Running a business is a lot of work if you are the sole proprietor. Even if you have a partner and excellent staff, sometimes you need the support and opportunities of external groups. Our content partner Nav introduces four online groups you can join to network with other small business owners and resources.

Running a business is a lot of work if you are the sole proprietor. Even if you have a partner and excellent staff, sometimes you need the support and opportunities of external groups. Our content partner Nav.com introduces four online groups you can join to network with other small business owners and resources.

 

The work of entrepreneurs and small business owners is filled with pitfalls and challenges, and sometimes you just need to talk to someone who can share a few pieces of good advice. Business networking groups are a great way to meet advisors and mentors who can help during the journey, as well as to find new professional connections, opportunities and ideas.

Whether you’re looking for suggestions for your next product, emotional support or advice on taking your business to the next level, there’s a variety of small business groups and associations willing to assist. Even better, many of them allow members to join and access resources for free. Here’s a list of four organizations with free services for small businesses that can help no matter where members are on the path to entrepreneurship.

U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent U.S. federal agency that aims to help people start, grow, finance and sell their small business. The agency’s website contains valuable information in written and video format about a variety of topics, from drafting a business plan and registering your business to obtaining permits and applying for SBA loans. Those who are interested in a more personal approach can visit one of the SBA’s district or regional offices nearby, as well as connect with business centers supporting female entrepreneurs and military veterans.

The SBA is also known as a great resource for business financing. The agency guarantees billions of dollars in small business loans every year and can help you understand how to qualify for an SBA-backed loan or other types of business financing (here’s a comparison chart for a quick guide). SBA loans require an established business credit score —specifically, the FICO SBSS score — to secure financing. (You can check your personal and business credit scores for free on Nav.)

SCORE

SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a U.S. nonprofit association that provides members with free business mentoring and education, thanks to the support of the SBA and more than 11,000 volunteers who have signed up to share their expertise. The organization provides free, confidential business mentoring in person or online, as well as free resources, tips and tools through its website. Those willing to invest a little money in their education can also sign up to attend local workshops or webinars about topics as diverse as social media, taxes and branding.

Meetup

Meetup is a social network that allows members to find others who are interested in the same topics and activities and meet them for offline events and activities. To date, the website has helped organize more than 25,000 entrepreneurship meetups on six continents, from massive chapters in cities such as New York, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco to smaller and more specialized groups across the U.S. Most scheduled meetups are free to attend, with annual larger events charging admission to cover costs throughout the year. Meetups can be a great opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs, recruit from a specific talent pool or even market your business.

StartupNation

StartupNation is a website and content platform for current and aspiring small business owners that offers a wealth of information about a variety of topics, authored by industry leaders and visionaries. The community was founded in 2002 by Jeff and Rich Sloan, brothers who also host the nationally syndicated StartupNation radio program. Users who sign up for the StartupNation newsletter can receive free content such as articles, case studies, podcasts, book excerpts and webinars directly in their inbox.

Final Thoughts

Running a small business can sometimes seem overwhelming, so it’s comforting to know that these and other associations are available when entrepreneurs are looking for advice, insights or new contacts. After all, the importance of having a community where members can share experiences and knowledge with other business owners can’t be overstated.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

A huge key to the growth of your small business is whether your customers can easily do business with you from their cell phones. Read more to find out why a mobile-friendly business is important and how you can achieve this with minimal time and cost.

A huge key to the growth of your small business is whether your customers can easily do business with you from their cell phones. Read more to find out why a mobile-friendly business is important and how you can achieve this with minimal time and cost.

 

You may be thinking to yourself, “Why bother?” We understand that your time is precious as a small business owner, but investing in taking your business mobile is worth it.

More and more people are using their mobile devices to surf the web and make purchases online. In fact, mobile usage is surpassing traditional desktop use. What this means for your business is that your customers want to be able to interact with you from their cell phones and tablets. The benefit of increased traffic to your website and increased purchases of your product/service far outweighs the time it will take you to set up a more mobile company.

These four tips will help you develop a great mobile strategy to attract more customers.

