5 Steps Small Businesses Can Take to Protect Against Cyber Crime

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By Brandon Vogel

When you hear the term “cyber-attack,” the mental image that most readily comes to mind is a big corporation having to conduct damage control after a security breach exposes millions of its customers’ personal information. However, although these are the most visible cases of cyber-attacks, data breaches affect companies of all sizes, and small businesses are often at greater risk.

According to Forbes, cybercrime costs are projected to reach $2 trillion by 2019, and Microsoft reports that 20% of small to mid-sized businesses have been cyber crime targets. In a House of Representatives hearing entitled “Small Business, Big Threat: Protecting Small Businesses from Cyber Attacks,” it was reported that 71% of cyber-attacks occur at businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

While small businesses and entrepreneurs may be tempted think their information is not worth stealing, view data protection as a burdensome expense or maintain the mindset that data security as “someone else’s problem,” cyber security should be priority number one for entrepreneurs. Changing data storage practices, i.e. moving from on-site to cloud storage, combined with neglectful cyber security practices, have caused hackers to learn that small businesses are easy targets.

Do not let your small business be the next data breach failure story. Here are five steps that you can take to ensure your data is protected:

  1. Educate yourself on evolving threats

The best step you can take to protecting your information is preparedness—take the time to learn about the internal and external vulnerabilities that affect businesses, and try to identify points of weakness. Also, educate yourself on the various cyber fraud schemes (phishing, malware, system hacking, etc.).

  1. Create a comprehensive company security policy

Develop comprehensive data security protocols, and be sure that the policies permeate throughout the entire organization, especially with your employees, who are the first line of defense against cyber-attacks.

  1. Make the call

Verify financial requests by phone. This two-step verification process will add another layer of security to your financial transactions.

  1. Update your software

As annoying as those software update notifications can be, it is essential that you keep your anti-virus software and security applications current—they help guard your infrastructure from the latest threats.

  1. Create an incident response plan and practice it

Your incident response plan should be like a fire drill—practiced repeatedly so everyone, specifically your employees, know what to do in case of an emergency. Collective accountability can be the first line of defense.

An additional resource to help educate yourself is the book “Hacked Again” by Scott Schober, a New Jersey small businessman who suffered two online robberies committed by cyber thieves. Schober’s book helps inform readers on basic computer systems and contains a cybersecurity glossary featuring eighty-six need-to-know terms.

Cyber security is everyone’s responsibility.

 

How Writing Empowers Female Entrepreneurs

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By Erin Jablonski

In the hyper-competitive business world, standing out from the crowd can be one of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face. Additionally, despite the unique opportunities afforded by the entrepreneurial lifestyle, sexism still persists in the industry, and female entrepreneurs face a distinct set of challenges compared to their male counterparts.

Although women launch their own businesses at double the rate of men, according to Business Insider only 7% of venture capital funding in the US goes to woman-owned companies, and only 24% of the world’s senior business roles are held by women.

In an attempt to counter gender bias and provide further legitimacy to their careers and companies, many female entrepreneurs are turning to writing books. Not only does contributing to the business discussion help confront the gender gap, but it also builds credibility around their credentials.

“There’s a certain amount of vulnerability, passion and drive that goes into writing a book. And when a female entrepreneur can tap into this, their writing not only helps their business but helps them build… around their unique message and mission,” says Mona Patel, founder and CEO of Motivate Design.

Additionally, writing a book can help inform and inspire readers by providing valuable expertise on niche subjects and create increased exposure and opportunities for speaking engagements. However, most importantly, writing a book helps female entrepreneurs establish confidence in their expertise.

Writing a book is a valuable resource in the continued struggle for equality in the business world, and is an option that should be considered by female entrepreneurs.

10 Thomas Edison Quotes That Will Inspire Entrepreneurial Success

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By Brandon Vogel

Dubbed “the wizard of Menlo Park,” Thomas Edison is recognized as a prolific inventor; boasting 1,093 U.S. Patents and 2,332 patents worldwide, Edison’s numerous innovations including the motion picture industry, the long-lasting electric light bulb, and the X-ray machine, revolutionized our daily lives. However, even more than his devices, Edison’s greatest contribution was his business acumen—his advancements in industrial research & development and mass production set new corporate standards for the modern world.

As one of the greatest entrepreneurial minds of the 20th century, we can learn a lot from Edison’s business practices. Here are 10 Edison quotes that will inspire success:

  1. “There is no substitute for hard work.”
  2. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
  3. “What you are will show in what you do.”
  4. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
  5. “Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”
  6. “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”
  7. “There’s a way to do it better – find it.”
  8. “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”
  9. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
  10. “Learn with both your head and hands.”

