A Loving Tribute to My “Original Authority Figure”

cliff ennico[My mother, Ruth Frenz Ennico, passed away earlier this year at the age of 85.  The following is taken from the eulogy I delivered at her memorial service last week.]

It’s never easy to lose your Mom.  No matter how old or ill she was, no matter how prepared you think you are for her passing, the actual event always comes as a shock.

A friend of mine explained it best shortly after hearing of Mom’s passing:  “virtually all of our early childhood memories are memories of our mothers.”

My Mom, like me, was an only child.  A member of the Greatest Generation, she lived and suffered through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War as they all did.  But in my Mom’s case that suffering went much, much deeper.  My Mom had a childhood that can truly be described as Dickensian.

My Mom’s early years were spent in a fourth-floor walkup apartment in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood.  There were four apartments on that floor, with one shared bathroom.  One of my Mom’s earliest memories was of her father going into that bathroom early in the morning and stamping his feet so that the rats would run for cover.

In 1936, when my Mom was eight years old, her father abandoned her and her mother, taking to the rails as an itinerant worker (translation: hobo or bum), never to be heard from again.  Her mother could no longer afford the Harlem apartment, so she and my Mom packed up and moved in with a relative in the South Bronx.  Mom had to give away all of her toys, dolls and clothing except for two or three outfits that would fit into a single desk drawer, because that was all the room available for her possessions.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for an eight year old to lose her father, her home and her possessions all at once, without any warning?

This is a sad story, but I tell it because it explains so much about my Mom, the woman she became, and the things she loved.  Often, especially during her last decade, she would behave in ways that were eccentric at best, exasperating at worst.  Whenever she did, I always tried to remember that little eight year old girl, and I always tried to cut her some slack.

So what were the things my Mom loved?

She Loved Her Possessions.  When my Mom got hold of something, she never, ever let it go.  Everything in my Mom’s apartment – over 12,000 items at the time of her death – had a deep personal meaning to her.  She wouldn’t part with anything, and if you accidentally broke something in her apartment, she wouldn’t talk to you for weeks.

Whenever we would go to a restaurant to eat she would bring a huge empty leather purse, into which she would empty the entire contents of the salad bar.  I know it sounds funny, but remember that eight year old girl.

She Loved Shopping.  When I was a boy I dreaded shopping for clothes with my Mom.  If there were 32 pairs of slacks available in my size, I had to try on each and every one to make sure I was getting the best possible pair.  When my Mom bought you a gift, she would spend hours, even days, looking for that single, perfect gift you would cherish forever, as she herself would.  I never saw her give a gift certificate to anyone, ever.

She Loved My Father.  My Mom and Dad shared an amazing 50 year romance.  They argued and squabbled just like anyone else, but they also made it a point to demonstrate their love for each other each and every day they were married, until my Dad’s passing in 2000.  There was no way my Dad was going to end up riding the rails.

She Loved Me.  I cannot say that I was spoiled the way many only children are.  Mom expected much from me, and believed (I think correctly) that kids don’t push themselves to excel unless someone pushes them first.  At the time I misunderstood her pushing as coldness, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if she hadn’t.

She Loved to Talk.  My Mom loved to talk, for hours, on the telephone to people she hadn’t seen in years.  If she felt she had a captive audience, she wouldn’t let you go.  She could take a trip to the grocery store and turn it into an Icelandic Saga, talking for hours, without pausing for breath.

Today I speak about 40 to 50 times a year to business and professional groups throughout North America.  I am known for my storytelling skills, my podium humor, and my ability to explain things so that a sixth grade child can understand them.  Gee, I wonder where that came from?

Thanks, Mom.  I love you.  Rest in peace.

Cliff Ennico, a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.


PayPal announces update to user agreement


If you’re an online seller, there are probably some days that you think you are fighting a losing battle in the marketplace. Amazon makes policy changes and it become a little harder to sell certain types of items. EBay makes policy changes and suddenly sellers have to worry about how defect rates will affect them. Now, PayPal has decided to change its user agreement and sellers have that to worry about too.

