Show us the face of your business!

Accionistas pose for their own selife!

Accionistas pose for their own selife!

There are over 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Indeed, over the past 16 years, women-owned enterprises have grown faster than the national average.* In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to put a face to these stats. We’re asking female business owners to celebrate the “face” of their business.

To enter:

  • At the end of March, each participant will be entered into a drawing.  The winner will be prominently featured on our Business Tip of the Month newsletter (with an annual readership of over 20,000 individuals around the country).

Looking forward to putting a “face” on female entrepreneurship in the United States!

Interested in joining our Business Tip of the Month newsletter? Sign up here.

*Data taken from American Express Open’s ‘State of Women-owned Business Report’.

‘Braking’ into the Business

Mary, founder of Panther Brakes

Mary, founder of Panther Brakes

Mary has always been a woman who goes for what she wants. She laughed as she reminisced meeting her husband in Spain on the dance floor. “I knew he was the one.” When the two moved to Miami, it was Mary who took charge of providing for the family by starting Panther Brakes.

In a dusty industrial section of Hialeah, FL, Mary, her husband and two employees worked refurbishing brakes. It took all day to churn out about 20 brake parts. Mary wanted to scale production, but she would need to buy a second rivet machine, paint system and shot blaster.

With an Accion microloan, Mary purchased the necessary equipment needed to produce more brakes in a shorter amount of time. In honor of International Women’s Day, we salute women entrepreneurs like Mary who are leading the charge in a male dominated industry. #WomenInAccion

The Path to Small Business Data Nirvana

“If you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it.” –Peter Drucker

The abundance of data collection software available to small business owners has raised the bar for data analysis. Yet as big data becomes more accessible, the playing field is being leveled and small business owners can access data to enhance their business planning.

Accion and the Midtown Manhattan Small Business Development Center teamed up to host an event with experienced data analysts to provide tips and steps to small business owners. Here are five steps that they shared with us on your path to data nirvana!

  1. Find the resource you need to capture and understand your business’ data

There are countless applications out there to assist you in the management of your business. Many are tailored to specific components of your business, others can capture and manage data more generally. Here are some of the top apps:

 2.  Find a mentor

Find someone who is an expert in your industry or has experience with managing data for small business. Network with other professionals in your industry to gain insight into what worked and didn’t work for them as you navigate your options on apps, e-commerce design and management, sales and client retention, or whatever else you identify as your need.

There are many resources out there for small business owners including the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Program, SCORE, Tory Burch Foundation (for women entrepreneurs), and the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream Program (for food and beverage businesses). There are also Small Business Technology Development Centers in a few locales including New York.

 3. Define Your Business Question

Example Problem:  People visit my website, but don’t buy anything.

Ask the Question: What’s the difference between those who abandon their shopping carts and those who don’t?

Create an Analysis Plan: What do I need to gather from my data in order to solve the problem? Look at page views? Sources of users? Origins of users? These will be called your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

4. Start your data collection

Organize a dashboard to track your progress on the KPIs developed through your data analysis plan. Track clients, sales, product inventory, and whatever else your goals are for improving your business gained through the data. There are a couple dashboard applications and software programs you can use including Qlikview (for data visualization) and Tableau Software (for business intelligence and analytics in the cloud).

5. Incorporate Data Solutions into business planning.

What do you cover when you sit down to plan for your business? Analyzing data regarding your business should be incorporated into your quarterly business reviews. Ensure that you are utilizing the data available to you re-evaluate the questions you are asking about your business. As your data mastery grows, continue to ask new questions to gain new insights into your business.

Thank you to Joseph Galarneau from Mezzobit, Dayna Sessa from Datanomy Group, Erica Dorn and Rushil Desai from Accion and Richard Holowczak from Baruch College (find more tips and data information on his blog) for sharing their knowledge.

How to Be Financially Fit in the New Year

Accion’s Loan Consultants work every day to help entrepreneurs reach their true potential by equipping them with the right kinds of financial tools and providing advice on business finances. We’ve compiled their advice on the best resolutions a business owner can make to be financially fit in 2014.

