Elmseed hosts small business conference

The finer points of Facebook and Twitter were taught this weekend in Dwight and Linsly-Chittenden Halls.

The third annual Small Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Development Conference, organized by the Elmseed Enterprise Fund, a microcredit provider run by Yale undergraduatesgathered on Old Campus this weekend. Thisyear’s conference focused on “Social Media, Marketing, and Low Cost Solutions to Small Business Problems,” and held four workshops, a keynote address, and a resource fair for New Haven entrepreneurs to address these issues. In addition to 15-20 Yalies who worked as conference staff, about 50 prospective and current business owners attended the event.

“The conference was very informative and compelling,” said Elmseed client and conference attendee Johnson Aja.

Aja said his company is developing an application to help small businesses and churches organize information and establish a web presence.

Aja said he found the social media marketing sessions to be the most useful.

But this workshop was more than a primer on how to setup groups or create a profile.

Ben Daus-Haberle ’12, the SEED conference director, said the conference focused on how to most effectively use the features of blogs and networking sites to provide the best marketing advantage.

“[On these sites] you can’t do traditional advertising,” he said. “You have to basically come up with ways to have subtle positioning and branding.”

For example, he said, a Facebook profile can attach a funny video that references a brandor a company’s blog can write about relevant industry newsto get the brand’s name into the public sphere.

The conference also broached more traditional business questions such as aquiring loans and accounting.

Daus-Haberle said representatives from the Internal Revenue Service,Food and Drug Administrationand SCORE (a small business counselor organization) were on hand to answer questions and provide suggestions to entrepreneurs looking to navigate the current economic climate.

During the resources fair, attendees discussed the effects of the Recovery Act and the federal government’s changes to lending practices, he said.

“The discussions of cash flow and balance statements were very educational and directly addressed small business needs,” Aja said.

Jessica Sager, the co-founder and executive director of All Our Kin, gave the keynote address. Daus-Haberle said she told the historyof her organization whichaids New Haven childcare providers.

The conference’s press release said Sager discussed the mutually beneficial relationship between a small business and the local community, especially the opportunity for marketing by word-of-mouth.

Although Elmseed’s mission is primarily focused on selecting clients based on profitability rather than social concerns, the topic of helping the community came up several times during the conference, Daus-Haberle said.

Although surprising, he said this is evidence of the unpredictable nature of bringing so many people together.

Elmseed was founded in 2001 from a $20,000 prize from the Yale Entrepreneurial Society.

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