How to Choose the Best Location for Your Business


“Location, location, location” is the classic rule for real estate business success. It might sound easy enough, but choosing the right location for your business is one of the most challenging decisions for entrepreneurs to make. The most obvious is to open your business where your customers live. That said, here are several factors beyond the obvious to consider:

  1. Demographics are in the details.

Know how your product will fit in with the needs and demographics of the area’s population. For example, if your boutique sells high-end designer shoes, you should locate your business in an affluent area. Consider daily population fluctuations, as well. If you are a restaurant that needs a strong lunch crowd, your business should be located in an area with many employers, rather than in the middle of a bedroom community.

Another factor is distance. Many shopping centers (especially those with a supermarket anchor) pull customers from a one- to three-mile radius. However, shopping centers with a big-box anchor or destination store (Costco, Target, etc.) typically pull customers from much farther.

  1. Know your neighbors.

If you’re looking at a shopping center, be sure to find a tenant mix that attracts customers similar to yours and complements your business, with the most emphasis being on the anchor since that’s the business that will pull in the majority of the center’s customer base.

In addition, seek co-tenants with similar operating hours as your business. You don’t want to be in a shopping center where most of the tenants close at 6 p.m. while your business is open until 10 p.m., because there will be significantly less traffic in the evening.

  1. Determining the right size.

Precise planning is key to figuring out how much square footage you need to support your business’s products, fixtures and levels of inventory. If the space is too large for your requirements, you will be paying unnecessary rent and utilities; if it’s too small, you might not have enough room to fixture your store and stock your shelves with the right product mix your customers want. If possible, work with an architect and space planner to help you optimize your layout and determine exactly how much space you need for your business.

  1. Think inside the rectangle.

Much like space, the shape of the store is also important. Some businesses, for example and accounting office, can be more flexible with shape than others that might have specific layout requirements. Generally, however, the industry’s average-shaped space is rectangular — 80 to 100 feet long, and anywhere from 15 to 75 feet wide—which typically enables owners to use the space well and facilitate good traffic flow.

Another often-overlooked factor is column spacing. This can make or break the layout because the columns will dictate where fixtures can and cannot be placed, sometimes creating a dead space. Walk through the site, noting its shape and column spacing. Obtain an architect’s layout to help you plan whether and how your layout requirements would work in the location.

  1. Impulse of Destination?

Many small business owners think they need to find a location with large signage capability and high street visibility. However, visibility typically comes with a higher rent. To decide what’s right for you, we recommend identifying whether your business offers impulse buys or functions as a destination store.

An impulse business is one in which customers see the shop and decide to go in on a whim, such as a coffee shop or fast food restaurant. As a result, impulse tenants should have high visibility from the street, and be located in high-traffic areas so customers can easily swing into the parking lot and get what they want.

Destination tenants, on the other hand, are doctors’ offices, professional services offices and hair salons, with customers who have appointments to go to them. These businesses can be located farther back in the shopping center.

  1. Parking ease.

Your location should have the right amount of parking to support your customer flow. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the businesses next to you that will utilize the same parking. A pack-and-ship store will not do well next to a health club because the parking field will be full during certain hours and have little turnover. It’s important to locate next to complementary uses and parking demands.

  1. Corral the competition.

Knowing the level of demand for your trade or products in the area will determine how close you want to be to your competition. Map out your competitors’ locations in the area and consider if your business will benefit from having your competitors closer or farther away. Many owners consider competition as a boon for business, causing you to continuously improve your offerings to sharpen your competitive edge. On the other hand, some owners would rather fill an unmet need in a community by locating their business far away from their competitors.

  1. Calculate closely.

It’s important to have a business plan, take the time to go through it, and identify and calculate all the cost factors of your business, including rent, utilities, taxes, maintenance, and salaries, among a few. If possible, seek the advice of a professional accountant, who can help with your business financials, or a professional real estate broker, who can help you find the right location for your business.

For more information or help finding the best location for your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


Create Your Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan

Developing a marketing plan is one of the best ways to stay on message and on budget to reach your potential customers. Follow these guidelines to create a plan that works for you.

