Thursday, October 30, 2014

Protect the Data! More Regulations on Businesses.

The Florida legislature has decided to take a more aggressive approach to identity theft. A new law that went into effect on July 1, 2014, the Florida Information Protection Act of 2014 (“FIPA”), places more stringent notification obligations on most businesses and increases the fines and penalties for non-compliance.

FIPA is at the same time broader and simpler than the Health Information Portability and Protection Act (“HIPAA”).  While HIPAA applies to businesses that deal with protected healthcare information, FIPA applies to virtually all businesses that have access to or store certain personal information of individuals in Florida. 

What is that “personal information”?  There are two categories:

Category A    A person’s last name and first name or first initial PLUS one of the following:

ü  Social security number
ü  Driver’s license number
ü  Identification card number
ü  Passport number
ü  Military identification number
ü  Other identification number on a government document
ü  Financial account number AND security code, access code or password
ü  Credit or debit card number AND security code, access code or password
ü  Information regarding medical history
ü  Information regarding mental or physical condition
ü  Information regarding medical treatment or diagnosis by a health care professional
ü  Health insurance policy number/ identification number/ or other identifier

Category B     A person’s user name OR email address PLUS a password OR a security question answer that would allow access to an online account.

Because the definition of personal information is so broad, most businesses will find that FIPA applies to them.  For example, a business that takes credit card payments will have a person’s credit card number, the expiration date and the access code on the back of the card.  In addition, all businesses that have employees will have the employee’s name, social security number and identification number(s), because that information is required on Form I-9. 

PROTECTING THE DATA

FIPA requires a business to protect the “personal information” stored in electronic form by taking “reasonable measures.” FIPA does not define “reasonable measures” but businesses should implement certain common sense policies and procedures.  At the end of this article are some basic suggestions. 

In addition, FIPA has requirements for the disposal of records once the data is no longer needed.  A business must shred, erase, or otherwise modify the personal information in the records so that it is unreadable or undecipherable through any means.

REPORTING A BREACH OF SECURITY

While FIPA does not give much guidance on how to protect personal information, it is very detailed when it comes to a breach of security.  Once a breach or suspected breach occurs, certain notification requirements are triggered. 

Required notices may include personal notices to affected individuals, notice to the Department of Legal Affairs, notice to law enforcement, and notice to credit reporting agencies.  In some circumstances, detailed reports must be submitted in the notice.  In any event, a breach or suspected breach of security will cost a business a significant amount of resources. 

If your business suffers a breach or suspects a breach of security, it is prudent to address the situation immediately. There are strict time limits for reporting and issuing notices.  Failure to comply with the requirements in FIPA can result in fines and penalties up to $500,000.00.

While FIPA does not authorize a private cause of action for an individual to sue, lawsuits could potentially be filed against a business for breach of security on the basis of other causes of action, including without limitation, negligence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty.  Therefore, the advice of a qualified attorney is recommended.

RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR VENDORS AND SERVICE PROVIDERS

If you hire a vendor or service provider to maintain, store or process “personal information” on your behalf, you are still responsible for its protection.   As far as FIPA is concerned, your vendor or service provider has an obligation to notify you of any breach.  Then it is your responsibility to make the required notifications mentioned above.  The fines and penalties would apply to you if you fail to meet FIPA’s requirements.

Therefore, it is very important that you choose your vendors and service providers carefully and make sure that you have a written contract that obligates the vendors and service providers to protect the personal information.  Ideally, the contract should set out specific actions that the vendor or service provider is required to take, including meeting the notification deadlines in FIPA.

SUGGESTED POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

The following is a list of basic suggestions that, at a minimum, every business should implement:

1.      Develop written policies and procedures for handling personal information.
2.      Implement and monitor compliance with those policies and procedures on a regular basis.
3.      Limit access to personal information to those employees who have a legitimate business need to know.
4.      Set restrictions on the use of personal electronic devices that can access the business’ systems.
5.      Inventory and monitor computer devices to make sure they are password protected.
6.      Implement cyber-security programs on computer devices and keep them updated.
7.      Have strict record disposal procedures.
8.      Develop procedures for reporting when a breach or suspected breach occurs.  (Include phone numbers, timelines and other details.)
9.      Check your insurance policies to see if they cover cyber-security.
10.   Have written contracts with your vendors and service providers obligating them to protect personal information and report any breaches or suspected breaches of security.  (You can obligate them to report to you sooner than FIPA requires.)

IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER

It is important to remember that the size of a business does not matter.  FIPA applies to every business that collects, accesses or stores “personal information.”  It does not matter whether the business is based in Florida or has a presence in Florida or has any connection to Florida.  What matters is whether the business has personal information of an individual who is in Florida. 

While FIPA may seem short and sweet at a glance (see Section 501.171 of the Florida Statutes), its reach is broad and its penalties for non-compliance are steep.  In time, we are sure to see how FIPA is implemented, enforced and eventually challenged or interpreted by the courts.  For now, businesses need to be aware of the requirements and implement the necessary policies and procedures to comply.


This article was written by Laurie Lee, member of the Small Business Resource NetworkLee is a business law attorney at Brennan, Manna & Diamond, PL in their Jacksonville, Florida office.  She can be reached at (904) 366-1500 or lmlee@bmdpl.com.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New program for businesses ready for growth!

ScaleUp North Florida is a new SBA program designed for growth-oriented small business and high-potential entrepreneurs who want to create jobs, increase sales and access capital for business development.

Participants will receive entrepreneurial education customized to the needs of Stage 1 companies. Recognized experts will deliver 24 hours of proven, existing curriculum focused on strategic planning, financial management, human resource management, leadership, marketing and brand strategy development.  To qualify for participation in ScaleUp North business owners must: 
  • Be in business at least three years 
  •  Generate $150,000 to $500,000 in annual sales
  • Have a desire to grow and expand their business
  • Be located in Baker, Duval, Nassau, Putnam, Clay or St. Johns counties in Florida
Graduates of the educational component will then receive a comprehensive business assessment to determine next steps in achieving their growth goals. Recruitment of qualified firms will begin in October. Up to 50 business owners will be accepted into the two entrepreneurship education programs scheduled to begin in early 2015.


Interested? To request an application or receive more information go to www.scaleupnorthflorida.com and enter your details in the form at the top right of the page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

FSBDC at UNF Client of the Month: Master Kill Pest Control

“SBDC is just awesome! I went to SBDC scared about purchasing a business and left confident and happy.  My SBDC consultant worked with me every step of the way.  She is the reason I was able to get through the entire process and now I’m a business owner."

Master Kill Pest Control is an established pest control company started in 1992 and recently acquired by John Norton in May 2014. John has an illustrious career in the pest control sector with nearly two decades of industry experience.  He worked for a regional pest control company for over 18 years, starting as a technician and working his way to management positions.  During his most recent employment he won numerous awards, from “Technician of the Year” to the “Presidents Club,” which is the highest honor within the company. He has been included on two “Top 10 Employee” lists in the last two years, with over 1200 employees working in the company.

In the fall of 2013, John came across a turn-key opportunity to purchase a well-established business in the Northeast Florida region -- Master Kill Pest Control.  He decided it was time to reap the benefits of his hard work for himself as a business owner and hang up his hat as an employee.  At the suggestion of a local banker, John sought the assistance of the Florida SBDC at UNF to guide him through the acquisition process and preparation of a loan package. 

Most business acquisitions are fraught with challenges, and this one was no different.  John and his SBDC consultant, Tracy Nazzaro,  worked hand-in-hand to develop a company valuation and multiple purchase counter-offers, in addition to the completion of a lengthy due diligence process. 


Once all terms were agreed, the FSBDC assisted John in the identification of resource partners and preparation of a business plan inclusive of financial projections to complete the loan package for an SBA 7(a) guarantee loan.  The acquisition and borrowing process was quite a journey lasting nearly eight months.  However, in the end John is now the proud owner of his own pest control company and he intends to continue to grow the business both organically through new customers and through the acquisition of additional established businesses.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Get to know our consultants. They are here to help!

Katie Arroyo has worked at the University of North Florida (UNF) Small Business Development Center since 2013.  As an International Trade Specialist and Certified Global Business Professional she works with Florida small businesses to develop comprehensive, tailored export marketing plans as well as advises clients on every aspect of international market development and compliance.  Katie also leads the Center’s International Trade Certificate Program, Export Basics series, and has made several public speaking appearances across the state during the Florida Chamber’s Trade and Logistics Plan roll-out events. 

