Q&A with Emil Brunner, CEO of Takeoff1 GmbH

Q&A with Emil Brunner, CEO of Takeoff1 GmbH
Emil Brunner, CEO of Takeoff1 GmbH is an experienced businessman who has worked in many countries. He has dedicated more than 10 years to the intuitive method of language acquisition called the “Birkenbihl Approach” formulated by Vera F. Birkenbihl.  Emil and Vera have worked together on the digitalization of this language acquisition method which has been incorporated into Emil's language-learning platform, Brain-Friendly. 

In this interesting Q&A, Emil takes us through the Birkinbihl approach which is helping users worldwide to learn languages with ease.

MEDIA 7: Could you please tell us about your background?
EMIL BRUNNER:
 I started as a technician; then I changed to sales. In my heart, I’ve always been a salesman. I started my business as the first Xerox Partner in Austria, and then I managed a company selling office machines and equipment. It was my first time going into other countries, like Germany and Switzerland. In that business, I worked with many phone agents, so the company grew to an outbound sales call center. In the USA, I had my first technology experience and built an automated call machine. We then got the franchise partner of RTL Teleshop - it was after QVC the second largest in DACH, for Austria.  I gained knowledge in TV-Power plus Sales power and found it fascinating. The next step was to automate the call center.

In 2004, we ran a call center in a pizza box (computer) for teleshop companies. In the States, we closed orders for up to 60% of callers fully automated, the rest were connected to the classical human call center. It had a great future, but I did it with the wrong people. So the company went bankrupt, and we went back to Austria.
After that experience, back "home" - felt so small, and we went on to start a software development business.
I began working and studying TV & Film making at the same time. My master's degree was a documentary film about "Teleshop and new technologies.”

I met Vera F. Birkenbihl, and she was one of the most successful scientists for learning methods and strategies and held a lot of live seminars - long before TEDx came up. I produced about 10 of those seminars, gaining many skills in the process, and that's when I found out about the language learning method. Me and language? I had trouble all the time while I went to school. I was sure languages were not for me. However, my son was a successful young developer and was interested and started to develop an app for language learning - using the brain-friendly Birkenbihl method. Which means, you never waste time cramming vocabulary and you don't need to learn any grammar rules.

I don't know anyone who’s happy learning vocabulary. About 90+% of all people using a language (mother tongue and foreign language) are not able to describe a grammar rule — only the teachers can do it. So there must be another way without the pain. And here it was!
I tried to learn English. The goal was to speak well without thinking about what to say. I just wanted to talk.

That's it. It took me more than a year, but I had an experience I’ll never forget. I was working on my phone with many customers and collecting orders. After a while, I put the orders from my notes into the computer. Wow! I had made a request for English courses - an order from a bookstore in Birmingham. How did I do it? Yes, I did it in English, and I didn't even realize it. It was automatic. The gap, switching from German to English, was gone - forever.

In the meantime, both my sons, Herwig and Gerwin, were now professionals in software development on the international stage. I had a Swiss partner and last year, I sold my shares to set up a new company with a new app - the Birkenbihl language learning movies. The digitalization of language learning - watch a movie and get the language. Based on subscription models, we sell it now in DACH, US, and European Single markets.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning, that I am the only one, who got the okay from Vera F.Birkenbihl (she died 2011), to follow the method of the new science of language learning and take it to the next level. I got the seal of approval for the "Birkenbihl Approach" to honor products they follow with the principle of "brain-friendly" learning method.

I have put all of this experience into a new book, the follow up of Birkenbihl's bestseller "Einfach Sprachen Lernen". I completed it with Katharina Rucker, she has been on board since 2008 and is still the best blogger for language learning knowledge. The book will be published in English in Q1-2020.

"Using the brain-friendly Birkenbihl method, you never waste time cramming vocabulary and you don't need to learn any grammar rules."



M7: How far is the Birkenbihl method’s idea of ‘learning a language need not be difficult’ serving its purpose of making language acquisition effortless?
EB:
 Let me say 100%. Because the "classical" way to learn a language is totally different from the way our brain works. Our brain is trying to find new things to discover, to get new experiences and so on. What is there to discover when you use a vocabulary list? For example, table - Tisch / table - la mesa, etc. it could also be shown as table - Katze (cat). There is no sense, no meaning, no context.

If you learn it the brain-friendly way as a full sentence, and you "de-code" it, your brain has enough context, and there are new words to learn. 

So it works, and it takes a minimum amount of time because our brain is memorizing everything in connections, like synapses, and that works very well, making it fun and available to use for the rest of your life.
The newest thing we have developed is the Movie(c) courses. Birkenbihl told us all the time, "a movie is the closest experience to real life". Watching a movie is like experiencing an actual event. 