Build and Optimize Your Website

If your business doesn’t already have a website, you need to create one. Having a digital presence is vital to succeeding in today’s business environment.

Check your website on your mobile device to see how it looks to your customers. Your website hosting service might have a place to configure how your site looks on mobile. If it doesn’t, you will have to figure it out yourself by doing research or hiring someone to do it. The time spent on making your website mobile-friendly will be worth it when you get more conversions.

Here’s a Tip: Make your phone number a click-to-call link so visitors who are interested in contacting you can easily tap on their screen and call you. Removing the extra step of manually dialing in your phone number is a surprising way to get more interaction.

Engage in Social Media

Smart phones and social media go hand-in-hand. A Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook page are a great way to reach out to potential customers. You can post deals, opening hours, promotions, and related content that you want to share with your followers. Customers can find out how to contact you, read and post reviews, and get the latest news on new items or sales. Check out our blog post for some resources for making quality social media content.

Even if your small business isn’t in retail or food service, social media can benefit you. Think of Facebook and Instagram as a mobile portfolio for your previous work. Seeing quality photos of your products or services, as well as you and your staff, can offer reassurance to potential new customers that your business is legitimate.

Here’s a Tip: Use a scheduling service to space out your social media posts for consistent exposure. It is easy to set up a post from your own cell phone and have it published at the optimal time. While your customers may be glued to their phones, you don’t have to be.

Expand Into E-Commerce

If you only offer your products and services in a brick-and-mortar store, you are missing out on a lot of sales. Selling online is not as scary as it may seem, and it will definitely boost your bottom line.

Just posting regularly updated photos and pricing for what your business offers – to both your website and social media – will help customers looking on their devices know right away if you have what they’re looking for.

Here’s a Tip: Participate in delivery and mobile ordering apps. This list has eight popular apps that you might consider joining. If you aren’t a restaurant, Postmates and Delivery.com will also deliver other items from your business.

Move Communications to Mobile Phones

Mobile communication applies to both your employees and your customers. Ask customers for their preferred method of communication whether that is email, phone calls, or texting. Log into your email on your phone, and check it regularly.  If you don’t have two separate phones, you’ll have to learn to balance work and personal communication, but being able to answer a client’s question or follow up with them on an offer within seconds cuts out unnecessary time for both of you.

Use group instant messaging to keep your employees on the same page. Some business owners ask their employees use this to call in sick, to find out who wants to trade shifts, or to give quick updates.

Here’s a tip: Texting really is a growing method of customer service and marketing. Don’t get too promotional, but you can easily ask simple poll questions, provide easy customer service, offer text-only sale or discount opportunities, and develop a personal relationship with your customers so they’ll come back to you. Just remember in certain states, like California, you must get permission up front to use their mobile phone for text communications.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Your small business is always changing to improve and adapt. You might want to change the name of your business, but doing that can be challenging. Our content partner Nav explains how a name change affects your business credit and how to protect your good standing.

Your small business is always changing to improve and adapt. You might want to change the name of your business, but doing that can be challenging. Our content partner Nav.com explains how a name change affects your business credit and how to protect your good standing.

 

Changing your business name can be a lot of work, and, quite frankly, a hassle. But can it also put your business’s credit history at risk?

Kimberly Wilson is about to find out. In 2006, she started First Step Therapy, a counseling and training business, and grew it into multiple locations. A few years ago she took a hiatus from that business to earn her doctorate degree, and now she’s ready to relaunch her business. She has chosen a new name that reflects her new vision for the company. It will be called First Step International Consulting & Counseling Services and will offer training for individuals, businesses, and professionals.

However, she’s worried about what will happen to her business credit when her name changes. “I am concerned that if I retain the same federal tax ID but change the name, I will lose my business credit rating,” she wrote in an email. “How do I prevent that from happening?”

Wilson built a positive business credit history in her first business. She established business credit by using trade credit—purchasing things she needed for her business, such as supplies or printing—with payment terms of net 30 or net 60. She paid those bills on time, and as her business credit scores improved, she was able to access even more credit. Eventually, she used business credit to finance computers and other equipment.

