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

Getting a small business loan is more than collecting the right documents and providing financial information to your lender. Our content partner Nav explains five actions you should stop doing that will negatively impact your ability to get a loan.

Getting a small business loan is more than collecting the right documents and providing financial information to your lender. Our content partner Nav.com explains five actions you should stop doing that will negatively impact your ability to get a loan.

 

Lenders are going to looking at a number of factors to determine your eligibility for a loan, including your personal and business credit scores, your business banking information, personal and business tax returns, P&L statement and more.

If this seems overly complicated, never fear. While you can’t make all of these factors perfect overnight, you can exercise control over some, which will greatly improve your chances of getting the financing you need to make your business strong. Let’s take a look at five things you should definitely avoid before applying for a loan.

Missing a Payment

Don’t miss a payment on your personal or business credit cards, vendor accounts or any accounts that report to personal or business credit reporting agencies.

Payment history is the most important factor in both personal and business credit scores. Although it varies by score, payment history accounts for about 35% of your personal credit scores and 50% of your business credit scores. Just one late payment can bring down your scores significantly.

Most lenders are going to look at least one, if not both, credit scores. Most financing types will require you to meet a minimum credit score requirement — the SBA’s most popular loan program — the Advantage loan program, for example, has a minimum FICO SBSS score of 140 or above.

Making Large Purchases on Your Credit Cards

Large purchases can also affect your credit scores if you’re not carefully paying them off. This applies to purchases made on both your personal and business credit cards. Large purchases run up your credit utilization, which is an important factor influencing both personal and business credit scores.

Here’s a tip if you need to make large purchases on your credit cards: find out when your card provider reports to credit reporting agencies, and pay off your balance before that date so your high credit card balance is not reflected on your report. Often, this is the date your statement is issued.

Letting Your Business Bank Account Dip Below $1,000

Lenders like to see that you have enough free cash flow available to meet current debt obligations. A low balance (generally below $1,000) is a sign to lenders that maybe your business isn’t in the best shape financially.

Obviously, negative balances are even more of a red flag. Negative balances tell a lender that your business doesn’t have enough money in the bank to cover loan payments.

Here’s a tip if your business account balance is low: transfer a cushion of cash into your account, or secure a line of credit from your bank so your account doesn’t dip too low during cash-flow emergencies.

Applying For Certain Types of Loans

A Merchant Cash Advance (MCA) has been described as a “payday loan” for small businesses. How it works is an MCA provider pays a one-time lump sum, often instantly or the same day as the application, to a merchant in exchange for a percentage of future credit or debit card sales.

Fast money comes at a price, however, and MCAs usually charge high interest rates of 50% or more. If a business has outstanding MCAs it’s a sign to lenders of financial volatility, similar to the way a personal lender might view you as an individual if you’ve take out multiple payday loans.

Here’s a tip to avoid taking out an MCA: Consider applying for a business credit card before any potential cash emergency so you’re prepared should that time come.

Not Checking Your Business Credit

You’ll want to check your business credit scores and reports before you apply for any business financing so you know where you stand. If your scores are bad, and making a couple of small moves like paying off a credit card or asking for a credit limit increase will improve them, you could score better interest rates and terms. (You can check your personal and business credit scores for free on Nav.com.)

Also, checking your credit report ensures the data is accurate and up to date. Some negative items may still be on your report causing headaches despite the fact they should have dropped off. UCC filings are a good example of this.

When you take on financing that requires collateral, the lender places a legal document called a UCC filing on your business credit file, which signals to other creditors that they have a legal right to your collateral specified in the filing if you fail to pay your bills to the lender.

If you already have a loan that required collateral and are looking for another loan, you’ll find that many lenders are unwilling to lend to your business if they are second in line to the creditor that placed the initial UCC filing. UCC filings can last for 5 years (or more if the lender files a continuation of the UCC).

 

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

You already know that good credit is vital for getting the loan your small business needs. Our content partner Nav shares four easy ways to improve your credit score.

You already know that good credit is vital for getting the loan your small business needs. Our content partner Nav.com  shares four easy ways to improve your credit score.

