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 free organization 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 free organization tools.

From invoices to inspiration, being a small business owner can be overwhelming. You need a way to remember and keep track of your business without going crazy. We’ve compiled this list of tools and resources that will help you organize your workload.

How much it costs: Free

What it does: Evernote is a really popular tool for creating and organizing notes in the cloud. With Evernote’s free plan, you can synch up your notes across two devices, with 60MB storage, and can even store web pages and photos for reference. Paid plans offer premium non-essential services such as forwarding emails, accessing notes across unlimited devices and even offline, scanning and storing business cards, annotating PDFs, and browsing through your notes history. If you’re the kind of person who has a million things to remember but can’t keep a list all in one place, Evernote might be the free tool for you.

How much it costs: Free

What it does: We’ve recommended a free Google product before, but here’s another one that can really benefit your small business. Google Drive is a completely free service that you can use with or without your gmail account, and you can purchase additional cloud storage space if you need. Upload files, documents, and powerpoints into your Drive and share it with anyone you want easily.

How much it costs: Free

What it does: Producteev is a great way to organize your projects. You can easily keep track of to-do lists, collaborators, priorities, and deadlines for any project your small business has. Don’t bother paying for their premium plan that only adds custom colors and online support; their free plan has everything you need to orangize and track your business operations.

How much it costs: Free

What it does: Some people love to remember things by snapping a photo of it with their smartphone and looking at it later. Genius Scan offers a business-oriented approach to this same idea. Download the app on either Android or iPhone and easily take quality photos and scans of receipts, invoices, notes, and other documents. For an affordable one-time fee, you can add on other features including exporting your scanned items to cloud storage systems if you want to access them on a desktop.

How much it costs: Free

What it does: Pinterest can be used for more than recipes and DIY project ideas. Businesses sometimes use Pinterest to promote their products and blog posts, but you can also use it to organize inspiration for your small business. A unique use for this completely free website and app is to create private boards and pin instructional blog posts you want to read or ideas you like for anything from menu designs to decor for your business’ redecorating plan. Download their free tool to instantly grab content from the web for faster organization.

 

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 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

Our lending experts are here to answer your toughest questions about small business financing. Shanna McClearn, a business development officer here at Opportunity Fund, shares her insights on lending with this Q&A about P&L statements. Continue reading to find out what they are, why you need to create one, and how it can help you get the loan your business needs.

Our lending experts are here to answer your toughest questions about small business financing. Shanna McClearn, a business development officer here at Opportunity Fund, shares her insights on lending with this Q&A about P&L statements. Continue reading to find out what they are, why you need to create one, and how it can help you get the loan your business needs.

In our blog post about the loan application process, we talked about preparing financial documents before applying for a loan. One of the most important documents lenders want to see after tax returns and bank statements is a P&L statement.

If you aren’t finance savvy, a P&L (Profit and Loss) statement is a document that summarizes your small business’ earnings and expenditures. Sometimes referred to as an income statement, a P&L shows how your business is doing over a period of time. It’s important to have an accurate P&L statement if you want an affordable loan to grow your small business. Keep reading to learn why.

 

Q: Why should business owners create a P&L statement?

A: Profit and loss statements are used to help business owners keep track of what is going on in their business and prove to lenders they can afford a loan. Having cash in the bank doesn’t always tell the full story. An owner can have a lot of cash in the bank, but that may be because they are not paying their rent or not paying all of their taxes. There’s no way to really tell without proper financial statements.

Owners need to know their numbers.  They should know their monthly/quarterly/annual sales and expenses. This helps owners track trends in their profits and spending. You need to know when and where to make adjustments before you’re running a deficit. Without a P&L, neither the business owner nor a lender will accurately know if the business is actually making money in the long-term.

Q: How does a P&L work with other financial documents? What’s the difference?

A: The P&L, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statements are all interrelated. For example, the net income from the P&L is reported in the equity section of the balance sheet. If a business owner prepares the P&L on a cash basis versus an accrual basis, then cash flow from operating activities (i.e. cash from sales and cash paid to vendors or employees) would be included in the cash flow statement. Even if it may seem redundant, all of these financial documents paints a complete, detailed picture of how your business is doing.

