Tracking mileage and expenses is one of the more tedious tasks for small business owners. Looking for a way to make it easier? Look no further....

Tracking mileage and expenses is one of the more tedious tasks for small business owners. Looking for a way to make it easier? Our content partner Nav.com has answers…

 

Tracking expenses can feel like a full-time job, especially if your business requires daily purchases or frequent travel expenditures. But failing to track or inaccurately track expenses can lead to a host of problems.

Without a clear view of costs, it becomes impossible to efficiently manage cash flow and prepare for the future. Further, valuable tax deductions are lost if you don’t accurately track expenses over the year.

Fortunately, the right tracking system can make a world of difference, and implementing one may be far simpler than it seems.

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or a business owner overseeing numerous employees, these tips can help you stay on top of mileage and other business expenses.

1. Separate your business and personal spending

The first step in accurate expense tracking is to limit your business spending to a specific business account. This means opening a business checking account and using it as the exclusive funding source for business purchases.

The same logic should be used when making purchases with a credit card — apply for and use a business card, not your personal credit card.

2. Use a designated checking account or credit card

In the past, business owners and consumers alike were often forced to keep meticulous logs in order to track spending. And while those logs are still an important piece of the puzzle, today’s online banking platforms often take away much of the manual labor.

In most cases, your online banking platform will provide you with all the pertinent info regarding transactions, including the amount, date, and the payee. Further, many banks and credit card companies allow online users to download an activity report, which can be used to further filter and record your expenses.

3. Log info regularly

Whatever method you choose to implement, regularity is the key to success. For some, particularly those who rely on manual entry methods, a daily log will prove to be the most efficient way to keep track of expenses.

Others, however, may find that a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly schedule is just as efficient. However, don’t wait too long. The longer the gap between spending and logging, the more likely you are to forget, lose, or omit vital information.

In your log, make sure to note the date, total amount, and nature of the purchase. Though these logs certainly don’t need to be super detailed, providing basic information will help you segment your expenses when it’s time to budget and provide documentation in the case of an audit.

4. Use an expense tracking app

While the good ol’ pen and paper combo, or even the note feature on a smartphone, can serve as an easy expense recording tool, there is certainly room for error. There are numerous apps that can help streamline and add integrity to the process, some of which even integrate with your accounting software.

As you review your app options, it’s a good idea to take note of what type of expenses you can track. For example, Expensify and TripLog both allow you to track mileage and business expenses in one place, but that’s not always the case.

In addition, it’s also important to take note of any limits that may be in place. Some apps are free for a single user but require payment for more than one user. Similarly, other apps limit the total amount of expenses, employees, or vehicles you can track.

5. Have a clear expense tracking and submission policy

If you’re responsible for reimbursing employees for their expenses, it’s essential that you create a clearly defined expense submission policy. This should include things like mileage rates, an outline of acceptable expenses, and submission deadlines (e.g., within 5 business days of the purchase).

Further, it’s important that you specify what documents should be included. At the very least, you’ll want employees to save receipts and record mileage, where applicable.

6. Set limits

In reality, limits fall into the expense policy, but the notion is important enough to merit its own section.

If you’re reimbursing employees, it’s important to explicitly state any limits or spending criteria that will dictate reimbursement. By doing so, you can set behavioral expectations (e.g., no elaborate lunches) and maintain control of your operating budget.

For instance, you may want to set limits on how much an employee can spend on meals, what type of airfare you’ll reimburse (e.g., first class vs business class), or maximum hotel stay expenses.

7. Know what’s deductible

Since taxes represent a primary reason to practice regular expense tracking, it’s helpful to know what type of expenses you can and can’t deduct.

In general, the IRS states that business owners can deduct any expense that is “both ordinary and necessary.” Of course, it can be hard to determine exactly what that means. If you’re unsure if a business expense is considered ordinary and necessary, your best bet is to consult the IRS small business deductions page as well as your accountant.  

As a business owner, tracking expenses can be a challenge, but doing so can make it easier to run your business and manage your finances. The tips above can help you create a strong process that can alleviate some of the pain points often associated with expense tracking.

