As the gatekeeper of the Financial District at Access to Capital in Seattle, I was charged with scheduling and enforcing lender appointments. This gave me the opportunity to meet our small business attendees face-to-face, most of whom were excited and shocked at the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a mixture of alternative and traditional lenders of all sizes, some operating in the Seattle area exclusively, others nationally. Two of the attendees I met stuck out for their enthusiasm about Access to Capital—Michelle Meeds and Andrew Ikeda, and I had the pleasure to touch base with them to discuss their post-event thoughts and gather some words of wisdom for future attendees.
Michelle Meeds is an aspiring coffee shop owner who heard about Access to Capital Seattle through a radio station contest and won tickets. She wanted to gather as much information possible at the event to prepare her for her journey into business ownership.
“For someone that’s just trying to get their feet wet, it was mind opening about all the different lending options,” said Meeds.
Andrew Ikeda, founder of AM Capital Source, made the trek all the way from Portland. He met with lenders for 9 hours straight, scheduling back-to-back appointments with almost all of our participating banks and alternative lenders.
“If the small business owners are looking for capital, then nothing beats anything like this,” said Ikeda. “I mean, where else can you go for just a couple hours or so and meet 17 different lenders?“
Andrew was there as a small business consultant to make connections with lenders that he could later link to his clients. So what advice would he give someone like Michelle, who’s interested in approaching lenders about their business idea?
“They don’t really want to spend too much time or too much space on paper giving a bunch of trivia stuff,” he said. “For example, the company’s history, I think, is important, but I also think its important to keep it short because the lenders are going to want to see a good solid exit strategy.”
This is great news for someone who has no business history: your ability to repay your debt weighs heavier than any business history you can provide. So play up your strengths and your exit strategy.
“How are you going to pay it back? What’s your plan B? What kind of collateral do you have? What’re you going to tell the lender to make them feel secure?” These are the kinds of questions you must address, Andrew said.
These are just two of the hundreds of attendees we hosted in Seattle, and they weren’t just consultants and professionals aspiring to start a business. They were business owners looking for working capital, business owners in need capital for growth, students, serial entrepreneurs, experts and more. The event is geared toward anyone seeking education about the lending options and resources available for small and micro business owners.
“I would definitely say go,” said Michelle. “I mean thirty dollars? It was just a plethora of information, and it was way worth the day off from work. You may think you know what’s available, but there’s so much more.”
While we’re still pinpointing cities for our 2014 tour, we were thrilled to receive such positive responses from attendees and would love to hear more feedback and city suggestions for next year. Share your thoughts on Twitter @AccesstoCapital.