When the "de-code line" is integrated into the movie,  entertainment and learning become cohesive. The "de-code line" in the movie, works as a karaoke player. The spoken word-pair is synchronized and highlighted. So you can close your eyes or your brain will automatically follow the decode line, and you will absorb the language. Repeat it, and you become perfect. It’s the digital way to learn a foreign language.

M7: How do you develop the movies and what is the approach for making users learn new languages easily with these movies?
EB: 
The classical way to learn a language is to cram grammar rules. Understanding and speaking are two processes in our brain that we have to learn separately. The idea developed by Birkenbihl was to find out how to use the mother tongue to understand a foreign language. She had done a lot of research and observed neuroscientists and decided to call the it the decode line which means you have two decoding lines – the upper line is the foreign language that you want to learn, the lower line is the word-by-word translation where you get the information about the meaning of the words.
It’s easy to follow them if you like to follow, but it’s enough if you just watch the movie. Your brain is automatically looking at the decode line and getting the information so if you repeat that you become more familiar with the sentence and you’ll understand it.

M7: How has your working with Vera F. Birkenbihl for more than 10 years helped you to come out with an intuitive method of language acquisition called the “Birkenbihl Approach”? What was the idea behind this?
EB: 
Birkenbihl told me that she’d had an experience with teachers and children. The problem was that the children didn’t enjoy learning vocabulary. It was, and still is, a pain. After a couple of days, all of the learned words go. So she thought, if most people have this problem then the problem couldn't be the people, it must be the method. There must be a better way.

After that, she started researching, and she found old documents, detailing how the aristocrats (the European marriage expansion) learned languages. There were many connections between the European Aristocrats, and this old document described how they learned. There was a transcript, a direct translation underneath and a live speaker. So the learners followed the speaker and read the word pairs.

All of the experiments she did, worked very well. I remember, it was approximately 2008, there was a teacher in Odelzhause who gave the children private English lessons Coached by Birkenbihl, in 3 months, the whole class were able to speak English very well and had no problem with vocabulary tests. That was the point we realized we were onto something. Based on our findings, my son built the first application for Windows. However, if you think that’s it, no. It took a lot of time to optimize it and to do all the beta tests. But after a while, we saw that it worked, and my experience was. WOW! - I got it.


"Watching a movie is like experiencing an actual event.   When the "de-code line" is integrated into the movie,  entertainment and learning become cohesive."


M7: How is the “Birkenbihl Approach” assisting people around the world to learn more languages efficiently?
EB:
Thanks, that’s an excellent question. You can do it, totally without any app, with paper or music. Take the lyrics of the song you love and start to “de-code” (translate it word-by-word). Yes, with the app, it’s much easier, and if you have a device ready, you can fit, learning a language, into every spare moment you have. So you waste no time, get entertained and learn simultaneously. After a while, you begin to speak automatically like a baby, who is listening for a long time.
When it becomes a year old, it starts with some words, after the second year it begins, from one day to the next to speak full sentences, only by listening. So while you improve upon your spelling skills, in your mother tongue or foreign language, always listen (day and night) in the background. Your sub-conscience will do the rest.
It is a kind of democratization of language learning; everybody can do it, independent of age or origin.

M7: You have played a vital role in digitalization of this language acquisition method. What inspired you to take up this challenge and what was your vision behind this?
EB:
Yes, first, it was a curiosity about the possibility and a challenge for myself to learn a language up to a level to be able to sell anything. Remember, I was a weak student.
Additionally, it was the feedback from the first beta tester, later from customers that they had the same experience I had, and they are now happy and successful.  So it was sensible. Yes, a little bit also to make it easier for people. So now, I see that the end of the traditional way to learn a language is coming.

Think about it... you can watch a movie, it doesn't matter which one, and you get automatically delivered the “de-code” line. I think we'll be able to get it in the near future, we are still working on it. So you don't need any teacher, because every child is learning it like their mother tongue, additionally. For example, a Hollywood movie uses about 1000 to 1500 unique words, a daily newspaper uses about 500 to 700 unique words. So let's watch Spanish movies this weekend, and that's it. My idea is that no child should have to suffer the cramming of vocabulary.


"While you grow up your spelling skills, in your mother tongue or foreign language, always listen in the background. Your sub-conscience will do the rest. It is a kind of democratization of language learning."



