Are you a small business using online marketing? Learn about legal basics of branding and marketing in our digital world!

Did you know that internet users spend an average of almost three hours per day on the internet? Three hours! In explaining why digital marketing should be a priority for small businesses, one author shared, “even if you are not selling your product or service online, then you likely could still count yon your target audience being on the internet at some point during any given day.” As people spend significant amounts of time online and social media platforms offer numerous opportunities for small businesses as they market their products and services, like the ability to connect with huge audiences for little or no cost, it should be no surprise that an estimated 91% of small businesses allocated resources to digital marketing in 2021.

Graphic of marketing images, including retail storefront, smartphone, online application, and computer.

But have you ever considered the potential legal implications of your online marketing? For example, a 2016 fact sheet, “The Legal Implications of Social Media Marketing & Advertising,” shared the following potential legal considerations for businesses using social media:

  • Social media posts could be considered ‘corporate speech’ and be used against companies in lawsuits, for example in false advertising and other claims. (This is one reason it is important for businesses to identify authorized users and develop written policies about how social media accounts are used or maintained.)
  • Social media activities may be subject to regulatory laws and agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, National Labor Relations Act, and the Food & Drug Administration
  • Issues around content ownership can have important impacts – for example, businesses need permission to use content generated by other users, including content that includes their products or incorporates their brands.
  • Digital marketing spaces create considerations around the use, protection, and monitoring of intellectual property like trademarks and copyrights.

“Legal Basics of Branding and Marketing: What to know in a digital world” seminar to be held in Piketon, Ohio

Entrepreneurs interested in learning more about the legal basics of branding and marketing can attend a free education session in Piketon, Ohio on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. The session is one of three educational presentations by legal professionals as part of the event, “Building Legally Resilient Small Businesses: Quick Advice Legal Clinic for Entrepreneurs,” which will be co-hosted by the Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law and partner business development programs at the OSU South Centers. During the evening program on Wednesday, August 17, 2022, entrepreneurs can participate in one or all three free public education sessions on common legal issues for small businesses. There is no cost to participate in the program, but registration is required.

6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. – “Legal Basics of Branding and Marketing: What to know in a digital world,” taught by Patrick Perkins, OSU Moritz College of Law

6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – “Legal Structures for Small Business,” taught by Paige Wilson, OSU Moritz College of Law

7:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – “Working with Independent Contractors,” taught by Jacqueline Radebaugh, Jason Wiener p.c.

Entrepreneurs can also sign up for no-cost, one-on-one consultations with volunteer attorneys to explore their legal questions and receive guidance in areas like business structures, employment, contracts, marketing and advertising, worker and other cooperatives, commercial real estate, and more. Sessions will last up to 30 minutes and participants can register for up to two sessions. Entrepreneurs interested in a one-on-one appointment will be asked to submit basic information about their legal question so staff members can try to match participants with a volunteer attorney whose practice area most closely matches their legal question. Please note, space is limited.

Event Details: August 17, 2022, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

LOCATION: OSU South Centers Endeavor Center

1862 Shyville Road, Piketon, Ohio 45661

COST: No cost to attend, but registration is required.

Register by visiting go.osu.edu/legalclinic

Questions? Reach out to Hannah Scott at scott.1220@osu.edu or 614-247-9705.

If you require an accommodation, such as translation, to participate in this event, please contact Samantha Black at black.1156@osu.edu or 614-247-9705. Requests made by August 3, 2022, will generally allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date.

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visitcfaesdiversity.osu.edu.

Building a Community Economy: Exploring Worker Co-ops as a Succession Strategy

Four workers "bump fists" over an office table with various notebooks, tablets, calculators, and other items.Generational changes are often a topic in popular culture. Think about the many popular press articles about changes in home buying, workplace culture, and more. Another important generational change is happening in the small business world. Baby boomers are estimated to own almost half of privately held businesses in the United States.[1] An article from the U.S. Small Business Administration cites that about 70% of privately owned businesses are expected to change ownership in the next 10-15 years, a change that “will represent the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in U.S. history.”[2] In Ohio, 54% of private businesses, an estimated 94,000 firms employing approximately 2.6 million people, are owned by baby boomers[3], generally defined as those born between 1946 and 1964 who are currently reaching retirement age[4].

