Speed Dating For Small Business Owners?

By Susan Tompor
Detroit Free Press.

It’s a quirky little idea. What if you could let small-business owners go on a speed dating spree to meet with experts who can talk about how to maximize cash flow, use social media to market a product, or give tips on how to use micro lending or crowdfunding to raise capital?

Quirky, yes. But Money Smart Week is full of all sorts of clever ways to get the community thinking about how we spend, save and, yes, even how we waste our money.

Angela Barbash, founder of Reconsider, a research and development firm in Ypsilanti, will be one of the experts hosting a speed dating table at the “Small Biz Buzz” seminar to be held Tuesday.

She’ll be talking about the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption, which offers game-changing potential for local restaurants, brew pubs and Main Street-oriented outfits to raise capital through intrastate investment crowdfunding.

Barbash, 34, noted that campaigns like Kickstarter might raise about $5,000 or so for a local business. But she maintains that the Michigan program, known as the MILE Act, has the potential to raise $100,000 or $150,000 in many cases and rebuild local economies.

The MILE Act, signed into law in 2013, expands investment opportunities by allowing Michigan residents to support local businesses.

One of her tips: Small business owners need to research the various options out there for raising money to expand their business or launch a new idea.

Often, business consultants or attorneys might not be aware of all that’s out there in the crowdfunding arena, she said. “You really need to be an informed entrepreneur,” Barbash said.

Money Smart Week runs through Saturday. The financial education program was created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2002.

This year, more than 500 free, noncommercial education events will take place in more than 50 counties across Michigan.

Money Smart Week events are listed at Seminars offer something for every financial picture, whether someone is borrowing money for college, starting a new business or planning to retire in a few years.

There are sessions on how to maximize your Social Security retirement benefits, how to recover from a bankruptcy, what to consider when shopping for long-term care insurance, how to sell your home, how to buy a home, why we buy too much, and the financial issues when dealing with a divorce.

Money Smart Week partners include the Michigan Credit Union League & Affiliates, the Financial Planning Association of Michigan, Ally Financial, Bank of America, Comerica Bank, Dearborn High School, Flagstar Bank, FirstMerit Bank, Huntington Bank, Lake Trust Credit Union, Michigan Bankers Association, Ross Mortgage, Shelby Township Library, TCF Bank, Vibe Credit Union and Zeal Credit Union.

The goal is to promote financial literacy and highlight some resources. Free seminars are designed to address specific topics, such as home buying or estate planning, without trying to directly drum up business for the sponsors.

“We’re not there passing out business cards,” said David Parr, a financial adviser at Edward Jones in Bloomfield Hills. “We’re not going to be hammering them with e-mails and phone calls as a follow-up to this.” Parr is a coordinator of the Small Bizz Buzz Forum.

The Small Biz Buzz Forum will allow small business owners to visit one of 10 tables every 20 minutes in two hours and discuss key topics for running that business.

Most people should be able to visit six different stations during that two-hour period. The event is in partnership with the Small Business Development Center at Schoolcraft College. It will be held from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday at the VisTaTech Center at 18600 Haggerty Road in Livonia.

Richard King, regional director for the Michigan Small Business Development Center for southeast Michigan, said the event is targeting small business owners in their first few years of business.

While it’s good to get information online or via a webinar, it’s also helpful to be able to easily interact in one spot with other small business owners, lenders and professionals.

“It’s the difference between getting a lecture on dating and a speed-dating experience,” King said.

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