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Q&A Session with Black Cooperative Investment Fund Executive Director—Kaine Nicholas

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Q&A with Kaine Nicholas, Executive Director of Black Cooperative Investment Fund

By Josaline Cuesta, Small Business Majority, Senior California Program Manager, and IEBJ Contributor

Why is financial literacy important for small business owners? What are the pillars of financial literacy?

Financial literacy is the comfort level one may have with topics related to money and its management. Financial literacy is critical to success, and it’s where everything begins for small business owners.  

At the beginning of a business venture, an entrepreneur can be cash-challenged and relatively inexperienced in practical business versus theory. It is important that while learning the business terrain, entrepreneurs have at the very least, a baseline of financial literacy to question documents and do calculations or have support to negotiate effective business terms. Any terms that are negotiated at the beginning of a venture can significantly affect the projections or the valuation of a business. These effects can vary widely, depending on the comfort level of financial literacy. 

The pillars of financial literacy are banking, budgeting, saving, credit, debt, and investing. What matters most to small business owners is budgeting, banking, and credit, and we recommend focusing on that order for small business owners. Understanding the numbers, having the assets with banking partners that can offer solutions, and building business and personal credit are all imperative to small business owners. BCIF and its trusted partner, AmPac Business Capital can help everyone gain a firm awareness of these pillars.

What’s needed to create a strong financial plan?

What is needed to make a strong financial plan is the actions that happen alongside writing the actual financial plan. While one may be uncertain of the “hockey stick” or optimistic revenue, what people can control is the cost. Know those costs and how they change in a good, better, or best scenario to keep you prepared.  

No one likes surprises. There is security and comfort in knowing that costs are consistent and predictable. Spend time conducting the research and use due diligence so that you and the financial partners understand the financial plan and financial statements. 

What’s in a business plan, and why is having one essential for a small business owner? 

A business plan is a document that, at its most basic level, can help small business owners navigate the who, what, where, why, and how to generate income with a product or service. The business plan tells the reader that this “document” is your prototype on paper. The business plan also helps readers understand the basic valuation of your business. 

If your business plan is on paper, does it articulate the vision, or is it a requirement for a loan program? The business plan is important because it represents as the creator of the business. Thinking business out on paper can reduce mistakes in real-world execution.  

What’s the best way to document and share major changes to a business plan with your financial advisor and employees, such as becoming a corporation or expanding to another state? 

Ensure the establishment of company meetings and hold them routinely, preferably with quarterly updates. This allows stakeholders to receive firm-wide public information and establishes communication between leadership, management, and employees. 

What are some tips for thinking strategically about cash flow?  

One tip is to understand what is in the pipeline and/or accounts receivables and monitor subscriber trends to your products or solutions. When I ask business owners how their business is doing, they usually respond with, “it’s going well.”  And I always ask myself, what does that really mean, and is the owner aware of the items that support healthy cash flow?

Is a personal credit score relevant to small business success? What defines a “good credit score” and how can you maintain one?

Personal credit is relevant to businesses at the earlier stages of a business. If used correctly, one should leverage good credit and create business credit as soon as possible. Personal credit and business credit are created differently and operate differently. That difference can be critical to accessing capital. Unfortunately, a “good credit score” is not universal. We recommend owners investigate the potential creditor by asking what numerical score and credit history on the credit report will produce a favorable outcome. A credit score and credit report are two components that contribute to a sizable credit decision. With that information, the small business owners have a credit “road map.” What is most important is that the business owner is proactive in the credit conversation. One can maintain and learn more with one of BCIF’s trusted partners, AmPac Business Capital.  

What are the top three easy-to-navigate business loans for a startup business? Do the types of loans that are needed change in your 2nd or 3rd year of business?

The top and the easiest loan is a zero-interest loan based on an alternative way of evaluating personal credit and traditional risk models. If one can find a small business loan that targets a certain demographic or type of business, that should be extremely helpful. Third, look for a small business loan that can be forgiven. 