Q: How will preparing financial documents help me get an affordable loan?

A: Besides a tax return, a profit and loss statement is the only other document that can tell a lender how the business is doing. Lenders need to be able to determine if the business is generating enough cash flow to pay the business expenses plus the proposed loan payment. Without a P&L, lenders won’t be able to calculate if the business is able to support a loan payment. If a lender doesn’t ask to see financial statements, chances are high that they are preying on you with an unaffordable loan that will cripple your business.

Q: What makes a stellar P&L statement stand out?

A: The more detailed, the better. Lenders want to know the source of the sales revenues. These type of details help lender truly understand the operations of the company. P&Ls that only show total sales and total expenses, with no itemization, are not really helpful. Here are a few examples of good itemization:

  • For a restaurant: breakdown your revenues from food sales versus liquor, beverages, or other merchandise.  
  • For a service company: breakdown your revenues from ongoing contracts versus one-time customers.
  • In general: it’s important to itemize your expenses so that lenders can see detailed cost of goods sold (COGS) and operating expenses like rent, payroll, and advertising.  It’s also good to note if there were any one-time expenses included on the P&L, like legal fees related to a lawsuit or start-up costs for a new product line.

From a lender’s perspective, accrual based accounting is better than cash based accounting because it’s a more accurate way of recording when revenues and expenses are recognized instead of paid. Discuss this with your accountant to see if this is possible for your business.

Q: What mistakes do borrowers make when preparing their financial statements and can borrowers avoid those mistakes?

A: The biggest mistake that small business owners make with their financial statements is taking a hands-off approach.  It’s understandable that small business owners are busy, and financial statements may not be their core competency. Many owners just pass along information to their bookkeeper or accountant and leave it up to that person to take care of all the financials. However, it’s important to take the time to understand what the numbers on the statements mean. You should learn how to read the financial statements to decipher things like how products are selling period-over-period, how product pricing may compare to expenses, and how expenses are trending each period.

Another big mistake small business owners make is only creating financial statements once a year. If you are only tracking revenues and expenses on a yearly basis, it’s hard to keep track of things because you are referring to outdated information. For instance, if adjustments to pricing need to be made or if the rental contract needs to be renegotiated, it’s difficult to know what adjustments to make if you don’t know and track the company’s numbers.  

Q: How do I get started?

A: Start by having a discussion with your accountant or bookkeeper. Collect your records of sales and expenses, calculate net income, and fill out a formatted document that will cleanly show your net income.

For a detailed guide on creating a P&L statement, check out this handbook by Zions Bank:

How to Prepare a Profit and Loss (Income) Statement

 

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

Nelda and Gammie Vargas had all the right tools to start their own Filipino restaurant, but couldn’t get funding. Opportunity Fund helped GNC Kusina Atbp grow with two small business loans.

Our customers inspire us every day, and we want to regularly share those stories to inspire you, too. Get to know Nelda and Gammie Vargas of GNC Kusina Atbp in Sacramento. Nelda and Gammie had all the right tools to start their own Filipino restaurant, but couldn’t get funding. Read how we helped them grow their business with two small business loans.

A Fresh Business Idea

Nelda and Gammie Vargas started their own Filipino restaurant, GNC Kusina Atpb, in 2014. Gammie has over 30 years of experience as a professional chef at restaurants like Morton’s The Steakhouse. Nelda studied accounting in the Philippines. The time was right for them to start a business.

GNC Kusina Atbp is unique in Sacramento: a restaurant/grocery store where you can pop in for a freshly cooked traditional Filipino breakfast or pick up staples like house-made pork rinds for your home pantry.

As a first time business owner, Nelda has worked through challenges to make her restaurant successful. “It was hard at first starting because we had no background with starting a restaurant business,” she said.  “We’re doing better now. We’re focused on introducing our food to new customers.”

Nelda Vargas - GNC Kusina

Nelda proudly serves authentic Filipino food (photo courtesy of Heimo Schmidt)

GNC Kusina Atbp is the only source of income for Nelda and Gammie. “This is our bread and butter,” she said. “Our business helps us pay our bills, our house payments, our utilities, everything. We’re doing well.”

