Ask the Expert – Insight on Business Loans

July 6, 2017

The Del Mar College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) would like to share some insight from our resource partners to our clients. We teamed up with Laura Leal-Estrada, Market Manager, for our local micro-lender, LiftFund, and asked for answers to some frequently asked questions. A few snippets from our conversation are listed below and the full list of questions and answers can be found at http://www.delmar.edu/sbdc by selecting the “BLOG” tab.

Question – What are the top three things lenders look for when considering a lenders package from a small business:

Answer:

1) Capacity – The borrower’s ability to pay back the debt and clearly articulate the amount of money needed and for what purpose i.e. equipment purchase, real estate

2) Credit – Is the applicant current on all debt such as home loan, car loans, student loans, child support, IRS (have they taken the time to get their credit information from all three credit reporting agencies prior to applying for a loan?)

3) Financials – Are they prepared to provide copies of their bank statements, tax returns, purchase order requests, purchase contracts, purchase agreements, business plans and financial projections?

Question – How long is the approval/rejection process for a lender?

Answer:

For traditional financial institutions a response can take anywhere from one to two weeks.

For a micro-lender such as LiftFund, once all the financial documents have been received, a provisional authorization to move forward for a loan request is given within 24 hours. Once the loan is authorized to move forward, and the required documents have been submitted by the applicant, an approval or declination will take place within 48-72 hours.

Question – Is there a minimum credit score that lenders prefer for consideration?

Answer:

The credit score depends on what type of institution you plan to use. Alternative lenders such as LiftFund, a micro-lender, start with a credit score of 500 or more, whereas credit unions and banks start with a credit score of 630 or higher. All lenders will review the payment history, as well, to determine the risk factors.

Question – What are the top three most common obstacles you have seen arise with clients?

Answer:

1) Credit – Most commonly includes IRS liens, court ordered payments such as child support and civil judgments for unpaid obligations

2) Co-mingling personal and business financials – Some business owners intermingle their personal banking and business banking with deposits and/or payments

3) Financial documents – Not understanding the importance of maintaining of profit and loss statements, income statements and balance sheets

Question – How can an entrepreneur help their lending chances? How can they “stand out”?

Answer:

The applicant should have industry experience and a clear understanding of their business needs. They will have done market research regarding the business they want to open and demonstrate how it will meet the needs of the community they will be servicing or catering to. Also, they should be prepared to provide the business legal documents (LLC, sole proprietorship) as well as financial documents.

Question – Who is ultimate decision maker as far as approving lending where LiftFund is concerned?

Answer:

Ultimately the underwriter will provide the final decision whether to approve, decline or offer a counter offer for a loan request. However, the Business Development Officer and the lending assistant are the client’s best advocate. Often times a final approval is not just the applicant’s ability to pay back the loan but justification from the Business Development Officer as to why the loan should be approved by the underwriter.

Question – What kind of collateral does LiftFund take when considering lending approval?

Answer:

Typically, the equipment the borrower plan to purchase will be used to secure the debt. Alternative collateral options can include the borrowers existing equipment, furniture and fixtures, personal vehicles without a lien, non-homestead real estate properties and personal belongings, such as jewelry, that have been appraised and retain their value.

LiftFund_Over20YrsENG 7.5.2017.jpg

LiftFund for over 20 years takes great pride in meeting their mission to help entrepreneurs build success and a pathway to fulfill their dreams through education and business loans.

 

This piece was written for the Del Mar College SBDC July – September 2017 newsletter. To view the entire newsletter, please visit dmc122011.delmar.edu/sbdc/newsletter.  If you want to find out more about our services, please visit http://dmc122011.delmar.edu/sbdc/index.html.

 

 

Advertisements

Operation Tech Trap targets tech support scams – and offers insights for business

By: Lesley Fair | May 12, 2017 12:43PM

Does the thought of losing everything on your computer leave you queasy? That’s the anxiety fraudsters attempt to exploit with tech support scams – and it’s conduct the FTC and law enforcement partners are challenging through 16 civil and criminal (yes, criminal) actions announced as part of Operation Tech Trap.

