The Continued Struggle

John wanted to create an e-commerce website to sell his t-shirts that promote discussions on the contributions people of color have made to our country.   We built a website using WordPress and WooCommerce to create a simple online store along with a Black History educational component.

The Continued Struggle WebsiteIn the future, John has plans for more interactive elements like allowing users to submit their own designs for t-shirts. Check out The Continued Struggle.

 

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Tamarack Hollow Farm

Tamarack Hollow Farm wanted a new website that is easy to update and provides a gallery for their customers.  We built a website using WordPress and set it up for the possibility of having an e-commerce store in the future.  For now, users can learn where to find them at the market or look up photographs to remember the name of one of their unique vegetables.

Tamarack Hollow Farm - An informational Website for a Vegetable Farm

Visit Tamarack Hollow Farm or view more websites in my portfolio.

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Vermont Employment Taxes Explained

In my Small Business Management class, we were reviewing organization & staffing in a small business and we found a great deal of information on the theory of organizational management.  More difficult was finding a practical, how-to guide for hiring an employee, be it in Vermont or anywhere else in the U.S. Many of  my clients also find this to be a difficult system to comprehend as it requires coordinating with three different branches of government: the IRS, the Vermont Department of Taxes, and the Vermont Department of Labor (and ensuring that you have workers compensation). While many business owners hire a payroll service, for those that want to do it themselves or in QuickBooks, there are some steps to ensure proper setup.  The Small Business Administration has a website that comes close to explaining the legal side of the hiring process, albeit with outdated links.

The organizations that you need to coordinate with include:

  1. Federal Withholding (with the IRS). This is the income taxes & medicare/social security that employers have to withhold from paychecks.  Most business owners prefer to file electronically, so they set up an account through EFTPS (QuickBooks allows you to connect through this system so it is very easy to pay Federal withholdings).
  2. State Withholding (with the Vermont Department of Taxes).  This is the state income taxes the business withholds for their employee.  Businesses can manually pay this through myVTax (an online systems similar to EFTPS). If you are using QuickBooks Online for payroll, you can set it up so you do not need to log into myVTax.
  3. State Unemployment Insurance Taxes (with the Vermont Department of Labor). Unemployment taxes are due on the first $16,800 paid to each employee during the calendar year. If you are a new employer, sign up here.
  4. An insurance agency to ensure you are properly set up with workers compensation insurance.

Beyond this initial communication with government agencies, business owners and nonprofits who are budgeting for a new employee have a difficult time understanding what additional costs they will incur.  This is where it can get messy.

Continue reading

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Third Branch

Third Branch Flower farm needed an updated website that they could modify themselves. They also wanted an outlet to sell their peony roots and provide information for wholesale buyers.  We built a WordPress website using WooCommerce for the peony roots store. Little of this really matters as you become mesmerized by their beautiful pictures…

thirdbranch

Visit thirdbranch.com or view more websites in my portfolio.

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“Introduction to Accounting Software” Seminar

I am instructing a seminar on the different types of accounting software for small business owners on October 29th, 2015 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. at the Champlain Office of Economic Opportunity in Burlington, Vermont.

I will provide an overview of software programs like QuickBooks, Xero, and WaveApps and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.  We’ll go over which software is best for certain kinds of businesses and the learning curve required for each type of software.

To register, please call Simeon Geigel at 802-860-1417 ext 116.

Below is the flyer for the event:

October 2015 Bookkeeping Seminar

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Walden Maple Company – New Website

Walden Maple Company wanted a clean, simple e-commerce website.  They produce and sell maple syrup through their farm in Walden, Vermont.

All I had to do was set up the template, show Michael how to get started he was able to add most of the content to his website.

screenshot walden mapleVisit waldenmaple.com or view more websites in my portfolio.

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See Hidden Amsterdam – New Website

The need: Mary wanted a simple website where she could write stories from Amsterdam that put historical perspectives on the modern-day experience.

The result: Hidden Amsterdam explores the paradox between Amsterdam’s beautiful architecture and cultural gems and the Dutch Holocaust.  The site works well as a guidebook to the city of Amsterdam, as a historical reference, and as a launching pad for Mary’s upcoming book, An Address in Amsterdam.  I developed a simple theme based off of Twenty Twelve, one of the default WordPress themes, but spent most of my time training Mary in using the website.

screenshot hidden amsterdam

Visit seehiddenamsterdam.com or view a portfolio of my website projects.

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QuickBooks Bank Feeds: Be Careful

One of the selling points for the newer versions of QuickBooks and QuickBooks online is the ability to connect directly with your bank account and download transaction data.  It saves business owners the amount of time it would take them to enter a date and an amount for each transaction.  However, this feature can cause some issues depending on how you use the function.  To import data into QuickBooks Desktop (the online version has a slightly different process), you’ll first have to check that your bank participates with Intuit.

1) Go to Banking>Bank Feeds> Set up Bank Feeds and enter the name of your bank.  Not all banks will allow for direct connect with QuickBooks, so many will require that you manually download a bank statement that is in the .QBO format.  Some banks will allow you to login directly through QuickBooks’ browser.

2) Once you import your .QBO file or set up the bank feed, you can automatically download transactions into your QuickBooks file.  Note that these transactions are NOT in your General Ledger until you add them into QuickBooks.

