Last night was time to confront Cash Flow in the 15-week entrepreneurial training course I teach for the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) in White Plains, NY. It’s always the class that gives everyone headaches and anxiety attacks…and even the big jar of chocolate coins I bring along to “sweeten the pot” doesn’t help.
Having a business idea is the fun part. Figuring out what it will earn….not so much. But it’s so important to track your start up expenses, overhead and other costs, and figure out exactly what you need this business to do for you financially. Is it going to simply cover the “extras” in your household, or is this going to be a serious income that keeps your household afloat. I always say, cash flow is no different than budgeting for your household expenses…no different than balancing a checkbook. You know what bills are coming up…you know what money is coming in… and whether you’ll have enough to pay them, with ideally, some cash left over. Same principle with cash flow. If you take time to periodically plan your business spending and earning goals, you’ll have money in your pocket. And I don’t mean chocolate coins!
It’s not often that I get the chance to trade in my boring yogurt-at-my-desk lunch for a 3-course meal at Abigail Kirsh’s Tappan Hill Restaurant in Tarrytown, New York. But last Friday, I shared amazing food with some amazing women at WEDC’s annual spring luncheon and microenterprise fair. For those of you unfamiliar with WEDC (which stands for Women’s Enterprise Development Center), its mission is to encourage entrepreneurship in and around Westchester County, New York, through training programs, support services and microenterprise funding opportunities. I am lucky enough to be a WEDC trainer, and I teach their 15-week Entrepreneurial Training Program in the spring and fall.
The luncheon is always the highlight of the season, offering an opportunity to network with other business women, hear inspirational advice from the featured speakers, and catch up with former students (like Tsahai Martin-Wright of Shima & Sahai and Kim Jones of Urban Tranquility, who both exhibited their products at the microenterprise fair beforehand.
But this year’s WEDC event was extra-special because it included the inaugural presentation of the LEAP Awards, micro grants made possible by local philanthropist Patricia Lanza. They were awarded to qualifying women entrepreneurs who have completed WEDC training; and I was thrilled to learn that two of the LEAP award winners were from my current class! I was a proud mama as I gathered with other students to cheer on these inspirational ladies.
Margie Nugent, of Making Faces Parties, had to rebuild her life after arriving in a domestic violence shelter with 2 little boys and just $20 in her pocket. She always dreamed of owning a business that tapped into her artistic abilities and degrees from FIT. In 2009, she launched Making Faces Parties, an entertainment company offering a variety of body art services. The business—run on nights and weekends—supplements her fulltime job working in a school, and was profitable in its first year. Margie will use her grant money to purchase more equipment, get additional training, and exhibit at body painting competitions to broaden her exposure.
Jenifer Ross, of W@tercooler, spotted the emerging trend of co-working, and is capitalizing on it. W@tercooler is a collaborative office space in historic Tarrytown, New York, available for part-time or fulltime rental to entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other mobile workers. But this is no ordinary office suite rental place. Jenifer’s space is unique because members work side by side in a shared loft-like setting, gaining a sense of community and a place to exchange ideas. The open floor plan has a variety of options—private desks, shared desks or tables, and a lounge area—with access to a shared kitchen, a private phone booth, and a state of the art conference room. All members enjoy complimentary WiFi, faxing, printing, and coffee. And (in a move that I think is sheer genius), clerical help is available through the intern program Jenifer has established with her local high school. If you’re in the Westchester area and need an alternative to working in your lonely home office, come check it out. You may just see me there! (Look for me with my laptop on that cool settee)! Jenifer is using her grant money to build a deck overlooking the Hudson River, providing members with yet another scenic and collaborative place to work.
Other LEAP award winners included:
•Cary and Meryl Gabeler, a mom-daughter team who run Anjolie Ayurveda, organic soaps imported from India.
•Beatriz Messina, of BM Consulting of New York, a proposal writing and project management firm
•Juana Pinyol, who launched Details Custom Cleaning Services, a residential cleaning service which uses green products.
•Beverly Turner, of Casaco, Inc., which provides financial literacy and home ownership counseling.
•Maria Valente, of Chocolations, a chocolate shop and café (and the only chocolate factory in Westchester County, NY!)
If you’re in the Westchester, NY area, check WEDC out. If you’re not, research the women’s business development groups or other SBA-funded organizations in your community. Organizations like these are a great resource for support, networking, and training. And sometimes they even provide a nice alternative to eating lunch at your desk!
This Fall, I will once again be teaching the 15-week entrepreneurship class for the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) in Westchester County, New York. As an instructor, I attend many training meetings to get ready for the upcoming semester, and a recent one focused on financing. Lending officers from TD Bank revealed their strategies for securing a business loan. I thought I’d share what I learned, since the tips are helpful for anyone contemplating a loan—whether now or in the future. Keep in mind, however, that it is still very difficult for start-ups to get loans. Banks want to know that you’re established, with proven ability to earn revenue and pay back debts. But if you’ve been in business at least 2 years, and can document your growth potential, you will have a better chance at getting financing.