The types of loans that could change in your second or third year of business can be tricky. Business success and loan/funding gaps require careful consideration, but most important, predictability. 

How will I know that a financial literacy resource is proven and credible?

Financial literacy is a journey. One way to affirm credibility is to compare it to your financial situation. Always have a backup resource for validation.

How can the average entrepreneur improve their financial literacy?

This is an important and critical question that I will answer in an alternative, more direct way. I strongly recommend these three words as ways to improve personal and business financial literacy:

  • Curiosity
  • Humility
  • Discipline

Start with opening your mail and being curious about the words that you do not understand in your statements. Call the service number and ask the person to explain what these words mean regarding your account. It sounds simple, but it truly is a free lesson that benefits your personal or professional situation. The information is memorable because the asker is learning even when configuring the question. (Do not forget your tax person or accountant.   They are your resources).

Humility helps your behavior when you ask a question, and you partially know the answer, but you ask questions to attain mastery.  

Lastly, you must be disciplined and determined when you call the service line or account representative when you do not fully understand a financial term. Do not feel like you are wasting their time asking basic questions. If they have chosen to do business, service your needs, or hold your money, you are only using your mutual rights within the relationship. 

What is the best way to stay abreast of COVID relief funds and resources in the Inland Empire area?

Contact the Black Cooperative Investment Fund (BCIF) at www.bcifund.org, 310-904-6336, reach out to our partner, AmPac Business Capital at www.ampac.com, or visit Venturize: https://venturize.org/—Small Business Majority’s free online resource hub for small business owners who need help accessing tools and resources to grow their businesses.

Josaline Cuesta manages the execution of Small Business Majority’s programs and initiatives throughout the state of California in collaboration with the California team. Additionally, she directs the organization's Southern California office and develops and fosters strong relationships with business organizations, community organizations, and policymakers. Before joining Small Business Majority, Josaline worked in the private and public sectors for almost two decades. Most recently Josaline led community engagement initiatives and large-scale outreach programs for local government. She has also directed office operations for a state elected official and spearheaded the creation of a customer service department for an online startup company. In her spare time, she serves on the boards of Girls on the Run Riverside County and the Riverside County Parks Foundation.

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Banking & Financial Services

2024 Inland Empire Financial Summit: A Milestone in Economic Empowerment

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Uniting Leaders and Innovators for a Thriving Economic Future in Southern California’s Inland Region

The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce proudly announces the resounding success of the 2024 Financial Industry Update, a landmark event that convened key figures in California’s financial sector. Held on January 18, 2024, at the Ontario International Airport Authority Conference Center, this summit marked a significant moment for economic empowerment and collaboration in the region.

California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, the keynote speaker, expressed her admiration for the region’s financial community: “As State Treasurer, I find constant inspiration in California’s vibrant financial community. The 2024 Financial Industry Update event highlighted not only the dynamic Inland Empire economic landscape but also emphasized the crucial role of collaboration and forward-thinking in our sector. The meaningful discussions and connections formed here reflect our collective dedication to fostering a resilient and prosperous financial future for California. Proud to contribute to this vital conversation, I eagerly anticipate witnessing the positive impacts of our shared efforts unfold statewide.”

Ivo A. Tjan, Chairman, President & CEO of CommerceWest Bank, shared his enthusiasm: “It was an honor to be invited as a guest speaker. The IE has a strong, diversified, and robust business community that is an important economic engine for California. CommerceWest Bank is excited to continue supporting local businesses in the IE and expanding our footprint.”

Hilda Kennedy, President & Founder of AmPac Business Capital, praised the event’s impact: “The Inland Empire Chamber did it again! They brought relevant, high-level content to help businesses plan for success in 2024. State Treasurer Fiona Ma and Ivo Tjan were exceptional! I agree with State Treasurer Ma, the Inland Empire region will save California.”

