Leadership Honored at 9th Annual 20 Under 40 Awards

The 2019 20 Under 40 Award Recipients pose for a portrait at the luncheon on Friday in Watertown. Julia Hopkins/NNYBusiness

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20 Questions: From the kitchen to the community

Julia Hopkins/NNY Business
Matt Hudson, Executive Chef of the Hilton Garden Inn, poses for a portrait in front of his kitchen in Watertown.

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Which Business Form Is Right For Your Business?

Jennifer McCluskey

People looking to start a business ask me all the time what form of business is right for them, but it can also be useful for owners of an existing business to re-evaluate their business structure and talk to their professional support team of accountants, attorneys and others. It may be advantageous to switch business forms, especially considering new tax laws that have been put in place over the last couple of years. In the next couple of paragraphs, I’m going to go over a quick review of the different business structures; sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, S-Corporation, and C-Corporation so that you will know what questions to ask your team. 

    The simplest and easiest business set-up is a sole proprietorship (single person or married couple) or general partnership (more than one person). A business becomes a sole proprietorship or partnership by filing a DBA (Doing Business As) form at the county clerk’s office. This registers the business’s name at the county level, but does not provide any protections beyond that. Specifically, it does not provide any legal protections. If a business is a sole proprietor and gets sued, the business is fully connected to the owner so all of the owner’s assets are at risk. A time to consider switching would be if a business grows and creates jobs, or opens a storefront, both of which may make it more likely for a lawsuit to happen. Business liability insurance can protect businesses as well, but it may be important to have an additional layer of protection that a different legal structure can provide. 

    The next step up beyond a sole proprietorship is an LLC, S-Corporation, or C-Corporation. These business structures help protect a business should a lawsuit happen by creating a separate legal entity for the business. They’re not foolproof; someone can still sue the business owner personally, but they often can help. Creating one of these business entities will register a business’s name at the state level. Most of the businesses that I work with are set up as sole proprietorships or LLC’s. 

    Filing a business as an LLC or Corporation at the state level gives the business owner some more choices in how he or she pays taxes as well. All sole proprietorships and general partnerships fill out their business taxes as part of the personal tax return of their owner or owners. If a business owner sets up an LLC, she can choose to continue filing taxes as a “disregarded entity,” meaning she would continue filing taxes on her personal return. However, LLC’s do have the option to file taxes as a corporation, which may allow the owner to take advantage of better tax rates if the business has a high profit. Owners of high profit businesses also may want to consider setting up as an S-Corp. To do this the business owner would file as a Corporation at the state level and then fill out paperwork for the IRS to get the S-Corp designation. This will let the business owner do their taxes a little more simply than a C-Corp, but will let the owner take corporate tax rates for any business income beyond the owner’s salary. An owner of an S-Corp has to be able to pay themselves a “market rate” salary, so this setup would not be as useful for businesses that are lower profit. Finally, a business owner could choose to set her business up as a full C-Corp. This will allow her to distribute dividends to investors and owners and will require tax filing as a corporation. 

    At the SBDC we can only give overviews; we are not accountants or attorneys to offer tax or legal advice. We recommend speaking to your accountant and attorney before making any business structure decisions. We can help connect you with a local support network if you do need one of these professionals to help advise you along your business journey. You can contact the SUNY Canton SBDC at (315) 386-7312, SUNY Canton SBDC at Clinton Community College at (518) 324-7232, or the Watertown SBDC at JCC (315) 782-9262 for free and confidential business counseling. 

Food Evolution Summit: Exciting, inspiring and concerning

Jay Matteson

As I write this column, I’m traveling at 400 miles per hour, 30,000 plus feet above the heartland of the U.S. It’s appropriate to be writing at this altitude as the last two days have allowed me to view our food systems from high above sea level. Our journey to the Food Evolution Summit in Palm Springs, California, was exciting, inspiring and concerning. I met many food developers, chief executive officers, food researchers and company vice presidents during the two-day conference. Our three-fold mission during the conference was to look for potential companies considering new locations on the east coast and especially New York state; explore opportunities to bring new business to our companies in Jefferson County, and gain a broader perspective on new food and beverage trends. 

