From the October 1996 issue of Startups

Marking yet another step in the long journey toward a paperless society, the IRS will soon require businesses with more than $50,000 in calendar 1995 payroll taxes to submit their payments electronically. Using the IRS's new Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), taxpayers can electronically transfer funds--over the telephone, via personal computer, or through their banks--to cover incurred federal payroll and business tax liabilities.

In compliance with 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) legislation, which requires the IRS to electronically collect 94 percent of all business taxes by 1999, more than 1.2 million businesses will be required to begin filing electronically at the start of 1997. By January 1, 1999, all businesses with employment taxes over $20,000 must begin depositing electronically as well. If your business is one of those required to convert to the new electronic transmission format at the start of the new year, you should receive an IRS notice and enrollment form. The IRS encourages business owners to enroll before November 1, 1996, though, as processing can take up to 10 weeks to complete.

There are some important things to keep in mind: Even if your payment threshold drops beneath the $50,000 mark, once you've filed electronically, you must continue to do so and cannot revert to the old paper coupon method. Also, while the IRS does not charge for the Automated Clearing House (ACH) electronic processing, your bank may. Consult with your bank to determine the amount they charge (if any) for the transactions.

Affected taxpayers with additional questions, along with those who would like to voluntarily convert to the new electronic submission format, can contact the EFTPS Customer Service Center for more information. In the Northern United States, call (800) 945-8400; in the Southern United States, call (800) 555-4477.

Home Team Advantage

Do nightmares of cluttered stacks of papers prevent you from fulfilling your destiny as a successful homebased entrepreneur? Alice Bredin's The Virtual Office Survival Handbook: What Telecommuters and Entrepreneurs Need to Succeed in Today's Nontraditional Workplace (John Wiley & Sons, $16.95/paperback, $29.95/hardcover, 800-225-5945) provides an in-depth guide to developing your own productive homebased workplace.

With experts predicting that, by the year 2000, 40 percent of the workforce could be working in some type of virtual office--"any worksite outside of the traditional office in which people still do the work associated with a traditional office"--Bredin's book is a must for anyone considering an alternative workplace. From "how-to" tips for choosing the right equipment to legal and financial laws, the easy-to-read, informative guidebook provides aspiring entrepreneurs with helpful hints, strategic "dos" and "don'ts," and witty anecdotes.

If you're wary of being trampled by technology, Bredin's tips can help you tame the virtual beast. --Allyssa Lee

Business As Usual

There may be cause to reconsider the speculations you've heard from political pundits about the impending presidential election's impact on the future of small business; after all, if you really want to know what the horse thinks, why not get it straight from the horse's mouth?

Here's what "horses" across America are saying: A recent national survey of 1,197 business owners revealed that the election's result will likely have little effect on the day-to-day operations of most small businesses.

"Right or wrong, many business owners believe the outcome of the election will not significantly affect the key factors that can make or break their companies--taxes, money supply, trade policy, government regulation and health-care costs," says Donald J. Fletcher, president of George S. May International Co., the management consulting firm that conducted the survey.

Interestingly, however, only 14.5 percent of the business owners surveyed said they plan to forego voting this year. The remaining 85.5 percent will check their apparent indifference at the door of their local polling booth.

Q&A

Answers to your small-business questions

Q: I am a new subscriber who's interested in finding some more information about the mobile massage industry. Where can I get detailed information on how to start this kind of business? Where can I get preliminary training? Do I need a certificate or license to practice? Can I get a certificate through a correspondence course, and if so, where can I apply for it? Does this type of business require a lot of start-up capital? Can you help me? I appreciate your help.

Ramon A. Moreno

Ft. Bragg, North Carolina

A:Provided by Katie Armitage, executive director of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), a national association dedicated to educating the public about the benefits of massage and bodywork.

Our association offers detailed information about entering the massage industry through a variety of publications. Our Touch Training Directory ($15.95) lists over 600 schools throughout the country and the world. It also provides information about starting a career in this industry, including regulation and licensing requirements, listings of the many associations geared to the industry, and descriptions of the variety of massage and bodywork therapies.

Correspondence courses for massage training are difficult (although there are a few), because massage requires "hands-on" education. Specialized training is available at the Skilled Touch Institute of Chair Massage (800-999-5026) and the Seated Massage Experience seminars, presented by Touch IV Productions (800-868-2448). These programs sometimes offer training at different locations throughout the country. Many other schools offer on-site training as part of their massage therapist curriculum.