Christina Scranage, Business Development Manager at Keystone Advanced Solutions, reflected on the event’s value: “Grateful for the insightful conference today! The speakers provided valuable information, making me optimistic about our community’s economic outlook. Huge thanks to everyone involved for such an informative and helpful event!”

The event was highlighted by the participation of industry leaders who provided invaluable insights into the region’s economic landscape. The Financial Industry Update served as a crucial platform for networking, knowledge sharing, and exploring the challenges and opportunities facing the financial sector in the Inland Empire and beyond.

For more information about the event and the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, visit www.iechamber.org.

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Banking & Financial Services

All Eyes On The Fed… But Will It Change The US Forecast?

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Federal Reserve Policies At The Root Of Recent Bank Collapses; California: A Better Recovery Than We Thought!

The recession forecasted by so many still hasn’t shown up and is looking less and less likely to anytime soon, according to Beacon Economics‘ latest outlook for the United States and California. Moreover, the recent bank failures that have been capturing headlines are being ‘wrongly viewed’ as heralding a coming downturn, something that misses the actual drivers behind the collapses and that key economic data refutes.

“These bank failures are not a reflection of an unhealthy U.S. economy, they are all about Federal Reserve policy,” said Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Sad by true; the body that is supposed to be the wise shepherd of the nation’s banking system is largely responsible for creating the very stressors that caused Silicon Valley Bank to fail, and the run on others to begin.”

According to the outlook, the U.S. banking system, overall, is the victim of quixotic and rapid changes in Fed policy over the last three years as they have tried to maintain both full employment and price stability – which can be mutually exclusive. “In their existential panic over full employment during the pandemic, the Fed destabilized prices by injecting historic amounts of cash into the economy; in their existential panic over price instability, they destabilized the banking system through interest rate increases,” said Thornberg.

The new outlook acknowledges that the sudden crosscurrents from the bank failures have made the forecast fuzzier because stress in the banking system will eventually show up in the broader economy in the form of tightening credit. However, the new forecast does not believe those stressors, on their own, will rise to the level of a recession. “Cash is still king in the U.S. economy,” said Thornberg. “But if the Fed decides to continue raising interest rates in its quest to slow inflation, it will do more damage to the bank credit industry and that will trigger negative consequences for the overall economy.”

Assuming the Fed slows their roll, which they’ve shown some signs of doing, Beacon Economics is expecting slow growth and no recession in the near-term future. The forecast has real U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter coming in between 1% and 2%, although the margin of error has increased given the policy uncertainty.

In terms of the macro economy, the new outlook points to copious evidence of its health: unemployment in the nation remains rock bottom, consumer spending continues despite inflation, earnings growth is still running above 6% for the median worker, U.S. household net worth remains 30% ($30 trillion) higher than it was pre-pandemic, banks are not experiencing an increase in problem loans, and interest rates have started to stabilize causing asset markets to do the same.

In California, the news grew rosier this month after the state released its annual employment revisions, although a declining workforce continues to hamper economic growth. The revision shows that California recovered more and faster from the pandemic’s job losses than previously estimated: There are 197,000 more people employed in the state today than there were pre-pandemic. The original estimates had the gain at a mere 70,000.

However, in terms of the percentage increase, California’s job growth has been about five times slower than states such as Florida and Texas. “The underperformance we’ve seen is certainly not due to any unwillingness on the part of the state’s employers to hire workers,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Rather, California’s labor force contracted during the pandemic and there are well over 300,000 fewer workers in the state today than there were before COVID hit; there are simply not enough workers to fill the number of job openings.”

Deeply linked to its declining workforce is California’s famously expensive housing market, where prices surged an astounding 41% during the early days of the pandemic. Today, higher interest rates have led to a collapse in demand and home sales have returned to their pre-pandemic trough. However, home prices remain 27% above where they were pre-pandemic and the new forecast only expects them to fall by 6.3% in 2023. “Given California’s acute long-term housing shortage, it’s not surprising that price drops will be limited,” said Osman. “And this isn’t anything like the Great Recession because consumer balance sheets are so much stronger today and unemployment rates are at all-time lows.”

