From the March 1997 issue of Startups

New products for small and homebased businesses.

A File By Any Other Name

How many times have you sat at your computer, racking your brain, trying to remember the cryptic, eight-lettered file name you came up with for that important document you so desperately needed to have in your hands 20 minutes ago? Most likely, too many times.

Now you can free up your brain for more important matters with Long File Names for Windows 95 and Windows 3.1. This program, compatible with most best-selling applications such as WordPerfect, AutoCad and QuarkXPress, makes it possible for you to label your files with exact descriptions--word for word--of up to 255 characters.

Long File Names for Windows 95 and Windows 3.1 is available for $29.95, plus S&H. From View Software, Palo Alto, CA. To order, call (800) 536-8439.

Technology On The Go

Tired of precariously juggling your cellular phone, notebook computer, important paperwork and cup of coffee on the way out the door in the morning? If so, Targus Inc. has the perfect solution.

The Targus Notepac Plus, a lightweight polyester-nylon carrying case, includes a padded compartment with an adjustable divider that enables you to separate your notebook computer from its accessories. A padded shoulder-strap provides a comfortable and reliable way to carry your notebook computer.

The zip-down workstation section includes pockets for such key business essentials as a cellular phone, calculator, diskettes, PC cards and pens, as well as an expanding file section that helps you keep your important business papers organized.

The Notepac Plus comes with the Targus Lifetime Warranty. Exterior dimensions of the Notepac Plus are 16 by 12 by 5 inches. Computer-compatibility dimensions are 15 by 10.6 by 2.8 inches.

The Notepac Plus, $59, plus S&H. From Targus Inc., Cerritos, CA. To order, call (800) 390-4622.

Tableside Fun

Get a jump on spring sales with a creative seating solution that will put your customers in the shade and keep the sand and dirt out of their food and drinks.

The Beach Table, a handmade and easily portable table with a holder for an umbrella, comes in a variety of ocean-themed designs. It is made of lightweight, durable birch, and weighs between four and seven pounds.

The Beach Umbrella, a multi-colored, standard-sized umbrella weighing approximately 6 pounds, fits snugly with the tables and is also available through Beach Table Inc.

Wholesale price for the Beach Table: from $15 to $25, depending on the design ordered. Suggested retail price: from $29.95 to $49.95. Wholesale price for the Beach Umbrella: $15. Suggested retail price: $29.95.

From Beach Table Inc., Smithfield, VA. To order, call (800) 275-0083.

Springtime Flowers

The cows haven't come home yet--at least as far as Jim Hanaway of Join the "Cow Pie" Moovement! is concerned.

This Madison, Wisconsin businessman came up with the quirky idea of selling a pile of dirt and straw that produces a burst of annual and perennial flowers. Now you can make this item your next big seller.

Each Wisconsin Flowering Cow Pie is made up of fertilizer, potting soil, sawdust, peat, and an organic binder that turns sweet with a mixture of Wisconsin wildflowers. Just place the Flowering Cow Pie in a dish and set it in a warm and sunny location. Once sprouting occurs, the cow pie can be transplanted to a pot or outdoor planter. And you can reassure customers that, although the product looks like a real cow pie, it won't smell like one.

Wholesale price: $1.99 each. Suggested retail price: $3.50. Minimum order: 1 package of 24 units.

From Join the "Cow Pie" Moo-vement!, Madison, WI. To order, call (608) 241-4949.

Signed, Sealed & Undelivered

By Karin Moeller

March is here already and, if you're like most people who haven't yet filed their income tax returns, you're likely starting to feel the anticipatory pangs of the impending April 15th deadline. The current bulk of your tax preparation time-for both your personal and business returns-is probably being consumed compiling receipts, totaling expenses, and itemizing deductions. But when the big moment arrives to finalize your tax returns, be sure you don't forget these three simple, but often overlooked, tax-filing basics:

1. Be sure your name and address are correct. The IRS estimates that more than 96,000 taxpayers have yet to receive their 1995 refund checks. Due to returns filed with incorrect names and addresses, the post office was unable to deliver refund checks totaling more than $62 million.

Make sure that your income tax refund doesn't end up in the long and lonely line of homeless checks. If the address label included in your tax return package displays incorrect information, make your corrections directly on the label. If you've changed your name, make sure to notify your Social Security Administration (SSA) office so the name on your tax return matches the name in the SSA's records. If you change your address after you submit your return, be sure to file Form 8822, Change of Address.

2. Be sure your Social Security Number (SSN) is correct. The IRS can no longer accept temporary numbers, "applied for," or any other designations in lieu of the required numbers. If a tax return has a missing or incorrect identification number, the IRS may disallow the related item(s).

If you need to get a SSN, go to any SSA office to file Form SS-5; nonresident and resident aliens who are not eligible for SSNs may use Form W-7 to request Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) from the IRS.

3. Sign your return. Finally, don't forget the easiest of all your tax preparation tasks: putting your signature on your return. If you're due a refund, it cannot be issued unless the return is signed.

Business Bliss

When author Azriela Jaffe's husband quit his job to start his own business, the Jaffes quickly discovered that balancing romance and work was not as easy as it sounded. After a stressful year of "financial worries, lack of sleep, and limited intimate time with her husband," Jaffe learned that planning was the key to keeping both marriage and business intact. With her personal experiences in mind, Honey, I Want to Start My Own Business (HarperBusiness, $23, 800-236-7323) was born.