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, believes small dollar loans help hard-working entrepreneurs make lasting change in their own lives and build stronger communities by growing businesses and creating jobs. Opportunity Fund’s community of donors and investors is creating an inclusive financial system that empowers women, immigrant, and minority small business owners. Our strategy combines microloans for small business owners and New Markets Tax Credit investments in high-impact community infrastructure projects. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has deployed more than $750 million and helped thousands of entrepreneurs invest in their families’ futures. The organization has committed to lending an additional $1.2 billion to small business owners across the country and investing $174 million in community real estate projects by 2023.

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

It's time for spring cleaning, and your business credit report needs some help. Our content partner Nav has some tips to help tidy things up...

It’s time for spring cleaning, and your business credit report needs some help. Our content partner Nav.com has some tips to help tidy things up…

 

Spring means longer days and better weather, which often gives us the energy to tackle projects around the home we’ve been neglecting. Why not channel some of that positive energy into tackling business tasks you’ve been putting off—including working on your business credit?

Here are 7 ways to clean up your business credit.

First, Clean Up

When it comes to cleaning up your business credit, you can start by carefully reviewing your business credit reports to make sure all the information is accurate and complete. (You can get your free business credit report summaries from business credit agencies Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian through Nav.)

Here’s what to look for:

1. Check your business name and address.

If your business is a legally incorporated entity, or you have filed a fictitious name (DBA) with your state, you’ll want to make sure the full legal business name is listed correctly on your business credit reports.

2. Review your business SIC/NAICS code.

Your business credit report will list one of these codes, which is a government code designed to categorize businesses by type of business. You want yours to be accurate for a couple of reasons. First, business credit scores can compare businesses within the same industry and if your business is not categorized correctly it may not be properly evaluated. Secondly, lenders may finance certain types of businesses and not others; you don’t want yours excluded from financing opportunities due to a mistake.

3. Scrutinize payment history.

Whether your business pays its bills on time is the single most important factor in your business credit scores. But Business credit reports list payment history on individual accounts differently than consumer credit reports.

On personal credit reports you’ll see month-by-month payment history for the most recent 24-months along with a summary for the entire reported account history. With business credit, you’ll see a summary of the entire account payment history listed as the percentage of time the account has been paid on time, or has been late. So it may be confusing to try to figure out when any late payments occurred. But if you believe the payment history listed on your credit report is wrong, you can dispute it and ask the credit reporting agency for a correction or try to contact your creditor for clarification.

4. Check public record information.

If your credit report lists items such as UCC filings, tax liens or even judgments, you’ll want to check to make sure that information is accurate and complete. One thing to look for is whether the current status is reported. For example, if you have paid off a tax lien, it should indicate there is no balance. If you’ve satisfied a debt underlying a UCC filing, you’ll want to make sure that it is no longer reported as open. If any public record information is wrong, you can dispute it with the credit reporting agency. (Note: there is no time limit that negative information may be reported; instead commercial credit reporting agencies make their own determinations.)

Then, Spruce Up

After you’ve cleaned up, it’s time to spruce up. This is the business credit version of creating curb appeal: you’ll want to make your credit report look attractive to lenders, insurance companies and other companies that review business credit reports and scores. Here are several steps you can take to do that:

5. Add vendor accounts.

If you don’t have many accounts listed on your business credit report— many small businesses don’t— adding a couple of accounts can help build a stronger credit rating. Vendor accounts offer one of the simplest ways to build business credit. When you’re approved with one of these companies you’ll be able to purchase products and pay for them later, often on net-30 terms. (Here are 3 vendor accounts that don’t require personal credit checks or personal guarantees.) Pay them on time to build out your business credit.

6. Get a business credit card.

A small business credit card can help build business credit as well. It also helps to separate business and personal credit and makes it easier to keep track of business expenses.

7. Get credit for your payments.

Most small businesses find that some of the bills they pay don’t appear on their business credit reports. You may be able to get some of them added to your credit history by using a service like eCredable to verify and report those accounts. You may be able to get up to two year’s worth of payment history reported for certain accounts, such as internet, power and cell phone accounts that you use for your business.

