NYC’s minority-owned businesses are confident of future growth

Nearly eight out of 10 minority business owners are confident that their companies will grow in the next 12 months, and more than six in 10 are optimistic about the economy's growth, according to a Biz2Credit survey of more than 1,500 small business owners conducted earlier this month. More than 60% of the respondents believe the U.S. economy will maintain its current expansion (38.3%) or grow faster than before (21.9%). Meanwhile, only 20% expect the economy to slow a little, while 13.1% felt as if we were headed towards a recession. "When the economy spiraled downwards quickly in 2008, our business actually went up because we have a very affordable product that's very comforting," said Sarita Ekya, owner of S'Mac, an eatery in Manhattan’s East Village specializing in macaroni and cheese. "Moving forward, our big thing is always to be able to get more repeat business and take on new customers, and we are confident in our product." Respondents were assertive about the overall health of their businesses. More than half (57.5%) of the respondents were very confident in their companies, and 19.3% were somewhat confident. Only 7.2% of those surveyed were not confident in their operations in the coming year. Many entrepreneurs in and around New York City have experienced growth in the last three years. Our local economy has steadily emerged from the Great Recession, and it is a great sign that there is such a high confidence in the economy. Business owners have been more willing to borrow money to expand their operations when they expect to see a return on their investments. These positive views of the economy reinforce a vision for growth. "A huge proponent of what my husband and I stand for as business owners is creating a working, living wage for people," added Ekya, a first-generation Indian entrepreneur who received funding through Biz2Credit to pay for equipment and renovation expenditures. "The fact that we're moving forward Continue Reading

Obama administration had a positive impact on NYC’s small businesses

President Obama recently delivered his final State of the Union speech and put a rosy spin on the current American economy. Such was not the case when Obama assumed office seven years ago. When Obama was elected, the economy had tanked and the Great Recession, which officially lasted approximately 18 months between 2007-2009, was underway. Shortly thereafter came the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial system. In New York City, the nation's financial hub, local unemployment rates peaked at 10.3% in February 2010. Further, small business lending suffered, especially at the bigger institutions. "The United States of America, right now has the strongest, most durable economy in the world," Obama said during his address to Congress and American citizens. "Anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline, is peddling fiction." He's right; the facts and figures support his statements on the current status of the economy. The national unemployment rate has fallen by more than half since exceeding 10% in October 2009. Further, the last two years of job growth have been the strongest in nearly two decades. Under the Obama Administration, more than 14 million jobs have been created through various government-funded programs, including the recent TechHire initiative, which made $100 million in grants available to help rapidly train more Americans for better-paying jobs. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York City's unemployment rate reached a seven-year low of 4.7% in October 2015, and a year-to-year comparison shows that private sector jobs in the metro area have grown by 2.8%. Biz2Credit's Small Business Lending Index, a monthly analysis of more than 1,000 small business loan requests, revealed that big banks ($10 billion-plus in assets) approved 23.1% of loans to small business owners in the New York metro area in December 2015. Continue Reading

Big banks are boosting loans to NYC small businesses

Summer is officially underway and as many businesses prepare for a prosperous season, we are seeing loan approval rates at historic highs amongst big banks and institutional investors. This bodes well for companies that requested funding in recent months and those still seeking investments for expansion plans or simply just to enhance their working capital. According to my company's latest research, big banks and institutional investors in the New York metro area continue to approve loans at new all-time highs. Biz2Credit's Small Business Lending Index, a monthly analysis of more than 1,000 small business loan requests, found that small business loan approval rates at big banks ($10 billion or more in assets) in the New York metro area are up one-tenth of a percent, improving to 23.4% in May 2016. Compare that to the national rate of 23.2%, an all-time Index high, and it's easy to understand the impact that mainstream banking institutions are having on entrepreneurs. Big banks' continued investments in technology enable small business lending to be more profitable and efficient for them. A streamlined process allows loans to be handled within days in comparison to weeks or even months in past years. This is a huge advantage to borrowers, who can get the funding needed quicker thus investing in their businesses and seeing faster results. As big banks such as Wells Fargo and JP Morgan increase their focuses on small business lending, competitors are noticing and will soon follow suit. In addition, the surge of institutional investors — non-bank lending organizations — on marketplace lending platforms has modernized the way entrepreneurs get low-cost funding. Institutional lenders in the New York metro area approved 62.9% of funding requests in May 2016. Institutional investors are very efficient with the loans they process, too, with very low loan default rates that make it a win-win situation for both Continue Reading