Changes you ask? Well, last week PayPal announced that as of November 18, 2014, buyers will now have up to six months to file a claim for “Item Not Received” or “ Significantly Not as Described.” That’s a pretty significant time increase since as of now buyers have 45 days and the change in November will give them 180 days.

If you’re wondering if this is something you really need to worry about, well — yeah, you probably should.

Basically, this user agreement change gives buyers the ability to use the item they bought for six months and then ask for their money back. As you can imagine, when this policy change was announced in the U.K. back in June it went over like a ton of bricks.

Speaking of the selling across the pond, if you’re a seller who accepts international buyers, you’ll also need to acquaint yourself with the policies PayPal has in other countries. They’re tweaking that section of the user agreement too and it now basically states “PayPal’s Seller Protection and Buyer Protection policies may vary from country to country. If you as a seller, sell an item to a buyer from another country, you will be subject to Buyer and Seller Protection policies applicable to your buyer’s country.”

PayPal is also making a small change to the protection they are providing buyers for custom-made products. The coverage for custom-made products will now include claims for “Items Not Received,” but thankfully, it will not apply to SNAD or rather “Significantly Not as Described.”

Finally, there is a little good news in the fact that there are still some things that won’t fall under PayPal’s Purchase Protection. As an example, intangible goods aren’t covered and that includes digital goods. Real estate isn’t cover either, nor are vehicles, services or airline tickets.

You can read about all of PayPal’s announced changes here.

That Kat Radio – Podcast 76 – September 22, 2014: Brooks Duncan

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In this episode of That Kat Radio, Kat spoke with Brooks Duncan about Documentsnap.

brooks-duncanThis week Kat had Brooks Duncan from DocumentSnap.com on the show to talk about a paperless office.  Brooks Duncan helps out individuals and small businesses to go paperless.  He told us how he started on the paperless business and why he decided  to go on paperless.  One of the points we talked about was how to organize files, Brooks shared three points:

* Using a consistent naming description.

*  To make documents searchable

* Use a folder structure for your documents that makes sense to you and your business.

Brooks is the creator of the Paperless Document Organization Guide, The Unofficial ScanSnap Setup Guide, and the Paperless Action Plan online course. Brooks lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Questions that were asked and answered were:

  1. Please tell us about your history and how you got into Going Paperless.
  2. How does going paperless benefit a small business owner?
  3. What about the IRS and other governmental agencies? Will they accept scanned documentation?
  4. What is so special about the Fujitso ScanSnap?
  5. Why and How is it better than Neatoscan?
  6. How do I make sure I can find what I need in all that scanned database?
  7. How do I make sure I have a good backup of my files?
  8. What is an easy first step for a beginner?
  9. Can you help us move toward a paperless office and how?

Brooks would like to share these videos about backup that might be helpful to all:





Links mentioned in this episode:

Follow Kat on TWITTER, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram and check out ThatKat.com.

Purchase one of Kat’s books on Amazon. Kat’s Sales Tax Book or Ultimate Guide to Savings by Store.

Join our Facebook Group to be notified ThatKatGroup.com   You can subscribe itunes – link to itunes

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Kabbage Launches Karrot: Personal Loans Made Simple

karrotKabbage, Inc., the leading online provider of small business loans, announced today the launch of Karrot Personal Loans, the only fully automated personal loan marketplace in the industry. Karrot will provide consumers with the same simple and streamlined access to loans for which Kabbage is known. Karrot’s launch enables institutional investors to directly fund consumers through its new marketplace lending program.

Today’s announcement validates the extensibility of Kabbage’s technology and data platform as it continues to serve more customers. Kabbage is the only company in the financial services industry to expand internationally and grow to serve both consumers and small businesses in less than four years since its launch.

Karrot personal loans range up to $35,000 with a 36 or 60-month term at http://www.karrot.com. Fixed rates are as low as 6.44% APR* for the life of the loan, representing significant savings over rates offered by many credit card companies which average 21%. Karrot’s automated platform enables a customer to go from application to approval in minutes, with delivery of funds as soon as the next day. Multiple institutional investors are already funding loans through the platform.

