FINDING SUCCESS THROUGH KNOWLEDGE

Everyday, entrepreneurs are forced to make decisions that have major impacts on their business. These decision are guided by your intuition, trends, habit, or experience. When making a decision that may not be your area of expertise, wouldn’t it be great to have a guide or a mentor that can help you identify potential risks with your decision? Or maybe a mentor to help you feel more confident with your decision. Prestamos CDFI offers no cost, accessible Business Empowerment Services, that offer just that. We offer the opportunity for you to learn about areas within your business, that you may not be most comfortable with, along with a variety of ways for you to access our curriculum.

Whether that be through one-on-one coaching meetings, or instructor led classes, we can help you feel more confident in areas you want to master. We seek to empower all entrepreneurs with a major focus on minority owned, women owned, or under resourced businesses. We have a full team of Business Advisors who have a passion for helping others through their knowledge and direct business experience.

Our services don’t stop there. Are you a business owner interested in applying for a Small Business Loan, do you know the typical guidelines of small business loans? It could also be that you need feedback on your Business Plan, or need support in completing your projections. Our Business Advisors can help guide you through these items, all while helping you understand why the feedback provided and improvements are needed. Maybe you want to learn the best marketing strategy for your specific industry, you can work with a Business Advisor, to help you identify the best Social Media platform for you, and the strategy for you to use to post content. We even help with support in developing your brand, and creating a logo.

Our clients have experienced major growth and have achieved many milestones by working with our expert Business advisors. For example, Hilda Pena, owner of Botas Juarez, a western wear retail store in Phoenix, AZ. When she began utilizing our services in 2020, she only had one full time employee and one part time employee. Hilda has now grown her staff to five full time employees and one part time employee. Botas Juarez has also increased their net sales by 105% from 2020 to 2021. While the financial support provided to Botas Juarez by Prestamos CDFI was extremely important to keep the business strong during the pandemic, much of their success was to the dedication that Hilda had to growing and learning from her assigned Business Advisors. In the words of Hilda Pena, co-owner and General Manager, “it was the implementation of the strategies deployed via technical assistance the critical factor that made Botas Juarez to pivot in the right direction and achieve a growth net sales more than double in one single year.” Hidla utilizied multiple services from our Advisors, from help with financials and human resources, to brand development, social media strategies to even having a professional photography session to revamp the website.

Another example of success has been the collaborative branding effort with Brandee Dunn at Polished Clean Co. Our team of Business Advisors worked together to help create a brand strategy, with clear Mission and Vision standards. As a result, a clear messaging strategy was implemented which helped Brandee target her ideal audience. Additionally, with the help of our creative exper Polished Clean Co. was able to obtain a new logo that elevated the business to new heights.

Wherever your business may be leading you, we want to make sure you know we are here to be your partner through the journey. Whether that is just meeting with us to ensure you are prepared for potential roadblocks, or guide you while you navigate through a business decision, we have the resources to help. To sign up for our Business Empowerment Services, sign up here, and schedule your intake meeting now! We look forward to inspiring you towards empowerment!

WHAT IS YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION AND HOW CAN YOU MANAGE IT

WHAT IS YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION AND HOW CAN YOU MANAGE IT

Your online reputation as a business can either drive or decrease sales, customers, and longevity. Online reviews have become the internet’s word of mouth. Before someone makes a purchase or visits a new restaurant, they will often rely on what other consumers like them have to say about their experience. This is why it is so important that businesses continue to prioritize customer service – in real life and online. Unfortunately, negative comments about experiences with a business, product or service can impact whether people will become patrons. But there’s no need to fear – businesses don’t need to launch full-scale campaigns to combat negative reviews. You simply need strategies to manage your online reputation because truth be told, a better online reputation will equal PROFIT.

Studies show that even two negative reviews or search results put businesses at risk of losing 44% of their customers. There are three major factors that impact online reputation management and those are: social media, search engines, and local listings. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp allow consumers to post feedback about the business using reviews. While search engines and listings assist in navigating consumers to relevant businesses based on the highest star ratings and positive feedback.

