Howard Flax - Flax Art + Design - on Competing with Mega Online Retailers

Q:  With online competition from mega-retailers and, how have you had to adapt your business model to compete?

A:  That is the question of the day. As a specialty retailer, we need to redouble our focus on being special. That primarily means we need to deliver a memorable in-store experience that cannot be replicated online, via our curated product assortment, expert staff and the overall vibe and ambiance of the space. 

We are working to improve our website so that it better reflects our stores, and are looking to implement omnichannel components so that we can better meet the increasingly higher demands of the consumer. 

Our sales were up in 2017 and our fundamental business model hasn’t changed, but we are ever conscious of the changing environment brought by technology. We think good retail that engages the senses and offers a place for community has a strong place against online sales. Meanwhile, the need to continually evolve is paramount. 


Rising Rents Threaten to Displace Oakland Nonprofits

The Greenlining Institute recently purchased a downtown Oakland office building to provide a long-term affordable space for nonprofits.

The Greenlining Institute recently purchased a downtown Oakland office building to provide a long-term affordable space for nonprofits.

Oakland’s skyrocketing rents are affecting more than just low-income households. Now, the same nonprofit organizations that serve low-income people are beginning to suffer from the high-rents harming their clients.

Though the problem is less extreme in Oakland than in other Bay Area cities, many local organizations that work to empower low-income communities and people of color are being disproportionately impacted. What’s more, Oakland's city government appears to be exacerbating the crisis by not dispersing nonprofit funding in a timely manner.

“We’re losing real community treasures — whether they’re arts programs or workforce development — that contribute to Oakland’s culture and to its uniqueness,” said Regina Jackson, President and CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC).

[Read the full article here in the East Bay Express.]

Why Local Matters: a Hub of Studies that Explain

In recent decades, policy across the country has privileged the biggest corporations. Yet a growing body of research is proving something that many people already know: small-scale, locally owned businesses create communities that are more prosperous, entrepreneurial, connected, and generally better off across a wide range of metrics. Here’s a roundup of the important findings that are putting numbers to the harms of bigness and the benefits of local ownership, and that policymakers can use to craft better laws, business owners can use to rally support, and people can use to organize their communities.

Read the full story here and read/download the studies. 

What You Need to Know About Small Business Grants

Small business grants help you get free money. Are you sold? While the competition for grants awarded to small businesses is tough (Think: there’s no such thing as a free lunch), if you are lucky enough to receive one, you get all the benefits of a small business loan without having to pay any money back. Given the choice between taking on more debt or getting a grant you don’t have to repay, it’s an offer that’s hard to resist. 

Read the rest of the article here. [By Katelyn Peters, Content Editor, Townsquared]

Public Startup Pitch Decks All In One Place

[By Andy Sparks, originally posted in]

Andy Sparks, Mattermark

Andy Sparks, Mattermark

A few weeks ago, Joshua Levy and I announced we were starting work on The Open Guide to Startup Fundraising. To say the guide is growing to considerable size would be an understatement. As we continue work, I thought it would be criminal not to share pieces of it along the way for founders who need the guide now not soon.

Part of what’s so cool about our guides is that the community helps build them. Looking for help last week, I tweeted a short list of great pitch decks I had collected. Thanks to the community and a bit more Googling, I’ve assembled the following list of reference pitch decks for founders to view when building their own: [click here for the full article and the decks]

International Cooperatives Day - Today!

International Co-operative Day takes place on July 01, 2017. It's an annual celebration of the co-operative movement observed on the first Saturday in July since 1923 by the International Co-operative Alliance. On December 16, 1992, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed in resolution 47/90 "the first Saturday of July 1995 to be International Day of Cooperatives, marking the centenary of the establishment of the International Cooperative Alliance." [This text has been taken from]

Independents Week!

Independents Week is an annual campaign, encompassing July 4, to engage local independent businesses and citizens in celebrating entrepreneurial spirit and the freedom our local businesses embody. Independents Week also is an occasion to recognize small businesses’ contributions to the community–and to affirm citizens’ role in shaping their community’s future. Please share the phrase "Independents Week" on your website to help spread the word! More info here.