Cashflow“Every entrepreneur should ensure that they consistently manage and monitor their cash flow. This can be done by utilizing a simple cash flow statement in which you track your income and expense. Managing your cash flow will allow you to keep healthy accounts, assist you in recognizing trends in sales and expenses, analyze and keep track of your business’s seasonality, and ensure that you are spending responsibly and never more than the business can handle.”

-Gustavo Perez, Manager of Lending – New England

Download a cash flow worksheet on our website to help you get started.

budget“Create a budget for your income and how you will spend it. If you have a surplus, then you know that you can invest in other areas. However, if your income does not cover all of your expenses, then you will need to determine what you have to cut.”

-Vannessa Louchart, Loan Consultant – Miami

Check out our list of useful apps to create your own budget.

Retirement“As a business owner, it’s important to think about your retirement. Many business owners work and then cannot retire because they never contributed to a retirement plan. If you work all these years, you should ensure that you have something to show for it. Roth IRAs in particular are a great way to save.”

-Jose Made, Manager of Lending – New York

Learn about Roth IRAs.

Transparency“Work on developing financial transparency. Deposit all of your income and keep detailed records of said income, as well as your expenses. This will help you when you apply for credit and will help you to see if there are any expenses you can eliminate.”

-Kevin McLoughlin, Loan Consultant – New York

StickToIt“The hardest part of any resolution is sticking to it. You should treat improving financial well-being the same as you would exercising. Pay attention to finances on a consistent basis to make them strong. I read LearnVest frequently and I would recommend it to others. Personal and businesses finances can often go very hand in hand.”

-Erica Dorn, Manager of Lending – New York

The Accion Difference: The Reality of Online Payday Lenders

By Rachel Greenwald

In the spirit of investigative reporting, NPR correspondent Pam Flesser applied for an online payday loan on an advertized lending site, etaxloan.com. Despite filling out the application with a fake name, social security number, address, and fake bank account information, Pam immediately received a message stating that she had been pre-approved for a loan up to $750.

As it turns out, etaxloan.com is not a lender but a lead generator, a middle-man who collects sensitive information from loan seekers and charges a fee to lenders who want to access this information and attract this pool of potential borrowers. The market for these type of loans is huge –an estimated 12 million Americans take out paydays loan each year, generating $7.4 billion annually for this industry – and while many states like New York have enforced stricter regulation at the state-level on brick-and-mortar payday lenders, it remains difficult to impose restrictions on online lenders across state lines.

Though Pam did not take the loan, she received dozens of phone calls over the following months, some from companies offering a loan 10x what she requested and others from companies that were not even connected to etaxloan.com. As Benjamin Lawsky, the Superintendent of financial services for New York State, explains in the article, “Once you made that application, you basically sent up a red flag with them that you are someone in need of this money, and you need it on a short-term basis. That’s when the vultures come out.”

At Accion East, we never share unauthorized information with third parties, and our applicants work one-on-one with their personal Loan Consultant through the entire application and loan process.  Because our Loan Consultants are attentive and responsive, our clients receive tailored financial education and the tools they need to reach their fullest potential as entrepreneurs: personalized credit coaching, business planning assistance, and access to networking opportunities.

For many of the entrepreneurs we work with, limited credit prevents them from obtaining financing from traditional lenders like banks. Because Accion East reports to the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, our loans enable clients to establish and build their credit as they build their business so that they may one day qualify for loans from the traditional lenders that may have previously denied them.

If you’re interested in learning more about financing for your small business, contact Accion East today.

Plaques by Azra Now Part of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

AzraWe’re proud to announce that one of our clients, Plaques by Azra, has just been accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.

The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program is a $500 million national program that is committed to creating jobs and stimulating economic growth across the United States. The program, funded by Goldman Sachs and the Goldman Sachs Foundation, accomplishes this goal by giving select small business owners the access to business education, business support services, and capital that they need in order to grow their businesses, and it’s absolutely free.

After hearing the good news, we caught up with Azra, who manages the business with her parents Aunali and Shirin, to get her take on this exciting opportunity.