None of these tasks should take more than an hour, tops. Many can be completed faster than that. Invest a little time now cleaning up your business credit and watch it pay off.

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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

You're looking for funding for your business. There are so many different avenues for getting a loan, where do you start? Knowing the difference between a for-profit and a nonprofit lender will help you as you shop around.

You’re looking for funding for your business. There are so many different avenues for getting a loan, where do you start? Knowing the difference between a for-profit and a nonprofit lender will help you as you shop around.

What is the difference between For-Profit and Nonprofit?

The most technical difference is the way an organization is categorized and taxed. A nonprofit is typically a 501(c)3 organization, which means they have certain tax exemptions because they are serving the public without making profit beyond operating costs. Many nonprofits are volunteer-run.

There are other key differences such as leadership structure and the way they are funded, but the most relevant differences to you as a borrower are their purpose and their qualifications for getting a loan.

Their purpose

For-profit lenders’ purpose is very clear: to make a profit. This includes traditional banks as well as predatory “alternative” lenders. This purpose drives the goals and motivations of the employees and affects who is able to get a loan from them. Because a for-profit lender needs to make money, they are less likely to lend to small businesses they deem to be more of a risk.

Nonprofit lenders include credit unions and microlenders like Opportunity Fund. A common misconception is that nonprofits are charities, because they are driven by more than making money. Nonprofit lenders are community-oriented and support initiatives that focus on improving the lives of small business owners. This means that Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit lender, is more likely to lend to “risky” businesses that others often won’t touch, such as new businesses, recent immigrants, restaurants, food trucks, micro businesses, and those with poor or no credit.

Qualifications for getting a loan

Things we hear a lot from our clients is that banks won’t help them because they have financial history that doesn’t look great on paper. This could be for a variety of reasons, but the message is clear: for-profit lenders care the most about numbers. In addition to requirements that most lenders ask for, they can be more strict about FICO scores and credit reports.

Opportunity Fund takes the time to listen to you and understand you as an individual with unique business needs. Some Opportunity Fund loans don’t have minimum FICO score requirements, and having little or no credit history may be accepted.

The trade-off with a nonprofit lender who takes on “risky” businesses is you may pay a higher interest rate to cover the greater potential loss. That being said, always look for a trustworthy lender who is truly affordable and transparent about what their loans actually cost.

Find a responsible lender

While not every for-profit lender is trying to suck your bank account dry, there are many “alternative lenders” out there that use dangerous and predatory practices that you should avoid – such as Merchant Cash Advances (MCAs) and Confessions of Judgement (CoJ).

Opportunity Fund is a co-founder and signatory of the Small Business Borrower’s Bill of Rights, which aims to educate small business owners about responsible business lending. Your rights, not protected by law but important for you to understand and fight for, include:

  1. The Right to Transparent Pricing and Terms
  2. The Right to Non-Abusive Products
  3. The Right to Responsible Underwriting
  4. The Right to Fair Treatment from Brokers
  5. The Right to Inclusive Credit Access
  6. The Right to Fair Collection Practices

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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

You’re looking for the right location for your business. Or you’re getting ready to move in. Or you’ve been there for a while and the costs are starting to add up. Here’s a list of things related to your business location that can drain your cash flow, and how to get back on track.

You’re looking for the right location for your business. Or you’re getting ready to move in. Or you’ve been there for a while and the costs are starting to add up. Here’s a list of things related to your business location that can drain your cash flow, and how to get back on track.

 

Here are 6 things to consider when selecting your business location

Your business’ physical  location can affect your rent, utilities, and insurance. Your business’ proximity to a creek or fault line can mean paying extra for disaster insurance. If your store’s floor-to-ceiling front windows face direct sunlight during the summer, you will need to pay more for air conditioning. Commercial property values can change dramatically depending on what neighborhood you set up shop.

Is street traffic or easy parking a necessity to gain customers? If you run a staffing agency or an HVAC installation service, paying expensive rent for a busy, pedestrian-oriented street might not be the best use of your money. Likewise, if you’re a small fashion boutique, it might be worth the cost to find somewhere better for your foot traffic than a suburban shopping center where people just want to go to the grocery store or gas station.

