When Jose Rodriguez opened OFBS NOW, a small insurance and brokerage agency in Pasadena, he knew that one day he might want to take out a loan to grow his business. After three years of success, he’s getting ready to take that next step — but he has some trepidation.
“I’ve seen a lot of my small business peers take out bad loans and become trapped in cycles of debt,” said Rodriguez. “Before taking out a loan, I wanted to make sure I had all the right information so I didn’t fall victim to predatory lending.”
Of course, any small business owner can tell you it’s hard to locate unbiased and comprehensive information on not only lending but also issues like healthcare and retirement benefits. Too many seminars and events are focused on selling a particular product rather than on what small business owners actually need. Plus, the markets for these products are more complicated than ever — for instance, alternative and online lending has swelled to more than $3 billion a year, which means new options but also unfamiliar products for small businesses.
And on the retirement savings front, market forces have created a significant retirement gap that disproportionately impacts small employers and their employees. Similarly, while the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created new healthcare options for small businesses, navigating the new law can be challenging without the right information.
Clearly, there’s a need for small business owners to be able to access reliable information on key issues that impact their businesses. That’s why Small Business Majority recently launched a comprehensive Entrepreneurship Program that serves as a one-stop shop for small businesses through every stage of their growth — from taking out a first loan to securing health insurance to preparing for retirement.
The Program consists of an online portal with comprehensive resources as well as online and in-person educational events on three of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs: access to capital, healthcare and retirement security. For instance, the website includes a list of small business funding options, along with their pros and cons, and a list of national and local lenders. On the healthcare front, the website includes Small Business Majority’s Health Coverage Guide, which provides information on healthcare-related cost estimates, tax savings, legal rights, coverage options and more. Similarly, the Program’s online retirement section offers an overview of retirement options and factors to consider when choosing a plan.
For small business owners who want more in-depth and personalized advice on these issues, in-person and online events offer a chance for question and answer sessions. These events are available locally and nationally, and there’s a clear demand for them: more than 3,000 entrepreneurs signed up for our first national webinar on access to capital and different types of business funding including microloans, crowdfunding and online lenders. The events also include tips on how to protect your business from predatory lenders.
For Rodriguez, the in-person access to capital event he attended was a helpful resource to address some of his biggest questions on funding his business.
“This event was a great way for me to learn about pros and cons of different funding options. After attending, I feel a lot more comfortable about the prospect of taking out a loan,” said Rodriguez. “I’m still not ready to take out a loan, but I know that when I am this information is going to come in handy.”
Small Business Majority is committed to making sure more small business owners like Rodriguez have the tools they need to succeed. Too many entrepreneurs have to give up their dreams because they run into obstacles when it comes time to deal with the complicated details of running a business — like taking out a loan, purchasing health insurance or setting up a retirement plan. Our Entrepreneurship Program is here to help, and we look forward to fostering innovation for years to come.
*Small Business Majority’s access to capital work is supported by the Sam’s Club Giving Program.