Written for couples, this book looks at how starting a business, alone or with a spouse, can affect a marriage. By helping them to better define goals and personality traits, it helps couples to "look before they leap" into a business venture. According to Jaffe, this book is for couples "unwilling to sacrifice their marriage or personal well-being to achieve business success."

In Honey, I Want to Start My Own Business, Jaffe shares her wisdom on topics such as "Keeping the Romance Alive," "Win/Win Conflict Resolution," and "Financial and Family Planning." Also included are more than 40 quizzes and exercises designed to clarify goals and encourage discussion between spouses. Finally, there are excerpts from interviews with more than 125 successful entrepreneurial couples. What these couples, and Jaffe herself, recommend most is planning ahead: This forethought is crucial to keeping love alive amidst the stresses of entrepreneurship.-Amy E. Lewis

Not Just Child's Play

Kids today: For many, local newspaper routes and baby-sitting jobs are no longer the only ways to earn extra spending cash. In fact, record numbers of young Americans are being drawn to the infectious lure of entrepreneurship and are starting their own businesses.

To help direct these up-and-coming enterprisers, The KidsWay Foundation publishes "Young Entrepreneur," a bimonthly newsletter aimed at helping youths discover innovative income sources. Each issue features a host of ideas about how kids can "earn a buck" after school, on weekends, and during the long dog days of summer.

To request a free copy of "Young Entrepreneur," write to The KidsWay Foundation at 5585 Peachtree Rd., Chamblee, GA 30341, or call (888) KIDS-WAY.

Q & A

Answers to your small-business questions

Q: I'm trying to locate a product called Omniglow. It's a glow-in-the-dark, flexible tube sold at carnivals and fairs. Its ends can be connected to form a necklace. I have searched many business start-up magazines and mail order catalogs with no success-although I remember seeing them somewhere! Any assistance you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Chris Baker

Fall River, Massachusetts

A:Provided by Rich Herlich, director of marketing for Omniglow Corp.:

Lite Rope Glow necklaces from Omniglow Corp. are fun and safe novelties for any occasion. Retailers can purchase them directly from novelty distributors. They are packaged in groups of 50 tubes and are available in green, blue, red, hot pink, tri-color (red-blue-green) and five-color (red-blue-green-pink-aqua).

Omniglow Corp. also manufactures a wide variety of other glowing novelties, as well as glow-in-the-dark safety products for the home, car and boat. For more information, or for the name of your nearest distributor, call (800) 762-7548, or write to Omniglow Corp. at 96 Windsor St., W. Springfield, MA 01089, Attn.: Customer Service Dept.

Q: I have a fairly new mail order business that I have been trying to get off the ground. I have two Web pages and so far neither one of them has done anything. I got a few requests for catalogs from the first Web page, but no orders have come in. Can you give me any advice?

Judy Stiffler

via America Online

A:Provided by Herschell Gordon Lewis, co-author ofSelling on the Net(NTC Publishing Group, $39.95, 800-323-4900) and chairman of Communicomp, a full-service, direct-marketing advertising agency in Fort Lauderdale, Florida:

The World Wide Web, Ms. Stiffler, is a giant embryo that hasn't yet hatched as a major marketing medium. The typical Internet surfer enters the Web with a short attention span-finger poised on the mouse: "Gotta go! Gotta go!"

Therefore, the first rule of successful Internet marketing is: Stop the surfer in his or her tracks.

Having a presence on the Internet is a means, not an end. Surfers won't land on your site-even accidentally-unless you take these three quick steps:

1. Promote your Web site in other media. Ads in media aimed directly at your primary buyers will help bring surfers to your site. Find out which magazines, newspapers or television programs your customers read or watch and advertise your site there.

2. Establish "links" with similar businesses. This means their site will refer to yours and your site will refer to theirs. Don't worry about the competitive nature of links; the operative term here is synergy, as both sites will profit from the links. You might also buy " advertising banners"-these are strips (about an inch high and four or five inches wide) with powerful "teaser" copy that run at the top or bottom of a Web page. When a consumer clicks on one of these banners, they will automatically go to your Web site.

3. Offer a "special." Be sure your Web site offers at least one sensational bargain or deal that is not offered on any of your other advertising materials. Everyday business offers or standard catalog descriptions are too bland to attract business from surfers flitting from one Web site to another. Also, to ensure that your visitors return, change your "teaser copy" and special offer-and be sure to advertise that your "special" changes every week.

Unfortunately, in the very competitive world of online sales and marketing, even a professional-looking Web site, if isolated, is a marketing orphan that will probably starve. Follow these tips to make sure yours flourishes.

Correction

Our January 1997 feature, "Licensing Your Product" (p. 50), erroneously listed the Web site address of the Business Resource Center. The correct address is (http://www.kciLink.com/brc/).

Address your small-business questions to: Q&A,Business Start-Ups, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, or e-mail them to 76711,1724@compuserve.com or BSUMag@AOL.COM. Due to limited space, time and resources, we can answer only those Q&A letters chosen for publication. Questions may be edited for clarity.