I’m speaking with Takia Ross, of Accessmatized, to find out whether or not WOC businesses, which are already grossly underfunded, have something to worry about in the post-COVID-19 world. According to her, we still have options if we know where to look. You may have to get unconventional and learn how to pitch your business, but there are still funding sources to explore.
Listen to the podcast episode here:
How Will We Gain Access to New Capital?
Ruthie: In this segment, Takia Ross and I are going to talk about accessing capital and doing business post-COVID-19. This is an incredibly hot topic because this is a long-standing situation. This is not a flash in the pan; it’s going to be with us for a while.
Initially, it was okay everybody to just stay in and not really do anything, but now we have to figure out how to make things work. Especially for businesses that weren’t necessarily shut down. A lot of businesses have just gone remote.
How are businesses supposed to gain access to new capital? I’m thinking that due to us being in an economic contraction, there might be less investors and pitch opportunities to go around. So Takia, what do you think our options are?
Takia: I actually think it’s the opposite.
Ruthie: Okay, that’s good news!
Good News For Those Seeking Investors
Takia: I actually think that people are looking to invest, especially with all the downtime. If you’re watching the stock market, people are absolutely investing.
They’re investing in small businesses, especially businesses that were able to weather the storm. They’re not looking for business owners who will fold at the first sign of distress. They’re looking for business owners who are able to pivot.
If you were making beauty products and now you’ve pivoted to making hand sanitizers, people are going to invest in you. You move fast. If you were able to make masks and turn your production line into making PPE, all of that matters.
I’ve been looking at a lot of business posts, and they have tons of opportunities for you to access low-interest loans. I know Magic Johnson just announced he’s given out $100,000,000 to minority and women-owned businesses.
Look at Nontraditional Funding Sources
You’re going to have to look at non-traditional funding sources, especially now. It may be you going after the PayPals, the Squares, the Quickens, and the QuickBooks because they all have lending programs.
Secondly, there are pitch competitions happening. I just coached a young lady who won $17,000 two weeks ago. And I have another competition at the end of June that I’m doing a workshop for, and the winner could win up to $25,000.
So there are pitch competitions happening throughout the country, and they’re all happening virtually.
As a business owner, you have to be on the ready. You have to be ready to apply and be ready to hear “no”. A lot of times, we just assume it’s because we’re not good enough. But it’s not that. You need to ask them why. This is an opportunity for you to learn.
- Is my pitch deck not right?
- Do I need it to add more information?
- Do I need to do more research?
So I think there are opportunities for you to get access to capital. You’re just going to have to think in a non-traditional way. And I really believe that if you’re being told no, especially for loans, you have to use this time to get your credit in order.
It’s the Perfect Time to Get Your Business In Order
Get your business in order! Things have slowed down. We all got the same reset button, so use this time to position your business better.
If you have credit issues, looking into fixing your credit issues.
If your LLC is not in good standing, how can you fix that?
And I’ll break my English; Ain’t nobody pointing fingers. Ain’t nobody saying you did it wrong.
Now That You Know Better, Do Better
You did the best that you could with the information, knowledge, and resources that you had. Period.
Now, you have more information. You have to have more resources being afforded to you. So now you use that.
Now that you know that you can’t get a loan because your credit is jacked up, so fix that. You know that you couldn’t get a loan because your LLC wasn’t in good standing, so fix it. Do you need to file taxes? Do you need to get people on your BAIL team?
You need a banker, an accountant, an agent, and a lawyer. This is the time for you to reach out and get it.
So there is money out there, there are opportunities out there. Sometimes it may be a little harder for us to access it. I get that. But you don’t want to hold up your own progression because you’re not willing to do the hard work.
The Importance of Getting Your Credit in Order
Ruthie: That’s absolutely right. And to your point about credit, this was something I discovered last year when I looked into getting a business loan myself. I knew my credit wasn’t terrible, but I hadn’t really paid too much attention to it. In hindsight, I have to imagine that not just me has gone through this, but probably quite a few women.
My Credit Deteriorated!
My credit actually deteriorated over time because there were key purchases made in our household while I was pregnant, or when my husband and I were geographically separated. So he bought our van while he was in Maryland and I was still stationed in Texas.
I was initially on the home loan, but there were other things that we purchased. Like most of our credit cards, he would get them and he would ask, “Do you want to be on this?” And I’m just super pregnant like, “Look, I don’t care. If it’s easier for you to do it by yourself, just do it by yourself. I’m over here growing a person.”
