Welcome to CO—'s news feed for small businesses. We bring you all the news you need to run a successful business and keep on top of the latest trends. Updated regularly and always found right here... all in one place.

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All the news you need to run your small business.

SBA is streamlining PPP loan forgiveness

The SBA has launched its own PPP loan forgiveness portal. It is intended to simplify the forgiveness process and allow some borrowers to apply for forgiveness directly through the SBA portal. You can find that portal here. To qualify to use the portal, businesses must have borrowed $150,000 or less and, importantly, PPP lenders must opt in. Because not all lenders have opted in, businesses must first determine if theirs has. You can find a list of participating lenders here. If your PPP lender has not opted into the SBA direct forgiveness portal or you've borrowed more than $150,000, you will still need to apply for forgiveness through your lender.

Twitter's new e-commerce feature could benefit small business sales in the near future

Twitter announced the soft launch of a new e-commerce feature on the social media platform. Select companies will be able to test a new “Shop Module” function built into the top of their profiles which will link to products consumers will be able to purchase without leaving the Twitter app.

The businesses chosen for the launch span across several industries, including tech, gaming, lifestyle and more, allowing Twitter to determine which drives the most traffic. Although this is a limited pilot, small businesses can look forward to yet another way to advertise and sell their products through social media in the future.

Groupon’s new marketplace model is designed to help small businesses grow sales

Small businesses looking to attract new customers can take advantage of new and enhanced services from Groupon, the online deals site.

These include promotional campaigns that highlight individual small businesses; improved self-service features that let merchants access the platform easily and change their offers as needed, without the help of a Groupon sales reps; and a new advertising product that lets merchants choose the percentage discount they want to offer.

Hear more on how Groupon’s revamped marketplace model is designed to help small businesses succeed from the platform’s executives, as well as small businesses like Law Beauty Essentials and Moonlit Beauty in this CO— feature.

August 6 deadline for round one of NASA’s Entrepreneur Challenge 2021

Now in its second year, the NASA Science Mission Directorate Entrepreneur Challenge will accept round one applications through this Friday, August 6, from companies with new ideas in the areas of science instruments and technologies. The program, in partnership with global aerospace hub Starburst, seeks to support and further the agency's science mission goals. Twenty innovators who submit white papers on one of this year’s focus areas will be awarded $10,000 in prize funding and progress to round two, when a second white paper will be due on September 27. From there, remaining applicants will participate in a live pitch event open to the public during which their papers and presentations will be judged and winners further awarded $80,000 to advance their ideas.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program extended through 2025

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), established in 1996 to encourage businesses to hire individuals with specific needs for employment assistance, has been extended through 2025. Among those the program aims to benefit are unemployed or disabled military veterans, residents in designated economically disadvantaged communities and those facing long-term unemployment, and for-profit and nonprofit companies with hiring practices that prioritize these groups can be eligible to claim tax credits valued at up to $9,600. The IRS website outlines program and employee eligibility requirements as well as detailed information on how to apply.

Government expands paid leave tax credits to support vaccination efforts

Many employers will now be able to claim tax credits for wages paid to employees who take time off to accompany or care for family members who get vaccinated. The decision, put forth by the U.S. Treasury Department and IRS, also includes comparable tax credits for the self-employed who face loss of wages in the process of helping loved ones through the vaccination process. The announcement comes months after introducing paid leave tax credits under the American Rescue Plan to mitigate the cost of employees taking personal vaccination-related leave. Get the facts on eligibility and how to claim your tax credits here.

SBA 504 loans can help you achieve your post-pandemic growth goals

Planning to expand your business to a new location soon? Small businesses can use a Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan to purchase an existing building, invest in equipment for their business, construct a new building or finance improvements to their existing facility. To qualify, your business must be a for-profit company that operates in the U.S., have a net worth of less than $15 million and fall within the SBA’s guidelines for small business. You must also have an average net income of less than $5,000,000 after federal taxes for the two years preceding the loan application. Learn how you can apply here.

Join TikTok for its first-ever "Small Biz Block Party"

If your business still hasn't dipped its toes into the increasingly popular world of TikTok, now is a great time to do it: The social media giant recently announced its first-ever Small Biz Block Party, a series of 20 free workshops designed to help entrepreneurs network, learn from each other and make the most out of TikTok for their business. The inaugural event, co-hosted by Main Street America, will be held virtually on August 5, 2021. The remaining "block parties" will be held in cities across America from August 12 through November 4. The series will close with two additional virtual events: one for veteran entrepreneurs (November 10) and one "open session" Finale Block Party on November 18.

Square introduces banking services for small businesses

Square, the financial services company and integrated mobile payment platform for merchants, has introduced Square Banking for small businesses. The new suite of cash flow management tools is a first step in the company’s mission to support small businesses with a full range of tools scaled to their specific needs. They include savings and checking accounts, with client-set amounts pulled in directly from sales transactions. The early buzz is that Square Banking hopes to provide more accessible banking and financial services to small businesses, working in tandem and integrating with their point-of-sale systems for a seamlessness that, until now, didn’t exist in this way.

