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From Baltimore to Anaheim, Everett K. Sands, CEO of online small business lender, Lendistry, finds common ground at Access to Capital small business workshops hosted by nonprofit business coaching organization, The Center. As a former Wells Fargo VP and current CEO of a small business, Mr. Sands is uniquely positioned to understand the requirements of lenders, the needs of borrowers, and the gap that can exist between the two. While his past experience in consumer lending brings unique insight into the workings of the banking industry, Mr. Sands’ present day responsibilities as a small business owner most connect him to the workshops’ audiences.

“Running a business can be stressful, particularly when your livelihood and the livelihood of your employees depend on the business being a success,” Mr. Sands said at a recent event in Anaheim. “These workshops allow me to share what I know both as a banking industry veteran and a fellow small business owner. By educating other owners on how funding works, and how to understand their business’s financials, I hope to alleviate some of that stress.”

The spirit of small business camaraderie is infused in many facets of the Access to Capital workshops. “These small business workshops not only bring business owners together, they bring communities together,” Mr. Sands said. When possible, The Center includes local business owners both as vendors and speakers. Georgia’s Restaurant, a local soul food favorite, provided refreshments for the recent event in Anaheim. At the June event in Baltimore, Maryland resident and Co-Founder of The Treason Toting Company, Aaron Jones, spoke to the audience about the ups and downs of starting a business and building a brand, and working multiple jobs to make it happen.

Traditional Access to Capital Has Diminished

The advent of online lenders like Lendistry is a result in the closure of many community banks nationwide since The Great Recession of 2008. The shuttering of community banks means small businesses have less access to education and funding.

“The banking landscape has changed considerably since 2008,” Mr. Sands explains. “There are fewer community banks than before, and large banks just aren’t set up to underwrite small dollar loans. The Center’s Access to Capital workshops introduce alternatives like online lending, and also provide education on loan requirements, the basics of small business finance, as well as strategies for marketing and sales.”

Fewer traditional opportunities for small business loans means business owners need to do the legwork to seek out funding and take initiative to be better educated on the lending industry to secure loans with fair rates and terms. Online lenders can provide loans from as little as $500 to as much as $1,000,000 or more with dramatically varying rates and terms. Mr. Sands encourages potential borrowers to do their due diligence, ask questions, and be fully aware of the full cost of capital before committing to a lender. Events like like Access to Capital are a good place for small business owners to start.

Access to Capital Events Offer $1,500 Business Advancement Grants

One of the highlights of Access to Capital events is the opportunity small business owners have to win $1,500 Business Advancement Grants. Lorraine Mayfield, owner of Mayfield Elite Travel, of Irvine, CA won a grant awarded at the July event in Anaheim. Owners of Cover Paige Creative and Xquisite Transportation both won grants at the Baltimore event and spoke of the challenges of business ownership.

Cara Paige, founder of Baltimore area Cover Paige Creative, an agency specializing in creative direction, interior design, special events, experiential marketing and social media management explains that even with fifteen years experience and an impressive portfolio that includes work with national brands, acquiring funding is difficult. “In our most recent search for capital we’re finding that there’s plenty of opportunities for small business tech startups, but not a lot of opportunities for minority female startups, especially creative agencies.”

Small businesses operating in their local communities don’t typically attract investors with deep pockets. They do, however, provide services to residents in their communities. Of the most rewarding aspects of owning a business, Mr. Shoats said, are the people he meets, and the customers who email him about how pleased they were with his company’s service.

When starting Lendistry, Mr. Sands’ mission was to provide equal access to capital via a fast and easy online portal but with products like SBA loans business owners commonly accessed at their local community banks. Providing funding with responsible rates, transparent terms and a range of products with more flexible requirements than traditional loans also has a social impact, which is at the heart of his business’s culture. It’s evident when Mr. Sands addresses the audience that he has a passion for small business. “Education and funding don’t just build businesses,” he said, “they strengthen communities.”