard, the product of envisioning a destination and then improvising your way there. We’d all prefer perfection, but we must settle for this instead: When we have an idea, and join with others to make it happen, we have a chance to create something meaningful. On any given day, that’s the best we can do.
Related: How to Make the Most of Your Ambition
The world we couldn’t imagine in March has now come into focus. New businesses are launching. Old ones pivoted. Just as we are sending this issue to the printer, many people are leaving their homes and joining a movement for racial equality — another seismic event that could pull us apart or create togetherness and hope for a better future.
I do not know what comes next. But I sure know this: We won’t get there without each other. We were never alone, even when we felt we were. Now we know it.
These 137 people represent the wide range of entrepreneurs adapting to COVID-19. Those interviewed in our July/August issue are linked to their corresponding stories; others are explained here, with more on Entrepreneur.com and @Entrepreneur on Instagram.
1/ Maghan Morin
2/ Jeanine Suah
3/ Eric Yuan, founder and CEO, Zoom
The videoconference platform became a social lifeline during the crisis, and Yuan formed a new advisory council to improve security and privacy.
4/ Tom Colicchio, chef/owner, Crafted Hospitality
The Top Chef judge and restaurateur helped found the Independent Restaurant Coalition to advocate for the industry.
5/ Rebecca Minkoff, founder, Female Founder Collective
The designer launched a virtual training program to help entrepreneurs prep to raise capital.
6/ Sean “Diddy” Combs, founder, Our Fair Share
The rapper created a platform to help minority entrepreneurs access relief capital during the pandemic.
7/ Adam Contos
8/ Pierre Laguerre, founder and CEO, Fleeting
Fleeting connects commercial drivers with on-demand jobs; once COVID-19 hit, it focused on getting supplies deployed, fast.
9/ Deepti Sharma, founder and CEO, FoodtoEat
The catering service helps minority-owned food vendors grow their businesses. Lately, Sharma’s robust network has helped feed folks in need.
10/ Vanessa Braxton, CEO, Black Momma Brands
Braxton shifted her vodka distillery to produce hand sanitizer.
11/ Matthew Herman
12/ David Kien
13/ Afton Vechery and 14/ Carly Leahy, cofounders, Modern Fertility
The fertility startup collected and shared data on how the crisis is impacting women’s plans to have children.
15/ Sara Blakely
1/ Rob Price
2/ Christina Perla, cofounder and CEO, Makelab
The 3D-printing company pivoted from consumer products to face shields and custom-fit PPE.
3/ Michael Lastoria, cofounder and CEO, &Pizza
The brand donated “hero pies” to local hospital workers and partnered with Citi to expand the program.
4/ Natalie Madeira Cofield, founder and CEO, Walker’s Legacy
The entrepreneurship collective for women of color launched an emergency grant to help students displaced by the crisis.
5/ Javier Garcia Del Moral and 6/ Paco Vique, cofounders, The Wild Detectives
The Dallas bookstore said it was becoming a travel agency, but searches on its site for destinations returned related book suggestions. The prank saw sales jump 200 percent.
7/ Reshma Shetty, cofounder, Ginkgo Bioworks
The biotech company offered $25 million worth of no-cost work on its platform to projects fighting the virus.
8/ Andy Hunter
9/ Ben Parsa, CEO, Inside Weather
The furniture company shifted to make face shields and masks, and made their designs open-source.
10/ Marie Kondo
11/ Guy Fieri, chef, Knuckle Sandwich
Fieri raised more than $20 million for the struggling restaurant industry.
12/ Jasmine Crowe, founder and CEO, Goodr
The food-waste management company launched free grocery pop-ups in communities of need.
13/ Kent Yoshimura and 14/ Ryan Chen, cofounders, Neuro
The wellness-focused gum brand had relied on in-person fitness events to drum up business. To stay top of mind, the founders started creating at-home workouts to keep people healthy.
15/ Taraji P. Henson, founder, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
The actress launched a campaign to provide free tele-therapy to African American communities.
1/ Paul Carrick Brunson, founder, Knowledge Share
The serial entrepreneur has attracted thousands of viewers to his twice-weekly livestreams about navigating business challenges.
2/ Mariam Naficy, founder and CEO, Minted
The stationery and wedding invitation company launched “Change the Date” products.
