Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Small Business Resources

TRENTON-- Since this blog started out with a focus on small business, but somewhere along the way, got focused on community issues, I thought it would be good to go back to my roots and share with everyone some important resources I found that may help aspiring small business owners as they take their business idea and seek to turn it into a reality. 

So, I did some research online, and below you will find some of the resources I came up with, I hope this helps, happy holidays:

SBA or the Small Business Administration

This organization provides a wealth of information on how to start your business and get funding for your start-up. This site also provides information on business opportunities and different laws and regulations related to small businesses. To access the Small Business Administration's official website, click here


This organization has a small business guide that walks you through many of the practical things an entrepreneur or small business owner has to go through when launching a business. It also gives you critical tax information about starting and maintaining a business venture. To access BizFilings website, click here.

Google Docs

This site can provide you with spreadsheet software similar to Microsoft Excel or Word. These programs can help you better manage your business without the extra cost of other software. Both of these spreadsheets can prove to be integral to your small business needs when you are starting out. To access Google Docs, click here

IRS (Internal Revenue Service)

This site or organization can give you a wealth of information on how to define your business entity. It can also give you information on how to stay current on tax laws that affect business owners or entrepreneurs. Along with the IRS, its also important to refer to your state's taxation department or division to ensure you are registered with them properly as well. To access the Internal Revenue Service's website, click here.

U.S. Department of Labor: Office of Small Business Programs

This organization promotes opportunities for small business, especially disadvantaged businesses. To access the agency's website, click here

Bottom Line:

So, whether you are thinking about starting a barber shop, pizza place, or antique boutique, you as an up and coming entrepreneur are going to need various tools to cover all of your bases. Indeed, starting a business can be both rewarding and challenging.

Indeed, with your own business, you get to be your own boss, work your own hours, and pursue something that you may have always been passionate about. Can't get any better than that right, well...wrong. The other side of running a business involves its drawbacks or challenges. For example, having your own business will probably mean long hours, lots of homework or research, and a long term perspective. But nevertheless, by having your own business, the pros outweigh the cons. So, if you are feeling that entrepreneurial itch, go for it, what are you waiting for??? Now is the time, the sky is the limit....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Nation Scorned

By Neisha Kelly

Black America is scorned.

We are sick and tired of turning the other cheek. It is like backing a cat in a corner and telling it not to attack. If black lives matter, "when will the senseless genocide of the black man cease?"

The black man is becoming extinct at the hands of those that are there to serve and protect. Is anyone policing the police?

The days since the no indictment verdict of Darren Wilson have been infused with anger, backlash, and outrage. We as a people are disappointed in our judicial system. It has adopted a shoot-first and ask questions later defense.

How many more of our men will succumb to someone’s innate fear?

The fear-mongers are hiding behind the justice system. When President Obama gave his speech Black America went numb and deaf. We are so tired of the backpedaling we want justice and peace is that too much to ask for.

I want you to know that I am not some angry person writing from a place of vengeance. But I want my nephews and god-son to know that their lives do matter. I am holding them a little closer at night.

I wrote a poem to honor Michael Brown.

Holding you a little Tighter Tonight

I am holding you a little tighter tonight
We are both hurting inside
We hurt because our people hurt
We hurt because when there is no justice, there is often no peace
I am holding you a little tighter tonight
Please hold me a little longer too
These tears that are falling so fast I cannot catch them
They are overflowing like a damn that cannot be stopped
Pouring out me of me like rain that brings floods
We are hurting
We are angry
We are disappointed
We want to be avenged

Yet violence is not the answer
So let me hold you a little tighter
A little longer
For tomorrow is not promised
Freedom of speech is such a farce
We cannot speak what we feel
We cannot shout how badly we hurt

Who will listen?

I am holding you a little tighter tonight
I pray I can hold onto you and have faith that these wrongs will be made right
Until then stay safe and secure in my arms
As I hold you a little tighter tonight!

