Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

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Solar power is a great, efficient energy source that has yet to really catch fire for the average consumer. But one small business owner in the Show-Me State is looking to enlighten his fellow Missourians, one solar product at a time.

Kyle Barber, managing partner of EFS Energy, has been a passionate advocate for solar energy for much of his life.

“I always asked the question, ‘why aren’t we doing it?’” said Barber, a pressing question that he would turn into his very own business venture in 2010. EFS Energy was one of the only solar companies in St. Louis at the time.

Barber noted a particular type of consumer was being overlooked in the energy market, so he seized the opportunity to cater to them.

“Our vision was to have an inviting, friendly solar store,” he said. EFS Energy thus launched as the everyman’s version of a solar store, featuring products your typical homeowner could use—not just heavy-duty commercial products. EFS Energy’s storefront contains everything from LED products to small, energy efficient items like solar garden or front door lights in an effort to help its customers reduce the amount of energy they consume and become more self-sufficient.

Offering easy to use energy efficient products allows customers to follow Barber’s tagline: “Reduce and produce your own energy.”

Spreading the word about solar power and energy is no easy feat, though. Many people don’t have all the facts about solar—from what it costs to install to the benefits that can be reaped. This makes it difficult to not only inform the masses, but to find educated experts to employ.  “Education isn’t cheap and no school out here markets solar energy specifically,” he said.

Kyle Barber, managing partner of EFS Energy

So Barber puts employees through an in-house training program, then turns EFS Energy’s educational focus toward the community. “We try to educate people on why they should be doing [solar],” he said. “People may be interested, but may not know where to go,” he said. “We work closely with the community and do a lot of events like high school class visits to raise awareness and market ourselves.”

EFS Energy also offers free site evaluations and estimates to inform people on how they can improve their energy standards.

With various obstacles to overcome in making solar a more viable option for people, you’d think Barber would be sweating his job. Rather, he basks in its glow.

“Owning and operating a small business is never easy, but it’s rewarding at the same time,” he said.

With that attitude, you can bet that even after the sun sets, Barber’s still thinking about how to convert another person to solar.

As part of our Talking Back Tuesday series, Small Business Majority is launching a new survey each week to get a better understanding of where small business owners stand on important issues.

This week’s issue is clean energy. Our polling has found that a vast majority of small businesses support standards from the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce harmful emissions from power plants. Now we want to hear from you directly. Take our survey and let us know your thoughts on clean energy.

Interested in keeping the conversation around clean energy policies going? Feel free to share our survey with your friends and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can share more of your thoughts by  joining in on our #talkbacktues discussion.

online poll by Opinion Stage

As enrollment in the new individual health insurance marketplace quickly approaches the March 31 cut-off date, now is the time to act to get enrolled if you’re self-employed, or to help get your employees enrolled if you’re a small business owner who doesn’t offer coverage. Folks can enroll right up until March 31, so take a few minutes today or over the weekend and get covered.

Small Business Majority has been working non-stop to educate small business owners about enrollment in the marketplace. Since the beginning of the year, Small Business Majority has held more than 250 outreach events to inform small business owners and help them make the best possible decisions for their employees, their businesses and themselves.

With time still left to enroll before the deadline on Monday, Small Business Majority still has a few outreach events scheduled to offer some last minute assistance. Please visit our events calendar or visit our Health Coverage Guide for information about the marketplaces and the new healthcare law in general. Happy enrolling!

A Minnesota mother and son duo has created one of the snazziest PR firms around with a focus on education and community.

PR with Panache!, owned by partners Sue and Jacob Hanson, has expertly branded itself as modern-day storytellers for education. And it more than lives up to that title.

Formed as a corporation a little over two years ago, PR with Panache! started with Sue using Pr with Panache! as the catchy tagline that would later become their handle. Sue, a former high school English and drama teacher has been involved with public relations work since the early 90’s. Her son and eventual partner, Jacob, followed in her footsteps.

After working in sales and marketing in the New Mexico real estate industry, Jacob moved back to Minnesota to be closer to family and to take an active role with his mother’s firm.

“It’s an awesome world to live and work in, with the added caveat I get to work every day with my mother,” he said.

Sue and Jacob Hanson, partners at PR with Panache!

The firm works heavily with education media, writers, bloggers and industry thought leaders and stakeholders in order to “make sure our clients’ stories and voices are heard,” he said.

PR with Panache!’s clients include online curriculum providers like the Minnesota based Odysseyware and companies such as Promethean, which develops interactive education technology for schools.

“We really run the gamut of covering all different facets of the education world,” Jacob said.

In fact, a majority of the firm’s clients are start-ups who are just breaking into the education market. “A lot of what we do is behind-the-scenes coaching and directing them on how to effectively communicate in the education world.”

Hanson notes that 95% of PR with Panache!’s focus is obtaining various editorial placements in major education publications and journals.

The firm’s flair and success has established PR with Panache! as a go-to firm with a quality reputation in the education world.

However, it’s not the success of the firm that shines brightest for Hanson, but rather the work itself and the impact it has on others.

“It’s rewarding to be involved in this industry and to touch people’s lives and have that positive impact. It’s an amazing thing to see an article published that thousands of people will see that they may not have without PR with Panache!.”

And if you think Hanson’s work with education stops at PR with Panache!, think again. He regularly donates to Achieve Minneapolis, a program that supports underprivileged kids, and is on the Board of Directors for North Metro Pediatrics, a local non-profit.

“Not everything should revolve around money,” he said. “Being a good neighbor is one of the most important things we can do.”

Everyone should be so lucky to have Hanson, his mother and PR with Panache! as their friendly neighborhood small business.

Terry Gardiner

Terry Gardiner

Originally published in The Columbian

The debate about raising the minimum wage is a hot topic, and the impact to small businesses is a sticking point in the argument. But what do real small businesses think about raising the wage?

As vice president of policy & strategy of Small Business Majority, I can report that our scientific opinion poll found 57 percent support increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10.

Some have claimed that raising the minimum wage would strain small firms because they wouldn’t be able to afford to pay their workers more. However, more than half of small-business owners agree increasing the minimum wage would not only help the economy, it would make low-income consumers more likely to spend money, driving up demand for goods and services at small businesses.

What’s more, the poll found 82 percent of small businesses already pay their workers more than the minimum wage. Consumer demand is small business owners’ No. 1 concern, and they see a raise in the minimum wage as a way to stoke that demand. An increase would help entrepreneurs create jobs, which strengthens the economy even more, creating an economic domino effect.

Small-business owners are the nation’s biggest job creators. Politicians should listen to what they’re saying and act accordingly.

Terry Gardiner

Seattle