June is National Candy Month!

Authorize.Net Merchant Amy’s Candy Kitchen named “BEST  CARAMEL APPLE” by the Wall Street Journal and featured on the Food Network, tells us how their small chocolate shop in Cedarburg, Wisconsin achieved their success.

We spoke with Paula Heupel, VP of Sales, about their journey that began 20 years ago with a goal to perfect the art of the caramel apple.

What makes Amy’s award winning?

It comes down to our passion for quality, that's the Amy's difference. We use extra fancy jumbo granny smith apples in every luxurious caramel batch we make.  Our caramel is always freshly made by hand in small batches. Our toppings are hand packed and garnished on every single apple we produce by our chocolatiers. We use only velvety, world-class Belgian Chocolate from Brussels as our base chocolate in everything we make. This uncommon attention to detail gives you a gourmet apple beyond compare.

How did Amy’s go from being a small chocolate shop to such a big success?

We started by making Amy’s Candy Kitchen a destination for locals and tourists. People walking through downtown Cedarburg couldn’t resist the heavenly aroma of our caramel that fills our store. Our award winning caramel is hand made from premium quality natural ingredients in old world copper kettles which cooks our caramel at a slow consistency to provide a gourmet, buttery flavor that no one can match.

In 2002, our owner expanded the business and launched www.AmysGourmetApples.com making our best-selling apples available everywhere in the US and Canada. It's a favorite treat for so many people, so we're excited that Authorize.Net enables us to quickly and easily take orders online so we can offer our award winning caramel apples to customers even outside our Cedarburg community. 

How has the word about your amazing apples spread?

Our gourmet apples have been featured in many different media outlets including winning the "BEST OVERALL" by the Wall Street Journal. We have also been featured on the Food Network as well as Roker on the Road, Martha Stewart, Epicurious magazine and local news media.

What would be your business advice to other small businesses out there?

Focus on one thing and do it well. Once you’ve achieved success give back to the community that supported you and helped made you successful. Amy’s Candy Kitchen / Amy's Gourmet Apples takes pride in being a stronghold in the local Cedarburg community. We donate to the local Festivals, Chamber of Commerce, Santa’s Workshop, the local food pantry and rescue farms. By donating products and providing discounts to the local schools, churches, the Humane Society, among other county programs, we help to make Cedarburg a great place to live, work, and visit.

Amy's Candy Kitchen/Amy's Gourmet Apples would like to thank our customers, as well as the local community of Cedarburg for supporting our business for the past 20 years! Try Amy’s Gourmet Apples for yourself. www.AmysGourmetApples.com 

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

 

Marketing is often an intimidating prospect for small business owners. How do you know which marketing strategies will be the most successful for your product or service? While some marketing campaigns are complex, there are plenty of simple, easily implemented strategies that entrepreneurs can do themselves. The possibilities include:


Offer Free Samples

When it comes to convincing a potential customer that your product or service is exactly what they want, there's nothing quite like firsthand experience. Identify places where your customers are likely to be, and then find a way to put a sample of your product in their hands or wow them with a demonstration. Fairs, conventions and community events are all worth considering.

Send Regular E-mails to Stay in Touch


Whether it's once a week or once a month, a friendly, helpful e-mail from you can help keep your business's name in front of your customers and other interested parties. Sending humorous messages, clever trivia or handy tips on a regular basis can be an awesome way to nurture your rapport with your customers who have signed up to get messages.

Sponsor a Community Event or Organization

Participating in your community is a fantastic way to forge relationships and spread the word about your business. Sponsoring a sports team or a special event builds goodwill and allows you to network with both your fellow business owners and potential customers.


Use Promotional Giveaways to Keep Your Brand in Front of Your Target Audience's Eyes  



Why do so many businesses give away ball caps, tee shirts, key rings, ink pens and other promotional items with their name or logo on them? It's because these gifts are instant advertising. They put your business's name in front of both the person who receives the item and anyone who encounters them while they are using it. As a reliable method for building and maintaining name recognition, these promotional items can be smart marketing. They can be even more effective if you can come up with an item that ties into the product or service you offer. For example, a branded fly swatter can be a clever way for pest control companies to put their name in front of people who might need their services.

Run a Summer Sale or Offer a Coupon Deal for New or Existing Customers

Summer sales and promotions are a great way to generate more traffic. People will be on the lookout for hot sales as the summer heats up and as holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day roll around. It’s a good idea to discount items that make sense for the summer season. When there’s a scorcher in the forecast, celebrate the summer heat with a promotion. Just keep it simple. You don’t need tons of preparation… flyers, e-mail blasts or even text messages to customers are a great and inexpensive way to increase awareness and revenue.