The Best of Two Worlds: How Urban Agriculture is Changing City & Entrepreneurial Lifestyles

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By Gary Sojka

The world population will grow by an estimated two to three billion people by the year 2050. The vast majority of those people will be city dwellers. One of the most attractive models being proposed to deal with the problems that will ensue from such an increase is urban agriculture. Local food sales accounted for $5 billion in the U.S. alone in 2008. That number grew to $12 billion in 2014 and industry experts predict that total local sales will account for approximately $20 billion by 2019.

To date, most urban agriculture (vacant lots, parks, green roofs and vertical agriculture) has been small-scale in nature, as individuals, clubs and neighborhood organizations have provided most of the driving force. Engagement in urban agricultural activities permits an individual to work with plants (and in some cases even animals) while experiencing all the benefits of an urban life style.

Clearly, this situation appears ready-made for entrepreneurs interested in starting up an enterprise that can aid his or her community, satisfy the urge to remain close to the soil and to nature, have a positive impact on the environment and participate in an expanding field with built-in consumer demand. The growing locovore movement should fuel the demand for foods grown within sight of the consumer. The carbon footprint of such food is, of course, minimal. Seeing where your food is grown, and knowing how it was grown and by whom, is also becoming increasingly important to urban populations as evidenced by the number of city dwellers who will voluntarily drive significant distances to experience farmer’s markets, pick-your-own gardens and orchards or visit agro-touristic venues.

Some of America’s major cities, Philadelphia and Baltimore for example, are attempting to encourage urban agricultural activities in order to bring fresh, nutritious food into neighborhoods that have become virtual “food deserts.” Recognizing this trend and appreciating what it can mean to the health of individuals and communities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has begun a program to assist urban agriculturists start and grow their businesses. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vissack said, “Urban agriculture helps strengthen the health and social fabric of communities while creating economic opportunities for farmers and neighborhoods… From protecting soil health to marketing to schools and grocery store chains, USDA has tools to meet the needs of this new breed of innovative urban farmer and small business owner.”

The main resource offered by the USDA to entrepreneur’s in the industry is the Urban Agriculture Toolkit, which compiles guidance from the USDA’s Know Your Farmer team and many private partners into one comprehensive resource to help small-scale producers manage all aspects of their business. It covers subjects such as maintenance of soil health, water resources, indoor vs. outdoor facilities, capital and financing, market development, infrastructure, production strategies and application for federal, state and private foundation grants. The toolkit can be accessed here.

For the city dweller looking for a start-up opportunity in a growing industry with substantial public support and a growing market, think about a pair of bib overalls, a straw hat and get your hands dirty.

5 Skills Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Other Professions

 

By Cliff Melberger

Entrepreneurial success requires mastering a variety of skills to ensure your business remains both profitable and socially relevant.

While a multitude of industry-specific resources exist to equip you with the tools to help you reach your goals (books, lectures, classes, etc.), sometimes it pays to seek out alternatives. Matei Gavril, President and CEO of PRMediaOnline.com, recently wrote an article challenging entrepreneurs to look outside of the business bubble. He specifically encouraged entrepreneurs to examine other fields and find traits that can be beneficial to the entrepreneurial lifestyle

Here are five skills from different professions that entrepreneurs should emulate:

  1. Take risks—Surgeons

Medicine is a risky business. Surgeons are required to perform procedures that have a significant impact on a patient’s health, and may involve life-or-death situations. An essential trait for this profession is being an effective risk-taker, and learning to remove emotion from the equation. Similarly, entrepreneurs can learn to take calculated risks and think logically to solve their problems.

  1. Persistence—Athletes

An unavoidable element of business is failure; the key is how you deal with it. Athletes are exemplary models of persistence—they’re always striving to improve their performance and exhibit strong mental fortitude. As an entrepreneur, you shouldn’t let failure deter you from your business dreams. Instead, learn from your mistakes, improve, and be accepting of constructive criticism.

  1. Negotiating—Lawyers

A large portion of the job of an attorney is negotiating, a skill that’s essential to any entrepreneur. Whether you’re dealing with employee benefits or contracts with clients, you need to think like a lawyer, which means developing a game plan beforehand, demonstrating confidence and never showing signs of defeat.

  1. Problem-solving—Gamers

When obstacles seem overwhelming, it pays to take a cue from the gamer mindset. Gamers categorize their short-term objectives to help them achieve long-term goals, and come up with unique solutions. Above all, gamers stay motivated and attempt multiple methods of problem-solving.

  1. Explaining—Teachers

Business isn’t a one-person show—it requires coordinating with other like-minded individuals. A key to this collaboration is effective communication. Teachers know how to engage their audience and find innovative ways to deliver material. Likewise, you should make your material understandable to everyone by avoiding jargon. Additionally, know your audience and learn how to exhibit patience.

Every profession has its own unique challenges, and it’s beneficial for entrepreneurs to learn from others’ mistakes and successes and apply them to their own business mindset.