M7: As a language instructor, how important is resolving the problem of language acquisition as a barrier to businesses and marketing when globalization is the trend?
EB: It is vital. In two cases, one of them is, that companies spend a lot of money, year by year and nothing is changing. The costs go up, and success is equal to or less. Especially the production industries who have many difficulties, i.e. when the company is based in Germany, and the production is in Mexico. In this case, we can help. We can produce a learning movie for the technical process and add the “de-code line”, so the employees get both, the knowledge and the language. I think this is an excellent opportunity for all instructors and trainers of language. They can supply companies to work with the Birkenbihl method, and it gives more success with less time to spend. 

M7: Do you think that the Birkenbihl method will encourage more people around the world to learn languages swiftly?
EB:
Yes, that's what I hope, and it is essential to tell everybody that with this method it is possible, yes it works. Also, my hope is that it could connect people and bring more happiness. It's okay, if you start now and only spend 10 minutes every day. After approximately 6 weeks, you will get about 400 to 600 unique words. However, you can also do it in 2 weeks if you spend 10 minutes, 10 times a day (less than 2 hours). Alternatively, if you spend only 10 minutes every 3rd day, it takes a little longer. Do it when you want with the time that suits you. Overall, you get it.

M7: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
EB:
Not much, except one thing: Whatever you do, if it doesn't work, find out how it could work, there is surely another way. But, just do it.

ABOUT BRAIN FRIENDLY

The Birkenbihl Approach (BBA) means, learning as the brain loves to learn. Our brain - look to the minds of children - how they like to discover and to understand how things work. It uses neuro mechanisms like abstracting rules (grammar) and background listening (to build synapses for spelling). To know more, visit Brain-Friendly.

More C-Suite on deck

'Having strong guidelines and a well-defined strategy is essential,' believes Gabriela Giorgio

July 11, 2023

Gabriela Giorgio is an experienced digital advertising specialist with more than ten years of experience. She is very skilled at content generation, creativity, strategy, and platform analysis. She is passionate about business consulting and digital solutions, and she values personal growth, creativity, and empathy. Gabriela's dedication to lifelong learning guarantees that she thrives in the ever-changing digital scene, consistently providing exceptional results.

Read More

'Biggest challenge for small businesses is how to leverage small successes into larger ones,' says Herby Duverne

Media 7 | June 6, 2022

Herby Duverne, CEO of Windwalker Group, discusses the best practices for developing strategic partnerships, brand awareness strategies, the best way businesses can tackle challenges, and more. Continue reading to find out more about Human Capital Development via Corporate and Government Training.

Read More

Q&A with Andy Brown, CEO at Engage

Media 7 | May 28, 2020

Andy Brown, Chief Executive Officer at ENGAGE has worked in the research and consulting industry for 25 years. He was previously a Partner at Mercer Consulting, a Global Practice Leader at The Empower Group (the strategic consulting division of Manpower), Managing Director of YouGov Consulting and Head of Research at The Gallup Organization. Andy co-founded ENGAGE and has worked for the company since 2008 and, in 2013, co-led an MBO of the firm. He works with CEOs, boards and executive teams in FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 firms, as well as with a range of fast-growing entrepreneurial start-ups. MEDIA 7: What are you most passionate about? ANDY BROWN: I’m passionate about four key things: helping organisations improve their performance; helping leaders to be as effective as possible; helping employees to feel a sense of purpose in their work; and, of course, my family!

Read More

'Having strong guidelines and a well-defined strategy is essential,' believes Gabriela Giorgio

July 11, 2023

Gabriela Giorgio is an experienced digital advertising specialist with more than ten years of experience. She is very skilled at content generation, creativity, strategy, and platform analysis. She is passionate about business consulting and digital solutions, and she values personal growth, creativity, and empathy. Gabriela's dedication to lifelong learning guarantees that she thrives in the ever-changing digital scene, consistently providing exceptional results.

Read More

'Biggest challenge for small businesses is how to leverage small successes into larger ones,' says Herby Duverne

Media 7 | June 6, 2022

Herby Duverne, CEO of Windwalker Group, discusses the best practices for developing strategic partnerships, brand awareness strategies, the best way businesses can tackle challenges, and more. Continue reading to find out more about Human Capital Development via Corporate and Government Training.

Read More

Q&A with Andy Brown, CEO at Engage

Media 7 | May 28, 2020

Andy Brown, Chief Executive Officer at ENGAGE has worked in the research and consulting industry for 25 years. He was previously a Partner at Mercer Consulting, a Global Practice Leader at The Empower Group (the strategic consulting division of Manpower), Managing Director of YouGov Consulting and Head of Research at The Gallup Organization. Andy co-founded ENGAGE and has worked for the company since 2008 and, in 2013, co-led an MBO of the firm. He works with CEOs, boards and executive teams in FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 firms, as well as with a range of fast-growing entrepreneurial start-ups. MEDIA 7: What are you most passionate about? ANDY BROWN: I’m passionate about four key things: helping organisations improve their performance; helping leaders to be as effective as possible; helping employees to feel a sense of purpose in their work; and, of course, my family!