Show Support for a Cause



Supporting a cause you care about can be both charitable and savvy. Donating to a charity event, raffling off your product or service, or serving as a drop-off location for a community drive allows you to assist with something you care about, encourage goodwill, and get your business's name out there among both your community's movers and shakers and the general population.

Maintain an Active Social Media Presence



In today's world, social media is a must. Using Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram and other social media networks can be an inexpensive and highly effective way to generate more visibility for your brand. However, it only works if you use it wisely. Make sure that you are providing fresh, reliable content that generates both interest and trust. Think of social media like a conversation with your customers. If you want to keep your audience listening, you need to stay engaged yourself.

When it comes to marketing, the bottom line is that you don't have to be a marketing professional to get the word out about your business. Utilizing a combination of these do-it-yourself tips is a great way to increase visibility and build your customer base.

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

 

 

By George Anderson / 216digital

The Business

Since 2002, Mobile Home Parts Store has offered the largest online selection of products for all types of mobile home improvement projects. Based in Laurinburg, North Carolina, its founder, Pate Peele, turned his experience in selling mobile homes and his valuable relationships with mobile home parts distributors into a thriving retail business.

Initially, Mobile Home Parts Store sold out of a small brick-and-mortar establishment in Laurinburg. But Pate had a vision. As his son, Tim Peele, puts it, “My dad knew that the Internet was the future of business.” Pate decided to take his business online, knowing he could reach a larger market. It was 2002, and e-commerce was still a relatively new field. But Pate bought web development software and taught himself HTML to get the site up and running. Tim remembers the dedication that his father showed in launching his e-commerce store. “My dad would stay up until four in the morning working on the site,” Tim says. “It was pretty wild.”

Pate brought Tim into the business early on, working side-by-side for many years before Tim took the reins as head of the company. Under his leadership, Mobile Home Parts Store has continued to adapt to a changing economy and a changing e-commerce landscape.

The Challenge

Mobile Home Parts Store was already using Authorize.Net for seamless and secure payment processing. But as the business continued to grow, it needed a new, mobile-responsive, e-commerce website. And it also needed something else: a secure way to store sensitive customer information with Authorize.Net. As Tim remembers, “Customers had to re-enter their credit card every time they wanted to make a purchase. It was pretty annoying.”

Tim knew that storing customer information would provide a quicker checkout process, but providing that experience to customers would require significant updates to their e-commerce site. Mobile Home Parts Store had worked for years with 216digital, Inc., a digital marketing, design, and development agency in Cleveland, OH. 216digital had helped Tim with competitive marketing, website design, and custom e-commerce functionality so it was the first place Tim turned to for help.

The Solution

Though Mobile Home Parts Store had used Authorize.Net since 2002, it needed to integrate the Authorize.Net Customer Information Manager (CIM) into its e-commerce store to begin storing customer information. “The site was using the Miva shopping cart platform with a pre-built module to handle a standard Authorize.Net integration,” said Greg McNeil, CEO and Founder of 216digital.  “We leveraged our expertise developing for the Miva shopping cart to design a custom CIM integration for the new e-commerce store.”

The Results

“They really nailed it,” says Tim of the new site design from 216digital. After the new site with CIM launched, returning customers could easily store their credit cards on file. As Tim put it, “I have quite a few repeat customers who buy monthly or even weekly. It’s just easier for them to pop on the computer, buy what they need, and be done. It’s a huge help and a huge convenience. If I was a repeat buyer, I would want that feature.”

With the launch of the new site, Mobile Home Parts Store saw an immediate increase in their e-commerce conversion rate. Repeat customers could now store their credit card information securely, and checkout became a breeze. In the first five days of the new site, Mobile Home Parts Store saw a huge rise in its e-commerce conversion rate: 66.39% for desktop, 56.08% for mobile, and an incredible 133.48% for tablets.

Authorize.Net’s CIM has become a critical piece of the e-commerce puzzle for Mobile Home Parts Store, and 216digital’s integration of this custom functionality is an invaluable asset. Combined with a mobile-responsive redesign, the CIM integration has produced an intelligent, secure e-commerce experience for Mobile Home Parts Store’s customers – an investment that offers tangible returns.

For custom Authorize.Net integrations and ecommerce development services, email the 216digital team team@216digital.com or call (216) 505-4400.

