Legal issues surrounding internships.

31 08 2009


In our current economic climate, internships are high in demand. People (or students) looking to start a new career may look to internships to seek experience. And on the flip side, small businesses without the budget to hire new employees may look hire interns. But business owners need to be sure that they don’t take on interns only to save money. Federal labor laws are fairly direct in saying that internships should be for the benefit of the interns, not their employers. Thus, it all boils down to a simple principal; an intern is not free labor.

But what is the distinction between an employee and an intern? The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA – federal statute governing wages) defines an “employee” simply as “any individual employed by an employer.”  The term “employ” under the FLSA means “to suffer from or permit to work.” Moreover, under the FLSA, an intern must receive training similar to that offered in a vocational school, and the training must be for the benefit of the intern.

In interpreting the FLSA, the United States Supreme Court has found that trainees may be excepted from the minimum wage provisions of the FLSA. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division used the Supreme Court’s 1947 decision to develop and outline six criteria for determining trainee status:

Read the rest of this entry »


Finding your elevator pitch.

28 08 2009


What’s your elevator pitch? It’s often hard to reduce your passions and business purpose into a measly 15-seconds. But when it’s solidified, confidence ensues. Sure, it won’t be perfect out of the gate, but having one gets the ball rolling. The more you “pitch” it, the easier it is to say and the more adaptable it becomes based on your audience. And then, you’ll never be at a loss when confronted with someone who can help you achieve your goals or sell your solution. Capitalize on this opportunity, rather than letting it walk out the door.

I stumbled upon this great elevator pitch creator called “15-Second Pitch.” In about 5-minutes, the site walks you through the creation of your pitch and out pops your 15-second schpeel. The only challenge is being comfortable enough to truly highlight your skills and talents.

Just remember to be direct and honest…you only have 15-seconds to make a great first impression!

Photo courtesy of Broken Style Magazine.

What’s in a blog?

27 08 2009


Blogging. We’re all intrigued. It’s a hot topic. And businesses want to jump in. But what’s in a blog?

A blog is personal, it attracts attention, and it has the capability of providing solutions. Blogs are much more than the “I ate a hamburger today” variety. Successful blogs tell a story, with each post serving as yet another element that meets the goal of the blog. But is there any goal that is better than another? And for businesses?

Well, to start out, go to source to see who’s who in the blogging world. Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere is a great resource to understanding the trends and themes of blogging. But this is on the aggregate, how do you pick your own personal spin once you jump in? As a framework, you can think of your blog posts as referential or experiential. And to make your blog stand out from the crowd? Think of these building blocks for a successful business blog. Good blogs tend to follow a similar structure to be effective and attention grabbing. But on the whole, check out these general considerations for developing a effective blog, they may even provide a few fine tuning elements for those who have already launched.

Read the rest of this entry »

Go Small Businesses Go!

26 08 2009


Here’s the deal, small businesses rock. They’re the foundation of our communities. Their owners serve on community boards and volunteer locally. Their success actually contributes to the velocity of money circulating around where we live. Without small businesses, “local” wouldn’t have value.

I’ve always been a huge fan of supporting local businesses. I grew up in Alaska, where supporting local is pretty much the best way to keep the local economy running. Alaska is practically it’s own island, or country otherwise. It’s not connected to the contiguous United States and because of that, Alaskans have truly discovered the value of supporting each other. Their motto is “Buy Alaska, and Keep the Change.”

So now that the economy has taken a dive into the deep end of the pool, supporting locally has become not only a trend, but a means necessary to survive. There’s even a national campaign right now sponsored by American Express and NBC Universal highlighting small businesses called “Shine A Light.” Here, you can nominate and endorse small businesses across the nation – granting incredible marketing opportunities and the chance to win $100,000. Diane Von Furstenberg, JJ Ramberg, and Ellen Degeneres are all judges deciding upon the three local business that succeed over the rest. Isn’t it awesome that innovation, community support and a dedication to customer service are fashionable values to uphold? Sure, they serve as the foundation for any successful business, but as I’m sure you’ve read on sites like Yelp, it isn’t always the case that businesses put these values on the front line.

I now live in Seattle and am so proud to say that we have our own version of “Buy Alaska, and Keep the Change.” City Stimulus has generated this same kind of enthusiasm in Seattle by marketing the importance of sustaining our local economy. Check out their Twitter page for updates on local events.

As I continue to blog, I hope to provide solutions for small business challenges and highlight stories about how these businesses succeed. As City Stimulus mentions, “sustainability is not just about the foods you eat— it’s about the social, cultural and economic success of our community.” Cheers to that!

Photo courtesy of City Stimulus.