Read More

Related News

TECHNOLOGY

When I Work Launches Payroll to Revolutionize Workforce Management for Small Businesses

PR Newswire | January 09, 2024

When I Work, a market leader in shift-based workforce management software used by more than 200,000 workplaces worldwide, is excited to announce its new product, When I Work Payroll. When I Work Payroll is designed to make it incredibly easy for small businesses to run payroll. Because the employee schedule and time tracking data are on the same platform with payroll, businesses can pay their hourly workers quickly, with a single click. There's no data entry or uploading timesheets, so there's less chance for errors, letting small business owners spend time on their customers, instead of being stuck in the back office. "It's been great to have all of our scheduling and payroll information in one place. We don't have to verify numbers in two places anymore—we're able to verify and run payroll in 10 minutes now," said Tim Hogg, owner of Tressia, a popular North Carolina restaurant. Payroll from When I Work is comprehensive. Your employees track their time by clocking in and out of the mobile app and our payroll software calculates all the data in real time, including hours, breaks, overtime, and paid time off. When I Work automates payments and tax filings to make everything transparent. Employees can update their own payroll forms and personal information through the app. The system automatically handles taxes and sends direct deposits. When I Work also files your payroll taxes with the IRS. "We consistently hear stories from small business owners about the countless hours they spend manually syncing and reconciling errors between systems," said Kavitha Radhakrishnan, Chief Product Officer at When I Work. "Our customers want an easier alternative to legacy payroll software, and they have a long history of trust with us, so we created Payroll for them. Now our small business customers can focus their valuable time on what they do best—building their teams and running their business." About When I Work When I Work is a market leader in shift-based workforce management software and delivers a powerful, employee-first experience that creates happier and more productive teams. Trusted by more than 200,000 workplaces worldwide, When I Work puts scheduling and collaboration at the center of workplace operations and brings empathy, agility, and consumer simplicity to the small business workplace.

Read More

TECHNOLOGY

Alibaba.com Introduces New AI-Powered Feature at CES to Boost Efficiency and Growth for SMEs and Entrepreneurs in 2024

