Additional Side Notes

Resource Side Note


By Cynthia Nevels  | Post July 2, 2013

The topic of healthcare is a Texas-size problem and on October 1, 2013 the elephant in the room will be unleashed. Open enrollment starts October 1, 2013 in the United States and the marketplace is still working out the logistics on how the process will work. But that should not stop business owners, the self-employed and heads-of-households from creating their plan and conducting their research now.

Small business owners have been the focus of numerous discussions on healthcare for several years now. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or commonly known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. The new law will make a difference in the lives of small business owners, their employees and families all over the country. Ask any small business owner you know, “Do you have health insurance?” You will be surprised to learn most entrepreneurs or local employers who are self-employed, who do not have a day job, are in fact uninsured. That includes tech workers, professors to landscapers.

The common misconception on the street is that this law will mandate coverage for all and may increase the costs for small businesses to operate. The fact is employers are not required to provide employee coverage under this law. Beginning in 2014 employers with 50 or more full-time employees that do not offer affordable health care coverage may be required to pay an assessment or fee but there is another option available. Some call this a silent tax for small businesses. However, the option to enroll in healthcare coverage is and can be left up to the individual. Entrepreneurs and individuals can access the Healthcare Marketplace in order to learn more about the enrollment process by visiting Individuals and employers can enroll now to find answers regarding affordable healthcare options. Latina business owners can also access for details in Spanish. Groups like Be Covered Texas ( are working to share this news with families across Texas utilizing information supplied by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. Be Covered Texas is working to eliminate confusion and host events to explain what coverage is available and how enrollment will work. However, if you are a business owner or employer with 50 or more employees you will not find a great deal of assistance with your questions just yet. I learned this information is still be created by the federal government and its lead agencies. Including the Internal Revenue Service which will have a hand in creating rules for tax credits and tax penalties.

Whether you are a small organization or a large company, there is important information you will need to participate in this plan. Employers are required to provide employees with a standard Summary of Benefits and Coverage Form or SBC Form that will explain what the plan covers and the costs. This form will help employees better understand and assess their health care options. The Department of Labor provides a sample of a completed SBC Form online. Business owners with 50 or more employees should be aware that penalties may be imposed for non-compliance. If you have less than 50 employees this penalty will not assessed to your company.

Open enrollment begins October 1, 2013 for 2014 coverage and can be accessed via the competitive health insurance marketplaces. Marketplace is a public website or a user-friendly word used as an alternative to exchange. The marketplace can be used by individuals and small businesses to access information about plans and enroll. These individual health insurance marketplaces will offer a choice of four levels of benefit packages that differ by costs. All details of ACA are state specific so remember to specify your state when inquiring about how the act will impact you.

In 2012, Aetna teamed up with the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to implement a partnership to offer low-cost individual health insurance products. We called Aetna to find out if they will participate in the federal marketplace. Matt Wiggin, media representative for Aetna advised, “The Company [Aetna] has submitted applications in 14 states and is currently in the review process.” Wiggin could not answer if Texas is one of those states and with open enrollment starting in three months we are curious to see what other providers will make the deadline to offer approved products and in which states.

The federal agencies involved in overseeing and supporting the program include both private and federal partners. The lead agency will be the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicaid/Medicare Services which will implement the insurance plans and manage enrollment. The United States Small Business Administration and United States Housing and Urban Development regional offices are offering outreach support to educate the small business population and individuals. The Internal Revenue Service is charged with managing the tax credits and assessments, albeit a source from the Internal Revenue Service tells me this project has been placed in the parking lot while the executives manage the current scandal.

Some private players have used technology in innovative ways to share information for preparing Americans for the rollout, such as organizations like Be Covered Texas ( and The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). KFF provides news, research, and analysis of healthcare reform while continuing to partner with major media companies and multimedia communication leaders to provide health care news to tens of millions of people annually. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas contributes content to, as a measure to support the Affordable Healthcare initiative and get Texans enrolled. provides a snapshot of the new healthcare law, how it affects you, as well as, a toll-free number for individuals to call for additional assistance. Sign-up at BeCoveredTexas.Org to receive regular updates and stay informed on changes in the program.