Gender gap for NYC’s female small business owners is narrowing

The Women's Business Ownership Act, passed by Congress in 1988, revolutionized the way female entrepreneurs were able to apply for a small business loan. Prior to that, it was a requirement for women to have a male relative or spouse co-sign for a business funding. Since then, female entrepreneurs have made tremendous progress. However, a gender gap reportedly still exists, and it is prominent in the New York metro area, according to a Biz2Credit study that examined more than 2,500 local companies. The analysis found that women-owned firms had lower annual revenues, credit scores, and loan approval rates than their male counterparts did in 2015. Average annual revenues for women-owned companies in New York were a healthy $265,373, but paled significantly in comparison to male business owners, which averaged approximately a half million dollars in annual revenue (approximately 60% higher). Women-owned companies also posted lower credit scores and higher loan default rates. In 2015, approximately 1.25% of women-owned companies nationwide defaulted on their loans, a lower figure than in 2014 (2.03%), but still higher than male-owned businesses in 2015 (0.66%). However, clear progress was made by women-owned companies, which had revenue figures that were 55% higher than the previous 12 months in a year-to-year comparison. Meanwhile, loan approval percentages for women-owned businesses increased over the last year. In comparison to national figures, women-owned companies are thriving in New York. Annual revenues, credit scores (606), loan approval rates and age of business (42) are all higher for women entrepreneurs in the metropolitan area than elsewhere. Under the direction of Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Small Business Authority has intensified its focus on mentoring female entrepreneurs at more than 100 women business centers nationwide, including locations in the Bronx and Queens. Further, the SBA's Women-Owned Federal Contracting Continue Reading

Despite volatile stock market, optimism is still high for NYC small businesses seeking loans

In the early part of this new year, the Dow Jones has plunged more than 1,000 points, reversing some of the economic progress that was made in 2015. Fortunately, this has not impacted small business finance as much as one might normally expect. Biz2Credit's Small Business Lending Index, a monthly analysis of more than 1,000 small business loan requests, showed that big banks ($10 billion-plus in assets) approved 22.9% of loan requests from small business owners in the New York metro area in January 2016, a drop of two-tenths of a percent in a month-by-month comparison. It marked just the second time in the last six months that big banks have experienced a decrease in small business loan approval rates. Still, more than one in five qualified companies that approach big banks for funding are being approved, which is substantially higher than during the doldrums of the recession. Big bank approvals have been above the 20% level for quite some time — since June 2014. Outside economic factors, such as stock market volatility and plummeting oil prices, can impact lending decisions. Uncertainty in the market often results in mainstream lending institutions' taking less risks. However, the positive news is that overall, the U.S. economy is in pretty good shape. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the national unemployment rate has dipped below 5% for the first time in eight years. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in New York City has been consistently lower than the national average. Moreover, an increased value of the U.S. dollar relative to other currencies has resulted in the investment in small business finance from various international funds. Further, the recent economic developments in China and other Asian countries have resulted in lower levels of growth, which leads more investors back to the U.S. marketplace. Institutional lenders — credit funds, insurance companies, family funds and other Continue Reading

Crunching numbers a crucial end-of-year step for small business owners

The end of the year is a critical time for small business owners to look at their accomplishments for the year that’s ending and set goals for the one ahead — especially when it comes to the numbers that drive your business. Having a solid command of financials allows you to know whether you’re headed for a profit or a loss, and whether you’ll have the capital to grow your business in the next 12 months and beyond. Here are essential steps to take in 2015: --- Master your margins. A restaurant with triple-digit menu prices still managed to lose money on every plate because it never stopped to consider how much it needed to make on the cost of its ingredients and overhead. Identify what you spend at every step to get your products and services to your customers, and make sure that cost is factored into your final price. --- Lift your leads. The more potential customers your business has, the more sales you can ring up. Set a large, firm goal for new prospects because not every prospect will turn into a customer. Identify the characteristics of your existing customers that generate the most revenue and focus your efforts on your findings. --- Tackle tech. Technology can help you identify your biggest moneymaking products and make it easier for people to buy from you. Invest in technology for marketing, selling and accepting payments, and make sure that what you implement works on the latest devices. --- Make room for marketing. Identify how you best communicate with your customers both online and off, then spend money to put your brand in front of them. You may need to try multiple printed options, such as brochures and postcards. Web-based marketing should include social media options such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. --- Reassess risks. Fraud and theft can easily wipe away months of hard-earned revenue. You need to invest in processes to prevent the loss of money either by accident or design. Hackers and Continue Reading

Loan groan: In spite of an improving economy, NYC small businesses say they can’t get bank loans

Joseph Woolridge considers himself a good credit risk. His bank thinks otherwise. Three months ago, Woolridge, the 33-year-old owner of East Williamsburg-based New York Studio Factory, asked his longtime bank for a $200,000 loan. Woolridge needed the money to buy out his partners in New York Studio Factory, which operates co-working spaces in Brooklyn. He thought he'd have no problem getting approved. "The bank basically said they could offer me $40,000," Woolridge said. "I'm a good customer. I have good cash flow and no debt. I was really surprised." He's not alone. While the local economy is on an upswing and business lending overall has rebounded since the recession, the city's small business borrowers say they are coming up short when it comes to a big priority: small loans. A recent survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that 59% of local small businesses sought loans of $100,000 or less. The approval rate for those loans was just 46% versus a 60% approval rate for firms looking for $100,000 and up. The obstacles local small businesses face in accessing small loans from traditional sources will be the subject of a summit organized by the New York Fed set for Thursday, to mark National Small Business Week. "It's a challenging environment," for small loans, Claire Kramer Mills, officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, told the Daily News. Some small firms are still struggling with uneven cash flow, slack customer demand and tarnished credit scores, Kramer Mills said. At the same time, banks don't see big profits in providing small business loans. Community banks, traditionally a big provider of small business loans, have pulled back. Small loans are "expensive and not all that profitable for big institutions," Kramer Mills said. As banks have retreated, alternative lenders such as merchant cash advance companies and online lenders have rushed to fill the void. But these companies charge far more Continue Reading

