Minority Enterprise Development Week, in its 31st year in Asheville, kicked off its third day of events Sept. 10 with what could be called “lender speed dating.”
MED Week organizers dub the event “Meet Your Lender,” and it took place on the third floor of the Self-Help Credit Union on Wall Street in downtown Asheville. There, representatives from five lenders spoke to prospective clients, answering questions and providing information about qualifying for loans and other types of business capital.
“Today’s about putting entrepreneurs in front of lenders to build relationships,” said Minority Enterprise Development Board Chair James Lee. “A lot of people don’t know you need to have a conversation before you get loan, that you have to have a relationship.”
Minority business owners, specifically, have difficulty getting loans and navigating the complex idiosyncrasies of the industry, said Lee.
“They don’t know where to start,’ he said. “And there’s a feeling that, ‘Oh, I’m just going to get turned down.’ So they go other places — they dip into their 401(k), they take money from paychecks, they go to friends and family, trying to get funds.”
The purpose for the event was not necessarily to get a loan, he said, but to start the process and gather information.
“So they may not get a ‘yes’ today,” Lee said. “But the lender can tell them ‘do this, this and this,’ and here are some services we offer.”
Local business owner Cyd Smith was one of the 10 people who dropped by during the session’s two hours. Smith, a website design and software instructor, as well as founder of Diva Deluxe Design, said she had never thought about applying for working capital from banks.
“I definitely have some new information,” she said. “I don’t know if I’m ready to leap into financial services, but I feel I know some of the beginning steps. It was illuminating.”
MED Week continues with a Sept. 10 evening seminar on choosing the right structure for a new business, as well as other sessions through the week.
“Sometimes it’s better to become an LLC, but you don’t have to be an LLC if you’re a sole proprietor,” said Lee. “Sometimes it’s better to stay a sole proprietor, sometimes it’s not. That’s what tonight’s seminar is about.”
The seminar will be held in Room 2046 of the AB-Tech Small Business Center, Enka Site, from 6-9 p.m. For information about MED Week events, click here.