Should a Lawyer Sell Legal Documents by Cliff Ennico

Ciff Ennico Headshot“I am looking for an attorney who could provide my business with a ‘master’ form of client agreement.  We understand that your services are not cheap but would like to know how much you would charge for this kind of document. We were hoping you might offer a template agreement for this kind of arrangement. Unlike some people in this business who say that they started with a very small amount of money and are making 6 figures in just two years, we are still just making ends meet.

I was hoping to find a template agreement for between $100 to $200, my thought being that once ‘constructed’ such an agreement could be sold by the creating attorney multiple times and that if properly priced the attorney who wrote such an agreement could end up making more by making it more affordable.

Hopefully you will have something that fits into our budget.”

E-mails like this give me the willies sometimes.  As the middle class in America is subjected to ever increasing economic pressure, it is harder and harder for many people to afford even basic legal, tax and other professional services for their small businesses.  And before we go any further, let me say that I really, really feel these people’s pains, and would like to help them in any way I can.

It is no secret that lawyers rely on template legal documents when working with their clients.  We pay lots of money (often well into the thousands) for books containing these forms, and I am the author of several of them – for lawyers only, of course.

In the course of my 35-year career, I have created literally thousands of documents for just about every sort of contract a small business in the United States could possibly want.  The idea of setting up a “small business legal forms” website and retiring to the Caribbean has occurred to me at least several times, and is getting ever more tempting as I slowly inch towards retirement age.

There is nothing illegal about selling legal forms per se – websites like and offer tons of them for very reasonable prices.  There is also no copyright on template legal documents, so if you can find a good one online, by all means grab it and try to figure out how to “tailor” it to your particular deal, transaction or situation.

But, as Shakespeare would say, “ay, there’s the rub.”

One of the dirtiest secrets of my profession is that there is really no such thing as a “template” or “boilerplate” legal form.  I can honestly say that in my 35 years practicing law, I have never – not even once – taken one of my “template” forms, dusted it off, filled in the blanks, and sent it to a client as a finished product.  Every business, every transaction, is unique in some ways, and changes to the “template” must be made to make it work for the particular situation my client is facing.  For example, while virtually all forms of confidentiality agreement (a/k/a “nondisclosures” or “NDAs”) contain basically the same provisions, the actual agreement will vary depending on such considerations as:

  • whether only one party, or both parties, are being asked to keep the other party’s information confidential;
  • whether the tone of the agreement should be formal “legalese” or informal “plain English”;
  • any state laws or cases governing the enforceability of NDAs;
  • the particular information the client wants protected; and
  • whether the business is technology-driven or marketing-driven.

At last count, I have over 1,000 (slightly) different forms of confidentiality agreement in my “master” form file (which I probably will donate to the Smithsonian when I die).  In order to determine which form is right for this reader’s situation, I would need to spend a considerable amount of phone time with him to learn the exact details of the transaction for which the contract form is needed.

Another issue here has to do with the extremely complex rules of conduct we lawyers must obey.  If I sell this reader one of my forms for him to tailor, and during the back-and-forth of negotiation he leaves out an essential provision that would protect him, or adds a provision that is poorly drafted, and suffers as a result, do I have any malpractice liability to him?  Have I created a lawyer-client relationship?  Will there be an issue as to whether the defective language came from my form or his “edit”?  Am I making any sort of implied warranty that the form is suitable for his particular situation?  What sort of evidence will I need to keep around showing exactly what I sent him, and when?

For these reasons I have typically refused to sell my forms to people who aren’t qualified to use them.  I may be missing out on a huge business opportunity here, but my preference is to sleep better at nights knowing I am not helping nonlawyers commit legal malpractice, engage in the unauthorized practice of law, or put their businesses at risk because they haven’t had 35 years of experience drafting legal contracts.

Cliff Ennico ( is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at  COPYRIGHT 2015 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Should You Sign up for a Nonprofit Board? by Cliff Ennico

Ciff Ennico Headshot“A local nonprofit organization has asked me to join its board of directors.  It’s a real honor for me, and a cause I believe in, but I’m just a little nervous about my legal responsibilities.  Could you tackle those at some point?”

