Support BiGAUSTIN This Holiday Season

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As 2015 rapidly draws to a close, many of us are looking forward  to the holiday season. It’s a time of meaningful reflection, festive holiday music (Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You will never get old!), and Starbucks holiday drinks. It’s also a time for enjoying good food, being with friends and family, and, if you’re anything like your friends at BiGAUSTIN, frenzied last-minute shopping. Why shop weeks in advance when you can spend Christmas Eve standing in long lines with the other procrastinators?

Whether we’re doing battle with tryptophan-addled shoppers over the last 60-inch televisions or avoiding the madness by shopping online, we do it because family and friends are special, and we want to show them what they mean to us by giving them something that they’ll love. Gift-giving is the hallmark of the holiday season, and we hope that you’ll consider supporting BiGAUSTIN with a gift this year.

BiGAUSTIN has helped over 30,000 Central Texas entrepreneurs in its twenty-year history, and we stand ready to help thousands more as we look ahead to helping aspiring entrepreneurs build their dreams in 2016. We have big things in store for the fifteen counties of Central Texas, and it’s going to be fantastic.

But,  we need your help in making it happen. BiG has established itself as a one-stop shop for would-be entrepreneurs, and  provides robust training programs, business plan development, individualized advising, and capital to our hard-working clients. We would not be able to support these entrepreneurs without the support of our extended BiGAUSTIN family.

Will you consider helping us help underserved entrepreneurs build their dreams? We serve over 4,000 people start or expand their small businesses, many of whom would not be able to realize their dreams without the resources we provide.

BiGAUSTIN is a 501-C(3) non-profit organization, so your donation is tax-deductible. And, if you’d rather donate your time, we would love to have you! If you’d like to do both, well, then you’re a rock star, and you deserve fresh-baked cookies. Or a big hug.

Please click here to donate to BiGAUSTIN. If you’d like to volunteer with us, please give us a call at 512-928-8010.

Again, we sincerely appreciate all of the support we’ve received, and hope that you’ll join us in helping Central Texas entrepreneurs realize their small business dreams.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and prosperous new year.

Sincerely,

 

The BiGAUSTIN staff

 

P.S. Here is a little something for us all to enjoy. Come on, who doesn’t love this song?

The Challenges Of Marketing For A Nonprofit With No Budget

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Everyone knows that nonprofits generally don’t have any money.  The image of people working at folding tables with old computers and paper everywhere comes to mind when I think of what the office of a nonprofit looks like.  This is the environment of a place where people value the work they do more than the money they are putting in their pockets.  Being able to see the impact that they are making on the community is why so many people choose the life of meager pay and long hours at a nonprofit.

One of the day to day struggles is that there is not much money for stuff, which is typically taken for granted in the corporate world.  This goes from providing your own coffee to having no marketing budget.  As the new Marketing Assistant, one of my challenges has been having no budget to work with.  Any of you who are familiar with marketing and social media know that this is a difficult task.  However, I believe that we really have made progress in our marketing strategy and social media despite the lack of budget and no marketing plan in place.

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TWITTER

We went from only having 1,370 Twitter followers to having 1,615 in just six short weeks.  Perhaps to some of you that doesn’t sound like a lot, there are people who go viral and gain thousands and thousands of followers in one day.  Well, let me tell you, that is not us.  We haven’t gone viral nor do I think that we will any time soon.  But, we do try to establish real relationships with people by posting relevant content and engaging with our followers.  Does that mean we get hundreds of favorites or retweets everyday?  Nope. But, those numbers have been increasing as we engage more with our followers and reach out to others. I expect that we will continue to grow and gain the trust of our followers and hopefully some of those followers will then become clients.

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FACEBOOK

Now, you might be thinking, but what about Facebook?  Facebook is a another ballgame all by itself.  This is probably the area that we struggle in most due to not being able to “pay to play.”  It has been significantly more difficult to engage with others and to get others to engage with us.  Not only have we seen less growth, but with Facebook changing their algorithms our posts are being seen by less and less people.  With the current landscape of Facebook it is almost impossible to gain more Likes and engage people in your content, mostly because the majority of the people who currently Like you don’t even see your posts.  Many companies are frustrated with the way Facebook has changed and nonprofits nationwide are left scrambling to come up with more money for their marketing budget.

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WHAT CAN YOU DO?

So, how do we overcome these obstacles?  The obvious answer is to get a budget approved specifically for Facebook and target your ads accordingly to get maximum exposure to the right audiences.  But, what if you can’t get that budget approved and you are left posting into never never land?  Unfortunately, there is not a good answer to this.  There are some things that you can do, one of those is making sure that everyone in your office is sharing your content and promoting your page.  This way more people are seeing the nonprofit’s content and people are more likely to Like something that a friend has already Liked.  One downside to this method is that the majority of people do not want to use their personal Facebook page to constantly promote the nonprofit.  This just means that you need to be more conscious of the things you are sharing and how often you share.

