The Local Resource Academy was held Wednesday, February 6 at Saengerrunde Hall. The Academy was held to provide 40 actionable tips that businesses probably don’t know about but can use to grow their business, save time and money, and become more efficient—All while enjoying a lunch buffet from local restaurants and two scoops from Amy’s Ice Creams.
Each of these resources presented 5 key tips directly accessing their benefits and programs.
City of Austin Small Business Program
City of Austin Development Services Department
Austin Resource Recovery
Austin Center for Events
Austin Water & Wastewater
We were thrilled to present Amy’s EDU: The Amy’s Way as an afternoon workshop.
Five tips from each resource:
City of Austin Small Business Program
1. Tools for business at the Austin Public Library Did you know the Austin Public Library has tools that can help strengthen your client list and even increase the foot traffic within your business. Such benefits include generating lists, emailing data, creating matrices, and figuring out who your competition is. AtoZdatabases is a directory and marketing database that includes 30 million businesses and 220 million residents. It’s a free tool! All you need is an Austin Public Library card to access it.
2. Get a coach! Did you know the City of Austin’s Small Business Program offers no-cost coaching services to help you develop a marketing strategy, find lending assistance, learn to effectively network, or become more competitive with a business plan.
3. Create a disaster preparedness plan Did you know that economic and natural disasters affect Austin small businesses nearly every year. Does your business have a disaster preparedness plan? If not, the City of Austin’s Small Business Program has resources that can help: www.austintexas.gov/page/get-back-business.
4. Have a business plan A business plan serves as an important strategic document for small businesses. But did you know that you don’t have to start your plan from scratch. The Austin Public Library has a subscription to the Business Plans Handbook Collection, a database with example business plans that you can access for free. All you need is your Austin Public Library card.
5. Are you a veteran entrepreneur? The City of Austin cares deeply about the local veteran entrepreneur community, which is why we created the Veteran Business Loan Initiative. The Veteran Business Loan is part of the Family Business Loan Program, a public-private partnership between the City of Austin Economic Development Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which offers a low-interest rate loan and low borrower equity requirements to help create or expand a business.
Contact the Small Business Program at 512-974-7800 or austintexas.gov/department/small-business-development-program.
1. Sign up for a Free On-site Energy Assessment Let our experts show you how you can save. Our free, on-site, walk-through energy assessment can identify specific energy and cost-saving measures for your business. We’ll identify potential energy efficiency opportunities, make recommendations for energy efficiency upgrades, and provide information on qualifying equipment rebates and incentive programs. Call 512-482-5346 to request your free assessment.
2. Monitor your energy usage regularly The Austin Energy web app, austinenergyapp.com, is a browser-based application that works on your smartphone, tablet or computer, allowing you to monitor your energy usage anytime, anywhere. You can view your usage in monthly or daily increments either by dollar amount or kWh, to see when and where you can save. View your billing history and get a forecast of your future bill. You can also register to receive alerts via email or text message when you reach certain usage and demand amounts.
3. Register for Outage Alerts Register for Austin Energy’s Outage Alerts. Just text “REG” to 287846 to get started. You’ll be able to report power outages via text message, and Austin Energy will respond with status updates, letting you know when we expect power to be restored. Austin Energy also sends proactive text messages, so if there are power outages at your business outside of normal business hours, you’ll be notified. Find more details at outagemap.austinenergy.com.
4. Upgrade to a Smart Thermostat Control your business’s Wi-Fi thermostat anywhere, anytime, to save money and energy. Through Austin Energy’s Power Partner Thermostat program, you can also earn a $25 rebate for each eligible thermostat you purchase and install. Plus, we offer an $85 smart energy savings participation incentive for each Austin Energy-approved Wi-Fi-connected thermostat when you enroll in the voluntary smart energy savings program. Visit austinenergy.com/go/thermostat for more info.
5. Earn big discounts on bright lights and other energy improvements Austin Energy offers small business and small non-profit customers up to an 80% discount to install high-efficiency lighting. Contact a participating contractor to get started. You may also be eligible for a 30% bonus rebate on our standard commercial rebates on retrofits for a wide range of improvements such as HVAC upgrades , ceiling and roof insulation, energy-efficient windows, solar screens and more. Visit savings.austinenergy.com or call 512-482-5346 for more info. Email: email@example.com.