Tech support scammers’ modus operandi is to run ads that resemble pop-up security alerts from Microsoft, Apple, or other companies. Consumers are warned that their computers are infected with viruses or are under hack attack. Some pop-ups even feature a countdown clock, supposedly showing the time remaining before the hard drive will be fried – unless the consumer calls a toll-free number supposedly affiliated with one of those big-name companies.

Once operators have consumers on the phone, the real theatrics begin. Operators claim to need remote access to consumers’ computers so they can run “diagnostic tests.” Those tests purport to reveal grave problems that can only be solved by one of their “certified technicians” – for a hefty fee, of course. Companies use high-pressure tactics to strong-arm consumers into paying hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs, anti-virus protection or software, and other products and services. (Here’s an example of a pitch in action.)

In four of the just-announced Operation Tech Trap cases, the FTC and the State AGs of Florida, Alabama, and Ohio allege that the defendants used methods like that to take consumers for millions. (The defendants in those actions include Repair All PCTroth SolutionsVylah TecUniversal Network Solutions, and a cast of individuals and other companies the FTC and AGs allege were in on the action.) In three of those cases, federal judges have entered temporary restraining orders to halt the practices, freeze assets, and appoint temporary receivers to take control of the businesses.

In addition, settlements were announced in two pending cases. Following up on a complaint filed last year against Help Desk National and a host of others, the FTC and the Florida AG have shut down an operation that ran a tech support boiler room in Boynton Beach, Florida. The defendants in that matter are banned for life from providing tech support products or services and will turn over $700,000 in assets.

Settling another case filed in 2016 against Click4Support LLC and others, the FTC and AGs from Connecticut and Pennsylvania announced that the defendants are banned from marketing technical support services, will pay a total of more than $554,000, and will forfeit an additional $1.3 million held by the court-appointed receiver. A federal judge in Philadelphia also entered a $27 million default judgment against a related party.

But that’s not all. As part of Operation Tech Trap, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois announced five indictments and one guilty plea in connection with its investigation of First Choice Tech Support, LLC and Client Care Experts. (The Florida AG had obtained an order halting the outfits in June 2016.)

How does this boil down for businesses?

  • Consumers get caught in tech support scammers’ web, but so do small businesses and people who work from home. The FTC has updated its advice on what you can do to protect yourself. Also, we’ll be hosting a roundtable this summer for law enforcement agencies leading the charge against this kind of fraud and for businesses affected by tech support scams, including companies whose names have been misused by con artists. Looking for tips on spotting other B2B scams? Our new Protecting Small Businesses site is designed with you in mind.
  • Tech support scammers inflict injury in two ways. First, they use deceptive tactics to whack consumers in the wallet. Second, they undermine genuine efforts to encourage people to protect their computers from viruses and malware. There are legitimate products out there that can help people safeguard their systems – often at a much lower cost than what tech support scammers charge for their ineffective services. Reputable businesses shouldn’t have to compete against outfits that use phony-baloney pitches to fix what ain’t broke.
  • Operation Tech Trap illustrates the close relationship among federal, state, and local law enforcers. We’ve also been working with authorities in India to crack down on tech support scams operating in that country. That’s good news for consumers and bad news for companies that think they can profit from “divide and conquer” strategies.
  • People who participate in tech support scams aren’t just risking their assets and future livelihoods. They could face criminal prosecution. Enough said? We hope so.

Consumer Review Fairness Act: What Businesses Need to Know

The Consumer Review Fairness Act protects consumers’ ability to share their honest opinions about a business’s products, services, or conduct in any forum – and that includes social media. The FTC has tips to help your company comply with the law.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) protects people’s ability to share their honest opinions about a business’s products, services, or conduct, in any forum, including social media. Is your company complying?

Contracts that prohibit honest reviews, or threaten legal action over them, harm people who rely on reviews when making their purchase decisions. But another group is also harmed when others try to squelch honest negative reviews: businesses that work hard to earn positive reviews.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed in response to reports that some businesses try to prevent people from giving honest reviews about products or services they received. Some companies put contract provisions in place, including in their online terms and conditions, that allowed them to sue or penalize consumers for posting negative reviews.

