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TODAY'S WEB CHAT PARTICIPANTS: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR CHAT DISCUSSION. THERE IS NO AUDIO FORMAT TO THE CHAT

Host: Victoria M. Parham, President and CTO Virtual Support Services, and SCORE Business Counselor
Time: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 1:00 p.m. ET (10:00 a.m. PT)

Victoria M. Parham photoVictoria M. Parham,
President and CTO Virtual Support Services, and SCORE Business Counselor



Topic:

"Entrepreneurship: The Essentials for Starting an Online Virtual Business"

 

SCORE counselor and small business owner Victoria M. Parham will host the February Web chat on "Entrepreneurship: The Essentials for Starting an Online Virtual Business." Parham will share her personal story and journey from active duty soldier and military spouse to self-employed entrepreneur of a thriving online virtual training company, and will take your questions.

Join her as she shares her business advice and insight. Parham serves as a distance learning contractor for the Department of Defense (DOD's) Military Spouse Portable Careers Initiative, and was featured as one of Inc. Magazine’s 26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs of 2005.



From : U.S. Small Business Administration
Location : Washington , DC
Question :
Reply :
Thank you for all the wonderful questions, I've enjoyed being your host for the hour. This will be the last question being responded to as we are unfortunately out of time. I wish each of you all the best in your business endeavors. The archive URL for today's chat is: www.sba.gov/tools/monthlywebchat/index.html
From : Chris
Location : , CA
Question :
Word of mouth and referrals are nice but a slow way to develop business. What is a faster way?
Reply :
Chris, in business and as a business owner, you MUST allow your business time to become established. Any business owner today who has achieved any level of success will tell you that time is off the essence. My advice to you, provide quality deliverables, excellent customer support, and continue to educate your market and before you know it, you will begin to see your business grow. Again, time is of the essence.
From : Virginia Stewart
Location : Philadelphia , PA
Question :
Hi Victoria, I tried sending this and don't know if it made it through. So- Does the SBA have loans for online business owners with credit scores lower than 600-650? Thanks
Reply :
Virginia, the first thing that is important to do is to get a copy of your credit report so that you know exactly what in your report. Work closely with SBA's resource partners (SCORE, SBDCs, and Women Business Centers) and provide information to the credit report agency with your statements as to why and what you have done to repair your credit. Many of SBA's resource partners provide classes on credit repair. Resource partners can your area can be found online at www.sba.gov.
From : CJ Jones
Location : Wilmington , NC
Question :
What adavantages do small business online have over the BIG businesses online?
Reply :
CJ Jones, one big advantage that small businesses have over big businesses is that "Small" is in. As a small business, you are in position to offer several things: 1. competitive pricing 2. personal service and support 3. opportunity to build solid long-term client relationships
From : Robert Bartosh
Location : Freeport , Texas
Question :
Where can I find a grant to start my small buisness
Reply :
At this time, Congress has not set aside any monies for grants to start and/or expand a small business. The SBA does provide a loan guarantee program for loans made by your local lender. The SBA guarantees loans that the lender could not normally approve. However, all funding is handled through your local lender. For basic information on grants visit: http://www.sba.gov/services/ financialassistance/grants/index.html
From : Diane Dobson Barton
Location : Humboldt , KS
Question :
What is the most cost effective way to market an online e-book business?
Reply :
Diane, thanks for your question. You might consider the following no cost ways to market / promote your e-book: 1. Volunteer yourself as a speaker (locally or online) 2. Make yourself available to media outlets as a guest subject matter expert 3. Write and submit articles to the many online article databases (great way to get your name out there in the search engines). Each of the examples I've provided above, in most cases will allow you opportunity to promote / market your e-book.
From : Diane Gonzales
Location : Santa Fe , NM
Question :
Sorry about all the questions I've submitted, but I want to take thisopportunity to speak to a person who has a successful online business. What is the best way to gain the confidence of an online customer and make them feel comfortable in ordering through a virtual business?
Reply :
Diane, thanks for your question. Security is a big issue with online buyers. As an online virtual business owner, you will need to invest a lot of time and resources to ensure that your customers have the best online buying experience but more importantly, you want to gain the ongoing trust of your customers. This can be done by providing world class pre-buying and post-buying customer support and follow-up.
From : Diane Gonzales
Location : Santa Fe , NM
Question :
What is the most important aspect to consider when deciding to pursue an online virtual business?
Reply :