Older is Better

Wilson is right to be concerned about keeping her credit history, since age is a factor that often affects business credit scores. Scoring models often evaluate age in a few different ways:

  • Age of the business—How long has the business been open?
  • Time in file—When was the first account opened?
  • Age of accounts—What is the average age of all accounts?

Since small businesses often fail in their first few years, businesses with older credit histories benefit from well-established credit histories.

The good news is that Wilson doesn’t have to sacrifice her business credit history when she changes her business name. But she’s smart to be proactive, because by doing so she is more likely to ensure her complete credit file will follow her business.

Steps to Take

If you find yourself in a similar situation as Kimberly Wilson, here are several steps you can do to help the process move smoothly:

Submit a name change to the Internal Revenue Service if necessary. You’ll find instructions and guidance on the IRS website.

Update your name with state and local agencies as required. If you have registered your business with your state Department of Corporations, for example, and/or you must have a local business license, you may need to update your business name with either or both.

Notify your creditors. Let your creditors know about your name change so when they report your account in the future, it will be reported under your new business name. Hopefully this will also help associate your old credit history with your new business, although that is not guaranteed. Do the same with companies through which you process payments, such as credit card processors, your bank or credit union, etc.

Notify the credit bureaus, as necessary. We asked the major commercial credit agencies to clarify their policies and procedures regarding a business name change, and here are their responses:

  • Dun & Bradstreet does not require business owners to notify them of a name change unless it involves a change of ownership. If it does, visit Dun & Bradstreet’s free company update page here.
  • Experian recommends small business owners visit BusinessCreditFacts.com to update their reports.
  • Equifax does not require a business owner to report a name change. As long as the business uses the same credit accounts and does not use a different tax ID number, the reporting members will report the credit history using the new name. The business credit report will also reflect the previous name (similar to how a former name is reflected on an individual’s credit file).
  • LexisNexis does not require a business owner to report a name change.

“Information on small businesses is in constant flux as they change or add locations, evolve into new entity types (e.g., from sole proprietor to LLC), change leadership, grow their assets, and more,” says Ben Cutler, Senior Director of Small Business Risk with LexisNexis. “It’s even common for a small business to change its DBA and/or its name. But these activities leave ‘footprints’ in the data ecosystem, and LexisNexis Risk Solutions relies on its Big Data technology and sophisticated, statistically based record linkage models to uncover and combine these footprints across billions of data records.”

Check and monitor your business credit reports. Review your business credit reports before your name change to see which accounts report, then continue to monitor them afterward to see whether those accounts are reported under your new name. If not, you can contact your creditors and ask them to make sure your accounts continue to be reported under your new business name.

There are many more steps you need to take to successfully navigate a business name change, but with the right planning, you should be able to keep your credit history intact.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Keeping up with hundreds of laws and regulations can be difficult. As a small business owner, it’s imperative to be in compliance but can be hard to do when laws change. Here are a few new laws and regulations that could impact your business in 2017.

Keeping up with hundreds of laws and regulations can be difficult. As a small business owner, it’s imperative to be in compliance but can be hard to do when laws change. Here are a few new laws and regulations that could impact your business in 2017.

 

Overtime Final Rule

What this does: This amendment updates the current minimum salary for white collar workers required to exempt them from overtime pay. This applies executive, administrative, and professional employees. Now, if a full-time worker makes less than $913 a week or $47,476 a year (previously $445 a week or $23,660 a year) they are entitled to overtime pay. Business owners are also now able to make up to 10% of this threshold in nondiscretionary bonuses, incentive payments, and commissions. This threshold will also be updated every three years.

How this affects you: It is important to be aware of new changes to laws that affect your business, and failing to pay employees correctly can result in lawsuits. The Final Rule went into effect on December 1, 2016. If you are not in compliance yet, you can either: reduce your affected employees’ hours, increase their annual salary to meet the minimum for exemption, or pay overtime. Check out the Department of Labor’s web page for more information about compliance.