Business Succession Strategies and Worker Co-ops

As small business owners plan for retirement or other transition scenarios, they might consider passing the business to a family member, selling to a co-owner or key employee, selling to an outside buyer, or other options.[5] The cooperative model may be able to play a role in these transitions. Worker cooperatives are businesses where worker-members own most of the equity and control the voting shares of the business, while participating in profit sharing, oversight, and sometimes, management, using democratic practices.[6]

A 2021 report authored by experts at the Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University discussed the potential for worker cooperatives and other employee-owned structures to be viable options for business transitions while helping to retain jobs, build worker wealth, and reduce economic inequality.[7] Watch a recording of a webinar hosted by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives with report co-author Michael Palmieri about the research on the potential benefits of employee ownership.

Worker Co-ops Across the Country and in Ohio

In a 2022 report, the Democracy at Work Institute estimated that there are 612 worker cooperatives or similar democratic workplaces employing just under 6,000 workers across the United States. Ohio has an estimated 20 worker co-op firms, ranking it 9th among U.S. states and territories. These businesses tend to be small, with a median firm size of six workers. Approximately 12% of these businesses originated as ownership transitions.[8]

What Makes A Business a Good Candidate for Potential Transition to a Worker Cooperative?

After studying 12 cases of existing businesses converting to worker cooperatives, authors Alison Lingane and Shannon Rieger[9] identified common motivators for business conversions to worker co-ops. Succession for an exiting owner was one motivator, in addition to goals of building wealth for employees, supporting the business’ mission, and as a way to tap into the strengths of employee-owned models. Based on real-world cases, Lingane and Rieger developed a set of business “readiness factors” for conversion to worker-ownership, including:

  • A commitment to the worker co-op model by the transitioning owner and employees
  • The business being in a strong and sustainable financial position
  • A culture of participation and transparency within the business
  • A program or emphasis on training, advising, and support for both employees and transitioning owners
  • Financing strategies that create a viable path for the conversion
  • Engagement by the transitioning owner throughout the conversion process
  • Phasing the conversion process in stages to lower risk and decrease the cost of capital
  • Securing a third-party financial valuation for the business before agreeing on a price

Some of these factors were identified as “prerequisites” to worker cooperative conversions, while others were identified as important for developing during the conversation process or even simply as helpful for the success of the conversion.

Learn More at Upcoming Free Webinar on March 30

Join the CFAES Center for Cooperatives and guest speaker, Ellen Vera, Director of Development and Co-op Organizing for Co-op Cincy, for a free online webinar on Wednesday, March 30, 2022 from 3-4 p.m. Eastern to learn more about worker and community owned cooperative models, including learning from Co-op Cincy’s decade of experience organizing worker co-ops, including a recent focus on conversions from existing businesses to worker co-ops.

Register by visiting: go.osu.edu/BCE

 

This event will be presented with automated closed captions. If you wish to request traditional CART services or other accommodations, please contact Hannah Scott at scott.1220@osu.edu or 740-289-2071. Requests made by March 20, 2022 will generally allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date.

 

References

[1] Palmieri, M. & Cooper, C. (2021). Building Legacies: Retaining Jobs and Creating Wealth Through Worker Ownership. Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University. Retrieved from https://www.oeockent.org/the-ohio-worker-ownership-network

[2] Giltner, E. (n.d.). Business Succession Planning. U.S. Small Business Administration. Retrieved from https://www.sba.gov/content/business-succession-planning

[3] Palmieri, M. & Cooper, C. (2021).

[4] “Baby Boomer,” (2021). Investopedia. Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/baby_boomer.asp

[5] Newcomer-Dyer, R. (2019). “Business Succession Planning: 5 Ways to Transfer Ownership Of Your Business.” Fit Small Business. Retrieved from https://fitsmallbusiness.com/business-succession-planning/

[6] Hoover, M. & Abell, H. (2016) “The Cooperative Growth Ecosysem: Inclusive Economic Development in Action.” Project Equity & Democracy at Work Institute. Retrieved from https://institute.coop/resources/cooperative-growth-ecosystem-inclusive-economic-development-action

[7] Palmieri, M. & Cooper, C. (2021).