3/ Eric Yaverbaum
4/ Magic Johnson, CEO, Magic Johnson Enterprises
He provided $100 million in loans to minority- and women-owned businesses.
5/ Rick Stollmeyer, cofounder and CEO, Mindbody
The management platform for fitness brands launched a free product to help clients easily shift to offer online classes.
6/ Cheryl Leung
7/ Ethan Bechtel, CEO, OhMD
The platform lets doctors send HIPAA-encrypted texts to patients, and it was made free during the crisis.
8/ Alexandra Fine
9/ Gregg Renfrew, founder and CEO, Beautycounter
The business saw a threefold increase in new independent makeup consultants at the brand, helping laid-off industry workers find new income.
10/ Pitbull, rapper
The Grammy-winning artist helped launch the Hispanic Small Business Center to provide support to Latino entrepreneurs.
11/ Ava Duvernay, founder, Array Alliance
The filmmaker launched Array Grants to help crisis-impacted festivals and screening series that focus on narrative change by people of color and women.
12/ Levi Fried
13/ Harmony Sage
14/ Ryan Roslansky, CEO, LinkedIn
The social network made job postings free for hospitals, disaster relief nonprofits, and medical device companies.
15/ Todd Heiser
1/ Achal Patel, cofounder and CEO, Cabinet
The medicine startup launched in March and quickly started offering a “kit” with hand cleansers and drugs to manage COVID symptoms.
2/ Sudheesh Nair
14/ Stan Khlevner
15/ Christina Stembel
1/ Shaan Sethi and 2/ Neela Sethi Young, cofounders, Jaanuu
The medical apparel brand pledged to donate 200,000 masks to Baby2Baby, a nonprofit that helps children in poverty.
14/ Mary Spio, founder and CEO, CEEK VR
The virtual reality company is working with entertainers to create live-performance experiences.
15/ Ross Kramer
1/ Ariela Safira
2/ Garry Cooper, CEO, Rheaply
The asset-sharing platform provided its technology to help Illinois medical facilities share ventilators and supplies.
14/ Frank Yang, founder and CEO, Simplehuman
Sales soared for the brand’s touch-free garbage cans and soap dispensers, and the company distributed free products to caregivers.
15/ Anna Whiteman
1/ Katie Sturino, founder, Megababe
Demand for the brand’s hand sanitizer soared; the company prioritized donations to those most in need.
2/ Irina Logra
14/ John foley, founder and CEO, Peloton
Sales spiked when people panic-bought at-home bikes, and Peloton shifted production to its instructors’ homes.
15/ Jamie Schmidt, cofounder, Schmidt’s Naturals
Schmidt launched The Entrepreneurial Dream Project, a grant and mentorship program for new businesses building during the crisis.
1/ Jaqi Wright
2/ Nikki Howard
14/ Michelle Kennedy, cofounder and CEO, Peanut
The social app for women launched new features to help users with pandemic fatigue and anxiety avoid COVID-19 conversations.
15/ Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer, Lyft
After recovering from COVID-19, Kapoor helped launch WorldWithoutCovid.org to connect interested citizens to clinical trials for vaccine discovery.
1/ Ken Giddon
2/ Leslie Voorhees Means
14/ Yancey Spruill, CEO, DigitalOcean
The cloud provider launched the Hub for Good to help developers share tools and build projects to aid the crisis.
15/ Troy Parker, CEO, Innovative Labor and Cleaning Services
Some people with criminal records, including Parker, are ineligible for relief loans. Now he’s working with senators to advocate to the SBA.
1/ Jacquelyn De jesu Center, founder and CEO, Shhhowercap
The founder donated the brand’s waterproof, washable, antibacterial shower caps to labor and delivery units as PPE.
2/ Matt Ridley
14/ Muhssin El-Yacoubi
15/ Bary El-Yacoubi
1/ Jennifer Perkins
2/ Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and CEO, LifeBank
The medical-delivery company launched drive-through mobile COVID-19 testing centers in Nigeria.
14/ Michelle Ng, founder, Vancouver Foodie Tours
Ng pivoted to create a platform to help small businesses sell their products online, building a digital destination for artisanal goods.
15/ Randy Dewitt, founder, Front Burner Restaurants
DeWitt created Furlough Kitchen to distribute free meals out of his shut-down restaurants, and shared branding and operations info to encourage other restaurateurs to do the same.