We have four children, the oldest being 8 and the youngest 2, so this was all happening in a pretty condensed amount of time. I didn’t really have a lot of new or active accounts on my credit report, so my scores started to go down. So when I actually needed it for something, it wasn’t good enough.
We Were Taught Credit Was The Devil
Takia: I would just pay for everything in cash. If I have it, I can buy it. If I don’t have it, I can’t. In my mind, that made sense. But when you’re trying to grow and scale a business, you have to think about those types of things. And a lot of times we’re not.
I’m going to be honest, it’s specific to women, and especially women of color. We haven’t learned about the process. It wasn’t something that was discussed in our homes as we were growing up.
Ruthie: We were taught that getting credit cards and stuff was bad. Having loans was bad, so you avoid it.
Takia: My mother would tell me things like, “You don’t want to owe nobody!” That was my life. That was what I knew, so that’s what I did. It became a problem when my business needed to scale, when I needed to make major purchases. When I went into manufacturing, I didn’t think about the fact that that equipment was going to cost a good $10,000- $15,000!
Ruthie: Not something we usually have sitting in our back pocket
Takia: No! And I was looking at them like, “So what you’re trying to say is that the whole thing is fixed, so I can’t get a piece of it?! I got some of it… Do you have a layaway program?”
Business Lingo is a Barrier
People don’t tell you about it, and if they do, they’re not telling it to you in a culturally relevant way.
I didn’t understand some of the lingo, but when I learned it and I was able to say, “No boo, what’s really happening is you need to get that credit together.” Then people understood like, “Oh ok, so it’s me.” Because people aren’t going to lend to people they can’t trust. Your credit history is basically your record of trust.
And it may not even be necessarily your fault, because somebody else may use your social security number. I ain’t gonna say no names. But you have to be willing to address that. We can’t keep overlooking some of these things. We have to call a spade a spade and handle it accordingly, especially when you’re talking about accessing capital.
Why Did You Write “So You Want to Pitch”?
Ruthie: Absolutely. So I feel like a lot of people in my audience are going to be really interested in learning more about the pitching aspect, especially because Baltimore’s investing and pitching community is growing. You wrote the book “So You Want to Pitch” and now people are like, “Yes, I do!”
This is especially important from the service perspective. That’s because until I met you and heard your story, I was thinking, “Well I’m not really in the bucket of people who pitch. I don’t have a product.” But I’d like to know what led you to write the book.
Takia: I wrote the book because I couldn’t get money for my business. When I learned about pitching and I won that money, I felt like other people needed to know too. People weren’t telling you that this was an option.
And everybody keeps saying you need to have a 60-second elevator pitch. I had never been in an elevator with anybody that was willing to invest any money in me. I’m like, “What elevators are you guys getting in? I want to get in that elevator too!”
Ruthie: Normally I take the escalator, but I’d take the elevator for that.
Takia: Right! So when I started my journey, it was honestly because I needed a business plan. So I ran across a business plan competition, and they were supposed to help you write a plan for your business. The money was secondary.
I thought, “If I win the money, that’s good, but at least I can leave here and know what I’m doing.”
So I got up there, I pitched my business, and I won! Then I got bit by the bug and I said, “Wait a minute, so you’re going to give me this money and I don’t have to give you no money back? Well let me start Googling and seeing what else is out there.”
Competitions Can Help Move Your Business Forward In More Ways Than One
There are hundreds of thousands of business plan competitions happening across the world. So I wrote it all down. I wrote down everything that I did in this book. I even listed 19 pitch competitions, so that you could go in and take a look. And even if they’re not happening right now, you can go back and research. I have a degree in history, and a lot of it is research.
With “So You Want to Pitch” I just wanted people to know that it was possible. This south Baltimore girl, who grew up in the inner city and in the hood, got out there and tried! I wanted to let people know that it was an option.
This is an option for small businesses, especially businesses of color and businesses that are not traditionally funded. We’re underfunded. Women, and especially women of color, are underfunded. We receive less than 1% of all funding. We’re outpacing every other ethnicity, but we can’t access the money.
So that’s why I wrote the book; I wanted somebody who looks just like me to be like, “If that crazy girl can get up there and start talking makeup, then I can definitely get up there and say something!”