Here are some basic tips for complying with the law.

WHAT KIND OF REVIEWS DOES THE LAW PROTECT?

The law protects a broad variety of honest consumer assessments, including online reviews, social media posts, uploaded photos, videos, etc. And it doesn’t just cover product reviews. It also applies to consumer evaluations of a company’s customer service.

WHAT DOES THE CONSUMER REVIEW FAIRNESS ACT PROHIBIT?

In summary, the Act makes it illegal for a company to use a contract provision that:

  1. bars or restricts the ability of a person who is a party to that contract to review a company’s products, services, or conduct;
  2. imposes a penalty or fee against someone who gives a review; or
  3. requires people to give up their intellectual property rights in the content of their reviews.

WHAT SPECIFIC CONDUCT IS PROHIBITED BY THE STATUTE?

The Consumer Review Fairness Act makes it illegal for companies to include standardized provisions that threaten or penalize people for posting honest reviews. For example, in an online transaction, it would be illegal for a company to include a provision in its terms and conditions that prohibits or punishes negative reviews by customers. (The law doesn’t apply to employment contracts or agreements with independent contractors, however.)

WHAT CAN A COMPANY DO TO PROTECT ITSELF FROM INAPPROPRIATE OR IRRELEVANT CONTENT?

The law says it’s OK to prohibit or remove a review that:

  1. contains confidential or private information – for example, a person’s financial, medical, or personnel file information or a company’s trade secrets;
  2. is libelous, harassing, abusive, obscene, vulgar, sexually explicit, or is inappropriate with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other intrinsic characteristic;
  3. is unrelated to the company’s products or services; or
  4. is clearly false or misleading.

However, it’s unlikely that a consumer’s assessment or opinion with which you disagree meets the “clearly false or misleading” standard.

WHAT’S THE PENALTY FOR VIOLATING THE CONSUMER REVIEW FAIRNESS ACT?

Congress gave enforcement authority to the Federal Trade Commission and the state Attorneys General. The law specifies that a violation of the CRFA will be treated the same as violating an FTC rule defining an unfair or deceptive act or practice. This means that your company could be subject to financial penalties, as well as a federal court order.

To make sure your company is complying with the Consumer Review Fairness Act:

  • Review your form contracts, including online terms and conditions; and
  • Remove any provision that restricts people from sharing their honest reviews, penalizes those who do, or claims copyright over peoples’ reviews (even if you’ve never tried to enforce it or have no intention of enforcing it).

The wisest policy: Let people speak honestly about your products and their experience with your company.

OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT

The National Small Business Ombudsman and 10 Regional Fairness Boards collect comments from small businesses about federal compliance and enforcement activities. Each year, the Ombudsman evaluates the conduct of these activities and rates each agency’s responsiveness to small businesses. Small businesses can comment to the Ombudsman without fear of reprisal. To comment, call toll-free 1-888-REGFAIR (1-888-734-3247) or go to www.sba.gov/ombudsman.

February 2017

New FTC website helps small businesses

By: Tom Pahl, Acting Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection | May 9, 2017 11:24AM

When scammers and hackers attack small businesses, it hurts not only the businesses’ reputations and bottom line, but also the integrity of the marketplace. Today, FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen announced a new FTC website, FTC.gov/SmallBusiness, to help business owners avoid scams, protect their computers and networks, and keep their customers’ and employees’ data safe. If you own a business you’ll want to check it out.

At FTC.gov/SmallBusiness you’ll find:

  • Tips on how to avoid scams that target businesses
  • Advice to help you protect your customers’ and employees’ sensitive data
  • Videos that show what you can do to secure your business’s networks

You can also find the FTC’s newest article Small Business Computer Security Basics, which has tips to help companies protect their files and devices, train employees to think twice before sharing account information, and keep their wireless network protected. The article also tells you what to do if a hacker gets into your computers or networks.

So go to FTC.gov/SmallBusiness, bookmark it, and visit it often. And subscribe to the FTC’s Business Blog to stay connected.

