The Challenge of Being a Small Business

Data compiled by analysis firm CB Insights shows that 23% of small business owners say that the failure of their business could partially be attributed …

Owning a small business can be a very rewarding experience, but one that comes with a unique set of challenges. Fortunately, there are ways of meeting – and overcoming – these challenges.

Even with thousands of huge corporations operating in the United States, small business still makes up the backbone of the U.S. economy. In fact, small businesses employed more than half the American workforce in 2011. According to the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, they’re also responsible for almost 40% of the gross national product, or GNP.

Small businesses have an advantage over big box stores and corporations—they’re tied into the communities they serve. Your locally owned hardware store, for instance, might not have everything that a huge home improvement store has, but you can build a relationship with your local stores that you won’t find at the corporate megastore.

Unfortunately, even having those close business relationships with neighbors and friends isn’t always enough to keep small local businesses afloat. They face many challenges and struggles that can force them to shut down. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 19% of the businesses that started in 1994 are still in operation, and only half of the businesses founded in 2010 are still running.

Certain Challenges They Face

Government Regulations

Federal, state, and local governments are constantly making new regulations that small business owners need to comply with, and often that compliance requires large amounts of money to set up and maintain. Environmental regulations, for instance, while not necessarily a bad thing, can cost small business owners exorbitant amounts of money to purchase infrastructure, equipment, and training for employees.

It can be difficult to meet all government requirements, but typically the government agency in charge of a given regulation has information on its website to help business owners understand what’s required of them and how they can be compliant. Business owners who take the time to understand new regulations are already far ahead of the game.

Lack of Employee Productivity

Data compiled by analysis firm CB Insights shows that 23% of small business owners say that the failure of their business could partially be attributed to poor hiring practices that brought in the wrong people. In other cases, people aren’t suited to the job they’re performing, such as employees with bad attitudes directly interfacing with customers.

To combat this problem as a small business owner, don’t settle for just getting “bodies” to do the work; take the time to conduct an actual search, use a solid interview and vetting process for new employees, and consider using a probationary period.

Inability to Diversify Product from Competition

In order to beat your competition, you need to stand out in your industry. Businesses that offer the same product as everyone else with nothing that makes it special won’t get the biggest share of the market. When two businesses sell a product that looks the same to the customer, they often choose whichever one is less expensive—and being the cheapest product on the market isn’t always a good idea either.

To beat this problem, brainstorm ways you can make a total product that’s better than the competition, whether that be through using different materials, smart advertising, or putting a twist on your business and customer service.

Cash Flow

It takes money to make money, so the saying goes, and if you’re running a small business, then you already know this to be true. You might be buying inventory, materials, or equipment; maybe you’re paying employees or renting a space for your business to run in. Whatever your business, you have costs. If you can’t meet those costs, your business is going to fail.

You can help protect yourself from cash flow-induced failure by being careful with your spending. If you’re feeling the pinch from accounts receivable that are outstanding, consider getting a loan using those as collateral; it can help tide you over.

How to Find Funding

Money might not solve all your problems, but if you’re a small business owner, it can help solve a lot of them so it’s important to know where you get the funding; whether it’s small business loans, grants, or crowdfunding.

Small Business Loans

The federal government’s Small Business Administration offers government-backed loans for small business owners. Having that government guarantee helps you get approved by lenders; even if you don’t pay the loan back, the government will ensure the lender gets its money. That makes you a less risky prospect, and lenders are more apt to approve your application. According to the SBA website, in most cases maintaining a good business credit history is enough to qualify.

Woman using a laptop to look at a crowdfunding site; image by Rawpixel, via
Woman using a laptop to look at a crowdfunding site; image by Rawpixel, via

In addition to the SBA, there are also private banks and lenders that offer traditional small business loans. Similar to SBA requirements, applicants must meet certain criteria for approval which may include strong business credit, some level of communication of business intent, and more.


Only 1% of businesses ever use crowdfunding, but it’s becoming a far more mainstream option if you need to get some cash for your business. In a crowdfunding scenario, you put out the idea you have, and the public can fund it with small contributions—in some cases as little as $5. Kickstarter is one crowdfunding platform that allows you to put your ideas out to the world—and get funding from people who want to see it work. There’s no credit check or application needed; if the market loves your idea, they’ll fund it.