“When we launched Kabbage, we created an entirely new way for small businesses to access capital and, in the process, made it simple and intuitive,” said Rob Frohwein, Kabbage co-founder and CEO. “Today we have extended this elegant process to the personal loan category to provide low-cost personal loans to consumers seeking access to less expensive credit. We will continue to innovate beyond today’s announcement, delivering real and robust technology solutions to the financial services industry.”

About Kabbage
Kabbage, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia has pioneered the first financial services data and technology platform to provide fully automated funding to small business in minutes. Kabbage leverages data generated through business activity such as accounting data, online sales, shipping, and dozens of other sources to understand performance and deliver fast, flexible funding in real time. Kabbage also offers simple consumer loans through its automated platform under the brand http://www.karrot.com. Kabbage is venture funded and backed by SoftBank Capital, Thomvest Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures, BlueRun Ventures, the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, TCW/Craton and additional investors including Ron Conway’s SV Angel, David Bonderman, founder of TPG Capital, and Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc. All Kabbage and Karrot U.S. based loans are made by Celtic Bank, a Utah-Chartered Industrial Bank, member FDIC. For more information, please visit http://www.kabbage.com and follow the company on Facebook and Twitter.

Things to think about before the holiday season


It may be hard to think about Christmas when we’re still in the month of September, but trust me, a lot of retailers are already getting prepared for the big rush. In fact, as you can see from this photo, the store I was in the other day is almost going into full Christmas mode. I say “almost” because they haven’t completely filled the store with Christmas items for sale yet, but I suspect by the time Halloween rolls around Christmas carols will be blaring from their sound system.

What this means for you, dear Amazon seller, is that you should be making a list and checking it twice…RIGHT NOW! Here’s some things you need to think about.

Do you need to up your inventory before the holiday season hits? There’s nothing worse than realizing you have a hot selling item and you just sold the last one. Not only will buyers go elsewhere, but Amazon likes to hide pages that say “out of stock.” This means that if you run out of an item, your page won’t even show up on their website when someone does a search.

Are you using the right keywords in your listings? Think about what buyers will be searching for during the holiday season. Do you have the right keywords in your title and description? If it’s been a while since you’ve looked over your item descriptions, you might want to blow the dust off and make some adjustments now before things get too busy.

Also remember that Amazon likes for you to use an all white background, so if you still have an item or two with a different colored background, best to get that fixed now too.

Is your marketing strategy in place? It’s not enough to just let Amazon take care of the advertising. If ever there was a time to get the word out about your items, the holiday season is the time to do it. According to Lisa Suttora, Pinterest is now the number one social marketing tool for those who sell online.

Instead of haphazardly promoting your items during the holidays, take some time now to create a calendar of when you will promote certain items. Keep in mind that there are key days for shoppers to be making their purchases, such as the day after Thanksgiving and “cyber Monday.” There’s also the last day that items can be shipped to ensure delivery by Christmas. This day typically falls between December 17th and December 20th.

By planning ahead now, you can ensure that you not only have enough inventory to get you through the holiday season, but the tools in place to make sure your items get noticed.

Taxjar Launches Autofile, Eliminates Manual Sales Tax Filing For Online and Storefront Retailers

Tax JarNew Service the First to Fully Automate Filing of Returns and Payments Online


SAN DIEGO, CA (September 17, 2014) — TaxJar (www.taxjar.com), the online service that makes sales tax filing effortless for SMBs/retailers, today announced the launch of AutoFile, a new service that automates direct filing of state sales tax returns and payments for online and storefront retailers. For the first time, sellers who previously would spend hours each month manually preparing sales tax returns can now have their sales tax calculated, accurately reported and filed directly to a state through TaxJar. With the addition of AutoFile, TaxJar automates sales tax compliance from post-transaction to filing, eliminating the responsibility for retailers to actively manage the process.

“AutoFile creates a sales tax service for sellers that has never been available before – we’re taking away a major burden that saves hours of admin time each month. It was easily the most requested feature from sellers. We have been working closely with customers to make sure AutoFile is a no-maintenance tool that helps their business,” said Mark Faggiano, CEO of TaxJar.


