Kick-off for Small Business Saturday

The Small Business Development Center at Minnesota State University is partnering with Old Town Association and City Center Partnership to celebrate shopping small and preview Small Business Saturday 2018.
Join us at the SBDC at 9am to meet with local dignitaries and the small business owners in your community. Coffee and treats from local businesses will be provided. This event is free

 

 

 

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Recipient of Encore Entrepreneur Awards Featured in Finance & Commerce

Mark Johnson, founder of Kasota, Minnesota-based Artisan Restoration,
specializes in taking pioneer log cabins and timber frame barns from
across the upper Midwest and transforming them into customized new
homes.

Understanding bygone building techniques is essential for Johnson, who
has rehabilitated structures dating to Minnesota’s early years – including
the 150-year-old Borgeson Cabin in St. Peter’s Linnaeus Arboretum.
But it’s Johnson’s ability to adopt modern tools like digital marketing that
has helped him build Artisan Restoration’s business to capacity.

Read More:
Artisan Restoration Finance & Commerce

 

 

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Strategic Partnership Brings Better Business Bureau to Mankato

Better Business Bureau® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is partnering with Minnesota State University Mankato’s (MSUM) Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to establish a BBB office within the SBDC.  Part-time office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:00 am to noon.

“Business growth in the Mankato region has been and continues to be truly impressive,” said Susan Adams Loyd, President and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “We’re very excited about our partnership with the SBDC, and we look forward to a more robust regional presence, allowing us to provide more services to the business community, as well as student and senior populations.”

BBB’s Mankato office will be primarily staffed with a trained intern/representative who will be available during scheduled hours. Additionally, BBB staff from its Burnsville headquarters will utilize the office space while meeting with business and civic leaders, and while preparing for educational presentations in the Mankato area.

As part of this increased presence, BBB will be offering a number of educational workshops and Focus Luncheons for BBB Accredited Businesses and interested business owners throughout the region.

BBB’s Mankato office joins Fargo-Moorhead and St. Cloud as regional satellite offices. The Fargo-Moorhead office opened in 2010, with the St. Cloud office – also housed within SBDC (Central Minnesota) – opening its doors the following year.

Better Business Bureau was founded in the Twin Cities in 1912. Ethical business owners and community leaders, frustrated by having to compete against companies that were using misleading advertising to attract customers, banded together to challenge the advertising of these unethical companies, making their findings public. This was the genesis of BBB. Today there are more than 100 independent Better Business Bureaus with more than 160 offices across North America. BBB serves every community in the United States, most of Canada, and a growing number of locations in Mexico.

Business owners with questions about BBB’s Mankato office can contact Lisa Jemtrud, BBB Community Relations Director, at 651-695-2450.

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Small Business Awards Honorees Announced

The SBDC announces the recipients of its South Central Minnesota Small Business Awards, in six categories, for 2018:

Encore Entrepreneur (Age 50+) Artisan Restoration, St. Peter;
Family-Owned Small Business Blue Earth Monument, Blue Earth;
Minority-Owned Small Business Kato Trucking, Mankato;
Veteran-Owned Small Business River Valley Birth Center, St. Peter;
Woman-Owned Small Business K & G Gymnastics, Mankato;
Young Entrepreneurs of the Year Ag Storm, St. Peter.

 

Award recipients will be honored at a luncheon May 1, during National Small Business Week. The event includes a keynote presentation by author, entrepreneur, and USA Today columnist Rhonda Abrams.
REGISTER

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South Central MN Small Business Awards

Join the SBDC to honor outstanding small businesses during National Small Business Week. Don’t miss author, entrepreneur, and USA  Today columnist Rhonda Abrams. Rhonda is widely recognized as one of the nation’s foremost experts on small business, entrepreneurship, and business planning. Her keynote presentation will be Surviving Amazon:  Thriving in a Rapidly Changing World.

May 1, 2018, 11:30 am  – 1:00 pm
Mankato Event Center
REGISTER

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Cyber Security Month Series Part Four

This is our final part of our series for Cyber Security Month, today we are going to discuss a bit more about security of your information in the “Cloud”.

The Cloud for many industry professionals is nothing more than the outsourcing of data and information to someone else to manage and care for. In the past, not all business, especially small business can afford to recruit, hire and operate an IT team to support their business, well now you can. In the past, not all business, especially small business could afford to recruit, hire and operate an IT team to support their business, now you can.

