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How to Start a 3D Printing Business: 3 Legal FAQ

As 3D printers become better and more affordable (there are quite a few models under $500), more and more entrepreneurs become interested in how they can contribute to their small businesses or provide avenues for brand new businesses altogether. Being able to manufacture products without the same staff, machinery, and space requirements opens all new avenues of productivity and profit. But those possibilities don’t come without risk, especially of the legal variety. Just because you can 3D print something doesn’t mean you should, and definitely doesn’t mean you won’t get sued for it, or worse. So here are three big legal questions about the 3D printing business for you to consider, before you print yourself a lawsuit. 1. Who Owns the Copyrights? In a recent Supreme Court decision regarding some 3D-printed decorations on cheerleader uniforms, the Court made an important distinction: Clothing and other useful articles are not subject to copyright protection; artistic works and designs are. Therefore, uniform designs cannot be copyrighted, but decorations on them can be. And while the difference between the two may be obvious in the cheerleader uniform realm (Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “To be clear, the only feature of the cheerleading uniform eligible for a copyright in this case is the two-dimensional work of art fixed in the tangible medium of the uniform fabric”), that distinction may not be as clear with other works. Like, say, a bird’s nest-shaped egg holder. As Justice Breyer wrote in dissent: “Indeed, great industrial design may well include design that is inseparable from the useful article-where, as Frank Lloyd Wright put it, ‘form and function are one.'” 2. Is It Illegal to Print? While the world of 3D printing is largely unregulated at this point, there are some items that are obviously off limits. You’d think guns would be one of them, but think again. Bombs and some types of assault rifles are banned, and some states may require registration of a completed gun made of 3D-printed parts. But most of the pieces, at least at this point, are fair game. Also, if someone else has the patent…

9 tips for starting up in an unfamiliar industry

Looking to leap into an industry you know nothing about? Here’s some food for thought from Russ Smith, a bold entrepreneur who jumped into the restaurant business after a two-decade career in journalism. Here are his top tips for success. 1. Be passionate While a photographer at the Alton, Illinois, daily newspaper, Smith covered the stories of local people making a difference in the community. This inspired him to step out from behind the camera and do his part to help revitalize the historic downtown area that he loved. He opened the popular Bossanova Restaurant & Lounge in 2003. 2. Polish your people skills At his previous job, Smith honed his people skills by meeting and interacting with new people. He pointed out that these skills are essential in the restaurant business too. If he isn’t greeting and serving diners, he is hiring chefs, bartenders and waiters. “You interact with people who are your customers, so it’s important to have the right personality,” Smith said. 3. Know your market A crucial part of your business plan and marketing strategy should be to research your market. If you’re itching to open an eatery and there are 10 sports bars in the area, you’d better come up with another concept. Bossanova was originally supposed to be a wine bar. But two nights before Smith opened it, he changed his mind and made it a martini lounge. The concept was entirely new in the area, and customers flooded in. “It went over from the minute we opened the doors,” he said. “I had to run to the store to get ingredients for the martinis because we ran out!” 4. Be resilient In 2014, Smith brought another restaurant to downtown Alton: Elijah P.’s Burgers & Brews was a unique concept that served hand-crafted burgers and lots of tap beers, but after three years. But Smith failed to think through his plan for starting a second business. Elijah P’s ultimately shuttered its doors. Built on 2.5 acres of land, the much bigger venue came with a lot more challenges. “We came out of the gate strong,…