How TaxJar and AutoFile Work

TaxJar is integrated with major commerce and payment engines, such as Amazon, Square, Magento, Shopify, PayPal, Etsy and Ebay to allow the automated daily import of a seller’s data from every channel. TaxJar organizes all of the sales data into one report by state and local jurisdictions. Finally, AutoFile enables TaxJar to file returns and make payments online directly to a state, providing start-to-end automated sales tax compliance for a business. AutoFile requires a one-time enrollment, after which the returns and payment process are scheduled for direct filing.

“AutoFile has changed sales tax filing from a dreaded part of operating my business to a task that barely makes it on my to-do list,” said Robert Bagley, owner of RB3 Solutions. “With increased scrutiny from states and the overall challenge of getting accurate data on my own, TaxJar has taken over the management of my sales tax and helped me focus time on new avenues for my business.”


Good for Sellers, Good for States

The NSBA’s 2014 Small Business Taxation Survey found that the threat of tax liability in case of inadvertent error was a concern for 76 percent of small businesses, while the burden of keeping abreast of state tax changes and navigating various rules and deadlines was a concern for 79 percent.

“States depend on small businesses as collection agents for sales tax, but the surveys and our customer insights show that compliance is confusing and costly, despite the best intentions of sellers. We are creating a system that eliminates the complexity and helps businesses and states work together for their mutual interests,” added Faggiano.

AutoFile is currently available in 26 states, including: California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania with new states added each month. Enrollment is simple and can be completed directly from a current TaxJar account.  The service costs $19.95 for each filing.

TaxJar features a 30-day free trial for any new user. Pricing starts as low as $9.95 per month for small businesses doing less than 1,000 transactions per month. For more information on TaxJar and AutoFile, please visit: www.taxjar.com/autofile


About TaxJar

TaxJar was founded by small business experts with a simple mission: help online sellers eliminate the complexity and time of tracking, reporting and filing sales tax so they can focus on growing their businesses rather than dealing with compliance issues. The customer-driven company has a successful history of developing tax and accounting systems used by tens of thousands of online and storefront businesses to solve common operational problems. To learn more, visit http://www.taxjar.com/autofile


The New “Benefit Corporation”: Is it Right For You?

cliffThis coming week Connecticut will be joining about 27 other states that are adding a new type of business entity – the benefit corporation  or “B Corp.” – to the traditional list of corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs).

Under current law, corporations and other business entities can be “for profit” or “not for profit,” but not both at the same time.  If a group of people wish to form a company with a social purpose, they are required to organize as a “not for profit” entity.  This means:

  • there can be no owners or shareholders – any profits must be plowed back into the company in order to further its charitable purpose;
  • if the company’s goal is a “charitable” or public good, the entity must register with the IRS as an “exempt organization” under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code (a process which takes almost two years on average right now); and
  • the company must pay income tax on any profit-making activity not “directly related” to the company’s charitable purpose.

While “for profit” companies are not barred from engaging in charitable activity – many corporations such as Ben & Jerry’s® and Newman’s Own® require a specific percentage of annual profits to be donated to charity – they are discouraged legally from engaging in such activities to the detriment of their shareholders.  Since 1919, U.S. law has said that the sole purpose of a for-profit business is to generate a return for its shareholders . . . period.

The B Corp. is designed to change all that, by requiring that directors and officers take the needs of society, the needs of employees, and the needs of owners all into account when making business decisions.  Under the model statute that serves as a guide for state legislatures wishing to allow benefit corporations, a B Corp.:

  • MUST be formed for a “general public benefit” (defined as a “material positive benefit on society and the environment, as measured by a third party standard”); and
  • MAY also be formed for a “specific public benefit” (defined by the company as a specific intent of the company, similar to the charitable purpose of a not-for-profit entity).

The statute does not define “positive,” nor does it give guidance as to what a “third party standard” may be, although clearly this refers to criteria such as LEED for green buildings, Fair Trade for coffee, or USDA “organic” status for milk.  Where there is no “third party standard” (for example, a martial arts studio that wants to teach kids coping strategies for dealing with schoolyard bullies), the B Corp. option may not be available.