Small business grants are also available, and they could come from government sources or third-party organizations and even other businesses. They don’t require repayment like a loan does; they do, however, have a lot of requirements and an application process. In order to find the grants you qualify for, you’ll need to do some research—there are thousands of them.

Running a small business can be difficult and include a lot of challenges. There are ways to make it work, however, and with some effort you can see your business not just surviving but thriving.

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Bank of America Makes $100 Million Capital Commitment to Support Women Entrepreneurs With …

CHARLOTTE, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Bank of America is doubling its investment in the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, committing $100 …

CHARLOTTE, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Bank of America is doubling its investment in the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, committing $100 million in capital to connect women small business owners to affordable loans. Since the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program launched five years ago, more than 2,500 women entrepreneurs have received $46 million in loans through community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to help them grow and refine their businesses.

“We recognize that women entrepreneurs help fuel economic growth in communities across the U.S., and that access to capital remains a key challenge,” said Andrew Plepler, global head of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), Bank of America. “Partnering with the Tory Burch Foundation to advance women in small business is one way we invest in the future of local economies.”

Launched in 2014, the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program is a partnership between Bank of America and the Tory Burch Foundation that aims to increase the number and size of businesses owned and led by women. Only 1 in 23 loan dollars is distributed to women-owned businesses in the United States. The program connects women business owners to affordable loans that are administered through local CDFIs, which provide capital and financial services to underserved markets and populations, including women entrepreneurs. Bank of America is the largest investor in CDFIs, with more than $1.5 billion in investments to 255 CDFI partners across the U.S.

“We know women pay back loans at higher rates than men, but because of cultural bias, they are denied critical capital to grow their businesses,” says Tory Burch, founder of the Tory Burch Foundation. “Over the past five years, the Capital Program has allowed us to reach women businesses owners at scale, and we’re looking forward to doubling that investment.”

Through the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, business owners such as Mia Parton, who founded Aeparmia Engineering, a minority woman- and LGBTQ-owned professional civil engineering firm, are able to grow strategically. Parton leveraged the funds provided through the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program for working capital to design and manage infrastructure projects, such as water distribution and wastewater collection systems that help advance and protect communities.

The program operates in 17 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. CDFIs participating in the capital program offer a 2 percent interest rate reduction on loans for qualifying borrowers. CDFI partners work with women representing a range of industries, including accounting, hospitality, home improvement, fashion, and child care.

Through partnerships like the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, Bank of America has helped more than 11,000 women entrepreneurs through mentoring, training and access to capital. The company has a long-standing history of supporting women within the company, making the financial lives of women clients and customers better and advancing economic empowerment of women in communities around the world. The bank’s investments to advance women entrepreneurs are part of its approach to responsible growth and an example of how the company deploys capital to advance economic and social progress.

For more information on the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, please visit or

Tory Burch Foundation

The Tory Burch Foundation advances women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in the United States by providing access to capital, education and digital resources: The Fellows Program has provided over $600,000 in grants to help women grow their businesses; the Tory Burch Capital Program, powered by Bank of America has distributed more than $46 million in loans to more than 2,500 women entrepreneurs; more than 200 women have completed an in-depth business education course through the Tory Burch Foundation cohort of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Education Program; and the Foundation’s website,, is a go-to destination for women entrepreneurs. The Foundation’s global initiative #EmbraceAmbition launched in March 2017, encouraging women everywhere to own their power, their drive and their dreams. Each month, the Foundation provides online tools and digital education to more than 270,000 women, and more than 10,000 women have created their business plans on

Follow the Tory Burch Foundation on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter with #EmbraceAmbition.

Bank of America

At Bank of America, we’re guided by a common purpose to help make financial lives better, through the power of every connection. We’re delivering on this through responsible growth with a focus on our environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership. ESG is embedded across our eight lines of business and reflects how we help fuel the global economy, build trust and credibility, and represent a company that people want to work for, invest in and do business with. It’s demonstrated in the inclusive and supportive workplace we create for our employees, the responsible products and services we offer our clients, and the impact we make around the world in helping local economies thrive. An important part of this work is forming strong partnerships with nonprofits and advocacy groups, such as community, consumer and environmental organizations, to bring together our collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. Learn more at, and connect with us on Twitter (@BofA_News).

