September was Hispanic Heritage Month. Let’s keep it going! Here's a list of free and low- cost resources for hispanic entrepreneurs.

September was Hispanic Heritage Month. Let’s keep it going! Here’s a list of free and low- cost resources for hispanic entrepreneurs.

 

Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

What it costs: Free

What it does: “MBDA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that promotes the growth of minority-owned businesses through the mobilization and advancement of public and private sector programs, policy, and research. They work throughout the nation to link minority-owned businesses with the capital, contracts, and markets they need to grow. They also advocate for and promote minority-owned business with elected officials, policymakers, and business leaders. Serving as subject matter experts and advocates for the minority business community, MBDA conducts high-quality research and cultivates domestic and international relationships. Their programs and services better equip minority-owned firms to create jobs, build scale and capacity, increase revenues, and expand regionally, nationally, and internationally”

 

United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC)

What it costs: Free

What it does: “The USHCC actively promotes the economic growth, development and interests of more than 4.37 million Hispanic-owned businesses that, combined, contribute over $700 billion to the American economy every year. USHCC’s local chambers will have access to capital through grant programs, access to training, and a direct gateway to more than 260 corporate partners and Hispanic Business Enterprises. The USHCC National Convention is the largest networking venue for Hispanic businesses in America. It offers the opportunity to establish strategic long-lasting business partnerships through dialogue, networking, workshops, and more.”

 

Women’s Business Border Center (WBBC)

What it costs: Free

What it does: “WBBC provides information, training, individual technical assistance,and opportunities for women interested in starting or expanding their business. They create opportunities for women who want to access information, personal guidance and insight into business-management skills. The WBBC provides female business owners with numerous online sources to better assist with any and all questions about running a small business.”

 

Immigrant Business

What it costs: Free

What it does: “Immigrant Business was created to bring this ever-expanding, essential business community the tools needed to be successful in the United States. They cover inspiring success stories, political issues, and breaking news about immigrants and immigration, and offer first-hand tips on selling, franchising, winning government contracts, and much more from some of the most successful immigrant entrepreneurs in America.”

 

Immigrant Learning Center (ILC)

What it costs: Free

What it does: “ILC is a nonprofit organization that gives immigrants a voice in three ways: the English Language Program provides free, year-round English classes to immigrant and refugee adults in Greater Boston to help them become successful workers, parents and community members; the Public Education Institute informs Americans about the economic and social contributions of immigrants in our society; and the Institute for Immigration Research, a joint venture with George Mason University, conducts research on the economic contributions of immigrants.”

 

We’re always looking for the best affordable online resources, including tools to promote truckers and other small business owners like you. If you would like to share your small business success story or you have resources you have found helpful, please 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, 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 opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

Small business owners are a busy bunch. Some things may fall through the cracks, including payments. Here's how to handle past due debt....

Small business owners are a busy bunch. Some things may fall through the cracks, including payments. If you’re looking for guidance on how to handle past due debt, our content partner Nav.com has answers!

 

It goes without saying that small business owners are experts at multitasking. If you own a small business, chances are you’re juggling a million different things on a daily basis — shift schedules, inventory management, and likely, a multitude of different expenses, from electricity bills to insurance payments.

With so much to do and manage, it’s possible that you may have forgotten about a credit card bill, missed a loan payment, or let an invoice slip through the cracks. While this may not seem like a big deal, and it certainly isn’t the end of the world if your payments are  a few days behind, a past due debt can come back to haunt you when you’re applying for business funding.

If you find yourself falling behind on payments, don’t fret just yet. Here’s what you need to know about past due debts, plus some steps you can take to resolve them so you can get back to what’s most important — growing your small business.

 

What is past due debt?  

A debt becomes “past due” if you fail to make a payment as of the due date. The “past due” amount is the balance that was owed on the original due date.

