Last week, the finalists for The Great Social Enterprise Pitch were announced. In case you haven’t been following along, The Great Social Enterprise Pitch is a Central Pennsylvania-focused business plan competition organized by the Lancaster Community Foundation and ASSETS.

The following five social enterprises will compete at the Live Pitch event on October 6, 2017 at the Ware Center:

  1. Bridge – connecting communities through shared experiences.
  2. Green Matters Natural Dye Company – bringing pollution free color to the textile industry.
  3. Lancaster Fellow Foodies – making​ ​healthy​ ​dinners​ ​easy​ ​while​ ​creating​ ​meaningful​ ​jobs​ ​and​ ​advancing​ ​eco-friendly​ ​farming.
  4. Language Beyond Borders – building communication, bridging cultures, creating jobs.
  5. Meraki Mocha – empowering people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through a farm-to-table café.

Tickets for the Live Pitch event can be obtained for $10 here. Doors open at 5:00 pm for a business expo, pitches begin at 7:00 pm. The pitches are followed by keynote speaker Tyler Gage, the cofounder of RUNA, a social enterprise company that makes beverages with guayusa from the Amazon rainforest. I hope to see you there!

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University Commonwealth School of Law and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs.

Roald Dahl

In celebration of Roald Dahl Day  last Wednesday, someone posted the above quote from the multi-talented British novelist (and short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot) on r/GetMotivated on Reddit.

This quote describes an approach to life that some have naturally, but most pursue through self-reflection, hard work, trial and error. I’m part of the latter category, but what I love about my job is working hard to help my clients achieve their goal.

I’m fortunate to witness the pursuit of this lifestyle in various ways (I’m looking at you, members of CrossFit Hershey), but I see it most often in the entrepreneurs and small business owners that I have the privilege of working with. They have an interest, which turns into a hobby and at some point, they decide to take it to the next level. Continue Reading Lukewarm Is No Good – Turning Your Hobby into a Business

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued an updated version of its Endorsement Guides, which includes important information about the FTC’s current thoughts on when and how material connections between brands and endorsers should be disclosed.

In yesterday’s post, I discussed some background information about the theory behind FTC rules and endorsements and summarized some of the key points from the FTC’s guidance on when disclosures should be made. Below is a discussion of a few key points from the Endorsement Guides about how disclosures should be made online. Continue Reading Marketers and Influencers: How Should You Make Disclosures Online?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued an updated version of its Endorsement Guides, which includes important information about the FTC’s current thoughts on when and how material connections between brands and endorsers should be disclosed. In this post, I’ll summarize some of the key points from the FTC’s guidance on when disclosures should be made. Check back tomorrow for more information about how an appropriate disclosure should be made online and whether the FTC is paying attention to influencers (hint – the answer is yes).

But first, here’s some background information to help frame the discussion: Continue Reading Marketers and Influencers: When Should You Make Disclosures Online?

Last Thursday, the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that ASSETS, a Lancaster-based nonprofit organization dedicated to creating economic opportunity and cultivating entrepreneurial leadership, was awarded a grant of $102,598 through the Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs (PRIME) program. PRIME grants aim to help small businesses gain access to capital. This makes ASSETS an ideal candidate for assistance through PRIME, as ASSETS provides access to capital through its Lending Circles program.

ASSETS also provides additional valuable small business services to Central Pennsylvania small business owners, including seminars, business consulting, and Women’s Business Accelerator program, to name a few. ASSETS also sponsors the ongoing business plan competition, The Great Social Enterprise Pitch, which is currently in the crowdfunding campaign portion of the competition. You can learn more and donate here: The Great Social Enterprise Pitch Crowdfunding Portal.

You can learn more about the great work that ASSETS does in Lancaster County and how you can get involved at the ASSETS website, located at www.assetspa.org.

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University Commonwealth School of Law and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs.

A federal court case involving who has the exclusive rights to a selfie taken by a monkey has settled. As mentioned in Part 4 of my series on Intellectual Property Law Basics, at the trial court level, a federal judge determined that animals cannot own copyrights. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but reached an agreement with the photographer, David Slater to settle the lawsuit prior to a ruling on the appeal.

The basis for the photographer’s claim to the rights associated with the photo is that he engineered the photo using his camera and that since copyright law does not recognize ownership rights by an animal, the exclusive rights associated with the image are owned by the photographer’s company. The settlement reportedly requires that the photographer agrees to donate 25% of any future revenue of the images to charities that protect crested macaques (the species of monkey that took the selfie). Continue Reading Copyright Update: Monkey See, Monkey Settle

It was my pleasure to attend the recent Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry presentation of the “Changing Nature of Banking in Central PA.”  The presenters were Brian Bisignani of Post & Schell and Dave Hornberger and Andria Linn of Orrstown Bank.  They spoke about topics ranging from the effect of the recent bank acquisitions in central Pennsylvania, to the growth of community banks in Lancaster County, the challenges of marketing to millennials, the decline in retail sales, and cyber security and phishing attacks.

One of the things that struck me was that over thirty percent of all of the cash deposits in Lancaster County were affected by the recent bank acquisitions, or “roll ups” to use the term that Dave frequently called them.  In a very short amount of time there have been huge changes in local banking, affecting both banks and their customers.