Target market

Start by creating a detailed description of each type of buyer who uses your product or service; consider market size, demographics, unique traits and trends that relate to demand for your business.

Competitive advantage

Define what gives your product or service an advantage over your competition. Is it quality, price, or perhaps an excellent customer experience? Sometimes, an environmentally friendly certification or “made in the USA” on your label can be an important factor for customers.

Sales plan

Identify which sales methods work best for your business—retail, wholesale or your own online store. Detail each step your customer takes once they decide to buy.

Set marketing and sales goals

Set specific marketing and sales goals each year. Goals can include increasing email subscribers, growing market share, or increasing sales by a certain percent.

Create a marketing action plan

Make a list of marketing channels, such as online advertising, radio ads or billboards. Consider the pricing strategy for each and how you’ll use promotions. Also include how customer support will follow up after the sale.


Include a complete breakdown of the costs of your marketing plan. Try to be as accurate as possible. You’ll want to keep tracking your costs once you put your plan into action.

Measure and update your plan

Plan your process for comparing your marketing and sales costs to the revenue it generates to be sure you’re getting a positive return on investment, or ROI.

Some tactics are hard to measure — like print advertising or word-of-mouth campaigns, while others, such as social media, are trackable through analytics. Once you establish how you measure, it’s important to stay consistent to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Marketing plans should be maintained on an annual basis, at minimum. Measuring ROI will help you know which part of the plan is working and which part needs to be updated.

For more information or help with creating your marketing plan, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


Should You Buy or Lease Your Business’s Assets and Equipment?

Your business will need special assets and equipment to operate—knowing to buy and when to lease the assets you’ll need will impact how well your business will succeed. Here are guidelines to help you determine which assets you need, how to pay for them and whether you should buy or lease.

Know the assets and equipment you need

There are three basic categories of business assets: tangible, intangible and intellectual property. The first step is figuring out which assets will help your business succeed.

  • Tangible assets — like property or equipment — are used for regular business activity and lose value over time.
  • Intangible assets are the things you can’t touch, but still contribute to the overall value of your business — things like your business reputation, brand or influential network.
  • Intellectual property is a type of intangible asset that includes trademarks, patents, logos, websites, domain names and software. Intellectual property is often protected by copyright or trademark protection.

Decide to lease or buy

Once you have identified the assets your business needs, you can decide how best to acquire them.


Leasing can be a good option if you need a lot of equipment upfront and or if the equipment you need is very expensive. Every lease can be structured differently, so carefully review the details of your offer to make sure you’re getting something that works for you.

  • Benefits of Leasing:
    • Needs less cash or credit upfront
    • Short-term leases let you test out the equipment
    • Maintenance is sometimes included at no extra cost
    • Lease payments for business assets are typically tax deductible
  • Disadvantages of Leasing:
    • The lifetime cost is normally higher than buying
    • Replacing it when the lease is up could be expensive
    • Depreciation of leased assets typically isn’t tax deductible
  • Leasing Tips:
    • Confirm the details of a lease. There are two general kinds of leases: operating leases and capital leases. Since the accounting treatment is different, the kind of lease you use can have a significant impact on your business taxes.
      • Operating leases work like a traditional rental. Since you don’t own the asset, payments are treated as operational expenses.
      • Capital leases work more like a loan. Since you own the asset, it gets added to your balance sheet, and you can claim depreciation and interest expenses.
    • Leases sometimes have buyout options that let you fully purchase the asset at the end of the lease.
    • The length of a lease can vary. Typically, shorter leases have higher monthly payments. If you want to leave a lease early, you could face steep early-termination penalties.
    • Best practice: have an attorney review a lease with you before signing.


Buying equipment can be a good option if you have enough cash or credit available and you’re confident you’ll be using the assets for a long time.

