It might be hard to get a loan right now, but lenders offered some words of advice to Harlem small-business owners on Tuesday morning.
The Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center held a workshop, “Access to Capital,” to inform Harlem small-business owners and entrepreneurs about ways to access loans and credit. Representatives from banks and other lending agencies held a informational panel that garnered a crowd of nearly 50 people.
State assemblyman Keith Wright, who represents Harlem, gave the opening remarks at the workshop. He praised Columbia, which runs SBDC.
“Today, Columbia University is bringing the money to the people,” Wright said. “It’s very important that we make sure that our small businesses not only start up, not only survive, but thrive.”
Speakers on the “Access to Capital” panel included SBDC Director Rebecca Rodriguez; Don DiMartini, director of Citibank’s Small Business Agency; Bryan Doxford, assistant vice president of New York Business Development Corporation; and Angel Garcia, a business development specialist at the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union.
“It’s your job to let us know who you are,” DiMartini said to the crowd of business owners and entrepreneurs. He stressed that in order to obtain loans, business owners should act as educators, teaching potential lenders about their passion for their businesses.
“We want to be part of a successful business,” DiMartini said.
After the panel, SBDC held a lender fair where business owners could network with representatives from various lending agencies, including banks and not-for-profits.
“Most of our clients come from these events,” said Ronald De la Cruz, a representative from the not-for-profit lender Project Enterprise. “It’s a very close-knit network.”
“We don’t gain anything from it other than helping people,” he added.
SBDC opened in 2009, and Rodriguez said that it has been able to help struggling Harlem residents through the economic downturn. The center holds events and offers individualized help to its target audience.
Rodriguez said that a business is significantly more likely to succeed if it has greater access to information. Some entrepreneurs in attendance on Tuesday said that the information they received would help them grow their businesses.
“I got plenty of useful information,” said Walter Kin, who owns an Internet domain company. “They give very great advice.”
“A lot of people like myself need their help,” said Farhat Qureshi, who was attending her second SBDC event. “It’s great to have somebody to help us put one and two together.”
Barbara Bullard, who has owned Al Johnson Art for seven years and is currently working to start a consulting website, said she has built a relationship with SBDC. During the panel, Rodriguez called herself a psychologist for small businesses, and Bullard responded, “I’m a testimony to that.”
“The past three years, it’s been very bad,” she said. “You need an outside source that has access to resources.”
Rodriguez said she has built similar relationships with many of her clients.
“Entrepreneurship is very personal,” she said.