WHAT IS YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION AND HOW CAN YOU MANAGE IT

This is how these platforms and search functions can impact your business:

  • Provides business information such as an address, phone number, website, and services/products.
  • Search engines like Google, Bing Places, YP, & Yelp are able to rank you for correct search keywords and categories in local areas as far as 25-mile radius.
  • Allows users to give feedback on experiences and grows your online reputation locally online.

Reviews, ratings, and comments can have a huge impact on attracting new consumers as well as retaining existing ones. Here’s how:

  • Reviews have the power to influence consumers and strengthen trust.
  • 72% are more likely to try a new business or product based on previous customer responses and reviews.
  • Reviews provide an opportunity for businesses and customers to build a relationship with one another.

Now that you know this, you might be wondering how you can start implementing this practice into your business. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to help you manage your online reputation

DO:

  • Actively ask clients/customers for reviews
  • Respond to positive and negative reviews with professionalism
  • Make sure all business information is consistent and updated (Hours of operation, Contact phone number, website, etc.)
  • Create relevant content for search engines to recognize your business’ services or products to properly categorize your business in search queries (Blogs, DIY, Youtube)

DON’T:

  • Ignore negative reviews. Respond to them professionally.
  • Attack or be combative with a reviewer even if their review is negative
  • Create fake positive reviews using fake profiles
  • Create multiple profiles, listings, website urls, etc.

Managing your online reputation doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience, simply start by taking inventory of where your reputation is currently at. From there start taking the steps to strengthen your strategies and make sure to carve out time every few weeks to check and reply to reviews. Address those negative reviews by offering to make things better – whether through a discount or redo of the service. As a business owner, you have control over your online reputation, all you need to do is get started.

cyber threat map

Cyber Security

cyber security

Did you know, someone can hack your cellphone through your chargers and you would never know it! Any 4th grader these days can go to eBay or Hak5.org and purchase what is called an OMG Cable for less than $140. The cable looks exactly like an innocent phone charger but the hacker can remotely execute malicious code on your phone. Anything you can do to your phone they can too. For example, if you turn on your camera or record your voice, they can too. If you can send or read your text messages or emails, they can too. If you can make or receive phones calls from your phone, so can they. Downloading your images, tracking your location, stealing your passwords and banking information are all possible too. You are probably now asking yourself how you can know if the charger you are using at home or in the office is one of these OMG Cables.

You might think, well one has to know how to program or code and be very technical to use these, right? Actually, this can be done easier than you think. Just by going to YouTube, you can type in “OMG Cable Hacking Tutorial” and you will see thousands of videos showing you step by step instructions to hack anyone’s phone. In reality anyone who is looking to hack into phones can easily do so by slipping you a cable or somehow replacing your cable. These hackers can go as far as replacing a shipment of cables from unknowing or sometimes knowing sellers with OMG Cables. There is even risk in borrowing someones charger.

Beyond cellphones, did you know virtually anyone can also hack your WiFi without much effort? If they purchase a device like WiFi Pineapple, which is legally sold online, anyone can hack into your WiFi. Once the intruder is inside your network they can see what website you are visiting, read your private emails, steal your passwords, and so much more. If you happen to own a business you have even more to lose. You can search YouTube for “WiFi Pineapple Hacking Tutorial” and you will be shocked how many results you will find. The worst part is that small business owners are often the most targeted for these types of hacks.

In addition to the above, there are many password-cracking tools and guessing someone’s most difficult password could take less than 4 minutes with basic apps. For example, you can find videos on YouTube and articles through Google about how to hack someone’s passwords to social media, email and other sites. 