  • Benefits of Buying:
    • You can claim depreciation on your taxes
    • The lifetime cost to buy is usually less than leasing
    • You can count it as an asset on your balance sheet
  • Disadvantages of Buying:
    • Needs more cash or credit upfront
    • Less opportunity to “test out” the asset
    • You could be fully liable for maintenance and replacement
  • Buy with cash or credit?
    • Buying with cash means you’ll own it in full right away, but it also means you’ll have less cash available to cover operating expenses.
    • Loans distribute the total cost over a longer period and can help preserve your cash reserves. However, you’ll pay more in fees and interest than buying outright with cash.
  • Consider buying government surplus
    • Purchasing surplus goods from the government can be easy and affordable. Just about any tangible asset your business might need is sold by the government at or below what you’d pay on the open market. State governments tend to have a single auction site online, while the federal government has several. Use this list of federal government auction sites to start your search.

For more information or help with acquiring assets needed for your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


Building Your Business Using Social Media

Building your business using social mediaSocial media has become a very important tool in today’s business environment. Once regarded as places where disgruntled customers blew off steam, social media is now the go-to source for product, service and business recommendations. Social media is a significant peer influencer. One source says 71 percent of consumers are likely to purchase an item based on social media referrals. Using social media to engage customers or to find and convert prospects takes time and effort. But it is increasingly important that small businesses find ways to connect, engage and drive actions. Here are some tips on how to make it work for your business.


Find a name, or ‘handle’ that is available on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any other social media outlet you may choose to employ. Consistency is important, so a business owner may have to be a bit creative, especially if the business name has common elements, like Jones Bar and Grill.

Then, prompt people with visual clues throughout your marketing channels, especially your website. Add “Follow” buttons on your static website banners. Add social share buttons alongside content that you want to promote such as blogs or events. Embed an RSS feed on your site.

Finally, don’t forget to include your social media handles on emails, business cards, store signage and other channels.


What you should post about on your website and social media will vary greatly from business to business, and it takes time to gauge. It depends in part on what customers respond to: a sale, an anniversary, a special event.

As a general rule, people follow brands on social media:

  • To obtain promotions and discounts
  • For the latest product information
  • Customer service (feedback, complaints, queries)
  • Entertaining content
  • The ability to offer feedback

A predictable schedule will make it easier for the business owner and easier for customers to follow. For example, perhaps Mondays are the day for an exclusive promotion for social media followers, Tuesdays are the day you go behind the scenes, Wednesdays are the day you offer helpful tips, and so on. Even if a business only chooses to post one or two days a week, be consistent.


Look for ways to integrate images and other rich media content into your social media posts. Using media like YouTube videos, photos and infographics can increase engagement dramatically. Encourage your customers to post pictures as well.


Customer service is a very important aspect of social media. Monitor and respond to questions and complaints posted on social media. Share feedback with the person(s) responsible for that aspect of the business.

Do not ignore this vital function of social media. One major customer satisfaction survey firm says businesses which respond to complaints posted on social media earn a significant reputational bump, and those that solve the problems listed earn even higher ratings. Businesses that are not prepared to listen to what is being said to them or about them simply aren’t being social.


It takes time to figure out what works. For example, a business might consider using polls and surveys to engage with followers. But if their network is still small, they might not get useful results – yet. Keep trying new things.


Measure the impact of your social media efforts. Use third party apps or Facebook’s Insights tool to monitor click-through rates. Compare those across posts to identify trends about the type of content that is popular with your customers. Use this data to inform and adjust your content strategy.

For more information on using social media and growing your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


Small Business Development Centers Provide Expert Guidance for New Businesses

You’ve made the decision to start your own business. After all, you’re good at what you do, you enjoy doing it, and you’re tired of doing it for someone else. But where do you start? Your local Small Business Development Center, or SBDC. SBDCs have been around for 35 years. With nearly 1,000 locations across the country, each provides small businesses and entrepreneurs with access to the essential resources to start and grow their new enterprises. They offer a variety of services, from in-person consulting and training to a mobile app webinar Small Business Development Centers provide expert guidance for new businessesseries that can help budding entrepreneurs plan their escape from the nine-to-five.


For small businesses that seek out the services of their local SBDC, the payoff can be significant. Here are a couple of statistics:

SBDC clients generate $100,000 in sales every four minutes and create a new job every seven minutes.