How to raise cash for your business online

Want to raise money for your new small business or entrepreneurial venture? Until now, it’s seemed easier for a twenty-something techie in San Francisco to raise millions of dollars than an experienced businesswoman in Ohio to raise thousands. Thanks to new equity “crowdfunding” rules that went into effect in May, that situation may have changed.In the height of the Great Recession, President Obama proposed the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups), making it easier for small businesses and startups to raise funds. In 2012, Congress enacted the legislation legalizing equity crowdfunding.But it’s taken until May of this year for the regulations regarding equity crowdfunding – officially referred to as Regulation Crowdfunding – to go into effect, opening the door for all types of businesses run by all kinds of entrepreneurs to raise funds over the internet.Why the holdup? The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) wanted to protect investors from fraud as well as keep unsophisticated investors from losing significant sums in risky ventures. CROWDFUNDING:  Crowdfunding for business has seen no windfalls SMALL BUSINESS:  Create a killer small business prototypeThere are generally two types of crowdfunding: Equity, in which investors receive a percentage of ownership in return for their funds; and nonequity, in which funders receive some sort of reward or benefit.For the last few years, there’s been an explosion of non-equity crowdfunding projects enabling products as diverse as smartwatches (Pebble), high-tech coolers (Coolest) and even honey (FlowHive) to come to market through websites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.But many entrepreneurs just need money and don’t have a cool product to ship in return. And many investors would rather receive a piece of ownership in a company than an ice maker.If you’re thinking about equity crowdfunding, you first need to keep in mind some of the SEC Continue Reading

Small businesses increasing revenue with ‘Square’ electronic payment service

Word is spreading quickly among small American businesses hustling to thrive in tough economic times -- hip young Internet payment service Square will give them an edge.The brainchild of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Square lets anyone take credit card payments using smartphones or iPad tablet computers.Barely one year old, it is used by 750,000 merchants and handles $2 billion in transactions annually, chief operating officer Keith Rabois told AFP.The San Francisco-based startup is aiming to snag the 26 million American businesses that do not accept credit cards and is planning to expand outside the United States next year.Square charges a 2.75 percent fee, on par or lower than merchants would be charged per transaction if they went directly through credit card companies, but has the advantage of no set up costs."Square increases the prospect of closing a sale," Rabois said. "In a tough financial time, we make it easier. We remove a lot of the pain from starting a business and growing a business."Rabois believes Square can eliminate the need for cash registers, eventually letting people run small businesses almost entirely from iPads using inventory, billing and other features in software.The company was named after the small, square magnetic-strip readers plugged into smartphones or iPads to allow people to swipe credit cards. It feeds credit card information to free Square software and avoids the need to rent or buy credit card processing equipment.A Square Card Case application at the iTunes store even lets people run tabs at businesses and pay using just their names."You can get a massage, bicycle to the farmers market and never have to pull out the credit card," Rabois said.Making it easy to begin taking credit card payments has been a boon for small businesses from sole operators based at homes to brick-and-mortar shops.Massage therapist Joey Garcia credited Square with being the reason that his client list is double that of a classmate even though both set Continue Reading

Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce honors business owners, execs with Visionaries awards

The Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry will pay tribute to a host of creative, successful business owners and executives from around the city during its annual Business Visionaries awards event. The Visionaries presentation will be held during the chamber's Caribbean Christmas business networking dinner Thursday at Tropical Paradise Ballroom in Brooklyn. More than 25 individuals and their firms will be honored for their "contributions and commitment to economic and community development, and visionary leadership." "We are proud to salute them as CACCI's 2010 Business Visionaries, and we look forward to assisting them in furthering their business growth in areas of small-business financing, certification preparation and other business services," said Roy Hastick, chamber president. The chamber also uses the networking event to collect for its annual toy distribution drive for children ages 2 to 12. Toys, books and other gifts will be given to local organizations that support children and families. And during the holiday season, CACCI raises money for its Educational Foundation, which helps students. For tickets to the networking reception or the Visionaries awards, the toy drive or the educational fund, call the chamber at (718) 834-4544 and visit its Web site, You can also learn about CACCI's programs and services for small businesses. Consultant making nat'l biz news The publicity and fund-raising firm of Jamaican-American consultant Sonia Wilson is getting some national recognition for its place in's 2009 "Home-Based 100" ranking. Wilson's 2-year-old New York firm was ranked in the top 10 of the "Boomers Back in Business" category of's listing of exceptional home-based companies. "My focus and self-imposed mandate has always been to deliver results beyond the client's expectation cost-effectively, and I dig deep to make it happen," said Wilson, Continue Reading