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Supporting the growth and global competitiveness of minority-owned businesses is a priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration.
And we’re making good on that priority. Last year, the Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) registered the best annual performance in its 41-year history. It assisted minority-owned businesses in gaining access to nearly $4 billion in contracts and capital, supporting the creation of nearly 6,000 much-needed jobs. Over the last three years, our network of 39 MBDA Business Centers, has been largely responsible for generating $10 billion in contracts and capital while helping to create and save nearly 20,000 jobs.
Today, the challenge for MBDA– like so many organizations across the federal government – is to figure out how we build on that record while becoming more efficient. A number of bureaus right here within the Commerce Department are facing a similar challenge, which has led, for example, to consolidating or otherwise cutting several programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), restructuring some units within International Trade Administration (ITA) and shifting the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) emphasis to regional innovation strategies. So how do we meet the President’s mandate to improve services to minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in an increasingly difficult budget environment?
Today, in conjunction with the newly-launched BusinessUSA initiative, the Department of Commerce announced the launch of their business app challenge. The $10,000 contest challenges app developers to find innovative ways to utilize Commerce and other publicly available data and information to support American businesses. The business app challenge calls on developers to utilize at least one Department of Commerce data set in creating an application that assists businesses and/or improves the service delivery of Business.USA.gov to the business community. Developers may choose the platform that best suits them. Applicants may design for the web, personal computer, mobile handheld device, or any platform broadly accessible to the open Internet. A list of developer-friendly data sets can be found on the Business Data and Tools page of Data.gov.
India is a story of growth and opportunity. India’s sustained growth of around 8.0% in 2009-10 and growing dynamism in several of its regional markets have created wide and diverse business prospects for U.S. exporters and investors. With 2011 growth estimates hovering at around 8.6%, India remains one of the fastest growing, dynamic economies in the world.
The current economic downturn has not affected India to the same extent as the United States, though most Indian companies remain apprehensive and are extremely cautious with large expenditures. Worldwide economic difficulties notwithstanding, U.S. multinationals are sold on India and are expanding and deepening their market penetration. U.S. firms with advanced and niche-market products and services are entering the market for the first time, or are replacing legacy distributors appointed in the slow-growth past with more capable and aggressive representatives.
Many smaller American firms have begun to view India as a top anchor market for their products and services as well. The marked rise of U.S. exports to India, the daily business press announcements, the rapidly expanding demand for Commercial Service India matchmaking programs and due diligence services, and the many business development trade missions visiting India all point to India being open for business.
Green dry cleaners, Green energy. Green puppy food. Green car washes. Green wall paints. Green grease removal.
Green: it’s everywhere. It’s taught in the first grade. It’s at the center of many corporate manufacturing and marketing policies. And whether you believe in climate change or still have doubts, consumers are now demanding GREEN.
Adopting environmentally friendly and energy efficient business practices provides numerous benefits to new and existing small business owners looking to control costs, attract customers and become socially responsible. Non-toxic, recycled, organic, energy efficient, reused, eco-friendly, farm-to-table: these terms, and others, all help define the fast-growing green market.
So what can you do as a small business? Remember, that regardless of what options you choose, each one of them should and must be connected to your marketing strategy and company messaging. If you adopt energy efficiency practices, let your customers know; if you are committed to local agriculture, let them know, and if your product contains recycled by-products, let them know. Four out of five consumers say they are still buying environmentally friendly products and services today – which sometimes cost more – even in the midst of a recovering economy.
“Before beginning, plan carefully.”
The philosophy of the great Roman Orator Cicero is just as appropriate in today’s small business environment as it was in the political arena of the Roman Empire. A sound and well thought-out marketing plan is an essential part of a firm’s ability to compete in today’s marketplace. In spite of this, many small businesses take a disorganized or haphazard approach to their marketing efforts and, as a result, fail to capitalize on opportunities to sell more of their products and services.
Why do so many take this half-hearted approach? Many believe it stems from the nature of the entrepreneur, who thrives on action and being intrinsically involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. Planning is seen as a non-active effort and therefore does not provide the same stimulus as being involved in producing and selling a product and/or service.
The process of creating a marketing plan involves three steps:
An analysis of the firm’s internal and external environments;
A decision on a “Unique Selling Point” to emphasize and project; and
The selection of action plans (both paid and unpaid) to reach the targeted customer base.