 

State Minimum Wage Increases

What this means: Nineteen states increased their minimum wages at the beginning of 2017. Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Dakota automatically made changes based on standard of living. Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, and Washington implemented changed approved by voter ballot initiatives. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Vermont implemented changes from prior legislation. Washington D.C, Maryland, and Oregon will increase their minimum wages on July 1, 2017.

How this affects you: If your business operates in any of these states, it is important to make sure you increase employees’ pay accordingly to avoid lawsuits. Click here to take a look at exactly what these new minimum wages are and when they will be updated next.

 

H.J. Resolution 83

What this means: The official description for this legislation states that “Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness (published at 81 Fed. Reg. 91792 (December 19, 2016)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.” This means that the previous rule about employers ongoing obligation to maintain work-related injuries and illnesses is no longer in effect.

How this affects you: With the erasure of the rule, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cannot issue you a citation for failing to report a work-related injury or illness past six months from the incident. This does not mean business owners no longer have to report and accurately maintain OSHA records for the required five years. As a small business owner, you should still make sure to report any incidents immediately because it is the right thing to do. This amendment just means that you will not be unfairly cited years after any lapse in recordkeeping.

 

SEC Small Business Advocate Act

What this does: This legislation is two-fold. This act codified the Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee which would have expired in the fall of 2017.  It also designated funds to set up an office for small business advocacy within the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which will be headed by a chairman to advocate on behalf of small businesses. Currently, Michael Piwowar is acting as interim chairman until the SEC finds an appropriate candidate.

How this affects you: Small businesses are often underrepresented compared to larger businesses with more funds available and access to representatives. This act will give small business owners a voice. The Advocate will work to resolve issues small businesses have with the SEC and other government regulatory organizations, reach out to small businesses for feedback on relevant issues, identify and solve problems small businesses have with access to capital, and many other duties that will better represent you in the process of business legislation.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Every two weeks, we’re sharing and promoting free and affordable events that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your bi-weekly calendar for in-person and virtual events in Northern and Southern California. Here are the best upcoming events from June 16 through June 30.

Every two weeks, we’re sharing and promoting free and affordable events that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your bi-weekly calendar for in-person and virtual events in Northern and Southern California. Here are the best upcoming events from June 16 through June 30.

Northern California/Sacramento

Planning for Profit
Date: June 16, 2017 | 9:00 am PST – 12:00 pm PST
Location: Diablo Valley College Humanities Building Room H119 (adjacent to Parking Lot 7)
321 Golf Club Rd. Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 (map it)
Contact: info@eastbayscore.org | (510) 273-6611
Organization: East Bay SCORE
Fee: $35

Join East Bay SCORE for this seminar on the financial concepts and reports that allow a business owner to understand the financial health of his/her business and plan for profitable growth in this seminar.

You will learn and discuss:

  • Profits
  • Financial planning
  • Key financial terms

Learn key skills for your business:

  • How to determine the start-up funds your business requires and put together a funding plan
  • How to prepare sales projections
  • How to plan for ongoing operating expenses
  • How to understand the three major financial statements (balance sheet, profit and loss statement, and cash flow statement)
  • How to interpret the importance and impact of your financial statements on your business
  • How to prepare a breakeven analysis
  • How to build a financial projection that will determine if your business is viable

Click here to register for this event.

Keeping Track of Your Numbers
Date: June 21, 2017 | 5:00 pm PST – 8:00 pm PST
Location: 234 E. Gish Rd. Suite 100 San Jose, CA 95112 (map it)
Contact: info@svscore.org | (408) 453-6237
Organization: Silicon Valley SCORE
Fee: $45

In this seminar, you’ll learn how to easily create an income (profit and loss) statement, a balance sheet, and a cash flow forecast, plus what all of the financial records mean. This business seminar will also show You’ll also learn about how to manage tax regulations and make business decisions directly from your financial numbers.

Click here to register for this event.

Employment Law for Small Business
Date: June 28, 2017 | 2:00 pm PST – 4:00 pm PST
Location: Oakland City Hall
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza Hearing Room 2 Oakland, CA 94612 (map it)
Contact: Lee Lambert | lee@acsbdc.org | (510) 208-0410
Organization: Alameda County SBDC
Fee: Free

Owners of small businesses are challenged to create and maintain a positive, high functioning working environment within a maze of federal, state and local regulations. Legal requirements are present whether you’re hiring, firing, disciplining, evaluating performance, promoting, considering requests for leave or dealing with any of dozens of other employee issues.