This is just the beginning of much to come regarding this new initiative for small business owners, their employees and uninsured American families. If you are interested in learning more Mountain View College is hosting a free Affordable Healthcare Forum on August 1, 2013 at 10:00 AM CST. Visit to learn more or register at Be sure to read my upcoming Part 2 article Blueprint for Uninsured Workers. To learn more listen to my latest episode on demand entitled Obamacare: What does it really mean for small business? on



Resource Side Note

What Scandal has Taught Me about Teamwork and Leadership in My Small Business

By Cynthia Nevels  |  Post April 23, 2013

ABC ScandalShonda Rhimes has changed the way we watch and interact with television. Scandal, which airs on Thursday nights on ABC, has made its mark on women and men across the United States. The fervor, excitement and water cooler buzz centered on this show is – refreshing.

Courtesty of ABC

I have watched this show for a different reason. I am a female business owner with a small group of employees and subcontractors. I have had my share of hiring challenges over the years and finding that right mix, that perfect recipe for successful hiring or the right team has presented tremendous opportunities for assessment and change. As an employer, I am always searching for loyalty, dedication, commitment and independent thinking. Is that too much to ask for from an employee?

For the past three seasons I have watched, well I think we are in our third season, Scandal’s Gladiators in Suits investigate, incriminate and humiliate some of the trickiest criminals known to mankind. Like millions of Americans who watch Scandal I return each week to see what are the Gladiators in Suits up to this week. Which Gladiator is going to fold, which is going to take charge or which is going to make me want to throw something at my television? Each Gladiator has a unique talent, gift, skill and characteristics that are used to create a team that is undeniably intoxicating and addictive to watch. However, after analyzing my own team I thought to myself, what’s missing in my company? “You have to understand what it is you need from the talent you hire,” states Jim Del Rosario, Head of Global Talent Acquisition for Sonos in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

So, I took a look at each character to try to understand what each brings to the table.

  • Harrison is the blindly loyal and enigmatic fast talker who always remembers why the Gladiators are there – to support their leader no matter the circumstance or personal sacrifice required.
  • Huck is the fiercely obedient and cunning mercenary who will solve the most complex or technical problems with carnal focus and delivers insight from global experiences. My place is to not always know how he got the job done but to appreciate the fact that he did.
  • Quinn is the innocuous, yet inquisitive follower who will question everything but creates a reason for the team to think twice. She’s eager to learn, craves understanding and is disconnected from her real family which forces her to transfer all of her emotion into her new family, her fellow Gladiators.
  • Abby is the beguiling firecracker that can charm a man right out of his socks without ever saying a word. That team member who’s close enough to the edge but doesn’t lose sight of the main goal; albeit she may hate herself the next day. She keeps her eye on the prize for the sake of the team and the mission.

Elizabeth Moffitt, President of Christopher Quinn Group a Human Resource consulting firm in Dallas, TX states, “What makes Olivia Pope’s team work is the diversity in each person. Olivia creates an environment where ideas can flow freely and sharing of ideas is welcomed.” This past season, I noticed Huck cross-training Quinn on some of his mercenary and investigation techniques.

What small business owner wouldn’t want a team that encapsulates smart people who are committed to the cause of helping their leader win every battle through the use of their own internal forces for the sake of the team? Team members who are not on the job solely for a paycheck or reward? If you are trying to build a team Del Rosario believes, “You have to have a sense for it. You must start with a profile of the organization, then you profile the skill you need but you cannot dismiss the diverse nuances that cannot be found on a resume.” On the show careers are not the focus, the purpose is the focus. “In our careers we are taught we can have success or meaning. That’s not true. You can have success and purpose. You have to have the right persona,” states Terri Maxwell, CEO of Succeed on Purpose. What is the key to the success of Scandal’s team where individual gifts and talents come together for the common good? The key is in the organization’s leadership. Moffitt states, “Olivia gives them [Gladiators] the satisfaction of being able to do what they love to do.”