If you are located in a business park or shopping center, keep Common Area Maintenance (CAM) costs in mind. You could also be pressured into signing unsavory Tenant Improvement (TI) packages that pass on expensive maintenance, renovation, and damage costs onto you. Always check with your landlord or real estate agent before you sign for your new location.

Your business address can affect the minimum wage you have to pay employees and other localized employment rules. Taxes, minimum wages, and more can vary depending on in which city or county your business address is located.

Local zoning ordinances and historical designations can add costs to your start-up or renovation costs. Some neighborhoods have expensive permits and strict restrictions on what type of businesses can operate and where. You might also have restrictions on what your business can look like (or have to pay for regular restoration efforts) for historically designated neighborhoods and buildings.

Your could qualify for federal incentives if you are located in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone). The government prioritizes awarding contracts to businesses that operate in a HUBZone. If your industry fits and you have some flexibility in choosing where to locate your primary office, you could have preferential access to government contracts.

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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

The U.S. government is here to help small business owners. Here’s a list of free and low cost small business resources available from the SBA, Department of Labor, IRS, and more.

The U.S. government is here to help small business owners. Here’s a list of free and low cost small business resources available from the SBA, Department of Labor, IRS, and more.

 

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)

What it costs: Free

What it does: The HHS is a completely free government resource for you to learn about, comment on, or file a complaint about regulations; access government grants and contracts; and connect with HHS programs and services such as emergency preparedness, food and drug safety programs that could be relevant to your business’ industry, and health insurance for small businesses.

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

What it costs: Free

What it does: The DOL has everything you need to know about regulations and compliance information as a small business owner. From worker’s compensation and OSHA to employment benefits and whistleblower protections, there is a treasure trove for you to explore. Being informed is the best way you can be the best boss.

Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU)

What it costs: Free

What it does: You might notice that OSDBU is a department of Veteran’s Affairs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reap benefits from OSDBU if you haven’t served in the military. Federal agencies have to set aside a certain percentage of contracts for small businesses, and this is where you can access and apply for them.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

What it costs: Free

What it does: The SBA has a lot of resources and tools for you to grow and manage your business successfully. Find information about applying for licenses and permits, opening a business bank account, registering as a veteran- or minority-owned business, hiring and managing employees, franchising or expanding your business, writing a business plan, preparing for emergencies, and so much more.

IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center

What it costs: Free

What it does: We’ve written previously about this resource, but the IRS has a center for small businesses to find information about filing business taxes, record keeping, registering your business with the IRS, tax workshops, a free calculator, and more.

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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

There’s a dangerous document that could ruin your financial health, and that’s called a Confession of Judgement. Learn what this is, why it is so harmful, and how you can avoid signing one.

There’s a dangerous document that could ruin your financial health, and that’s called a Confession of Judgement. Learn what this is, why it is so harmful, and how you can avoid signing one.

 

Since the recession, small businesses have had trouble getting loans from traditional banks. Businesses need working capital to survive, and smaller businesses can really struggle if they can’t get financing when they need it.

Just like most American households, when entrepreneurs are tight on cash things can get desperate. Alternative lenders know this, and some take advantage of this desperation. We’ve written about Merchant Cash Advances (MCAs) before, for-profit companies who offer lighting fast approval and super easy qualifications, even with bad credit.

The problem with MCAs is that they often aren’t transparent about how much this money will cost you. We’ve conducted industry research on these harmful practices, which you can read about here. Not only will you be stuck with high interest rates and hidden fees, leading to painful APR levels, but some MCA businesses may ask you to sign a Confession of Judgement (CoJ).

What is a Confession of Judgement?

A CoJ is an old legal document dating back hundreds of years intended to enforce debts without the hassle and enormous expense of trials. Although most states banned confessions of judgement in the nineteenth century,  they were still used in consumer loans until 1985. Even now, New York allows companies that have an office located within the state to use a CoJ.