What are the laws and regulations that pertain to you, and what are the best practices to manage your business while staying in compliance? This seminar will help you to understand federal, state and local requirements for your business, including:

  • Latest information on wage and hour legislation and regulations
  • How to manage your business to comply with these laws and regulations
  • Highest risk areas where your business is most vulnerable to employee lawsuits
  • Measure FF, the City of Oakland minimum wage, sick pay and PTO requirements

Click here to register for this event.

Southern California/San Diego

Back to Business – 45 Ways to Grow Your List
Date: June 20, 2017 | 9:00 am PST – 12:00 pm PST
Location: City of San Bernardino Training Center
201 North “E” St. San Bernardino, CA 92401 (map it)
Contact: Mary Takavorian | mtakavorian@iesmallbusiness.com | (909) 983-0751
Organization: Inland Empire SBDC
Fee: Free

Having an interested and qualified list of contacts that you can stay top of mind with is vital to every business. Continuing to grow that list is just as important. This workshop will show you 45 easy ways to grow your contact list today! We will cover:

  • Why someone should join your contact list
  • How to create “What’s In It For Me?” for your prospects
  • How to ask people to join your list “face-to-face”
  • How to use social media to grow your list
  • How to grow your list on your website or blog
  • How to use print material to get people to sign up
  • How to use events to help grow your list
  • How to use incentives and giveaways to grow your list

Plus, you’ll have a chance to network with other attendees and grow your contact list live during the workshop!

Click here to register for this event.

Create Your #SocialBusiness Plan
Date: June 23, 2017 9:00 am PST – June 24 12:00 pm PST
Location: 1003 East Cooley Dr. Suite 109 Colton, CA 92324 (map it)
Contact: Dee Ann Chandler | deeann@iewbc.org | (909) 890-1242
Organization: Inland Empire Women’s Business Center
Fee: $139

It’s up to you as a small business owner to tell the story about your company online.   

In this 2-day, hands-on workshop, you will receive instruction plus a blueprint to get you on your way to creating a digital marketing plan that works for YOUR business. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and work on your plan!

Get answers to these issues and more:

  • Digital marketing defined
  • Identify the next 3 steps you need to take to make your mark online
  • Create a content plan to show your audience that you are the leader in your industry
  • Win with engagement: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest
  • Decide how you will measure success

Click here to register for this event.

Instagram 101 for Business
Date: June 29, 2017 | 1:00 pm PST – 3:00 pm PST
Location: 13430 Hawthorne Blvd. Hawthorne, CA 90250 (map it)
Contact: Martha Cisneros | mcisneros@elcamino.edu |(310) 973-3177
Organization: SBDC Hosted by El Camino College
Fee: Free

Learn the basics of how to get started with Instagram for your business in this free seminar:

  • How to set up your profile
  • How to get followers
  • Choosing the right hashtags
  • Creatively designing pictures

All participants will get a bonus ebook how to convert social media likes to sales.

Click here to register for this event.

Virtual

How to Borrow Money for Your Business and Avoid Abusive Lending
Date: June 21, 2017 | 12:00 pm PST – 1:00 pm PST
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: info@e-jedi.org | (530) 926-6670
Organization: Jefferson Economic Development Institute
Fee: Free

Would a little money make a big difference in your business?

Have you thought about borrowing money, but don’t know where to start?

Are you stuck paying on high-interest loans or credit?

Understanding alternative small business lending and gaining access to responsible and transparent capital can help any business grow more quickly towards success.

We have partnered with JEDI to present this webinar to help small business borrow money responsibly. In this hour long session you will learn:

  • How to avoid the abusive practices of many alternative small business lenders today
  • How we and JEDI help small business owners grow responsibly
  • How to prepare and apply for a loan with a JEDI counselor
  • What it takes to get a loan with us

The webinar is hosted by Opportunity Fund Community Development Officer Robert Zapata. All who register will be sent a recording of the presentation. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the webinar.

