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Creative Ways to Help Small Businesses Thrive

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In today’s economic environment, small businesses are discovering ingenious ways to cut costs, improve efficiencies, and thrive. From urban jungles to rural farmlands, business owners are finding new ways to stay afloat.

Coworking and collaborative consumption

Necessity is the mother of … collaboration? In recent years, a trend toward coworking and “collaborative consumption” has helped business owners find new ways to secure resources.

Coworking is when different businesses share needed office space and resources, including copy machines, conference rooms, white boards, and even kitchens. For example, to help stave off the isolation of working from home, freelancers might rent space in an urban loft used by other creative workers for a few hours per week. Small business start-ups may use the same space to host pitch meetings with potential investors. Coworking has become so popular in recent years that a cottage industry has sprouted up to serve this market. A simple Internet search uncovers a wide selection of local coworking options, particularly in areas where young, entrepreneurial workforces exist.

Collaborative consumption, also known as the “sharing economy,” has also gained ground. Following are examples of how this movement can help cut overhead and capital costs:

  • Do you occasionally need transportation but would rather not purchase your own company (or even personal) car? Consider using one of the many ride-sharing options that may be available in your area. Such options provide cars you can drive yourself, fill open seats in vehicles headed in your direction, and offer services similar to hiring a taxi or limousine.
  • Are you trying to launch a business where the necessary capital assets can be costly, such as a culinary or mechanical endeavor? Shops are beginning to pop up that allow business owners to pay for temporary use of large equipment so that they can focus on product development and production.
  • Do you have unwanted but necessary tasks that need to be taken care of quickly, such as filing paperwork, delivering products, or one-time “fix-it” jobs? Another option is an online community that permits individuals in your area to “bid” for the job.

Community supported agriculture

Community supported agriculture, or CSA, is an arrangement in which local farmers partner with consumers from the surrounding community to generate cash flow early in the season. In a CSA, a farmer sells “shares” of his annual crop or product to local consumers. For a set fee, each shareowner receives a selection of the current harvest on a periodic basis, typically weekly.

Consumers participate in a CSA because they want to support local agriculture while gaining the benefits of fresh produce, flowers, seeds, dairy products, meats, and even baked goods. Farmers benefit from receiving a substantial portion of their revenue before the season even kicks off.

Example:                  Jane buys one share of Farmer Ted’s CSA for $650, which she pays for in March. Beginning in late June and continuing through October, Jane picks up a large box full of Ted’s weekly offerings and is able to provide her family of four with a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and cheeses each week.

Small restaurants can also work with local farms, using the week’s harvest to develop unusual specials and promoting the “locally sourced” ingredients in their marketing. For more information on CSAs, visit www.localharvest.org/csa.

The coworking and collaborative consumption arenas are still relatively new and unregulated, which can be both a potential boon and a drawback. And the success of CSAs depends largely on the experience of the farmer and the whim of Mother Nature. When using these types of services, it helps to keep an open mind. Investigate your options carefully–word-of-mouth reviews, both in person and online, can be your strongest ally.


                Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide legal, taxation, or investment advice. All the content provided by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions is protected by copyright. Forefield claims no liability for any modifications to its content and/or information provided by other sources.   Copyright 2011 by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions Inc.     All Rights Reserved.

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