Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Looking To Start Or Expand A Business? Uncle Sam May Help!

Wise Wednesday KNOWSY Readers, here we are at the middle of the work week already! First, a quick question: how is everybody, in particular here in the Northeast after last night's crazy weather?!? I knew from the weather reports the possibility of a thunderstorm, I did not expect the minimum of Gale Force winds (I dare say the possiblity of Hurricane Force winds, I should have visited our local weather station online to see the exact information (how many miles per hour) but I literally was too busy clearing and cleaning up the debris of broken tree limbs/trunks, broken glass from a shattered rear car window. I certainly hope no serious damage to either body or property has befallen any of you fine folks.
Now for today's post I am continuing with another article from the Women's Financial Alliance headed by Sandy Franks this time for those of you who are looking to start your own business or expand an existing one. As we all know, either from personal experience or watching the news, even Shark Tank, there is a  lot to starting a business, especially of concern is the Money Factor. One option to look into is the assistance by the U.S. Government via Local, State, and/or Federal Grants.

More help (and money) from the government
By Sandy Franks

Dear WFA reader,

On Wednesday, I introduced the idea of getting a little help from Uncle Sam to buy, renovate or build a home.  Today I’m going to highlight programs to start a business.

Why these programs? I believe in having your own business.  It’s one of the best ways to control your financial destiny. Not only for that reason, but also because it’s very fulfilling, especially when you do something you love. (Remember our mantra ... being financially independent also means being healthy and happy).

Now I realize when I say, “start your own business,” many readers get nervous, especially if you’ve never done anything like this before.  Stay calm.

In future WFA issues, I’ll walk you through ways you can start a business, slowly and cautiously without draining your bank account, and limiting the risk of not succeeding.

More on this subject later, for now let me share with you the story of one women who took advantage of funding programs to turn her passion for design into a thriving business.

Santa’s Fashion Workshop

For a little more than 20 years now, Michelle Feinberg has been helping clothing designers, both well known and amateurs make their lines shine with everything from sequins to rhinestones.

It’s something she absolutely loves doing. It's been her dream. Michelle was studying design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she saw an ad for a part-time job with Manhattan Scalloping and Embroidery in New York’s famous garment district. 

She applied for the position and got it, making that the start of her career in the fashion industry. However, it wasn’t long before the “part time” work became full-time. Working full time gave her the chance to get real hands-on experience in every aspect of the business, including cutting, sewing and making patterns. 

She says that taught her the fundamentals of how garments are constructed, which helped her understand what is and isn’t possible when designing clothing lines.  But her real specialty was embellishing designs.

Over time Michelle made the decision to do what she loved on her own.  So she opened her own embroidery shop.  Workers at her warehouse, which the New York Times described as a Santa’s workshop, add everything from sequins, buttons, lace, and trim to beads, piping, fringe, grommets, and appliques to the actual item of clothing the designers create.

Of course being in the heart of the garment district was a big advantage because it’s the “go to” place designers turn to for most of their garment needs.

As word spread about her business, Michelle landed contracts with several clothing designers, including Ralph Lauren. Some of the other items she’s worked on include the Marc Jacobs dress Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue wore to the Met Gala; the Thakoon dress worn by actress and star of the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black Taylor Schilling, and the Reem Acra dress worn by actress and singer Zooey Deschanelare.

Of the work she does, Michelle says, “The thing I love most is seeing our products on people walking down the street, in store windows, or on a magazine cover.”

Michelle in her workshop

A Big Project and Big Funding

Michelle’s business was growing quite nicely when one day a representative from Ralph Lauren asked her to help add the patches and other embellishments to the uniforms for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics.

This was a big opportunity and Michelle jumped at the chance. The only problem was that in order to meet the delivery date she would have to upgrade her equipment, which includes a variety of stitching and sewing machines.

That type of equipment is expensive but Michelle wouldn’t be able to fill the uniform orders without it. So she bought new equipment. It was right around the same time she heard about the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, a program that offers matching financial grants to local manufacturers who need to upgrade their machinery or train workers.

The program supports companies who have not moved their manufacturing facilities offshore to countries with cheaper labor, like China.

Michelle had never applied for a grant before and wasn’t sure if she would get any funding. Imagine her surprise when she was awarded $67,000 in matching funds.  She was one of seven winners. The grant offset the money she put out to purchase an embroidery machine with laser capability, a digital fabric printer and a computer-controlled cutting machine. 

A Little Help Goes a Long Way

When small-business owners are looking for funding, government grants are not top of mind but you may be missing an opportunity. Programs at the federal, state and municipal levels are available to help pay for new equipment, train employees, upgrade facilities or expand into new markets.

So where can you find a business grant? A good starting point is, a site that allows you to search and apply for more than 1,000 federal programs. Typically the money is awarded to nonprofit organizations, schools, and state and municipal government agencies that provide services for the public good. But it's worth checking to see what is available. 

Another area worth searching for funding is state and local agencies, where grants are awarded for the sole purpose of economic development. Nearly every state has programs that offer financial assistance to businesses.

Cities, counties and other municipal government organizations also offer assistance. For example, in southern Florida, Miami-Dade County offers theMom and Pop Small Business Grant Program, which provides technical assistance and grants of up to $5,000. The grants can be used to pay for supplies, marketing, inventory, and renovations.

If you live in Kentucky and want to start a winery, you might consider applying to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. The agency has funding programs, including the Marketing Cost-Share Program, to help small wineries recoup marketing expenses, as well as a Wholesaler Reimbursement Program that reimburses wholesalers $20 per case of Kentucky wines to encourage them to carry local wines.

Some grant programs are structured as competitions. New York City’sIndustrial Growth Initiative, is a two-stage process that requires business owners to attend a series of workshops covering topics like human resources and marketing. The program culminates with a competition, where participants put what they learned to work and create business plans to guide their next stage of growth. Those plans are pitched to an audience of judges and business leaders, and three winners split a $150,000 prize.

Here’s what’s important to understand about grants. They are not like loans which, means they do not have to be paid back.  This doesn't mean they come without strings attached.  Grants are awarded for specific purposes.  You can’t use the funds for anything else and you have to show how you used the money.

But this isn’t too difficult to do.  Many years ago, I worked in a non-profit organization.  Every year we received a number of grants.  To meet the accountability requirements, we kept detailed records.

Government grants are worth considering. It’s the closest thing to free money that exists. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the types of grants and funding programs available.  If you’re interested in this topic, I’ll put more information together for you. 

Until next time, stay happy, 
Sandy Franks
Founder, WFA, and Crusader for Women’s Right to Wealth

PS - Let us know if you want more information on government funding and grants.  Drop us a line 

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Copyright 2015 The Women's Financial Alliance.  All rights reserved.  No part of this report may be reproduced or placed on any electronic medium without written permission from the publisher. The Women's Financial Alliance or its editors and publications do not advocate the purchase or sale of any security or investment or offer personalized advice. Investments recommended in this publication should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company in question.
Women's Financial Alliance PO Box 51 White Hall, Maryland 21161-8982 United States
Very good my KNOWSY Readers, if you are interested in this particular venture give grant funding a look, you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.      

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