[8] “2021 State of the Sector: Worker Cooperatives in the U.S.” (2022). Democracy at Work Institute. Retrieved from https://institute.coop/resources/2021-worker-cooperative-state-sector-report.

[9] Lingane, A. & Rieger, S. (2015). “Case Studies: Business Conversions to Worker Cooperatives: Insights and Readiness Factors for Owners and Employees.” Project Equity. Retrieved from https://www.project-equity.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Case-Studies_Business-Conversions-to-Worker-Cooperatives_ProjectEquity.pdf

Small Biz Start Up Workshop

By Joy Bauman

Program Specialist

Melissa Carter and Hannah Scott co-teach a Small Business Start Up workshop in Chillicothe.

Our CFAES Center for Cooperatives Program Manager Hannah Scott, JD, was recently a guest presenter with Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist for the Business Development Network at the OSU South Centers for a small business start up workshop at the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce in Chillicothe, OH. The two-hour session ai med to help prospective entrepreneurs better understand business ownership to help them determine if it is right for them.

 

Session topics that were touched on ranged from business feasibility, financing, developing a team of trusted advisors, marketing, and legal considerations. Carter discussed loans and other sources of capital for businesses, advising that “you usually can’t find a grant to start your business.” She explained that government grants funded by tax dollars have strict qualifications and require very stringent compliance and reporting measures.

 

Aspiring entrepreneurs were encouraged to get their business plans out of their heads and put their plans on paper. In addition to providing an organized system for researching your business venture, it provides a road map for you to follow and drastically increases your chances of success. Carter explained the parts of a business plan and how the business development specialists at the OSU South Centers can assist anyone wishing to start a business.

 

Scott discussed legal business formation and the differences between sole proprietorships, general partnerships, corporations, cooperatives, non-profits, and limited liability companies, along with the pros and cons of each business type. She advised attendees to get a tax identification number directly from the IRS online, because it is fast and free; pointing out there are numerous scams to have would-be business owners needlessly pay to file for a tax identification number or file their business with the Secretary of State. If you need help with filing, our business development specialists can assist you.

 

Hannah Scott talking at small business workshop

Center for Cooperatives Program Manager, Hannah Scott, JD, was a speaker for the December Small Business Start Up Workshop.

Scott pointed out differences between employees and independent contractors, noting, “This is not something the employer chooses, it is based on the circumstances of the working relationship.” She went on to explain the tax consequences of each.

 

While record-keeping is probably not any business owner’s favorite part of business ownership, it is an important responsibility. Detailed tracking of customers, sales, and inventory are necessary for tax prep and future planning. In addition to keeping records of business expenses, payroll, inventory, sales, income, travel, credit card sales, permits, licenses, insurance, and tax paperwork, it is also vital to keep a record of key agreements such as leases, job descriptions and duties, employment contracts, purchase orders, etc.

 

Aside from the necessary record-keeping and taxes, Carter and Scott also discussed promotions and advertising, helping participants to think about brand recognition and online presence for their businesses, including websites, online sales, and marketing through social media. Scott emphasized legal considerations with branding and marketing, such as trademarks/service marks, and copyrights, and knowing who owns the materials created by a professional graphic designer or web developer.

 

“Generally, employees who create materials in the scope of their employment do not own those materials. The employer owns them,” Scott said.  “Also, generally, an independent contractor owns the materials they create, unless there is an agreement otherwise.”

 

After asking if the would-be entrepreneurs thought they were ready after learning about the many things to consider when starting a business, Scott identified several sources of professional help for business owners, and Carter explained next steps prior to opening a business, including determining the feasibility of the business, building an advisory team, developing a business plan, securing capital and start-up funds. Fortunately, the Business Development Team at the OSU South Centers in Piketon is available to help guide those considering starting their own business, along with the Center for Cooperatives for any groups interested in exploring starting a cooperative business.

 

Also, watch our calendar of upcoming events for more Small Business Start Up sessions in the future!