1/ Dave Hunt
2/ Patty Clisham
14/ Lisa Price
15/ Mustafa Nuur, founder, Bridge
Bridge helps refugees and immigrants connect with local communities. During the crisis, they’re helping care for local senior citizens.
1/ Regal Patel
2/ Nishant Patel
3/ Sahil Patel
4/ Lori Coulter and 5/ Reshma Chamberlin, cofounders, Summersalt
The swimwear brand launched Joycast, a text hotline that sends heartwarming videos or funny memes to people.
6/ Heather Hopkins
7/ Shan-Lyn Ma, founder and CEO, Zola
The wedding-planning site helped users navigate postponements with guidance, expert advice, and support initiatives.
8/ Andrey Lunev
9/ Emily L’ami
10/ Deepak Rao
11/ Siddharth Batra
12/ Romy Newman and 13/ Georgene Huang, cofounders, Fairygodboss
The online career community for women offered free résumé reviews during the crisis.
14/ Jennifer Mazzanti
15/ Carl Mazzanti
5/ Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google
Google launched features to help small businesses easily communicate new hours and preferred delivery partners, and promote gift card sales.
6/ Meghana Patel
7/ Jerry Orans, founder, Hack the Pandemic
The 16-year-old created a network of makers to 3D-print face shields for hospitals.
8/ Hamza Mudassir
9/ Kelly Mcculloch, chief people officer, Taco Bell
The brand committed to hiring 30,000 new team members during the summer months.
10/ Mahi de Silva, cofounder and CEO, Amplify.ai
The AI chatbot was deployed pro bono to government health organizations to help them share vital information.
11/ Matt Higgins
12/ Daniel Lubetzky, founder, KIND
The snack-bar brand has committed $1 million and helped launch the Frontline Impact Project to donate food to frontline workers.
13/ Larry Connor
14/ Keba Konte, founder, Red Bay Coffee
When the coffee roaster closed its stores, its mobile coffee van grabbed attention — and helped boost e-com sales 350 percent.
15/ Francis Davidson
5/ Pina Ciotoli and 6/ Adriano Ciotoli, co-owners, WindsorEats
The events business pivoted to create specialty deliveries (like boxes of local beer and wine) that support community businesses.
7/ Mike Ziegenbalg
8/ Alina Mikhaleva
9/ Peter Demarzo
10/ Alex Howland
11/ Aziz Hashim
12/ Karen Akunowicz
13/ Kulveer Taggar, CEO, Zeus
The company previously arranged long-term housing for business travelers; it pivoted to help displaced college students find housing.
14/ Chriselle Lim and 15/ Joan Nguyen, cofounders, Bümo
The education-based childcare center found a long-term opportunity as it shifted to digital amid the crisis. The interactive preschool now has a 2,000-person waitlist.
5/ Ashley Huffman
6/ Salomon Mishaan
7/ Laura Spaulding
8/ Danny Cattan
9/ James Vitrano
10/ Alexandre Lazarow
11/ Maya Gilliam, founder, Hempress Farms
When her spa had to close, Gilliam pivoted and rebranded to become a hemp dispensary and remain open for business.
12/ Tariq Farid, founder and CEO, Edible Arrangements
The company started offering fresh produce deliveries in addition to their signature bouquets and saw sales soar.
13/ Meena Harris
14/ Paul Wolfe
15/ Alfonso Olvera, cofounder, Aries
The organization helped redesign an anti-aerosol box to keep doctors safe from contaminated air during intubations.
Whether you are in search of a single advisor or building an advisory board, different professionals can strategically elevate your business. Right now just might be the time to find them.
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Building a high growth company, innovating new products and raising money is a challenge under any circumstances. But with a crashing economy and businesses in a holding pattern, accelerating your startup in these unprecedented times is an especially isolating uphill climb for founders. The bright side is that CEOs do not have to face all difficult decisions alone. Now is an optimal time to reach out to advisors or secure new ones.
Related: How to Provide Investor Updates the Right Way
An expertly selected advisor or a curated advisory board can help navigate early-stage companies through the unknown. Industry leaders, academics and repeat entrepreneurs alike might be looking to dive into new opportunities and avail their services to founders as the nation reopens. This is the moment to re-evaluate the next steps and determine what tactical offensive actions you can take. The challenges we are facing now present a business-defining opportunity to target and assemble a dream advisory board.
