Securing money can be one of the biggest challenges for small-business owners.
Sherrie Gilchrist knows this first hand, because they often ask her for help. Ms. Gilchrist, president and chief executive of the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce, decided to do something about it after receiving streams of calls from people wondering how to raise money for their businesses.
That led the Chamber to launch its first-ever Business Loan Day, which brings the people who need money together with the lenders who have it.
“We just keep getting asked by business owners and start-ups, ‘Where’s the money? Who do I talk to?’” she said. “We thought we would bring all the lenders who wish to advocate and do business with small-, minority- and women-owned businesses in one central location.”
Representatives from area banks and business development organizations will be available to advise entrepreneurs in areas ranging from establishing relationships with lenders to developing their business plans.
The typical small business loan is about $5,000 to $20,000, Ms. Gilchrist said. A few entrepreneurs may want more, but most people who are starting restaurants, construction companies, cleaning businesses or accounting firms just need less than $20,000 to get their businesses going, she said.
If you go
* What: Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce’s Business Loan Day
* When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
* Where: The Kingdom Center (formerly the Central City Complex) at 730 M.L. King Blvd.
When a business owner is looking for a few thousand dollars, many lenders — who would rather make loans of $50,000 and up — suggest entrepreneurs use a credit card, but Ms. Gilchrist said that is not the best idea.
“The interest rates on that is just outrageous,” she said.
Representatives from several business-related organizations such as the Chattanooga Community Development Financial Institution, the Chattanooga Opportunity Fund and the Tennessee Small Business Development Center will be on hand to answer questions and give advice.
Events like this are good for small business owners because it is a great way for people to learn about the resources available in the community, said Kevin Maxfield, director of the business center at Chattanooga State Technical Community College. There are many professionals who can assist with various types of counseling and bankers who deal primarily with small businesses, he said.
“The best way to initially meet those people is an event like this,” Mr. Maxfield said. “It’s a great way to start a relationship with someone who can help you and your business.”
Ms. Gilchrist said she also hopes the event will inform small business owners about scams that claim to have easy access to free money from the government for would-be entrepreneurs.
Legitimate government loans and grants are very restrictive and hard to get, she said.
Banks participating in today’s event — including Cornerstone Community Bank, Regions Bank, SunTrust Bank and Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union — will accept loans applications from anyone who is looking for financing, the Chamber official said.
With the nation’s economy in the midst of what some are calling a recession, Ms. Gilchrist admits timing is everything when it comes to starting a business. But, she said, for some people the time could be right.
“When it comes to banking and credit, it seems like there are always some people out there that have money they can put out on the street and they are just looking for the opportunity,” she said.