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3 Tips for Success from Minority Entrepreneurs

Minority-owned enterprises made up more than 50% of the 2 million new businesses started in the United States in the past 10 years, according to the US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  There are now more than 4 million minority-owned companies in the US, boasting annual sales of around $700 billion, altogether.

As the US Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship noted, there is still a disparity in access to capital and entrepreneurial development opportunities for minority-owned firms. “Though minorities make up 32% of our population, minority business ownership represents only 18% of the population.”

Minority entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges in navigating the path to business success. Three minority entrepreneurs in Calgary, Alberta, shared their advice in a recent article in the Calgary Journal.  Eddie Richardson, president of Genesis Basketball; Joyce Okunsi, CEO of Joyce’s Closet; and Beni Johnson, founder of 10at10 media platform have all launched successful businesses in the face of discrimination and financial barriers.

  1. Don’t let stereotypes define you

“Whenever I was given a job or a task I would always try to be the most educated on it.” said Johnson. “People were racist in their ways. If something does not look like you, people get afraid of it, so it was a combination of many things.”

  1. Don’t let barriers stop you

“In fashion, I faced many barriers. I had to work twice as hard to prove my credibility as a stylist. Because I am a black woman, I was excluded from many things that I should have been a part of.” said Okunsi.

  1. Don’t forget that your experiences are valuable

“I’ve worked through a lot to get to where I am and I still have a lot ahead of me,” said Richardson. “I hope that my story inspires others to never settle and to push through adversity because anything is possible.”

Content Strategy: Harnessing the Benefits for Financial Services

In today’s uncertain world, the value of providing clients with insightful commentary and market intelligence cannot be overestimated. As such, more financial services firms than ever are seeking to harness the benefits of content marketing – using content to help with everything from building brand awareness and increasing web traffic to improving lead generation and customer retention.

There’s much to be gained by positioning your firm as a thought leader – but doing so is not always straightforward. Financial services firms must overcome the challenges experienced by all companies undertaking content marketing, while also facing certain sector-specific hurdles.

In particular, they have to tackle the following issues:

  1. Creating compelling content. As in other sectors, engaging experienced content experts, achieving a consistent tone of voice and overcoming budget constraints are crucial when it comes to developing content.
  2. Navigating different channels and formats. In addition to traditional formats such as articles, thought leadership, white papers and research reports, firms are also using videos, blogs, infographics, social media content and webinars to distribute their content. Making strategic decisions about which formats to focus on – and repurposing the same content for different channels – is essential when it comes to making content stand out in an increasingly crowded space.
  3. Overcoming compliance hurdles. Financial services firms also have their own sector-specific challenges to overcome – not least of all the difficulties associated with regulatory compliance. It can be tempting to be overly cautious in such a regulated climate, but a clear understanding of the relevant constraints can enable firms to produce insightful material with confidence.
  4. Measuring value. Firms may struggle to measure the value and effectiveness of the content they produce. Many metrics are available, including conversion rates, website traffic, customer feedback and sales – but firms often lack confidence when it comes to tracking ROI.

Financial services firms may face challenges where content is concerned – but by adopting a clear content strategy, firms can overcome the challenges and create compelling and effective content. We will explore these topics in more detail in future articles.

Blog: The Challenges of Hosting Video Conferences

We’re all in this together.

 

 

Covid-19: Changing Business Practices.

Covid has forced us to connect online with clients, partners and prospects more than we would like.  Do you agree? 

I was raised on the maxim that you don’t truly make a connection in business until you have met a person 3 times.  Content Innovo is in a growth phase; we need to reach out to as many prospects as possible.  How do we make a meaningful connection when face to face meetings are unvavailable? 

I don’t have a definitive answer to that question, but what I can report is I’m not the only one.  We’re all in this together.  Whether you are trying to sell something, or logging on to a webinar because you want to learn more about your next business-critical purchase, or you’re connecting with prospects or vendors, there seems to be a great acceptance that the current method of communication is not perfect.  There seems to be an acceptance that we’re all trying to do our utmost to represent ourselves and our businesses in the best light.  