No one has all the answers, even if this is not your first attempt at being a founder. An advisor can offer an independent perspective and impartial guidance. They can provide access and reach to resources, serve as a test customer or salesperson, be a cheerleader and at other times serve as an unbiased critic. A well-chosen advisor will guide you through your industry and all its hurdles and nuances. As seasoned professionals, they not only know how to avoid the pitfalls but also can help broaden your vision to look beyond the short term horizon. Connecting with a well-matched advisor with aligned incentives will put you in a better position to set and execute your goals.
To encourage an advisor to help you along your path, you should be able to clearly define what you want from this relationship. While the advisor is neither a co-founder nor an employee, they must be on board with your aspirations. What are your greatest concerns for your startup, and how do you envision your advisor guiding you? Did they work with previous advisees? Does their method match your style and/or your needs? And remember, even though your advisor is an expert, they are not a mind reader. Communication is key. Let your advisor know when and where you need help and how they can assist you in navigating through the roughest waters.
Related: How the Behavior of Job-Seekers Has Changed Since February (Infographic)
Whether you are in search of a single advisor or building an advisory board, different professionals can strategically elevate your business:
Although you want an advisor who has experience in the area of your startup, you do not want someone with similar skill sets. Your advisor should offer knowledge or expertise that complements and expands upon your own. They can provide an added perspective while building the product or service as well as add clout to your introduction into the industry. This is especially key for emerging first-time founders.
Related: How the Crisis is Changing Consumer Behavior, and How Entrepreneurs Can Act on It
Although every founder has different needs and expectations from their advisory board, one point remains the same: You want advisors who have experience in your field. Here are some recommendations for making those connections:
Always keep in mind that this activity is also a selling proposition, and make it clear what is unique about this opportunity at your startup and what you are offering in exchange for their guidance.
Related: The Recovery Brings the Unique Opportunity to Shift Societal Norms
Founders must figure out how to go forward with their business operations and develop strategies on how to adapt to variable conditions. Leaders with 20-plus years of experience who have successfully weathered the dot com bubble burst and the past financial crisis can offer their learnings to ground you through all of the unknown hurdles ahead.
Although the world continues to cope with the health crisis and its impact, that is not going to be the case forever. Soon enough, the world will move forward. Right now you have a window to reach out to potential advisors, especially industry leaders and academics who may have a lull in their time commitments. With little-to-no travel happening, with conferences and large meetings canceled or virtual, and with university openings in an uncertain state, they might welcome a new opportunity to help founders develop an offensive strategy for a resurgence. Teaming up with an advisor now will help you get the ball rolling progressively toward our post-crisis world.
Whether you’re managing a team of 15 or 1,500, the crisis has stretched the bounds of our workplaces and demanded that every professional think outside the box.
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5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Across the United States, nearly every nonessential business big and small has been forced to go remote. This puts people in leadership positions in a unique spot. As academic director of the Columbia Executive M.S. in Technology Management program, I interact with and coach hundreds of emerging leaders each year. The global health crisis has made the leadership skills we teach more important than ever.
Related: How to Lessen Loneliness and Boost Belonging at Work
Despite what you may have heard, leadership is not innate: It can be taught. If you’re struggling to lead your team during this pandemic, here’s a roundup of my advice with the help of some successful students and alumni.
An increase in news consumption and seeking of information are common psychological responses to a crisis. On a global level, we see governments holding daily press briefings and ramping up information sharing. It’s critical that business leaders also keep the information flowing. EMSTM alumna Sam Wilmot, now the VP of strategic programs at Xerox, says that this idea has kept her team going.
Wimot recommends increasing the number of check-ins you normally would have with your employees. She says it’s important to account for the fact that there are no “water-cooler moments,” where information is spontaneously shared or connections are made, and that this can lead to feelings of isolation amongst your team. As we continue into month three of working from home, try to keep up or even increase the amount of check-ins with employees. Even if you have no new information to share, sometimes a simple “hello” can go a long way.
Related: Who Are Your ‘Friends’? Inclusive Leadership Starts With Your Social Circles
There are plenty of legitimate reasons for business leaders to feel wary during this unprecedented time, but it’s important to relay hope to employees who might feel lost. Wimot’s advice: Try not to offload too much and stay as bright and positive as possible — while remaining realistic. People are looking to you for cues and signals on the evolving situation. Be strong but be honest and always authentic.