Diane, thanks for your question. There are 3 important things that you should seriously consider when launching an online virtual business: 1. Your product or service MUST meet an ongoing need 2. There must be a large enough buying market to support your business over the long term 3. Your product or service must be priced competitively.
From : Marilyn
Location : Lexington , South Carolina
Question :
I am trying to start a home based business and I hope to create a website (basic website) : On the website should I add my residenial address or just telephone numbers and where you can place your orders. What about adding personal pictures to the website is that a good idea. One last question are their grants for minority (women) to get a foundation (building) for their business, and to add additional programs in the future. Like a African Art Studio for the Lexington County South Carolina area to allow African American or minority youth to promote and display there ideas and talents.
Reply :
Marilyn, thanks for your question. Home-based businesses are more accepted today than in the past thanks to technology and the ability to deliver products and services via the Internet. With that said, I would not recommend including your residential address on your website for security purposes. Perhaps you can consider renting a PO Box or a physical mailing address at a Mail Boxes, etc.. With regard to adding personal photos, as long as the photos are (owned by you), are applicable to the business image, products or services, go for it!.
From : Lindsey Shorthouse
Location : Denver , CO
Question :
Ms. Parham, I am a young entrepreneur in need of some guidance about starting up an LLC, taxes, and funding. Would you know of anyone including your self whom I could speak with about setting up an LLC in Denver and how to manage business expences and taxes? Best regards, Lindsey Shorthouse POWERHOUSING Real Estate 303-641-3341
Reply :
Lindsey, a good starting point for learning how to establish an LLC in your location is to contact your local Small Business Administration office or your local SCORE office. For SBA, visit www.sba.gov, for SCORE, visit www.score.org.
From : Rochelle Harden
Location : MONTOGMERY , Alabama
Question :
I have a passion for clothing apparel. Right now everything is a dream. My interest is in Womens T-shirt's and designing womens shoes. But I don't know were to begin. Also solid business plan and marketing plan. I want an online service becasue I'm active duty Ari Force full time.
Reply :
Rochelle, since you are active duty, I recommend that you take advantage of the NO COST online virtual business training program sponored by DoD. To learn more, visit, www.vsscyberoffice.com/vbo.
From : John
Location : Milwaukee ,
Question :
How much does it cost to start this kind of business?
Reply :
John, the cost for starting an online business varies depending on a number of factors: type of business, licenses, patents, trademark, supplies, etc..., Once you've determined the type of business you wish to launch, you will need to do research to determine what your startup costs will be. One of the most attractive benefits of launching a virtual business is the low startup costs, there are individuals like myself who launched their online businesses for as little as $250, this costs may be more today as the cost of doing business has increased vastly since 1994 :)
From : Chris Pontanuce
Location : Baton Rouge , Louisiana
Question :
I'm 17 years old and don't want to wait till im 18 to start my business how do at least get if of the ground now and do you have to be 18 to get VC's to back you
Reply :
Hello Chris, always good to hear from young entrepreneurs! SBA has a wonderful site / resource for teen entrepreneurs. I highly recommend that you visit the website for more information, goto: http://www.sba.gov/teens/.
From : Julio Ramirez wiella
Location : Leon, Gto. , Mexico
Question :
What do we have to do to sell leather products (work gloves, boots, leather equipment, etc.) to the US Army?
Reply :
Hello Julio, you can visit: http://www.defenselink.mil/other_info/business.html, to learn more about doing business with the federal government.
From : Jim Townsend
Location : Grinnell , IA
Question :
Ms. Parham - I cannot attend this meeting. It is stored somewhere I can access it later to see what has taken place? jtwnsnd@iowatelecom.net
Reply :
Jim, you can visit the SBA Chat Archive for a transcript of this chat Feb 28, 2007.
From : A. Jones
Location : Newport News , Virginia
Question :
Are online businesses required to pay government/state taxes? Are the businesses supposed to be registered with the government or state? Do you need a business license?
Reply :
A. Jones, thanks for your question. Online businesses are required to pay taxes, I recommend that you speak with your CPA about tax requirements as it pertains to your business, city, state, etc...
From : Anthony Smith
Location : Los Angeles , California
Question :
I would like to start a small business selling products on Ebay. Do I need a business license to sell on Ebay?
Reply :
Hello Anthony, my recommendation is that you contact your local business licensing office for guidance on business licensing requirements for your geographic location.
From : Jack
Location : Tampa , Fl
Question :
If I have something I make, and want to sell on line, How do I get paid???
Reply :
Jack, good question, there are a number of resources available to assist online service and product providers with accepting online payments from customers. Examples include: Paypal.com, Propay.com. I highly recommend that you do some research on merchant accounts to decide which service will work best for you. You can also check with your business banker to learn about their small business merchant services.
