Back to Basics For Business Growth

Photo Courtesy: Small Business Majority

Being a business owner is not for the weak at heart. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to juggle all of the balls and to keep them afloat in the air. Business owners have a lot of pressure on them because they are responsible for a lot of people from the community and their employees or subcontractors to their families.

Despite the fact that small businesses are the catalyst for job creation, economic growth and stimulating the community, accessing capital for their business is still a thorn in the side for many, primarily within the diverse communities. The Access to Capital: The Key to Small Business Growth and Economic Development panelist was candid about the culture of the financial institution practices on lending. With their gut-wrenching advice they were able to provide us the tools and resources that we would need to stay in the game.

As we all know the lending practices today has adversely affected millions of underrepresented and disadvantaged businesses for centuries from home to business ownership. When a small business owner, particularly from the diverse community, applies for a loan there are continual biases and prejudices that the system possess. You can provide every documentation required, have collateral and still can run up against a loan denial.

There is a great deal of discrimination in lending,” David Newvill, Director of Federal Policy, Prosperity Now. One of the business owners that attended the Small Business Policy Forum was transparent about his lending experience. Here is an overview of what he displayed to us:

He has been in business for over 10 years. He needed funding to help take his business to the next level. He provided all of the required documentation, however, he experienced a glitch. The glitch was that according to Sage Stream Reporting, which was used for credit reporting by the financial institution that he was working with, his profile came back not creditworthy. The irony was that he stated that Sage Stream Reporting had the wrong person and that their findings of his creditworthiness were incorrect. These errors that were reported by Sage Stream Reporting is what caused his application to be denied, despite the fact that he tried everything to correct the mistakes that Sage Stream Reporting had made.

As you can see outside of the three big credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax or Experian there are other companies coming online that is tremendously affecting business lending. Everyone in attendance including the panel of experts wanted to know exactly who is Sage Stream Reporting. The irony is that no one knew or had ever hear of this company, including the panelist. Isn’t that interesting?!

Do you know who your lenders use to access information about you? “Only 53% of those that apply for loans actually receive the requested amount,” Joyce Klein, Director of Microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning, and Dissemination (FIELD), Aspen Institute. As a small business owner, my question is why only 53%?

There is truly something wrong here. “Be aware of merchant cash advance services,” Joyce Klein. What is she talking about?

Just like Sage Stream Reporting has entered the marketplace so has unregulated sharks pertaining to lending. These sharks are ready to offer you an unsecured loan but at a higher Annual Percentage Rate (APR).  In order to obtain access to capital to help grow your business, these lenders require access to your checking account.

The purpose for this access is so that they can debit your account for daily payments and if you decide to pay off the loan early, there is an early prepayment penalty attached. Don’t wait until you need the money for your business growth locate a lender now and get your ducks in a row. If you feel pushed up against a wall you are more than likely to get a loan at any costs.

For the larger institutes that are regulated like your major bank, these financial institutions do not see the value in lending to you. As they see it, the costs to underwrite a loan is the same, whether the dollar amount requested is $2,500, 25,000, $250,000 or $2.5 million dollars. The bottom line is their bottom line!

Manny Hidalgo, Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Capital Access indicated that SBA has been fully aware of the biases that minorities are receiving within the banking community so they are creating more programs that are designed to help offset some of the costs and risks that big banks may face in lending to diverse communities. “SBA lenders look at other things outside of your FICO Score. We also have a Lending Match Program that is designed to match lenders with business owners,’ says Manny.

In today’s marketplace business owners should be aware of the Small Business Borrower’s Bill of Rights,” Jessica Milano, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Small Business, Community Development, and Housing Policy, U.S. Department of Treasury, which is designed to operate using better lending practices. There are six key initiatives that these Rights operate under:

  • The Right to Transparent Pricing and Terms
  • The Right to Non-Abusive Products
  • The Right to Responsible Underwriting
  • The Right to Fair Treatment from Brokers
  • The Right to Inclusive Credit Access
  • The Right to Fair Credit Practices

I have a suggestion, let’s go back to basics. How does that look? How would it work?