Prior to working at UNF, Katie was an International Trade Specialist at the Oklahoma State University (OSU) International Trade Center-SBDC in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  In addition to advising Oklahoma businesses on international trade, she represented OSU at an official visit to the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso of Chile. Katie also developed and facilitated the Center’s first Certified Global Business Professional online course, assisted to research and write grant proposals, and coordinated with various departments to host international guests. 

In 2011 Katie established a limited liability corporation, called Gondwana, which sells a variety of international curios to raise funds for OSU student-led community development projects in Sierra Leone.

Katie earned her undergraduate degree in International Studies with a focus in Spanish and Business from the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. She later earned her Master of Science degree in International Studies with a focus on International Trade and Development from Oklahoma State
University. Her area of interest is economic development in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa.

Katie’s passion for international began when she lived in Chile for six months as a high school exchange student. As a college student, Katie studied abroad in Iceland (2000), Cuba (2002), and Sierra Leone (2010).  In 2009 she worked in Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Zone of the Americas and has also traveled to Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Holland, New Zealand, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Naturally Smart Foods Gets Its Product On The Shelves With The Help Of The FSBDC

When Mark Patterson, founder of Naturally Smart Foods, LLC, first came to the Florida Small Business Development Center at UNF (FSBDC) he sought assistance in establishing a presence in the Jacksonville market for his product – a gluten free, high protein dessert with an appeal to those looking for a healthy alternative to traditional ice cream.  Mark already had begun to offer his product at local natural food markets, including Grassroots II and Bio Max, as well as Thin Centers and other health and fitness-conscious establishments. He had received such positive feedback; he knew the product’s potential if only it were available in more accessible places of distribution. Toward that end, FSBDC consultants Paul Arrington and Kevin Monahan provided assistance by reviewing Mark’s business plan, discussing development of an overall marketing strategy, advice regarding developing and maintaining financial records and projections and pitching his vision to investors. 

Paul offered a chance for the business to become the subject of a UNF Coggin College of Business marketing class instructed by FSBDC consultant and UNF instructor Diane Denslow.   Mark jumped at the opportunity and was able to benefit from the marketing strategies developed by College of Business student teams.

When One Spark 2014 came around, Mark decided that this crowdfunding festival would be an excellent opportunity to showcase his product. As a part of his preparation for the event he took advantage of an entrepreneur’s round-table forum designed by FSBDC consultants Kevin Monahan and Jared Bailey to help festival participants make the most out of their One Spark experience.  Mark’s tireless efforts at One Spark paid off, with Naturally Smart Foods becoming one of the most highly noticed festival entries, attracting continuing media recognition:


It was while networking during an annual Small Business Week awards celebration event hosted by the FSBDC at the UNF in May 2014 that Mark was able to attract the financial interest of an investment group.  Now having the backing of an investment group that realizes the huge potential offered by Mark’s business, Mark has been able to turn that investment into a Jacksonville area success.  The frozen dessert product has become is available at multiple mainline retailers, including Whole Foods, Fresh Market – including a new, premier Fresh Market location, and most recently in 27 Winn Dixie locations.  Additional approved locations for product placement include Earth Fare, Lucky’s Natural Food Store and Hitchcock’s Markets. 


“I’m excited about how my business has been able to take off and grow,” says Mark, “and the help I have received from the SBDC has been an important part of that.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Business Highlight: Jacksonville's Best Caregivers



Our client Rosalind Marshall has grown her care giving business with a full steam ahead approach.  Lately, she's taken her quality services to the next level by adding patients, employees, and even exploring government contracts with our consultants.  And to top it off she's taken to social media like a moth to flame, reaching tens of thousands of people in just the last few months alone.

Rosalind's compassionate spirit and interest in helping others shines through in the way she assists her clients.  She's what makes Jacksonville's Best Caregivers the special business that it is today.

Rosalind had this to say about the SBDC:
“We are only as good as the people around us.” Connecting with Don Zavesky and Jared Bailey through FSBDC has developed my innate understanding of how to respond to the market needs of my customers.

Due to the lack of resources (mostly time) this partnership helps me tackle objectives and barriers other small business owner’s face during the start-up phase. If I weren’t associated with FSBDC I probably would have closed by business. I am truly grateful for this resource that has become a friendship.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Join us for the web.com Small Business Summit

This free event will focus on helping you, the small business owner, continue to grow your business. Join an expert panel in online marketing, logistics, merchant services and technology. Don't miss this chance to gain more knowledge that can help your business succeed. Registration and complimentary lunch begin at 11:00 am. After the summit, join us at the Web.com VIP hospitality tent and watch tomorrow's PGA TOUR stars!

