Small business loans used to be fairly easy to get. All my first business planning client in 1994 needed to get an SBA-backed loan was a well-thought-out idea and credit worthiness (she supplied that), writing skills (I supplied that) and some market research (we figured that out together). She got her loan, quit her day job, then turned her passionate hobby and part-time business of photography into a successful full-time business.
Today, the best most new businesses get from the bank is not a loan but the advice to start a business by bootstrapping. But what if your bootstraps are kind of puny? If just can’t get enough from your credit cards, your savings, your family, friends or any payout you got when you were laid off?
Out of Oakland and Berkeley, CA come some powerful insights from one of the best bakeries anywhere and from a local law firm that focuses on sustainable, socially responsible businesses.
Arezmindi Bakery: How It Launched with Minimal Capital a Few Years Ago and Last Year Increased Profits in a Down Economy
Arizmendi has an unusual business structure. In this worker co-op, everyone makes the same income (currently almost $20/hour), depending on profitability, plus a share of last year’s profits (which could add $3-10 more per hour) plus great benefits. Because everyone is responsible to make the business work, and all voices are heard, the quality of the goods are superb. So is customer service.
Arizmendi was inspired by the popular Berkeley, CA business, the Cheese Board, which helped launch Arizemendi. Cheeseboard staff trained the first Arizmendi staff, shared recipes, and even passed on used equipment. That, plus a lot of old-fashioned elbow grease, helped them get off the ground in the cooperative model, which bankers don’t understand or appreciate.
For a full article on the Arizmendi success story, see /www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/running-a-business-with-26-ceos/Content?oid=1577035.
Are Investors Your Best Small Business Finance Model?
If you’re careful and creative, you might generate plenty of money for your small Main Street business by seeking investors. But before you imitate Wall Street, Oakland attorney Jenny Kassan of the Katovich Law Group suggests you be very careful to avoid inadvertently running afoul of state or national securities laws. Contrary to popular belief, securities laws can apply even if someone lends you money for your business, even a small group of local investors who want you to succeed.
Katovich suggests four options for raising funds that don’t require extensive, expensive securities-compliance work.
- Form a cooperative.
- Get donations.
- Sell memberships.
- Pre-sell a product.
For more about funding pitfalls, plus tips and examples of the four options above, see Kassan’s article, “How to Raise Money But Not Break the Bank.”
How to Tap More Creative Ideas from Oakland and the Rest of the East Bay
Oakland, CA and the rest of the cities on the east side of the San Francisco Bay are a hotbed of creative innovation, with a focus on green and socially responsible businesses.
A local free weekly, the East Bay Express, just launched a new monthly small business issue containing the two great articles mentioned above. (Full disclosure — I’m one of many small business owners in the area to advertise here.)
Stick with this blog as we explore more about the socially responsible and green businesses. If you just can’t wait, check out three more of my favorite East Bay resources:
Sustainable Business Alliance: a great model for getting together with fellow green wizards in your area.
East Bay Green Tours, a mind-blowing experience of what can happen when businesses, local government, entrepreneurs and social organizations unite to create a thriving “Green Corridor.”
The Hub Bay Area, a recent addition to a fast-growing international network of gathering places where people with ideas gather to make those ideas happen — and have fun!
As always, many best wishes for your successful, creative work.
Pat McHenry Sullivan