When will black lives matter? Why is society so terrified of the black man? Why is he seen as such an ominous presence? I guess it goes back to the concept that we hate what we don’t understand. Fear runs deep on both sides of the law. Tensions run deep and distrust of the judicial system is at an all-time high.

How many more lives will be lost due to fear? The black man is an endangered species in our world today. He is being cut down at marginal proportions. Yet we are asked to trust our judicial system to work for all equally.

Tears roll down my face as I am disappointed that our judicial system stands back and allows black lives to be systematically annihilated. There is genocide in Black America and if this epidemic continues it will wipe us out completely. Who will save us?

How did the no indictment verdict leave you feeling? Do black lives matter? Share your thoughts below.

Neisha Kelly is the intrepid author of the blog, "Cultivation of You".

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Right Way to Tackle the Work Day

By Anwar's Reflections Guest Blogger Neisha Kelly

Do you often dread the work day? Do you experience the blues? Well, you are not alone in that suffering. But here are ten ways to get ready for the work day in a positive mindset:

 1.   Get to work an hour early: I know this sounds crazy. But I like this one because it gives me time to mentally prepare for the day ahead. And I don’t have to jump right into work mode. I call it my power hour before work.
2.     Read something positive: Whether it is an affirmation or an uplifting article read it. It will motivate you and keep you on a more positive tract throughout the day. I try to read something positive daily during my power hour.
3.    Set a list of goals for break and lunch: Lists tasks you have to do throughout the day and assign the time to tackle them during break and lunch time. It will gives you both a sense of purpose and accomplishment at the same time.
4.    Eat breakfast: Breakfast can definitely help you and keep your head in the game.
5.    Do your hardest tasks in the morning: When I see a large pile on my desk I tackle it immediately. I make it a game with the clock trying to see how fast I can clear my desk. Sounds corny but it helps keep my momentum going.
6.    Pick your clothes out the night before: There is nothing worse than scrambling for something to wear in the morning. The more organized you are in the morning, the better you will feel.
7.    Get up an hour early: This will help you wake up refreshed and motivated. I like this one because I can prepare for the unexpected this way and do not have to forget things by rushing.
8.     Pep Talk: Give yourself a positive pep talk, or say a prayer before leaving out the door or both. Say something that will stick with you throughout the day.
9.     Listen to music: Music is a great motivator.
10.  Think happy thoughts: Sounds corny but it really helps the day run smoothly. Remember watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become your actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny. --Lao Tzu

Yes, these are tips I actually utilize. I am not saying everyday is great, but each day gets greater when I use these tips. 

What do you think? Are these tips helpful? Are there more tips that I need to add to the list? Let me know by sharing your thoughts below.

Neisha Kelly is the Editor-In-Chief of the blog The Cultivation of You.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To Pay or Not Pay Sick Leave? That is the Question...

TRENTON-- What in the world are we doing? Are my eyes deceiving me, no it can't be??? Can it??? Not too long ago, I was reading Dan Dodson's blog and an article from the Trentonian that mentioned how there possibly could be a ballot question, put before the city's electorate this November, that would ask voters whether ALL, not some, but ALL, private Trenton small businesses, have to pay their employees sick leave.

When I first came across this news story, I thought to myself, what the heck are we talking about, this can't be a wise move in the city of Trenton, a place that boasts not of excellent schools and a low crime rate, but rather a failing school system and an unacceptable crime rate. I mean quite frankly, the last thing people would call Trenton right now is Club Fed, a place people are pushing and shoving to gain access to or invest in.

But I said to myself, before I draw any conclusions, I felt the need to step back and reflect on what this ballot question could mean from the perspectives of the different parties involved.

On the one hand, first I thought of the perspective of an employee from your typical privately owned Trenton-based business. This poor guy or gal may feel like they have been completely left in the lurch because they have been put in that unfortunate position where they sometimes have to choose between working while sick and paying rent or even risk calling out thereby jeopardizing their employment.