Small business owners have a lot of numbers to think about when managing their finances. But one series of numbers that often gets ignored is their business credit scores. Just as individuals earn a numerical rating to help lenders determine their credit-worthiness, businesses are also given a score based on their credit history, and that score can impact their ability to get financing, government contracts, trade credit accounts and more.

Business credit scores are created by agencies like Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax, all of which use a score that ranks a business from 0 to 100, with 100 as a perfect score. You should aim to keep your business credit scores above 75.

In addition to these bureaus, FICO also has a score that rates small businesses: the FICO SBSS score. It ranges from 0 to 300, the higher the score, the better. The SBA uses FICO’s SBSS model to pre-screen it’s most popular loan applications. If your score falls below 140 then you likely won’t qualify for these attractive (loan interest rate) loans. And banks usually require your FICO SBSS score be even higher, in the 160 range.

With all the different bureaus and types of scores, it can be confusing. The good news is that following a few simple steps can ensure your business has a strong credit profile regardless of the bureau or model being used to judge it.

Establish Credit

Many small business owners might not see a need to establish business credit when they are starting out. Often, when working on a small scale, you can bankroll the company on your personal credit. But even if you don’t see an immediate need for business credit, one might arise down the road as the business grows and expands. It’s better to dig your well before you’re thirsty, right? Not establishing a business credit profile might disqualify you from financing when it’s needed.

Since business credit scores are strongly based on history, you should open a few credit accounts, like business credit cards, to start to build a credit history. Even if the business does not need this financing, it will pay off to use it minimally and show your business is responsible managing credit.

Pay Early

You might think that paying all of your bills on time is enough to earn you perfect business credit reports. With your personal credit score, this might be true. But with your business credit score, on time is not enough. The Dun & Bradstreet Paydex score, for example, is completely based on the timeliness of your business’ payments to its vendors, suppliers and creditors. Paying on time will earn you a Paydex score of 80. The only way to earn a perfect 100 is to make your payments 30 days before they are due.

Keep Debt Low

A big factor impacting your business credit score is your debt-to-equity ratio. This measures your business’ financial leverage in relation to the amount it is currently using. Credit utilization is another important metric, which looks at your available credit in relation to your debt. A high ratio will result in a low credit score. Small business owners should aim to keep credit utilization below 30 percent. A good tip to help manage this is to make several small payments during a billing period rather than waiting until the end to pay off the debt in full.

Check For Mistakes

Mistakes are more common on business credit reports than on personal reports. A Wall Street Journal survey showed that 25 percent of people who checked found business credit report errors that lowered their score. The main reason errors are more common is because business credit data is much more fragmented, so it’s easier for information to get crossed up.

This is another reason why it’s important for you to regularly monitor your reports to ensure there are no mistakes.

Nav offers truly free business credit reports and monitoring on our website. We also have a free tool (CreditSweeper) that helps you spot and dispute any mistakes.

By doing these simple things, you should be able to maintain a healthy business credit score and ensure your business is poised to take advantage of any growth opportunity.

 

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

Having a business strategy is important for running a successful business, but developing a good strategy from scratch can be difficult. Our content partner Nav shares a few tips on how to develop a business strategy based off of an I.M.O. framework.

Having a business strategy is important for running a successful business, but developing a good strategy from scratch can be difficult. Our content partner Nav.com  shares a few tips on how to develop a business strategy based off of an I.M.O. framework.

Guest post by Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software, entrepreneur, blogger, and business planner. The original post can be found on Quora: What makes a good business strategy?

What Makes a Good Business Strategy?

There are some obvious easy answers to this question if you take it from after the fact, looking at strategies that worked. From that point of view, a good strategy is one that worked. Every successful business had a good business strategy.

Would you agree that the great business strategies, the ones we all know that really worked, all looked obvious when you go back and study them after they made it? Federal Express, Google, Apple, McDonald’s … all a matter of focus, carving out identity and product-market fit … all obvious to all later?

During the several years that I was a VP at a firm called Creative Strategies I thought the name, with its reference to strategy, was a business problem. I decided strategy was like driving, and sex, in that everybody is sure that he or she is very good at it. That made it hard to sell consulting. Or so I thought.

But I think the real question is how to determine a good strategy before it’s executed. What qualities make a good business strategy?

