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Tips, tools and resources for Black business owners looking to make a strong recovery in 2021

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OPINION

By: Geneva Rodgers — Vice President, Small Business Solutions Advisor, Bank of America

2020 was a challenging year for all. While small businesses nationwide faced unique obstacles brought on by the coronavirus, Black small business owners, in particular, have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic, with one study showing that half may not survive. Despite these challenges, our new research from Bank of America based on a survey of 300 Black business owners across the country found they remained resilient and flexible as they navigated through an evolving and uncertain business landscape. In response to the pandemic’s impacts, 48% of Black entrepreneurs retooled their operations – double that of the national average. Many Black business owners also found creative ways to reinvent themselves by developing new products or services and even more donated resources to support relief efforts in their local communities.

While it may be challenging to predict what exactly our path to economic recovery will look like, Black small businesses will play a significant role. Black entrepreneurs can take three steps to reignite growth and plan for financial success this year to support this vision.

Reevaluate your business plan given today’s environment. 

Due to changing landscapes and environments, it’s critical to evolve and adjust your business plan by mapping out key areas of need and growth and identifying any potential risk areas that you may have uncovered during the pandemic. Ask yourself, how did your business track last year against the projections you made heading into 2020? Are there successes from the second half of 2020 you can build on? What solutions worked best for your business as you managed the impact of the coronavirus? As we’re still in a time of uncertainty, err on the side of caution and ensure your plan allows room for evolution and adjustment as needed.   

Explore your financing options. 

Our team at Bank of America is taking steps to directly engage with minority business owners to ensure they have access to the tools and resources they need to secure funding. Our small business bankers will continue to support business owners as they navigate the Paycheck Protection Program process – as well as to discuss traditional loan product options to fit individual needs such as purchasing inventory, refinancing debt, or financing account receivables. When exploring financing options, a few questions to consider include: What goals have you identified in your business plan that require additional financing? Are you looking to boost your headcount? Did you have expansion plans that you held off on? Are any structural or technological enhancements needed in the coming year? Once you identify your goals for 2021 and beyond, sit down with your small business banker to determine the right financing solution for you.

Bankers can also help connect business owners who may not qualify for traditional bank financing to our network of CDFI partners across the country, working to increase access to capital for business owners who have historically faced barriers. Bank of America is the largest investor in CDFIs in the U.S., with more than $1.6 billion in loans and investments to over 250 CDFIs. We also recently committed $200 million to direct equity investments in Black- and Hispanic-Latino-owned businesses, to help supply growth capital and invest substantially in programs to create future entrepreneurs. 

Go digital. 

Businesses across the country have had to adjust their operations due to the public health crisis, including enhancing sanitation practices, changing primary revenue streams, and shifting sales from brick-and-mortar to online. As we continue to adhere to social distancing requirements, consider banking digitally to limit in-person interactions and free up time to remain focused on running your business. Connect with your banker on what digital options are available to you. For example, at Bank of America, we offer a full suite of small business digital capabilities, including Cash Flow Monitor, a no-cost dashboard that provides an easy way to manage, track and protect your business cash flow. 

The pandemic created unprecedented obstacles for Black small business owners, challenging them to find new and innovative ways to meet the needs of their businesses, employees, customers, and communities. Following the steps outlined above can help address whatever opportunities and challenges 2021 may bring. The news that is especially encouraging for the small business community in the Inland Empire is that our research found four-in-five Black entrepreneurs say that once we’re on the other side of the pandemic, they believe small business will return to being the backbone of the U.S. economy. We look forward to partnering with you and your business to make that a reality!

*This article is a guest post provided By Geneva Rodgers — Vice President, Small Business Solutions Advisor, Bank of America

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Banking & Financial Services

Falcon Wealth Planning To Celebrate 7 Year Anniversary With Ribbon Cutting Ceremony At Their New Location

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The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce (IERCC) is excited to announce their newest member, Falcon Wealth Planning, Inc. With that announcement comes a celebration, as the IERCC will be helping Falcon Wealth Planning celebrate their 7-year anniversary with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the grand opening of their new building on April 19, 2022.

For this special event, guests will be able to enjoy a meet and greet with Falcon Wealth Planning’s executive staff, high-quality networking, food, and drink, and most of all a great time. The ceremony will take place between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and include guest speakers from Gabriel Shahin, Principal at Falcon Wealth Planning, Inc., and Edward Ornelas, Jr., President, and CEO of Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Falcon Wealth Planning focuses heavily on tax planning and works with Certified Public Accountants so that you can breeze through tax season and plan today, avoiding stress during your retirement. With over 30 years of experience, they dedicate their services to preparing creative solutions tailored specifically to you.

The IERCC’s mission is to support and contribute to the interests of commerce and economic prosperity throughout Riverside County and San Bernardino County. They are a progressive, non-profit business organization striving to bring true value to their members, investors, sponsors, and community.

Together, they will be celebrating the grand opening of Falcon Wealth Planning’s new building located at 3400 Inland Empire Boulevard In Ontario, California, on April 19, 2022, starting at 4:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are free. It is highly recommended to register early, which you can do so by clicking here!

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact the IERCC at info@iechamber.org.

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Banking & Financial Services

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.

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Banking & Financial Services

Northwestern Mutual Grows Southern California Presence

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Company opens new office in Ontario, California

Northwestern Mutual, a financial security company focused on comprehensive financial planning through both insurance and investments, is announcing the opening of a new office in Ontario, California, at 3633 Inland Empire Blvd, Suite 790. 

“This expansion gives us the opportunity to build meaningful new relationships, offer career opportunities and meet a need for financial services in an underserved community,” said Matt Plocher, managing partner, Northwestern Mutual. “We’re looking forward to providing unmatched  financial guidance to our clients in Ontario and the surrounding communities and helping them  accomplish their financial goals.”  

The new office, led by Managing Director Amber Romo, was developed through a collaboration with the Northwestern Mutual distribution growth ventures team, a group focused on serving underpenetrated markets and competitive recruitment. It will offer financial planning services to the city’s underserved Hispanic and Asian communities. In addition, the office will identify opportunities for financial education and support of locally-owned businesses. 

“Our recruiting efforts will focus on diverse communities in Ontario, with an emphasis on area colleges and universities,” said Romo. “We’re excited to engage with the community and provide personalized planning solutions that will help put our new clients on the path to achieving their  financial dreams.”  

Romo will lead the Ontario office comprised of a diverse team of six financial professionals, all of whom live in Ontario or the surrounding area. The team plans to expand its presence in the community. 

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