Click here to register for this event.

SBA Radio Show
Date: June 22, 2017 | 11:00 am PST – 12:00 pm PST
Location: Online—Radio broadcast
Contact: wsRadioStaff@gmail.com
Organization: SBA San Diego
Fee: Free

SBA Radio is a weekly small business advisory show built to assist and inform small businesses with the latest information from the Small Business Administration. The government has many programs to help small businesses and this is the show that keeps you informed.

Tune in every Thursday at 11am for this weekly radio show and start improving your business!

Click here to access the broadcast and to find archived shows online.

Options for Small Business Healthcare
Date: June 26, 2017| 10:30 am PST – 11:30 am PST
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: Martin Short | martin.short@sba.gov | (803) 253-3753
Organization: U.S. Small Business Administration—South Carolina District Office
Fee: Free

Effective in 2017, Small Businesses can utilize Health Spending Accounts (HSA) to fund coverage for their employees through the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—a real benefit for higher paid, white collar workers.

In this webinar, you’ll get answers to your questions about health care for your small business:

  • What is the ACA and how does it work?
  • What are the differences between business and individual coverage options and requirements?
  • Is my business required to do anything?
  • Can I get tax credits of up to 50% for small businesses offering group health insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)?
  • What are COBRA alternatives and I may never have another COBRA enrollee?

Click here to register for this event.


We’re looking for upcoming events to promote to small business owners like you. If you have an event you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. Last year, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

Each month, we’re sharing and promoting free or affordable tools that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your toolbox for five affordable Human Resources tools.

Each month, we’re sharing and promoting free or affordable tools that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your toolbox for five affordable Human Resources tools.

Payroll is probably your biggest expense as a small business owner, and HR is one of the most complicated to manage. Finding an affordable, easy-to-use solution can be a challenge. We’ve compiled this list of tools and resources that will help you manage your employees at low cost.

 

Zenefits

How much it costs: Free with premium plans starting at $5 per employee a month.

What it does: Zenefits is a popular HR tool that offers a free option for small businesses that don’t require a lot of managing services. You can get employee management and benefits administration free, which includes hiring, employee directory, payroll reports, and a few other useful tools. For an affordable monthly fee, you can get access to PTO management, ACA compliance reports, payroll management, tax filing, and many more features that will help you easily manage your business. In addition to the basic subscriptions, you can also add on supplementary tools such as background checks, commuter benefits, and timecard recordkeeping. This tool has everything you could need for HR.

 

Sentrifugo

How much it costs: Free

What it does: Sentrifugo is an open source tool, which means it is completely free. Some of the big features offered include a way for employees to update their information to save you time, a robust performance appraisal system, multi-level background checks, PTO and leave management, hiring and interview scheduling, expenses, and much more. This service is a great option if you have a low budget but a complicated set of HR requirements.

 

Small Business Administration

How much it costs: Free

What it does: The SBA offers many resources available to you for free. From workplace posters to union and disability compliance, check out the different topics they have. This is a great, basic tool for getting accurate information about human resource management and compliance.

 

SutiHR

How much it costs: Free trial with monthly plans starting at $2 per user.

What it does: SutiHR is the perfect paid tool for small businesses who want to only pay for the services they will use. Choose from a dozen options, and each option will add only $0.50 to $1 on to your monthly subscription. These options include performance reviews, benefits management, document storage, HR calendar that syncs with Google, project management, hiring, training schedules, attendance, an employee self-service portal, and mobile access.

 

WebHR

How much it costs: Free signup with monthly plans starting at $2 per user.

What it does: This is another affordable service that allows you to pay per tool. The more employees you have, the cheaper it is to include them in this simple, but easy service. Some of these include an HR calendar, payroll and attendance management, document storage, an applicant tracking system for hiring, and a self-service portal for employees. This is a really affordable platform that won’t over-complicate your HR needs.

 

We’re always looking for the best affordable online resources including tools to promote to small business owners like you. If you have a tool you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

June is LGBTQ Pride month (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer), and we want to spotlight one of our borrowers who supports the LGBTQ and women-owned small businesses in their local community.