Some basic questions to be asking when considering using the “Cloud” are:

  • What business problem am I trying to solve and what services do I really need?
  • Who is going to be responsible for the Cloud services in my organization and what should they be doing?
  • Is any specialized training needed for the Cloud?
  • What type of data or information should I be putting there?
  • How is the information in the Cloud going to be secured?
  • What happens if something goes wrong from a security perspective and I need to contact someone from the cloud provider?
  • Does anyone else have rights to my data or information once in the cloud?

For the small business owner, it may seem overwhelming by the number of choices and options not to mention risks of cloud computing. It is advisable to seek guidance from a technology specialist in this area other than the sales rep or sales engineer who is selling the service to ensure your best interests are being addressed.

Finally, in this week’s issue, we will touch upon some methods and tools to make it easy to administer security for your small business. Remember the internet is full of things that are “free” and attackers use that term as a way to get you to install something bad onto your business computing devices. It is advisable for small businesses to purchase known and proven commercial security tools and maintain these tools to protect their business information.

Some top methods to keep your small business running safely on the Internet and protecting your business information are:

  • Patch your computers and ensure it is set up for automatic updates assuming you have a PC.
  • Physically secure laptops wherever you go. If leaving in a vehicle keep them out of sight and ensure you lock your vehicle. If your business has sensitive data on laptops consider encrypting to secure the data should they be stolen or lost.
  • Have antivirus software installed and running with the most recent updates on your computing devices.
  • Use complex and different passwords for different applications and keep passwords in a safe place if you must write them down.  See below for a solution to a password headache.
  • Be wary of unsolicited e-mails aka Phishing that contains suspect links as discussed in week two of our series.
  • Back up your data and make sure it is in a safe place.
  • When using WiFi outside of your office such as the coffee shop, be aware that it may not be a secure channel and some data can be intercepted. Utilize secure websites such as those using HTTPS , VPN or wait until you get back to the office to send the sensitive document to a client or use encryption.
  • Password protect your phone
  • Purchase and use a shredder for paper materials that contain sensitive info.
  • Finally never use the “free” computer in the hotel lobby for any business, including checking your e-mail, airline flights, etc.

In addition to the above methods, you will find a short list of tools.  But remember, always consider the risks before you download and install any software onto your business computing devices. I would also strongly suggest obtaining professional technical assistance should you need it; there is probably a small business in your area that specializes in computer support or technology. Small business owners can benefit by networking with these technology professionals to help enable and secure your business.

The below tools in italic are easy to find in any search engine query.

  • Password Managers: LastPass is an excellent password management tool to help you manage all your business passwords securely. Many web browsers also come with password safes as well sometimes available as plugins.
  • Anti Malware:  When Antivirus is not enough, sometimes attackers can get around traditional antivirus and having a specialized tool to ensure that your business PC is not infected with something destructive is a good thing. Malwarebytes is a great solution.
  • Network Protection using DNS: Ever wonder what happens when you type in a website into your browser and how you get to the site?  Probably not, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to take you to the website of your choice. One key part of how internet communications works is something called DNS or Domain Name Service.  What if your small business had the power of a big technology company with lots of security resources to make sure that the website you were going was not malicious – check out OpenDNS from Cisco, free to use.

Well, that wraps it up for Cyber Security awareness month; I hope this series was of benefit to you the small business owner to help keep your business out of harm’s way in our Cyber world.

The author can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/public-profile/settings?trk=d_flagship3_profile_self_view_public_profile

All rights reserved, Copyrighted work by William Tucek.

 

SBDC Mankato would like to extend our appreciation to William Tucek, for his original works and allowing us to have exclusive publishing rights for them. We hope that this series has assisted you in some way with your small business and we encourage you to contact us for any consulting needs for your small business or startup.

 

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Cyber Security Month Series Part 3

In week one of Cyber Security awareness month we talked about identifying where your critical information assets are that are important to you the small business owner. In week two we talked about how criminals target small business owners and the tricks they use. This week we are going to discuss basic data protections that small business people can employ to protect business information and systems they use every day.

Small business people are constantly on the go, multi-tasking and typically using a number of devices and applications to support their business. Typically this means but not limited to laptops, smart phones, web based e-mail and chat and finally voicemail.

Below you will find some general ideas for toughening up your security posture to protect your business:

Smartphones are essential to a small business person as it is an important tool used in business. However  due to its size of phones it is something that can be easy to loose , of interest to thieves and  due to the information they hold of interest to hackers. Some tips for security smartphones are:

  • Password protect your phone using a strong password, if the phone has an auto lock feature enable this to lock the phone should you leave it idle for a period of time.
  • Don’t share your phone, limit access to it.
  • Enable back up features for key data like address books info if an option.
  • Turn off Blue tooth or WiFi when not in use.
  • Be wary of what applications you install, some phone vendors have a looser requirements which may allow for attackers to publish illicit apps.
  • Be wary of unsolicited text messages containing URL’s or links, delete if you are unsure.

