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About Julija A.

Julia A. is a writer at SmallBizGenius.net. With experience in both finance and marketing industries, she enjoys staying up to date with the current economic affairs and writing opinion pieces on the state of small businesses in America. As an avid reader, she spends most of her time poring over history books, fantasy novels, and old classics. Tech, finance, and marketing are her passions, and she’s a frequent contributor at various small business blogs.

Blog posts

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) scam tracker is currently reporting 200 phishing scams all across Texas, with financial losses ranging from $35 to $3,000. This is a standard phishing scam that is targeting small businesses and appears in the form of links or attachments in an email. Once you click on them, malware is automatically downloaded to your computer, and scammers can access your personal data and steal your credit card information. The scam is disguised as a request for proposal (RFP) attachment to attract the attention of local entrepreneurs, who know RFPs are a good way to win new contracts and establish connections with clients. There seem to be two versions of this scam. In one, an email with an official-looking PDF file is sent, and when a person clicks on the PDF, malware is downloaded to their computer. In another version, a link in the email takes you to a form that asks you to fill in your personal banking information, claiming that you need to provide payment details. More than 98% of businesses across the state are small businesses, and BBB is issuing a state-wide warning to owners not to open any emails from sources they don’t trust.  The BBB office in Texas has also provided a list of tips that companies can use to protect themselves from phishing scams: Visit the company’s website. Most scammers claim they belong to a government agency to invoke a sense of trust. This can easily be checked by visiting the agency’s website and seeing whether they posted any RFPs online. You should also call them to check whether they sent emails to small business owners. Call the contact provided in the email. If no one answers the phone or people refuse to speak to you, then you can be certain that they’re trying to scam you. Be wary of generic emails. Since scammers usually try to cast a wide net, any lack of personal details and generic-looking RFP forms could potentially indicate shady dealings. Never open attachments. If you have any doubts, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Unless you’re receiving an email from a completely trusted source, don’t click on any attachments. Another good idea is to check whether the files have a .exe extension. These types of files are often disguised as PDFs. Don’t trust logos. Even official-looking logos can potentially be fake. The same goes for email addresses and other contact information. If you have taken the necessary precautions and noticed a scam, report it. This way, you’ll help the authorities fight fraud and potentially help save small businesses such as yours from getting swindled.

By Julija A. June 20,2019

The House of Representatives has passed the Small Business Association Cyber Awareness Act, aiming to help small businesses combat cyberattacks and raise cyber awareness. The SBA Cyber Awareness Act would expand cyber security operations of the Small Business Association by requiring it to issue a report assessing the agency’s ability to combat cyber threats.The agency will have to produce an annual Congressional report assessing its information technology and noting whether any of its equipment was manufactured in China. “With 1.1 million Coloradans employed by small businesses, we need to protect them and the @SBAgov that serves them,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colorado) stated in his Twitter account. “Cyber attacks have the ability to shut down small businesses and destabilize our economy. This bill helps protect millions of small businesses served by the SBA and puts them on the best footing possible to deal with our 21st century threats,” said Crow. “I’m proud to have such strong bipartisan support for this bill and to deliver for the millions of small businesses that are the backbone of our economy.”The House also passed the Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act sponsored by Steve Chabot. Counselors at small business development centers would need to be certified in cybersecurity to assist small businesses in preventing and responding to cyber attacks.Both bills will now head to the Senate, joining a growing number of stalled cybersecurity-related measures waiting for a floor vote. Given that too many small business owners do not have the necessary resources to prevent security risks, it is crucial for the Senate to vote on the bills as soon as possible. Recent years have shown that a breach at a small business can lead to devastating consequences and can also be a doorway for a breach at larger companies. The average cost of a cyber attack on a small business is over $30,000. Furthermore, a recent study conducted that over 85% of small business owners say they fear cyberattacks and feel unprepared for one.

By Julija A. July 18,2019

This Thursday Toys R Us announced that they were making a comeback in time for the 2019 holiday season.New stores are set to open at the Galleria in Houston and Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. The difference between these stores and their predecessors is that the new ones will be smaller and sell fewer toys. Instead, they will offer interactive, playground-like experiences and toy demonstrations.The stores will include space for hosting special events such as birthdays, organize various daily activities, and contain open play areas. Massive sales floors are a thing of the past—the new stores will be about 6,500 square feet each, which a third of their previous size.Tru Kids Brand, the owner of Toys R Us, is making these changes together with the startup b8ta, a company that designs interactive and technology-focused retail spaces. The stores will be "the most progressive and advanced in the world, and we hope to surprise and delight kids for generations to come," Vibhu Norby, CEO of b8ta, claims.The updated Toys R Us website promises an experience “centered around product discovery and engagement.” The focus is on creating fun family memories. What never changes is that “kids want to touch everything and simply ‘play,’" says Phillip Raub, president of b8ta and interim co-CEO of the Toys R Us joint venture.One key difference is that consumers will be able to play with toys before purchasing them. This immersive experience is the key to a better understanding of customers’ needs. It will allow for assessing how in-store retail experiences affect online sales. Tru Kids is aiming to provide a "highly engaging retail experience designed for kids, families and to better fit within today's retail environment." They will let brands "design custom experiences and branded shops.”The Toys R Us reinvention comes after last year’s bankruptcy and the closure of all 700+ stores in the U.S. The company was $5 million in debt, even though the company’s sales accounted for one fifth of all toy sales in the U.S. This debt was accumulated after a controversial buyout of the company in 2005. The chain employed more than 30,000 U.S. workers before the collapse and is intent on prioritizing hiring former employees after the reopening.There are currently over 900 Toys R Us stores open across Europe, Asia, and India. Another 70 stores are to be open overseas by the end of 2019. In 2020, the plan is to open ten more stores, each one across 10,000 square feet, in "prime, high-traffic retail markets."It remains to be seen if this upgraded version of Toys R Us will succeed and thrive once again in the U.S.