June is LGBTQ Pride month (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer), and we want to spotlight one of our borrowers who supports the LGBTQ and women-owned small businesses in their local community.

 

Celebrating people’s differences and their contributions  make our national and local economies and communities stronger.

Supporting LGBTQ-owned businesses benefits your small business. Customers who feel that your company is inclusive and tolerant of diversity are more likely to support your business and employees will be more productive in a workplace that encourages openness.

According to the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), officially registered LGBTQ-owned businesses contributed over $1.15 billion to the economy in 2016. This figure is likely much higher if you consider that the NGLCC’s low registration counts are limited because fear of ostracization by local communities. These small businesses deserve positive recognition and celebration during this Pride month for their bravery and community contributions.

California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Georgia are the top states for LGBTQ inclusion and representation for small business.  Opportunity Fund supports all small business owners, and we help small business owners in all five of these states. We would like to spotlight one of our LGBTQ borrowers from California.

 

Coolhaus – Natasha Case and Freya Estreller

Coolhaus ice cream has really taken off since Natasha and her now-wife Freya started their company in 2009. Now, their gourmet ice cream is featured in major retailers such as Whole Foods, Kroger, and Safeway. Natasha is part of our Southern California Regional Board, and both she and Freya work to support other LGBTQ and women entreprenuers.

Next time you have a craving for ice cream, try one of Coolhaus’ unique and tasty flavors – love the blackberry ginger sorbet !

Read more about their inspiring story here.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Opportunity Fund is partnering with Lending Club to serve more entrepreneurs across the U.S. Learn more about the partnership, where we’re expanding, and our new model that combines the best of online and traditional community lending to serve more small business owners than ever.

Opportunity Fund is expanding its partnership with Lending Club to serve more entrepreneurs in more states across the U.S. Learn more about the partnership, where we’re expanding, and how our two organizations will provide more lending solutions than ever for small business owners.

Opportunity Development Beyond California

Opportunity Fund’s fast, easy-to-get, and affordable small business loans have helped California-based entrepreneurs for over 20 years. Through our partnership with Lending Club, we’re expanding to serve small business owners in 25 more states by the end of 2017.

In partnership with Lending Club, we are offering loans immediately in the first 12 states with the highest concentration of small business owners:

Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

Loans are available up  to $100,000 with an average 18-20%  APR.

In the fall of 2017,  we will begin offering loans in next 13 states and the District of Columbia:

Arizona, Arkansas, Washington DC, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

This expansion comes at a time when Opportunity Fund is also deepening our impact within California. Over the coming years, Opportunity Fund will add lending staff in new regions of the state (Fresno, Sacramento, and San Diego), and continue to reach more California borrowers online, in partnership with Lending Club.

Making Lending Work for Small Business

We’re expanding our partnership with Lending Club to continuously improve the small business borrower experience by delivering the best loan possible and serving a greater number of small businesses across the U.S..

Lending Club’s technology as a fintech leader will support our focus on underrepresented entrepreneurs. Together, we’ll be able to help more businesses that traditional lenders typically don’t serve.

We’re combining the strengths of marketplace lending and the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) model to expand access to capital for small businesses that neither organization could adequately serve on its own. In our complementary relationship, Lending Club contributes its technology, enabling almost instant pre-qualification for eligible applicants, to provide applicants a fast, simple, responsive customer experience.

Lending Club also brings us the broad reach into its applicant base and marketing. Opportunity Fund brings expertise in underwriting and servicing loans to borrowers who are underserved by traditional financing. The borrower gets a combined high-tech and high-touch experience and a loan that is best suited for their business.

We Believe Everyone Deserves a Chance at a Better Life

We strive to advance the economic well-being of working people by helping them earn, save, and invest in their futures. From a small business perspective, the organization deploys microloans for small business owners, many of whom have difficulty borrowing from traditional lenders and are vulnerable to high-cost alternative financing products that are all too prevalent in the market.