Azra, whose participation in the Tory Burch Foundation (TBF) Microloan Program led to her introduction to the Goldman Sachs program, is also a certified member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. She feels empowered, saying, “I now have all the tools I need to grow my business. I can already see the shift in my mind. I never realized I could grow my business so much, so fast.”

As one of the over 1200 who have participated or are currently participating in the program, Azra will get access to a 12-session business course, opportunities to develop her leadership skills, one-on-one business advising, a customized business growth plan, and a network of other small business owners.

Given the resources offered through Accion, TBF, and Goldman Sachs, Azra now aspires to grow her business and position it so that it can pay this generosity forward. She has a “soft spot” for women and children and would love to create jobs within her community and set up a foundation that serves women and children in need.

When asked what advice she has for those looking to start their own business, Azra said simply, “Go for it.”

Need a plaque, award, signage, banners, or promotional products? Visit Plaques by Azra.

GivingTuesday: Help an Entrepreneur Realize a Dream

Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. This year, we are participating in a new tradition: #GivingTuesday. A new day for giving back.

Without generosity, we might not be able to access or obtain the things that we are grateful for. If it were not for your boss giving you the opportunity to work for his or her company, you might not be able to afford that new house you love. If it were not for being given financial aid or a scholarship, you might not have gone to the college of your dreams. Whether we realize it or not, we are presented with gifts, both tangible and intangible, every day.

As a supporter of small businesses, Accion East asks you to help an entrepreneur realize a dream.You can do so by giving towards a loan on peer-to-peer lending platform, Kiva. There are currently three Accion East clients on Kiva with approaching deadlines that need your help.

Gustavo founded Florida’s Cremations America in honor of his late grandmother in an effort to “bring peace to families that have lost a loved one.” He plans to use his loan to expand his inventory and to building a room where families can go to privately honor and respect their deceased loved ones. Read more about his story and donate here.

Andrew is a Trinidad native who has been living in Queens, NY for the last 15 years. This entrepreneur, father, and husband sells small electronics and household appliances through his business, Kabs, since 2011. He will use his loan to expand his inventory and expand his customer base, ultimately creating a better life for his family. Read the rest of his story and help him meet his loan goal here.

Retired US Army Officer John Larry was inspired to start a massage therapy center after using massage as a remedy for his own aches and pains. John is a dedicated and hardworking entrepreneur whose business became the most productive in the Zen Massage Franchise after only two years. Help him meet his loan goal and purchase new equipment and expand the line of products he offers to his customers here.

Of course, generosity is not just a once-a-year thing. Search Accion East on Kiva any time to see how you can help other aspiring entrepreneurs by giving.

Support an Accion Client on Small Business Saturday

By Karin Johnson

Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country. You can join in the movement by shopping from an Accion client. We’ve compiled a list of gift selections from small business owners below for you to browse. Or, check out our client marketplace for additional products from Accion clients.

Moctar displays his wonderful inventory of African Fabrics from Mali in his store location in Harlem. Visit him at 2 West 125th Street, New York, NY.

Moctar displays his wonderful inventory of African Fabrics from Mali in his store location in Harlem. Visit him at 2 West 125th Street, New York, NY.

For the Fashionista:

Dapper World Company Shop: Find that refined or quirky neck tie or bow tie at one of the companies featured through the Dapper World Company. Features bold prints, double sided bow ties, and women’s accessories.

Erica M Legware Shop: Shop this online collection of specialty leg ware for the confident woman.

The Little Shoe Store: Check out this specialty shoe store that sells shoes for women with smaller sizes between 1 and 6. The store has a large variety of shoe styles including shoes under their own in-house brand, vintage and consignment shoes, and well as hard to find “dead stock” (from the 40s,50s,60s).

Tallawa: Talawa is a Jamaican saying, meaning “you are small but tough and strong.” The Brooklyn based husband and wife team design collections for the creative spirit with bold colored prints. Eccentric t shirts and beautiful silk dresses can inspire the fashionable friend.

For the Accessory Lover:

Falcon Feather Jewelry: Handcrafted sterling silver and vermeil jewelry. Contemporary, edgy, bold and classic. Trendy fun items.Affordable and fun line featuring use of mixed-media to create unique pieces influenced by the timeless style of the Bohemian aesthetic combined with a modern edge.