I mean I can definitely understand where they are coming from because who really wants to be in a position where you can't afford to get sick, believe, you, me, that type of situation stinks! So, it makes complete sense from their perspective to speak up early and often about this important measure. Labor groups and other coalitions like the SEIU, the CWA, New Jersey Working Family Alliances and New Jersey Citizen Action have all backed this initiative to ensure that small business employees receive sick pay.

However, if we shift perspectives and look at things from the lens of  your average run of the mill business owner, it sounds as though these individuals are singing from an entirely different sheet of music. Indeed, small business owners at the end of the day want to maximize profit and minimize cost, point blank, period. These merchants aim to save money at any cost and may justifiably feel that they are already pay enough in taxes and fees to the city and that they should not pay City Hall one more red cent. From this perspective, I can't knock these small business owners. I mean, who really wants to pay more taxes and fees?

In a Trentonian article written by Carols Avila, one local business owner, Vincente Barrientos, echoed this sentiment when he said "We work with our employees when they need off for health reasons but to impose this law on us in addition to the many other taxes, fees and expenses we have makes it difficult to run a business in this city".

Nevertheless, no matter what way you look at it, this measure has already started to catch wind in other municipalities like Newark and Jersey City as these two localities have both already  made this a policy. On top of this, two states, California and Connecticut have passed laws ensuring their workers can earn paid sick days. It is claimed that these local or statewide initiatives will somehow influence or set national policy. The bill in question specifically calls for allowing workers to accumulate an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours that they work.

After reviewing the pros and cons, I still don't think this is a wise move for the city of Trenton. To make small businesses compensate their employees for sick pay seems like the morally right thing to do, YES I get it, but at the same time, it still puts an undue burden on mom and pop shops who then may have to let go of some of their workers or find some other way to make up for the lost revenue that goes toward dishing out the sick pay.

On top of this, the city may without realizing it, push out or drive away existing businesses to other municipalities who do not impose the sick pay requirement. Why should we drive away these businesses that have loyally kept their shops here during some pretty hard times? And in the process, if you look at it, the city may also discourage others from starting new business here with this policy. If we here in the city want to really encourage others to invest here, then we cannot let this bill pass.

Lastly, for those that argue that since other states and municipalities have passed this type of measure why shouldn't Trenton, I say that Trenton is not the same as those other localities. Trenton has its own unique challenges that have to be addressed before we can impose yet another requirement on our small businesses. This is a big reason why it is so important to vote and let our voice be heard on this issue.

As things stand, City Council has voted to suspend consideration of this ordinance for paid sick days. They have instructed the Mercer County Board of Elections to arrange a referendum on the issue in the scheduled election on November 4th. For more details, click here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Open Letter to Re-Open Trenton Public Libraries

Dear Mayor Eric Jackson,

I know you are new in office but I am requesting that you do what you can to please reopen the shuttered city libraries that were closed since August of 2010. Now don't get me wrong, I do recognize that the Main Branch on Academy Street has made some great progress since the other locations have been closed.

All one has to do is take a quick look inside the Main Branch nowadays to see how they have added newer equipment, a DVD dispenser, and a larger variety of E-books (much to my delight). Along with this, I have also seen the library's strategic plan that lays out a blueprint for opening two satellite libraries within one year. Now on the surface that sounds fine and dandy, but I must say that this time-frame is far too long. (For more on the Library's strategic plan, you can always click here).

Indeed, I hate to be that proverbial fly in the ointment that always seems to find something wrong even in our best laid plans, but indeed on this occasion, I must. As I myself am a product of the free public library system, I feel the need to speak up early and often about this important issue. As a matter of fact, I can say without hesitation, that my life would have turned out completely different were it not for the free public library system.

As a kid, the library was a safe haven for me. It gave me a place to play games, use the computer, interact with like-minded peers, and last but not least, check-out books. Along with this, it encouraged me to read and educate myself more and more. Now years later, I am a PhD candidate at Capella University, but I digress.