When a borrower signs a CoJ to get an MCA, they are “giving up their right to defend themselves if the lender takes them to court. It’s like an arbitration agreement, except the borrower always loses. Armed with a confession, a lender can, without proof, accuse borrowers of not paying and legally seize their assets before they know what’s happened. Not surprisingly, some lenders have abused this power. In dozens of interviews and court pleadings, borrowers describe lenders who’ve forged documents, lied about how much they were owed, or fabricated defaults out of thin air”(Bloomberg).

To make matters worse, language pertaining to confessions of judgment are often times embedded well within the loan contract. It can be difficult to find, and borrowers end up releasing their right to arbitration without knowing.

How You Can Protect Yourself

If a lender requires you to sign a CoJ before they will give you money, that is a giant red flag. Not every lender who asks you to sign will call you with threats and drain your bank accounts overnight, but by signing a CoJ, you are giving them the freedom to seize your financial assets without warning. It is important to know your rights as a borrower, and as a small business owner you don’t want to sign those away. To learn more about your rights, read the Small Business Borrowers Bill of Rights co-authored by Opportunity Fund.

Always do your research and educate yourself about lenders and their offers before you sign anything. Arming yourself with knowledge is the best thing you can do for your business and your financial health. We created a free business loan calculator for you to figure out how much a loan – or cash advance – will really cost you.

Take your time to find a lender who is trustworthy, transparent, and upfront. Confessions of Judgement are potentially dangerous to your business – borrowers beware!

Watch This to Learn More

Bloomberg made this short video accompanying the breakthrough article they published earlier (linked above). It is informative and insightful. Take a look to learn more about Confessions of Judgement and how they’re harming business owners like you.

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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

To grow as a business owner, you need to keep learning – which can mean getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Get started with these ideas for taking small steps toward big changes.

To grow as a business owner, you need to keep learning – which can mean getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Get started with these ideas for taking small steps toward big changes.

Women entrepreneurs: Keep those business skills sharp

You’ve decided to start a business – and that’s a brave thing to do: Not everyone makes the leap of faith to go it alone! But you need to run a business day in and day out, and it’s easy to forget that you have to keep building your business skills, even beyond what you do to keep the doors open and serve customers. Taking the steps below to build skills such as networking, public speaking, and mentoring can help you push the boundaries of what’s possible for your business.

It’s okay to be afraid – but do it anyway

Getting out of our comfort zones can wrack the nerves, but it’s essential for growth (as a person and as a business owner). “As women, we shouldn’t stick to assigned roles because we feel like it’s what we are good at,” writes Angela Ruth, co-founder of payments company Due, in Forbes. “In reality, we could be doing so much more that no one ever encouraged us to do.”

Ruth’s advice: “Sign up for something you would never do and get through it. You’ll experience a heightened sense of confidence.” In her case, the “something” was doing her first conference presentation: “It can be scary to go out and do something completely different than what you are used to, but once you do it, there’s no question as to how confident you’ll feel.”

Speak up!

Unless you’re naturally gregarious and outgoing, nothing may take you more out of your comfort zone than public speaking. But it’s a skill that comes very much in handy for a business owner, since you may be called on to speak at local business or government events, or offer your insights at conferences.

Fortunately, there are many ways to get some practice at speaking publicly on a small scale (without facing a room filled with a hundred people). Toastmasters organizations, located all around the country, can help you sharpen your speaking skills in a supportive environment – you can even ask for a local mentor who can offer advice.

Karen Catlin, a business coach and former tech executive who teaches public speaking workshops, is a fan of pushing yourself to schedule small public speaking gigs so you become, as she says, “comfortable being uncomfortable.” In her case, she’s committed to doing some kind of public speaking at least once a month. And it’s okay to think small – public speaking can be something as simple as raising your hand at a city council meeting.

Mentor a budding entrepreneur

If you’ve had a mentor, you know how valuable it is to get support from a business leader. But have you thought about becoming a mentor, and sharing your knowledge with someone who’s at the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey? You may have more advice to offer than you think. Plus, you’ll be helping another woman realize her business dreams.