You bet.  A lot of nonprofit startups are looking to “build their boards” right now, and even yours truly has received a couple of invitations.  Joining a nonprofit’s board of directors can be a singular honor, a sign that you have “arrived” in your community, and a terrific opportunity to network with the rich, powerful and/or influential people that normally join nonprofit boards.  If you want to hobnob with the “one percenters,” find out which charities they support and get involved.

But, as with all business-related activities, there are some risks.

The first question you need to ask is:  why are you – of all people – being asked to join the board?  There are three possible reasons you are being invited:

  • your skills: startup nonprofits look for people with business experience, philanthropic giving experience, and leadership skills;
  • your contacts: as a board member you will be expected to help with fundraising activities – how deep is your Outlook Contacts list?
  • you are “fresh meat”: the organization has reached a stage where the only board members are “worker bees” and outside directors are required by law to approve matters such as employee compensation and transactions between the organization and its other (inside) directors – as an outside director your vote on these matters will be critical.

The next question you should ask is: what is the time commitment involved?  Nonprofit organizations can be notorious “time vampires” that will make large demands of your time, especially at inconvenient times of the year for your business or other revenue-generating activities that simply must take priority.

The next question you should ask (yourself – not the organization’s personnel) is “why do I want to do this?”  Is it because:

  • you believe in the organization’s mission (this is the correct answer);
  • you want to network with the other directors and wealthy donors; or
  • you are looking for a public relations (PR) opportunity to help promote other things you are doing.

The next question you should ask (yourself, again) is:  “is the image I will have by joining this organization consistent with other activities in which I’m involved?”  If, for example, you are a local politician known for your die-hard conservative political opinions, you might want to think twice about joining organizations that tend to support left-leaning causes.  If people at cocktail parties are asking you “why are you in with those people?”, your activities are probably sending mixed messages and you will need to have a pretty good way of reconciling them.

If you are joining an organization that is promoting a cause that will hurt the interests of your current employer, or your small business, think hard and long before joining.  You may be choosing between your value system and your financial security.

Last but not least, you need to ask three very pointed questions of the organization’s leadership:

Does Your State Have a “Volunteer” Exemption from Liability?  Most states have a statute that exempts “volunteers” in charitable organizations from legal liability of any kind.  But some of those statutes have fine print, and you need to know what the limitations are.  For example, if the statute protects you from liability if you are “negligent” in the performance of your duties as a board member, will you be protected if someone sues you for “gross negligence” in your duties?

A “volunteer” by definition does not receive compensation of any kind from the organization.  If you are receiving any sort of fee for serving as a director, you are no longer a “volunteer” and may be liable for your actions.  Watch out also for expense reimbursements. If you are required to fly to Washington, D.C. and testify on behalf of your organization before a Congressional subcommittee, and the organization is reimbursing your travel expenses, does that make you no longer a “volunteer” under the exemption statute?

Will the Organization Indemnify You from Lawsuits?  In the unlikely event that the volunteer board members are sued personally because of something the organization did or did not do, will the organization pay your legal expenses and any judgment that is rendered against you?  Again, state laws vary as to when an organization is obligated to do this, and when it isn’t.

Is There Insurance to Back Up That Indemnity Obligation?  If the organization is just starting up, it probably won’t be able to afford liability insurance for its directors and officers (so-called “D&O coverage”).  This is expensive insurance, and many organizations will try to persuade you that as a “volunteer” you have nothing to worry about.

Get that promise in writing if you can.  And a written commitment from the organization to purchase D&O insurance for you as soon as it can do so.

Cliff Ennico ( is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at  COPYRIGHT 2015 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



Hard to believe it, but Black Friday is only a week away. If you’re like most sellers, you’re sitting on ready and just waiting for the big day. If you’ve increased your inventory for the holiday season, you want to make sure your investment pays off, but simply having a fully stocked store is no guarantee of having a successful selling season.

