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This week the ever-changing colorful facade of the South Dade Cultural Arts Center radiated over the next generation of small businesses in the county.
Over 30 entrepreneurs concluded their seven week course in the SmallBusinessAcademy with the graduation gift of an “Access to Capital Expo” where they informally picked the brains of lenders and financiers.
The program is the proud brainchild of District 8 Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who says she took the initiative after feedback from the South Dade Solutions Summit some months earlier. The summit brought together stakeholders in the southernmost part of the county to discuss how to break out from the area’s status quo and progress forward.
“When small business thrives our economy thrives,” Levine Cava told the News Leader.
“This is the first time that it has ever been offered for free to businesses at the south end of the county,” said the commissioner. “The participants are so eager so excited to learn – they have supported each other – and many of them received the mom and pop small business grants.”
For seven weeks participants met to learn a different aspect of business that would help make them successful.
The cap off event was a panel on finding capital to reach particular goals and grow.
Cava said the entire program couldn’t have gotten off the ground were it not for volunteer partnerships, some of which were part of the panel.
Sheri Colas-Gervais from the Beacon Council moderated the talk that included Daivd Deza, a Vice President at TD Bank; Fabiana Estrada from micro lenders Accion East;Jose D. Alvarez of Hispanic Business Initiative Fund; and a small business success story in Patricia Bonilla, principal at Lunacon Construction Group.
Deza said three things that a bank looks at for a loan is credit, cash flow, and collateral.
“We look globally at your ability to pay back the loan,” said Deza.
Estrada agreed saying that “credit is key,” but she also mentioned that a big part of success begins with building relationships.
Alvarez added that your numbers are essential to securing loans, and that banks look for red flags in those reports.
“Banks look at overdrafts, that’s a bad sign,” said Alvarez.
Bonilla encouraged business owners to look for every opportunity.
“Try for everything,” she said from experience. She started her construction business in the height of the crash when “construction” was a bad word. But she was able to make it work by knowing what she wanted out of her endeavor.
“You need to have some kind of business plan,” she said. “Know what you want and modify it.”
She also said you have to highlight your competitive edge, what you bring that nobody else has which requires studying the field.
“You have to become an expert in your field,” she advised. “They aren’t going to give their money to someone who doesn’t give off confidence.”
The participants all received certificates for completing the program, but they also created a small network for themselves. Many went around the small expo of tables set up inside the SDCAC and met with the organizations.
Levine Cava was quick to add that the interactions were informal and noncompetitive.
“This is not Shark Tank,” she said to the owners. “Explore how to make your case.”
And so a new batch of more learned small business goes forth to their fates.