From the November 1996 issue of Startups

Tie Guard

While food stains are fairly easy to remove from shirts and other clothing items, the delicate threads of the ties worn daily by approximately 23 million American business people are often at risk during mealtimes. By providing TiGuards for your restaurant, deli or coffeehouse customers, you'll be helping to keep their dry-cleaning costs down while providing a novelty marketing tool for your business.

The decorative paper ties fit snugly over dress ties to provide a protective cover from the spills of your finest food specialties. As for the images you display on the TiGuards, your creativity's the limit; you can either feature your own unique design, using up to four colors, or display your company's logo and phone number.

Prices for the TiGuards range from 15 cents to 26 cents each, depending on the quantity ordered. Minimum order: 5,000 ties. From TiGuard, Austin, TX. To order, call (512) 459-0014

People Scheduler

The newest and most efficient way to maintain the scheduling of your employees, as well as organize various employee statistics, is on your computer. With PeopleScheduler v3 software, you can save time by computing employee profiles, budgets, and more.

PeopleScheduler comes with an easy-to-use Administrator -- a security feature which protects your records at various levels of usership. For example, you can allow your department managers to edit data for employees in their department, but not in others. The software is fully compatible with Windows 95 and allows custom reporting and data sharing with other Windows programs via open data base connectivity (ODBC).

PeopleScheduler starts at $129 (plus S&H), and increases in price according to the amount of licensed users. From Adaptiv, Irvine, CA. To order, call (800) 598-1222.

Hot To Sell

Resale products that practically sell themselves.

By Melissa Giordano

Mousing Around

Nowadays, it's common for working people to spend most, if not all, of their day in front of a computer screen . To help provide entertainment and break up the monotony during those long hours, CompacTime has created a new version of a very familiar computer accessory -- the mousepad. If you own an office supply store or cater to computer owners, it's time to introduce your customers to the dual-purpose gamepad, available in two popular boardgame styles, including chess/checkers and backgammon.

The gamepads come with card-stock playing pieces; deluxe plastic playing pieces can be ordered. Prices vary according to style, design specifications and amount ordered. Wholesale price rang: $2.95 to $4.50/pad. Suggested retail price: 40 percent markup. Minimum order: 100 pads.

From CompacTime, Bloomington, IN. To order, call Unique Specialties Inc. at (301) 593-6676.

Flower Power

Flower-pot aprons are the newest accessory for stylish gardeners, so if you own a nursery or flower store, be sure to stock up on these hot sellers. Some of the fashionable flower designs available include irises, geraniums, cottage-garden flowers, veggie-garden plants, sunflowers, tulips and daffodils. Each apron has four reinforced pockets shaped like terra-cotta flower

pots -- perfect for holding your gardening tools or delicate flower bulbs.

The heavyweight denim aprons are double-stitched and durable. The straps, designed to bear the weight on the wearer's shoulders rather than on his or her's neck, make the aprons both functional and comfortable.

The company provides a product-quality replacement guarantee, quick order turn-around time, and advise on how you can enhance your sales through eye-catching displays.

Wholesale price: $15 each (must be ordered in pairs, per design). Suggested retail price: $30 each. Minimum order: $150 (recorders $100). From Liz Laiter Designs of California, San Rafael, CA. To order, call (800)546-2052.

Scam Crackdown

By Karin Moeller

Telemarketing fraud bilks millions of dollars from unsuspecting entrepreneurs each year. But if you know your rights, you can protect your business from being swindled. Under the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Telemarketing Sales Rule, telemarketers are required to tell you what they are selling, how much it will cost, and whether the goods can be returned for a refund. Any salesperson who doesn't disclose this information is breaking the law.

One recent scam concerns the sale of office supplies or other products that must be replaced often, such as copier paper, toner and maintenance supplies. If you're solicitated to purchase any of these items at a "specially discounted" but unnamed price, or if you receive a shipment of merchandise you didn't order, beware - you may have trouble on your hands. Remember, scam artists are called "artists" for a reason; if the smooth answers you're hearing don't sound right, listen to your instincts, instead. With some products being sold at 10 times their regular retail value and others measuring one-tenth their quality, it's crucial to be on your guard.

The FTC's new brochure, "Office Supply Scams," describes how to recognize and avoid these scams. For a free copy, write to FTC, Public Distribution Center, Room B-3, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580, or call (202) 326-2222. You can also access the full text of this booklet through the FTC Consumerline at http://www.ftc.gov. Think you've been scammed? Complaints can be filed through the National Fraud Information Center at (800) 876-7060.

Building, Step By Step

Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu once said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Now, author Bernard Kamoroff applies this concept to entrepreneurship in his book, Small-Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Small Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes, and Stay Out of Trouble! (Bell Springs Publishing, $16.95, 800-515-8050). This book provides step-by-step details, quick reference and easy-to-comprehend solutions for building you new small business.