You could start with this: strategy is focus. A good business strategy focuses on a well-defined target market, with a business offering that matches. Think of how MINI-cooper addresses a market subsegment with a specialized product offering.

Obviously there are whole careers spent on analyzing strategy, and people have PhD degrees on strategy. But I think it has to be simple to work. And obvious, afterwards, as if it were always there.

I’m working on something I call IMO, which stands for identity, market, and [business] offering. They are three factors that work together (this is from Lean Planning Practical Business Strategy: 3 Key Factors).

  • On identity: Every business has its core identity. How are you different from others? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is your core competence? What are your goals? Take bicycle shop as an example. One shop was started by a bike racer who loved the sport and the bicycles with a passion. Her core competence is high-level bicycles, racing bicycles. She’s comfortable with the obsessed enthusiasts. Another shop was started by a couple with kids, who liked the bikes as a family activity. That’s identity.
  • On choice of target market: Your identity influences your choice of target market. The bike racer focuses on attracting enthusiasts, offering expensive high-end bicycles and equipment. The couple focuses on attracting parents with kids, concentrating on medium-level bikes, trailers, and family-friendly accessories.
  • On the business offering: Your business offering is your product or service. You can already see with the bike shop example how one shop needs one kind of inventory and the other needs a different kind. That’s strategy at work. Your identity influences your choice of market, which influences your choice of product. Your choice of product influences your choice of market. They have to work together.

I think this three-way strategy framework works well for real businesses. It’s not as elaborate as some of the more well-known frameworks, like Porter’s five forces; but those were done for analyzing large business successes, and after the fact.

 

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

Accounting and bookkeeping isn’t the most fun part of running your small business, but it is a very important part of keeping it in the black. Our content partner Nav shares advice on what to keep track of, how to prevent financial problems, and why knowing the basics of booking is so important for your business’ growth.

Accounting and bookkeeping isn’t the most fun part of running your small business, but it is a very important part of keeping it in the black. Our content partner Nav.com shares advice on what to keep track of, how to prevent financial problems, and why knowing the basics of booking is so important for your business’ growth.

 

Last year we asked 100 business owners across the United States and Canada an important question:  “What do you wish you knew before starting your business?”

Of all the answers we received, the most common thing business owners wish they knew more about was accounting and bookkeeping.

Accounting, specifically bookkeeping, is a substantial piece of owning a business.  Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a veteran business owner, the efficiency and reliability of your bookkeeping can play a large role in the overall success of your business.  From helping you plan for the unexpected to being prepared for tax time, bookkeeping basics can go a long way.

While small business bookkeeping can be complex, here are a few tips and practices that can help you stay prepared and keep your finances in order.

Anticipate Long & Short Term Expenses

You may not be able to see into the future, but there are some unexpected expenses that won’t be included in  your planning and bookkeeping.

You can’t determine future revenue, but you can predict it by review past revenue cycles and tax returns to help you get an idea of what you may owe.  Additionally, you’ll want to review revenue on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly, for example) and calculate taxes owed.

Another great way to account for both long and short term expenses is to review the history and current state of your business with regards to things like inventory, building maintenance, equipment needs, and slow seasons.  It’s a lot easier to pay for things like roof repairs or equipment servicing when you plan for it.  The same is true for balancing inventory and cash flow during periods when business may be slower than normal.

Set Up & Use Business Specific Accounts

It’s tempting, particularly if you’re a new small business owner, to use your personal accounts for some expenses.  However, unless meticulously tracked, this can lead to problems down the road.

By setting up (and using) business specific checking, savings, and credit card accounts, you’ll be able to refer directly to statements to help correctly record and reconcile your books regularly.

If you are just starting out, make it a point to open accounts that will be used specifically for transactions within your business. Not only will this help you stay organized, but you’ll also be able to establish credit for your new business while protecting your personal credit from potential losses.

Save Receipts & Track Expenses

Bookkeeping is a year-long event, and that means you’ll need to keep track of your expenses and other transactions over that 365-day period.  Sometimes, particularly if you’re a new business owner, you may not know what receipts you should keep or which expenses can be deducted come tax time.

Saving receipts, no matter how small they are, will help you track your expenses and will help your accountant or bookkeeper get a clear and concise picture at the end of the year.