And we’re all failing misearbly.

The Good Old Days?

I remember 20 years ago when you would go to someone’s offices to present your idea, and the advent of technology meant you could use powerpoint to provide amazing visuals.  You would ask the person you were meeting to book a boardroom and give you access to a big screen and the wifi code. 

Those were the days, because you a had a stunning visual presentation on your laptop — life was good.  This presentation was not only going to blow their socks off, it was going to seal the deal — but —  if your presentation didn’t load instantly and on command… that was it. You were done.  That client would never speak to you again.  You would instantly lose credibility. 

In the new reality, technical difficulties are the norm.  

Grace Under Pressure

Content Innovo was recently part of an accelerator program called Beyond Boundaries, put on by the Halton Region Innovation Centre, Haltech, and part of the Canadian government’s push to empower women entrepreneurs.  Halfway through the program, everything shut down because of Covid-19 and we had to go online.  No problem. We all agreed to meet at the appointed hour and click the link to participate.  

The presentation for our first fully online session was hosted by an accountancy firm.  A firm that had a vested interest in sponsoring the program and engaging its participating members in the highest quality format and presenting themselves in the highest quality way. 

But guess what? As bizarre as it sounds, the mac users couldn’t see the shared content when the pc users could, and vice versa.  And that situation went on for 10 minutes.  

But here’s the thing, no one left.  Our host, to her credit, taught me a lot in that very moment about staying calm under pressure. And the fellow participants taught me a lot about accepting that this is not an ideal situation for anyone.  Everyone was understanding, and had likely been through similar situations, themselves, in recent weeks.

I have loads of examples of bizarre things that happen when trying to organize a video call with multiple participants —Zoomwobble, anyone? — and I would love to hear your tales.  I also have loads of examples of hosts and participants dealing with these problems in real time, in a way that wouldn’t have been acceptable 6 months ago.  But we’re all in this together. 

4 Consumer Banks With Cutting-Edge Customer Service

Consumer banks must innovate and modernize not just their digital but also their  in-person customer service and user experience (UX). Hampered by legacy systems and facing competition from digital banks and fintech startups, they must adapt or face declining client satisfaction — and ultimately dwindling clients.

Here’s how some institutions are taking UX and customer service to the next level:

  • While the appeal of online banking continues to expand with 49% of all millennials using online banking for routine transactions, companies like Trailhead Credit Union are also aware of the impact the customer experience at their physical locations is crucial to connecting with their audience. Having “transformed its look and messaging to connect with the urbanite spirit of Portland”, they’ve seen record-breaking growth in their customer engagement thanks to their commitment to appealing to their consumers.
  • By analyzing their consumer base and re-evaluating their content strategies, respected firms like Liberty Mutual and Santander Bank are providing innovative, targeted, curated content with the intent of educating certain demographics on relevant services that are available to them. For example, Santander recently focused on its millennial demographic, and aimed to connect with potential customers who may be closing in on a point in their lives when they need a loan. By providing them with a wealth of valuable information and drawing traffic into their core banking site, they were able to attract new customers, gain their trust, and gain further insights about their audience.
  • Innovation is impossible to achieve without experimentation, which is why America First Credit Union opened their innovation center in Salt Lake City. Designed from the ground up to be an interactive experience for customers, it also functions as a space to provide live demonstrations of new technology to the public, who can instantly disclose valuable feedback that could prove vital in determining which technologies to pursue and iterate upon moving forwards.

Balancing digital convenience with human connection is the driving mindset behind these projects, all of which share a common focus on improving the banking experience by appealing to human sensibility, which has over time proven itself an effective tactic for retaining stickier client-bases at brick-and-mortar locations.

As much as we love the convenience of e-banking, we equally adore being treated well by other people in our day-to-day lives, and digital competition is fierce, in some markets it makes sense to double-down on the creature comforts that only a physical location can offer, as well as innovating and investing in cutting-edge technologies and content to remain competitive in the market of convenience.