For more Bank of America news, including dividend announcements and other important information, visit the Bank of America newsroom. Click here to register for news email alerts.

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Opinion: Women-owned businesses face a lack of funding — and here’s how to change this

Just 2.2% of all venture capital in the U.S. goes to companies founded … The Small Business Administration’s Venture Capital, Social Capital and the …

When women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses seek funding to grow their business, the statistics aren’t pretty.

Just 2.2% of all venture capital in the U.S. goes to companies founded solely by women. In addition, companies with all-male founders receive funding after their first round close to 35% of the time. For companies with female founders, that number is less than 2%.

It’s no wonder that only 2% of women owned businesses ever make it to $1 million in revenue, which is 3.5 times less than their male counterparts.

The F Project intends to change this landscape. How? By providing a website where people can buy female-founded brands and share information about female founders and their products via social media. At the same time, female founders can foster brand collaboration, share stories and support, and strengthen their business networks. Some F Project members are recipients of that tiny slice of venture capital that has gone to women-owned businesses.

We created the The F Project because too many female-founded businesses with impressive revenue and demonstrated potential are not getting funded. Erika’s experience starting a health-focused snack food company is a case study. Her career prior to founding Good Zebra was a successful trajectory of launching brands, reinventing businesses, scaling companies, entering foreign markets, and building relationships with colleagues and consumers. Good Zebra had national distribution, market opportunity, and consumer demand. Two of Erika’s former CEOs were angel investors. Despite all of this, Erika couldn’t land what it would take to grow Good Zebra. She’s hardly the only one.

Consider that revenue generated from female-led funded companies outstrips that of male-led companies, as a MassChallenge/BCG study shows. Then why is there a reluctance to fund women? That study controlled for variables including owners’ education level and judges’ scoring and concluded that gender alone plays a significant role in the lack of funding.

Christina’s company, Farmgirl Flowers, is a sobering example. She bootstrapped her San Francisco-based floral-delivery service in 2010 with $49,000 in savings. Farmgirl Flowers did $56,000 in revenue its first year, $276,000 in its second, and by the third year brought in $920,000. By 2014, Christina realized that her business was getting noticed.

Similar companies to hers kept popping up — all of them male-backed, with large founder teams, and many with tech pedigrees. A few were communicating that they were logistics companies that just happened to be using flowers as their “test” for on-demand delivery, as that was a big focus among the investment community at that time. Their businesses bore a striking resemblance to Farmgirl Flowers, from their products and delivery methods, right down to the copy on their websites, with the exception of one thing — all of the other companies had a minimum of $9 million in venture capital.

Farmgirl Flowers had revenue of $23.4 million in 2018, is profitable, and has a more highly engaged consumer than all of its competitors combined. Yet even though Christina has pitched to almost 100 VC firms now, Farmgirl is still bootstrapping.

A recent study by The Diana Project of Babson College found that, “Contrary to existing perceptions, many fundable women entrepreneurs had the requisite skills and experience to lead high-growth ventures. Nonetheless, women were consistently left out of the networks of growth capital finance and appeared to lack the contacts needed to break through.”

Let’s face it: women don’t look like the venture investors they’re pitching. Only 8% of partners in the top 100 venture firms are female, according to a report by Crunchbase. Traditional avenues of networking, to which men have pretty much exclusive access, funnel into capital investment firms that are made up of mostly… more men.

Julia Spicer, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association, said in an interview that typical reasons businesses don’t get funded include, “The funds don’t have a partner who specializes in your space, they may have already made an investment bet on a prior deal in that market sector, or they simply don’t have enough domain expertise to provide the oversight required.”

The lack of experience that a male investor team brings to the table when it comes to women’s products is not just a problem for women. It’s a missed opportunity for the investors as well. A study by Calvert Impact Capital showed that, on average, over the 11 years reviewed, companies with a higher percentage of women in leadership positions (WLP) outperformed companies with the lowest percentage of WLP as measured by ratios of return on sales, assets, and equity.

Investing firm First Round published a report on its initial 10 years that showed that its female-founded companies had performed 63% better than those with male founders. The Small Business Administration’s Venture Capital, Social Capital and the Funding of Women-led Businesses report found that venture capital firms that invested in women-led businesses saw a positive return on their investments. Further, it asserted that female-founded businesses offered untapped potential for innovation, job creation, and other economic contributions that were limited only by access to venture capital funding.