The Web.com Small Business Summit helps small business owners succeed by providing:
• A panel discussion with the experts in business technology, logistics, merchant services and online marketing.
• Free, personalized consulting with Web.com Ambassadors.
• A free ticket to the Web.com Tour Championship.
• An opportunity to network with other key local business owners.
• Optional access to the Web.com Hospitality Tent, as our VIP guest, located behind the 18th green on the Dye's Valley Course.
• Complimentary admission to the Friday evening concert, featuring Scott McCreery, for all Small Business Summit attendees.

When: Sept. 19 | 11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Where: TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse
Cost: Free!

Registration: Click here to register

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

SBDC Client of the Month: Jeff and Dawn Rawls, Synergy Fabrications LLC

Synergy Fabrications LLC., DBA Synergy Construction, began in 2001 by Jeff Rawls, a service disabled veteran, and his partners.  By 2006, Jeff bought out his partners and was on his way to owning a profitable construction company that holds a general contractors license, a plumbing license, a roofing license and an electrical license. By the spring of 2013, Jeff, and his wife Dawn, found themselves without a bookkeeper. Taking in to consideration the difficult economy of the previous five years and the struggle to stay in business through the difficult times, they decided they needed to take more control over the financial operations of the business. They decided to attend a QuickBooks training class conducted by the FSBDC at UNF at the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce. 

After the class, Dawn realized she wanted one-on-one assistance with understanding and managing the finances and payroll of the company. “The classes were very educational to help me understand the basics of QuickBooks, but I needed more advanced help, so I made an appointment with Cheryl Lynch,” said Dawn. In their subsequent meetings, Cheryl helped Jeff and Dawn with other challenges that they had faced and gave them the confidence they needed to make further sound business decisions.

“The Rawls have been clients of the FSBDC since 2009, so they were no stranger to the advantages of having no-cost consulting and low cost training available,” says Cheryl. “Both Jeff and Dawn are savvy entrepreneurs and understand the value of having an expert, outside of the business, that is an advocate for them, and listens to their struggles, needs and goals.”


The last four years were difficult for Synergy. However, the tides have been changing, and they have hired seven additional employees and counting, since their initial meeting with Cheryl. They are on track to increase their sales this year by 300 percent. “The services of the FSBDC at UNF are priceless,“ said Jeff, “Not only did they assist me with obtaining my HUB Zone certification, my service disabled veteran owned small business certification, and navigating through government contracting, they also provided me with a consultant that is helping me strategize and grow my business in a structured way, making the growing pains bearable. Every business owner in Putnam County should be meeting with Cheryl at the FSBDC, the results are proven!”

Nonprofit Branding Expert Jennifer Holland to Present at Sept 19 Nonprofit Conference.

Will Present "What Nonprofits Need to Know About Brand Building"


The SBDC at UNF is proud to present the 4th Annual Nonprofit Conference on September 19 at the UNF Herbert University Center. Included in our lineup of top-notch speakers is Jennifer Holland, who is one of only a handful of Certified Brand Strategists in the country. If branding your nonprofit is on your mind, you don’t want to miss Jennifer’s presentation.

What Nonprofits Need to Know About Brand Building
This session will open your eyes to strategic brand building for business growth in the nonprofit sector. Attendees will learn the foundational building blocks of successful brands and decision-making opportunities through a clearly focused brand lens.

About Jennifer Holland
Jennifer Holland founded Holland Creative in 1997 and is one of only 31 Certified Brand Strategists in the United States. The group meets twice a year to continue to evolve best practices for brand building. With a communications and consulting career spanning more than two decades, Jennifer is known for having the expertise to grow a client’s brand into an innovative, unique signature for its products and services. She has fine-tuned a process of brand development that is unlike any other. In fact, she and her partner, Jackie Weathers, are known thought leaders in brand strategy with a recent article published in the international Journal of Brand Strategy on the Holland Helix® model. Jennifer is a frequent speaker and is also well-known for developing and delivering the Build Your Brand DIY Workshop® series around the Southeast. Jennifer is CEO of Holland People + Brands, and its sister agency, Holland Creative Services, where her team’s award-winning branding and communication materials are created.

Have you registered to attend? You don't want to miss the information and opportunity to network with over 120 nonprofit leaders from Northeast Florida. Click here to register.