GCGV LAUNCHES LOCAL BUSINESS INITIATIVE

PORTLAND, TX – Gulf Coast Growth Ventures (GCGV) today announced the launch of the Local Business Initiative, a program designed to connect local businesses with opportunities created by the proposed GCGV plastics manufacturing plant. The initiative, a facet of GCGV’s Good Neighbor Program, affords local businesses the opportunity to get “pre-screened” to compete for work.

“Our project provides exciting possibilities with job creation, economic growth, and billions of dollars in business activity,” said John Mabry, GCGV Operations Manager.  “Through our Local Business Initiative, we are fulfilling our commitment to help local businesses be part of it. Once pre-screened, local businesses will be able to compete for opportunities with our prime contractors.”

Interested businesses should visit www.GulfCoastGV.com/localbusiness-initiative for details on beginning the application process.

“I am thrilled that the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures project is making local businesses a priority,” said Ann Fierova, Director of Small Business Development Center at Del Mar College. “Connecting local businesses with work prospects associated with this project is what dreams are made of for small businesses! We are thankful to be part of the partnership for this innovative approach to engaging the local business community.”

Foster Edwards, Executive Director of the San Patricio EDC said, “This is exactly what San Patricio County needs. In recent years, our county has been dealt several difficult circumstances that has resulted in higher unemployment rates. I am glad to see GCGV focus on local businesses – especially those in this county.”

Businesses that submit complete applications by June 30, 2017 will be considered for placement on the Pre-Screened Local Vendor List, which will be provided to the project’s Engineering, Procurement and Construction contractors as they pre-qualify contractors, vendors and service providers for the competitive bid lists. Applicants are encouraged to initiate the process well in advance of the June 30, 2017 deadline to ensure timely completion.

GCGV has hired Veriforce, an expert in contractor screening, to facilitate the application process. A Veriforce representative will work with each applicant to provide guidance and assist with completing the application. GCGV will cover Veriforce application fees incurred by eligible Nueces and San Patricio County applicants. Businesses in Refugio, Aransas, Bee, Live Oak, Jim Wells, and Kleberg counties are also encouraged to apply, but are responsible for application fees.

The Good Neighbor Program includes initiatives for businesses, job seekers and others in the community. Additional opportunities will be launched in the coming months.

GCGV is a project proposed by ExxonMobil and SABIC to build a plastics manufacturing plant in the Gregory-Portland area. The multi-billion dollar proposed investment would create thousands of jobs and stimulate economic growth in the region. The project is expected to have 6,000 jobs at peak construction and, once operational, over 600 permanent jobs with an average salary of $90,000 per year.

###

About ExxonMobil Chemical Company

ExxonMobil Chemical Company is one of the largest petrochemical companies worldwide. The company holds leadership positions in some of the largest-volume and highest-growth commodity petrochemical products in the world. ExxonMobil Chemical Company has manufacturing capacity in every major region of the world, serving large and growing markets. More than 90 percent of the Company’s chemical capacity is integrated with large refineries or natural gas processing plants. To learn more, visit http://www.exxonmobilchemical.com.

About SABIC

SABIC ranks among the world’s top petrochemical companies, and is among the world’s market leaders in the production of polyethylene, polypropylene, advanced thermoplastics, glycols, methanol and fertilizers. SABIC manufactures on a global scale in Saudi Arabia, the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific. The company operates in  more than 50 countries across the world with 40,000 employees worldwide. To learn more, visit www.sabic.com.

CAUTIONARY STATEMENT:

Statements of future events or conditions in this release are forward-looking statements.  Actual future results, including project plans, schedules, and outcomes and future market positioning could differ materially due to changes in market conditions affecting the oil, gas and petrochemical industries or long-term price levels for oil, gas, refined products and petrochemicals; political or regulatory developments, including the granting of required permits and any changes in environmental laws; the occurrence and duration of economic recessions; the actions of competitors; technical or operating factors; the outcome of commercial negotiations; and other factors discussed under the heading “Factors Affecting Future Results” in the Investors section of our website (www.exxonmobil.com) and in Item 1A of our most recent Form 10-K.