    Our first presenter was David Rice, vice president of research and development strategies and portfolio management for Pepsico. Mr. Rice discussed world demographics and our aging populations. Food companies need to be adjusting their products to meet the needs and tastes of an older population while also creating new and exciting food products for new generations. David also indicated that the consumer, especially the U.S. consumer, is demanding our food stream produce less waste, from the farm to the table. “Upcycling” became a hot topic during the conference. Upcycling is going beyond the traditional three “R”s of waste reduction. Upcycling is finding waste products and converting them into new food products or packaging. It’s not just reusing the waste product as it is, but converting the product into a different use. Almost every presenter after Mr. Rice discussed upcycling at some point in their presentations. 

    As a great example of upcycling that came out of the conference was a company using grape pomice, the byproduct of wine-making that contains seeds, skins and stems. A company in California has developed a technology to isolate the resveratrol from the pomice and turn it into either a concentrated powder or liquid. The resveratrol can then be added to other food and beverages to bring its health benefits to the product. The presenter from Napa Hill Inc., is using the concentrated liquid in a specialized water product that contains concentrated juices from the grapes grown in Napa Valley. This creates a unique almost wine-like flavor without the alcohol but containing many of the health benefits obtained in wine. The pomice is upcycled, reducing the waste stream from the winemakers. 

    Joshua Reid, senior director for research and development at Kashi discussed their new line of food products called Kashi for Kids. Kashi gathered together a group of teenage food entrepreneurs from across the United States. These kids were involved in creating their own food businesses or were very active in sustainability efforts. Kashi brought the group together to create a new line of food products geared towards kids. The teenagers were given basic ingredients to work from and allowed to be creative in developing the products. Everything from developing the flavor profiles to the shape and texture was examined. The team of teenagers also looked at sustainability issues of the product and its packaging, causing Kashi to adjust how they normally package their products. We had the opportunity to sample the products and they are incredible. I’m bringing home a box of their honey cinnamon cereal. The cereal is a combination of crunchy pieces of cereal with a cinnamon coating and then cereal puffs filled with a honey apple mixture. It was impressive to learn how the kids were given a big palette to work from to create healthy food products. My only disappointment with this effort was the failure to expose the teenage team to the farmers who grow the ingredients. We heard extensively about how Kashi sources their products and demands strong sustainability practices from the farms. But they failed to bring the kids to the farms. 

    This has been an ongoing concern of mine, long before this summit. Food processing companies are marketing their products with environmentally conscious messages, but not connecting with the farmers who produce the ingredients to understand why farms use the practices they do, what farms have already done to minimize their carbon footprint, and to build better partnerships between the consumer, the farmer and the food processor. I did ask Mr. Reid quietly about why they hadn’t connected the kids with the farms. His answer was simple: they had not considered it. Perhaps in the future they will place more importance on that connection. 

    There were several other interesting presentations and fantastic connections made. We’ll work to maintain and build these connections with hope that perhaps it will bring more food processing to Jefferson County. 

Young professionals honored in 2019 20 under 40 class

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
NNY Business 20 Under 40 award winners were presented with plaques.

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A Family Focus On Business: Relph Benefit Services serve the north country

From left to right: Jack Gorman, John Bartholf, Bob Relph Sr, Fred Tontarski, Bob Relph Jr, Mike Wiley stand together at the site of their newly built office in 1989.

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Today For Tomorrow: The power of endowment

Rande Richardson

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Chinese Proverb 

More than ever, nonprofit organizations providing valuable services that enrich and enhance our lives are finding the wisdom and necessity of diversifying their revenue. Just as in the private sector, survival is enhanced when there are reliable streams of operating funds. Just as there are short-term, near-term and long-term needs, there should be a resource approach built with each in mind. 

    Currently, over 150 nonprofit organizations, churches and schools serving Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have committed to ensuring their long-term viability by partnering with the Community Foundation. Through these partnerships, they have consciously established and built dedicated resources for the purpose of creating a financial bedrock for the sustainability of their work and mission and best stewardship of gifts entrusted to them. While organizational endowments are not a one-size-fits-all proposition, I can point to many charitable organizations, large and small, whose strength has been enhanced by a permanent fund with the accountable discipline only an endowment brings. 