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Banking & Financial Services

Why the Bank Failures Don’t Change the Economic Outlook (Mostly); Recession Remains Unlikely in 2023, Says Leading Forecast

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Federal Reserve Policies At The Root Of Recent Bank Collapses; California: A Better Recovery Than We Thought!

The recession forecasted by so many still hasn’t shown up and is looking less and less likely to anytime soon, according to Beacon Economics‘ latest outlook for the United States and California. Moreover, the recent bank failures that have been capturing headlines are being ‘wrongly viewed’ as heralding a coming downturn, something that misses the actual drivers behind the collapses and that key economic data refutes.

“These bank failures are not a reflection of an unhealthy U.S. economy, they are all about Federal Reserve policy,” said Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Sad by true; the body that is supposed to be the wise shepherd of the nation’s banking system is largely responsible for creating the very stressors that caused Silicon Valley Bank to fail, and the run on others to begin.”

According to the outlook, the U.S. banking system, overall, is the victim of quixotic and rapid changes in Fed policy over the last three years as they have tried to maintain both full employment and price stability – which can be mutually exclusive. “In their existential panic over full employment during the pandemic, the Fed destabilized prices by injecting historic amounts of cash into the economy; in their existential panic over price instability, they destabilized the banking system through interest rate increases,” said Thornberg.

The new outlook acknowledges that the sudden crosscurrents from the bank failures have made the forecast fuzzier because stress in the banking system will eventually show up in the broader economy in the form of tightening credit. However, the new forecast does not believe those stressors, on their own, will rise to the level of a recession. “Cash is still king in the U.S. economy,” said Thornberg. “But if the Fed decides to continue raising interest rates in its quest to slow inflation, it will do more damage to the bank credit industry and that will trigger negative consequences for the overall economy.”

Assuming the Fed slows their roll, which they’ve shown some signs of doing, Beacon Economics is expecting slow growth and no recession in the near-term future. The forecast has real U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter coming in between 1% and 2%, although the margin of error has increased given the policy uncertainty.

In terms of the macro economy, the new outlook points to copious evidence of its health: unemployment in the nation remains rock bottom, consumer spending continues despite inflation, earnings growth is still running above 6% for the median worker, U.S. household net worth remains 30% ($30 trillion) higher than it was pre-pandemic, banks are not experiencing an increase in problem loans, and interest rates have started to stabilize causing asset markets to do the same.

In California, the news grew rosier this month after the state released its annual employment revisions, although a declining workforce continues to hamper economic growth. The revision shows that California recovered more and faster from the pandemic’s job losses than previously estimated: There are 197,000 more people employed in the state today than there were pre-pandemic. The original estimates had the gain at a mere 70,000.

However, in terms of the percentage increase, California’s job growth has been about five times slower than states such as Florida and Texas. “The underperformance we’ve seen is certainly not due to any unwillingness on the part of the state’s employers to hire workers,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Rather, California’s labor force contracted during the pandemic and there are well over 300,000 fewer workers in the state today than there were before COVID hit; there are simply not enough workers to fill the number of job openings.”

Deeply linked to its declining workforce is California’s famously expensive housing market, where prices surged an astounding 41% during the early days of the pandemic. Today, higher interest rates have led to a collapse in demand and home sales have returned to their pre-pandemic trough. However, home prices remain 27% above where they were pre-pandemic and the new forecast only expects them to fall by 6.3% in 2023. “Given California’s acute long-term housing shortage, it’s not surprising that price drops will be limited,” said Osman. “And this isn’t anything like the Great Recession because consumer balance sheets are so much stronger today and unemployment rates are at all-time lows.”

View the new The Beacon Outlook including full forecast tables here.

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