Jewish World Review April 24, 2001 / 2 Iyar, 5761
Small Business Advisor by Paul Tulenko
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- LET'S begin with some of the problems most micro-business aspirants have when they need funds for their business; problems that affect both men and women. Women are severely handicapped by how they answer questions and by their multi-tasking ability; but men have problems because of their laser-like focus and their inability to multi-task.
LOAN BARRIERS: Women have a major handicap in soliciting start-up or expansion funds for a micro-business because they tell the absolute truth.
For example, let's suppose a man and woman each want to obtain funds for a formal business start-up or expansion. Both have been 'doing' the business in their home for 12 years and both filed the legal paperwork to formalize their business two years ago. When asked by the credit-granting institution, "How long have you been in business?" the man answers: "Twelve years." The woman answers: "Two years." Both answers are 'correct', but the man will receive the credit or funding, and the woman won't.
Effective today, that's going to change. There are many organizations dedicated to helping women succeed in business. I especially want to compliment the Women's Business Centers. This Small Business Administration (SBA) outreach organization is dedicated to women's success in business and is a place where women can obtain excellent advice and caring mentoring. You can discover if this service is located near your town by checking: http://www.onlinewbc.gov, or by calling your nearby SBA office.
On the other hand, if a woman (or a man) only needs a micro-loan ($100 to $35,000), the cash doors that are open at the SBA to larger business opportunities are often shut to this small amount. And it does little good to go to your bank where all you will hear is: "Why don't you fund that with your credit card?" Many women only have had a credit card in their husband's name and have no personal credit history. When an attempt to access funds through the normal lending process is attempted; both men and women discover the highly discriminatory facts of loan analysis.
THE MONEY: American Express' small business services is issuing a new credit card called the Community Business Credit Card. At the end of each year (April 16, 2002, and subsequent years) they will donate one percent of cardholder spending for this one specific card to the three select groups named below to help them fund small businesses, both male and female owned. It's not your money; it comes from AE's profit. This card has the same sign-up requirements as any other card; it's just the vehicle AE is using to collect the money.
I have often been critical of American Express for their cavalier 'We Care (but not that much)' attitude; but this looks as if they are finally getting serious about helping the small and home-based businesses to get off and running. It probably has something to do with the fact that small businesses often grow into big businesses.
And if you switch cards you might tell your Visa, MasterCard, Discover or other card why you're changing; it could cause them to consider that this might be a good idea for them as well.
THE PLAYERS: These organizations will be recipients of the money donated by American Express:
- Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence, the first group we'll discuss, has a new scoring system to 'fix' the problem of how women answer questions. What they do is ask the question differently. For example, instead of asking, "How long have you been in business?" they might ask, "How long have you been doing this?" This would be answered by both male and female as, "Twelve years." This micro-loan lending and mentoring service is completely on-line, so you will need to make your contact at: http://www.count-me-in.org.
- ACCION helps low-income, self-employed people work their way up the economic ladder with dignity and pride. Their forte is mentoring, micro-loans and training. ACCION serves people in both Latin America and the United States, and will be expanding the network with the new funds. Check to see if it is in your city now, and how you can access services. Contact: http://www.accion.org.
- Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) is a national association
dedicated to micro-enterprise development. Many of their members
focus on improving opportunities in the African-American, Asian
American, Native American, disability and other minority communities.
To find out more about these specific organizations, go to:
Paul Tulenko is the coordinator of the Small Business Development Center in Albuquerque, N.M. Comment by clicking here.
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