 

SBA Announces National Small Business Week 2017

by Melanie Ossandon

SBA_NSBW2016_Home

This year’s National Small Business Week will be held from April 30-May 6, 2017.

Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.

Read more about National Small Business Week!

Statewide conference to encourage entrepreneurship and economic development in rural communities

UTSA Letterhead for BlogFor more information, contact
Jennilee Garza, Senior Communications Coordinator Institute for Economic Development
Phone: 210-458-2958 or jennilee.garza@utsa.edu

Statewide conference to encourage entrepreneurship and economic development in rural communities

With more than 300 attendees from 90+ Texas cities, the Texas Rural Challenge is the largest conference of its kind in the state

(San Antonio, February 20, 2017) – Early registration is now open for the Texas Rural Challenge, an annual conference hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute for Economic Development–Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Rural Business Program.

With a focus on economic development in rural Texas, the SBDC Rural Business Program has partnered with the City of Waco and numerous agencies across Texas to launch its 8th annual Texas Rural Challenge (TRC) conference in Waco, TX from June 29-30.

This year’s conference, “Empowering Rural Texas,” will focus on small business growth, community and economic development, and leadership. The two-day conference will feature keynote speakers, workshops and business competitions. It will also promote best practices and offer collaborative opportunities to help Texas’ rural businesses and communities thrive.

Texas Strong, one of the conference’s featured competitions, will test how effectively entrepreneurs are able to fast-pitch their businesses. Texas SBDC clients who have developed innovative products or services to benefit rural communities can participate if they are nominated by a Texas SBDC advisor. Finalists will also have the chance to win a Governor’s Small Business Award.

“Texas Strong opened my eyes to all the amazing things happening in our rural communities and made me proud to be from a rural community,” said Robert Likarish, 2016 Texas Strong first place winner and CEO of Ironroot Republic Distillery.

The conference will also include the Texas Student Challenge, a fast-pitch and business plan competition encouraging entrepreneurship and technological innovation. The competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students attending any Texas college or university. In addition to a monetary prize, winners will receive in-kind services from Texas SBDCs.

“Competing in the Texas Student Challenge was a wonderful experience through which I gained such valuable insight on how college students can become successful in business,” said Manish Patel, 2016 Student Challenge third place winner.

The State of Texas is comprised of 254 counties, including 177 that are considered rural and have less than 50,000 in population.

“Rural communities account for more than half the State of Texas. With the immense growth that the Texas Rural Challenge has experienced over the past seven years, we invite interested partners, entrepreneurs, students and the general public to get involved in the only statewide conference that caters specifically to Texas rural communities,” said SBDC Rural Business Program director, Gil Gonzalez.

“The Texas Rural Challenge conference is an outstanding event and a real showcase for the economic vitality and strength of rural communities. The innovation and resilience we see in rural small businesses in Texas is a real beacon for SBDC efforts nationwide. Thanks to UTSA and the South-West Texas Border SBDC Region for their leadership in this effort to energize rural entrepreneurship,” said America’s SBDC president, Tee Rowe.

——————————

Register for the Texas Rural Challenge at texasruralchallenge.org

Follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/TexasRuralChallenge

Learn more about the SBDC Rural Business Program

About the UTSA Institute for Economic Development

The UTSA Institute for Economic Development is dedicated to growing businesses, creating jobs and fostering economic development. Focused on building the economy one business at a time, the Institute consists of 10 centers and programs that provide professional business advising, technical training, research and strategic planning for entrepreneurs, business owners and community leaders. These programs serve Greater San Antonio, the Texas-Mexico border area as well as regional, national and international stakeholders. Together with the federal, state and local governments, and private businesses, the UTSA Institute for Economic Development fosters economic and community development in support of UTSA’s community engagement mission. In 2016, the Institute generated direct regional economic impact of 7,517 jobs, started 591 new businesses, $447 million in new financing, $78 million in new tax revenue and exceeded $1.4 billion in new sales, exports and contracts. For more information, visit www.iedtexas.org.