Voice Mail is often an overlooked area; however tabloids are full of stories of individual’s voice mail becoming compromised due to poor or no passwords. If your voicemail has a password requirement ensure to set the password to something that you can remember and not a trivial number sequence like “1, 2, 3, 4”.

Cloud based applications:  Web mail and cloud based storage are often used heavily by small business people and many are “free” to use. However these systems have concerns as well, consider the following when using cloud based applications:

  • If you are using a “free use application” for your business, ensure to use reputable cloud based application and understand your rights within the agreement regarding your business information. Some cloud based applications and e-mails may have rights to your data as part of the user agreement- Read the fine print.
  • Protect your accounts with a strong password and use different password for other applications.
  • Limit access to cloud data, like your phone, you will want to limit access to any business data you may be sharing. For example, file sharing services are designed to be collaborative and allow others to access data. Risks can include unwanted or unneeded access to your information; this can be limited by removing any unneeded access by others you had previously allowed and removing or deleting files that have already been shared and no longer needed.

 

Laptops: laptops are great targets for thieves and hackers as well and offer opportunity target.  Here are some basics for protecting information on laptops.

  • Use a password on your system
  • Patch your system regularly or set up the PC to automatically apply patches.
  • Encrypt the hard drive if the feature is available, should your device become lost or stolen the contents will not be viewable to the thief.
  • Get Antivirus , many come with additional features known as end point control to protect you.
  • Back up your information, including system files to restore your device.
  • Keep your device within your control, don’t leave unattended or unsecured.

When in doubt with technology, seek out a local fellow small business owner who has expertise in computer support to assist you. The small cost of professional help to protect your computing device may be well worth it rather than take things to chance and cost you your business due to a data breach.

Finally your garbage, that’s right: Buy or obtain a shredder and use it on items that are going in the trash that may contain sensitive information about your business such as account statements, bills, invoices, etc. Dumpster Diving – mentioned in last week’s blog, is still a common practice by identify thieves and other criminals.

 

The author can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-t-tucek-2610994b/

All rights reserved, Copyrighted work by William Tucek.

 

 

 

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Cyber Security Month Series Part Two

Last week as part of Cyber Security awareness month we talked about identifying where your critical information assets are that are important to you the small business owner. We also provided tips on how to better protect these information “assets” that are important for your operations. This week we are going to talk a bit about how criminals can target small business owners by using a technique known as social engineering. You may have heard of this before in different formats like Phishing and Business email compromise which are types of fraud.

Fraud comes in a variety of forms, from high to low tech, including phone calls, e-mails, in person and variety of forms, from high to low tech, including phone calls, E-mails, in person and even the U.S. Postal Service. But social engineering techniques used to manipulate victims are fairly consistent; these typically include the attacker using emotive language in order to get you to take an action to actually help the fraudster.

To avoid becoming a victim, please be aware of the following methods used by fraudsters:

  • The Secret – The fraudster is offering something secretive or “only for you.”
  • It’s Free – Giving away something for “free.”
  • Authority Figure – The fraudster is posing as an authority figure or agency.
  • You’re in trouble – The fraudster will attempt to make you believe you are at fault.
  • Guilt – An emotive play on your generosity.
  • Act before it is too late – Only limited quantities are often used.
  • Look what I just found – Fraudsters often use a baiting tactic such as leaving a USB or CD containing viruses in a public place, with the intention that you will use on your PC.
  • A combination of any of the above methods.

 

In regard to small business and Cybercrime, there have been many studies that show small businesses (those companies with 1,000 employees or less) are not prepared to counter any cyber security threats. These studies identify that small business can be impacted much more than their large counterparts in the event of a cyber-attack.  New business owners are also being targeted by suspect companies with letters that have official–sounding names such as “Records Office” asking for exorbitant fees for business processing services.

Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

 

 

Some ways on how to avoid becoming a victim are:

  • Review E-mail carefully as it is can be a large entry point for Cybercriminals into your business. Be aware of phishing techniques which include the social engineering methods mentioned above, also don’t click on URL’s or links without first checking them by hovering over the link.
  • Be watchful for e-mails from persons posing as business partners or suppliers asking for bank account information or to transfer money, follow up with a phone call if unsure.
  • Be careful of any business correspondence or phone calls that seems too good to be true, seems threating or possibly imitating an official figure.  Be guarded about what information you provide about your business to strangers or even other businesses.
  • Shred your business records when they are expired or old. Don’t leave these out in the trash without destroying them as this information could be a target for dumpster diving.
  • Be wary of anyone giving away free “USB sticks or CD’s”, they may contain malware that could infect your computer systems.