By Julija A. July 19,2019

J.C. Penney has hired advisers in an attempt to explore debt restructuring options, Reuters reports. The goal is to buy more time in order to try and save the once leading U.S. retailer.The 117-year-old company is $4 billion in debt, and payment will be due in the next few years. J.C. Penney has lost a staggering $1.4 billion over the last five years, and recovery will take a lot of effort.The company’s stocks dropped a shocking 50% in the last year. Current trades are at $1.15, giving it a market capitalization of $342 million.In May sales at stores that have been open for at least a year fell more than expected during the first quarter and the net loss nearly doubled, reaching $154 million, the retailer said.The Texas-based company has been unable to cope with competition in the face of TJX Cos Inc’s, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx chains. J.C. Penney has also struggled to boost its e-commerce business, unable to compete with more established players like Amazon. The retailer does have more than $1.5 billion under a revolving credit line, but investors have continued to sell stocks, in response to financial losses. Its credit rating is deep in junk territory, increasing its borrowing costs.J.C. Penney is exploring options that could include raising additional cash or negotiating with creditors to push out debt maturities. The retailer employs 95,000 people and operates more than 860 stores, despite closing shops over the years and revamping remaining locations.Recent weeks have seen the company hold discussions with lawyers and investment bankers who specialize in advising troubled companies on debt restructurings and other financial workouts.In the short term, the company has taken steps to increase financial breathing room and avoid potential bankruptcy. However, analysts have expressed concerns that J.C. Penney will run out of money and fail to change its declining fortune in time.

By Julija A. July 19,2019

US consumer confidence dropped in December in response to a faltering economy and a rise in deaths and new cases of COVID-19. The Conference Board reported a December 2020 Consumer Confidence Index of 88.6, a fall of more than four percentage points from November’s 92.9 rating. The Conference Board is an economic research company that publishes monthly reports on public optimism. Its Consumer Confidence Index, based on a survey of 5,000 households, has been published since 1967. The figures often influence stock market fluctuations and factor into decisions of the Federal Reserve. The coronavirus pandemic is responsible for 18.3 million infections and more than 323,000 deaths in the United States. It has led to high unemployment, reduced revenues in many industries, and economic struggles for families and small businesses as restrictions imposed by state and local governments reduce consumer spending. Although an 88.6 rating suggests that consumers lack confidence in a speedy recovery, it is nowhere near February 2009’s rating of 25, which came during a global financial crisis. The Conference Board says 29% of consumers believe the economy will improve over the next six months - an increase from the 26.5% recorded in November. Nonetheless, consumers believe the overall outlook is bleak. "Consumers' assessment of current conditions deteriorated sharply in December, as the resurgence of COVID-19 remains a drag on confidence,” said Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s senior director of economic indicators. "Overall, it appears that growth has weakened further in Q4, and consumers do not foresee the economy gaining any significant momentum in early 2021."

By Julija A. December 25,2020

After many delays and too much fuss, your second stimulus check is on the way. Probably. But how much will you get, and are there any catch-22 scenarios that will accompany it? Let’s bust some myths. First of all, the value of these checks could be seeing a significant bump. The stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed originally included a $600-per-person check. The president tweeted that the amount should be $2,000 per person, and the House of Representatives quickly passed a bill that increased the payment to $2,000 for each American. This is not a done deal, however. It is now up to the Senate to consider this proposition. When and whether that will happen is uncertain. The stimulus bill that Trump signed included support for local businesses, but some legislators said it would not help small companies enough to keep them afloat. On the other hand, a significant majority of the Americans who received the first stimulus check - 80% of them - said they spent it on food, and nearly the same number said they used it to pay bills. It’s evident that the average American will find a good use for the monetary boost, while businesses need a more meaningful support program. Not everyone will receive the second stimulus check at the same time. In April, payments started arriving three weeks after the deal was complete, so that’s the likely scenario for the second wave. The IRS notes that the second stimulus might lead to delays in the 2020 tax season, especially since the first round of checks made for significant delays. The holiday season can lead to even more delays. To ensure you’ll receive your funds, make sure your bank information is on file with the IRS so you can receive a quick direct deposit instead of waiting for a letter with a paper check inside. The stimulus controversy is playing out against widespread concerns. Many Americans worry that they’ll face additional taxes for this monetary support or that they won’t be eligible if they aren’t required to file tax returns. There’s good news on both fronts. If you don’t ordinarily file a tax return, you don’t have to file one to receive the stimulus payment. The stimulus also won’t see any taxation, since the IRS doesn't count these payments as income. Landlords cannot take your stimulus payment, and neither can nursing homes. What you do with the money is up to you. We’ll continue to track this developing story and notify you if and when the Senate passes the legislation. 

By Julija A. December 30,2020