Soon Nelda started looking for small business loans to help secure cash flow for the business. A unique business like GNC Kusina Atbp required a unique funding source. Opportunity Fund was the right fit.

Funding A Family Restaurant

Nelda went to her Wells Fargo business banker, who connected her to Opportunity Fund. Once she talked to loan consultant Madieu Shyllon, she knew we were the right choice for her business.

“Madieu came to my business and approved my first loan,” she said. “My credit wasn’t good when I first applied for loans. It’s hard to get approved for a small business loan without a business profile. I just started my business and couldn’t pay to hire someone to prepare my profile.”

The $10,000 loan helped Nelda purchase a new freezer unit in August 2015. Madieu closed a second loan in January 2017 for $15,000 to help with cash flow.

Nelda values her working relationship with Madieu. “He’s there whenever I call him,” she said. “Sometimes he comes all the way from the Bay Area just to visit us and see how we’re doing, even if he doesn’t have business in the area.”

Nelda is looking to the future of her restaurant. She hopes to call on us again when she needs working capital. We’ll be there to help GNC Kusina Atbp serve up fresh Filipino favorites.

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

Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital for maximum online impact for your small business. It’s also one of the hardest skills for busy entrepreneurs to master. Our content partner Nav makes it simple for you to get started with 3 easy tips for managing local SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital for maximum online impact for your small business. It’s also one of the hardest skills for busy entrepreneurs to master. Our content partner Nav.com makes it simple for you to get started with 3 easy tips for managing local SEO.

Did you know that nearly half of all Google searches are local? Or that the 50% of consumers who perform a local search from their mobile device end up visiting that store within a day? Local search is on the rise, and for most smartphone wielding consumers, that’s probably not a surprise.

Many of us turn to our smartphones to help guide our purchasing decisions, whether that’s finding the perfect place to dine or to locate a good or service we need. Just type a few keywords into the Google search bar, and contact information, maps, reviews, and even some photos are at our fingertips, helping us decide where to go. Of course, chances are that if a business hasn’t taken the time to optimize their local search efforts, then they’ll go unnoticed by the tech savvy consumer. And that’s a shame.

Optimizing your Google local listing and capitalizing on the growing consumer base that relies on local searches is easy and yields big results, especially when it comes to foot traffic and conversions. Here’s a few simple ways to make sure your business is visible to all the customers near you.

Sign up for a Google My Business Account

In today’s mobile based economy, signing up for a Google My Business account is as important as unlocking your doors every morning or getting a telephone number. It’s essential for success.

The free service allows businesses to list all relevant details, making their info readily available for consumers searching within your geographic location. This listing includes vital contact information (address, phone number, website) as well as reviews.  It also will place your business on the map, literally, at least on Google Maps and any app that utilizes Google Maps (Yelp, for example).

Provide thorough and precise information about your business

Google uses search algorithms to serve its users with the most accurate results it can, and for those hoping to optimize their local search efforts, that means including all relevant info. Business owners must provide accurate information for their business (phone number, address, hours of operations, and any URLs available (for example, if you’re a restaurant, you’d want to link to your menu where applicable) if they want to increase the their chances of appearing in top search results.

It also means choosing terms to accurately describe your business. Take for example a furniture store that specializes in vintage or refurbished pieces. It’s not enough to simply describe your store as a “furniture store.”  Instead, specific words, like “vintage furniture” can improve search results by funneling relevant traffic to your listing, putting your store information in front of the exact consumer base you want to reach.

Be mindful of your reviews

According to a recent Pew study, 82% of consumers consult reviews before making a purchase. And almost 50% of consumers are using their mobile devices to check reviews while they’re in the store. Reviews are integral to the overall success of a business, and that’s true when it comes to attracting customers via local search results.

Remember that Google algorithm we talked about briefly above? Reviews are factored into that algorithm and impact rankings; good reviews bode well for businesses and help establish themselves as top in search results.