Alicia Glen, New York City’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, firmly believes that mentorship is one of the keys to women’s empowerment. As she told Quartz.com, mentoring doesn’t need to be complicated. First, spend at least 15 minutes with a more junior woman in your business or your professional network, and give your undivided attention. Next, “actually pick up the phone and get her a connection,” Glen advises. While advice is helpful, it’s solid connections that truly help other women.


Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

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 tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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

You need business insurance, bottom line. But do you know what type of coverage? How much coverage to buy? Start planning for success with an idea of how to approach the insurance buy with confidence.

You need business insurance, bottom line. But do you know what type of coverage? How much coverage to buy? Start planning for success with an idea of how to approach the insurance buy with confidence.

 

What Basic Insurance Does a Small Business Need?

There are so many insurance products and offers out there that it can start to feel overwhelming. You want to make sure your business is covered, but you don’t want to pay for anything unnecessary.

The four types of insurance every business needs are property insurance, liability insurance, business vehicle insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.

Commercial property insurance will protect you from theft and damages, and it is good to have even if your business operates out of your home. Homeowners insurance might not cover everything your business needs.

Liability insurance is necessary to protect you from negligence lawsuits in case someone gets hurt.

If your business uses a car, van, or truck, you’ll need business vehicle insurance. Most standard vehicle insurance policies don’t cover commercial vehicles, so make sure yours will be covered by your existing policy or a new one.

Lastly, if you have employees you will need to have workers’ compensation insurance in case there is a workplace accident.

You can read more in detail about each of these types of business insurance here. It may seem like a lot to keep track of, but if you bundle your insurance policies under a Business Owner’s Policy, you can often get lower premiums which will save you money upfront.

Do You Really Need All That Business Insurance?

Insurance premiums can add up, especially with all the kinds of policies and range of coverage your business may need, but it is worth it down the road. If you forgo buying business insurance, it will cost you much more out of pocket when something bad happens.

Specialty policies for natural disasters (such as earthquakes, forest fires, tornadoes, etc.) add more cost in the short term on top of the basics, but when an emergency happens you’ll save your business thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. If you don’t live in a vulnerable area, you might not need specialty disaster coverage – always talk with a business advisor to determine the right coverage for your business.

The good news: business insurance is tax deductible! You can save a lot of money by writing off your business insurance during tax season. Remember to talk to your certified accountant before attempting to deduct any of these – we are not tax professionals and are not offering tax advice. If you need help doing your taxes or would like free tools, check out these 5 affordable tax tools.

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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

This is your bi-weekly calendar for in-person events in California and virtual events you can join from anywhere. Here are the best upcoming events from February 15 through 28.

Every two weeks, we’re promoting affordable events that help small business owners run their businesses better. This is your bi-weekly calendar for in-person and virtual events in California.

Here are the best upcoming events from February 15 through 28.

Northern California/Sacramento

Women Mentoring Women
Date: February 19, 2019 | 4:00 pm PDT – 5:00 pm PDT
Location: 1470 Fruitvale Ave. Oakland, CA 94601 (map it)
Contact: Iveeth Valerio | ivalerio@anewamerica.org | (510) 532-5240
Organization: AnewAmerica Community Corporation
Fee: Free

Join the conversation: Women Mentoring Women Business Start-Up with Laura R. Gardea at AnewAmerica Community Corporation.

For questions or to register please call (510) 532-5240.

Legal Essentials for Doing Business Online
Date: February 20, 2019 | 12:00 pm PDT – 1:00 pm PDT
Location: 455 Market St. #600 San Francisco, CA 94105 (map it)
Contact: mauna@startsmallthinkbig.org | (415) 966-2187
Organization: Start Small Think Big
Fee: $20

Join attorneys from Cooley LLP for a conversation on the legal basis in operating a business online.

Topics include:

  • Website Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policies, including whether and when you need to use them, what you should include, and what they mean
  • Copyright infringement issues when adding textual and photographic content to your business website and how to avoid problems
  • Social media intersection with business and law, including website comments sections and employee privacy

Click here to register for this event.