For example, let’s say you have a small business credit card that you use to purchase inventory. The holidays are right around the corner so you  decide to stock up on additional supply to meet the surge in demand. You owe a balance of $10,000 with a minimum payment of $300 due on the 15th. You’re planning on paying it off in full once you’ve sold all of your holiday inventory and you have more cash on hand. But with things so busy, you completely forget to pay the minimum, which means during the next payment period, your minimum payment will include:

  • Past due minimum payment of of $300
  • Any late fees or penalties

While this may seem like a small number, it can quickly balloon out of control with the addition of late fees, penalties, and in some cases, an increase in interest rate. And if you’ve missed a loan payment or fail to make good on an invoice, you’re likely looking at an even more daunting number.

 

How does a past due debt affect your credit score (and your chances of getting a loan)?

Most of the time, it comes down to how far behind you are on a payment and the type of debt. If you’re a few days late on paying your credit card bill, you’ll most likely just face a late fee; however, once your bill becomes 30 days past due, your creditor will likely report you to the credit bureaus. And once you’re 60 days past due on your debt, your creditor may even increase the interest rate, which can make paying off what you owe even more overwhelming.

This is where your credit score is at risk, and potentially, your chances of being approved for a small business loan.

Credit bureaus collect information about customer credit data, both personal and business, and lenders use these numbers to evaluate how risky you are as a borrower. While each credit bureau  has its own criteria and method of scoring, a combination of the amount of available credit you use, the length of your credit history, the types of credit you use, and your payment history, among other factors, all play a role.

In fact, when it comes to your FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score, which is arguably the most popular scoring system in the United States for personal credit, your payment history is the biggest factor — accounting for approximately 35% of the formula. And for many types of small business financing, your personal credit score can make or break your chances of getting approved — especially for younger businesses without an established business credit score.

 

How to resolve past due debts

Have a lingering past due debt? Here’s a few ways you can go about handling them:

  • Make the past due payment: This may be an obvious option, but it’s also the most straightforward approach to get rid of a past due debt that is looming over your head.
  • Negotiate a payment plan with your creditor: Due to late fees and interest charges, you might find yourself in a situation with an ever-increasing balance that you just can’t seem to shake off. In some cases, your creditor may be willing to set up a payment plan so you can gradually pay off what you owe.
  • Consolidate your business debts: With business debt consolidation, you can combine multiple business debts, including those that may be carrying a past due balance, into one single, streamlined payment. By paying off your past due debt, you can avoid continuing to pay penalties or increased interest charges.

 

 

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

Employee engagement is among the chief concerns of small business owners. Here are five tips to keep employees engaged, happy, and productive....

Employee engagement is among the chief concerns of small business owners. Here are five tips to keep employees engaged, happy, and productive….Our content partner Nav.com has answers!

 

From big-picture organizational strategies to everyday operational tasks, the success of a business depends on the employees who make things happen. When employees are happy and have a vested interest in their jobs and the company, things run smoothly, but when workers become disenfranchised, the picture can become quite bleak.

According to a study by the Conference Board’s Engagement Institute, employees who check out can cost companies a whopping $450 to $550 billion dollars a year. And while your company may not lose billions of dollars at the idle hands of a few disengaged employees, widespread or ongoing disengagement can be detrimental to your brand and your bottom line.

How do you avoid this type of behavior? Here are five Cs to help you keep employees engaged and your company thriving.

 

How to Keep Employees Engaged at Work

Communication

If you’ve ever worked for a company or manager that practiced poor communication, you know how utterly exhausting it can be. Roles and expectations are unclear, strategies and development plans are hard to execute, and a lot of time and money is wasted.

When employees are set up for failure, as is often the case with poor communication, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to fulfill their job requirements and even more difficult to work as a unit. It’s also more likely that they’ll become disengaged.

By focusing on company communication, you can help keep leaders, departments, and employees on the same page, working towards the same detailed goal. Your communication efforts should start from the top down, as directors and managers are often responsible for communication company goals, policies, and expectations to their staff.

 

Collaboration

Engagement aside, collaboration is vital to any organization – when employees combine their skill sets and unique perspective to solve problems, the solutions are often more nuanced and more effective. Collaboration plays an equally important role in engagement.

When employees work together to solve a problem, they become a team working towards the same goal. This team mentality can help employees build relationships with their coworkers and gain a sense of accountability.