Below are some tips to make sure your store is tip-top ready:

Check your content. Whether you’re selling through eBay, Amazon, or on your own site, you want to appear as a professional. Check your listings for misspelled words or missing information on your listings. If you have your own website, check for broken links and make sure your all pictures are appearing correctly.

Read over your return policy. Although both Amazon and eBay have rules sellers must abide by when stating a return policy, you do still have a little leeway in the wording of your policy and how you want to handle your returns. Since longer return times are strongly encouraged, updating your policy to reflect the longer return time, or that you do not accept returns can help to avoid confusion in case there is a problem.

Create cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Look for ways you can cross-promote your items on your website and social media sites, such as Facebook and Pinterest. As an example, if you sell bed comforters, you could suggest pillow cases or bed runners.

Know your delivery dates. Buyers are not typically the forgiving type. Make a note of cutoff dates and post them in a prominent place for when you need them. As it gets closer and closer to Christmas, alert potential buyers of when they should expect their items. Let them know as far in advance as you can if an item cannot be delivered by Christmas. Some sellers find it helpful to offer overnight shipping as an option to help packages arrive quicker if needed.

Consider selling global. Since Christmas is a global holiday selling worldwide (internationally) or to at least certain countries can help to increase your bottom line. Keep buyers aware of shipping times and offer multiple ways of shipping so they can decide which shipment method works best for them. Some buyers may not mind spending more on shipping if it means they can get their items before the big day.

Are you ready for the holidays? Leave a comment below.

When the I.R.S. Sends You a Letter by Cliff Ennico

Ciff Ennico HeadshotFew things in life are more unsettling than getting a letter from the IRS.

Especially if you don’t think you did anything wrong.

But don’t panic.  Millions of people get these every year, and most of the time, there’s nothing to worry about.  In the vast majority of cases, either:

  • the IRS computers picked up inconsistent, incomplete or contradictory information on your tax return (for example, you reported gross income for your business that was less than the total amount reported on the 1099, W-2 and K-1 forms you attached to your return); or
  • your return has been selected for a “random” audit based on any number of factors (most commonly, being too aggressive in taking travel, entertainment or other deductions that are difficult to support without tons of backup).

When the IRS sends you an “information disclosure request” (IDR), here’s what you do:

Contact Your Accountant and Send Them the Letter.  If you used an accountant or other “paid tax preparer,” you should scan and e-mail the letter promptly to him or her.  They are extremely well-informed about the latest IRS scams and can tell you if your letter is genuine or not.  Also, by virtue of helping you prepare your tax return they are duty-bound to help you respond to the letter (although they may charge a fee for doing so if the problem was not their fault).

Make Sure the Letter is Not a “Scam”.  But let’s say you prepared your own tax return without outside help (not really a good idea, as tax returns are much less likely to be audited if you used a tax preparer).  Your first task is to look over the letter carefully and make sure it’s genuine.  It’s no secret that there are plenty of bad people out there looking to steal your identity, and some of the “scam” letters purporting to come from the IRS are extremely convincing.  Even professionals get fooled by them sometimes.

Here are some signs your letter may be phony:

  • You can’t find the form number listed on;
  • The letter has poor spelling and grammar;
  • The letter asks you to respond by phone or e-mail (the IRS almost always requires you to respond in writing by “snail mail”);
  • The letter asks you to respond to an address that is not listed as an IRS office on;
  • The letter directs you to mail or wire payment to an address outside the U.S.;
  • The letter threatens to send an agent to your home if you don’t pay the amount due promptly;
  • The letter offers to settle for a fraction of the amount the letter says you owe (the IRS never, ever offers to settle for a lower amount than the tax due, although they might agree to a settlement if you request one).

If you’re still not sure your letter is genuine, call your local IRS office and ask for “taxpayer assistance”.  They can look up your tax file online (you will have to give them your Social Security Number or federal Taxpayer Identification Number) and tell you if there’s a copy of the letter on file in your record.  If there’s a copy in your file, the letter is genuine.