As I analyze the episodes, assess the dynamics of the team members and compare it to the way I manage I noticed two common factors as to why the Gladiators are fiercely loyal to their leader. Olivia Pope, played by Kerri Washington, creates an environment where the Gladiators have the freedom to operate and to do what they do best without reprisal or oversight. After all they are capable adults. There is no micro-managing at Pope and Associates because there is no time. But, also she has freed them from their worst nightmares and horrific pasts. “There’s a trust that has been built which removes distractions and increases productivity,” states Del Rosario. This trust is the magic bullet.

Terri Maxwell, founder of Succeed on Purpose, has created a system for analyzing personas and characteristics of a team. Her system identifies and places individuals into three groups:

  • The Doer The “Doer” is not a good entrepreneur, they are task oriented.
  • The Solver The “Solver” does not want to build anything, they want to be given problems to solve. They can figure any problem out on their own if given the resources and time.
  • The Builder The “Builder” is the entrepreneur who ties all of the pieces together to get it done.

How could you lose with a team of doers, solvers and builders who can see the big picture, who can support each other through the trials of the work day and who return to work each day armed and ready for war? Building the right team takes time, requires a strategy and an understanding of the internal gaps your organization has today. “You don’t want five people who are just like you on your team, if you had a whole group of yourself…you wouldn’t be as productive,” states Moffitt.

I wonder if today’s entrepreneurs were to find the right combination of Gladiators in Suits just how much further would our companies be tomorrow. I guess we’ll keep tweeting and watching Scandal to find out. But as Scandal has taught us, sometimes the unconventional methods become the conventional success stories.


Idea Rich and Equity Poor in America

by Cynthia Nevels

There is no shortage of business ideas in America but the levels of business equity created are skewed. Some experts believe there is a gap in some American communities where a large percentage of ideas spawned by would-be entrepreneurs never reach your shelf, table or browser. I researched and analyzed this paradox, after attending the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ event entitled “Strengthening the Economy by Strengthening Microbusiness” on January 31, 2013. I wanted to understand why some ideas become reality and financially impact the business owners in a positive way and others fade as quickly as they come. Is the problem, solely, lack of capital? Are the majority of the business ideas created by women and people of color terrible ideas or too small for bankers or equity investors to care about?

According to recent article written by Rosemary Carlson Peavler, a retired professor of Business Finance and a freelance writer for, small business owners have to put up some of their own money or equity in order to start their business and before seeking financing from other sources. Equity is the ownership interest of investors in a business firm. If you are the sole owner of your business then you have 100% equity stake in that business. The value of your equity is determined by the total liabilities subtracted from the business’ total assets. In some American communities, small businesses are like most savings accounts in poor neighborhoods – equity/asset deficient. Studies show the businesses with equity, capital, infrastructure and talent often take the lead ahead of small enterprises that lack a solid mixture of these elements. All businesses start out as an idea, but the entrepreneur that is able to acquire the elements is more likely to be financially rewarded for their success.

I read a story about the founder of one of the hottest businesses on the market who took Coke and Pepsi head on with her unsweetened flavored water. This business was an idea of a mother of four who created HINT™ Water in her kitchen because she recognized a problem – her kids weren’t drinking enough water and plain water was boring. I can imagine her talking about this idea at the annual holiday party and someone telling her it will never work or perhaps questioning the market demand for such a simple idea. However, millions of dollars later, Kara Goldin has been rewarded handsomely because she didn’t listen to the naysayers. She found her own way to take her concept from idea, to business model, to money-making microbusiness with employees. Research shows, microbusinesses generate approximately $4.87 trillion dollars to the United States economy annually; and create 41.3 million jobs of which 31% of those are private sector jobs. These are enterprises that started as an idea that have grown to become key factors in sustaining the viability of the American dream.