New workaround in over a dozen states eases cap on state and local tax deductions for certain businesses

Pass-through businesses in more than a dozen states may now have a way to find some additional relief from the burden of heavy property and state income taxes. Pass-through businesses run, or “pass,” a portion of their revenue through their personal income returns, with a cap for federal deductions set at $10,000 by the state and local tax (SALT) write-off. For those in particularly high-tax states, the cap doesn’t represent enough of a savings. The new workaround, which experts warn is not a good tactic for everyone, would allow business owners to pay a state levy on the business which would cover them on the individual side of their state income tax returns. Read more about the growing list of states providing this potential benefit and how it could impact your business.

New SBA site dedicated to better certification experience for women-owned businesses

In order to be considered for its Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program, the Small Business Administration requires applicants to be certified as a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or as an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). No longer accepting self-certifications, the SBA is currently in beta-testing with a new digital platform that will allow businesses to determine eligibility and apply for and manage their certifications in a more streamlined and user-friendly way. The new site features abundant resources to aid applicants including checklists of and respective links to all required documentation that may help these businesses acquire much-needed funding.

$127 million in DOE awards for projects that promote clean energy goals

The Department of Energy announced that small businesses in 26 states with projects that represent innovation and progress in achieving cleaner energy will receive awards totaling $127 million. These 110 grants support efforts in the areas of cybersecurity, renewable energy, carbon management, grid reliability and fusion energy and are administered as part of the DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) programs. The funding is designed to support the Biden Administration's clean energy and net-zero carbon emission goals while promoting small business growth and the creation of jobs in science and technology. To learn more about the awardees and their projects as well as the DOE’s small business programs, click here.

QuickBooks introduces credit card reader for small businesses

Intuit has long been a leader in small business accounting software with its QuickBooks services, followed by QuickBooks Capital, a financial lending option, and QuickBooks Cash, a business bank account. Now the company is expanding into contactless payments with QuickBooks Card Reader, portable hardware that provides small businesses with a new way to take cashless payments in store or on the go with just a swipe or a tap, just the way most shoppers prefer it post-pandemic. The mobile payment device is interactive, allows for customized tipping options and accepts Apple Pay, Google Pay, credit and debit cards plus syncs up with other QuickBooks software to allow for quicker payments and easy financial management. Find out more about the new debut and its small business friendly features.

Spotlight on intellectual property at Invention-Con’s August 18-20 conference

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host Invention-Con 2021 from August 18-20, exclusively online. The event promises to be a great resource for inventors, entrepreneurs and small business owners who will hear from leaders in government and business on topics that span new idea-based creation, innovation and production. Workshops as well as presentations from notable speakers including Senseware’s Serene Almomen and recording artist Ansel Brown will focus on intellectual property and protecting one’s creative interests. Registration is currently open for this free event.

Register now to perfect your social media strategy

Ready to up your social media game? Join CO— on Thursday,  August 5 at 12 pm ET for the next episode of CO—  Roadmap for Rebuilding, focused on tailoring your social media content. This week's discussion will help you choose a platform, build your plan, and make the most out of your social media marketing strategy. Host Jeanette Mulvey, Editor-in-Chief at CO—, will lead the session, combining expert advice with personal insight from small business owners, like you.  Register here.

You could win $10,000. MasterCard launches Impact Awards program to help small businesses affected by COVID-19

In association with Bank of America, MasterCard is celebrating small businesses and their contributions to customers and communities — especially throughout the pandemic. The MasterCard Small Business Impact Awards is a program designed to reward four small businesses that match these qualifications with $10,000, and additional winners with a Mastercard Digital Doors Toolkit. To enter, applicants must explain how their business has made a positive impact on its customers, employees and community over the last year. At a virtual award ceremony in October 2021, a panel of small business experts will then choose one grand prize winner and three first prize winners in each of these categories: innovation, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and giving back.

New grant competition supports entrepreneurship among minority university and college students

To advance their mission of nurturing the entrepreneurship that will lead to future innovation and growth, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is now accepting proposals for pilot programs from undergraduates at minority colleges and universities. One program will be established at each type of minority-centered school including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges & Universities, Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions and Alaska Native Serving Institutions. Deadline to apply is 11:59 PM on August 16th. Register to attend a pre-application virtual information session on August 3.

Mark your calendars with these upcoming tax deadlines

The business of small business means staying on top of seemingly unwieldy tax forms and filing dates. Here are some of the key dates and forms that should be on your radar in the coming weeks:

  • July 30: Form 941, your quarterly reporting of federal income and payroll tax withholdings from employee paychecks.
  • July 31: Form 5500 for reporting the status of your company’s retirement savings plans, including condition, investments and participation, to the IRS and Department of Labor. There are different forms for businesses with fewer than 100 employees and those with 100+ employees.
  • August 10 and September 10: Employees whose compensation is based on gratuities of $20 or more are required to report those tip earnings from July, 2021 and August, 2021, respectively, to employers via Form 4070.
  • September 15: For those who filed an extension, this is the final deadline to submit your 2020 corporate tax returns.
  • September 15: Quarterly estimated tax payments due for sole proprietors, LLCs and independent contractors.