4 tips for hiring the right employees

Good employees do more than provide a friendly face to your customers — they make a great business. So how can you find the right employees for the job? Here are four tips to help, along with a checklist of things to remember after you’ve made a hire. Write an effective job description Think of your job description as a sales pitch with the goal of “selling” the position to the best people available. You want to paint a picture that entices strong candidates to apply, while also setting realistic expectations regarding job requirements. Here are the key components every job description should include: Job title: Keep it short and sweet and avoid using titles that sound made up. Business summary: This is your opportunity to let job seekers know what your business does and what you’re all about. Job responsibilities: Here you list the responsibilities you will expect candidates to handle if and when they’re hired. Be clear and use terminology job applicants will be familiar with. Requirements and preferences: Listing required skills or experiences will help you find the right candidate. Including preferred skills can help you narrow it down even further. Benefits: This is where you can “sell” the position by telling candidates the benefits they’ll receive from working with you. Attractive benefits can help your business stand out from competitors. How to apply: Finally, let potential candidates know how they can submit an application online, via email or in person. Attract the right candidates Once you have your job description set up, you need to get people to apply. Newspaper classified ads are largely a thing of the past, but there are a number of online job boards you can use to post your opening with hopes of attracting talent. No matter the type of business you run, job boards such as Monster, Indeed or ZipRecruiter are a good place to start. Another place to try posting your job description online is Craigslist. Many people use the “Jobs” section of the site to look for work, and job listings are organized by business type to give you a better…

How to write a lean business plan: 9 easy steps

If your side hustle has been taking off, chances are you’re considering making it a full-time business. But, have you prepared — or even thought of preparing — a business plan for it? You may not believe your gig needs one, but a business plan provides a strong foundation for the future of your company. Budding entrepreneurs can approach drafting a business plan in one of two ways. They can write up a traditional business plan, which tends to be extremely detailed, written three to five years out in the future, and may be as long as 30 to 40 pages. Or, they can choose a lean startup plan, which is a much more condensed version of its traditional counterpart. Traditional business plans, as I mentioned earlier, tend to be much more thorough than lean plans. They’ll cover the executive summary, business description, concept and strategy, and they’ll include industry and market analysis, the organization of the business, financial projections and any funding requests. If that’s too in-depth for your emerging business, go lean instead. Lean startup plans do come with nine sections to cover, but don’t worry — they’re much less intensive to write up. 1. Value proposition What original qualities or problem-solving abilities can your offerings or services bring to the market? This proposition clearly sums up the value of your business. 2. Key partnerships You should be able to cover information about partners working alongside your business. Some of these may be outside businesses, or they may be vendors or suppliers. 3. Key activities How will your small business gain a competitive advantage over other businesses? This section reveals your strategies and activities you’ll undertake to get the upper hand. 4. Key resources Intellectual property or capital may be considered key resources to use that will allow you to create value for your desired consumer. 5. Customer segments In a traditional business plan, this section is referred to as a market analysis. It defines your target market and their needs. The same goes for a lean startup plan, where you will need to be able to clearly…

11 ways to slash overhead and pocket your profits

For any small business, it’s important to spend money wisely and eliminate unnecessary expenses. Here are 11 money-saving ideas to boost your bottom line. 1. Barter The owner of that new business down the street is in the same boat as you are: You’re both strapped for cash. So why not help each other out and save some money by bartering? You can partner with a business that doesn’t compete with yours. For example, a printer can barter a brochure job for some catering from a local restaurant. Or you can partner with a business that provides complementary services, but not the same exact services as you do — like a massage therapist and a yoga instructor. It might not always work, but it’s certainly worth asking. 2. Buy gently used equipment You can save up to 60 percent by buying used computer equipment, copiers and office furniture. Auctions, social media, and newspaper or online classifieds are good sources of used equipment. 3. Use brand ambassadors Advertising can cost you a bundle, and there’s no guarantee that it’s going to attract business. So why not tap into free advertising from your customers? These brand ambassadors are more than happy to talk up your business to their family and friends. It’s also a smart idea to offer your current customers discounted or free services for every new client they refer to you. 4. Get free or low-cost help Give college students a chance to learn the ropes by setting up an internship program for your small business. Interns will get valuable work experience and college credit. In return, they’ll beef up your social media presence, organize your files or complete other important tasks — without breaking your budget. Just be sure to check with an HR consultant or employment lawyer about the laws in your state regarding paid and unpaid internships.   5. Streamline and save Investigate ways that your business can process payments faster. For example, switching to an electronic payment method, such as Deluxe eChecks, can help you eliminate the need for paper check stock, print and mailing costs. Plus, you can…