In addition, because collaboration, when done right, often results in faster results and more efficient processes, employees also gain a sense of accomplishment that can motivate them and fuel their engagement.  

 

Creativity

There are few things that crush the spirit of motivated workers like the phrase “we’ve always done it that way.” While there is a time and place for protocol and tradition, employees who feel they have no voice in implementing change or suggesting new ways of thinking aren’t likely to stay engaged.

It’s likely you hired your employees because they had a solid educational and or professional background, one they didn’t get from consistently falling in line or failing to think outside the box.

While no one is suggesting a daily initiative to reinvent the wheel, there are times when you should consider giving employees some space to be innovative, whether it be through brainstorming sessions, collaborative projects, or the chance to solve problems or get involved in initiatives that may extend past their given role.

 

Control

Similar to the importance of creativity, employees who are given some control over their day-to-day professional existence are often more likely to stay engaged and remain productive. The answer, of course, is not to move to a “wild west” approach, but instead, to allow for increased control where it makes sense.

What does more control look like? That depends on the company. For some, it may be giving employees a stronger voice in strategy, company policy, and development decisions. In others, it’s more freedom during the workday. For example, some companies allow employees to come in earlier in the day and leave earlier in the afternoon, as long as they meet their eight-hour quota. Others allow for remote work on occasion.

The ability to make decisions creates a sense of value and control, and for employers, that can translate employees who feel an increased sense of investment in their job and the company.

 

Culture

It’s true that “company culture” has become somewhat of a buzzword in today’s professional society, but that shouldn’t signal a lack of value. Company culture is often considered the driving force behind engagement and productivity.

Individuals that work for companies that communicate well, clearly value and support employees, and provide a positive and healthy environment are more likely to be engaged.

If you have poor retention rates and a notable engagement issue, then it’s likely that your company culture is at least partially to blame.

Contrary to what some may believe, “culture” doesn’t mean you need to model your business after some trendy tech company with open workspaces, a ping pong table, and an office pet.

Instead, it should be a unified approach to everyday business that encourages collaboration, free-thinking, and employee confidence. It also should be one that allows employees to have a strong work-life balance, which makes them feel valued and avoids burnout.

How do you create a strong company culture? Clearly outline your vision and your mission, and make sure that it’s designed to support and encourage your employees as they work towards achieving your company goals.

When employees aren’t engaged, they aren’t contributing to the overall growth and development of your brand, but before you place the blame on them, ask yourself if you’ve created an environment in which employees can and do thrive. Though everyone struggles with engagement here and there, if it’s a widespread problem, chances are it’s a deep-rooted issue that you need to address at the company level.

 

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

Small businesses have a lot of accounting needs. You may feel qualified to handle them on your own, but you might need some help....

Small businesses have a lot of accounting needs. You may feel qualified to handle them on your own, but you might need some help….Our content partner Nav.com has answers!

 

As a small business owner, you’re probably looking for ways to save money on operating costs whenever possible. You might even have a bit of financial knowledge, so why not handle the books yourself? After all, you know the basics of bookkeeping and pay attention to details. But at what point should you hand over this crucial responsibility to a professional?  

The reality is that bookkeeping is not the same thing as accounting. Bookkeeping involves the recording of a business’ finances, and accounting encompasses much more. Accountants analyze, interpret, plan and summarize an organization’s finances to help leaders make informed decisions when running the business. It’s possible to automate most or all of your business’ simple bookkeeping tasks with software.

When Do I Need an Accountant?

Chances are, if you’re asking that question, you already know that you want help. It’s important to not get in over your head with your business’ finances, as you can end up making errors that lead to massively expensive problems down the road.

In reality, you can benefit from an accountant’s help in nearly every step of operating a small business, from acquiring licensing to selling your organization. Starting off with an accountant can help you learn more about bookkeeping basics, establishing payment structures, meeting regulatory demands, developing your financial strategy and much more.