Going back to basics is looking at lending institutions with a vested interest in your business success. Take your money out of the major banks and begin looking at partnering with your local, community bank. Another back to basic move would be to look into crowdfunding programs like KIVA. Or borrow from family and friends and if they need an incentive consider revenue sharing or providing them a share in the business.

Lauren Stebbins, Vice President of Small Business Initiatives, Opportunity Finance Network provided several other back to basic resources that can be beneficial to business owners that are seeking the necessary technical assistance and programs to help finance their needs:

Remember, as a small business owner you must continue to make your voice heard and to stay up to date on small business issues by reaching out to these organizations and your Senators now:

Once again I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and for your support.  If you have a concern or issue that you would like for me to talk about on your behalf within the near future please feel free to contact me.

“Don’t just stand by, be a part of the conversation.” Vernita Naylor

Vernita Naylor
Founder/Owner, Jabez Enterprise Group (JEGroup)
Small Business Ambassador Since 2001
services@jabezenterprisegroup.com
www.jabezenterprisegroup.com

 

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Top 100 at Google Washington, D.C. (Series 7)

Google Washington, D.C.

I wanted to save Google for last because their presence was felt and known throughout our three days in Washington, D.C. so welcome to Series 7. I was shocked to learn that they had a Google Washington, D.C. office and it was beautifully set up. On Day 2 we ended the day with a Google hosted Awards Program and Reception. This was such a great treat because not only were we able to get a chance to visit one of their many offices but we got a chance to celebrate the success of three businesses as they received the 2015 Small Business Award. Please join us in celebrating with Virginia McAllister, Iron Horse Architects who received the Technological Innovation Award; Chancee Lundy and Veronica Davis, Nspiregreen who received the Community Development Award and Beverly Hanstrom, Colorado Medical Waste who received the Sustainability Award. Congratulations ladies for helping to make this world a better, greener and sustainable place to live. If you want to read more about these ladies click here. Afterwards the party was on with great networking, music and excellent food. What a great way to end a business day.

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At the end of Day 3 we attended a Google Technology Training. The training “Let’s Put Our Cities On The Map” is designed to help business owners maximize their online presence with insider tips and best practices for online marketing. Here’s an overview about the training and how the program works visit https://www.gybo.com/business. On the business page you will see either “Check My Business” or see a search box with “Does Your Business Info Show Up On Google?” enter your business name and city. Your entry will determine if you already have a business presence on Google Maps. If so your information will populate quickly like Jabez Enterprise Group (JEGroup) did then you will have the ability to edit the information if needed.

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If your business does not currently exist on Google Maps you will see “Your Business Isn’t On The Map” then you will have the ability to add your business name and city. Once you have taken these steps you are on your way to enhancing your online presence using Google. In some cities you may have the opportunity to attend a Google Hosted Event designed to help you leverage your business online, create a free website and much more. If you are a business owner and interested in learning how Google can help you grow your business there are a wide array of tools and/or resources available visit Google Apps for Work.

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If you are one of the Business Capacity Building Partners such as SCORE, SBDC or one of the Chambers of Commerce there is a program designed for you visit https://www.gybo.com/partners. As a part of this effort your organization will be considered a Google Official City Partner where you will have the ability to help businesses within your area to scale up and maximize their online presence with free resources and hosted workshops using Google tools. As business owners there are a lot of tools and resources available to help us in our businesses ask for a referral in your network or social group.

Once again thanks to John Arensmeyer, the Small Business Majority team and Google for such a great wealth of information, networking and the opportunity to be chosen as one of the Top 100 Small Pioneering Businesses Nationwide. This is our last series of the Small Business Leadership Summit and if you missed any of the Summit Series you still have time to catch up: Small Business Leadership Summit Mixer (Series 1), Access to Capital (Series 2), Technology and Minority Entrepreneurship (Series 3), Taxes and the Economy (Series 4), Chat with Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) (Series 5) and Summit at The White House (Series 6). If you have any comments and/or questions about the Small Business Leadership Summit 7-Part Series please contact us at services@jabezenterprisegroup.com.