3 tips for introducing unfamiliar products to a new market

Small Talks features insider expertise from successful small business owners. This video series highlights how real entrepreneurs overcame their most pressing challenges. Lucila Giagrande always had a sweet tooth. She grew up in a small town in Argentina, enjoying the delicious desserts that her mother, grandmother and aunts would bake for her. She especially loved alfajores — pastries consisting of dulce de leche sandwiched between two crumbly cookies. It wasn’t until she moved to Chicago years later that she realized she could turn her love for this Argentinian sweet into a business. On a mission to bring an authentic taste of Argentina to the U.S., Giagrande founded Lucila’s Homemade Alfajores. She started small, selling alfajores at a local farmers market, but now her handcrafted confections are sold by national retailers. After finding success selling a product that many people in her target market were unfamiliar with, she has three pieces of advice for business owners who find themselves in a similar situation. What it takes to introduce an unfamiliar product into a new market 1. Have a trial period for testing the product. People need to touch, feel or — in Giagrande’s case — taste your product in order to understand it. “I started participating in farmers markets,” Giagrande says. “So basically I was handing out samples. We put the product in front of people one piece at a time.” Not only is this method a great way to expose your target audience to your product, but you can also use these tests to get feedback and discover which aspects of your offerings are resonating with people. 2. Hustle and tell your story. When you don’t have a marketing department or huge advertising budget to spread the word about your business, it’s up to you to explain the benefits of your product to your audience. Doing this kind of promotion face-to-face is especially important when you’re working with unfamiliar or new products. Being able to tell your business’ story to people in person, so they hear the passion you have for your product, is essential. Make time to do things like appearances…

Starting a Home Business? Start Here First

With so much technology at our fingertips, more employees are working from home (and anywhere with WiFi) than ever before. But what if you’re thinking of taking telecommuting to the next level, and starting your own business out of your home? Seems simple enough, right? Not so fast, my friend. Between neighborhood zoning laws and tax deductions, there are quite a few legal considerations to take into account before your home business takes flight. Here are the most important: 1. Do Zoning Laws Apply to a Home Business? From City zoning ordinances to HOA regulations to nosy neighbors, you might want to find out if a home business is even legal where you live. Most residential neighborhoods have restrictions on businesses, even those run quietly out of a home. 2. How to (Legally) Start a Homemade Food Business It’s one thing working over the internet. It’s quite another working over a stove in your kitchen and then taking food products out onto the market. Beyond the regulations that could apply to any home business, you may need to open up your house to inspection just like any restaurant, bar, or cafe serving food. 3. 3 Things to Know Before You Sell Homemade Goods Let’s say it’s not your baked goods for sale, but clothing, cabinetry, or car parts — could you still be subject to the same regulatory restrictions and obligations? Possibly. So you’re probably best off obtaining a business license and investing in liability insurance for your home business, no matter what your industry. 4. Can I Lose My Home in a Business Lawsuit? Normally, corporate structures and “homestead laws” protect homes in a business lawsuit. Could that change if your home is your business? 5. 5 Must-Dos If You Operate a Home Business Hopefully we haven’t scared you off your home business dreams. If you’re ready to get started, follow these five steps, and be sure to contact a local commercial attorney for help. Related Resources: Find Business & Commercial Lawyers Near You (FindLaw’s Lawyer Directory) Best Legal Tips for the Self-Employed (FindLaw’s Free Enterprise) Top 5 Tax…