Over 58 percent of pre-venture SBDC clients start new businesses. That is a new business launched every 33 minutes!

Some of the valuable services your SBDC can provide include:

Small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can go to their local SBDCs for free face-to-face business consulting. SBDCs also offer at-cost training on topics including:

  • Writing business plans
  • Accessing capital
  • Managing your taxes
  • Marketing
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Federal contracting
  • Technology development
  • International trade


If you’re looking to start your own business but are tied down by a current job, SBDCs offer a business-on-demand mobile app webinar series. Developed by Pennsylvania SBDC, the First Step: Starting a Business webinar series walks aspiring entrepreneurs through the process of starting a new business venture.

Each webinar lasts about 15 minutes and covers topics such as how to legally structure your business, writing a business plan, funding options and selling advice. Other SBDCs around the country are also offering similar type mobile-app-ready entrepreneur training, many of which can be viewed on any mobile device.


To help small businesses get the best return on their investment, Delaware SBDC has established Web-IT-Match-Coach program called Digital Compass. The program provides comprehensive guidance to small business clients on their next web or IT project. Advisors work with the business to identify and diagnose the business problems, and then help identify and interview solution providers to get the best match. They also coach both the business and the Web/IT provider during the course of the project to achieve the best solution to grow the business.

SBDCs can help optimize your web marketing by providing one-off training sessions and more in-depth programs that help small businesses harness the potential of technology to boost sales.

For example, the Georgia SBDC runs a Digital Marketing Boot Camp designed for small business owners who


want to learn how to integrate technology and marketing with tactics like search engine optimization, social media, mobile marketing, paid online advertising and content marketing.

Some SBDCs also provide access to business software and other resources. The SBDC in Loudoun, Virginia features an Entrepreneurial Resource Center that offers computer and printer access so that clients can conduct market research, create business plans, manage their finances and more. Business guides, videos, books and publications are also freely available and counselors are available to assist.

Here is a link to a complete list of SBDCs by state or U.S. territory,

If you’d like to know more about what your local Small Business Development Center can do for you, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.




Managing Irregular Cash Flow

One of the most difficult facets of being a small business is dealing with income that is highly variable. It is also one of the most stressful aspects of being an entrepreneur. The lack of regular paychecks makes it nearly impossible to predict cash flow and establish a budget. Even a surplus from a fruitful month can be quickly used up keeping the business afloat if the next month or months bring a dry spell. While entrepreneurs and small businesses will likely always have to deal with fluctuating income, there are things a business owner can do to better cope with the highs and lows.

Managing Irregular Cash Flow


Maintaining separate checking and savings accounts for personal expenses and not co-mingling them with business finances is essential. It makes record-keeping, tax preparation and budgeting easier.

Businesses with an online accounting system should sync their business bank account with it and automatically import and track expense transactions. Doing that will provide a snapshot of the business’s cash flow and will make it easier to provide the business’s tax preparer or CPA with the reports they need.


Business owners or entrepreneurs should establish a salary for themselves and draw funds from their business account on a regular basis. Whether once a week, every two weeks or once a month, you should transfer funds into your personal checking account to pay your personal bills.

The amount of those draws depends on the household budget, but experts advise calculating the absolute minimum amount needed to meet personal expenses and other non-business obligations like health insurance. That amount should be the baseline salary.

While there may be times when owners need to draw more out of their business bank account to pay for vacations and other expenditures, maintaining a consistent schedule and salary amount will help avoid the temptation to be frivolous when times are more prosperous.


Whether you land a big account or have a banner month, set aside the unexpected windfall in your business savings account, NOT your personal checking account, to provide a source of funds to make up the shortfalls that come during lean months.

By using this arrangement, you will pay your bills from your personal checking account, deposit payments from clients into your business account and use a separate savings account to deposit whatever’s left over after you’ve paid yourself a salary.