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These are only a few of the challenges of marketing for a nonprofit with no budget, naturally there are many more challenges than this.  The main thing to remember when marketing for a nonprofit is that there are going to be many challenges and you have to look at them simply as opportunities to learn creative ways to solve problems.  This will make you a better marketer and help you keep a positive attitude when things aren’t going your way (like not getting a budget approved or no one liking your awesomely crafted post).  Don’t expect to go viral like the Ice Bucket Challenge or the Budweiser “Puppy Love” ad from the Super Bowl (they got over 1.9 million shares).  DO try to come up with ways to get noticed in your community.  Look at how these particular campaigns were successful and look at how you can take your campaign and introduce some of those techniques.

What are some of your marketing challenges?  Do you work for a large company or a small organization?  Comment and tell me about how you have overcome some of these obstacles!

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Client of the Month: Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More

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We are excited to announce our Client of the Month is Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More!  Dwight Miles opened their doors three years ago on August 9, 2011 and since then has continued to grow and add more services.  Not only do they have a hip and trendy store, they make sure they are having fun while providing outstanding customer service.  They offer 24 hour turnaround on in-stock items, volume discounts, free design and setup, and unlimited colors!  Seriously, how can you beat FREE design and setup?  If you are anything like me, designing a t-shirt does not come easily!

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Owner Dwight Miles found out about BiGAUSTIN from a friend of the family and after over 20 years working in the corporate world he decided to make the jump into entrepreneurship.  Dwight contacted us and came to BiGAUSTIN for technical assistance classes where we worked one-on-one with him to create a business plan that incorporated his experience in retail and large corporations like General Mills and Kraft.  Coming from these wildly successful corporations, Dwight knew he had the experience and knowledge to create a plan that would be prosperous.  It was the HOW that he wasn’t quite sure about.  That’s where BiGAUSTIN came in.

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After creating a business plan with our talented experts, Dwight applied and was given a loan to open the doors to a new future.  He said it was difficult at first because you are so used to spending other people’s money in the corporate world and now you are spending your own.  This has been a challenge for him but, he said they have fun and are continuing to grow and learn as they go.

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Dwight says, “I cam across BiGAUSTIN at the right time.  Being a small business owner is challenging to say the least.  One of the greatest challenges you will face is gearing up for growth.  BiGAUSTIN has incredible resources that have helped me to take my growth curve to a whole new level.”

He sure has reached a whole new level!  Sales are up, customers are pouring in, and the orders are coming in faster than they can blink their eyes!  Being busy at work can sometimes be a stressful time but, Dwight seems content with their progress and expects them to only become more busy.  Maybe he’ll open up a second location…?  You just never know with these entrepreneurs, they get an idea and off they go to take on a new adventure.  Wherever the future may lead them, there will be tons of fun and awesome t-shirts involved!

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Here at BiGAUSTIN we are excited to see Dwight succeed and hope that he’ll give us a good discount on some one of a kind t-shirts (haha, just kidding!)  But seriously, we are so delighted with their success.  When our clients are successful, so are we!  So, if you ever need a t-shirt made for your volleyball league, your kids soccer team, or for that 5K you’ve been training for, give Dwight a call over at Big Frog and he’ll hook you up with some great deals and styles.

Congratulations Dwight and Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More!

Check Them Out on Yelp!

Big Frog Website

Shop!

Social Media for Nonprofits

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Nonprofits notoriously don’t have any money to put towards their social media marketing strategies.  Recently I attended a Social Media for Nonprofits conference specifically talking about how to maximize your social media without breaking the bank.  Everyone knows that to survive on Facebook you have to pay to play, now it’s increasingly more difficult to get your posts seen and business noticed.  Facebook does let you do some pretty cool stuff though, for free even!  For example, you can import all your contacts into their Invite Email Contacts page and they will invite your contacts to Like your business page.  This is a really easy way to get existing people who support your cause to Like your page.  If you already have a relationship with them, they are more likely to Like your page however, if you never ask they won’t do it.  

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One thing that has been difficult for me is ASKING.  There is tons of research out there that show the power of asking, if you never ask someone to do something how will they know to do it?  It can be hard at times to ask, you don’t want to come off too strong pushing someone to do what you want.  We have all been in that position where you have a pushy salesperson who just won’t let you shop in peace!  Don’t be that person!!  