Now the big question becomes: “…so what can I do? How can we protect ourselves?” This is where we come in. The Prestamos Technical Assistance team has the capability of coaching you through how to stay safer and more private from prying eyes while you are using technology. Reach out to us today and let us help you and your business because the online world is full of unpleasant surprises. As long as we do nothing to protect ourselves while online, and keep pretending that it is other’s responsibilities to protect us, we will be vulnerable and it is only a matter of time before we are the next victim. With tens of millions of attacks and threats daily, we have to understand this is only a matter of odds and time before we are the next victim.

Here is a live Cyber Threat Map that doesn’t capture all attacks but at least it will give you and idea of the size of the problem. Take a look and reach out to us at Prestamos to see how we can assist you. 

SEVEN REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES

7 reasons to support local businesses

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Arizona is home to 611,097 small, local businesses which account for 99% of the state’s businesses. It is also estimated that these businesses are employers to 1.1 million individuals which represent 43% of the state’s workforce. But why is this important? Well because the success of Arizona’s small, local businesses is critical to the economic success of those business owners, their families, their employers,, the communities they live in and the state. 

There are plenty of local businesses you can support that offer a variety of goods, services, and experiences. Below we offer you seven reasons why supporting local has big impacts for the state’s  economy and overall well-being.

  1. Your Money Has Power:

Supporting local businesses means your money has more power. For every $100 you spend at a locally owned business $43 remains here, in the Arizona economy. While every $100 you spend at a non-locally owned business, only $13 remains in the local economy.  More money is kept in the community because locally-owned businesses often purchase from other local businesses, service providers and farms. Purchasing local helps grow other businesses and impacts the growth of the local economy.

  1. Local Influence:

Entrepreneurs that own local businesses have the power and influence to impact policies and decisions made at a state and local level. This means that people that live in your community and truly understand the needs of it are the ones representing you and your experiences. 

  1. Workforce Development:

Local businesses are responsible for employing close to half or the state’s workforce. By supporting local you are not only helping businesses keep individuals employed, you are also aiding in job creation.

  1. Environmental Impact:

By shopping local, you are also helping the environmental impacts that larger companies tend to have. Local businesses tend to use local suppliers which leads to cutting their carbon footprint. These businesses also tend to be located in communities and are easier to access by walking to them.

  1. Community Building:

Supporting local isn’t only supporting the business and the economy, you are also more likely to have an indirect social impact. As local business owners tend to be more connected to their communities, they also are more likely to donate and support local non-profits and charities.

  1. Builds Culture and Character:

When you think of your community, you can usually think of a local coffee shop, restaurant or boutique that you associate with the area. This is because the unique character of your local community is defined in large part by the business that are located in it. This plays a big role in how you feel about where you live and the value of your home and property.

 

  1. Fosters Entrepreneurship:

When individuals see local businesses thriving, it motivates others to follow their own passions and open their business. Local entrepreneurs are also more likely to be available to mentor and be a resource to aspiring entrepreneurs.

 

Are you excited to start supporting your local community business or restaurant? Here are a few ideas to get your started:

 

Buy a gift at: Practical Art

Have a Spa Day at: Studio Nails by T & T 

Skip the Starbucks line and get your morning coffee at: AT Oasis

Get a free yard maintenance estimate by: Yobanis Landscaping 480 703 9092

Set a fancy date night with an at-home check delivering Haute Cuisine: Chef Mackeisha

Keep your home AC working all summer long with regular maintenance from: ORCA AC

Repair your vehicle windshield by: Premium Auto Glass LLC 

Make lasting impacts on our society as a social enterprise

Make lasting impacts on our society as a social enterprise

We all want to make an impact in the world. We want to do something that no matter how big or small it is, it will leave the world better than we found it. For example, have you ever noticed how some food and beverage businesses use paper or biodegradable straws? This small change has significant impacts on our environment and the potential harm on animals that can come in contact with plastic straws.

When a social impact practice and solution like this is implemented through your business, you may then be considered a Social Enterprise. There are many other processes that you can follow to make a huge impact, like on helping individuals facing economic challenges. By offering employment to even one individual facing economic challenges in your community, you can have a lasting impact on their life and the health and well-being of this person’s life and our economy.