What makes Kara different from the uncle who talks about starting his own car detailing business or your aunt, the retired school teacher, who bakes the best cakes this side of the Mississippi; both of whom have big dreams of creating a successful business yet never quite seem to move from the idea box to the business box?


“This problem is not solely about money, it is about not being in the network” says angel investor Gregory Campbell. Ideas are the seeds to innovation yet finding the right cultivator can be a struggle in some communities where cultivators do not live or work. “Startup entrepreneurs often do not know where to start or whom to trust with their ideas,” states Tiffany Reese, Chief Creative Strategist for INKS. “I had never met a venture capitalist nor had I ever met a legitimate financial/business advisor who could explain to me what equity is in a way I could understand until I became a senior manager for a large urban nonprofit. They just don’t live where I live and they don’t come into our neighborhoods to deal with small potatoes,” says Reese.

Campbell believes there are four areas where America is failing entrepreneurs with feasible ideas in low-income communities, they are:

  • Providing a space where entrepreneurs can come together to work, collaborate and share ideas without reprise or fear of intellectual property being stolen
  • Creating a culture of encouragement in schools, colleges, and community based organizations
  • Encouraging more successful entrepreneurs who look like the residents to return to mentor potential startups
  • Cultivate a network of researchers, marketers and investors who are willing to supply the underserved with tools they need to move to the next level

What made Kara different? Kara had a background in marketing, she spent hours conducting research to understand the competitive landscape of the beverage market and she did not wait for the idea to fade – she took the business to the next level through the following steps:

  • Education – learning on her own to fill the knowledge gaps she had
  • Communication – communicating to the people she knew what resources she needed
  • Connections – testing her concept by utilizing what she had at the time – data, an idea and customers
  • Capital – she and her husband used their own savings and the revenue generated during the startup phase to demonstrate to investors her idea was proven; she had to put something into the business before anyone would take the company seriously

Goldin has turned HINT Water into a $30 million enterprise and has plans to continue her expansion based on a simple idea.

Reese states, “Entrepreneurship is a mindset, you either have it or you don’t.” Entrepreneurs with ideas recognize opportunity in the problems that exist all around us but the really special ones are willing to invest the elements needed to create that special recipe for success. It takes more than an idea to build equity in a business yet it only takes one idea to change the world around you, create your own financial stability and positively impact economic development in the United States.

Available Resources


Procuring Government Contracts: 10 Tips from the Experts

by Cynthia Nevels

Government contracting – where are we now? For weeks, many have been watching the news to determine if the sequester will impact their job or business. Many agencies have been squeezed by sequestration. NPR reported today the National Parks Service is among the federal agencies starting to feel the pain of across-the-board budget cuts.

What about small businesses? How are they feeling about the across the board cuts? Are suppliers and vendors worried about the cuts and the impact it may have on their business?

There are many resources out there created to help small businesses position themselves to win government contracts. For instance, The Office of Government Contracting (GC), a division of SBA, works to create an environment for maximum participation by small, disadvantaged, and woman-owned businesses in federal government contract awards and large prime subcontract awards. GC advocates on behalf of small business in the federal procurement world. What about local cities and states? There are billions of dollars of awards issued annually to small to midsize businesses. Government agencies will always need paper, steel and butter. But the challenge remains – connecting more opportunities to minority, women and veteran owned businesses.

Experts Karen Becerra, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of the award-winning management consulting and contract compliance firm, The Principle Partnering Group, LLC. (PPG). Karen leads and directs the firm’s daily activities with a track record of helping companies of all sizes establish, manage, and maintain successful business-to-business collaborations; and Frank Wengler, Vice President in charge of AECOM’s aviation planning and engineering practice provide helpful tips for small-to-midsize business owners and sales executives who are looking to boost business development in the government market.