The author can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-t-tucek-2610994b/

All rights reserved, Copyrighted work by William Tucek.

 

 

 

 

William T Tucek william_tucek@hotmail.com

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Cyber Security Month Series Part One

As part of Cyber Security Month, we here at the small business development center, south central region branch, are offering a four part series of weekly tips provided by an experienced Computer Security professional who will simplify the topic and illustrate how you can protect yourself and your small business.

Bill Tucek is trusted information Security Advisor and Leader with over twenty years in Information Security Management and Consulting with International experience within several industries including Telecom, Pharmaceuticals’, Financial Services, Government / Defense and Manufacturing.  A Co-Inventor for Security process for Medical Device with US Patent, he holds several Security degrees and certifications including a Master’s Degree in Information Security.  Bill also serves on a Governor’s advisory board for Cyber Security for the state of Indiana.

So Bill, break it down for us, what is the big deal about CyberSecurity and what are the potential impacts to small business:

It’s really about protecting the information and systems that are critical to you and your business so there is no impact to your operations and your profitability. Your businesses information has value, it can be of strategic or it can be a commodity value depending on the type of information. In The wrong hands, your information can have a negative and costly impact to your business. To summarize, it is about limiting unnecessary risks to your business.

What do you mean by this value, could someone profit from my business information?

Absolutely, small businesses have a lot of confidential information – sometimes unsecured, containing information about customers, business plans, accounting and financial records, personally sensitive information.

For example, if you are a sales or marketing professional and have a detailed plan about future market expansion or a new product line, this certainly would be of strategic value to your competitors.  What would be the cost to you if you were hacked and competitors obtained this information and realigned their business strategy before you could implement?

Let’s say this same sales or marketing professional also has a client list of good paying customers along with credit card numbers and this information is stolen.  This information has a commodity value as it is easily traded in underground markets for conversion to cash or equivalents.

There is also value in your ability to just being able to access your own information aka availability. For example, imagine if one day you go to accept a payment from a customer and are unable to do so as your computer is locked and demanding you to pay a ransom.  Your ability to access to your own systems has a huge value on your business.

So what is a good first step here for a small business?

My first suggestion is to know what information is most valuable to your business and where it is; just knowing what that information is a big first step. Second, is understanding if there is any regulatory requirements the information your business holds.  For example many health professionals such as Doctors and Dentists have requirements concerning patient health records.   Having a plan on how you are going to handle and protect that information is important to your business.

The third step is how that information is being utilized stored and managed. From my observations of many small businesses, especially startups, have information in multiple locations or mixed with personal information. Small business people would benefit by separating the business from personal information to limit potential attacks spread should they occur.

For example, a small business owner has business accounting records on a personal computer which is also used for pleasure. The owner an avid gamer, downloads “free” games from the internet for personal use after work. In this common example, the games contain malware which later delete customer records for accounts receivable which has a direct impact on the business owner’s ability to collect receivables with a direct impact to the bottom line.

You have provided us with some good examples and tips, what else can I do protect my business information?

Next, come up with a plan with how you are going to protect this information. For some business owners this is very simple and low cost effort. We will discuss this in next week s discussion.

Can you recap what we have learned here today?

  • Know what information is critical to your business and the value to an outsider.
  • Understand and regulatory requirements for data you manage.
  • Known where your business information is stored.
  • Limit mixing personal use on computers intended for business.
  • Understanding the basics of information Security which are Confidentially, Integrity and Availability.
  • Begin the steps to develop a simple plan on how you are going to manage and protect your business information.

 

The author can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-t-tucek-2610994b/

All rights reserved, Copyrighted work by William Tucek. Registration date: October 01, 2017 – 12:50 PM , Copyright number: IBGH-ATPD-OKMS-ENOM

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MSU Opens Downtown Business Center

MANKATO , MINN. –

MSU’s Division of Strategic Partnerships has opened up shop in Mankato’s Old Town commercial district.
Their goal: to create more opportunities for students as well as local and regional businesses.

“Businesses and the community can come here and find out about the university and find ways to partner and then in the center for innovation entrepreneurship,” Vice President of Strategic Planning, Michael Gustafson said.

The division includes the center for Talent Development and Small Business Development Center, along with the University’s new Center for Innovation Entrepreneurship.

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