Research has shown that libraries, which are simply collections of books and periodicals, add significant value to the community by providing easy access to high quality research content, helping adults upgrade their skills and find jobs, and by playing a significant role in improving childhood literacy, among other things. Bottom line: libraries are a vital part of the community. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Researcher David Giles said, "No other institution, public or private, does a better job of reaching people who have been left behind in today’s economy, have failed to reach their potential in the city’s public school system or who simply need help navigating an increasingly complex world".

Moreover, studies done in New York and Texas both show that there is an economic return on investment for public libraries according to the Illinois Library Association, a library advocacy organization. These are definitely things to consider when allocating funds for our public libraries in the city of Trenton.

So, Mayor Jackson I hope that my plea to have the libraries re-opened doesn't fall on deaf ears and that you will do what you can do to re-open these library branches as I think this will improve things in the city of Trenton.


Anwar's Reflections

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A New Day in the City of Trenton

TRENTON-- Ladies and gents the mayoral and city council races are now things of the past. Indeed, the ballots have been counted, the parties have been had, and lo and behold, Tony Mack's era has finally ended. Mayoral elect Eric Jackson takes the throne July 1. It's a new day in the city of Trenton, or at least, we would hope so.

To be sure, the last thing Trenton needs right now, is politics as usual. No more corruption. No more pay-to-play politics. We need elected officials that uphold the highest degree of ethical standards. Alas, the city cries out for a new brand of leadership. A brand of leadership that knows how to honestly acknowledge the peaks and valleys we face, but still has a bold and compelling vision to get us to the mountaintop. A brand of leadership with a practical step by step plan to make things better. A brand of leadership that knows how to enlist the help of others. A brand of leadership that solicits the thoughts and ideas of the people to make the overall community better.

I sincerely hope that Eric Jackson and the new council members will demonstrate some of these qualities of leadership. Lord knows we need them to. Yet at the same time, we as everyday citizens have a responsibility to play here. We bear the responsibility of holding our elected officials accountable for their action or inaction on issues that are matter to us. Indeed, we cannot sit idly by while our great yet beleaguered city crumbles. I know its hard to stay involved and engaged in the everyday politics of our city, please believe me, I know, I work two jobs, and go to school, so I hear you. But we as everyday citizens can be leaders in our own right as well. We can set a positive example by simply going to work everyday, taking care of ourselves and our families, voting, reading, staying active, etc. There's no reason we can't be a part of the solution.

I know what you may be thinking, I don't know where to start, but trust me, there is wisdom and truth in the saying that even a thousand mile journey always starts with the first step. My first step may be volunteering, your first step may be mentoring a child. Another's first step may be cleaning up their block once a week. The options are endless, but I hope you get my underlying point which is to say that the choice is yours and mine.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Meet the Candidates Trenton Style Starts With Christine Donahue

TRENTON- - With the mayoral and city council elections quickly approaching, one recognizes how important it is to sit down with some of the candidates running for public office in the city of Trenton to learn more about them and their ideas for making a Trenton a better place to live, work, and play.

Check out the first video with Council At Large Candidate Christine Donahue below:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Anwar's Reflections Celebrates 100,000 Pageviews

TRENTON-- Recently, this blog surpassed 100,000 page views and I thought this was a perfect time to do what I love to do...REFLECT. Man oh man, its a beautiful thing to say that this blog went from having literally no page views or hits to now having 100,000 hits. Its a great feeling indeed, to build something when others doubted you.

When this blog first started out, I heard people say, 'who's gonna read that?' 'no one cares about that'. But I never let the naysayers stop me from doing what I love doing... writing and blogging.

Now don't get it twisted, I am not saying this blog is perfect, it still has a long way to go, but at the same time, I know its not where it used to be. For those that don't already know the history, originally, this blog started out as an interview series with local business owners and entrepreneurs. I interviewed people at places like the Hummingbird Restaurant, Amefikas, Cafe International, and Classics Bookstore, to name just a few.

Now it goes without saying that some of these small businesses have since folded up, but nonetheless a great deal of insight was received through interviewing these bright and talented business-people. Indeed, I learned a great deal about the unique challenges and opportunities that small business owners face in launching and sustaining a business and I'm truly glad that I shared this information with you guys, the readers.