Women drive between 70%-80% of all purchase decisions. Why aren’t funders investing in female founders who can connect to these consumers? The majority of female founders currently involved with the F Project (a collective with more than 150 participants) are not talking about harassment or fighting for equality. They are simply trying to find the investors who understand their products, appreciate the purchasing power of female consumers, and support the founders’ willingness to put every ounce of their being into making their companies successful.

Money is being left on the table, good businesses are not scaling, and it’s time for that to change. We are not the only advocates. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and WEConnect International have created the Women Owned Logo for storefronts, websites, and products. It signifies that women own, operate, and control at least 51% of that company. Fashion designer Rachel Roy supports an ongoing Female Founded initiative that highlights female founders and their businesses, promoting them and delivering customers directly to their sites to shop.

Ultimately, this is a call to both consumers and investors. Here is how we drive change:

1. Consumers: Your dollars do the talking. Buy the products that speak to your needs, to your lives, to the health and well-being of the people you love, and share these brands with your networks.

2. Brands: Collaborate with female founders, highlight their products, and help them get exposure.

3. Investors: Give female founders an audience. Educate yourselves on the products that female consumers are buying. Add women to your teams. If you’re looking for superior returns, invest in female founders.

Erika Szychowski is a global branding authority in sports and entertainment, financial services, fashion, and food. She was the founder Good Zebra. Christina Stembel is the founder of flower-delivery service Farmgirl Flowers. They are the co-founders of The F Project, a network of more than 150 women-owned businesses.

More: Here’s an ETF to make International Women’s Day more than one day a year

Also read: What happened when these female-led companies labeled their products ‘women-owned’

Nationwide partners with BlueVine to help business owners get online growth financing

… by leading private and institutional investors, including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, 83North, Citi Ventures, Nationwide Insurance, …

COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Nationwide is taking the next step in a venture capital investment it made last year in online small business lending company BlueVine by expanding its relationship with the company to offer BlueVine’s fast and flexible financing to small businesses through Nationwide’s Business Solutions Center.

Small businesses can access the company’s innovative online lending platform by applying here. The BlueVine platform offers approvals in as fast as 10 minutes.

“Nationwide serves over 1 million small businesses and is No. 1 in customer satisfaction with small commercial insurance1. So, we’re committed to small business owners and proud of the connections we make with companies like BlueVine to help them move their businesses forward,” said Tony Fenton, vice president of Nationwide’s Underwriting, Product & New Product Development. “Helping those business owners protect what’s most important to them and plan for a secure financial future is at the core of what we do.”

According to recent data2, most U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses have less than one month’s cash buffer. Cash buffer days are the number of days of cash outflows a business could pay out of its cash balance were its inflows to stop.

And while access to working capital is critical to business growth and stability, small businesses traditionally struggle to get the financing they need. From a 2017 Federal Reserve Bank study3:

  • 40 percent of employer firms applied for financing in the previous 12 months
  • 75 percent sought less than $250,000
  • 54 percent of applicants failed to get the full amount they needed
  • 24 percent received no funding at all

Business Financing Made Easier

BlueVine’s online platform provides business owners with fast and easy access to working capital financing without the hassle of visiting a branch or submitting mountains of paperwork. Completing an application takes minutes, and approvals can be delivered in as little as 10 minutes. The company provides lines of credit up to $250,000 and invoice factoring up to $5,000,000 in funding availability.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Nationwide to expand access to financing for small business owners” said Eyal Lifshitz, founder and CEO of BlueVine. “Our platform was designed specifically for business owners who are looking to take their business growth to the next level but need flexible working capital support to get there. By making working capital financing fast, easy and flexible for business owners, we’re delivering on our mission – to expand access to capital for small business owners. This mission-driven focus is a strong compliment to Nationwide’s stewardship in the small business community.”

Online lending powered by BlueVine is just one of several products and resources Nationwide provides a variety of businesses through its Business Solutions Center. For more information on business financing offered through BlueVine, click here.