PR Newswire | January 10, 2024

Alibaba.com, a leading platform for global business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce and part of Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group (AIDC), will launch its latest Smart Assistant features powered by artificial intelligence (AI) at CES in Las Vegas, NV from January 9-12, 2024. The Smart Assistant, an AI-powered global sourcing tool, caters to both newcomers and seasoned entrepreneurs in the dynamic world of global commerce. As a one-stop B2B sourcing platform, Alibaba.com remains committed to delivering innovative solutions to help buyers and suppliers streamline operations to more efficiently reach their goals and continue to grow. The Smart Assistant updates unveiled at CES will help business owners adeptly enhance their supply chain and solve complex sourcing needs and challenges as they seek to stand out in today's competitive marketplace. "Today's small businesses face a variety of headwinds, but with the right technology and support, they can feel confident that they will overcome obstacles and help their business thrive, which is why we're expanding the features of our new Smart Assistant tool to better serve today's entrepreneurs," said Chris Lu, General Manager at Alibaba.com North America. "With advances in AI, we are ushering in the next generation of sourcing and empowering small businesses to succeed with our Smart Assistant at their side." The Smart Assistant: Shaping the Future of Sourcing Alibaba.com developed the Smart Assistant as an AI-powered, intuitive personal guide to sourcing that helps small business owners discover new opportunities, stay up-to-date on trends, seamlessly track orders and more in a single, efficient touchpoint. First announced at CES and coming soon to the Alibaba.com Smart Assistant is the Instant Help feature, which leverages an AI-powered chatbot to answer basic inquiries and offer real-time insights and resources, regardless of time zones or language barriers. The Instant Help feature provides buyers with essential knowledge and industry insights about a variety of verticals and product types, as well as offer tips to elevate their communications with suppliers. It will help ensure small businesses can increase efficiency, purchase smart and keep up with trends by leveraging AI to increase competitive advantages. Since their launch in September 2023, the first two features of the Smart Assistant – Upgraded Image Search and Smart Request for Quotation (RFQ) – have already provided significant benefit to entrepreneurs using the Alibaba.com desktop platform. Based on Alibaba.com's internal study since September 2023, buyers using the Upgraded Image Search have seen a 28% higher deal closing rate than those only using traditional text search. Buyers who used the Smart RFQ tool saw 29% more quotes from suppliers, while suppliers saw a 21% increase in buyer responses to quotes as compared to the original RFQ process. "Developed from buyer-supplier feedback and embedded with profound industry knowledge, we are excited to demonstrate how the Smart Assistant rapidly and accurately produces product requests and images aligning with buyer needs," Lu said. "Smart Assistant helps buyers embrace their creativity, improve the efficiency of matching buyers and sellers, while making sourcing more accessible for all." Alibaba.com will provide a showcase of Smart Assistant features at their booth on Wednesday, January 10, 2024 at 11:00 AM PT, hosted by smart sourcing expert Stella Shenshen. The Alibaba.com booth is located at the Las Vegas Convention Center's Tech East in the AI and Robotics section in North Hall's Grand Lobby on level 1, Booth 9017. Visitors to the booth will also have the opportunity to network and connect with 20 top-rated suppliers in-person, personally experiencing the ways Alibaba.com offers buyers advanced sourcing solutions and AI-powered tools to take their business to the next level. Tech and AI Power the Future of Businesses, E-commerce and Sourcing In addition to announcing new Smart Assistant features at CES, Alibaba.com leadership will discuss the evolution of e-commerce and sourcing, as well as how sourcing has been influenced and improved by AI and other technological innovations. Going "Entreprenuts" to Support Small Business Innovation To complement its presence at CES, Alibaba.com is also debuting a new campaign celebrating entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. The Entreprenuts campaign highlights how entrepreneurs are willing to bet big, as well as maintain persistence and boundless creativity, against daunting odds. In other words, they can go a little "entreprenuts" to achieve their dreams and create new products – just like the products showcased each year at CES. Throughout the Entreprenuts campaign, which will run from January 8 through February 8, 2024, Alibaba.com will encourage buyers to share stories of their craziest entrepreneurial moments, utilizing the most "nuts'' stories in a video highlight to showcase what it means to be an Entreprenut. Buyers can also earn their Entreprenut badge and profile by answering a questionnaire that will determine their unique Entreprenut characteristic. At the end of each quiz, buyers will be provided with exclusive tools and services to help them achieve their goals as they kickstart 2024. "This campaign demonstrates Alibaba.com's continued support of small and medium-sized businesses in the United States and helping them realize their entrepreneurial dreams and push beyond what others might believe possible," said Rah Mahtani, Head of Marketing for North America at Alibaba.com. "As buyers share their experiences, Alibaba.com will offer innovative new resources and products to help these 'Entreprenuts' succeed on their journey." The campaign debuts at a key crossroads for small business owners. The US has seen a surge in the number of newly registered businesses, which hit record highs in both 2021 (5.4 million) and 2022 (5.1 million). Sadly, 20% of these new businesses face failure within the first two years, and a staggering 45% of startups do not surpass the five-year mark due to challenges such as market volatility, supply chain disruption, shifting consumer demands, and inventory management. This makes the tools and capabilities Alibaba.com offers, which are designed to help entrepreneurs level up their sourcing and supply chain operations in the increasingly competitive small business arena, more valuable than ever. About Alibaba.com Launched in 1999, Alibaba.com is a leading platform for global business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce that serves buyers and suppliers from over 200 countries and regions around the world. It is engaged in services covering all aspects of commerce, including providing businesses with tools that help them reach a global audience for their products and helping buyers discover products, find suppliers and place orders online fast and efficiently. Alibaba.com is part of Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group.

Read More

FINANCE

DREAMSPRING AND WOODFOREST NATIONAL BANK COLLABORATE TO STRENGTHEN SMALL BUSINESS LENDING AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP ACROSS THE U.S.

