Social Media Leads to Success of Grow Smart Biz Conference 2009
October 6, 2009

Barely a week before the Grow Smart Biz conference 2009, the registration count was just below 200 people. So it was a surprise when on Sept. 29, the day of the conference, the hall was filled with well over 400 attendees. What happened? The Social Media Buzz superseded the traditional marketing of the conference, and the attendees poured in to listen to a great cast of keynote speakers like Senator Mark Warner and Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, and Roy Dunbar, CEO of Network Solutions. Our own social media swami, Shashi Bellamkonda, known in the social media world as “Shashib” or “Shashi” worked tirelessly with support from a few of his teammates to explain the value of the conference to small businesses. The team used Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media tools to spread the word about the conference. And the word of mouth spread quickly!

After speaking with the attendees and listening carefully to their thoughts on the conference, it is clear that the verdict is that GrowSmartBiz conference was a great success.

Having attended many conferences in the D.C. area in last few years, I have seen that the afternoon sessions typically seem to retain less than 40% of the attendees that were present at the morning sessions. At the Grow Smart Biz conference, the attendees were constantly engaged and the attendance rate of the afternoon sessions was 80% of those that were present in the morning. Many who left still joined the conference via webcast. The conference had over 1000 streaming visitors and 150 simultaneous streaming viewers. We even had attendees from as far as Australia watching the live stream of the conference!

Another indicator that the conference was a success was that people showed interest in expanding this event in the future. Some talked to a few Network Solutions executives about ideas for next year’s conference, and many asked if this would become an annual event. There were also a lot of people talking about the content on social media as opposed to talking about the tools and software for social media, which is often the focus at conferences. With this insight, small businesses have a better idea of how to use social media to help them grow.

Even after a week of the conference, requests coming in are for people willing to pay for the content of the conference.

You can learn about Grow Smart Business here and watch the video replays of the conference here.

If you attended or watch the replay, let me know your thoughts. We would love the feedback.
Inspirational Writers and Editors for Small Businesses
March 30, 2009

Marketing is one of the key pillars of success for the small businesses, as reflected in the latest Small Business Success Index. Two days ago, I was exploring for successful channels of marketing for small businesses, and I landed on this news article about the Annual Best of Business Contest, by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW). I was impressed with the mission of SABEW which states “To define and inspire excellence in business journalism”.

In the current economic times, it is certainlyeven more important to have organizations that focus on inspirational aspects of small businesses. The impact of the writings of the editors and writers in being reconginzed at their 14th Annual Awards for Best in Business Contest on April 27, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. I wonder what our Social Media Swami (aka Shashi) thinks about this conference and the organization?

Microfinance for Small Business
March 19, 2009

Tough economic times open gates for micro financing and online lenders.

The World Bank estimates that there are over 7000 microfinance institutions that are serving over 16 million poor people in developing nations. The total cash turnover is estimated at $2.5 billion in US currency. As per the latest Microcredit summit, the total cash need to help over 100 million poor the world is over US $21.6 billion. The repayment rate is 97% much which is better than any commercial bank loans.


ACCION USA is part of the U.S. ACCION Network, the largest domestic micro lending network, with over $230 million lent since its inception in 1991. It is committed to bringing affordable microfinance solutions to small business owners who need them. ACCION USA is a private, nonprofit organization that provides microloans and other financial services to low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs who are unable to access bank credit for their small businesses. With economic opportunity, these entrepreneurs–often minorities and women – can build assets, better provide for their families, and strengthen their communities. It offers flexible loans (up to $50,000) for small business. To learn more click here. is the world’s first person-to-person (P2P) micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing worlds. The mission for is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. It has over 27,000 lenders and provided loans about $27 million to small businesses in over 40 countries. Kiva has partnered with Advanta the small business credit card issuer to create a Click here to visit Kiva’s website.

Microplace’s mission is to help alleviate global poverty by enabling everyday people to make investments in the world’s working poor. It is a social business. The minimum amount to invest is $20. The return on investment is around 5%. It is an eBay company. Get more details click here.

LendingClub is a P2P micro-lending club. It is more of a social lending network that lets borrower members borrow money through personal loans, and lenders fund these loans by investing in Notes. Each Note corresponds to a portion of a borrower loan. A recent review of this social lending network shows that it had facilitated $23.6 million in loans during the June 2007 to December 2008 time period. The average return for the lender was 9.05 percent with a median return of 10.48 percent based on weighted average return on invested capital. To learn more click here. is another peer-to-peer lending site. At the time of the writing this report, is not active as it has received a cease and desist note from the SEC. It was launched in 2006 and claims to have 830,000 members with over $178 million in loan facilitation. They offered loans up to $25000. Their website. ZOPA USA is a marketplace where people lend and borrow money to and from each other, sidestepping the banks. This is also a social lending organization, started in UK and currently not active in US. The average return for the investors was 9.1%.

Count Me In is an online micro-creditor offering fixed-rate loans of $500 to $10,000 at 2 points above prime with terms of 12 months to 84 months. The loans are aimed at women-owned startup businesses. Count Me In. There are other organizations like FINCA (, the coalition of community development financial institutions (, the Opportunity Finance Network (, OBDC Small business finance focusing on local community business loans (, America One (, etc. are involved in either P2P, social, community or unsecured business loans.