Tracking and analyzing these expense receipts, preferably using an app made specifically for businesses, will also enable you to understand labor costs or costs associated with specific clients or projects.

Designate a file or folder on your computer to keep all of your scanned and uploaded receipts. Better still, save that file or folder to some sort of online storage program (Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.) to ensure it’s safe from computer glitches or malfunctions.

At the end of the year, you may find you don’t need every receipt you’ve saved, but this is a situation when it’s better to keep it and not need it than to need it and not have access to it.

Monitor Accounts Payable & Receivable

One key part to bookkeeping is understanding and planning your cash flow, or when you will be receiving or making a payment.  Being on top of bills will help you avoid credit issues associated with late or defaulted accounts, and staying on track with customer invoices will allow you to stay on top of bills and accurately estimate cash on hand.

One of the major benefits of solid bookkeeping is getting a picture of where your business stands; accounts payable and receivable play a big role in this picture. You’ll also be able to note any ebbs and flows in your business or identify areas in which you may be able to expand, scale back, or are in need of additional attention.

Become Familiar with Business Bookkeeping Terms

Whether you plan to do all the bookkeeping yourself, utilize bookkeeping programs (we’ll get to that next), or hire someone to handle the books, it’s in your best interest to become familiar with some of the frequently used terms and concepts used in business finance.

Some of these (cash flow, inventory), may be terms you’re already familiar with, while others (owners’ equity, retained earnings) may not be as familiar. You can find lists of important terms all over the internet, including one found here.

Utilize an Online Bookkeeping Service

There are multiple ways you can approach bookkeeping.  Some of them aren’t very efficient (relying solely on memory and a notebook, for example), while some, like utilizing an online bookkeeping services, can help you save money, grow your business, and ultimately keep your finances straight.

There are a wide variety of online bookkeeping services that range from more hands-on platforms that put you in the driver’s seat, to services that will provide you with a designated individual or team to manage your finances.  Ultimately, the decision should be based on your comfort level and budget.

After reviewing the options available, we at Nav.com have partnered with what we feel are the best business solutions available to small business owners. Hop over to our Business Services page to review and learn more about these great service providers.

These are just a few of the key things that are important to improve your overall business organization.  By practicing these and becoming more familiar with the financial side of your business, you’ll be able to develop your own unique approach to successfully managing your business bookkeeping.

 

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

Business to business fraud is unfortunately a big problem that could cost your small business a lot of money. Our content partner Nav explains why checking the credit of the companies you do business with is so important, how to do it, and how this quick check can save you money.

Business to business fraud is unfortunately a big problem that could cost your small business a lot of money. Our content partner Nav.com explains why checking the credit of the companies you do business with is so important, how to do it, and how this quick check can save you money.

 

Let’s start with a story that’s frustrating, true, and all too common.

Gerri is a independent consultant with years of experience. One day, she’s introduced to a potential business partner (let’s call him Mike) through a friend. Mike publishes information for the mortgage industry, and is interested in developing a credit training program for loan originators. Gerri and Mike decide to work together, and agree that Gerri will write the program, Mike will market it, and they’ll split the proceeds 50/50.

Gerri works hard and delivers the program. Mike begins the marketing process, and reports back to Gerri that her program is being well received and that she’ll be getting a check for $10,000 for the initial sales, with more to come as sales continue. But the check never comes. Mike assures Gerri that all is well, and asks her to wait just a few more days. So she waits.

And waits.

And waits.

You can probably predict the ending: Mike stops responding to Gerri’s calls, Mike’s office manager leaves, Gerri never sees a penny for her hard work, and an attorney advises her that it might be in her best interest  to cut her losses and move on. Which is what Gerri did.

We’re used to hearing stories about consumers being defrauded, but how often do we hear about businesses defrauding other businesses?

According to leading credit reporting agency Experian, business-to-business (or B2B) fraud is a multi-billion dollar per year problem for U.S. businesses. And you can bet that as more and more small businesses turn to e-commerce and virtual transactions to keep their cash flow flowing, that number will only go up.

Fortunately, the same technology that emboldens and expands B2B fraud simultaneously provides tools to avoid it. One of the most effective of these tools is tracking a business’s credit information.