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It’s easy to step over that line between someone who is posting about their products and services all the time and someone who genuinely takes the time to come up with interesting, educational information.  We can only read so much about your sale for last minute Mary Kay items or what dodgy venue you’re band is playing at on Friday night.  After about the third post in three hours you will soon be unsubscribed to or simply unfriended.  Being unfriended is like the END of your Facebook reputation and all is lost after that.  But, what if there was a way to promote your products or services without being overly annoying and bombarding people?

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Fortunately, there is!  Have you heard of the 80/20 rule?  80% of posts should be educational, informative, and engaging content that people can actually relate to.  20% of posts should be related to your products, services, and how you can solve a problem for them.  This way you can tell people about what you’re doing while keeping them reading and engaged on your page.  This is obviously not meant to be an exact science calculated down to the percentage of posts you should make one way or the other but, it is meant to be a rough guide to keep yourself in check and your readers still reading.  

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Just by making sure you are writing relevant content and posting about stuff your readers would be interested can go a long way.  Maybe you only have $20 a month to spend on Facebook Ads, that’s totally fine.  Keep your budget in mind and utilize some of the free advertising methods that Facebook offers (if you aren’t using hashtags it’s time to start.)  Also, remember that everyone struggles to come up with interesting, unique content.  You are not alone on that one!

What challenges does your nonprofit face in regards to social media?

You Have Failed Only If You Stop Trying

Starting a business is never an easy task and it definitely doesn’t come without sacrifices.  But, how can you start a small business AND minimize those sacrifices?  No one wants to risk their entire life savings or withdraw from their 401(K) early.  

In this video Robert talks about his Rich Dad and Poor Dad and how they both have completely different ways of thinking about money.  His Rich Dad believes that you should build a business and work for yourself.  He asks, “Why work hard all your life for something that you’ll never own and that you could get fired from in an instant?”  On the other hand, his Poor Dad believes that you should work hard for one company and establish job security through good work ethics and loyalty.  

Robert also talks about a “change in values” as people make the leap from employee to business owner or investor.  I think that this is a very important point as it really speaks to how it is difficult to go from being an employee to owning a business.  The point is simple and clear, why should you work hard all your life just to earn money in a company where you could possibly lose your job at any minute.  If you are going to put all the blood, sweat, and tears into your work, why not own it?  

The point here is this: there’s never a wrong time to make this transition from employee to business owner.  But, there are steps that you can take to make this transition easier.  First, look in your area and see if there are any resources to help you get started.  This could be a local nonprofit who helps people get off the ground (like BiGAUSTIN) or it could be an all day seminar related to writing a business plan.  Second, figure out what your goals are as a business owner and a time frame with which you hope to meet these goals.  Make sure that they are attainable and realistic in regards to the type of business you will be starting.  Third, network.  Get out there, talk to people, get your name heard.  

Never let the success or failure of others impact your goals and where you want to be.  You are your own person and your path is different from everyone else.  Just remember, you have failed only if you stop trying.  

Empower Children With School Supplies

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1. Go to a big box store near you

2. Pick up a school supply list

3. Buy something

4. Drop off your gift

After reading this short but, inspiring article by Anita Janke I’m about ready to jump in the car, run over to Target, and buy some school supplies to donate.  Anita Janke talks briefly about her struggles with poverty as a young child and how it affected her and her family’s lives, even to the point where she tried in vain to cover up a hole in her shirt because her family couldn’t afford to buy her a new one.  She also talks about how embarrassing and difficult it was to try to find a, “…safe person to bum a sheet of paper from or try to erase a mistake without an eraser.”  These may not seem like a big deal in the long run but, from a perspective of a student this is very real and very difficult.  It’s not just that these children are arriving to school unprepared because they forgot their notebook or required reading materials at home.  On the contrary, they knew all along they needed it and have been dreading the first day of school when they would have to ask all their schoolmates next to them to borrow the things their families couldn’t provide.  Not only did this affect Anita Janke’s self confidence but, she started to associate education with being wealthy.  This poses a huge problem for American (and many other countries) society.  We simply cannot afford for our youth to be forced into the belief that education is a privilege and not a right.  Anita Janke proposes this: “…for children living in poverty we have to help do more than get them through school.  We need to help them activate and achieve their dreams.  For the under resourced, it starts with putting school supplies into their hands.”  I could not agree with Anita Janke more.

Here in Texas parents get a long laundry list of school supplies they must buy for their children.  They require parents to over-buy school supplies so that there is a surplus  for the kids whose families couldn’t afford them.  I hear many complaints from parents talking about the burden of buying school supplies and how they are about to spend hundreds of dollars on them.  One of their main complaints is that the majority of those supplies aren’t even for their own children.  On the one hand, I understand where they are coming from.  A lot of families are scraping by just enough to buy their own children supplies let alone supplies for five other kids.  This is where Anita Janke’s suggestion comes into play.  If the community members took this matter into their own hands and each person decided to donate one thing, we could probably have enough supplies for every single child.  Think about it, how would you feel arriving at school for the first day with no notebook, no pencil, and no calculator?