By expanding to these new states and the District of Columbia, Opportunity Fund will be able to “grow the pie” – bringing our proven products to small business owners who might not otherwise have found a responsible source of capital for their enterprise.  By doing so, we have the chance to help many more entrepreneurs achieve their goals and dreams.

This partnership with Lending Club is one of the ways Opportunity Fund plans to invest $400 million in 10,000 small businesses by 2020. The 25 states and District of Columbia in the 2017 expansion represent the major concentrations of U.S. small businesses.  Additional states will be phased in as we expand our services.

We’re proud to work with Lending Club to serve more hardworking entrepreneurs in their pursuit of the American dream. For more information about our commitment to fair lending practices and principles as stated in the Small Business Borrower’s Bill of Rights, please read our blog post here.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. In FY16 year, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Sarah Mayer founded Shift Collaborative in Pittsburgh as a mission-oriented creative services firm. She needed a small business loan to help with cash flow. Our partnership with Lending Club allowed us to help Sarah retain her staff and do more impactful work in her community.

Our customers inspire us every day, and we want to regularly share those stories to inspire you, too. Get to know Sarah Mayer of Shift Collaborative in Pittsburgh. Shift Collaborative is a mission-oriented creative services firm that needed a small business loan to help with cash flow. Our partnership with Lending Club allowed us to help Sarah retain her staff and do more impactful work in her community.

A Born Entrepreneur

Sarah Mayer grew up around entrepreneurs. Her first jobs were working in the hair salons that her mother and grandmother owned. It was a natural progression for Sarah along with her partners to start Shift Collaborative in Pittsburgh, Penn. in 2013.

Shift Collaborative is a full-service creative firm that works primarily with non-profit clients. “We founded the business on the philosophy of working with change-makers doing amazing things and advocating positive change in their community,” Sarah said.

Their work goes beyond website development and marketing services. Sarah and her fellow partners at Shift Collaborative encourage their staff to volunteer time and services to non-profits and other causes they care about. “Every month we’re trying to do something beyond our work and helping our clients,” she said. “We’re working to bring visibility through social media and other ways that these organizations are doing great things in our community and nationwide.”

Staff retention at Shift Collaborative is key to maintain the company culture. Shift needed a small business loan to secure cash flow and keep her employees in place. She had options to get the funding she needed, but none were the right fit until she found Opportunity Fund.

Low Turnover, High Impact

Like many small business owners, Sarah has a hand in nearly everything the business does. This makes it difficult to take time to work on a long and complex loan application. “There was just a ton of paperwork,” she said of loan options she tried, like through her bank and credit cards. “I wanted to get it done quickly.”

Sarah came to Opportunity Fund through our partnership with Lending Club. She chose us for our easy-to-get and fast small business loans. “The loan process can be extremely time intensive,” she said. “The folks at Opportunity Fund have been easy to work with. Everyone I worked with made it really smooth.”

She worked with business loan advisor Mayra Contreras, who closed a $20,000 loan in March 2017. The loan is making a major difference for Shift Collaborative.

“Without the loan, we might have had to scale back on staffing,” she said. “That would have drastically changed our business and been difficult for us. The loan has allowed us to maintain our staff’s employment.”

Now that Shift Collaborative has the working capital they need, Sarah can focus on the next big thing for her company. With new projects in business development ahead, Sarah is hoping to staff up her current part-time employees to full-time. Long term, she hopes to double her company’s profits in the next year.

We’re honored to work with fellow difference makers and community development organizations like Shift Collaborative. We’ll be there to support Sarah’s future business goals.

We hope this story has inspired you, too.  At Opportunity Fund, we offer easy-to-get, fast, and affordable small business loans to help small business owners succeed.  Visit our home page to find out more.


Opportunity Fund is California’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit lender to small businesses. Last fiscal year, we made $60M in loans to help more than 2,200 small business owners invest in their businesses.  Opportunity Fund invests in small business owners who do not have access to traditional financing. As a founding member and signatory to the Borrower’s Bill of Rights, we believe in the important role small businesses play in our community and the economy, and we aim to help owners financially succeed.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Opportunity Fund. Working Capital for Working People. opportunityfund.org