One of the most important goals of our Social Enterprise Program is making lasting positive impacts in the community. Through our efforts we are looking to support small businesses to offer job opportunities to individuals who are facing challenges in finding and securing a quality job. From helping a working mom struggling to find child care for her children, or someone needing transportation to and from work – we want to help businesses looking to make impacts build the systems needed to implement these practices effectively.

While it might take time, effort and education – our Social Enterprise initiative exists to be your partner through the entire process. If you are interested in learning more about this program and how you can get started, please submit your information here. Once your application is submitted you will hear back from our Program Manager, Theresa Hernandez to schedule an in-depth discussion to discuss next steps.

tax time tips

Tax Time Tips

Tax Time Tips

It’s that time of year when business finances become top-of-mind for everyone as tax season is at our doorsteps. As a reminder, Corporate (C and S) and Partnership returns are due by March 15, 2022 and Individual returns with Schedule C’s are due by Monday April 18, 2022.

Here are some things to note as you head into tax season:

  • If you received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in either 2020 or 2021, you need to file for forgiveness regardless of the size of your loan. As of this date, all PPP borrowers must apply for forgiveness. You can apply directly through the SBA if your loan is $150,000 or less at https://directforgiveness.sba.gov. If your PPP loan was over $150,000 you need to contact your lender directly. If you got your PPP from Prestamos, you can email us at ppp@cplc.org
  • PPP loans are considered exempt from federal income tax under the CARES Act. Under section 1106(i) of the act, expressly excludes the forgiveness of PPP loans from federal gross income, and thus federal income tax.
  • EIDL loans are considered debt and therefore do not count as income. You can deduct any payment of interest on an EIDL loan as an interest expenses on your tax returns, and you can deduct expenses you paid with the EIDL funds.
  • Grants, other forgivable loans, and certain funds from local or state government are likely to be considered taxable income and need to be reported on your tax return as gross income.
  • If you had employees in 2021, you might be eligible to claim the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) up to $28,000 per employee. You can learn more about the ERC here: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/ERC-COVID-Snapshot-5.7.21_full-text.pdf
  • To learn more about expenses your business can deduct on your tax return, take a look at IRS Publication 535 here: https://www.irs.gov/publications/p535

If you need assistance determining the tax form you should be filing or need support in finding a qualified tax preparer, please feel free to reach out and we will help guide you towards the appropriate resources so that your tax season is low stress!

taking advantage of great resignation

Taking Advantage of the Great Resignation

Over the last 2 years the employee population has created a huge shift in priorities. The pandemic caused many to pause and rethink their priorities. What used to be an aggressive career path and monetary increase focuses has moved to an importance on family time and connecting work to career aspirations and passion areas. This shift has caused a record number of employees to leave their jobs and has left many organizations faced with challenges around getting enough employees to open and operate a facility, as well as the challenges of getting enough materials and product to continue to make a profit.

This is not a boomerang scenario where things will go back to pre-2020 structure. Multiple organizations (large and small) adapted to allow remote work, or created flexible working schedules, but not all organizations can do that. Many organizations need employees to run the physical location or operate in the factories, so what do they do? And to a greater extent the question is how organizations flip this challenge into an opportunity to take market share, grow profits, accelerate towards goals, and be the employer of choice in their industry.

The critical component to success is to take advantage of who you are as an organization, clarify and communicate what you stand for, and ensure everyone knows where you are going. These items build the culture of the organization, and more importantly they help attract and keep the right employees. A strong understanding and foundation in these areas will help organizations take full advantage of the great resignation. Employees are no longer looking for a job, they want a connection, they want to feel they are developing and becoming a better person by the work they do. Your culture will help clarify where you recruit, who you hire, how you develop them, and clarify to your prospected candidates what you can do for them. Going forward, employment needs to be mutually beneficial, and not just monetarily.

