Ask Entrepreneur

Starting a Business

Is workers' compensation required for my small family business?

I have a small catering business, but I only use family members as part-time help for the day of the event. Am I still required to get workers' compensation?
Nina Kaufman
Finance

Can applying for social security hurt a 63-year-old small-business owner?

My father is 63 years old and a small-business owner. He retired from Vought Aircraft last year and receives a pension after working there for 23 years. He also makes a fair profit from a gas station he owns. Should he apply now for Social Security or wait? What are the disadvantages of applying now? What happens if he sells the business?
Nina Kaufman
Marketing

How can I find an importer and distributor for products produced overseas to sell in the USA?

These skin-care products have been successfully manufactured and sold in Germany for more than 50 years. I want to sell them through a distributor with accounts such as CVS, Walgreens, etc. Or is it better to just have a drop/ship warehouse and advertise online and directly to retail? Do products have to be shipped free of charge to get a distributor interested?
Brad Sugars
Starting a Business

What business ideas would you suggest for a small town in a developing country?

The town is in Cambodia and is very popular with tourists. It is very hot most of the year, and there is a rainy season. The town is developing rapidly, and I'm looking for a good business to take maximum advantage now.
Brad Sugars
Marketing

How do I market my company's philanthropic associations?

I sell compression bras with slim pouches that adhere for hot and cold relief. Ten percent of each purchase goes to breast cancer research, and I wonder how I could use my philanthropic associations to get more exposure.
Pattie Simone
Growth Strategies

How do I know when to hire?

We are a software licensing company that is growing quickly. We need an easy way to determine when it's time to hire. Is there a formula showing how much it costs to hire someone new.
Penny Morey
Growth Strategies

Can I pick and choose which employees I offer health insurance to?

We're a small business with fewer than 10 employees, and we're interested in attracting some new, higher-paid talent. I realize to do so we have to offer health benefits, but we don't want to have to offer the same health benefits to the lower-paid employees. I need to know what we are and aren't allowed to do so that we can use a good health plan to attract the highly skilled employees, but not have to spend the extra expense on our lower paid employees.
Penny Morey
Growth Strategies

How can I get rid of a small business that I don't want to be in?

My father-in-law has willed me his small business where I am to own 49% of the business. His widow owes 51% of the business. I do not want to be in this business partnership, so what do I do?
Brad Sugars
Starting a Business

What are the pros and cons of a product-based business?

I am an engineer and I've designed a machine and got it patented. I am struggling between selling my patent or starting my own business. I am trying to balance out all the pros and cons of a product-based business. I had really great offers for my patent, but I think more money can be made if I manufacture the machine and sell it myself. What do you think?
Tim Berry
Starting a Business

How can I sell business ideas or investment ideas without becoming an entrepreneur myself?

I believe that I have ideas that can make great money in the hands of real entrepreneurs. I do not want to be the one who spends my whole life applying them, writing the business plan, looking for money, finding the right team, etc.
Tim Berry
Marketing

How much of our personal experience should be shared with the customer?

My husband and I have triplets and have started a business of handcrafted rocking horses built for twins, triplets and other multiple combinations. We are seeking advice on how much of our own personal story we should share on our website in order to really connect with our target market--or our community as we like to think of it.
Kim T. Gordon
Finance

How do I find an executive instead of an angel for a financing and working partnership?

I have enough to bring to the table when requesting a working investor. I do not want an angel that will sit back and collect checks for just putting up money. I had many offers for that but declined. I want to find an accomplished executive who has a few bucks to bring in and wants to roll up his sleeves to work alongside me. How can a scope out people like this?
Rosalind Resnick
Marketing

What is the average contact to sales success ratio in direct brochure mailings?

We're a new startup corporation and are wondering what the most cost-effective method is to market our new products. It seems that our trade magazine marketing did very little, but our website and brochure mailings did very well. What is the best route to market a new commercial product to the delivery industry?
Pattie Simone
Marketing

How do I keep in contact with customers without being annoying?

I've got a commercial photography business and I'm not sure how to keep in touch with them without constantly asking if they have anything new to be photographed. You can only ask that so many times a year. Is there a way to stay in touch without bugging them?
Pattie Simone
Growth Strategies

What is the appropriate structure for international expansion?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the following structures for a United States-based retail clothing business when selling products to other countries (Canada being the first point of entry): wholly owned retail outlets, joint ventures, franchises, or distributor arrangements. Please address legal, tax, regulatory and broader strategic ramifications.
Brad Sugars