While predicting cash flow is never easy, historical analysis should give you some idea of what your average income is over 12-24 months, as well as provide a better sense of the income needed to maintain forward momentum. If your baseline income tracks lower than your personal budget, consider cutting expenses or finding new business.

Understanding your income target and drawing a salary accordingly can make your finances easier to manage. It is a simple model, but it works.

For more information on growing your business and managing your cash flow, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


Insuring the Future of Your Business

There is no single plan for starting a small business. Some businesses require more hardware, others more inventor

y, still others a larger staff. One common need, however, is insurance. At its most basic, insurance is simply risk transference. The insured pays a premium to transfer the risk from themselves to the insurance company. And one of the most important types of insurance for small businesses is liability insurance. Much of the information offered about liability insurance comes directly from insurance providers, so it is important to do your own research to be sure that you have objective information. The EDC-VC offers information on liability insurance that can help small business owners make an informed decision. Here are a few points to consider as you work to acquire adequate protection for your business.






Insuring the future of your business


Liability insurance protects the insured from a variety of legal claims arising from incidents that can occur during day-to-day business operations. Those can include bodily and personal injury as well as property damage.



Businesses that do not have employees may not be required by law to have insurance, but it is still a good idea. A single incident can unravel all the hard work that went into building a small business.


There are different types of business liability insurance for virtually every risk that a business might encounter. They include:

  • General liability insurance
  • Product liability insurance
  • Professional liability insurance
  • Commercial property insurance
  • Home-based business insurance


The type of business will factor into which type of, and how much, insurance will be needed. For example, a florist might not need as much coverage as a company that rents sports equipment such as jet skis or snowmobiles. The perceived risk for the florist is much lower, so they may not need as much coverage.

Other types of businesses may benefit from additional insurance to cover things like commercial vehicles, property and medical payments. Speak to an experienced, licensed insurance agent who specializes in business insurance to discuss how to meet your business insurance needs, and review those needs and your coverage each year.


Other types of insurance are required by law. The three key insurance requirements typically include:

  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance
  • Unemployment Insurance Tax
  • Disability Insurance

Each state has its own specific requirements, so it is important to research the laws in the states where you operate.


Last, but not least, shop around. Your professional network may serve as a source of referrals of both licensed insurance agents and other small business owners who have similar needs and experiences.

In addition to the EDC-VC, InsureU for Small Business at can help business owners choose the appropriate insurance for their small business.

For more information on insuring your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.



Taking It to the Streets

Street vendors are everywhere. From farmer’s markets to food trucks to flea markets and craft fairs, there’s something for everyone looking for something to buy, and multiple opportunities for those entrepreneurs who want to market their wares. It seems easy: identify a venue, register with that venue and rent a space, purchase a sign, set up a table, and you’re in business. Or are you? The fact is, there’s more to it than that. Becoming a street vendor requires organization, and patience to acquire the proper licenses and permits required to operate it as a legal business.Taking it to the streets


If you’re new to the game, try selling your general merchandise at local flea markets, holiday markets, and street fairs. In most of those settings, only a temporary sales license is required. (Food is another matter which we’ll address later in this article.) That way, you’ll get a sense of whether it’s a fit for you.



Once you’ve had a few test weekends, if you decide vending is right for you, consider where your business will be located. Do this even before applying for the required legal documents because cities have laws concerning dates, times and locations for vendors to operate that could be very different from the one town to the next. That information will enter into your decision.

No matter what type of business you have, make sure that you meet all the legal standards of your state and city for a small business. That can be a bit tricky, and it varies from one jurisdiction to the next.


  • A sales tax permit from your state government’s revenue agency
  • A tax ID number from your local government revenue agency
  • A general business license from your city or county clerk’s office
  • An additional vendor license from your city or county government

You will also need to comply with any general licensing and registration requirements that apply to all businesses in your state.

If you intend to sell food, an area that is rapidly gaining in popularity, contact your state or county’s Department of Health. Such departments regulate and issue food-related licenses and permits. You may be required to attend a Food Protection Course for Mobile Food Vendors in addition to taking the training necessary to obtain a standard food handler’s permit. The costs and time commitment vary by jurisdiction. provides federal and state contacts for licensing and food safety information.