Providing on-site corporate massage offers an excellent income opportunity with a modest investment. On-site corporate massage is usually a 10 to 20 minute "stress buster" which relieves tight neck, back and shoulder muscles resulting from stress and tension. Hourly rates for the service range from $40 to $60 per hour, with about four to five massages per hour. One or two sessions per client per week are typically performed, with stress-reduction benefits being cumulative.

The costs involved with starting a mobile massage business vary. There will be expenses associated with your training, possible licensing and registration costs (some states require testing--at an additional cost--prior to issuing a license), and the cost of your equipment (such as an on-site massage chair, lotions, oils, etc.).

For more information about ABMP, or to order Touch Training Directory, call (303) 674-8478, or write to 28677 Buffalo Park Rd., Evergreen, CO 80439-7347.

Q:For some time now, we have pondered the idea of starting our own business. Since we are both avid fishermen and enjoy fish aquariums, we came up with the idea of a combination fishing bait shop and aquarium, but we don't know where to start. Do you have any information on who we could contact to get information on starting inventory and equipment?

Mark and Phyllis Hayne

West Terre Haute, Indiana

A:Provided by Geri Mitchell, director of communications for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in Washington, DC.

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is the pet industry's legislative watchdog and, in its mission of education, information and advocacy, is the clearinghouse of information on the pet market. Available (for a nominal fee to cover postage and handling), are various information packages on industry statistics, resources for suppliers of fish (and all kinds of pets), products, demographics, instructions on how to reach regulatory agencies, trade publications, trade associations and trade shows.

PIJAC also publishes a series of animal care reference manuals for pet retailers and conducts animal care seminars and co-sponsors retail merchandising seminars around the United States. For an order form or membership information, contact PIJAC at 1220 19th St. NW, #400, Washington, DC 20036, or call (202) 452-1525.

Hot To Buy Hot To Sell

Do You Copy?

If you're working from home, the new Canon PC 720 is just for you. The PC 720 has a copying speed of eight copies (or seven legal-sized copies) per minute. The unit features multiple paper feeding through a 250-sheet front-loading cassette, as well as a single-sheet bypass tray that will print on everything from standard copy paper to transparencies or even card stock.

The Rapid Fusing System feature eliminates warm-up and waiting time, and the Auto Shut-Off puts the copier on standby after 5 1/2 minutes.

The feature geared most toward the home-office user is the Single Cartridge System. Most of the copier's moving parts that can wear out (the drum, development unit and toner) are contained in one easily replaceable cartridge--just in case you're not a mechanical genius.

The PC 720, $699, from Canon, Lake Success, NY. To order, call (800) OK-CANON.

Fax & Save

Now there's a service that allows you to fax from your computer and save money at the same time. Fax transmission service from FaxSav allows faxes to be received faster and cheaper by sending them over the Internet, avoiding charges from long-distance carriers. With FaxSav, faxes sent to recipients in the United States from anywhere in the world cost 15 cents. With FaxSav's Basic Service, users can save from 50 to 80 percent on international faxing.

FaxSav also offers several enhanced service programs in addition to their Basic Service program, tailored to meet the specific needs of different companies' faxing habits.

FaxSav disks are provided, free, by the company, and service charges are billed according to use. Daily fax activity and detailed billing reports help you to monitor your faxing costs more efficiently.

FaxSav, from FaxSav Inc., Edison, NJ. To order, call (908) 906-2000.

Resale products that practically sell themselves.

Bag Biz

The Tapia family of Colorado Springs, Colorado, has started Billboard Bags Inc., a business which sells advertising space on plastic or paper carry-out bags used to bring things home from the grocery store, the video store, or even fast-food restaurants.

You, too, can tap the potential in your area by selling your own ad bags. Their 36-page, step-by-step manual, Billboard Bags, tells you how to start your own shopping bag advertising business. It also includes sample contracts and business forms that you can follow when drawing up agreements with your advertisers. Bags can then be taken to a local manufacturer to be printed.

Billboard Bags step-by-step guide, $29.95, from Billboard Bags Inc. To order, write to Billboard Bags, Dept. 3, P.O. Box 62276, Colorado Springs, CO 80920, or call (719) 548-1188.

Donut Cologne

Here's a fresh idea: Sell Donut Cologne in your novelty store or doughnut shop. Donut Cologne was developed by three firefighters who were inspired when they got a whiff of doughnut scent on a local police officer.