Google Meet’s new 60 minute time limit for groups of three or more

Google Meet, the live video meeting platform that is part of the company’s Workspace suite of business apps, has placed a new 60-minute cap on meetings involving three or more people. Meet became a popular option for businesses and families alike during the pandemic when, in April 2020, the company offered free unlimited access to Google users. Google announced end-dates for the free version but extended them through June 2021. Now, at the 55 minute mark, participants get a notification that their meeting is about to end. Learn more about the new restrictions and options to make the most of your meetings.

Pinterest adds tools designed for small businesses

The visual search engine, which saw searches related to supporting small businesses jump 350% at the start of the pandemic, is increasingly making its images shoppable.

This summer the platform is collaborating with American Express on a digital shop that promotes small businesses, the latest in a growing number of features on the site.

These range from Pinterest Shop guides, which promote small business shopping on the platform via Pins, visual boards and search, to the Community Rebuild program, which offers classes on branding and marketing strategy, one-on-one coaching and ad credits to small business owners who are persons of color, disabled or members of the LGBQT community. Learn more from Bill Watkins, head of global mid-market and small business sales for Pinterest in this CO— feature.

Tax credit program could put thousands back in your pocket now

If you’re one of the countless small businesses desperate to retain employees and exhaustively managing staffing deficits while still reeling from loss of business, you may be able to recoup a significant amount of money back on wages paid through the government's Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC).

The program is open to businesses with fewer than 500 employees who can show single quarter gross receipts of 50% or less versus the same quarter in 2019 and the potential to receive up to $7,000 on wages paid per employee, per quarter, for 2020 and 2021. Applications are available through the IRS website. Read our full story on the ERTC.

State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) funding helps small businesses go global

For small businesses seeking support to expand beyond U.S. borders, the Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) could be a valuable resource, providing grant money for the purpose of covering costs associated with export development.

The program awards money to eligible state and territory governments which in turn pass the funding down to businesses that apply on the local government level. The assistance provided help to offset costs of initiatives such as learning the fundamentals of exporting, organized trade missions and translation of marketing and website content, among others.

DHS and DOJ launch Stopransomware.gov

A new alliance between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, in collaboration with other federal agencies, has been announced as the government steps up its efforts to combat increasing threats to cybersecurity.

Stopransomware.gov is a new online destination where all who are vulnerable, small businesses being among the most, can find useful tools and information to protect themselves and their organizations from ransomware attacks, all in one place.

These resources include security alerts, guidance on reporting attacks and simple steps that can be taken to mitigate risk. Read more about how stopransomware.gov is committed to equipping Americans with the best resources for safeguarding their information and technology networks.

OSHA updates COVID-19 protection guidance for the unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk

While in most cases U.S. businesses no longer have to take steps to protect employees who are fully vaccinated from dangers related to COVID, OSHA has updated its guidance for those not vaccinated or vulnerable due to certain medical conditions or disabilities.

Developed for workplaces outside of the healthcare setting (which is covered under mandatory OSHA standards for COVID), the guidance for health and safety measures includes granting time off for vaccinations, sustained sanitization efforts, continued physical distancing and proper mask wearing. Read about all of OSHA’s latest recommendations on the Department Of Labor’s website.

Turn your unused domain names into cash with GoDaddy's new ‘List for Sale’

If you are a GoDaddy customer, the domain registry and web hosting service has introduced a user-friendly way for owners of domains that are inactive or no longer needed to sell their names to interested buyers in a more simplified way than previously existed.

List For Sale is its new listing service that provides domain sellers access to over 120 domain registries where tens of millions of domain searches are conducted by interested buyers. The platform offers valuable resources to support sellers including a valuation tool that helps you set your price. While there is no fee charged for listing, GoDaddy takes a commission on sales. Click here for everything you need to know to get listed and properly set up for payment.

Seagrams 7 to fund 22 small business grants to “Keep the Dive Alive”

In 2017, Seagrams 7 anointed July 7 as National Dive Bar Day. In 2021, the day has taken on new meaning as the dive bar industry struggles to reopen establishments post-pandemic. To support these and other struggling small businesses, Seagrams 7 enlisted actress/comedian Iliza Shlesinger to appear in a series of Instagram and Facebook videos and will donate $7 to Main Street Alliance for every share up to $77,000 through July 24. In turn, Main Street Alliance is accepting applications through August 20 for 22 grants made possible by the campaign in the amount of $3,500 each. More about the campaign and application information is available on the Main Street Alliance website.

CO—'s Small Business News You Can Use is written by CO— contributors, led by Andrea Forstadt.

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