PR Newswire | January 10, 2024

DreamSpring, a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Small Business Administration (SBA) lender, and Woodforest National Bank® (Woodforest), a national bank with over 760 branches across 17 states, are working together to provide access to $1.5 million in debt capital to low- and moderate-income (LMI) small business entrepreneurs. The influx of lending capital from Woodforest to DreamSpring is a milestone in their shared commitment to spur community development and job creation through expanding peer networks and increasing access to capital. "Our collaboration with Woodforest widens the path for entrepreneurs to access much-needed capital and business resources," said Anne Haines, President and CEO of DreamSpring. "With Woodforest at our side, DreamSpring continues to expand our capacity to help small business owners realize their dreams and build stronger, more resilient communities through entrepreneurship." Daniel Galindo, Senior Vice President & Director of the CRA Program & Strategic Initiatives at Woodforest National Bank added, "Working with a strong CDFI like DreamSpring combines both organizations' financial strengths to provide access to LMI small business owners who struggle to get the funds they need to run and grow their business which is a key focus for our team." Both financial institutions share a commitment to empowering communities through entrepreneurship. The term loan agreement will allow DreamSpring to provide microloans to small business owners and LMI entrepreneurs as they start or grow their businesses across 10 shared states in DreamSpring and Woodforest's national footprints: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, and Texas. The agreement between DreamSpring and Woodforest also strengthens the teams' vision to expand peer networks across their shared footprint to provide more resources for small business owners. For instance, in South Dallas, both organizations have embraced the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's (OCC) acclaimed Dallas REACh initiative, aimed at increasing LMI access to capital. Woodforest facilitated DreamSpring's connection to the monthly Dallas REACh roundtable, bringing together banks, CDFIs, and community stakeholders and leaders. This collaboration has resulted in a greater network of support in South Dallas, enriching the local small business ecosystem. One South Dallas-based small business owner who has felt the life-changing impact of capital is Taylor Symoné. Her small day spa business offers beauty and hair treatments, therapeutic post-operative care, massages, and facials. When she was first getting started, Taylor remembers calling about 15 financial institutions and feeling frustrated every time by the paperwork needed for a small loan, as well as rigid requirements for only helping businesses with at least two years of operational history. DreamSpring was different. Taylor has since repaid three DreamSpring loans to fuel her business growth and create even more opportunities for her family. "I'm really big on generational wealth," says Taylor. "I like to teach my kids about being their own boss, being the star of their own show, and learning and understanding that you can create your own passageway — you just have to want to." For 30 years, DreamSpring has developed small business training and a range of loan products to meet the needs of entrepreneurs like Taylor. Today, DreamSpring offers credit-building small business loans, lines of credit, SBA 7(a) loans, and commercial real estate loans in 27 states to level the playing field by bridging credit and knowledge gaps that hinder economic mobility. About DreamSpring DreamSpring is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) lender dedicated to accelerating the economic inclusion and strength of underserved communities. Founded in 1994, the organization provides rapid access to capital and customized wrap-around support to the most vulnerable small business owners in 27 states, focusing on communities including people of color, women, low- to moderate-income earners, people with disabilities, and start-ups. To date, DreamSpring has issued more than 48,796 loans totaling over $538 million to small businesses that support an estimated 65,138 jobs. About Woodforest National Bank Celebrating over 40 years of community banking service, Woodforest National Bank has successfully stood among the strongest community banks in the nation, proudly offering outstanding customer service since 1980. Woodforest currently operates over 760 branches in 17 states across the United States and is an Outstanding CRA rated institution.

Read More

TECHNOLOGY

When I Work Launches Payroll to Revolutionize Workforce Management for Small Businesses

PR Newswire | January 09, 2024

When I Work, a market leader in shift-based workforce management software used by more than 200,000 workplaces worldwide, is excited to announce its new product, When I Work Payroll. When I Work Payroll is designed to make it incredibly easy for small businesses to run payroll. Because the employee schedule and time tracking data are on the same platform with payroll, businesses can pay their hourly workers quickly, with a single click. There's no data entry or uploading timesheets, so there's less chance for errors, letting small business owners spend time on their customers, instead of being stuck in the back office. "It's been great to have all of our scheduling and payroll information in one place. We don't have to verify numbers in two places anymore—we're able to verify and run payroll in 10 minutes now," said Tim Hogg, owner of Tressia, a popular North Carolina restaurant. Payroll from When I Work is comprehensive. Your employees track their time by clocking in and out of the mobile app and our payroll software calculates all the data in real time, including hours, breaks, overtime, and paid time off. When I Work automates payments and tax filings to make everything transparent. Employees can update their own payroll forms and personal information through the app. The system automatically handles taxes and sends direct deposits. When I Work also files your payroll taxes with the IRS. "We consistently hear stories from small business owners about the countless hours they spend manually syncing and reconciling errors between systems," said Kavitha Radhakrishnan, Chief Product Officer at When I Work. "Our customers want an easier alternative to legacy payroll software, and they have a long history of trust with us, so we created Payroll for them. Now our small business customers can focus their valuable time on what they do best—building their teams and running their business." About When I Work When I Work is a market leader in shift-based workforce management software and delivers a powerful, employee-first experience that creates happier and more productive teams. Trusted by more than 200,000 workplaces worldwide, When I Work puts scheduling and collaboration at the center of workplace operations and brings empathy, agility, and consumer simplicity to the small business workplace.