From : L. Mullen
Location : Mitchellville , Maryland
Question :
In starting an online virtual business, how do you get the customers?
Reply :
L. Mullen, thanks for your question. As with any business marketing, educating, promotion, advertising, networking and relationship building all play a major role in securing clients for your virtual business. As your business becomes established with satisfied customers, word of mouth and referrals are your best methods for securing clients.
From : Mary Fender
Location : Richmond , VA
Question :
What ways specifically can one's web site be placed higher on the google and other search engines? Do you pay for this? How much to expect? Thank you
Reply :
Hello Mary, great question. The easiest and most cost effective way for a new business to get listed in the major (top) search engines is to take time to register your own url with all the major search engines. There are also other factors to consider, content on your website is king (the more quality content the better), frequent updating of your website, keywords, description, etc.., I would suggest working with a really good web developer who can assist and/or advise on listing at the top of the search engines. Registering your url yourself will cost you nothing but your time.
From : Natalie
Location : New York , NY
Question :
Hello, I am planning on starting up an internet business and would love to have you walk me through step by step what it takes to fully develop a website, launch it, etc.. Thanks
Reply :
Hello Natalie, thanks for your question, unfortunately, we don't have the time hear today for me to walk you through step by step, but you are welcome to visit our company website were we do offer online training on how to start, grow, and manage an online virtual business. Simply point your web browser to: www.vsscyberoffice.com.
From : Leo Gorny
Location : Weston , FL
Question :
For online stores you advice to go with Software like MIVA merchant, or any similar..... or to Host your store in a complete soltion site, like Yahoo Stores ? in either case..which one is your favorite solution.. Regards Leo
Reply :
Leo, my preference for online merchant services is to host your own and for that I like Authorize.net (www.authorize.net). Thanks for asking.
From : willie
Location : ch ,
Question :
are there any free information on restaurant business plans available on the web site
Reply :
Hello Willie, thanks for your question, you should visit: http://www.bplans.com.
From : Virginia Walker
Location : Detroit , MI
Question :
Please explain what is an online Virtual Business? Q: What is one of the best software programs for setting up an Online Virtual Business?Thank you.Virginia Walker
Reply :
Virginia, thanks for your question, a virtual business is a business that does not have a physical (retail or store front) location and it is typically operated exclusively online.
From : Sante Antonelli
Location : Howard Beach , New York
Question :
Hi Victoria, I would like to ask your advice on how to find a reliable website architect and developer. My business venture currently on paper requires an interactive website with user profiles, authentication, user wrights, payment profiles, an interactive calendar, message board and internal email system. I'm not sure about where to turn to find a developer that I can trust and rely upon. Thank you for your time. Best regards, Sante
Reply :
Hello Sante and thank you for your question. While I am not at liberty to endorse a particular person or company I can tell you that there are a number of resources to tap into with regard to finding a website developer. You might consider visiting the following websites to jumpstart your research: www.guru.com www.elance.com As with all things do your research, ask for client references, interview potential developers, and request examples of work. Always keep in mind that you are the buyer and that you MUST be comfortable with the working relationship between you and your developer.
From : Amanda Johnson
Location : San Diego , CA
Question :
How can I obtain a grant for military spouse. I have a clothing line and resell business that I started out of my home I would really like to take it to the next level.
Reply :
Amanda, thanks for your question. You might consider visiting the following website resources for loans for women and grants for starting a business: Idea Cafe - http://www.businessownersideacafe.com/ Count-Me-In - www.countmein.org/ Victoria Parham's Virtual Business Startup Grant - www.victoriaparham.com
From : Teresa Williams
Location : Castro Valley , CA
Question :
Hello, I am starting a business administrative services business to serve small business owners in this area. Because my work will involve completing work online as well as in the office or home of an owner, what is the best way to establish this? I am at step one. This will be similar to a virtual assisting company. What type of licenses do I need? Thank you
Reply :