For more info on engaging with your audiences, click here.

For tips on improving your own digital content strategy, connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Content Development

Blog: Improving Financial Literacy From the Ground Up

As many as 90% of business failures around the world are due to poor financial management. Not marketing or labour problems, but simple, old-fashioned bad management. So how do we resolve this problem? We go back to basics and concentrate on financial literacy from an early age.

 

Too many individuals, young and old, simply do not have a basic understanding of things like budgets, inflation and interest rates. Although it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to possess sophisticated financial knowledge, some financial know-how is essential for making important life decisions related to money.

 

Building personal financial capabilities early in life can give people the foundation for financial well being in the future. Schools are an important channel to improve financial literacy. Studies in the U.S. have shown that financial education, when done properly, leads to an improvement in financial behaviour.

 

But there is still a long way to go. According to a survey of 13 million U.S. high school students, only one in six received mandatory financial education. And only 17 states require personal financial content to be included in educational curricula.  

 

Of course, people want to make good financial decisions that set them up for success, but many have never had the opportunity to learn how. For instance, a significant number of American adults can’t pass a basic financial literacy test with three questions on stocks, interest rates and inflation.

Here’s a sample question:

 

Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?

 

  • More than $102

  • Exactly $102

  • Less than $102

 

Although 43% earned scores of three, meaning they correctly answered all the questions, and another 36% received scores of two, 21% got only one or zero questions right. Across all households, the average score was 2.2. Considering that the questions are relatively simple, those scores demonstrate why financial literacy needs to be prioritized by governing bodies, individuals and organizations throughout the world. (The correct answer in the sample question, by the way, is more than $102.)

 

In Canada, the Ontario Working Group on Financial Literacy concluded that students need to be financially literate to make more-informed choices in a complex and fast-changing financial world. Financial literacy education provides a critical set of lifelong skills, the report added. To that end, the group recommended that teachers be given professional training and resources to increase their knowledge of financial literacy topics that can be passed on to students. In addition, the report suggests that parents and families be invited to participate in the development of their children’s financial literacy education.

 

Financial literacy can be a hard sell for educators, who may not see the importance of adding it to the curriculum. But it is an important skill to help set young people up for success throughout their lives.

Value Added Services

Seeds of Change: Women Entrepreneurs and the Wellness Sector

Women entrepreneurs are drawn to the wellness and healthy living sector. As consumers of every generation increasingly focus on health and wellness, female entrepreneurs and business leaders will be big beneficiaries.

Women-Owned Businesses Soar

Each day, women launch around 850 new businesses in the U.S., and the number of firms headed by women has increased by more than 40% since 2007. Women are now the majority owners of an estimated 11.6 million businesses in the country—39% of all U.S. businesses — according to the 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.

Healthy Growth in Wellness Sector

The growth in women-owned companies is marching in unison with another major trend — the rapid expansion of the healthy living sector. According to data from the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry grew by 10.6% worldwide between 2013 and 2015 and accounts for revenue of $3.72 trillion on a global basis. It is now a key part of the second-largest sector of women-owned businesses in the U.S., following services such as nail and hair salons and pet services.

See the full article of CI executive director Denise Bedell’s latest work for ThisIsCapitalism.com:

Seeds of Change: How Women Owners Are Driving Business Growth in the Wellness Sector

How Black-Run Newspapers Changed the World: Black History Month

To mark this year’s Black History Month, we’re taking a look at the impact and import of African-American journalism through the past century, specifically in the realm of Black-run Newspapers and their ongoing legacy in the modern landscape of journalism.

Black newspapers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries represented the first wave of media being tailored for specific audiences outside what was considered the mainstream, a trend that grew to encompass almost every minority group — and spread globally in a few scant decades. They serve as some of the few written records of African-American lives and culture spanning a period of over a century, and represent a treasure trove of historic documentation of black culture of the era.