Let’s dive into some of the key factors to create an inspiring and sought-after culture. This can be broken out into organizational structure, people development, pay, and flexibility. To succeed going forward organizations need to have a rock-solid structure (vision, mission, business plan, strategic plan, etc.). This establishes who you are as an organization, including what you stand for. Next is people development, look at your organization as a mentor or coach for all employees. Are you providing learning opportunities and experiences that will help them build skill sets for future goals? Do you know their future goals? Do you know the skills they need to learn for future career aspirations. It is important to realize any employee today does not equate to employees of tomorrow, but if the structure is in place and you care about the people to help them get to their next step, they will forever be ambassadors to your business. They will continue to visit and refer new employees because of these two pieces. The next two components (pay and flexibility) prove you mean what you put in place in the first two. If you want to attract the right candidates for you and your culture, then pay in proportion to show you are looking for the best. Reward employees for referrals and work anniversaries. Finally, be as flexible as you can to support the employee. Maybe that means more vacation time, maybe that means giving them the schedule they want 80% of the time, maybe it means allowing them to complete projects on their schedule. Think about what flexibility could mean for your business.

I am sure questions are circling your head, and this is where our business advisors can provide support. Our business advisors help assess where you are, what you need to focus on right now, and support you with key knowledge along the way. Whether you need help building a mission, getting your social media to communicate who you are, or building out talent programs our business advisors are here to help. For more information, please contact our office or register for our webinar on this subject (February 18th, at 10:00am).

back to work plan

Back-to-Work Small Business Hiring and Retention Program

As part of Governor Doug Ducey’s Arizona Back to Work Plan, the State of Arizona launched the Back to Work Small Business Hiring and Retention Program to help small, locally owned, or operated businesses hire and retain employees. The grant program funds up to $10,000 in expenditures for employee hiring and retention efforts. There is a cap of $1,000 per employee and 25 percent of the awarded amount may be utilized for other business expenses. Special consideration will be made to businesses that are located in wildfire and flood-impacted areas.

 

back to work plan

 

Program Details

Eligible Applicants:

  • Small businesses with currently 5 – 25 employees
  • Owned and operated in the state of Arizona: including franchises with corporate headquarters in other states, but with locally-owned franchised establishments.
  • Incorporated before January 1, 2020.
  • Must be renting or leasing a physical location; may not be working from home or remotely as an independent contractor.
  • Must be open to the general public and in good standing with the Arizona Department of Revenue and Arizona Corporation Commission.

Special considerations for small businesses impacted by wildfire or natural disaster flooding

  • Employee cap is increased from 25 to 50.
  • Up to 100% of the awarded funding can be utilized for non-personnel expenditures i.e., operating expenses.

Use of Funds:

  • At least 75% of the awarded funds must go to current or new employees in the form of incentives. There is a cap of $1,000 incentive for each employee.
  • Up to 25% of the awarded funds can go to other business expenditures such as mortgage/rent, utilities, etc.
  • The $10,000 of expenditures may be used at multiple locations. Applicants should submit one application — regardless of the number of locations at which the funds will be applied.
  • Employees that receive an incentive that is funded by this program may not include the business owner.

Webinar

Join a special session with Arizona’s SBDC to learn more about the program, eligibility, and how to apply for the funding.

  • Time: 9 – 10 a.m.
  • Date: Friday, August 27, 2021
  • Location: Zoom

REGISTER HERE

Get Prestamos CDFI to help your business apply for the Back-to-Work Small Business Program

If you may need assistance applying for this grant, we can help. Please request Application Assistance by completing the form here:
Application Assistance

Leveraging Free Resources for Small Businesses

Are you a small business in need of financial and technical help? If you are, did you know that there is a multitude of resources available through your City, County, State, and even some Federal programs? The availability of these resources has actually increased substantially throughout the pandemic, further shedding a light on the impact and importance that small businesses and essential services have on our communities.