City of Austin Development Services Department
1. Do your due diligence When conducting the necessary due diligence required for executing a commercial lease for your business, visit DSD’s Development Assistance Center (or DAC) to ensure that you understand and can comply with the property’s zoning and permitting requirements. The DAC is located on the first floor of One Texas Center at 505 Barton Springs Road and provides development consulting and business-related permitting services. For more information, call 512-974-6370 or visit austintexas.gov/department/development-assistance-center.
2. Consider using local firms for your building and remodel construction projects Local firms understand City of Austin code requirements and have experience with the City of Austin permitting process. When using a non-local firm, consider asking about their previous experience with the City of Austin.
3. Submit a Concept Site Plan Instead of submitting a fully designed site plan at the beginning of the permitting process, consider submitting a Concept Site Plan instead. A Concept Site Plan is designed to help applicants evaluate how City development regulations apply to a project in advance of submitting a fully designed site plan. While a Concept Site Plan does not authorize construction, it can speed up the overall process by pinpointing any potential issues and answering specific questions before submitting a fully designed site plan. The City commits to the answers and results of a Concept Site Plan for one year. For more information, contact Donna Galati at 512-974-2733 or Donna.Galati@austintexas.gov.
4. Address all comments When you receive plan review comments back from staff, please provide an application update that addresses the comments. If you disagree with the comments from the staff reviewer, speak to the case managers and/or other supervisors about the issue.
5. Ask about variances and waivers During the permitting process, ask your reviewer about any potential board/commission variances and/or waivers that could be applicable to the project. These board/commission variances/waivers may help with sites that have unique conditions or constraints that sometimes make it difficult to comply with the City of Austin’s Land Development Code and Criteria Manuals.
1. Build a business plan A business plan is a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your business. A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing the business allowing investors to feel confident that they will see a return on their investment, and is the tool used to convince people working with you that your company is a smart choice. Business plan templates are free and available from PeopleFund, SCORE, the SBA, and other agencies. Business advisors offer free guidance on how to craft components of your business plan, including financial projections and market analysis. Business plans should be living documents that you edit, refer back to, and follow as a business strategy guide.
2. Utilize local resources There are several local resources to assist in all stages of business growth. The BizAid Orientation program offered by the City of Austin serves as an introduction to resources available to small business owners, various government agencies, and organizations you may need to reach out to along the way. In addition, PeopleFund also offers loan recipients tailored support through our mentorship program People2People. We recruit highly skilled professional in the areas of expertise you need to help your business such as legal services, marking, accounting, human resources, web development, and more. These free programs cover topics such as personal branding, financial planning, access to capital, credit, and so much more.
3. Funding and access to affordable small business capital can be for everyone We understand that for a small business to start to grow, they need capital quickly. We offer Flash Funds up to $25,000, so you can get a boost for your business right when you need it most. With low-interest rates, fee, and a streamlined process, you’ll get the capital needed to make your business dream become a reality. At PeopleFund, we focus on minorities, veterans, and businesses in low-income areas to make sure everyone has a chance at the American dream. We offer discounted interest rates to women and veterans at respectively (2% discount for women and flat 5% for veterans). We offer loans from $1,000 to $350,000.
4. Co-Working Spaces Co-working spaces are shared workspaces that offer affordable office space for those looking to escape the isolation of a home office or coffee shop. Occupants typically are freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small teams looking to take advantage of a flexible space. One huge advantage of these spaces is the ability to rent out only what you need vs an entire private office space, which can be costly. Through various membership based models, costs vary and allow for flexibility. The Bloom Lab at PeopleFund is a professional space where you can access high-end photography equipment and software to best present your products, and business advisors to shape your business plan and help you compete in today’s changing market. With access to conference rooms, abundant resources, and located in the heart of east downtown, the Bloom Lab offers an engaging and professional setting while allowing you to gain the tools you need to help your business blossom. If you are a sole proprietor, this is a great way to network, get business guidance and advising while you grow, and build your business in a welcoming and supportive environment.