House of the Black Wolf: Howl to the moon! Got a wolf lover in mind? Or someone who likes a bit of the darker side? Check out these necklaces and rings that this full moon inspired couple creates.

Nadira Bag: Find that beautiful handmade leather bag by checking out Nadira’s collection.

Wevley Wilson: Get ahead with the fashion trends and shop Wevley Wilson’s Spring 2014 beautiful jewelry and accessories collection. Featuring colorful leather magnetic closure bands, clutch purses, and leather tassled necklaces, her refined style compliments the modern women’s wardrobe.

For the Foodie:

Sweet n Salty By Design: Great for gifts to friends, neighbors, coworkers, and more! Check out Bianca’s offerings of candied pretzels and pretzel bark.

Beehive Oven: These wonderful biscuits will be a great addition to any holiday meal. Order online or find a local retailer on their website including the Brooklyn Harvest Market or the Brooklyn Place Market.

For those with a sweet tooth:

Salty Road: Marisa branched out from working as a candymaker at another sweet shop and started Salty Road to serve up some delicious saltwater taffy. She now sells at stores throughout the country including in Manhattan.

 

For the home:

SKT Ceramics: SKT Ceramics is the result of the passion of artist Susannah Tisue. She creates beautiful mugs, bowls, and more with a calm blue hue with beautifully illustrated graphics of a variety of animals. She will launch her RAM line soon

M Quan: These beautiful inspired ceramic art pieces are a great accent to a indoor or outdoor living space. Features ceramic bells, birdhouses, plates, and artistic pieces.

Happy Halloween from Accion!

Accion prides itself on supporting small businesses.This October 31st, we’re staying committed to our support of small business and celebrating not only Halloween but also the businesses we’ve helped to build. Continue reading below and check out Accion clients that have the treats to make your spectacularly spooky Halloween spectacularly sweet.

STRAWBERRY HILL CANDY

New England’s Strawberry Hill Candy that offers gourmet lollipops, some in the shape of Halloween staples like ghosts and jack-o-lanterns, chocolate, organic honey and organic maple syrup sweeteners, teas, and even chocolate-covered nuts. Determined to make sure no child feels left out, Strawberry Hill Candy makes sweets that are gluten free, soy free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free, shellfish free, fish free for children with food allergies or sensitivities. You can contact this candy provider directly to custom make any of the lollipop shapes you see on the site in clear allergen free and dye free.

RAAKA CHOCOLATE

Image via: raakachocolate.com

Brooklyn-based chocolatier Raaka Chocolate produces “chocolate for the bold,” virgin chocolate that is unroasted, stone ground, and made in small batches. The earth-conscious brand wraps its chocolate bars, typically made with organic ingredients, in recycled paper and donates all of its cocoa husk to an after-school gardening program in Brooklyn. They also offer soy free, gluten free, vegan, and nut free options. If you’re looking to purchase your Halloween treats from a company that makes delicious chocolate and is socially and environmentally conscious, look no further than Raaka Chocolate. See where you can purchase Raaka Chocolate near you.

REENA TREATS

Image via: reenatreats.blogspot.com

Reena’s Treats was born when owner Sereena began collecting old family baking recipes from her family members. Now, a business woman and baker, Sereena offers cupcakes, cake pops, cakes, lemon bars, bread pudding, cookies, peach cobbler, and a slew of other mouth-watering options to families and businesses who want to add a bit of flavor to their private events. Reena’s Treats, based in Harlem, has even had the pleasure of serving its decorative treats to celebrity clients like VH1 reality star Yandy Smith. This Halloween, get some celebrity treatment of your own and order some sweets from Reena’s Treats.

