Specializing in signs and labels that prevent accidents and save lives, Authorize.Net merchant HCL Labels shares its business advice.

“Our business is safety. Keeping workplace safety in mind in all that we do, we care about each client and each order whether big or small,” says Ben Nell, VP. “It’s a great feeling knowing the products we sell can prevent an accident, so we don’t focus on selling more, we focus on informing better.”

How does HCL Labels prevent accidents and save lives in the workplace?

HCL Labels Inc. has been helping companies comply with federal environmental and workplace safety regulations for over 20 years. Knowing that the health and safety of our customers, employees, and the safety of general public is of the utmost importance, we adopted the phrase "Preventing Accidents, Saving Lives" and use it as a daily reminder as to why we're in business. We help companies keep their teams safe and stay compliant with the latest OSHA/GHS requirements. Over the years we’ve created highly visible labels. This has allowed first responders quick reference to the information they need to ensure they are following proper procedures and able to provide the quickest treatment. Of course, we don’t like to hear about accidents in the workplace, and hope that our products prevent them, but we’re happy to know that they minimize injury as well.

Tell us a little bit about the safety products you have.

As the frontrunner for GHS labeling, and with the largest selection of GHS secondary container labels, we carry an extensive inventory of health and safety signs, labels, and placards, safety products including software and publications and drug testing kits — all ready for rapid delivery to our customers. In addition we have the capability to produce custom-made signs, labels and safety products with a fast turnaround time. Foreign language labels are also available.

All health and safety signs, labels and placards are carefully researched to ensure the information is current and accurate, and complies with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards.

How have you stayed current in the market?

Over the years, HCL has endeavored to meet our customers’ needs in every way possible. We add new health and safety products and services as necessary to keep apace of those needs. HCL also offers Environmental Health and Safety, and Hazard Communication Training and Consulting by employing experienced and knowledgeable professionals who are available to assist companies on-site with compliance challenges. Our instructors are equipped with the most up-to-date information available to ensure employees receive the best and most complete training in all areas of environmental health and safety.

Our goal is to provide customers with knowledgeable and courteous customer service before, during and after the sale. We work hard to ensure complete customer satisfaction.

How has HCL grown over the years?

In 2012, we launched the new website, www.hclco.com which allowed us to easily sell our health and safety products to companies across the country. We're excited that Authorize.Net enables us to quickly and easily take orders online. Their low fees and easy integration with our website helps to maintain a professional presence, with the ability to accept all major credit cards in a secure location.

To learn more about HCL Labels visit www.hclco.com.

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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.

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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!