What do you think of Anita Janke’s suggestion?  Would you do it?

Read the full article here: Breaking the Poverty Trap

 

Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop: Client Feature of July

Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop gets awesome reviews and no one can deny that a good cupcake can make any day better.  On Yelp and Google these talented cupcake aficionados get 4.5 stars out of 5 with over 800 reviews, now that’s a pretty good success rate if you ask me.  Their store is located in the trendy South 1st area of Austin, TX where hip restaurants and food trucks have been sprouting up over the years.  Not only do they bake delicious cupcakes but, they do cakes AND weddings!

As you walk into this hip, trendy little bakeshop be prepared to be filled with the smells of caramel, sugar, and chocolate.  The black and white tiled floor mixed with the colorful walls makes the small bakeshop feel open and airy. This place has the feel of Grandma’s kitchen, warm, loving, and always ready to serve up something sweet.  They have such a wide variety of cupcakes to choose from it’s hard to choose just one!  Of course, keeping with the health foodie theme of Austin, Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop uses only the highest quality ingredients including no preservatives, locally sourced cage-free eggs, no mixes, and definitely, no shortcuts. Olivia and Steve O’Neal take their cupcakes very seriously (but not too seriously) and are committed to providing some of the freshest and most delicious tasting deserts in the area.

Everyday they have new specials that even include a couple vegan options.  Their everyday flavors range from the Southern Belle to the Blackberry Lemonade.  The Blackberry Lemonade is a, “Buttery vanilla cupcake swirled with blackberries, filled with tart lemon curd and topped with creamy blackberry swirled cream cheese frosting (Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop Website).”  In addition to cakes and cupcakes they also offer a variety of pies, breakfast pastries, cookies, and bars.  Even though they are known for their cupcakes, these delicious extras can’t be missed!  Don’t forget to try a mouthwatering Triple Berry Pie or a Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Bar as a side to your Marilyn Monroe cupcake!

BiGAUSTIN is proud to have been a part of the growth of Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop and is extremely confident that they will only continue to succeed!  We want to thank Sugar Mama’s for choosing BiGAUSTIN to help them expand their business and hope that when we come in next time we can get a discount (no, just kidding!)

 

Getting To Know BiGAUSTIN

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Many people don’t know what BiGAUSTIN is all about.  In fact, many people don’t even know we exist.  I want to take you beyond the website and beyond Facebook to see who we really are.  As a nonprofit we are always short on staff, short on coffee, and short on time.  But, this doesn’t deter the some 15 people who wake up every morning and make that commute to BiGAUSTIN.

WHAT WE DO

We work to help low-moderate income entrepreneurs receive education and training on how to start and sustain a new or existing business.  Also, we offer lending assistance so if you need help learning how to get a loan or help with the actual application process, we are there for you.  Not only will you receive end-to-end business solutions but, we can help you write your business plan and learn all the ins and outs of getting started.

THE PEOPLE (WELL, SOME OF THEM)

BiGAUSTIN has a very diverse staff.  If we aren’t clowning around the office we are out in the community working to let people know that you CAN turn your dream of owning your own business into a reality.

Not only is our Executive Director, Stacy Dukes-Rhone, highly experienced but, she has served in a number of volunteer and leadership capacities.  In addition, she has been our Executive Director for over four years and has secured numerous grants to keep this place running and serving the community.

Karen Diggs is our Loan Manager and when she’s not changing outfits she’s working with community members to help them through the loan process and understand how their credit works.  Karen’s office is decked out in everything frog that you can imagine and isn’t afraid to show her love for those crazy, green creatures.

Stephanie just joined us four short weeks ago and can be heard throughout the office laughing and thinking out loud.  Not only is she a social media guru, she has great insight and really knows her stuff.

Melissa is our Training & Compliance Manager but she’s also our full time IT Specialist helping us with everything from hooking up monitors to re-coding the website.

Something unique about BiGAUSTIN is that we employ several AmeriCorps VISTA members (Volunteers in Service to America).  VISTA’s only get paid what the federal government estimates to be the poverty level for that particular area, making a year long assignment on food stamps and bus passes quite challenging.  But, as you may have guessed, it’s a pretty rewarding experience knowing that you are part of something that is working to make a difference in the community.

What is your work culture like?  Comment below and let us know what a normal day is like at your office or wherever you work!