From there, this blog branched out into the realm of political and social forums. I and others convened at the Trenton Public Library and Mercer County Community College to discuss some pretty important issues affecting both the city and the state. And in the process, I learned a lot about politics, blogging, social media, and most importantly, the community I belong to.

Going forward, my goal is to resume the interview series and pick up where I left off. However, I have to acknowledge that I do want to take the interview series in altogether different direction. This time around, I want to conduct interviews that will be more socially relevant in nature. I have ambitious hopes to interview thought leaders like US Senator Cory Booker, President Barack Obama, and Hip Hop Mogul Russell Simmons, to name just a few. I know what you're saying, I know what you're saying, but, trust me, stay tuned for more to come...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Catching Up On Things...

Hal Fleming
TRENTON-- Ladies and gents, I know its been a while since I last posted to this blog, but know this, I have not forgot about you guys, my readers. Indeed, a blogger that doesn't write is kind of like a bird that doesn't fly, its totally against its nature. But anyway, enough of my soapbox, I apologize for the delay in posting, but I wanted to fill everyone in on some things that have been going on in my life that have in a way prevented me from posting as much as I would like.

Indeed, so often, it seems that I only write about or reflect on the life around me, that is, the highs and lows of living in the City of Trenton and the larger Mercer County area. But I tell you there is a time and a place to reflect on one's own life and I'm taking license to do that on this occasion.

Ladies and gents, I don't know you if already know this or not, but I'm still in college, working on my last degree in hopes of becoming a teacher or professor. I have another year left of my program and I am literally counting the days. If you've ever been a student, you probably already know this, but going through school comes with its own unique trials and tribulations, but nonetheless it is a labor of love as I do love learning, writing, wordplay, and last but not least,  people's stories. Indeed, balancing school, work, and a personal life can be trying to say the least. This is a big reason you have not seen me posting as frequently as I used to.

But even as I go through my own challenges, I recognize that there is a whole world around me. A lot of moving and shaking has taken place. As a case in point, all one needs to do is take a look at recent news reports indicating things like Trenton Mayor Tony Mack was found guilty in a court of law or Councilwoman Kathy McBride throwing her hat in the mayoral race or even Trenton Mayoral candidate Walker Worthy talking of having a casino built in this grand ole city. Things are happening ladies and gents and I want to stay in the thick of things.

On a more somber note, I recently lost a friend, Hal Fleming, of Trenton, New Jersey. I went to a ceremony this past Sunday at the Quaker Meeting House where others honored him and his life. Hal was a good man, he took me under his wing and introduced me to so many people and organizations as a younger man. He really believed in people. Never one to gossip or backbite, Hal was committed to being a light in a sometimes dark world. He will be sorely missed.

This blog is dedicated to Hal. Your spirit is still with us brother.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Where Is Trenton Headed???

TRENTON-- The Bible says that without a vision, the people perish. Indeed, the city of Trenton  at this time needs new vision, new direction, and better leadership.

As the Trenton City Council and Mayoral races quickly approach, I am left wondering who are these candidates and what are they all about? What direction do they want to take the city in? What plans do they have to address issues of crime, education, and jobs?

After attending Trenton Elections meet the candidates forum last year at the Big Easy, I caught glimpse of what some of these candidates were all about.  However, there are new candidates in the race now.

So, I think now is the time to raise some more important questions to the candidates currently on the ticket so that voters can be armed with more information as they prepare to make a very important decision come Election Day.

