We are delighted so many business owners and entrepreneurs found our first ever Access to Capital: Money to Mainstreet event, held October 18th at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, to have been helpful in increasing their knowledge of the financial world. Nearly 80% of participants felt the event will increase their chances of getting capital for their business!* The success has spurred Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. to begin plans for taking it national.
The event, which ran from 8am check-in until 5pm, included five 45-minute panels of experts who discussed a wide range of available financing options for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Panels took place in the Town Hall section of the event, an area devoted to sharing information from experts with small business owners and entrepreneurs about various ways to raise capital. Thirty minutes were devoted purely to discussions between the moderator and panel members, with the remaining 15 minutes opened up to Q&As from the audience. The panels covered the following topics:
- Straight Talk: Getting Traditional Loans in Today’s Economy Moderated by Jane Wells of CNBC, the panel included executives Bryan Moeller, SVP and Director of Small Business for Los Angeles, from Wells Fargo; Shane Pierson, VP of Business Development, from Pacific Premier Bank; and Troy Bosch, SVP for Small Business Banking, from Bank of America. They discussed the common oversights business owners make when applying for loans, how to correct them, and what banks need to see on loan application documents to have a higher chance of approval. During the Q&A session, Moeller gave his card to a contractor looking to build an apartment complex.
- Off the Beaten Path: Is Alternative Funding the Route for You? The Alternative Lending panel featured a variety of non-traditional lenders. Kathryn Petralia, Co-Founder and COO of Kabbage; Levi King, President and Co-Founder of Lendio; Patrick Freeman, Director of Universal Payments and Partnerships for American Express Merchant Financing; Antonio Pizano, Manger for Pacoima Development Federal Credit Union; and Marco Lucioni, VP of Lending for Opportunity Fund; participated in the panel. In addition, the crowd heard from CoolHaus co-founders Freya Estreller and Natasha Case, who used alternative lending to expand their business. Moderated by Tammy Halevy from Association of Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), the panel discussed how non-traditional lenders are often tailored to helping small businesses in specific ways banks cannot, and the specific areas their companies serve.
- Startups Start Here: Strategies from LA Entrepreneurs The startup panel was comprised of successful entrepreneurs from various companies, including John Suh, CEO of LegalZoom; Jeff Stibel, CEO and Chairman of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp.; Tony Westfall, Co-founder and CEO of Invino; and Andrea Belz, Strategy Advisor for Tribogenics. Moderated by Ashish Soni, Executive Director of Digital Innovation at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, the panel shared their inspirations for founding their companies, and how they raised the capital necessary to get started and expand.
- Accessing Capital for Women and Minority-Owned Businesses Moderated by Jane Pak, CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ LA chapter, this panel discussed the options available for women and minority business owners. The panelists, Mark Wilson, President and CEO of eVerifile; Melissa White, South Valley District Manager for Wells Fargo; and Victor Parker, District Director for the Los Angeles SBA; discussed opportunities that women and minority business owners could take advantage of, as well as the challenges they face. Wilson responded to a question from the audience regarding challenges and how to overcome them, stating, “There are challenges to being a woman or minority-owned business, but you still need to compete on merit,” which received a round of applause.
- Crowdfunding: Should You Be in with the “In Crowd?” The Crowdfunding panel discussed how the SEC’s decision on the JOBS Act will affect the way small businesses will be able to raise capital. The panel, comprised of Candace Klein, Founder and CEO of Bad Girl Ventures and SoMoLend; Chance Barnett, Co-Founder and CEO of Crowdfunder; Kate Drane, Engagement Lead for Indiegogo; Rick Weintraub, General Counsel and COO for CommunityLeader; and Lorenzo Maggiore, President of SKELL INC, who successfully funded his “Bug-A-Salt” on Indiegogo; was moderated by Jason Nazar, Co-Founder and CEO of Docstoc. The discussion included how to create a crowdfunding campaign with a higher chance of success, and what businesses should begin doing now to take full advantage of crowdfunding if and when it becomes a more-accessible way for businesses to raise capital.
The event also included spotlights – speeches from specific companies – that illuminated programs within their organizations designed to help small business owners and entrepreneurs, including
- Hidden Treasures: Financing You Never Knew Existed, which touched on local resources and methods for raising capital in LA of which business owners may not have been aware.
- Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses: Unlocking the Job-Creation Potential of Small Businesses, focused on helping small business get access to the financial education and capital they need to grow and hire workers.
- AEO: The Power of One in Three Creating Opportunities for All Americans to Bounce Back, designed to get underserved micro-businesses and micro-enterprises the help they need to expand. If just one in three micro-enterprises hired a single employee, the U.S. would be at full employment, and AEO aims to help that happen.
A special appearance by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made the event one not to miss if you run your business, or are considering starting a business, in LA.
However, the event included much more than a day spent listening to experts. Unlike many events where knowledge transfer is the main goal, Access to Capital: Money to Mainstreet allowed attendees to put their new-found knowledge into practice. Town Square, on the opposite side of Town Hall, had four sections:
- Lenders in the Financial District – where meetings could be held one-on-one or in roundtable format – nearly brushed elbows with one another as they held over 500 meetings with business owners and entrepreneurs eager to begin forming the rapport that could lead them to successfully acquiring funding.
- At the City Hall section, business owners and entrepreneurs learned about existing programs to help them take advantage of local resources.
- The Business District was the information area, where business owners and entrepreneurs could come for answers to questions.
- In Start-up Alley, entrepreneurs could meet with representatives from organizations and firms focused on funding startups.
Another benefit? During the event, entrepreneurs and business owners had the opportunity to network throughout the day and into the night, making connections and speaking with lender representatives. Even after the event officially ended, some business owners remained sitting around tables in the lounge area with pads and pens, taking notes and exchanging ideas.
*Based off 72 exit surveys returned at end of event