Dave did a great job of summing up the concerns I have heard from many bankers over the past few months.  He noted that very big banks can be competitive because of their rates and lending base.  Smaller community banks gain customers by emphasizing their flexibility, with a faster speed to market and more personal customer service.  While these are all necessary, especially the personal level of service, they are not everything that our customers need.  Continue Reading Trends in the Banking Industry

It was announced on Wednesday that one of the more popular craft breweries in the country, Wicked Weed Brewing out of Ashville, North Carolina, was acquired by Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest producer of beer.  Interestingly (but not surprising if you follow the craft beer industry) the announcement was met with significant backlash from the craft beer community.  The acquisition garnered significant criticism on Twitter, with many accusing Wicked Weed of “selling out.” The deal even generated a statement from the North Carolina’s Craft Brewers Guild, saying that they were “disheartened” by the announcement.  In another example, when Elysian Brewing Company out of Seattle announced its sale to Anheuser-Busch in 2015, the owner reported that customers were buying beers and dumping them onto the floor in protest of the sale!

Why are craft brewers treated so differently in the business world than other startups?  Why are they accused of “selling out” when in other industries, startup companies are celebrated and their founders turned into celebrities when they successfully sell off their company for millions (or hundreds of millions) of dollars?

The answer is not so simple and there seems to be reasonable arguments that can be made on both sides of the issue (beyond just pouring out a perfectly good beer).  Customers and craft beer enthusiasts often express concern that the takeover by a large, international corporate giant is going to impact the quality of the beer.  In some cases, this seems to be a justifiable concern.  The article from Thrillist cites a number of examples including Goose Island and Ballast Point where, after the acquisition, the original ownership left, recipes were changed, and in one case, a coveted batch of beer had to be recalled because of a non-toxic bacteria that infected the beer required its recall.  These issues were all blamed on the takeover and many people swore off drinking these beers as a result. Continue Reading Double (IPA) Standard for Craft Breweries?

I regularly work with both lenders and commercial borrowers.  In the last 12 months, I have noticed that interest rate swaps are becoming a part of more and more financing arrangements.  While I am not an economist, there are a handful of reasons why including swaps or derivatives in a financing arrangement should be part of more conversations between banks and commercial borrowers.

In this post, I am considering a “plain vanilla” interest rate swap.  A simple example of this would be a bank offering a 10 year fixed interest rate loan to a borrower.  The bank then swaps this fixed interest payment with someone (maybe another lending institution, swap bank, or even back to the borrower) in exchange for a variable rate payment – usually tied to LIBOR plus some amount of basis points.  At the end of the swap period, the difference in interest payments between the fixed and the variable interest rate is paid out to the appropriate party.

Increasing Competition Among Lenders

Many of my commercial clients complain that banks only want to lend money to people who don’t need it.  This is not entirely the decision of lenders.  Today’s regulatory environment has forced banks to tighten their risk tolerances.  The net result of this is that it seems there are more loan demand than there is loan supply.

I think of it as Venn Diagram.  One circle is borrowers who need financing.  The other circle is businesses with acceptable risk.  Where those two circles intersect, banks and borrowers are doing business.  If your project falls into that middle part of the diagram, congratulations! You will have lots of banks competing over your business.

This competition is a problem for lenders.  I have seen banks offer extreme terms just to “win” some of these “good loans.” Many banks just cannot compete with lenders who are willing to cut deep into their profits just to secure a deal.  This is not good for banks, and when banks struggle or consolidate, it ultimately harms borrowers, too. Continue Reading A Perfect Storm: Why are Rate-Swaps or Commercial Loan Hedging Arrangements on the Rise?

This week is officially Small Business Week. The attorneys at Russell, Krafft & Gruber work with many small businesses every day.  Personally, I love to work with family–owned businesses, and get to know the family and what makes them and their business special.  In honor of the well-deserved recognition small business owners are receiving this week, I wanted to offer some advice and encouragement to the many small businesses in our community. I didn’t want to do the typical “here is a problem and here is how to fix it” post about the problems that small businesses face – taxes, employees, contracts, security, technology, and all of that stuff.  This post is a thank you to small businesses.

Many small businesses start because of a personal interest or expertise.  So rather than bore with you legalese  I thought I’d share , a link between my interests and small business that might not come to mind.

My son is a huge professional wrestling fan.  Because of him, I am also a professional wrestling fan.  It is a special bond that we share.  He started watching when he was probably 7 years old.  Now he’s almost 16, taller than me, with a handful of hairs sticking off of his chin. But we share wrestling.  When something happens on a Monday night show, it is the first thing he wants to talk about on Tuesday morning.  He and I have traveled to Giants Stadium to see Wrestlemania with 90,000 fans.  We have also been in the Palmer Center in Easton with 300 people in the stands, or the American Legion in Hellertown with maybe 75 people. We have watched the biggest movie star in the world – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — and we have seen someone wrestle dressed up as a Space Monkey.

What does this have to do with small business?  The head of the Small Business Administration is Linda McMahon.  She is the wife of Vince McMahon, the head of World Wrestling Entertainment.  She has been part of storylines and has appeared in the ring.  Linda McMahon has suffered a nervous breakdown, been committed to a “sanitarium” and lapsed into a coma.  She drank beer with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.  She took a stunner from Austin, been slapped by her daughter numerous times, and ended a bunch of fights with well-placed kicks. (Don’t worry about me — I know it is not real. But for the sake of this post, go with me for a bit.)

It strikes me that every small business can take away some lessons from Linda McMahon. Continue Reading How Your Small Business is Like Professional Wrestling