Read More

TECHNOLOGY

Alibaba.com Introduces New AI-Powered Feature at CES to Boost Efficiency and Growth for SMEs and Entrepreneurs in 2024

PR Newswire | January 10, 2024

Alibaba.com, a leading platform for global business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce and part of Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group (AIDC), will launch its latest Smart Assistant features powered by artificial intelligence (AI) at CES in Las Vegas, NV from January 9-12, 2024. The Smart Assistant, an AI-powered global sourcing tool, caters to both newcomers and seasoned entrepreneurs in the dynamic world of global commerce. As a one-stop B2B sourcing platform, Alibaba.com remains committed to delivering innovative solutions to help buyers and suppliers streamline operations to more efficiently reach their goals and continue to grow. The Smart Assistant updates unveiled at CES will help business owners adeptly enhance their supply chain and solve complex sourcing needs and challenges as they seek to stand out in today's competitive marketplace. "Today's small businesses face a variety of headwinds, but with the right technology and support, they can feel confident that they will overcome obstacles and help their business thrive, which is why we're expanding the features of our new Smart Assistant tool to better serve today's entrepreneurs," said Chris Lu, General Manager at Alibaba.com North America. "With advances in AI, we are ushering in the next generation of sourcing and empowering small businesses to succeed with our Smart Assistant at their side." The Smart Assistant: Shaping the Future of Sourcing Alibaba.com developed the Smart Assistant as an AI-powered, intuitive personal guide to sourcing that helps small business owners discover new opportunities, stay up-to-date on trends, seamlessly track orders and more in a single, efficient touchpoint. First announced at CES and coming soon to the Alibaba.com Smart Assistant is the Instant Help feature, which leverages an AI-powered chatbot to answer basic inquiries and offer real-time insights and resources, regardless of time zones or language barriers. The Instant Help feature provides buyers with essential knowledge and industry insights about a variety of verticals and product types, as well as offer tips to elevate their communications with suppliers. It will help ensure small businesses can increase efficiency, purchase smart and keep up with trends by leveraging AI to increase competitive advantages. Since their launch in September 2023, the first two features of the Smart Assistant – Upgraded Image Search and Smart Request for Quotation (RFQ) – have already provided significant benefit to entrepreneurs using the Alibaba.com desktop platform. Based on Alibaba.com's internal study since September 2023, buyers using the Upgraded Image Search have seen a 28% higher deal closing rate than those only using traditional text search. Buyers who used the Smart RFQ tool saw 29% more quotes from suppliers, while suppliers saw a 21% increase in buyer responses to quotes as compared to the original RFQ process. "Developed from buyer-supplier feedback and embedded with profound industry knowledge, we are excited to demonstrate how the Smart Assistant rapidly and accurately produces product requests and images aligning with buyer needs," Lu said. "Smart Assistant helps buyers embrace their creativity, improve the efficiency of matching buyers and sellers, while making sourcing more accessible for all." Alibaba.com will provide a showcase of Smart Assistant features at their booth on Wednesday, January 10, 2024 at 11:00 AM PT, hosted by smart sourcing expert Stella Shenshen. The Alibaba.com booth is located at the Las Vegas Convention Center's Tech East in the AI and Robotics section in North Hall's Grand Lobby on level 1, Booth 9017. Visitors to the booth will also have the opportunity to network and connect with 20 top-rated suppliers in-person, personally experiencing the ways Alibaba.com offers buyers advanced sourcing solutions and AI-powered tools to take their business to the next level. Tech and AI Power the Future of Businesses, E-commerce and Sourcing In addition to announcing new Smart Assistant features at CES, Alibaba.com leadership will discuss the evolution of e-commerce and sourcing, as well as how sourcing has been influenced and improved by AI and other technological innovations. Going "Entreprenuts" to Support Small Business Innovation To complement its presence at CES, Alibaba.com is also debuting a new campaign celebrating entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. The Entreprenuts campaign highlights how entrepreneurs are willing to bet big, as well as maintain persistence and boundless creativity, against daunting odds. In other words, they can go a little "entreprenuts" to achieve their dreams and create new products – just like the products showcased each year at CES. Throughout the Entreprenuts campaign, which will run from January 8 through February 8, 2024, Alibaba.com will encourage buyers to share stories of their craziest entrepreneurial moments, utilizing the most "nuts'' stories in a video highlight to showcase what it means to be an Entreprenut. Buyers can also earn their Entreprenut badge and profile by answering a questionnaire that will determine their unique Entreprenut characteristic. At the end of each quiz, buyers will be provided with exclusive tools and services to help them achieve their goals as they kickstart 2024. "This campaign demonstrates Alibaba.com's continued support of small and medium-sized businesses in the United States and helping them realize their entrepreneurial dreams and push beyond what others might believe possible," said Rah Mahtani, Head of Marketing for North America at Alibaba.com. "As buyers share their experiences, Alibaba.com will offer innovative new resources and products to help these 'Entreprenuts' succeed on their journey." The campaign debuts at a key crossroads for small business owners. The US has seen a surge in the number of newly registered businesses, which hit record highs in both 2021 (5.4 million) and 2022 (5.1 million). Sadly, 20% of these new businesses face failure within the first two years, and a staggering 45% of startups do not surpass the five-year mark due to challenges such as market volatility, supply chain disruption, shifting consumer demands, and inventory management. This makes the tools and capabilities Alibaba.com offers, which are designed to help entrepreneurs level up their sourcing and supply chain operations in the increasingly competitive small business arena, more valuable than ever. About Alibaba.com Launched in 1999, Alibaba.com is a leading platform for global business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce that serves buyers and suppliers from over 200 countries and regions around the world. It is engaged in services covering all aspects of commerce, including providing businesses with tools that help them reach a global audience for their products and helping buyers discover products, find suppliers and place orders online fast and efficiently. Alibaba.com is part of Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group.

