Would you like a chance to win a free Kindle Fire? How about a chance to meet the person who could help you grow your business? You have the chance to do both on April 25, at Augusta Civic Center. A Meet the Lender “speed-banking” event will bring together more than 13 banks and community lenders with small-business owners from around the state.
Like similar speed-dating events, this one is designed to give lenders and businesses a chance to get to know each other through a series of short conversations.
Business owners get to meet face-to-face with up to three lenders, pitch their business plans and learn what specific lenders are looking for in extending credit. Lending institutions get to hear directly about small business financing needs.
“It is all about helping our small businesses grow and succeed,” said Marilyn Geroux, deputy district director for the SBA, one of the event sponsors.
When John Trask decided to apply for a loan to purchase a key piece of equipment for his Mainely Promotions printing business, he shopped around, looking at different interest rates. While most of the lenders he talked with weren’t interested in his relatively new venture, he learned what banks were looking for and what he needed to bring to the table. When he finally landed at his local bank, he found people he knew who were willing to work with him.
“Having already talked to others, I knew what [financial information] I could give them and I was prepared to move my accounts there,” he said.
According to Pam Bowerman, vice president of commercial lending at Norway Savings Bank, roughly 60 percent of commercial loan applicants they see are “pretty well prepared.”
She broke loan applicants into three categories: existing business customers who know the drill from experience and come with documents in hand, businesses looking to change lenders or who are looking at a different level of financing and have a general idea what to expect and, finally, the start-ups or shoestring businesses ready to take a leap forward.
“Only about half of these businesses have really done their homework. They come with lots of passion but often no plan and some definite misconceptions,” Bowerman said.
Having a business plan is a huge help. It doesn’t have to be fancy. “It is really your thoughts put to paper: what you propose to do, how you are going to generate sales and market your business. It has to make sense,” she said.
She agreed that the numbers side of things can be the most intimidating, and she is grateful for the resources available through organizations such as SCORE, SBA, the Maine SBDC and others that can help loan applicants put together their cash-flow statements, balance sheets and other financial documents as part of their overall application package.
Trask acknowledged the importance of the help he got from Women, Work, and Community in preparing financials both for his initial loan and again when, as the economy went south a few years later, he went back to his bank to refinance
“There is no security in any business, so it is really important to work with someone you can trust, who knows you and your business,” Trask said.
From the lender’s side, Bowerman too stressed the value of good communication. “It really is a two-way street,” she said. The decision to extend credit relies heavily upon “the credibility of the owner.”
The speed-banking event paves the way for business and banker alike. Nearly a dozen agencies that offer resources to small businesses also will be on hand: the IRS, USDA Rural Development, Finance Authority of Maine and Department of Economic and Community Development, among others.
Jeanne Hulit, SBA Office of Capital Access, and Kenneth Willis, first vice president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, will open the afternoon with their perspectives on the economy, small businesses and the availability of credit.
WWC and the Maine SBDC will offer “Getting Credit Ready” workshops and individual assistance prior to the event. Classes are listed on www.womenworkandcommunity.org and www.mainebusinessworks.org websites.
Other sponsors include the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Federal Home Loan Bank, the Federal Depositors Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, SCORE, the Maine SBA, and Women, Work, and Community. For more information, contact Sandra Fontaine at Sandra.firstname.lastname@example.org or 622-8381. To register, visit http://www.bostonfed.org/bankinfo/firo/events/2012/business-opportunities-in-community-development-lending/augusta/index.htm
Oh, and about that Kindle, and two other door prizes, a Livescribe and hand scanner — you have to be present to win.
Eloise Vitelli is program director for Women, Work, and Community, a statewide organization that has provided training and assistance to start-up entrepreneurs since 1984. She is the 2006 recipient of the Maine SBA McGillicuddy Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.