3) For banks that do allow for a direct connect, but do offer .QBO files, you can manually log into your bank account from your browser to retrieve the file.  If QuickBooks is open, all you have to do is double click on the file.  Many clients find this to be a quicker way to import their accounting data as the QuickBooks browser can be slow and clunky.

If you happen to have one of those banks that do not support the importing of data into QuickBooks, then there are a few .CSV to .QBO converters that could help you.  Software from Propersoft seems to be the most popular and affordable.  I have used it before and it works, but it does force you to connect with a fake account number.

Once set up, the bank feeds will help you double check your transactions and automate the coding process.  When done properly, it can help you balance your checking account or credit card as you go.

Some Issues with Bank Feeds

One major issue with bank feeds is that for the desktop version is that some users are incorrectly entering deposits using the imported data.  If you import a deposit of say, $7,500, and add it into QuickBooks, you may be ignoring the fact that you may have already received funds of that same amount.  The $7,500 deposit you added is not connected to the $7,500 you have sitting in undeposited funds.  Your imported deposits will not match anything in QuickBooks unless you already have deposited funds.  This is why you cannot use downloaded transaction as a way to enter deposits, rather you can only use it to match existing deposits.  In the online version, there is a function to match the downloaded transaction with existing payments.

Others issues arise because bank feeds create rules for certain transactions.  Say you set up a rule that whenever your bank statement sees “USPS” you set it to log to “Shipping & Freight,” an existing account in your chart of accounts.  Whenever you download transactions for USPS, it will automatically log to “Shipping & Freight” regardless of the purpose of the transaction.  It is up to you to ensure that the proper account is selected.

Similarly, some transactions provide imprecise data, such as in cases where the memo is “POS Purchase,” but provides no details on the vendor.  This is why receipts are always important!

For more details on QuickBooks Bank Feeds for QuickBooks online, read this article.

For more information on updates to Bank Feeds in QuickBooks Desktop, check out this article.

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McCullough Stone Works – New Website

The need: Darren needed an online presence to present his work and explain his process.  Visit McCullough Stone Works and see the final result (and some beautiful custom stone work!).

website mcculloughTo see a portfolio of my other web projects, click here.

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As Cities Discuss “Smart Growth,” Should Your Business Do the Same?

As my local city, Burlington, Vermont gets some great publicity on their Smart Growth plans1,  I wonder if local businesses are considering the same.  Growth is not always good for a business and I previously argued that some businesses should consider no growth.  Quick growth can be bad for your business, so it’s important to consider why you are growing.

To What End?

To what end do you wish to grow your business?  One of the beauties of being an entrepreneur is that you get to decide.  While many businesses in the news may have goals of infinite (or at least as large as possible) growth, you can choose the scale of your business.  Do you see yourself broadening your HR plan and managing managers?  Do you have goals of influencing every household in America?  If so, great!  Look into ways to manage smart growth as many businesses struggle to handle growing pains and sporadic growth.2

Most importantly, create scenarios for your projections.  You may find the most profitable scale of your business is smaller than you expected.  This scale may also allow you to work smarter rather than harder.

Social & Environmental Costs

When figuring out if growth will help you and your business, you may want to factor in social costs.  Recently some publicly-traded companies have factored in these costs, mostly in the context of their impact on the environment.  While this was initially discussed in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), some businesses have begun to shift towards more pointed topics like social costs and “Natural Capital,” or the value of the ecosystem services.3 

Puma recently published an Environmental Profit and Loss Account4 which factored in their environmental impact and this appears to be a new trend.  Tracking the social costs or impacts of doing business allows the companies to track their progress as they grow.  Does it make sense for Puma to produce more shoes?  At some factor of growth, their environmental costs (which as of 2010 were about 6.7% of the price of their shoes) could outgrow the benefits of their increased sales.

You can use this same philosophy in your smart growth planning for your business.  How much is your free time worth?  How many hours did you spend doing work that you found stressful?  Will growing your business to that next level meet more of your personal goals?

This thought process can also be connected with your local community’s smart growth plans.  Are your goals in line with your city’s smart growth plans?  Smart growth projections may provide you with population projections and any limitations on housing development which will help you as you manage your business in no-growth situations.  Your local city’s plans may also help you determine whether the benefit of the economic growth of your business outweighs the social/external costs of production.  Are your business activities helping your city maintain their goals?  Government and businesses need to work together to meet common goals.

For What Purpose?

On an international level, Paul Craig Roberts recently argued that companies are blocking government from meeting scientific goals.5  Roberts pointed out, quite gloomily, that as long as social costs are ignored in our version of capitalism, we will continue to destroy the environment- and in this case, our oceans.  He argues that our social costs have outweighed the benefits of short-term gains from production and that we are doing nothing because of private lobbying interests.  Roberts’ theory is not all that groundbreaking, but it may be motivation for you to reflect on the greater benefit of your business.  While many fast-growing tech companies get the attention from media outlets, remember that not all business is about growth.  Depending on your goals, a no growth business can be just as exciting and rewarding.

1) http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/2013/11/05/spotlight-on-sustainability-burlington-vt-gets-creative-with-its-comprehensive-plan/

2) iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/growth-to-greatness-smart-growth-for-entrepreneurial-businesses/

3) http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/natural-capital-next-generation-csr

4) http://about.puma.com/damfiles/default/sustainability/environment/e-p-l/EPL080212final-3cdfc1bdca0821c6ec1cf4b89935bb5f.pdf

5) http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2015/03/30/oceans-dying-paul-craig-roberts/

 

 

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