SALTY ROAD

SaltyRoad

Image via: twitter.com/saltyroad

Salty Road was born in June 2011 when a group of friends decided to work together to create high-quality saltwater taffy and sell it on the boardwalk in Far Rockaway, Queens. Despite being warned about the lengthy and painstaking process, Marisa, the candy maker of the group, determined to make the taffy by hand. Two years later, Salty Road taffy is still handmande and is the creamiest and softest saltwater taffy in the business. Salty Road taffy has a distinct salt crystal crunch and includes real vanilla bean which gives it its yummy vanilla flavor. You can find Salty Road taffies at retailers across the U.S., on the web, and even in Canada.

THE CHOCOLATE SWIRL

image via: facebook.com/pages/The-Chocolate-Swirl

Do you want to really show-off for your big Halloween get-together? Is your Halloween usually a dual holiday and birthday celebration? Are you a teacher looking for the perfect way to treat your students? Let us introduce you to The Chocolate Swirl. This Queens, NY sweets connoisseur offers a wide assortment of treats, but we are personally most impressed by their cakes. Visit The Chocolate Swirl’s Facebook page and take a glance at their more intricate designs like their Lego cupcakes and several cakes they made for the 4000th performance of Wicked on Broadway. Each sugary concoction is lovingly made by hand, ensuring that everything they make for you is an original creation. Visit The Chocolate Swirl online to inquire about how you can get your hands and taste buds on their cakes, truffles, and cupcakes.

BLACK & BLANCO

image via: facebook.com/ /pages/Black-Blanco/133671793366450

Black & Blanco owners Steve and Heidi make Moroccan-inspired shortbread cookies that are perfect for those with strict diets or food sensitivities. Black & Blanco cookies are egg free, dairy free, cholesterol free, wheat free, and never include Genetically Modified Foods or any artificial flavoring. What does a cookie from Black & Blanco include? Two of their key ingredients are organic rye and organic virgin coconut oil. Enjoy a guilt-free treat from them this Halloween.

 

Ice Cream Queens Opening First Retail Location at Essex Street Market

Co-owners Catherine and Ruthie hard at work at the New Amsterdam Market in 2012

Co-owners Catherine and Ruthie at the New Amsterdam Market in 2012

Unlike most of my cohort at The Fletcher School at Tufts University—who are scattered around the globe this summer—I decided to stay put in Boston and experience my first New England summer. As my summer internship at Accion comes to a close, I reflect on some of the close relationships I’ve developed with Accion clients, especially, Catherine and Ruthie of Luca & Bosco. Having grown up in Wisconsin (aka The Dairy State), I’ve always had a fondness for ice cream. So, naturally when I heard about their unique flavors, I was curious to learn more about their emerging enterprise.

Catherine, a self-described “professional eater,” convinced her good friend Ruthie to attend Ice Cream Science School. Just a few weeks later, the duo decided to launch their own business. By the summer of 2012, they had created their own ice cream company Luca & Bosco, named after their two canine companions: Catherine’s white Maltese, Luca, and Ruthie’s chocolate Labrador, Bosco.

Luca and Bosco

Luca and Bosco

While maintaining their day jobs, Catherine and Ruthie began cooking up flavors out of food incubator space Hot Bread Kitchen in East Harlem after fundraising through a KickStarter campaign.

After a successful first summer, Catherine and Ruthie decided to transform their hobby into a full-time business. Needing a compelling marketing design for their new brand, they attended a financing workshop where they discovered Accion. Catherine and Ruthie applied for and soon received a $1,000 loan to secure a designer for their wholesale packaging. Thanks to Accion, the recent entrepreneurs were able to attend both a Tory Burch Mentoring event, a Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream  speed coaching event, allowing them to network and learn from food and beverage industry leaders. “Attending the speed coaching events allowed us to speak with professionals that pointed out simple but meaningful ways to tweak our business to help make our brand come to live,” says Catherine. 

Just one year after they began crafting their unique ice cream flavors, Catherine and Ruthie are already opening up their own store-front ice cream shop. They will soon be open for business 7 days a week at the historical Essex Street Market. Serving flavors such as Whiskey Fudge, Toasted Rice & Coconut, and Rosemary Olive Oil with Spiced Cashew Praline, this grand opening will definitely be worth the trip!   

Visit Luca & Bosco at their new location in the Essex Street Market in New York City.

Luca and bosco logo