While personal credit scores are protected by the FCRA, anyone can pull a business’s credit report anytime, without permission from the business. If Gerri had run a business credit check on Mike’s company, she might have saved herself a lot of stress and wasted time and money.

But even if fraud weren’t part of the equation, checking another business’s credit report is an important tool that should be used when you extend terms to another business, or make a large sale before collecting full payment up front. As a small business owner, your success depends your on customers’ ability to pay their bills on time. If your customers can’t pay their bills on time, keeping your cash flow at consistently healthy levels becomes difficult, and it can eventually force you to go under.

And, as Gerri learned the hard way, outward appearances don’t count for a lot when push come to shove in the business world. Recent financial disasters have proved that it’s sometimes the biggest and best-looking companies that end up collapsing and taking everyone down with them. No matter how good you think your relationship with a potential business partner is, you should always keep in mind that what you see on the outside is what they want you to see. Their credit history may very well reveal a different picture.

If you’re convinced that you need to perform a credit check on any company with whom you’re considering doing business, Nav’s premium plus plan allows you to track detailed credit information on up to five different businesses at once. (Obtaining a single business credit report on another business would cost $40+ elsewhere.)

Growing a successful small business entails taking precautions as well as risks. (For a more complete breakdown of B2B scams and how to protect yourself, see here.) Checking the credit of the companies you do business with is one more step toward making your story a happy one.

 

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

If your small business is not on LinkedIn, it should be. Our content partner Nav explains why promoting your small business on LinkedIn is so important and how it can help expand your company’s audience and engagement.

If your small business is not on LinkedIn, it should be. Our content partner Nav.com explains why promoting your small business on LinkedIn is so important and how it can help expand your company’s audience and engagement.

Among social media platforms, LinkedIn is typically seen as the most professional one.

The site boasts more than 380 million users spread out across 200 countries and territories.  Unlike Twitter and Facebook, this platform is strictly business for most members. LinkedIn users see a business’s or individual’s profile as a Web-based resume.

With this in mind, as well as LinkedIn’s goal of connecting professionals, your branding strategy for the site has unique demands. So how can you use LinkedIn to build business relationships across the world without the stepping outside your office?

LinkedIn is your company’s resume

Like your business credit report, a LinkedIn profile can tell potential customers and partners a lot about your company. For business-to-business organizations, it is particularly important to keep an updated company profile and succinct descriptions amongst your employees — this will signal to potential customers that your company is well organized and worth considering.

The site allows for the creation of company pages for free, which can include basic information about the business — such as location, founding date and website — as well as different modules for posting content and status updates. Once your company page is active, employees can include a link in their personal profile to the company one, indicating that they work for your organization. Through your employee’s connections, you can further build your audience and connect other professionals with your business.

Lead and They Will Follow

Increasing brand awareness involves acquiring “followers”. These followers will become your company advocates and will play a key role in spreading your content as a means of online word-of-mouth marketing. Here are two simple ways to utilize tools you already have to boost your follower count:

  1. Leverage your employees. Encourage your employees to post to their network about your business, linking back to the business’s profile page.
  2. Add a “follow” button to your website. Your best LinkedIn advocates will likely be the ones who already love your brand. Let your frequent website visitors know that you are on LinkedIn by adding a simple follow button to your website.

LinkedIn has a paid advertising service that can be used to gain these followers or promote any content you post to your company page. If your business can spare room in the budget, these ads can allow you to target campaigns to individuals in specific industries and job functions. The site includes a number of packages that are priced based on the level of engagement you want to drive for your business.

Social Media Branding in the Professional Sphere

After you’ve done what you can to convert your employees and current brand advocates on LinkedIn, you can use LinkedIn to connect with various other professionals. This is particularly useful if you sell to B2B clients. Here are some tips for engaging with these companies:

Join LinkedIn groups. This social media platform has various groups that are networks of users with similar interests and career experiences. For example, if you own a marketing agency, join the digital marketing group. Find ones that relate to your business and join to connect with other users.

Start, join and respond to discussions. Users engage in discussions in the groups they join. Take an active role in these conversations. Doing so presents an opportunity to show your subject-matter expertise and give possible connections a view into your company’s mission and goals.