Next, Look Up the Form Number on the IRS Website.  Every IRS letter is a “form” letter.  Look for the form number on the letter – it’s usually in the upper right-hand corner.  Then, go to the IRS website at and use their search engine to look up the form number.  There will almost always be a Web page dedicated to that particular form that will tell you what the IRS is looking for and how to respond.  If you can’t find the form number on, that’s a telltale sign the letter may not be genuine.

Respond to the Letter Promptly.  Do not procrastinate!  Make sure you respond to by the date required in the letter.  If there is no “response date,” respond within 30 days.  If the letter gives you the opportunity to request a hearing, say yes – this may be your only chance to tell your side of the story to a “live” IRS agent.  Be sure to keep a copy of your response and any documentation you include in your letter to support your position.

Don’t Say Too Much.  Do not “over-respond” to the letter.  Most IRS letters request very specific information, and you should provide them with only the information requested.  Sending the IRS five years of QuickBooks® files may well lead to a “fishing expedition” that will uncover additional problems and perhaps lead to a multi-year audit of your business.

When speaking to IRS personnel, remember the World War II saying that “loose lips sink ships”.  If you are worried you may get “chatty” and volunteer too much information, consider hiring an accountant to appear on your behalf in meetings with the IRS.

And while you’re at it, ask him or her to prepare your tax return next year.

Cliff Ennico ( is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at  COPYRIGHT 2015 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

What You Should Know About Generational Buying & Selling

Generation Gap

As the holidays approach, you may think that you know what your buyers want. You may even think that you know how how they want it and maybe you do…if your buyers are of a similar generation to you. If they’re not, however, you may have your marketing heading off in the wrong direction.

You see, each generation has their own philosophy and it defines their attitude about shopping and buying. Depending on what you’re selling and what age group you’re selling it to, how you market your items can either make you or break you when it comes to getting each generation’s attention. As an example, while Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1984) generally like antiques and have a soft spot for anything and everything vintage. To turn them into buyers, give them suggestions for buying or using your items rather than trying to make it about the rules.

On the other hand, Generation Y, or rather, those who were born between 1985 and 2001 and sometimes known as “Millenials”, tend to avoid items that have the word antique or collectible attached to it and mostly seem to prefer new items, although vintage clothing can still hold a certain appeal. When marketing to Generation Y, you want to show them why the product is useful to them and that it has value. Often the secret to winning over someone who is Generation Y is by building a relationship with them and asking their opinions about your products rather than trying to directly sell to them.

Interestingly, one of the biggest differences between generations is between Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964) and the newest generation, which is known as Generation Z (born after 2001). Not only is their a bigger difference in age between them, but their thoughts on what they want to buy vary greatly too.

As an example, Baby Boomers believe in brand names and brand name products while Generation Z is more skeptical about brand names. The brand name loyalty factor isn’t as strong in Generation Z, but they do expect similar products to perform in a similar manner and want the look and feel to be basically the same. When marketing to Baby Boomers the brand can win them over, but if it’s a Generation Z you want to appeal to, show them how the product works and that it will make their life better.

Do you vary your marketing depending on each specific generational group? Leave a comment below.