To do this effectively, emotional intelligence is critical. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. It should be in every executive’s repertoire. The skills it takes to successfully perform in a position of leadership, like emotional intelligence, can be learned and perfected with daily practice. Good leaders remember that every employee under their management is unique and can recognize how to interact with each person to maximize efficiency, productivity and happiness.
Related: A Brief Guide to Letting Black Entrepreneurs Be Entrepreneurs
This crisis has forced us to get comfortable with ambiguity. Laura Kudia, one of my current students and an incoming chief of staff at American Express, says this is one skill that has become particularly handy for her. Before enrolling in the EMSTM program, Kudia spent a decade in the media industry. Her shift to financial services was a complete career pivot. The program gave her “tools in the toolbox” — a combination of hard and soft skills — and taught her to speak the language of tech execs. It also taught her something just as important: to be ready to adapt to and learn from new situations quickly and efficiently.
As chief of staff to the unit CIO who oversees global risk and tech transformation, Laura’s job is to be a translator for the organization. She must speak to the mission and challenges and communicate these to her direct-reports. This, of course, has involved a lot of spontaneous adjustment right now. The entirety of her onboarding was remote, for example. Of course it wasn’t ideal, but leaders need to be able to adapt to unforeseen challenges with grace and agility. She credits the ability to do this confidently to her weekly sessions with her Columbia mentor but says now is the time for all leaders to use their conviction.
Leadership is a timeless skill that’s being tested now more than ever before. Whether you’re managing a team of 15 or 1,500, the crisis has stretched the bounds of our workplaces and demanded that every professional think outside the box. Wilmot and Kudia are two examples of executives who are forging ahead in these uncertain times. If businesses are going to thrive in the weeks and months to come, they should follow their lead and re-examine what it means to be an effective leader.
Related: How to Provide Investor Updates the Right Way
After months of calls for more transparency, information is made public about the nearly five million businesses that have benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program. Though questions will remain.
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3 min read
After months of withholding information on exactly which businesses received precisely how much from Congress’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — and considerable consternation after multiple publicly held companies were outed for accepting sizable sums before ultimately returning them — the Small Business Administration (SBA) and U.S. Department of the Treasury today released detailed information on nearly five million PPP grantees.
The sum total of loans amounts to in excess of $521 billion, and in a statement, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin remarked, “The PPP is providing much-needed relief to millions of American small businesses, supporting more than 51 million jobs and over 80 percent of all small business employees, who are the drivers of economic growth in our country.”
He then added, “We are particularly pleased that 27 percent of the program’s reach in low- and moderate-income communities, which is in proportion to percentage of population in these areas. The average loan size is approximately $100,000, demonstrating that the program is serving the smallest of businesses.”
Related: SBA Releases New EZ PPP Loan-Forgiveness Application
Despite the sudden rush to transparency, there is bound to be intense scrutiny. Some mom-and-pop restaurant owners, for example, might wonder why between $2-5 million — the information was released both by state and assorted loan-amount thresholds, ultimately ranging from less than $150,000 to as high as $10 million — was allocated to the Diocese of Alabama in Birmingham.
And a cursory scan through the available documents (as user-unfriendly as the process of downloading and parsing through them might be) indicates a very small minority of owners willingly answered questions about their race, ethnicity or gender, and that a minority of overall respondents identified their businesses as black-owned or female-owned.
The SBA’s language concerning the disclosures is also a bit convoluted, at one point assuring, “This disclosure covers each of the 4.9 million PPP loans that have been made,” but later adding that its various loan amounts “account for nearly 75 percent of the loan dollars approved.”
Furthermore, the single document purporting to contain information across all 50 states in alpahabetical order currently concludes after California.
Related: Which Public Companies Have Returned Their SBA PPP Loans? (Updated)
Entrepreneur emailed the SBA earlier this month when the forthcoming disclosure was first announced, seeking clarity on whether any loans exceeded $10 million — and if so, whether their information would ever be made public — but did not hear back. We’ve since followed up to additionally clarify whether the aforementioned 50-state document will be appended. We will update you when we have more to share.
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Per usual, clothing brands like Nike, Zara, Adidas, Hermes and H&M were some of the most popular in 2019. What about 2020, though? In spite of new, obvious obstacles, with the right business plan and brand, a new online clothing company could rise to the top of the pack this decade.