Would you like to see your story featured on our blog?  Take a moment and submit your customer story.

Cashflow is important to any business, but it's especially crucial for small businesses that typically have less working capital to run their business with.

All too often, small business owners focus so much on sales that they let things slide in regards to getting paid on time. Increase the odds of being paid promptly with these simple tips.

1. Invoice Promptly and Effectively

Generate and send invoices immediately after goods or services are rendered. Use courteous language in your invoices, and make sure that they are formatted to your clients' liking. For example, do they require purchase order numbers, EINs or other information to remit payment promptly?

2. Follow Up 

If possible, set it up so that late payment reminders are sent automatically. Otherwise, set up a system to ensure that late invoices are followed up on consistently. At the absolute minimum, monthly or bi-monthly statements should be mailed to all accounts that owe money to your business.

3. Consider Contracts

Depending on the nature of your business, you might consider having clients sign contracts before providing any goods or services. Use the contract to specify your expectations regarding payments, including when they are expected and how much should be remitted.

4. Accept Electronic Payments

It may cost money to set up, but having the ability to accept electronic payments is a terrific way to encourage prompt remittance. Also, if your business requires recurring payments from customers, setting up Automated Recurring Billing using Authorize.Net is a great way to ensure prompt bi-weekly or monthly payments. Plus it’s free with your Authorize.Net account.

5. Offer Early Payment Incentives 

Incentivize clients to pay invoices early by offering discounts. For example, you can permit a client to reduce their payment by an agreed-upon percentage as long as it is received within 20 days instead of 30.

6. Small business funding

At Authorize.Net we know how important it is for you to have the capital that you need to grow your business. That's why we have partnered with Kabbage, a leader in funding for businesses. If you’re an Authorize.Net merchant, you may qualify for up to $100,000 in funds*. To learn more, simply visit Kabbage and complete the one-page online application. Your funds can be available in minutes.

Using these tips, you can receive payments quicker and increase your working cash flow to help run your business more successfully.

Portland, Maine business owner Leigh Kellis of The Holy Donut shares her small business advice and how in only three years she went from selling one dozen donuts a day to one million donuts a year!

How did you come up with the idea for your amazing tasting, yet healthier donut?

The idea for The Holy Donut grew organically out of a craving I had for some deeply satisfying yet healthy comfort food – specifically, a donut. I wanted a donut made with fresh ingredients that I could feel good about eating. Since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to create it myself. The (not-so) secret ingredient: fresh Maine potatoes gives the donuts a delicious moist texture that makes them just melt in your mouth.

How did you break into the market and start selling your new product?

Once I realized I had a product I felt confident that other people would enjoy as well, I contacted Coffee by Design and they immediately agreed to buy a dozen each day to resell.

How did you grow the business from there?

It was all about perseverance. I continued to pound the pavement with my samples and within a year I had a wholesale donut business on my hands! I was soon producing 40 dozen donuts a week. I was so busy making donuts that my father jumped in to help. For five months he would arrive every day at 6 a.m. to pick up that day’s deliveries. I made every donut by hand, cooking them four at a time in a small fryolator. My wholesale business grew to 100 dozen donuts a week working out of a small shared commercial kitchen space.

Did you always see your business as a wholesale business or did you have the goal
of opening up your own donut shop?

I definitely wanted to move beyond wholesale and open a real donut shop– that was my dream.

We were lucky to find a great space in Portland, Maine, and The Holy Donut officially opened for business in March 2012. In the beginning it was just me, my father and one employee. Our customers loved us and our donuts and we grew so quickly that we had to learn how to upscale in a massive way while keeping the same homemade product. We opened a second location in October 2013. In just over three years we have grown to 35 employees, and now make one million donuts a year.

What would your business advice be based on what you have learned along the way?

It’s all about treating customers well, using the best quality ingredients and most importantly making a product that I love and feel good about eating and offering to our customers! Donuts and life are meant to be enjoyed!


Would you like your business featured? We'd love to hear your small business advice. Submit your story here. Happy Selling!

Authorize.Net merchant, Mike Engberson of UtahMountainBiking.com, not only fixes and sells bikes, he shares a passion with his customers—he’s an avid mountain biker who races most Saturdays on the epic trails of Utah.

What’s Mike’s small business advice? “It’s all about our customers. When I fix a bike for a customer, I have to ensure the job is done right. I personally work on every bike that enters my shop. It’s all about personal care and safety.”