    This approach continues to be of interest to donors who seek to extend their annual giving beyond their lifetimes. Individuals often prefer to make major gifts, including legacy bequests, to provide support for specific charities that will remain in place in perpetuity or to those charities for specific purposes. Recognizing the importance of annual support, the typical Community Foundation donor creates or adds to a permanent endowment for multiple charities at various percentages. Contributing to an endowment provides an enduring gift that can support programs, projects, buildings and initiatives that the donor may have helped previously provide for. 

    This is a primary reason why the Community Foundation now routinely couples grants with an incentive to help build protection for the initial capital expense. To that end, we are currently doubling gifts to build endowments for over 30 local organizations. Just as in life, it is wise to consider the ability to maintain, improve and properly care for things we have made investments in. Even for smaller charitable organizations, an endowment demonstrates to the community and donors a long-term thinking and a commitment to building capacity for the future. In many ways, earnings from endowments help complement and maximize the annual giving that is so critical to fulfillment of mission. This may draw further support from those who wish to provide for an institution that has stability, longevity, permanence and strength. 

    While some may point out that an endowment is of minimal help until it reaches a certain level, taking the first step to proactively focus on the long-term may help a nonprofit’s most loyal supporters see a clear pathway to do the same. The endowment goal should be aligned with realistic levels of giving for this institution even though organizations often underestimate the ability of one donor to be a game changer for future strength. By demonstrating to donors a responsible, stewarded mechanism to perpetuate their support, the case becomes more compelling. Community Foundation endowments help build even more confidence knowing that there is an additional layer of oversight and accountability through leadership changes over time. Being able to stipulate alternate uses for endowment funds in the event an entity ceases to exist is also incredibly powerful from a donor advocacy perspective. This aligns closely with the sanctity of donor intent knowing that what an organization does is likely the ultimate motivation for the gift over the organization itself. The delivery of that program or service may someday be offered in an alternate form. 

    Whether you are a board member, donor or employee, if you believe that the work your organization does is important enough to support today, finding ways to support that mission long-term should be equally critical. As with a savings or retirement program, there is no substitute for starting early. Endowment gifts help ensure that legacies are best remembered for generations to come, in service of the things about which you care most. Ultimately, this protects the investments you’ve made in those causes during your lifetime and has the potential to provide many times the impact of a gift made in one lump sum. When the generosity of the past is combined with the actions of today’s donors, a powerful effect is created, making both acts of kindness more powerful and far reaching. Together, this helps increase the chance that organizations that are here for good can remain here for good. 

Rande Richardson is executive director of the Northern New York Community Foundation. Contact him at rande@nnycf.org. 

20 Questions: Nurturing Northern New York

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY BUSINESS
Nutrition Program Manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County April Bennett poses for a portrait inside the cooperative’s office kitchen in Watertown.

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Pollinator Partners In The North Country

Randy Young

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) understands the critically important roles bees and their pollinator partners—bats, butterflies, and wasps—play in supporting public health, our ecosystems and our economy. That is why DEC is abuzz with activity designed to support honey bees. 

    A honey bee’s daily job of collecting and discarding pollen is a heavy workload for a flying insect that only weighs .00025 pounds; 4,000 bees together weigh just one pound. Despite their size, New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins, and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of these and other pollinators. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. 

    Honey bees can fly up to 12 miles per hour and visit as many as 100 flowers each day to collect nectar. These bees live only five to six weeks and can produce about one tablespoon of honey during their lifespan. It takes the work of several hundred bees to fill a 9.5-ounce jar of honey. 

    Unfortunately, honey bees and their pollinator partners are facing a host of threats that are harmful and, in some cases, deadly. These threats include: 

  • habitat loss;
  • non-native species and diseases;
  • pollution;
  • pesticides; and
  • climate change.

These are just a few of the threats these species face. To combat these threats, DEC works with its partners to support the four priorities of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force, which works to conserve and grow the state’s pollinator populations. Priorities include sharing best management practices with pollinator stakeholders, enhancing habitat, research and monitoring, and developing educational outreach programs for the public. 

    With a third round of funding from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) allocated in the NYS 2018-2019 budget to implement the Pollinator Protection Plan, New York continues to make great strides restoring the health of pollinators. Our state’s leading efforts to promote the health of pollinators include policies to enhance foraging habitats, the creation of an inventory of wild pollinators, and encouraging pollinator-friendly planting and the use of natural forms of pest management on state lands, just to name a few. 