For more information on getting started as a food vendor or street vendor, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


Planning Compensation Costs for 2018

Planning compensation costs for 2018

The fourth quarter of the year is the time when many businesses begin planning for the coming year. With that season almost upon us, there are several factors business owners should take into account when budgeting for next year’s payroll.


Most every employee expects an annual raise and most understand there are a number of factors that play into how large – or small – those increases are. Raises depend both on employee performance and on what the business can afford.

Average wage hikes for the last several years have been around three percent while executive pay increases are expected to be slightly higher, though increases vary by industry and location. Businesses that can afford larger increases may find they improve staff morale as well as retention.

Be sure to budget for increases in minimum wage rates. At present, 29 states have rates higher than the basic federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour, and some cities within those states have higher minimum wages than the state minimum. California, for example has a minimum wage of $10.50 (increasing to $11 in 2018); but some cities, like Los Angeles have a minimum wage of $12, (changing to $13.25. in July 2018). Visit for information on other cities’/states’ minimum wages.


Increases in wages mean increases in payroll tax costs for employers. In addition, the Social Security wage base, which caps the Social Security tax portion of FICA, rose to $127,200 in 2017 and some experts anticipate an increase of about three percent in 2018, to around $130,000, so employers will need to budget more for highly compensated employees.


Since 2015, large employers with at least 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees must provide affordable health coverage to their full-timers and their dependents or pay a penalty. Employers should shop around to see if they can obtain more favorable rates on the insurance they provide.

Smaller employers can choose to provide coverage to help staff stay healthy and retain valued employees. The government’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) is available for this purpose, or coverage can be obtained through a private insurer. Tax credits may be available for those choosing the SHOP option.


Employers that provide fringe benefits in addition to health coverage, such as retirement plan contributions or education assistance, should include those benefits when budgeting for 2018.


Now is the time to plan for your 2018 compensation costs. Working with a CPA or other financial advisor can help ensure that your business can afford any planned increases, as well as remain in compliance with tax and labor laws.

For more information or help with budgeting for next year’s payroll, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.




Celebrating the Power of Women Entrepreneurs in Ventura County

Cheryl Heitmann is EDC-VC board chair and Ventura City Councilwoman

Contributed by Cheryl Heitmann, EDC-VC Board Chair

October is National Women’s Small Business Month, which calls us to recognize the leading role that women-owned businesses play in economic vitality and social equity. According to the Small Business Administration, nearly all (99.9%) of women-owned businesses are small business, and indeed their impact is mighty. They contribute more than $1.4 trillion in sales and 6.5 million jobs. Nationally, in minority communities, the impact is even greater than in the overall population, because a larger share of minority-owned businesses are owned by women, compared to non-minority counterparts.

While this is encouraging, there is still much work to be done. The vast majority of women-owned businesses are in restaurants and eating places, and personal care services, which are lower-paying sectors. This helps explain why women-owned businesses overall fall behind in revenue and employment–for every dollar of revenue an average women-owned business earns, the male-owned business earns $2.30, and for every 10 employees at a women-owned business, a male-owned business employs 15. In addition, women face more obstacles than their male counterparts, including access to capital and other essential support for growth.
In Ventura County, we have much to be proud of in support of women entrepreneurs. As the regional SBCD, we have delivered more than 6,000 advising hours to women and helped 101 women-owned startups, achieving real results for these businesses:
  • Increased sales by more than $37 million
  • Helped secure more than $13 million in capital
  • Serviced more than 660 firms total, including 101 start-ups
  • Created 430 jobs
Here, half of small businesses are fully-owned by women, and a quarter are 50% women-owned. Clearly women entrepreneurs are a powerful force in our local economy.
The mission of the EDC-VC and the SBDC, Women’s Economic Ventures, SCORE, and the National Association of Women Business Owners, among the groups, are to provide education and support for this vital segment of our economy, and for that, we can be proud as we hasten our efforts to even-out the pay scales and continue to empower entrepreneurial dreams.

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