3 ways to make your industry and your business better

Small Talks features insider expertise from successful small business owners. This video series offers real-world advice and highlights how successful entrepreneurs overcame their most pressing challenges. Sonat and Robert Birnecker wanted to bring the distilling traditions of Robert’s Austrian grandfather to America. So, they founded the first distillery to open since prohibition. KOVAL Distillery has become one of the largest independent craft distilleries in the world. But the husband-and-wife team didn’t stop at producing award-winning whiskeys, brandies and liqueurs. They launched Kothe Distilling Technologies, a consultancy which has helped more than 170 other distilleries get off the ground. Where some might be fearful of helping their competitors, the Birneckers see it as a way to make the industry better as a whole. Sonat had this to say about paying it forward and paving the way for other startups. How can businesses work together to better their industry? 1. Research all aspects of your industry. “The number one most important thing is to really know your industry and everything about it because then you can identify areas that could be improved,” Sonat said. She and her husband share this knowledge to help others launch successful distilleries, and they keep learning to stay ahead of the curve. “We are more than happy to prepare you to be a great craft distillery, but in doing so, it’s really helping us grow,” said Sonat. 2. Think of yourself as a lobbyist. “If you identify something that needs to be achieved for your business to do better, why wouldn’t you try to address it?” Sonat said. The Birneckers blazed a trail by petitioning local government to launch the first distillery to open in Chicago in more than two centuries. And that has given rise to the city’s booming craft distillery scene. 3. Turn your expertise into a new revenue stream. Your expertise can actually be a service line in and of itself. Not every aspiring distiller wants to do the research, so why not be a leader and turn all you’ve learned into a product you can sell? The Birneckers have educated 3,500 people so far. Though some of these people have…

The simple way to a successful marketing strategy

At its most basic level, marketing spreads the word about your business. That’s only the start, however. Marketing informs current and potential customers about your business and how it serves their needs. Marketing makes sure your business remains in people’s minds after a transaction is over — and before they need you again. Marketing is a major factor in the reputation your business develops. And marketing sells, drawing attention to what you’re offering so that people can buy it. The marketing tools you use to reach new customers, and to keep existing customers, depend on a variety of factors unique to your business and situation. But how do you know the right approach to take with your marketing? By building an impactful marketing strategy. Create your marketing strategy It’s easier than it sounds! To create a strategy, start by answering these questions: What’s your mission as a business? What gets you excited to wake up and come to work every day? What are your business goals? Think about where you want your business to be in three to five years. Is there anything you could start doing now to get there? Who is your target customer? In other words, describe the person who is most likely to love your products or services. What do they care about? What motivates them? What common personality traits do the majority of your customers share? Who are your competitors? What advantages do they have that your business does not have? What are they doing that’s the same or different from what your business does? What problem do you solve for your customers? This goes beyond what products or services you sell, although that’s an important part. But what is it that your business does that leaves your customers smiling? What saves them time or money, or fixes an issue for them? What is your unique selling proposition? In other words, why should a customer choose you over a competitor? This is what makes your business stand out. What can you offer that no other business can? We’ll walk you through the process Our free…

3 ways businesses benefit from diversity

Small Talks features insider advice from successful small business owners and the experts who have helped them succeed. This video series highlights how real entrepreneurs overcame their most pressing challenges.  Since 1999, i.c.stars has been training and connecting adults from underserved communities with technology jobs. “We find talent, we train talent, we put talent to work,” says founder Sandee Kastrul. As someone who has witnessed the positive change that workforce inclusivity can make, she encourages businesses of all sizes to invest in diversity. “There are a lot of times when I talk to small businesses and they say, ‘Later on, as we get bigger, we’ll think about that diversity piece.’ I think that that’s a mistake,” Kastrul explains. She believes it’s important to hire people from diverse backgrounds right out of the gate. How businesses benefit from a diverse workforce 1. Adversity creates resiliency and problem-solving. The students at i.c.stars primarily come from low-income communities. To achieve success, they’ve had to overcome a level of adversity that would be discouraging to many people. “Overcoming adversity creates resiliency, and that resiliency makes for amazing technologists, amazing programmers and fantastic entrepreneurs,” Kastrul says. 2. Diversity provides multiple perspectives. You can’t just have one way of seeing the world and expect to meet all your customers’ needs. Having a unique perspective and point of view can help businesses gain market share and distinguish themselves from the competition.  3. Diversity is the key driver of innovation. “Diversity is the primary driver of invention,” Kastrul says. “We can’t begin to solve complex problems until we have diversity of thought. And that’s not just race and economics; it’s really about the way we see the world through the set of experiences that we’ve had.” Watch the full video for more insights from Kastrul. Sign up for the Deluxe Insider newsletter Get advice for starting, operating and marketing your business, delivered right to your inbox every two weeks. STAY CONNECTED >> The post 3 ways businesses benefit from diversity appeared first on Deluxe Small Business Resource Center.

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