Here’s what banks will expect from you.
A Business Plan. Banks need to understand your business, industry, profitability and growth potential. Provide them with a detailed business plan that gives them a clear sense of what you do, who your customers are and how much money the company earns. It should include: A Mission Statement describing your products or services; business structure (sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, or corporation); management plan (who runs the company); short- and long-term goals; marketing plan; operational plan; pricing, costs, and financial projections. You can find business plan templates at the SBA.
Financials & Tax Returns. Provide 2 years of current tax returns, and a financial statement showing cash flow projections for at least 2 years. Include all revenues (gross and net sales and gross profit) and expenses (advertising, rent, equipment/supplies, utilities, etc.). Don’t forget to factor in your loan payments. TD Bank has a great calculator you can use for figuring out payments:
And for more general guidelines on figuring out financials, go to the latter part of this SBA template.
A two-year track record. Businesses should be at least 2 years old and profitable.
A vested interest. Banks won’t lend more than 80% of what you need. They want to know that you can provide 20% of the equity, so that you are financially committed to growing the business. Banks also want collateral—something of greater or equal value to the loan that can be taken in the event you are unable to make payments (like a car, business equipment, or commercial or residential real estate etc.). If you have no collateral other than your house, think carefully about that loan, and consider other ways of funding your business.
Good personal credit. Banks want to know that you have already demonstrated the ability to handle debt responsibly and pay it off on a timely basis. Check your credit rating; free reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com. Even if you are not pursuing a loan right now, it pays to clean up your credit history if it’s less than stellar. That way you will be considered a good risk when you are ready to approach banks.
For more loan packaging tips, check out this SBA article.
Hello folks! I’ll get the “news” stuff and links out of the way then I think it’s time for a year in review don’t you?
http://tobtr.com/s/709444 (Radio interview will Heath, follow Shark Tank Alumni with Pork Barrel BBQ)
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/inventRight/2009/09/30/Interview-With-Leslie-Haywood–Regarding-Appearance-On-ABCs-Shark-Tank (Radio interview with Steven Key)
To listen to behind the scenes commentary on Shark Tank about Grill Charms, hit play: http://www.daymondjohn.com/power_journal/grill-charms-commentary-part-1/ THIS IS REALLY COOL! Daymond gives a total behind the scenes view of Shark Tank.
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xbnrek_grill-charms-the-ultimate-grill-gad_school Video from @The_Grilldog
I’m not really sure what to say about 2009 other then… It was “Interesting”. I feel like I not even remotely the same person I was 1 year ago in just about every aspect of my life. My first year on the market (2008) I felt like I was really just dipping my toes in the entrepreneurial waters. I made sales calls on stores, tried to build up my brand and gain some product awareness. 2009 I really jumped in with both feet. I did my first tradeshow in January then a second (one of the largest in the housewares industry) in March. I secured my biggest wholesale account and due them going into bankruptcy, lost that same biggest account. I more than tripled the amount of stores I was in and to my surprise actually turned a profit for 2009. (which is almost unheard of 2nd year after launch!) I had the biggest triumph in my professional career with Shark Tank and was devastated by the worst personal tragedy of my life. It has been a complete whirlwind of emotions, new experiences, excitement and grief all rolled into 1 little package called 2009. Looking at where I started January 1st it seems like 2009 was MUCH longer than 365 days. I’m more experienced, more jaded, more hopeful and more hopeless. I’m more appreciative of the life I have and in the same breath a little bitter and hardened by the cold hard facts of it all. If you were to ask me 1 word that best describes 2009, it’d say it was “growth”, in every sense of the word.
Leslie Haywood, Founder and President of Charmed Life Products, Inventor of Grill Charms™ www.grillcharms.com
A customer testimonial is key in a PR program because it’s one of the most powerful marketing tools out there.
Customers raving about your company gives you third-party credibility – which is so important for small businesses. Potential buyers are more likely to believe a customer talking about their experience than a slickly written brochure or ad. A testimonial tells other people that they can trust your business and that you offer a quality product or service.
So how do you get them?
1. Make it easy for them to say Yes
Most people hate writing so non-urgent tasks will get put on the bottom of their list. You’ll have to make it so simple, they have to say yes. See if anyone has emails to you with something nice to say and ask if you can use it.
2. Ask them a few questions by email or phone, such as:
• What did you like about our product or service?
• How can we make it even better?
• Would you recommend our company to others?
3. Offer a freebie
If they’re already fans of your company, they’d love more of your stuff! Offer a few customers a freebie (pick some you’ve already interacted positively with) to answer the questions listed above.
4. Ask your friends and supporters
If your business just got off the ground or haven’t made any sales yet, let several of your friends try your product or service for free. If they honestly like it, ask them if they’ll write a testimonial you can use in your marketing. To be really useful, pick those that are in your target market.
I know it may be hard to ask, but in my experience, most people are incredibly helpful and more than willing to give testimonials to help you succeed in getting PR for your company. Of course, always make sure you ask permission to use someone’s testimonial in your marketing materials!