If you already know a great deal about the fundamentals of bookkeeping and have a solid financial strategy when you’re just starting out, you may be able to hold off on hiring an accountant in the initial stages of your business. On the other hand, if you need help preparing taxes, restructuring your books, acquiring licensing, securing small business funding or planning, the cost of hiring an accountant can easily pay for itself when you consider the mistakes and headaches you end up avoiding in the long run.  

What Are My Options?

Some accountants will work on a retainer, while others require an hourly rate for time spent on your business. If you need help but still feel that you can’t afford hiring a professional, you can look for an accountant consultant who will meet with you to establish your own process, interpret financial data and answer questions as they arise.

When you take away the stress and burden of small business accounting, you’ll have more time and energy to run your organization. Accountants specialize in navigating an already confusing maze, so you’ll benefit your bottom line with the help of a professional.

 

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

Immigrants are more likely to start a business than native-born Americans, but they have more hoops to jump through. You don’t need a green card to start a business - just your home country ID. Keep reading to find out how.

Immigrants are more likely to start a business than native-born Americans, but they have more hoops to jump through. You don’t need a green card to start a business – just your home country ID. Keep reading to find out how.

 

Establishing your business

So you want to start a business in the United States, but you aren’t a citizen or don’t have a green card? There are a few different visas available to entrepreneurs, investors, and business owners: E-2 visa, EB-5 visa, H1-B visa, and L-visa. For example, with the E-2 Treaty Investor visa or the EB-5 foreign investor visa, you can “invest” a substantial amount into a new U.S.-based business as long as you meet certain criteria. This allows you to create your business if you already have a business plan and funds readily available.

What is tricky about opening a business as a nonresident is that you need to legally be able to work in the U.S. in order to pay yourself. For this, you might need the H1-B visa, which can be difficult when you are sponsoring yourself as both the business owner and the visa applicant. Contact your lawyer or an immigration support center to decide what is the best route for you.

Paying Taxes

Businesses are required to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes. You may also need an EIN to do any of the following:

  • Pay federal and state taxes
  • Pay your employees
  • Open a business bank account
  • Apply for business licenses, permits, and loans
  • Build your business’ credit

There is a misconception that non-residents who aren’t able to get a Social Security Number (SSN) aren’t able to get an EIN. However, there is an alternative for certain non-residents and resident aliens who don’t have an SSN: Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). For more information about eligibility and application, visit the IRS’s website. There is another way to make the process of obtaining an EIN easier: the IRS allows for a Third Party Designee (such as your attorney or a business partner who is a citizen) to work with the IRS to obtain an EIN on your behalf.

Leasing property, getting a driver’s license, and opening a bank account

Leasing property as a non-citizen can be painstakingly difficult or just a little bit of extra work – it all depends on the landlord or property manager. If they aren’t able to perform a standard credit check, there are alternative ways for a landlord or property manager to vet prospective renters, especially if you are in a city where international business is common. Collecting bank statements from your home country can help establish your ability to pay if you don’t have established U.S. credit. Past landlord references, proof of employment/business eligibility, and background checks using your home country ID remain largely unchanged. Voice your concerns and keep open communication with your potential landlord or property manager to best collect the documentation they need.

Getting a driver’s license is possible with your home country ID. If your business requires you to drive a vehicle (or if you drive at all in the U.S.), you’ll need to make sure you are compliant with your state’s driving license rules. Some states require that you get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your home country driver’s license. For example, California’s AB 60 program enables any qualified applicant to obtain a California driver’s license even if they are unable to provide legal proof of presence in the United States. You just need to otherwise meet all driving qualifications, proof of California residency, and proof of identity – meaning your home country ID!

Opening a bank account is possible, but you’ll need to provide a lot more documentation than an American citizen. In addition to the standard documents proving name, date of birth, and physical address (such as a utility bill), as a foreign national you will need to provide an original home country ID. You can also use your ITIN instead of an SSN in most cases. Each bank’s application process is different. It may be less stressful to open an account in your home country at a U.S.-based bank with international branches. This may help by building financial history and rapport before you want to open a business account in the U.S.

 

Opportunity Fund does not presume to give legal advice. Always consult your attorney and tax professional.

 

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

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

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