When Do You Sign Up for Income and Sales Taxes? by Cliff Ennico

cliff ennico“I started an online retail business earlier this year, and have generated so much income already that I know I’m going to get a Form 1099 from PayPal this year.
When do I need to sign my business up for federal and state taxes? I know I have to do this eventually but would prefer to hold off forming a limited liability company (LLC) until after January 1. What is the proper order in which this should be done?
Also, I’m planning to do this business with my spouse. Do I have to sign up as a partnership and file Form 1065 with the IRS each year?”
When you start a business and don’t form an LLC, corporation or other legal entity, you are what is called a “sole proprietorship”. The good news is that you started your business this year rather than last year, so you are (so far) not delinquent with any tax filings. You have time to set up your business the right way.
There are two types of taxes an online retailer has to keep track of: income taxes and sales taxes. You pay income taxes to the IRS and to your state tax authority (if your state has an income tax – some don’t). You pay sales taxes to your state tax authority only – as of now there is no federal sales tax.
Let’s take income taxes first. Even if you make only One Dollar of profit with your online selling activities, you are required to report your income from those activities to the IRS and pay income tax on that income at your individual tax rate. Most people do this by filing Schedule C as part of their individual federal income tax return (Form 1040), but you are not required to do that. You can choose instead to treat your online selling as a “hobby” and report your income as “hobby income” on line 21 of your Form 1040.
I strongly prefer that my online selling clients use Schedule C to report their income. That way, you can take all kinds of business related deductions to reduce your taxable income. If you have a day job and you incur a loss from your online selling, the loss can be used to offset income from your day job. Those are wonderful tax benefits you don’t get when you report your income form online selling as “hobby income”.
Your first Schedule C is due with your Form 1040 next April 15, and you can extend the filing date by up to six months. If you owe the IRS money, however, you have the pay the amount due by April 15 even if you request the six-month extension.
If you have more than $1,000 in tax liability for the current year (and it sounds as if you might – PayPal sends you Form 1099 only if you grossed more than $20,000 from more than 200 transactions), you are supposed to estimate and pay your federal and state income taxes in four (4) installments on April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15. Since I am writing this column in November, you should make at least a partial payment of this year’s on January 15 to avoid interest, penalties and other charges you might incur if you wait until April 15 to pay the whole amount.
Because the sole owners of the business are you and your spouse, you probably will not need to file Form 1065 (the partnership information return) this year. If you plan to add new owners or investors down the road, however, you will need to start filing Form 1065 once they are on board, and it will be easier for you to do that if you start filing now.
Also consider whether or not your spouse should be a partner in your business – if he or she is not rolling up their sleeves and slogging through the trenches with you every day, there is no tax or other advantage to making him or her your business partner. You might actually be better off as the sole business owner, as that way (1) you can transfer assets into your spouse’s name to protect them from lawsuits and (2) you may – depending on your state law – come out ahead if you and your spouse get divorced. Give that some thought.
Now for sales taxes. You should have registered with your state tax authority to pay sales tax when you started this business, and you should definitely do so now. Keep in mind that you pay sales tax only on “in-state sales” (sales to people who live in the same state you do). Total your in-state sales to date and, if the amount of tax is relatively small (it probably will be), pay it as a lump sum when your next sales tax return is due, most likely at the end of the current calendar quarter.
Cliff Ennico ( is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at  COPYRIGHT 2015 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Ugly Christmas Sweaters Can Mean Big Bucks for Sellers

ugly Christmas sweaters
If you were around back in the 1980s, you probably remember either being on the receiving end of an ugly Christmas sweater or recall someone like your aunt or grandmother in your family wearing one. Back then, the ugly Christmas sweater was just as much a part of the holiday season as watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, or swearing under your breath while trying to untangle a messy ball of Christmas lights.

While the ugly Christmas sweater fad had somewhat (thankfully) run its course by the beginning of the 90s, in recent years, there has been renewed interest in the wearing of the ugly Christmas sweater, and for eBay and Amazon sellers, this can mean big bucks around the holidays.

You see, back in the early 2000s, there was renewed interest in this holiday tradition and ugly Christmas sweater parties began popping up around the country. Interestingly, the sweaters worn today are not only highly sought after, the uglier they are – the higher the demand. Even more surprisingly, there’s even a National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day dedicated to this sweater phenomenon. This year the special day happens to fall on Friday, December 18.

Although sellers may have a little trouble locating the infamous ugly Christmas sweaters so close to the holidays, it is still worth taking a look when you’re out visiting thrift stores or (if you’re in the south) going to some yard or garage sales. Many people don’t realize the value of the ugly Christmas sweater and will happily donate them to charity or sell for only a couple of dollars.

Plus, some people also host these parties in July (hopefully, inside with the air conditioning on full blast!), so even if you find one after the holidays have passed for this year, the sweaters can still be worth listing year round!

While most of these types of sweaters go for around $20-$25, others can fetch a more pricey amount, such as a Michael Simon Cardigan Small Ugly Christmas Dancing Girls Glitter Beaded Sequins that recently sold on eBay for $250.

Do you sell or wear ugly Christmas sweaters? Leave a comment below.