Read More

FINANCE

DREAMSPRING AND WOODFOREST NATIONAL BANK COLLABORATE TO STRENGTHEN SMALL BUSINESS LENDING AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP ACROSS THE U.S.

PR Newswire | January 10, 2024

DreamSpring, a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Small Business Administration (SBA) lender, and Woodforest National Bank® (Woodforest), a national bank with over 760 branches across 17 states, are working together to provide access to $1.5 million in debt capital to low- and moderate-income (LMI) small business entrepreneurs. The influx of lending capital from Woodforest to DreamSpring is a milestone in their shared commitment to spur community development and job creation through expanding peer networks and increasing access to capital. "Our collaboration with Woodforest widens the path for entrepreneurs to access much-needed capital and business resources," said Anne Haines, President and CEO of DreamSpring. "With Woodforest at our side, DreamSpring continues to expand our capacity to help small business owners realize their dreams and build stronger, more resilient communities through entrepreneurship." Daniel Galindo, Senior Vice President & Director of the CRA Program & Strategic Initiatives at Woodforest National Bank added, "Working with a strong CDFI like DreamSpring combines both organizations' financial strengths to provide access to LMI small business owners who struggle to get the funds they need to run and grow their business which is a key focus for our team." Both financial institutions share a commitment to empowering communities through entrepreneurship. The term loan agreement will allow DreamSpring to provide microloans to small business owners and LMI entrepreneurs as they start or grow their businesses across 10 shared states in DreamSpring and Woodforest's national footprints: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, and Texas. The agreement between DreamSpring and Woodforest also strengthens the teams' vision to expand peer networks across their shared footprint to provide more resources for small business owners. For instance, in South Dallas, both organizations have embraced the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's (OCC) acclaimed Dallas REACh initiative, aimed at increasing LMI access to capital. Woodforest facilitated DreamSpring's connection to the monthly Dallas REACh roundtable, bringing together banks, CDFIs, and community stakeholders and leaders. This collaboration has resulted in a greater network of support in South Dallas, enriching the local small business ecosystem. One South Dallas-based small business owner who has felt the life-changing impact of capital is Taylor Symoné. Her small day spa business offers beauty and hair treatments, therapeutic post-operative care, massages, and facials. When she was first getting started, Taylor remembers calling about 15 financial institutions and feeling frustrated every time by the paperwork needed for a small loan, as well as rigid requirements for only helping businesses with at least two years of operational history. DreamSpring was different. Taylor has since repaid three DreamSpring loans to fuel her business growth and create even more opportunities for her family. "I'm really big on generational wealth," says Taylor. "I like to teach my kids about being their own boss, being the star of their own show, and learning and understanding that you can create your own passageway — you just have to want to." For 30 years, DreamSpring has developed small business training and a range of loan products to meet the needs of entrepreneurs like Taylor. Today, DreamSpring offers credit-building small business loans, lines of credit, SBA 7(a) loans, and commercial real estate loans in 27 states to level the playing field by bridging credit and knowledge gaps that hinder economic mobility. About DreamSpring DreamSpring is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) lender dedicated to accelerating the economic inclusion and strength of underserved communities. Founded in 1994, the organization provides rapid access to capital and customized wrap-around support to the most vulnerable small business owners in 27 states, focusing on communities including people of color, women, low- to moderate-income earners, people with disabilities, and start-ups. To date, DreamSpring has issued more than 48,796 loans totaling over $538 million to small businesses that support an estimated 65,138 jobs. About Woodforest National Bank Celebrating over 40 years of community banking service, Woodforest National Bank has successfully stood among the strongest community banks in the nation, proudly offering outstanding customer service since 1980. Woodforest currently operates over 760 branches in 17 states across the United States and is an Outstanding CRA rated institution.

Read More