Intellectual Property: Protecting Your Ideas, Brands, Designs
Date: February 20, 2019 | 6:00 pm PDT – 8:00 pm PDT
Location: 275 5th St. San Francisco, CA 94103 (map it)
Contact: Erin Morris | emorris@rencenter.org | (415) 348-6227
Organization: Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center
Fee: Free

You may have the right to protect your unique business name, ideas, or creations from being tarnished or knocked off by a competitor, but how do you do that affordably on a tight budget?

This workshop is an introduction to different types of intellectual property (focused primarily on copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets), and will provide you with self-help resource information to start building a simple but solid foundation of protection through rights searches, NDA’s, registrations, licenses and other tools.

Although taught by an experienced business attorney and presented by the San Francisco Community Business Law Center, this class does not constitute legal advice.

Click here to register for this event.

Southern California/San Diego

Effective Digital Marketing: Plan, Push, & Promote
Date: Starts February 19, 2019 | 6:00 pm PDT – 9:00 pm PDT
Location: Gardena Valley JCI—2nd Floor
1964 W. 162nd St. Gardena, CA 90247 (map it)
Contact: Mariko Lochridge | MarikoLochridge@ltsc.org | (213) 473-1658
Organization: Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program
Fee: Free

Join APISBP for this free 8-part workshop series for entrepreneurs and social media managers and receive hands-on training to start, improve, and build their digital marketing campaigns.  

Learn how to create an effective Kickstarter campaign and make your goal or launch a brand on Instagram and create effective digital footprints, and more!

Classes meet weekly on Tuesdays starting February 19th through April 2nd at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute.

Click here to register for this event.

Drive New Business with Social Media
Date: February 21, 2019 | 6:00 pm PDT – 8:00 pm PDT
Location: 1003 East Cooley Dr. Suite 109 Colton, CA 92324 (map it)
Contact: (909) 890-1242
Organization: Inland Empire Women’s Business Center
Fee: $20

From understanding the different social media platforms, to choosing what to say and where to say it, this workshop will give you the keys to the most effective social media marketing for you.

Let instructor Joan Stanford of Jazzy Pen make social media easy so you can capture likes, shares, and customers!

Click here to register for this event.

Understanding Legal Structures
Date: February 5, 2019 | 5:30 pm PDT – 7:30 pm PDT
Location: BusinessSource Center North Valley
13420 Van Nuys Blvd. Ste. 121 Pacoima, CA 91331 (map it)
Contact: info@vedc.org | (818) 834-0577
Organization: VEDC
Fee: Free

This class will help you learn about the different business structures and the required licenses and permits your business may need.

Topics include:

  • Corporations & LLC’s
  • Copyrights
  • Trademarks
  • DBA Definition

Click here to register for this event.

Virtual

Turning Your Passion Into A Business On Etsy
Date: February 19, 2019 | 3:00 pm PDT – 5:00 pm PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: Sarah Espinosa | sespinos@uncfsu.edu | (910) 672-2683
Organization: Fayetteville State University Veterans Business Outreach Center
Fee: Free

Etsy is a rapidly growing online marketplace for selling handmade goods, vintage items, and craft supplies. With more than 54 million members, there’s no better place to launch your own creative small business. In fact, sellers took home over 34 billion in sales in 2017 alone.

Attend this class to learn how to sell your artwork, jewelry, crafts, and vintage items.

How-to topics include:

  • Grow your brand and reach new customers with SEO tools
  • Register and start selling on Etsy
  • Share the story of your craft in your profile, item photos, and shop banner
  • Escape the 9-5 grind and focus on your passion
  • Understand the basics of your small business strategy with an in-depth look at Etsy’s tools to help you succeed online

Click here to register for this event.

Build & Protect Your Business Credit Score Webinar
Date: February 26, 2019 | 8:00 am PDT – 9:00 am PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: atu@asbtdc.org | (479) 356-2067
Organization: Arkansas Tech University Small Business and Technology Development Center
Fee: Free

Like individuals, businesses have their own credit scores. However, the way they are reported and your ability to freeze them is quite different. Strong business credit can open up opportunities to grow your business, including attractive financing options. You need to be proactive to build and protect your commercial credit ratings.

Join credit expert Gerri Detweiler, education director for Nav, on this free webinar as she explains how to build, leverage and protect your business credit.