    For instance, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets is expanding its NYS Grown & Certified marketing program to include honey producers. The program markets local farmers and producers that adhere to food safety and environmental sustainability standards. To be eligible, honey producers must harvest 100 percent of their honey in New York and must successfully complete Cornell University’s Honey Food Safety Best Practices Manual test and label their honey products accordingly. Applicants must also submit the Honey Bee Health Information form and are required to have a bee health inspection every two years. These efforts are in addition to the state’s creation of a Technical Advisory Team that assists beekeepers in identifying and combating the causes of poor hive health. 

    DEC staff are also diligently working to educate the public on ways to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides that could be harmful to pollinators. Additionally, the agency has a dedicated hotline to report pollinator incidents (a situation where several bees or other pollinators have died or appear to be dying). The public can call DEC’s Pesticide Program Headquarters at 1-844-332-3267 to report it. 

    We also participate every year in promoting “Pollinator Protection Week,” which highlights New York’s key pollinators, including butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. This past June, Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation commemorating the importance of pollinators to New York’s environment and agricultural economy and affirmed New York’s commitment to promoting the health and recovery of the state’s pollinator population. 

    Recently, DEC’s Region 6 operations staff and wildlife experts planted approximately one-quarter acre of pollinator seed in a small field at Perch River Wildlife Management Area. DEC plans to increase this acreage over time in hopes of providing flowering plants to benefit the declining native bees and other insect pollinators. DEC also plants flowers at its regional substations and campgrounds to attract pollinators and encourages the public to participate by planting their own native plant species. These so-called Pollinator Pathways can make a big difference in a bee’s lifespan and will add color to properties. 

    The St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management has a brochure online that contains everything the public needs to know about pollinator pathways https://www.sleloinvasives.org/learn/educational-material/slelo-pollinator-pathway-project-brochure/ so that all New Yorkers can support DEC’s work to protect this crucially important wildlife. 

FAQ In Marketing: A North Country Professional’s Cheat Sheet

Jessica Piatt

As the Director of Marketing at the Greater Watertown – North Country Chamber of Commerce, I often get asked questions about my responsibilities at the chamber. While there are many interesting aspects of my job, managing social media seems to pique the most interest. Without fail, I am asked to delineate. 

    This typically ignites a flurry of questions. With north country Businesses in mind, I have selected some of my favorite FAQs.  

I’m asked questions such as: 

  • I don’t have time; can’t I just link all our accounts? 
  • Is itreally necessary? 
  • What even is engagement?
  • How can my business benefit from it? 

    Let’s set the record straight. Yes, you can link your social media platforms to regurgitate the same content verbatim. But, just as we have all learned from the Jurassic Park franchise, just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. When you post the same content on all your social media platforms, you might be getting the job done faster, but you’re lowering your performance in the process. Instead, consider posting similar content with copy that is unique to each individual platform. In this way you achieve the objective of getting the word out without coming across to your audience as repetitive or robotic.  

Is it really necessary? 

    You wouldn’t deny a free advertising opportunity or intentionally cut back on your customer service efforts, would you? Having a presence on social media is a place where you can increase brand awareness and engage people directly as an effective (and measurable) method to generate leads and sales. Need I say more? 

What even is engagement?  

    In essence, engagement is any time someone interacts with your social media. It comes in the form of metrics such as: likes, follows, comments, shares, re-tweets, and click-throughs. Any way people interact with you on platforms is social media engagement. Not only are these metrics essential for tracking the success of your campaigns on social media, they are an integral part of accomplishing goals in the digital age.  

How can my business benefit from it? 

    Come on people! I mean it is 2019. Having a presence on social media platforms offers your business the opportunity to highlight the services you provide or products you offer. It can also be used to enhance your brand’s other marketing efforts. Your digital presence can engage your audience and grow your consumer or client base. Ultimately, your presence on social media platforms will further your goals as an organization. 

    As the director of marketing at the Greater Watertown – North Country Chamber of Commerce, I welcome curiosity. Talking to members and interested businesses about their concerns or questions  surrounding social media platforms is one of the highlights of my job. If you are curious, I challenge you to seek understanding. Use resources such as chambers, or other organizations dedicated to promoting and supporting businesses, to gain insight. Glean from the expertise of those in your professional network. Finally, employ your findings to benefit your business.