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Capital Conversations helps cap National Black Business Month

Set in the Bank of America in East Memphis, about 70 business owners and aspiring business owners recently received valuable financial lessons during Capital Conversations, which was held in conjunction with the August observance of National Black Business Month.

The Black Business Association (BBA) of Memphis and Bank of America partnered in hosting the event. One segment featured financial mentors for small businesses talking with breakout groups for 10 minutes. Mentors rotated from group to group until everyone had spent time with each mentor.

The goal was to offer a high-level introduction of relevant services and information to small business owners. Those in attendance were members of the BBA and clients of Bank of America.

With interest in Capital Conversations exceeding expectations, plans are being made for another event. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

“Small business owners are students of growing their business,” said Bank of America’s Trevia Chatman. “They need to know about marketing, taxation, moving from an LLC to a corporation. There are so many moving pieces. We are connected with partners in the community to provide all those needed resources.

Attendees were able to make inquiries during an initial plenary session, where the mentors were introduced.

Orlandus Kirby, small business banker at Bank of America’s Germantown branch, discussed the advantages of cash management services offered through his office.

“There are several services that are very beneficial to the small business owner,” Kirby said. “We can help manage cash flow. We can help you focus on people, your employees. And no matter what kind of business it is, you will need people. We can assist with payroll. 

“At any lending institution, you will get the question, ‘What is your credit experience?’ We have a bank card that will help you build credit for a small business.”

Mentors took a deeper information dive into the discussions during breakout sessions, answering more specific questions, regarding business ideas and issues.

“When we came up with the idea of having Capital Conversations, it was a team effort of BBA and Bank of America members,” said BBA President Ernest Strickland. “Capital means funding, so of course, the conversations would relate to funding, as well as other resources a small business would need to be successful. These were inclusive conversations.”

BBA Director of Operations Chasisty Jones said, “People want to work for themselves, and they have all kinds of ideas for a business. One lady wanted to run an online, women’s lingerie business. Even through the pandemic, people were starting businesses.”

Jones said during the pandemic, some eateries started.

“New restaurants can still be profitable. People started selling (food) plates out of their homes. There had to be so many orders before they would deliver to a certain location.

“I know of someone who started like that. They now operate a food truck, and the business is doing very well. They have no desire for a brick-and-mortar establishment.”

Director of Pathway Lending for the Women’s Business Center Jarlecia Jones talked with attendees about accessing funds to expand their businesses.

“We are a CDFI, a Community Development Financial Institution,” Jarlecia Jones said. “That means if you’ve been turned down by other banks, we may be able to help. We have an educational arm that can give you a cash flow analysis and identify trends in a particular business.

“Business loans are risky, so we do ask about collateral and assets. Your home, equipment, and inventory can all be used as collateral for small business loans.”

Stacy Yancey, the Memphis regional supervisor in the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Taxpayer Services Division, said businesses, generally, are required to pay these taxes – business, sales and use, and franchise and excise.

Yancey advised small business owners to hire a certified public accountant (CPA) to ensure all tax obligations are met.

Bank of America’s Chatman hopes future entrepreneurs will look at consulting with Bank of America.

“Bank of America is an excellent starting point for entrepreneurs,” said Chatman. “No matter what phase they are in, even if it’s just an idea in their head, we can help …” 

BBA’s Ernest Strickland with Trevia Chatman and Felecia H. Eaton (left). (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

The BBA’s Strickland said the enthusiastic participation of so many attendees indicated that more such events are in high demand.

“The fact that people were so interested in the resources available to educate themselves just exceeded our expectations,” said Strickland. “We are already in the process of planning the next event.”

August was first designated as National Black Business Month in 2004, when John William Templeton co-founded the observance to support and encourage African-American businesses across the nation.

(For information on getting started in business, call the BBA of Memphis at 901-636-9300, or Bank of America at 901-433-6215.)

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