Top 10 Tips for Small Businesses Seeking Government Contracts

  1. create a long-range plan and strategy
  2. get out early
  3. develop and cultivate relationships with the right primes
  4. utilize the friendships and relationships you have with employees who may work for a prime you are targeting
  5. make a personal connection with the decision maker(s)
  6. listen to the primes to get a clear understanding of what the project needs are
  7. be aware of your capacity and capabilities and your fit into a project
  8. help the primes win the project through unique skills, tools or special intellectual property
  9. collect your references
  10. sell yourself

Check out Houston’s 2013 Government Procurement Connections this year at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Where the City of Houston, Houston Port Authority, Houston Airport Systems, AECOM, Parsons and many more decision-makers will be on hand to meet minority, women, and veteran owned business leaders.


Perfecting the VC Pitch

by Cynthia Nevels for The C-Radio Show and D-Mars Business Journal

Is your idea worth millions? Do you have the next innovative solution in payment processing, gaming application or transportation equipment? Are you looking for funding for your new idea to help take it global? Like many forward thinking innovators you may have found the market to be tepid when it comes to finding investment capital for startup businesses. You will often find your normal source of funding for a startup is usually going to come from your own pocket. Whether you use your income from your current job to bank roll your startup, your 401K or you borrow from your family; the money has to come from somewhere. Some companies like Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, PayPal, Medtronic and others got the capital infusion they needed to grow from venture capitalists, a different source that we don’t quite see very often in the African American community.

In 2011, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien hosted a special news program called Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley. The show was about the journey of eight participants in the NewMe Accelerator program for black tech founders, who bring their startup concepts to Silicon Valley in an attempt to make it big. The founders get access to mentorship from industry veterans and proximity to the hottest technology companies in the world. The story follows the founders who have to live together in a small Mountain View, Calif. house, which injects a little Real World-style drama into an already meaty storyline. It was a glimpse into a new and fascinating world that African Americans rarely get to see.

What does it take to acquire investment capital from the titans in the market? What skills or resources do you need? I recently talked to Garrett Johnson, Co-Founder of, a startup launched in July 2011 that is working to improve the efficiency of group mobile messaging. In March 2012, Mr. Johnson’s company acquired $2.2 million in seed venture capital to expand his mobile messaging company.

The road to finding the right venture capital firm was not easy but Johnson shares some valuable tips and lessons learned.

  1. Be prepared to accept rejection and hearing the word “no” often.
  2. Test your product in the market on a small scale first and work out the kinks before searching for funding. You have to have a following or a customer base before a venture capitalist will pay attention.
  3. Hire a team that adds value to your company. You may not be able to pay them what they are worth as a startup but there are many options available to share with your human capital to keep them on the team.
  4. Create a ‘deck” or professional presentation for venture capitalists to see and keep it short, factual and shop them the money – first. Pretty is good but profitable is preferred.
  5. Attend local meetings and network with people you have never met before. The connection you need to make may not be in your community, may not look like you or frequent the places you do. Expand your horizons and come out of your comfort zone.
  6. Hire professional consultants with experience in the areas of accounting, advertising, marketing and an attorney who has experience with raising capital and managing assets.
  7. Protect your ideas first before you start the pitch tour.
  8. Be prepared to spend long nights and early mornings in the office getting the product or service in tip top shape and ensuring your deck is flawless.
  9. Understand your market and your financial numbers (valuation). If you cannot speak VC language – learn quickly.
  10. Never give up. If you believe in the mission, vision, viability of your product/service and you have done your homework your chance will come.

This July, RLJ Credit Opportunity Fund, one of several business ventures operated by Black Entertainment Television Founder Robert Johnson, was licensed by the Small Business Administration to operate as a Small Business Investment Company.

Among investors are Deutsche Bank, Sun Trust, Wells Fargo and Northern Trust. The fund will launch with $70 million in capital, and plans to raise a total of $225 million. The relationship with partner banks will demonstrate that banks are willing to invest in minority companies that can generate returns and help meet their Community Reinvestment Act goals. The fund will focus on financing for minority and small businesses nationwide.

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