Nationwide innovation efforts gain momentum

In addition to the relationship with and investment in BlueVine, Nationwide has also announced the following innovation related efforts over the past year:

  • Nationwide’s venture capital team has made 12 investments to date, including Socotra, Betterview, Nexar, blooom, Insurify, Next Insurance, Matic and Sure.
  • Nationwide plans to open a new innovation center in the Arena District near its Columbus-based headquarters in 2019.
  • Nationwide is committed to driving innovation that helps members:
    • Live comfortably in retirement
    • Meet their insurance and financial needs in novel and digital ways
    • Protect their data and digital assets
    • Protect them in the evolving area of mobility

“Nationwide is constantly seeking ways to partner with companies to collaborate and innovate together,” said Erik Ross, head of Nationwide’s venture capital team. “Careful, well-researched investments in companies like BlueVine enable us to brainstorm, develop and execute a new wave of solutions that drive innovation, establish mutual value and ultimately create success for our members.”

About BlueVine

BlueVine provides fast, simple, easy financing to small and medium-sized businesses. BlueVine’s online technology-enabled platform offers business owners convenient access to capital to pay for their everyday needs and to grow their business. BlueVine offers fully-online invoice factoring, which allows businesses to get advances on unpaid invoices. BlueVine also offers businesses revolving lines of credit that provide flexible financing on demand. All lines of credit financing are issued by Celtic Bank, a Utah-chartered Industrial Bank, Member FDIC. Based in Redwood City, Calif., BlueVine has provided over $1.5 billion in financing to small businesses and is backed by leading private and institutional investors, including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, 83North, Citi Ventures, Nationwide Insurance, M12 (Microsoft’s Venture Arm), Correlation Ventures, Rakuten Fintech Fund and other private investors.

For more information, please visit

About Nationwide

Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poors. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. ©2019.

1Nationwide received the highest score in the J.D. Power 2018 Small Commercial Insurance Study of customers’ satisfaction with their insurance provider. Visit

2JPMorgan Chase Institute Study, September 2016

3 Federal Reserve Bank, SBCS 2017


David Gilligan


SOURCE Nationwide

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Numerated Welcomes Karen Mills, Former Head of the Small Business Administration, as Investor …

BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Numerated, the financial technology company powering the digital transformation of business lending at banks, …

BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Numerated, the financial technology company powering the digital transformation of business lending at banks, announced today that Karen G. Mills has joined as an investor and advisor.

Having been an investor and business owner of companies ranging from manufacturing, food production and service-enabled technology, Karen is a leading authority on U.S. competitiveness, entrepreneurship and innovation. She served in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet as the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) from 2009 to 2013, where she managed a loan guarantee portfolio of more than $100 billion and led the agency’s economic recovery efforts in the wake of the Great Recession.

“Technology has the power to help business owners better understand their business cycle and transform how they access the capital they need, when they need it,” Karen said. “The innovation Numerated brings to its partnership with banks positions lenders to meet these needs and help businesses maximize their opportunities in this fast-moving economy.”

Numerated’s real-time lending and growth platform helps banks and credit unions digitally transform to become the most attractive business banks in their communities. Local bankers and branches are armed with actionable business intelligence to have proactive conversations with businesses, and businesses can secure loans or lines of credit from their local bank in as few as three minutes.

“Karen shares in our belief that technology can create greater opportunity and more effective partnerships between small businesses and the financial institutions who serve them. We’re grateful to tap into her decades of experience in understanding the intertwined roles banks and businesses play in growing local economies across America,” shared Dan O’Malley, founder and CEO of Numerated.

Karen is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School, and the author of the forthcoming book Fintech, Small Business & the American Dream: How Technology is Transforming Lending and Shaping a New Era of Small Business Opportunity (March 2019, Palgrave Macmillan).

Karen discusses Numerated in her book, including the story of the technology’s initial development within and for $11B Eastern Bank and as an example of how data, automation, and artificial intelligence are being used to evaluate the credit worthiness of businesses.

Karen and Dan will speak together at Barlow Research’s 2019 Business Banking Conference in Chicago on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Here they will discuss the opportunity for banks and credit unions to leverage technology to attract and deepen relationships with businesses.

About Numerated

Numerated powers the digital transformation of business lending at banks and credit unions. Numerated’s end-to-end platform profitably grows business loan portfolios through a powerful combination of real-time lending customer experience, automated credit decisioning, and modern marketing and sales tools that empower relationship bankers and attract businesses.

Backed by leading fintech investors, including Venrock and FIS, Numerated is the chosen platform of banks focused on being leaders in business banking within their markets. Learn more at

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