If you look on pretty much any site that offers new business advice, one of the top suggestions listed is to create a business plan. Making a plan may sound uninteresting, but it’s one of the most necessary aspects of launching a successful ecommerce clothing brand.
A well-written business plan is essential, especially if you need to find investors and lenders. It’s also necessary for you to understand your short- and long-term goals and make sure you stay on track.
First things first, figure out your cost per unit (CPU). You’ll also want to look at the other fixed costs of running your business, like website maintenance and employee expenses.
After you’ve done the math, aim for your prices to be about 50 percent higher than your expenses. You might be able to get by with a profit that’s 30 percent above your expenses, but one of the worst things you can do is diminish your profits unnecessarily.
Before you officially set up any pricing, look at your competitors’ prices. That only accounts for a part of your customers’ perceptions, but it is a significant part.
If there is a difference between your costs and their prices, you might need to do some adjusting. If your price is lower, you might want to increase yours slightly to be closer to the competition.
In the event your products are more expensive, you need to clearly describe to your customers what they’re getting when they buy your clothes and justify the extra expense. The appearance and quality of your clothing can greatly enhance a customer’s perceived value of your brand.
Related: 10 Pricing Strategies That Can Drastically Improve Sales
As an ecommerce clothing brand, your website is your storefront. You need to draw customers in and provide them with a positive experience from the second they enter your site to the moment they leave — hopefully through the checkout process.
Your web design should embody your brand. Within a few seconds of visiting, make sure a viewer is hooked and has a decent understanding of your voice and persona.
Yes, starting a clothing line is an art, but it’s also a business. Without creativity and design, you won’t succeed. You also need to have a strong foundation in business and finance to make your clothing ecommerce business the full package.
Generally, it’s hard to be an expert in many things at one time, so if you err more on the side of design and creativity, hire someone to handle the business aspects of the company. Alternatively, if you thrive in building a business, you’ll want to make sure to hire creatives who can manage the more right-brained side of your operations.
One big mistake new ecommerce clothing businesses make is picking the wrong kind of clothing-creation process. Although there are many different models, new brands often choose between on-demand creation, private label, custom and wholesale creation.
In an on-demand model, a third party creates and ships garments to your customers. With this model, you have no inventory to manage. That said, the third party takes a significant chunk of your profit because they are creating and fulfilling orders for you.
Private label occurs when companies design their own clothing and then have it manufactured. In this model, you’re responsible to find the fabrics and materials to make your garments. You will also be required to manage your inventory and fulfill your orders in this system.
Custom clothing creation is another option, but it’s expensive and very niche. In this organizational scheme, each garment is made specifically for each client. This process is costly, time-consuming and difficult to do well.
Due to these high costs, only specific customers are interested in these products, limiting your customer base. That said, with such a high average order value, this model can be financially viable.
Wholesale is another common clothing-creation avenue. Here, you pay for your materials and labor upfront and then a manufacturer creates your products. This requires you manage the orders, inventory and shipments. Overall, this is similar to the first model listed, but it’s different in the sense that the third party doesn’t take nearly as big of a cut.
Related: How Ecommerce Companies Can Continue Engaging New Customers
This decade is a great time to start an online clothing business. If you have the right drive, know-how and positioning, you can start a business that will do well for years to come.
Learn how to anticipate expectations going forward and understand the tools and resources needed to reimagine operations.
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2 min read
As businesses have reopened, navigating “business as usual” while maintaining rigorous, science-based safety standards is essential. Make the wrong moves, however, and you could jeopardize your customers, employees, and even your brand.
Join us for a free webinar, How to Future-Proof Your Business and Prepare for the New ‘Normal’, presented by Salesforce and Entrepreneur. We’ll cover the areas businesses need to think about as they reimagine operations—everything from how to communicate and deepen relationships with customers to planning for customer safety to ensuring supply chain success and more. We’ll help small and midsize businesses anticipate expectations going forward and understand the tools and resources they’ll need to future-proof their business.
The speakers will be Kylee Hall, Vice President of Marketing at communication platform Remind, and Adrian Fallow, AVP of SMB Sales at Salesforce. Attendees of this webinar will come away with a checklist to follow as your business continues to adapt to the changing environment. You’ll learn:
How to Future-Proof Your Business and Prepare for the New ‘Normal’ will take place live on Wednesday, July 22 at 2 p.m. ET | 11 a.m. PT.