Throughout his book, Kamoroff includes famous quotes, passages and anecdotes, as well as comical illustrations, to help provide a humorous break from the seriousness of governmental rules, regulations and unending instructions. Small-Time Operator is a technical guide that uses simple terminology to review everything from the basics of using a computer and balancing a checkbook to the complexities of filing a tax form and expanding your business.

Kamoroff used his 20 years of experience as a small-business consultant and accountant and his personal knowledge from operating his own small businesses to write Small-Time Operator. His book succeeds in helping to make the thousand-mile journey to owning a successful small business a much easier road to travel. -Melisa Giordano

Women@Work.Com

It's official: A recent report from the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) shows that the number of firms owned by women grew 78 percent between 1987 and 1996. Now, as women-owned firms employed 26 percent of the U.S. labor force and generated sales of nearly $2.3 trillion in 1996 alone, many associations and trade groups are offering specialized services to cater to this growing crop of entrepreneurs.

The International Franchise Association (IFA) is one of them. On their Women's Franchise Network (WFN) Web site (http://www.entremkt.com/wfn), current and prosective franchisors, franchises and suppliers can get on-line advise, guidance and information.

"More than 65 industries franchise, offering thousands of opportunities for women who want to get into small-business ownership through franchising," says IFA president Don DeBolt.

WFN provides educational programs, networking opportunities and advocacy fro women within the franchising community. If you'd like more information about this resource and aren't yet on-line, you can request printed information from the WFN by writing to Terrian Barnes, vice president of public affairs, at 1350 New York Ave. NW, #900, Washington, DC 20005-4709.

Q &A

Answers to your small-business questions

Q:I'm a 15-year-old honor student who's interested in the field of small business. I started, and still run, a lawn-mowing service which I've operated for the past four summers. I would like to expand my business, or possibly start a new one, and would like to get some more information about business ideas for teenagers like myself. -Grant Baldwin, Springfield, Missouri

A: Well, Grant, as a teenage business owner, you're part of an increasing percentage of entrepreneurs in America. Forbes magazine estimates that 80 percent of the seven million people currently trying to start their own businesses are under age 35.

The '90's have seen the American small-business owner stereotype change more often than Dennis Rodman's hair color; nowadays, women, minorities and young people are starting businesses in record numbers. To this end, there are a number of resources that have sprung up to assist you in making your venture a successful one

Lisa Shaw's The Under-35 Guide to starting and running your Business (Upstart Publishing Co., $14.95, 800-829-7934) is a great place to start your research. Shaw, who has run five businesses, published six newsletters and authored 20 books - all by the age of 35 - imparts some of the practical knowledge she's gained as a young entrepreneur. Each of the nine chapters includes a profile of a successful small-business owner (under the age of 35, of course) who has forged the often jagged path of entrpreneurship. Also included are strategies on overcoming "Generation X" and "slacker" stereotypes, ways to find financing when you're not yet established, and tips to ensure that you're taken seriously by older businesspeople.

How to Become a Teenage Entrepreneur Is a new 27 minute videotape geared to young adults between the ages of 11 and 18 (VHS format, $24.95). It provides step-by-step instructions on starting, owning and operating a successful business, and suggests 50 different small-business ideas suitable for teens, such as sports tutoring, errand running, word processing and dog walking. Also included is a 32-page how-to workbook , to be used in conjunction with the video. To order How to Become a Teenage Entrepreneur, write to LifeSkills Unlimited Inc., 22500 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington, MI 48336, or call (800) 528-8525 or (810) 477-3500.

As an honor student, you may be heading off to college after high school. And if you're like most future college students, a scholarship will come in handy to defray those costs. IF your parents or guardians are members of the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE), be sure to look into NASE's annual scholarship program.

In 1996, the association gave each of 23 students $3,000 scholarships, while 18-year-old Jeffrey Davis, who runs a deejay business in Mount Vernon, Texas, was awarded the Future Entrepreneur of the Year award and $12,000 toward his college education. Applicants must be between 16 and 24 to be dependents of NASE members. For more information, write to NASE at 2121 Precinct Line Rd., Hurst, TX 76054, or call (800) 232-6273.

Finally, look into Junior Achievement, an international education program dedicated to teaching young people to value free enterprise, understand business and economics, and be ready for the workforce. For more information, write to 1 Education Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80906.

Q:I am an aspiring entrepreneur looking for more information about starting a small travel agency. I greatly appreciate your help. -Concetto Palella, Spotswood, New Jersey

A: Be sure to contact the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). With more than 28,500 members in 168 countries, ASTA is the largest travel trade organization in the world. For more information, write to them at 1101 King St., #200, Alexandria, VA 22314, or call (703) 739-2782 and ask for their education department