Connect with us @JEGroupBiz on Twitter, or Jabez Enterprise Group on LinkedIn or Facebook to see what we are doing next or to see your post. For economic development for your business’ growth pick up your copy of Get the Cheese, Avoid the Traps: An Interactive Guide to Government Contracting today in paperback or on Kindle.

If you need a consultant to help take you to the next level in your business or need some training on supplier certification programs, building supplier-buyer-prime relationships or on government contracting call us at 1-800-865-0701 or email services@jabezenterprisegroup.com remember these services are designed to help you with your ideal corporate or government partners.

We appreciate you taking the time to connect with us and look forward to connecting with you again soon.

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Vernita Naylor Founder/Owner Jabez Enterprise Group  (JEGroup)
Author, Get the Cheese, Avoid the Traps

All photos courtesy of Vernita Naylor, Jabez Enterprise Group (JEGroup) Unless Otherwise Noted.

Technology and Minority Entrepreneurship (Series 3)

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Minority Entrepreneurship Panel (Breakout Session)

SERIES 3 – DAY 2 NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
Technology and Minority Entrepreneurship

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Minority Entrepreneurship Breakout Session Attendees

Day 2 at the Summit continues after our morning panel: Access to Capital (Series 2). If you haven’t read Access to Capital (Series 2) yet please make sure that you do so because you are missing a treat. Next, as we move on to Series 3 you will hear about our breakout sessions. We had a plethora of morning and afternoon breakout sessions to choose from they ranged from Women’s Entrepreneurship, New Capital Opportunities: Crowdfunding, Freelance and Micro-Enterprise Economy, Workforce and Technology to Minority Entrepreneurship. These intimate specialized sessions were instrumental to us as business owners because they gave us the ability to work in small, concentrated groups to allow us an opportunity to voice our concerns.

In this series you will hear about the Minority Entrepreneurship and Technology Breakout Sessions that were personal to business owners Michelle and Todd Trotter of Trotter Industries, LLC and Remy Meraz of Maven Experience respectively. Michelle and Todd Trotter attended the Minority Entrepreneurship session which was facilitated by Rhea Aguinaldo, Manager of Entrepreneurship/Northern CA Outreach Manager (Small Business Majority); Christine Chin Ryan (Synergy Consulting, Inc); Marcia Davalos, National Hispanic Outreach Manager/Southern California Outreach Manager (Small Business Majority) and Tim Gaudette Colorado Outreach Manager (Small Business Majority).

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Michelle and Todd Trotter (Trotter Industries, LLC) Photo Courtesy: Trotter Industries, LLC

The Trotters had the opportunity to provide their experience as being a subcontractor in the janitorial industry. For them having the ability to have their voices heard was paramount for them in moving forward in their business. Access to government contracts is a concern of Samuel Hughes, President, Capital Real Estate Group, in his letter to me for the Summit. We hope that in hearing about the Trotter’s experience, as well as some tips from me will not only help Sam but you the reader in leverage this information:

We attended the Minority Entrepreneurship break out session and during the session the panel asked a question about bidding practices and what were some of the issues that we had experienced. We told them that the Janitorial Service industry has high competition, and we noticed that the same company always got the bid award every time the contract was up for renewal and/or bid. We’re inclined to think that maybe someone is getting paid under the table because this particular company has been awarded the same contract for 25 years. It’s unfair that we are certified as a minority business and we still have not been able to get awarded this contract. We provide quality services and this should mean something, not how much you can pay to get the contract.   We are the subcontractor for the prime and we do all of the work but do not get credit for it! As a subcontractor under this prime we buy all of the supplies to get the job done! After all that’s what’s done as a subcontractor, we were not given the opportunity to be a prime because the buyer believes that we are not big enough. Little does the buyer know is that we have the ability to operate as a prime because we are actually already doing it. We believe that this needs to change by giving more opportunities to subcontractors after they have been working on a contract with a prime after a few years.

We appreciated Michelle and Todd Trotter, Trotter Industries, LLC for taking out the time from their busy schedules to tell us about their experience at the Small Business Leadership Summit 2015. If you want to know more about them visit them at http://www.trotterindustries.net/, email trottermilwk@aol.com or call 414-446-1604.