Topics include:

  • The different credit bureaus compile these reports and how they are used
  • Business credit scores and the factors that help build strong scores
  • Key ways business credit is different from personal
  • Quick steps you can take now to build business credit
  • Free ways to monitor your business credit

Click here to register for this event.

Your 2019 Marketing Tune-Up: Save Time and Money with Inquiry
Date: February 27, 2019 | 12:00 pm PDT – 1:00 pm PDT
Location: Online—Webinar
Contact: info@e-jedi.org | (530) 926-6670
Organization: Jefferson Economic Development Institute
Fee: Free

Are you ready to really rock your marketing in 2019? Join this interactive webinar to gain clarity and next steps for your 2019 marketing visions and plans.

Before spending time or money on marketing strategies, get clear on who you serve, your industry resources, and potential collaborators. You’ll learn how to do your due diligence before spending a dime on efforts that don’t work.

Small business owners can learn the basics behind great marketing to engage and attract clients all year long. Join us to gain new skills in creating content, designing posts, developing marketing collateral, and updating your website.

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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

As a business owner, it is imperative to stay on top of new laws and any changes to labor codes. Here is a short list of California laws that take effect this year, so you can stay in compliance.

As a business owner, it is imperative to stay on top of new laws and any changes to labor codes. Here is a short list of California laws that take effect this year, so you can stay in compliance.

 

When new laws are made, it is your duty to keep yourself informed. This short list captures some of what went into effect recently. Remember to always consult your legal advisor about how laws affect your business specifically and how to best comply with them, Opportunity Fund is not a legal expert.

New Laws Taking Effect In California This Year

SB 1235 requires commercial lenders’ to disclose accurate and honest information about business loans. Opportunity Fund helped pass the nation’s first Truth-in-Lending bill for small businesses (SB 1235) in Sacramento.  This bill provides a common-sense solution to the problem of misleading disclosures on high-cost business financing by requiring all lenders to clearly and consistently communicate their terms to small businesses seeking financing. Read more about the bill here to know your rights as an entrepreneur.

“Until now, our Truth in Lending laws have applied only to consumer finance. This law will make California a leader in placing the interests of small business owners on par with the big players in the financial industry. Opportunity Fund played an important role in highlighting the need for this law and helping us draft and pass the bill that made it a reality.” – Steve Glazer, California Senator.

AB 1976 expands required accommodations for lactation in the workplace. Existing law requires employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time for lactating employees to pump or breastfeed their infants in a private place other than a toilet stall. Now, your business must make reasonable efforts to provide a private location within close proximity to the workplace other than a bathroom. There are additional details regarding temporary locations and agricultural businesses which you can read here.

SB 1343 expands sexual harassment training requirements from businesses who employ 50 or more people to include those who employ 5 or more. If your small business meets this new requirement, you must provide 2 hours of harassment training to all employees before January 1, 2020 and every two years thereafter. If you have already trained your employees after January 1, 2019 then you do not need to repeat it this year. Take a look here for all the details, including minimum components of the training, posters regarding transgender rights, and more.

SB 946 decriminalizes street vendors and issues requirements for local authorities’ street vendor regulation programs. What this means is that now street vendors cannot be charged with criminal offenses for operating their business, they can only receive fines. If you are currently facing or have faced criminal charges for vending on sidewalks, you are now able to petition for dismissal of those charges. For more information regarding the specifics of this bill, please read the full text here.

Labor Code 226 was amended to clarify employee’s rights to access their payroll records. Now, as an employer, you must provide copies of requested records within 21 days or incur penalty fees. What this means is that it is not the responsibility of your employee to make the physical copies of such records at your business – it is clarified that as the employer, it is yours. This is not a big change to the way your small business operates, but it is important to be aware of any labor law changes.

California will see minimum wage increases. Across the country, 19 states and 24 cities will see higher minimum wage thresholds this year. Currently in California, small businesses are required to pay a minimum of $11.00 an hour (with certain exceptions for students, new employees under age twenty, etc.) Click here to see if your city’s minimum wage will be raised this year, so you can be prepared and make sure your business is in compliance.

 

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.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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

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