Donut Cologne really does smell like freshly baked cinnamon-crumb doughnuts, and comes in a bottle that looks like a chocolate doughnut. This product has recently been selling in Winchell's Doughnut shops, and makes a great gag gift for the good-humored doughnut lovers in your customers' lives.

Donut Cologne is available, wholesale, in cases of 48 bottles. Suggested retail price: $9.95 per bottle. Minimum order: one case. Prices: $235.20/case, for orders of one or two cases; $210.24/case, for orders of three to 11 cases; $189.12/ case, for orders of 12 or more cases. A distributor program is also available.

Donut Cologne, from Perfect Firefighter Candidate, Ventura, CA. To order, call (888) DONUT-96.

Polka Dot Appeal

When you try to pop your diskette into your computer, do you find that it has been relabeled so many times that it no longer fits in the narrow disk-drive slot? Or, do your labels display information that is no longer accurate, making your new files difficult to locate?

Now, Polka-disc labels allow you to remove old labels and replace them with new ones as many times as you want. The back sides of the labels contain a polka dot pattern of easy-to-peel-off adhesive, allowing you to change your data descriptions easily.

The Polka-disc removable labels are available when you order Polka-disc IBM-formatted 3.5 inch diskettes (1.44M), or they can be purchased separately to use with the disks of your choice. For first-time buyers, two introductory offers are available, including a set of 30 labels for $2.50 or a diskette 3-pack with 10 labels in a terraced cardboard box for $2.95.

From Polka Dot Products Inc., Minneapolis, MN. To order, call (800) 713-8450.-- Melisa Giordano

On The Road

If you're considering taking your goods on the road, look into a Wells Cargo Inc. concession trailer. Whether you sell crafts, food, jewelry or any of a multitude of items, this detachable vendor trailer, ideal for carrying and selling your product, can be custom-designed to meet the needs of your individual business. Just set up the inside with your product, trail it behind your automobile to your selling destination, and open up for business.

Trailers are constructed from an all-steel frame and are designed with a capacity for double locks to ensure security. Also included is a three-year warranty program, although each trailer is designed for 15 years' worth of daily service. A variety of special options are available to further customize your design, such as cabinets, fluorescent lighting, a four-compartment sink or window awnings.

Concession trailer prices start at $3,259 and increase according to size, specifications and additional options. From Wells Cargo, Elkhart, ID. To order, call (800) 348-7553. -- Melisa Giordano

Designer Dinos

If your patrons are looking for a way to entertain children while catering to their creativity, Dab `a' Dino is the ideal solution. Perfect for your craft kiosk or children's educational store, Dab `a' Dino is a cloth, stuffed animal that won't sit on the shelf and collect dust because it provides children aged three and up the opportunity to color and design their dinosaurs as many times as they want.

Each Dab `a' Dino kit comes with three Dabber markers filled with washable, nontoxic ink. After being soaked overnight in warm water and a little laundry bleach, the dinosaurs are ready to be colored again. Styles available include a Tyrannosaurus, Brontosaurus and Triceratops.

Wholesale price: $10.50/kit; or a 12-piece assortment, including four of each kit, for $126. Suggested retail price: $19.95/kit. Minimum order: 12 kits. From Mysterious Art Multimedia Inc., Montreal, Quebec. To order, call (810) 657-9372. -- Melisa Giordano

Think About It

You have probably wished, at one time or another, that there was a magical pill which could suddenly make you smarter. Well, there still isn't a pill, but now, according to the makers of Think!, there is a chocolate bar to do the trick. The Think! bar is a nutritious blend of vitamins, herbs and amino acids, including ginkgo biloba, which is believed to increase blood flow to the brain, and choline, which is believed to improve cognitive performance.

Think! bars come in two delicious flavors, peanut-butter-chocolate and chocolate-almond-raisin-coconut, each formulated with natural ingredients for maximum concentration, calmness and stamina. This energy bar features qualities attractive to students, computer operators or anyone who is required to actively use their brain for extended periods of time--a hot seller in any health food, book or student store.

Wholesale price: $14 to $18 per box, depending on quantity ordered. Suggested retail price: $1.39/each. Minimum order: 1 box (20 bars). From Personal Health Development, Ventura, CA. To order, call (800) 643-2057. -- Melisa Giordano