Main Street America: Notes from the Field

Main Street America: Notes from the Field

Last month Jenny and I attended Main Street Now 2019the annual Main Street America™ Conference which was held in Seattle.

Main Street America is a grassroots network made up of small cities, towns and urban commercial districts that work on preservation based economic development and revitalization.

The work of the Main Street America network is increasingly vital for the support of local business communities that are relentlessly decaying in the face of the huge disparity in investment capital between Wall Street and Main Street.

One of the unique focuses of the conference this year was the topic of Opportunity Zones. Created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Opportunity Zone program was designed to stimulate private investment in distressed communities throughout the country in exchange for capital gain tax incentives.  

In June 2018, more than 8700 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories were designated as qualified Opportunity Zones and will retain their designation for 10 years. By making an appropriate investment in a zone, private individuals may defer tax on almost any capital gain until 2026 AND pay NO capital gains tax on the investment in the zone.

The tax benefits provided for investments in opportunity zones are a welcome addition to the self-directed investment tool we launched last year—Crowdfund Mainstreet. We are working toward building  a robust finance ecosystem for the small businesses that create local jobs and preserve local character.  Please join us in the movement to fund and grow small businesses throughout the nation by investing in a business on Crowdfund Mainstreet.  We hope to offer Opportunity Zone investments on the platform in the near future.

If you’re a small business owner looking to raise capital, feel free to schedule a call with us to explore how we can help you.  We can also work with you to determine whether you are in an Opportunity Zone and, if so, how you can take advantage of that.

Here is an exercise we recommend in order to make sure you get your fundraising done within a reasonable amount of time.

1. Imagine you have reached your fundraising goal. You are looking at the list of all your investors and how much each one invested.  What is the lowest amount that someone invested and what is the highest amount?  Try to create a clear picture in your mind of your investor list and the amounts invested.

2. In your imagination, scan the list and estimate what the average investment size per investor is. For example, you may picture that you’ll have some people come in at $5,000, some at $10,000, a few at $25,000, maybe one or two at $50,000, and one at $100,000.  In that case, you may estimate the average per investor to be $20,000.  You can use this tool to decide how much you’ll ask for from each potential investor: http://www.jennykassan.com/blog/7-steps-for-making-the-big-ask/

3. Now, take the total amount you want to raise and divide it by the average per investor. That will tell you the approximate number of investors you’ll have when you reach your goal.  So, if you want to raise $400,000, you’ll end up with around 20 investors.

4. Multiply that number by 10. That is the approximate number of potential investors you’ll need to talk to about your offering.  (This assumes that an average of one out of ten people you talk to will say yes—you may do much better than that, but it’s best to be conservative).  In our example, this would be 200.

5. Divide that number by the number of weeks you would like to devote to reaching your funding goal. This is the number of people you will contact per week about investing.  So, if you’d like to reach your goal within six months, divide 200 by 26 weeks—you need to contact 7-8 people per week.

6. Assume that for each contact you’ll need to spend 30-60 minutes on average. Multiply the number of people you’ll talk to per week by the average number of minutes you think each contact will take.  That is the total number of hours you should schedule into your calendar for contacting potential investors.  Add at least half that many hours to give yourself time to follow up with people who haven’t yet given you a definitive answer.  In the example above, I would assume eight hours per week plus another four for follow up—so a total of 12 hours per week should be spent contacting potential investors.

7. Now block out that time in your calendar for the number of weeks you gave yourself to reach your goal.

If you use this method, you’ll keep your momentum going and get that fundraising done before you know it!

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How would a President Trump affect small business finance?

How would a President Trump affect small business finance?

One thing is certain.  Trump has an awkward relationship with the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White.

According to this fascinating article in the Washington Post, Mary Jo White, when in private practice, deposed the Donald on behalf of her client, a New York Times reporter that Trump had sued for writing that his net worth was far less than what he claimed.

Apparently the deposition was quite challenging for Trump – he was caught in about 30 lies.

So, Mary Joe White is not likely to be our SEC chair for much longer.

What else might happen?

At a recent crowdfunding conference, some of the speakers expressed optimism that deregulation will make capital raising and secondary trading easier for small business.  It is certainly true that it has become so expensive to be a public company that very few companies are choosing to go public these days and some are choosing to go private.

It’s hard to know what might change under a Trump presidency, but one possibility is that the restrictions on who can invest in a small business could be loosened.

As the Republican member of the SEC says, “I want to move beyond the artificial distinction between so-called “accredited” and “non-accredited” investors and challenge the notion that non-accredited investors are “being protected” when the government prohibits them from investing in high-risk securities. . . .  Because most investors are risk averse, riskier securities must offer investors higher returns. This means that prohibiting non-accredited investors from investing in high-risk securities is the same thing as prohibiting them from investing in high-return securities. . . .  [E]ven a well-intentioned investor protection policy can ultimately harm the very investors the policy is intended to protect. . . .  Remarkably, if you think about it, by allowing only high-income and high-net-worth individuals to reap the risk and return benefits from investing in certain securities, the government may actually exacerbate wealth inequality.”

What do you think?  How do we balance the need to protect “un-sophisticated” investors with the need to make it possible for small businesses to raise capital from their communities, customers, and fans?

Here is an exercise we recommend in order to make sure you get your fundraising done within a reasonable amount of time.

1. Imagine you have reached your fundraising goal. You are looking at the list of all your investors and how much each one invested.  What is the lowest amount that someone invested and what is the highest amount?  Try to create a clear picture in your mind of your investor list and the amounts invested.

2. In your imagination, scan the list and estimate what the average investment size per investor is. For example, you may picture that you’ll have some people come in at $5,000, some at $10,000, a few at $25,000, maybe one or two at $50,000, and one at $100,000.  In that case, you may estimate the average per investor to be $20,000.  You can use this tool to decide how much you’ll ask for from each potential investor: http://www.jennykassan.com/blog/7-steps-for-making-the-big-ask/

3. Now, take the total amount you want to raise and divide it by the average per investor. That will tell you the approximate number of investors you’ll have when you reach your goal.  So, if you want to raise $400,000, you’ll end up with around 20 investors.

4. Multiply that number by 10. That is the approximate number of potential investors you’ll need to talk to about your offering.  (This assumes that an average of one out of ten people you talk to will say yes—you may do much better than that, but it’s best to be conservative).  In our example, this would be 200.

5. Divide that number by the number of weeks you would like to devote to reaching your funding goal. This is the number of people you will contact per week about investing.  So, if you’d like to reach your goal within six months, divide 200 by 26 weeks—you need to contact 7-8 people per week.

6. Assume that for each contact you’ll need to spend 30-60 minutes on average. Multiply the number of people you’ll talk to per week by the average number of minutes you think each contact will take.  That is the total number of hours you should schedule into your calendar for contacting potential investors.  Add at least half that many hours to give yourself time to follow up with people who haven’t yet given you a definitive answer.  In the example above, I would assume eight hours per week plus another four for follow up—so a total of 12 hours per week should be spent contacting potential investors.

7. Now block out that time in your calendar for the number of weeks you gave yourself to reach your goal.

If you use this method, you’ll keep your momentum going and get that fundraising done before you know it!

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

As a thank you for subscribing to our email newsletter, you will receive a free copy of my ebook entitled Get the Right Money from the Right Investors.

  • Email