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Takeaways from Listening to Small Businesses

Last month the Community Fund of North Miami Dade (CFNMD), in partnership with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at FIU, the SBDC at FAU, and the Office of Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levin Cava embarked on a listening effort to better understand the issues that small business owners are facing. Our goal was to use what we heard to inform the programming of organizations and agencies in the ecosystem and ultimately better serve local entrepreneurs.

For this purpose, CFNMD gathered comments and questions from the community and hosted a Small Business Town Hall Meeting which also brought in resources available to business owners. The following are the main takeaways from this listening effort:

Much-Needed Access to Capital

This was by far the most commonly cited issue, brought up by both business owners and advocates alike from a few different angles.

  • Finding funding to stay afloat. Some businesses need cash to keep operating after the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Many small business vendors found themselves with clients unable to pay their obligations, jeopardizing their own operations. Finding financing was the main challenge for the business owners.

  • Short-term contract financing for small business vendors. This is a concern for small businesses that derive most of their revenue from contracts. It’s especially a challenge for those who do business with government agencies, which can take several months to pay small business vendors. These businesses often have poor equity and unable to carry the cost of their operations between contract payments. But because they usually have only a marginally favorable financial history, they often resort to borrowing high-interest loans from the merchant capital industry, further draining their cash flow.

Access to Government Contracts

Small businesses want to learn how to access government contracts at different levels and from various agencies. They also want to know how to prepare for these opportunities, including how to obtain proper financing.

Other Challenges

  • Lack of technical skills to operate a tech-enabled business with a greater digital presence and technology to run efficiently.

  • Lack of support and prioritization of job training, employment and contracts for low- and very-low-income individuals by some HUD funding recipients as required by Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968. Section 3 requires recipients of certain types of HUD funding to ensure to the “greatest extent feasible” that a certain percentage of the job training, employment, and contracting opportunities that arise from the expenditure of the funds benefit low- and very-low-income individuals. Without the proper support, these business owners have less opportunity to become self-sufficient.

  • Managing stress while trying to pivot.

  • Restructuring business operations while planning ahead.

  • Increasing the financial stability of the business to prepare for future disasters.

The following resources and strategies were offered by our small business expert panel during the Town Hall Meeting:

  • In order to access capital for your business, it is important that you take action to make your business loan-ready. You must have the proper documentation, set up your operations to increase your long-term sustainability, and highlight your business accomplishments to obtain better credentials with lenders.

  • Reach out to mission-based community lenders like CFNMD who offer right-sized opportunities for small businesses. Their lending criteria is more flexible than that of traditional banks, and their loan products are a wiser choice than the easy-to-obtain, high-interest loans offered by merchant lenders and other online funders..

  • Look into alternative funding opportunities such as crowdfunding.

  • Check out business grants in Miami Dade County to see if your business qualifies.

  • Stay informed and connect by communicating and keeping in touch with other business owners and supporting organizations that offer resources and opportunities. You can start with The Morning Huddle, your local chamber of commerce,

  • The SBDC at FIU serves businesses in Miami Dade and Monroe Counties and the SBDC at FAU serves businesses in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Both centers have experienced consultants available to assist businesses with securing government contracts, accessing capital, preparing for disaster disruption, restructuring business operations, marketing, sales, and much freer of charge.

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