How to keep your sanity during the holidays

"MY fort!"

Inch-by-inch, day-by-day, the holiday season is quietly sneaking up on us. For sellers, this not only means getting all that holiday stuff done for our own families, but also keeping the wheels on the track when it comes to operating our online business.

If you’re looking forward to the holidays with both anticipation and dread, here’s some ideas that can help you keep your sanity in the busy days ahead.

Get organized!

You may have your holiday inventory listed, but are your items where you can easily find them? Take some time before the big rush to do an inventory to ensure that you can locate each item that you have up for sale. Use plastic totes or banker boxes to help keep items located in one centralized place where they can easily be found.

Check it once, check it twice

While your taking an inventory of your items, don’t forget to take a look at your shipping supplies. Now is the time to order boxes and stock up on items you need for shipping, such as packing peanuts and shipping tape. The United States Post Office has a free supply of boxes and envelopes for almost any item. Arrange boxes and envelopes by size to streamline your shipping process and keep tape, scissors and shipping labels close by for easy access.

Take advantage of package pick-ups

Although some sellers find it easier to simply load their boxes up and deliver them to the post office, don’t forget that the post office will also come to you. Sellers can go online to schedule daily carrier pickups so they never have to leave the house. Once you see how fast and easy the process is, you may even decide to make going to the post office a thing of the past.

Remember to breathe

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed around the holidays. Make a point each day to take a moment or two to enjoy the splendor of the holiday season. Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or egg nog, schedule some family time, or simply sit a moment and take it all in. Use time management skills to stay on track and don’t forget to stop and take a breathe when it all seems just a little too hectic.

What tips do you have to survive the holiday season? Leave a comment below.

If it fits, it ships – unless it’s Media Mail


The other day I took two packages to the post office to mail. Since they weren’t eBay related and I really didn’t want to take the time to try to run the postage through PayPal, I decided to just stand in line and let the post office figure the postage out (besides I needed stamps…).

The woman that waited on me knows that I sell on eBay, so when she saw the way my two packages looked, she asked if they were books to go by Media Mail. Unfortunately, they were magazines, which is a big Media Mail no-no, so I ended up using Priority shipping instead.

The reason that I’m telling you this is that with Christmas just around the corner, a lot of sellers will be relying on Media Mail to lower their shipping costs. The problem is, not everyone knows what type of items qualify for Media Mail, or even how Media Mail actually works.

Although Media Mail is a cheaper class of mail, a lot of buyers (and sellers!) don’t realize that it can take as long as three weeks for the item to reach them. This means that if a buyer wants the product for Christmas and orders it the second week of December, it may or may not make it by the big day. If you plan to use Media Mail this holiday season, it is generally considered best to use it as an option for cheaper shipping, but make sure to also offer Priority or First Class as a faster way to go. That way, the buyer can choose whether they want it to ship for a cheaper price or whether they want to receive it faster.

The question then becomes, what exactly can you ship through Media Mail? Some items may seem like they would qualify for this type of shipping, but actually don’t. This means that if you use Media Mail and the post office discovers you’ve shipped non-media items, they can charge the buyer with the additional postage fee that are due on delivery.

So, what can you ship through Media Mail? The post office states that approved media items include:

Printed Music
16 mm films
Printed educational and test materials
Sound and video recordings

Interestingly, one of the main items that cause problems for sellers is magazines (as I mentioned earlier). While you would certainly think that a magazine is a type of media, it actually doesn’t count because they typically contain advertising. Other items that seem like they would qualify include, empty CD, DVD, or VHS cases, scap-booking supplies and notebooks. Even empty notebooks are considered a no-no.

Interested in learning more about Media Mail? You can visit the USPS website here to learn more.

Will you be using Media Mail this holiday season? Leave a comment below.

Report From the New York Business Expo by Cliff Ennico

Ciff Ennico HeadshotAs I bounce around this great country of ours giving talks at conferences and trade shows and discovering the finer points of airport cuisine, I was pleased to have the chance to speak closer to home at the New York Business Expo and Conference last week (

This semiannual event, hosted at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center, is widely considered to be the region’s Number One business conference, trade show and networking event, featuring dozens of exhibitors and leading experts on small business marketing, operations, finance and, well, you name it.

