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You never know when you’ll get that big break, in Hollywood or in business. Do your homework, lay the groundwork and you may be as lucky as this woman. Four and half years ago, the big pharma company for which Li Hayes worked, called her into the office for a 3 p.m. meeting on a Sunday. "This is not going to be good news," she thought to herself. Sure enough, the company was closing the local Connecticut division for which she worked. Over the next 24 months, as the director of HR, her job was to fire 250 people. A thankless task if ever there was one!
The experience shaped Hayes' decision not to seek another corporate job. As luck would have it, her brother's career as a keynote speaker was taking off and he needed assistance. Now she manages the careers of several keynote speakers. But this was just the first stop on her entrepreneurial journey.
Lisa Renshaw of Penn Parking was born an entrepreneur. She was inspired by her hardworking father who owned a construction business. As an entrepreneurial teen, she tried house painting and making candlesticks among other crafts.
In 1983, Renshaw spotted what she thought was a diamond in the rough. She was only 21 and filled with youthful optimism and naivety. The diamond was a run-down parking garage in a risky part of town. No surprise, it had a high operator turn over — four in five years. The restaurant across the street, which had been the garage’s lifeline, closed. The 160-space garage had a lot of empty spaces that she thought she could fill with commuters from the nearby Amtrak station in Baltimore, even though garages were available closer to the station.
Some entrepreneurs are lucky and some entrepreneurs are smart. Catherine Tabor is both. Luck for her was being in the right place at the right time. Smart was spotting gaps in the market and developing services to fill those gaps. She also is prepared and persistent, which may be why she seems both lucky and smart.
In her early 20s, she ran a concierge company walking dogs and running errands in Athens, GA, which is not far from Atlanta. It was lucky that Tabor's husband had built a $600 website to promote the business. It was the best $600 investment she could have made.
The Coca Cola Company did an internet search to develop a preliminary list of companies to include in an RFP process to build a platform for managing their employee discount program. The contract would be worth multiple millions of dollars per year. Employee discount programs are an inexpensive way for employers to help employees find goods and services at an affordable price. These programs help employers attract and retain employees.
It takes more than an idea and charm to win over funders. You need to know what they’ll ask before they ask it. Essential to successful fundraising is understanding what investors want. Judy Robinett provides a roadmap in her soon-to-be-released book Crack The Funding Code: How Investors Think and What They Need to Hear to Fund Your Startup. Equity investors fund about 1% to 4% of the deals they see. “You must package your business to make it easy for funders to say yes,” writes Robinett.
Even profitable businesses can have cash-flow issues. This is especially true in industries with long payment cycles, such as apparel, construction, food and beverage, government contracts, hospitals and nursing homes, importers and exporters, manufacturing, staffing, transportation and wholesale/distribution. “There is an $87 billion gap in financing for small businesses,” said Marina Linhart, CEO at Next Street. The firm advises cities, foundations, large institutions, lenders, and nonprofits that serve small businesses on how to do it better. Key to closing the gap “is having access to the right form of capital in the appropriate amount that is needed.” she noted. “Alternative finance provides a very useful product for very specific circumstances for a business.”
Many companies in these industries rely on an alternative financing option known as factoring.