5. Women’s Resources Did you know that women are more than 50% of the Texas population, but make up less than 25% of entrepreneurs? Women have a harder time attracting capital and investments, but their small businesses are proven to invest in their communities, repay loans at a higher rate, and provide valuable community services. We offer a women’s coworking and business advising center, a dedicated women’s program manager, and deliver special workshops and networking events where women can gather and learn from one another.
PeopleFund can be reached at 855-500-1686 or peoplefund.org.
Austin Resource Recovery
1. Make recycling accessible and obvious. Use color-coded bins and post signs.
3. Check your dumpsters Check to see what is being thrown out and how full dumpsters are before collection. Optimize dumpster sizes and pick-up schedules to save on fees.
4. Reduce costs Save money and make friends by sharing dumpster services with neighbors.
5. Look for opportunities to reduce and reuse before you recycle Save big by reducing waste in the first place.
Austin Water & Wastewater
1. Water Audit Rebate Receive up to $5,000 for an independent water audit of your facility to identify potential water and cost savings. To qualify, you must commit to fix any leaks and make any necessary equipment or system adjustments discovered by the audit.
2. Bucks for Business Rebates Austin Water offers rebates of up to $100,000 for water saving equipment retrofits and upgrades in facilities such as office buildings, factories, health care facilities, schools, universities, hotels and restaurants. The rebate amount is based on $0.50/1000 gallons saved over the 10-year lifetime of the rebated equipment or 50% of the cost of the equipment, whichever is less. Examples of eligible upgrades include:
• Capturing on-site sources of water such as air conditioner condensate or foundation drain water to use for landscape irrigation or cooling water make-up
• Equipment and processes that reduce the amount of potable water used for cooling towers, including those that maximize cycles of concentration for cooling towers above five cycles
• Reuse of high quality rinse water used in the high tech industry Laundry water use reduction measures such as ozone treatment and water recycling and reuse systems
• EPA EnergyStar rated commercial kitchen equipment
Some projects may also qualify for property or sales tax exemptions or other incentives offered by Austin Energy or Texas Gas Company.
3. Rainwater Harvesting System Rebate Program Rebates of $0.50 per gallon capacity for non-pressurized systems or $1.00 per gallon capacity for pressurized systems up to a maximum rebate of $5,000 are available.
4. Irrigation System Upgrade Rebate Austin Water offers a rebate of up to $5,000 for a central computer irrigation controller system. Additional rebates are available for flow sensors, multi-stream nozzles and master valves.
5. Reclaimed Water Use of less expensive treated wastewater to meet non-potable water needs such as irrigation and cooling towers. Austin now has two reclaimed water filling stations one located in East Austin on Hergotz Lane and the other at the Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Facility for businesses that need bulk water. Additional locations around the City are being planned.
Hire the attitude, train the skill
• Hiring the right people is about who they are, not what they can do
• You can train skills such as cooking, cleaning, sales, data entry, excel, etc. all day long…but it’s next to impossible to change a person’s purpose which feeds their attitude
• We’ll share some best practices in hiring the attitude through the application and interview process
Looking beyond the counter and curating the Total Customer Service Experience
• Teaching your employees to welcome themselves so that they can welcome others
• Crafting a human moment with your customers so that they grow to love and trust your employees and your brand which strengthens your bottom line
• We’ll share some ways to look at your current service experience and how to strengthen weak areas
Gamify your sales goals and teach your employees financial literacy
• So that they can begin to think like owners and look at your costs and your customers like you do
• We’ll explain how this is financially beneficial to your business and personally beneficial to the growth of your employees
• Making a big impact on your community through sharing experiences and donations instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on commercials or ads
• We’ll give some insight on how Amy’s has been un-marketing for nearly 35 years
• Tying what you do and what you sell to a higher purpose which gets your employees invested in their work and the community invested in your “why” so that when they have a choice of where to spend their money, they choose you
• We’ll share some examples of how to improve your company’s PR pitches through storytelling to land more spots on local TV
Contact Amy’s EDU at 512-459-6149.