Below is a list of some of these resources:

Prestamos CDFI

Prestamos CDFI has a variety of no-cost business support services available, including:

  • Program to Invest in Micro-Entrepreneurs (PRIME):
    • Business Advising/Coaching for businesses with under 10 employees in Arizona and Nevada
  • Prestamos Women’s Business Center:
    • Startup and Business support focused on women in Central/Northern Arizona
  • Microlending:
    • Ongoing advising and coaching for Microloan Clients

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA has a variety of no, or low, cost programs for small businesses including:

  • Women’s Business Centers: Startup and Business Support focused on women entrepreneurs
  • SCORE: Counselors that provide Business Advising and Workshops
  • Small Business Development Centers: Support with business plans and applications for capital
  • Veterans Business Centers: Startup and Business Support focused on women”

​​Additional Grants and Resources for Businesses:

  • FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab
  • Nav’s Small Business Grant
    • https://www.nav.com/business-grant-contest/
    • Must be a Nav member (memberships are free). Receive up to $10,000 to take your business to the next level. Entries must be submitted between June 30th and August 6th for your chance to receive a grant.
  • iFund Women
  • Business Certifications
    • Are you a minority, women, or veteran-owned business? If so, you can apply to become officially certified as minority-owned which can open up new opportunities for federal, state, local, and corporate contracts.
    • https://nmsdc.org/
  • Look in your community
    • Did you know that your local libraries and co-working spaces also offer a variety of resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs? Check your local library branch or a co-working space near you for more information.
    • https://www.joinhuub.com/

Take advantage of these resources to help elevate your business to the next level. Make sure to check out our website and social media pages to stay up to date on the latest tools, webinars, and other services we offer through Prestamos.

Employer hiring new staff member

Hiring During A Time of Uncertainty

This month, we spoke to Prestamos Business Advisor Pedro Alvarez to get his take on a special topic of interest for the small business and nonprofit community. Pedro discusses how the current landscape, affected by the pandemic, has affected hiring and offers tips when recruiting for your organization. From retention to effective outreach, we chat about the impact your staff have on your company.

Pedro, please give us an overview of how you see the current employment landscape.

We have seen a BIG shift in the employment landscape. Companies are having a hard time finding applicants as more and more people are choosing to stay home temporarily, reconsider the traditional job market, consider starting their own business or work as independent contractors, or are simply waiting to reenter the job market due to continued safety concerns. It really boils down to creating a mutually beneficial opportunity for both parties. I believe that, more than before, the key to successful recruiting will be that both parties must truly feel valued during the process.

How can employers, from small businesses to local nonprofits, focus their recruitment efforts?

Understand what you are offering. When posting a job ad, determine what will drive an applicant to you and keep your recruitment efforts positive. In addition to competitive salaries and health benefits, consider offering and highlighting to applicants:

  • Your company culture (applicants want to relate to your team and business mission!)
  • Your stance on social justice issues
  • Volunteer hour perks and earned time off benefits
  • Work from home options
  • Your location, commute times, and office perks (coffee stations, anyone?)

Additionally, I recommend being transparent about hourly pay/salaries in the job application. More and more applicants are clicking away from job postings if the pay rate is not included. Your transparency will help you and the applicant save time and energy, and will allow you to focus on the applicants who are serious about the job you are hiring for.

Remember – while salary is critical, many applicants care just as much about work/life balance and/or workplace culture when finding a new job.

What should job applicants be doing when looking for new roles?

Put yourself first! Of the many lessons we learned from the pandemic, one critical takeaway was that applicants want to enjoy their work. They need purpose. Belonging. If you are an applicant transitioning into a new role and/or industry, or are waiting to reenter the workforce, make sure you understand what that new job will provide you in the long run. Keep working on your skills, and find a company that will value you for what you bring to the table.

Thank you, Pedro, for your insight! If you are a small business or nonprofit and need help with hiring, retention, employee trainings, and other business services, please contact our team at prestamosloans@cplc.org!

Employer hiring new staff member