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself to help leverage your business and to gain access to contracts with both government and corporate entities:

  1. Who are your top three ideal customer(s)?
  2. Do you know what it takes to partner with them (i.e. supplier diversity certification)?
  3. Do you have the products or services that interest them?
  4. Can you provide solutions for them with your products or services?
  5. Can you successfully provide the deliverables as required (i.e. local, State, regional or national)?
  6. How do you establish a relationship with your ideal customer(s) (i.e. call, register, etc)?
  7. Do you have a solid capability statement?

First, if you are unable to fully answer any of the questions thoroughly then you need to begin working from there. Secondly, like Marcus Lemonis (The Profit) says People, Process and Product determines your capabilities as a business owner. Lastly, people do business with those that they trust; this is why referrals and word-of-mouth is so effective in anything from philanthropy efforts, getting a job and choosing a restaurant to a vacation destination. Trust and relationships are instrumental in getting a contract just like anything else in life.

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Technology Breakout Session Photo Courtesy: Remy Meraz (Maven Experience)

Next, is the Technology Breakout session the panel included Jenny Backus, Google, Head of Strategic Outreach & Engagement; Senior Policy Advisor and Zachary Davis, The Glass Jar. Now let’s hear from Remy Meraz of Maven Experience as she tells us what the Technology session taught her as an ecommerce business owner:

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Remy Meraz (Maven Experience) Photo Courtesy: Remy Meraz (Maven Experience)

The biggest challenge I have faced as a tech startup is the lack of variety in Internet providers in my region and the unreliability of the telecommunications infrastructure in the US.   After doing some research, I have come to understand that the reason for this can be traced back to the laws currently in place.  Prior to launching my company, the Maven Experience, an online education and entertainment company, I never gave much thought to the importance of information technology services and/or providers. In fact, I took it for granted. When I worked in corporate, I had the convenience of relying on the IT department of the company I worked for. Now, when I have a service related issues, I must deal with my Internet provider, who are not always the most reliable or responsive to my needs. Now that I am running a startup that relies 100% on the Internet to operate and generate revenue, that telecom infrastructure has become a vital organ to scaling our business successfully.  Slow or zero access to the Internet can literally paralyze our operations for hours or days at a time, something we’ve experienced on a regular basis since launching in April.    It was encouraging to see that Google and policymakers have invested interest in the technology needs of small businesses.  Participating in the Technology breakout session has allowed me to look at and explore the laws and policies surrounding technology, telecommunications, and e-commerce and their effects on small businesses.  As small businesses continue to voice their needs, I hope the laws of our nation will evolve accordingly. The digital economy is here to stay and it is evolving at a rapid rate, quicker than the laws and policies are able to keep up.  It’s time for our policymakers to make this a priority. 

In the article it was mentioned about Google having a vested interest in helping small businesses and they are doing so with their introduction of Google Fiber. Google Fiber offers fast internet speed up to 1 gigabyte for about $100 per month. To find out more about Google Fiber or to see if the services are located in your area click here https://fiber.google.com/smallbusiness/.

If anyone is interested in learning more about Remy Meraz, Maven Experience visit www.mavenexperience.com, email remy@mavenexperience.com, or call 619.977.9626. You can also connect with her at Twitter: @remymeraz | @mavenexperience Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/themavenexperience.

What are some of your thoughts on the access to government or corporate contracts or prime vs subcontractor relationships? How has technology affected your business? We would love to hear from you? Of all of the submittals we will choose a few comments to post, will it be yours?

Connect with us @JEGroupBiz on Twitter, or Jabez Enterprise Group on LinkedIn or Facebook to see what we are doing next or to see your post. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Get the Cheese, Avoid the Traps: An Interactive Guide to Government Contracting today.  

VNaylor Original 1 Cheek Cup_MG_1853 3.12.14 (Dawson Imagery)
Photo Courtesy: Dawson Imagery

Vernita Naylor
Founder/Owner Jabez Enterprise Group  (JEGroup)
Author, Get the Cheese, Avoid the Traps

All photos courtesy of Vernita Naylor, Jabez Enterprise Group (JEGroup) Unless Otherwise Noted.