Whenever I attend any sort of trade show, I always make it a point to troll the exhibits looking for small or startup companies offering products and services to the small business community. Here are 12 new products and “players” I hadn’t known about before, and some old dogs with a few new tricks:

  1. Looking for someone to sing “Happy Birthday” in Welsh to one of your employees wearing only a thong and a wooly hat for only $5? Check out Fiverr (, an online platform for novelty “gigs” where prices start at – you guessed it — $5.
  2. Looking for a birthday cake for that same employee with an edible 3-D photo of the employee and you “baked in”? Check out YouCake (
  3. Looking for a publication that will give you in-depth coverage of the People’s Republic of China going far beyond what is available in the mainstream U.S. media? Check out Epoch Times (
  4. So you thought Geico only did car insurance? Turns out the little green guy with the Australian accent is a leading purveyor of commercial liability, errors/omissions, and other key coverage small businesses need (contact marketing buyer Steve McArthur at
  5. Looking to learn the “legal and tax stuff” your business needs to know without having to listen to a stuffy lawyer drone on for hours? Check out “The Smart Entrepreneur,” a series of DVD programs by Dianna Stallone (, a lawyer and business expert who’s almost as funny as I am.
  6. Want to offer online payments to your customers but feel you’re too small to get the service you need from PayPal? Check out BluePay (, where human beings respond to every customer service call.
  7. Do you need cash for your successful business, but your business doesn’t have the assets and receivables that a traditional lender wants as collateral? Check out Berkman Financial (, a lender that focuses on your cash flow as a source of repayment.
  8. Looking to pitch your business to venture capitalists but can’t afford the plane fare to Los Angeles to be on “Shark Tank”? Check out Angel Week NY (, a two-day event on November 30 and December 1, featuring a “speed dating” type event with investors called Startupalooza ( – they even have a program on “Cannabis Investing”!
  9. Afraid you will run out of power for your digital gadgets in the middle of nowhere? Dawan Global ( offers a variety of solar-powered battery chargers, power banks, lanterns and panels that synch with just about every type of mobile device.
  10. Looking for customized safety products like hardhats, reflective vests, fire extinguishers, gloves and other protective apparel for your construction personnel? Check out Safety Supplies Unlimited (
  11. Looking for a really cool software app that will take your two-dimensional Web graphics and “bring them to life” with 4-D “augmented reality” digital animation? Check out PopUpCool (
  12. Looking for a way your customers can post streaming video on your website or banner ad without the need for an app like Periscope®? Check out “Video Pipeline,” a patent pending recording tool offered by VipeLine (

And, as always at this event, there were several actual entrepreneurial startups offering wares ranging from the culturally beautiful to the “really, really out there,” such as:

  • ShenYun, a celebration of classical Chinese dance scheduled to be held January 14-17 at New York City’s Lincoln Center (;
  • GeumHong, your source for genuine Korean Geumsan Ginseng, “a product that is created by a collaboration of the will of heaven, the energy of the Earth and the sincere endeavor of humans” (;
  • VapeNY, your exclusive source for “BonVape e-Liquid” for e-cigarettes, whose “base mix is comprised of USP grade, Kosher materials that . . . is safe for people with peanut allergies” (;
  • Arbonne (, a network marketing company focused on high-quality skincare products, oils and botanicals (and whose cookies were the hit of the show);
  • “The Dudes of Disruption,” a talk radio show/podcast on the lifestyles of disruptive, game-changing people with Y chromosomes (;
  • Ivy League Early Learning Academy, a fast-growing chain of pre-kindergarten education centers (;
  • Mila-Such, a line of silk scarves with psychedelic tie-dyed themes (; and
  • My personal favorite – “The Cat Mat,” a bath mat in the shape of a reclining feline that is billed as the “Number One After Sex Towel” (

Cliff Ennico ( is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at  COPYRIGHT 2015 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.