Teresa, thanks for your question. Virtual Assistance is a growing industry; many Virtual Assistants operate their practices exclusively online, with that said, I would highly recommend that you take some time to research the industry and your competitors, research is key. Since the bulk of your projects and customer transactions will be completed online investing in a professional web presence (website) will be crucial. Your website will be a representation of you and the quality of your deliverables. I also recommend that you research basic business practices that you will need to implement in your new business (business licensing, business structure, taxes, etc...). I am unable to tell you what types of licenses you will need for your business, I recommend that you contact your local business licensing office for this information. You may also consider joining a few of the quality Virtual Assistant listservs, online networking groups or message board forums to gain insight from industry colleagues.
From : robert eversole
Location : dandridge , tn.
Question :
My question is how to start a home business and how to get start to my goal
Reply :
Robert, congratulations on wanting to be your own boss, that decision alone is a huge step. To start your home business, you must first have a money making idea that will: 1. meet the long-term needs and demand of buying consumers 2. be affordable to your buyers You must then establish a plan for making this home business a reality (typically a business plan or business action plan). This is a MUST have for any new business, this plan is the blue-print or roadmap which outlines the steps and/or processes you will need to take to make this home business a success. I also recommend that you visit the Small Business Administration website and all it's many resources for starting a business, this is a great starting point for you, head over to www.sba.gov.
From : Francisco Garabitos
Location : Bronx , New York
Question :
Fgart44@hotmail.com: I am a 25 experienced teacher and I would like to start a distance learning course in financial education for soldiers and anyone else. How can you help me?
Reply :
Francisco, thanks for your question. I can tell you that there are currently a number of financial education programs in place throughout the Department of Defense to assist soldiers and the family member with their personal finances. My first recommendation is that you take some time to research current progams that are in place to ensure that your training will not be a duplicate of what's already being offered. If after doing your research, you find that your program is complimentary or offers advanced knowledge that would benefit soldiers and their families, put together an information packet and begin your marketing efforts with base contracting offices in your local and surrounding areas. Keep in mind that your product / service should meet a need that is not currently being met.
From : Naimah
Location : Plainsboro , NJ
Question :
Has the logo for SBA certification been changed?
Reply :
Naimah, thanks for your question, I recommend that you contact the Small Business Administration Answer Desk directly regarding SBA Certification changes. You can reach the answer desk directly: -1-800-U-ASK-SBA (1-800-827-5722) or Send e-mails to: answerdesk@sba.gov
From : Ashley Soblotne
Location : Wilmington , NC
Question :
Dear Ms. Parham, I want to start my own online retail business but I am unsure about who to talk to as far as making sure I am doing everything legally. I don't have the funding to consult with an attorney. Any suggestions?
Reply :
Ashley, thanks for your question. My recommendation is for you to contact your local SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) office or contact them online for email-based counseling at www.score.org to discuss your business idea. SCORE's counselors come from all walks of the business world to include counselors with legal and retail expertise in the business sector. There may be business attorney's in your local community who might offer free first time consultations, you will just need to spend some time contacting business attorney's in your area to begin your research. In the event, you find an attorney who will meet with you for a free consultation, I would highly recommend that you write down all questions / concerns prior to your visit to get the most out of your visit. Finally, you might also consider contacting your local chamber of commerce for referrals to business attorney's in your area.
From : Andrew
Location : Phoenix , AZ
Question :
I have a great idea for a virtual mall and need to get the money to get my site going can you tell me how to do that
Reply :
Andrew, thanks for your question, virtual malls are quite popular today particularly if you have products / services which are in demand and/or meet the needs of your buying market. Having an idea for your new business is a great start, however there are number of factors to consider. First, do you have business plan or action plan? This plan will serve as a blueprint for making this business a reality? Second, when it comes to securing funding to launch your new business venture, I would highly recommend tapping into the following resources: 1. Personal savings (with caution) 2. Family / Friends (only if necessary) 3. Work full or part-time while building your new business venture If you intend to borrow startup money from family/friends, be prepared to disclose in detail how you intend to repay the loan and be sure to follow-up with a written explanation of repayment.
From : U.S. Small Business Administration
Location : Washington , DC
Question :
Reply :
Hello and welcome to all, I am your host Victoria Parham and it is my pleasure to join you today for the SBA Live Web Chat Series.



Published - November 2008













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