Great reviews do help businesses gain traction in search results, but reviews are important for another reason. Reviews create unique content that is often, by proxy, filled with keywords that help you rank better. Google sees unique and relevant content as a major plus, so reviews can help drive your campaign (so can your responses).

To leverage the power of reviews, be sure to stay engaged with your customers. You can even consider developing a campaign that incentivizes your clients to leave reviews.

I know what you’re thinking: what about bad reviews? Despite the fact that there will always be customers who are simply impossible to please, responding to poor reviews is important, and over time, customers can see that you’ve made attempts to reach out and remedy any issues (you’ll also be creating more unique content); they may even consider changing their review once you’ve addressed their concerns.

For businesses that rely on local clientele and regular foot traffic, local SEO is essential for success and must be part of long- and short-term marketing strategies.  While some facets of online marketing, particularly SEO, may seem daunting, these three simple yet powerful local SEO tips can help any business stake a claim in their local economy.

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

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 July 3 through July 16.

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 July 3 through July 16.

Northern California/Sacramento

Drive New Business with Social Media
Date: July 6, 2017 | 10:00 am PDT – 12:00 pm PDT
Location: Simpkins Family Swim Center
979 17th St. Santa Cruz, CA 95062 (map it)
Contact: John Yost | jyost@santacruz.score.org | (831) 621-3735
Organization: Santa Cruz SCORE
Fee: $35

Join Santa Cruz SCORE for this workshop that will teach you how to get started with social media for your business or non-profit.

This session will answer your key questions, including:

  • Which social media platform(s) will have the biggest bang for your buck?
  • How to create content to grow your followers?
  • How to advertise on social media?
  • And more!

Click here to register for this event.

How Smart Business Owners Use Credit Cards
Date: July 13, 2017 | 9:30 am PDT – 10:30 am PDT
Location: 455 Market St. Suite 600 San Francisco, CA 94105 (map it)
Contact: sfomail@sba.gov | (415) 744-6820
Organization: U.S. Small Business Association
Fee: Free

Credit cards can be a great tool for managing cash flow or can be helpful as a short-term loan option. Join the SBA for this free seminar to learn how to use credit cards for your business to earn some sweet rewards while avoiding costly pitfalls.

We’ll discuss:

  • Pros and cons of credit cards for entrepreneurs
  • Different types of credit cards and how they can affect your credit scores
  • Common credit card mistakes many small business owners make
  • The one piece of plastic you should not use in your business
  • Key differences between personal and business cards
  • Qualifying for the best business credit cards
  • And more!

Click here to register for this event.

Meet the Lenders Workshop
Date: July 13, 2017 | 12:30 pm PDT – 3:30 pm PDT
Location: Mt. Shasta Community Building
629 Alder St. Mt. Shasta, CA 96067 (map it)
Contact: info@e-jedi.org | (530) 926-6670
Organization: Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI)
Fee: Free

Join us at Meet the Lenders and get answers to your questions on financing options for startups and expanding businesses, veteran entrepreneurs, and others through local and JEDI partner organizations.

We will cover:

  • Financing options available to small businesses
  • Loans for real estate, equipment, or machinery
  • Funding sources and services for veterans

Find the financing that fits your business needs! Click here or call (503) 926-6670 to register for this event.

Southern California/San Diego

Introduction to QuickBooks
Date: July 6, 2017 | 6:00 pm PDT – 8:00 pm PDT
Location: 1003 East Cooley Dr. Suite 109 Colton, CA 92324 (map it)
Contact: Dee Anna Chandler | deeann@iewbc.org | (909) 890-1242
Organization: Inland Empire Women’s Business Center
Fee: Free

Learning a new software package can be scary. Join this free seminar and replace the fear with excitement.

Quickbooks can help you build, maintain, and grow your business by providing automated bookkeeping and accounting procedures that help you stay on top. Learn ways to customize the software to your specific needs and create quality reports that keep you on track, including:

  • Tracking income and expenses
  • Maintaining your accounts receivables and payables
  • Creating quality financial statements

Want more Quickbooks? Register for the 3-part hands-on Quickbooks training at IWEB, which starts July 27. Call Dee Anna Chandler at (909) 890-1242 for more information.