“We also feel it’s important to support the community, so we’re not just a bike shop. UtahMountainBiking.com is Utah’s #1 source for mountain biking, offering race info, trail reviews, bike news and even tips on how to care for and repair your own bike, so customers are prepared if they break down on a trail.”

“Authorize.Net helps us so we can accept credit cards from everywhere—in the shop, online and even at bike races and events with a mobile app and card reader. The service is an integral part of our business.”

Check out Utah Mountain Biking at UtahMountainBiking.com.

 

We  Our Merchants

For National Small Business Month, we want to thank all of our amazing merchants who make our business possible. We know that small business ideas change the world, which is why we are in awe of what you do every day.

We’re proud to feature select businesses on our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the year with advice to our small business community. Is there anything you have learned from running a business that would be valuable to share with other small business owners?

What makes your business successful?

If you are interested in having your business featured, please submit your business name and any small business advice you would like to share with us using our online form at http://forms.authorize.net/bigAdvicefromSmallBusinesses.

If your business is chosen, we will contact you to let you know when your feature is scheduled.

Happy Selling,

Authorize.Net

Please note, featured businesses are selected at the sole discretion of Authorize.Net and due to high interest, we regret that we are not able to honor all requests or respond to all inquiries about the program.

Running your own business means slacking off isn’t an option. When you don’t make the best use of your time and energy on a consistent basis, you risk slowing down commercial growth, losing potential customers and leaving a lot of money on someone else’s table. With so much at stake, the stress of not living up to your expectations can be downright paralyzing, but fear not! These five productivity-boosting tips can teach you how to get the most out of every day and still make it home in time for dinner.

1. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

The triple-word emphasis here is important because so many small business owners are afraid to give up an ounce of control, even if that means working overtime and missing holidays. In reality, by insisting on doing everything on your own, you’re probably stretching yourself too thin to be very effective at any one task.

Using Authorize.Net for your payment processing makes for an excellent place to start, but there are also many other ways to simplify day-to-day procedures. For example, if you’re struggling to build a presence on social media, you might want to invest in a tech-savvy planner who can create and maximize your
pages. In-house training of new hires can be handed off to your most experienced employees. The idea is to let go of smaller details so that you can fully focus on taking your business to the next level.

2. Take Advantage of Affordable Online Helpers

Setting up reliable digital systems like Authorize.Net to accept payments, Freshbooks to track time and manage invoices and MailChimp to manage email marketing net big boosts in productivity, but why stop there? From printable business plan templates to free professional marketing lessons to low-cost analytical tools, the Internet is full of amazingly effective resources for increasing your productivity without blowing your budget.

3. Streamline Customer Service

By using Authorize.Net to process credit cards, you’re already one step ahead of the game. Using drop-shipping services to lower the cost of logistics, uploading a list of frequently asked questions to cut down on time-consuming inquiries and creating a standardized protocol for dealing with complaints are all examples of other smart changes you can make to improve efficiency in customer support.

4. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Yes, you want your small business to expand as fast as impossible – but not at the expense of quality, reputation and your own sanity. Taking on too much all at once is a recipe for disaster. While you might feel more productive at first, it will eventually leave you too drained and stressed out to keep up
with all of your new responsibilities.

5. Expect the Unexpected

Keeping a steady pulse on work balance is great help, but in business, there will undoubtedly be times when new problems are dumped on your plate that just aren’t within your realm of control. To prevent them from creating disorder in your daily routine, it’s a good idea to always have an emergency plan on the back burner. Cover common scenarios like unhappy or injured customers, unforeseen expenses, marketing mistakes, natural disasters and repair fees. That way if you’re faced with multiple issues at once, as often happens, you can immediately cross a few off your to-do list.

In general, remember to stay positive when emergencies or mistakes threaten to derail your progress. Running a business is a learning process, and it won’t always be smooth sailing. The quicker you can stop regretting the past and start looking toward the future, the more productive you’ll be in dealing with the challenges in front of you right now. 

What could be sweeter than talking payments at #TRANSACT16? Eating anniversary cake with Authorize.Net!

While attending TRANSACT 2016's opening night, Authorize.Net celebrated its 20th anniversary of being a trusted payments partner. Attending the show? Stop by booth #606 to say hi and receive a 20-year anniversary pin!

Authorize.Net is attending TRANSACT 16 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. TRANSACT 16 is where thousands of payments professionals unveil the newest technologies, latest trends, security outlook and policy changes impacting e-commerce, fintech, and consumers.

Attending the show? Stop by booth #606 to talk payments with the Authorize.Net team and get your chocolate fix!