Post content. There are various ways to create posts on LinkedIn, from embedded slide presentations to links. Consider posting pictures and short videos of day-to-day operations at your business so users can have a virtual tour. You can also post job openings and company news.

Publish content. In addition to posting content to your LinkedIn page, you can also publish articles that will show up in LinkedIn Pulse. Check out the content channels for LinkedIn Pulse to see if any of them relate to your business, and target those audiences.

 

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

Want to launch a food truck? Read these smart planning tips on how to run and finance your mobile food business.

Thinking about jumping into the rapidly growing, one billion dollar food truck industry? Mobile food service includes food trucks, kiosks in malls and airports, mobile catering, and concession carts. Planning is key to successfully starting a food truck business.

Planning is Key to Food Truck Business Success

Create a business plan: As with any new business venture, planning your food truck business is important. Decide how much you will spend to buy your food truck and how you will finance the food truck cost. Look into potential locations, local permit regulations, local customer tastes, how you will market on social media and what the competition is. Research online, and talk with other operators in your area to see what other tips they have for how to start a food truck.

Plan your menu: Although you may already have an idea what kinds of foods you want to serve, keep in mind that you will need to make food easily transportable to and from your off-site commercial kitchen. It is also important to consider how you will serve food, because customers want something they can easily carry around.

Establish your business: What type of business you are determines tax obligations and personal liability. There are four types of businesses: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company. In the food truck business, you will most likely be a sole proprietor or a partner.

Secure financing: Funding your food truck business is one of the most important steps. Startup costs can run over $80,000. A lot of traditional banks reject food truck loans because they are high risk, and the loan amounts are often too low to make the bank a sizeable profit. Alternative lenders, like Opportunity Fund, specialize in these types of micro loans and work together with food truck entrepreneurs to achieve financial success.

Buy a food truck vehicle: Whether you plan on using a catering vehicle, truck or cart, make sure to research and price-match. Food trucks can cost from $5,000 to upwards of $60,000 depending on specialization and size needs. You can sometimes rent or purchase used vehicles for much less.

Secure commercial space: The benefit of running a food truck is the lack of expensive real estate rent, but you still need commercial space to operate. This includes somewhere secure to store your vehicle like a garage and a commercial kitchen. In California, current law requires food truck businesses to prepare the food beforehand in a licensed commercial kitchen, also known as a commissary.

Double check all licenses, permits, insurance, trademarks, etc.: Acquiring all the necessary state and city permits and licenses may be tedious, but it is essential to successfully starting a food truck. Some cities have parking restrictions and additional policies. Health inspectors usually check yearly, but may also check in randomly. They will check the commercial kitchen you prepare the food in, the garage in which you store the food truck during off hours, and the vehicle’s facilities itself.

Run a smart business: Once your food truck is ready to roll, the hard work really starts. Dealing with emergency situations and regulation changes can be stressful. Keep a close eye on your cash flow, inventory levels, new laws, and customer responses. Most importantly, manage for profit and finance from responsible lenders to keep your business out of debt.

We Know Mobile Food

If you have eaten at a local food truck, you have probably seen Opportunity Fund at work because we are the #1 lender to food trucks in California. So far, we have lent over $10.8 million to almost 300 food-related small businesses.

Onigilly is one of the many food truck businesses Opportunity Fund has helped get a loan. Koji’s “samurai sushi” had great potential, and our $10,000 loan helped him purchase a food truck. Since that first loan, Koji has been able to expand into two brick-and-mortar stores and hire 20 people. We are honored to have helped Koji achieve his dreams and start his own food truck business. Read more about Onigilly’s success here.

When you want to take out a loan to buy your food truck, you want a reputable lender who has your interests as the top priority. Because of our dedication to helping food truck business owners get the loans they need, we are confident we can help you get yours. We want to make sure your loan helps your business thrive.

Opportunity Fund has several loan options available for mobile food businesses. From $10,000 to $100,000, we offer loans with easy qualification, low APR rates, and short wait times of 5 days or less. Take a look, and you will see how easy-to-get, fast, and affordable our loans are.  

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 $37M in loans to help more than 1,800 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