Click here to register for this event.

Bring Attention To Your Website and Your Business With Video!
Date: July 11, 2017 6:00 pm PDT – 9:00 pm PDT
Location: Bellflower City Hall
16600 Civic Center Dr. Bellflower, CA 90706 (map it)
Contact: (714) 550-7369
Organization: Orange County SCORE
Fee: Free

Video is becoming the content of choice to showcase your business, your product, or your service online! Learn how to create and publish do-it-yourself video throughout your website, social media, and email with the tools you already have!

Haven’t you always wanted to direct? Join us for this free workshop and learn: 

  • Brand standards and consistency on your website, social media, and video.
  • Tools and techniques for making your own videos look polished and professional.
  • Information on apps that make it easy.
  • Actionable steps to market your video online with email and social media.

Click here to register for this event.

Access to Capital Workshop
Date: July 12, 2017 | 5:00 pm PDT – 8:30 pm PDT
Location: Downtown Anaheim Community Center—Assembly Hall
250 E. Center St. Anaheim, CA 92805 (map it)
Contact: Martha Cisneros | mcisneros@elcamino.edu |(310) 973-3177
Organization: The Center and Orange County SBDC
Fee: Free

Join Opportunity Fund at Access to Capital Small Business Workshop, hosted by The Center and the Orange County Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Come meet non-profit and government organizations committed to supporting small business:

  • Orange County SBDC
  • SBA
  • Anaheim Small Business Organization
  • CIELO
  • Opportunity Fund
  • And more!

These organizations can help you with challenges ranging from lowering your cost of capital to preparing your loan application package.

Enter to win a $1,500 Business Advancement Grant! At registration, simply tell us your story—why you run a small business & some of your challenges and successes—to be eligible.

Click here to register for this event.

Virtual

Small Business Owners: Access Financial Resources to Boost Your Bottom Line
Date: July 6, 2017 | 9:00 am PDT – 10:00 am PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: Mary Overbey
Organization: Small Business Majority
Fee: Free

If you need help accessing financial, health, or retirement resources to boost your bottom line and provide robust employee benefits, join this free webinar to learn about resources that can benefit your small business.

This free interactive event series will expand your knowledge of various topics such as optimizing your credit score, improving your health literacy, and exploring convenient retirement saving options. Register for one event, or sign up for the whole series for the most impact on your business!

  • Presentation #1 – Financial Resources (7/6/2017)
    Optimize your credit score, spot signs of predatory and payday lending, and easily access capital for your business.
  • Presentation #2 – Retirement Resources (7/13/2017)
    Discover the U.S. retirement savings gap and a summary of common retirement paths for entrepreneurs to help you and your employees save for the future and secure your finances.
  • Presentation #3 – Health Resources (7/20/2017)
    Learn what healthcare laws means for small businesses, and how repealing the ACA (or “Obamacare”) could impact employer-sponsored coverage for small firms and individual coverage for the self-employed. Additionally, we’ll provide examples of easy and affordable wellness programs that can benefit the health of your business and employees, and provide you with a guide to increase your health literacy.

Click here to register for this event.

Financial Calculations That Answer Key Business Questions
Date: July 11, 2017 | 10:00 am PDT – 11:00 am PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: (626) 585-3106
Organization: Pasadena SBDC
Fee: $25

Business owners can struggle with questions that affect the financial health of the company:

  • Are we selling at the right price?
  • Are we making money?
  • Can we afford to hire someone?

In this webinar, learn about Performance Measurements—simple mathematical calculations that can monitor sales, overhead, and profitability. Use them for business, independent of size and scope.

Click here to register for this event.

5 Cheap Ways to Market Your Business Online
Date: July 13, 2017| 10:30 am PDT – 11:00 am PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: Kimberly Donahue | kimberly.donahue@sba.gov | (304) 347-5220
Organization: U.S. Small Business Administration
Fee: Free

Getting your business online isn’t as complicated—or expensive—as you might think. Join this free webinar and discuss ways to promote your business online without breaking the bank or driving yourself crazy.

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

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

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