Also, a B Corp. must benefit both society AND the environment. Many socially worthy causes that benefit one but not the other would not qualify for B Corp. status (although two states – Delaware and Colorado – have amended this requirement so that a B Corp.’s purpose can benefit either society or the environment).

While LLCs and other business entities can convert into a B Corp., a B Corp. is a corporation and must be taxed as either a regular or “S” corporation. An LLC does not qualify for B Corp. status, although a similar entity, the “low profit limited liability company” or “L3LLC,” has been adopted in a handful of states to facilitate socially-conscious LLCs.  Any B Corp. that wishes to accept tax-deductible donations or equity investments will have to qualify as a 501(c)(3) “exempt organization”.

The directors of benefit corporations are required to consider (or, in some states, balance) the interests of shareholders, employees, and society when making business decisions.  Since there may be an inherent conflict of interest between these goals, the model B Corp. statute exonerates B Corp. directors and officers from personal liability for actions that they take.  Director-and-officer liability insurance (so-called “D&O coverage”) may also be available to B Corp. management.  Still, that may not deter plaintiffs’ lawyers from suing B Corps.:  for example, if a B Corp. reduces staff to lower its costs, that will invariably hurt “at will” employees, who may be tempted to bring a class action against the B Corp. that would go nowhere against a traditional “for profit” corporation that has no legal duty to them.

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m not against corporations doing good.  We can all think of examples of corporations that are so focused on the bottom line that they pollute the environment, release defective or dangerous products, or devastate the middle class.  But the B Corp., at least in its current form, is not the answer.

B Corps. are most likely to appeal to nonprofit startups with zero profit motive that want to avoid the arduous process of obtaining 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.  If you are “for profit” and want to do good, amend your charter to require that x% of your profits each year be donated to “such bona fide charities as the directors may determine in their sole discretion.”

Cliff Ennico, a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.


2 Day Conference for Chicagoland eCommerce Sellers of All Levels


Rosemont, IL, October 17-18, 2014  — The Chicagoland Area eBay Sellers Group is proud to announce that it will be presenting eCom Chicago, an exciting eCommerce Conference on October 17th and 18th  at the Holiday Inn Express in Rosemont, IL.
Whether you are an eCommerce “Newbie” or a Successful Seasoned Seller there will be so much to learn!  The 2 day conference will feature an incredible roster of eCommerce presenters including John (“Colder Ice”) Lawson (world renowned speaker and author of “Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-Preneurs”), Chris Green (founder of Scan Power and author of “Retail Arbitrage” and “Online Arbitrage”), Danni Ackerman (“the Danni App”), Kat Simpson (Talk Show Host – “That Kat Radio”), Sandi Garcia (aka “Social Sandi”), Brandon Dupsky (founder eCommerce Money for Nothing & OnFair), Ryan Grant (FBA enthusiast), Michael Yublosky (Chicago SCORE speaker) , Anna Barnes (Photography for eCommerce) Mark and Robin Le Vine (Shipping Tips and Tricks) and More………
The conference includes 2 full days of learning.  Continental breakfast and lunches are included in the conference package.  Also included is a DJ party on Friday night with appetizers and cash bar.  Cost  for the entire package  is only $149.  But sign up early –  from now through September 30, 2014 there is a $20 Early Bird Discount available.  Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to jump-start your holiday selling season.  Learn, network,share and be inspired .  Sign up now to reserve your spot.

Conference Bonus from Bubblefast

An additional opportunity is available for those who want to extend their stay through Sunday.  Bubblefast (vendor providing shipping supplies to online sellers) is located in Gurnee, IL, 32 miles north of the conference venue.  Gurnee is home to Great America, Key Lime Cove Water Park, Gurnee Mills Mall, The Gurnee Antique Center  and several quality thrift shops.  Any treasure hunters who journey up to Gurnee on Sunday can take the Bubblefast tour, enjoy some refreshments and explore the many shopping opportunities in the area.  Bring your treasures back to Bubblefast where Mark and Robin will be happy to help you pack them up (free bubble wrap!) and arrange to ship them home for you.

Come to eCom Chicago and tell all of your friends about it. It is going to be a great conference for learning, resources and fun!