Questions like:

  • "Where are we headed as a city as the mayor has recently been found guilty on corruption charges in a court of law?" 
  • "Who will take Tony Mack's place? 
  • "What experience, if any, will the new mayor have?" 
  • "How important will the next mayor's character and integrity be?" 
  • "What about their leadership skills?" 
  • "Indeed, how important will it be for the next mayor to be able to reach across the aisle and work with others from different parties?" 
  • "How significant will their understanding of budget issues be in our voting decision?"
  • "How important will their positions on the other key issues be?"
  • "Is Trenton ready for its first Hispanic mayor (Paul Perez)?" 
  • "Is the city prepared for its first female mayor (Kathy McBride)"?
Now, with these last two questions I recognize that they may seem irrelevant because as Trentonian columnist LA Parker said in a recent op-ed post, voters need to "disconnect from race and gender" and instead make an informed decision about who the best candidate is for the next mayor of this great yet beleaguered city.Alas, critical decisions do need to be made here. Without a shadow of a doubt, the stakes are high. The people need direction, jobs, opportunity, and an overall better Trenton if they are to flower and flourish.

Lastly, I end this blog where I began by asking "Where is Trenton headed???". Lord only knows. Only time will tell...Stay tuned for more to come.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Trenton Homeboy Throws Hat In Council Race

TRENTON-- Trenton native son Duncan Harrison officially put his hat in the Council At Large race Thursday evening at the Conservatory Mansion on East State Street. Harrison, an executive director at UIH Partners, a non-profit organization that focuses on fatherhood, said during the announcement that his roots started in Trenton, but then branched out when he decided to pursue a college education at Delaware State University, an historically black college.

At Delaware State, Harrison majored in Sociology with a particular focus on Criminal Justice. After graduating from college, he went on to become a family assessment worker with Mercer Street Friends, a non-profit organization that provides "compassionate and practical solutions to the problems of poverty and health within Trenton, NJ" according to the candidate's LinkedIn profile.

During his brief speech at the Conservatory, Harrison laid out his vision along with his plan to improve Trenton to a standing room only crowd of around 50 people, despite the inclement weather that evening. In the speech, the Trenton native cited the homicide rate (41 murders in Trenton in 2013 alone) and Trenton Public Schools dismal 48.6% graduation rate and said that he had plans to put 'more boots on the street' to address the violent crime issue. Harrison said that creating an auxiliary police force with more boots on the ground would not unduly burden Trenton's taxpayers. Harrison also went on to advocate community policing where police officers would work with different wards in the city to better serve the community.

Later in his speech, the Trenton native said that he would also tackle issues affecting education by calling on the Trenton School District Superintendent to attend each and every city council meeting and provide the council with updates on each school's present condition so that each school would be up to par and not in deplorable condition as is the case now at Trenton Central High School.

Harrison also said that Trenton should get out of the home ownership business as soon as possible as the city currently owns too many vacant or abandoned properties that do not collect property taxes. Lastly, the Trenton native went on to say that if elected to office he would not raise property taxes on Trentonians even though property taxes for the last twenty years have risen under the Doug Palmer and Tony Mack mayoral administrations.

In his speech, Harrison also made that he loved the city of Trenton so much that he decided to move he and his family next to an abandoned building despite the blight surrounding his property. Before Harrison took the stage, one of his colleagues and longtime Trenton activist Darren Freedom Green stepped to the lectern to offer his remarks. Green said that as a council person, its important to bridge relationships with others, not critique the mayor. Green says that Harrison is willing to bridge those necessary relationships if elected council person at large. Green lastly went on to say that Trenton desperately needs programs and positive tangible examples like Harrison that others may be inspired by or strive to emulate.

 Indeed, Harrison's candidacy begs a lot of questions for me. The first question is: is the city of Trenton ready for some new blood or is too soon? Truth be told, Harrison has never held public office, but that is not necessarily a disadvantage. Two, how satisfied or dissatisfied are Trenton voters with the incumbents that currently hold office? Is Trenton hungry for a newcomer with fresh new ideas or are Trentonians in the market for someone that has been around the block and already knows the ropes? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I sincerely hope that the populace in Trenton will give them serious thought as Election Day approaches this May.

As things stand now, Harrison is potentially up against Alex Bethea, Kathy McBride, and Phyllis Holly-Ward. I hope we as Trentonians become engaged in the electoral process and hold whoever runs accountable. Anwar's Reflections will be sure to keep you posted as new developments arise...

For more on Harrison's candidacy, click here.