Black-run newspapers, like Frederick Douglass’ North Star and Samuel Cornish’s Freedom’s Journal ,served simultaneously as sources of information connecting black communities around the U.S. — and beyond — and as ongoing rallying cries for the abolitionist and civil rights movements. They illustrate how powerful the media industry can be when it comes to influencing social and political change — and the media’s ability to connect communities and enable communication and organization.

Frederick Douglass, founder of the North Star. Source: National Archives and Records Administration

 

As of 2002, around 200 black newspapers remained in circulation. Black-run and black-focused media has suffered, alongside most other journalism outlets, with the decline of print media. But  a proliferation of news-media websites tailored to black communities took root online — and they offer valuable outlooks on the lives and culture of modern black communities on a more accessible platform than has ever before been available.

While the voice and the culture has changed and evolved with the times, the spirit of African-American journalism lives on in the digital publications of the modern age. Capable of reaching quite literally millions of people and encompassing a more diverse audience than ever before, the black newspapers of yesteryear paved the way for the digital outlets of today.

Aside from its value as a teaching point about the power of media, preserving the history of black newspapers will allow us to remind future generations of their ancestors’ impact on the world around them, with names like Frederick Douglass, Samuel Cornish, Daisy Bates, and Ida Wells serving as inspirations and role models for the the black community — and beyond.

Value Added Services

Socially Responsible Investing Gets a Boost from BlackRock ETF

Asset management giant BlackRock has partnered with market data provider Thomson Reuters to launch a new exchange-traded fund tracking companies that promote diversity and inclusion — enhancing its focus on socially responsible investing.

The ‘iShares Thomson Reuters Inclusion & Diversity UCITS ETF‘ will track Thomson Reuters’ Diversity & Inclusion Index, which ranks around 2,000 companies globally and includes the 100 most-diverse company worldwide, as measured by a set of 24 metrics.

The increasing availability of corporate sustainability data, as well as advancement in technology, has made it possible to better measure and understand metrics, such as inclusion and diversity, from an investment perspective,” explains Brian Deese, Head of Sustainable Investing at BlackRock. “At BlackRock, we are committed to being leaders in using new data and tools that deliver sustainable investment solutions at scale, which help to improve financial outcomes for our clients and accelerate the adoption of sustainable business practices globally.”

 

4 Reasons Why Competitive Strategy Is Critical to Success

Time spent on competitive strategy is a key indicator of success for mid-sized companies, according a recent survey by SunTrust Bank.

“Virtually all businesses (98%) participating in a recent survey are guided by a competitive strategy,” according to SunTrust. The amount of time spent on competitive strategy increases with business size, but overall, the survey found that less than half of respondents reports spending a significant amount of time on competitive strategy.

Other findings from the survey:

–“Several industries stood out as doing a significant amount of competitive strategy work, including technology hardware and software, retailing and automotive.”

–“Quality is a core priority for approximately two-thirds of businesses; innovation and focus/targeting a niche are other common components of businesses’s competitive strategies.”

–“Companies earning $25 million or more each year in revenue are most often focused on superior products and services (55%).”

–“Businesses have fulfilled their competitive strategy by developing deep customer relationships and creating superior products and services.”

According to the survey, “midsize businesses doing a significant amount of competitive strategy work feel stronger in the market and are better connected to their financial partners,” and a whopping 98% believe they have a strategic advantage over the competition as a result.

Investment Banks Spent More on Fintech in 2017

While top-tier investment banks cut their fintech budgets in 2017, that reduction was more than made up by increased spending from Tier 2 and 3 players, according to a report out from Boston Consulting Group.

Strategies for fintech spend are also diverging, says BCG.

Bank investment strategies also diverged. Tier 2 & 3 players invested mainly in industry- wide fintech initiatives, whereas Tier 1 banks, which have been active buyers of fintech equity for longer, took a more balanced approach, often seeking competitive advantage through standalone investments.

Overall fintech spend in the capital markets space was down, however, as venture capital firms cut  their investment, according to the report. ”

Investment was less than half that of the previous two years, and the lowest since 2012, with venture capital firms in particular reducing their funding.