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“Get Help! When businesses get help, their success rate is 80%.” #SFSBW2015 Interview with CAMEO

#SFSBW2015 asked small business owners and the organizations that support them throughout the year to share insights, best practices, stories and resources to help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from Claudia Viek, CEO, CAMEO – California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity.

Tell us about your organization in one sentence.

CAMEO is the statewide network of 85 organizations that provide business assistance and loans to 20,000 very small and start-up businesses in diverse communities.

What is your organization doing to help small business owners navigate today’s increasingly competitive marketplace?

Javad Yaghoubi, City Shade

Javad Yaghoubi, City Shade

CAMEO advocates on behalf of the smallest businesses (fewer than five employees) and the self-employed to make sure they have the capital and training resources that they need. Microentrepreneurs that have gone through business training programs and received business assistance and small loans from CAMEO members have an 80% success rate and create two jobs in addition to their own on average over 3-5 years.

What is your organization doing to attract and support new and younger small business owners who are starting out today? What are you doing to bridge the gap between old and new businesses?

CAMEO educates our member organizations on the latest technologies available to businesses – both the pros and the cons.

Please describe one of your organization’s innovations. How has this enhanced way you reach and serve your clients or members?

Only 0.10% of potential microbusiness borrowers are being served. In California, CAMEO’s microlenders struggle to achieve scale. Microlending is expensive for many lenders to sustain and as a result, some of CAMEO’s lenders have left the microloan market. With funding tighter than ever before and increasing need, microlenders have to deliver the same services as economically as possible. Our member lenders made 2,000 microloans in 2013.

We aggregated four small volume lenders onto LiftFund’s Microloan Management System (MMS) platform as a way to lower costs of microloans.

MMS streamlines the cost of underwriting and frees lenders to focus on recruitment and support. The loan turnaround is much faster. LiftFund’s automated review system allows instant feedback on borrower capacity and history, and underwriting takes three days instead of three weeks.

As a result small business loans by participating lenders have increased by 50%.

What is one lesson you would like to share with small business owners—especially those who are struggling to change the way they do business in the current climate?

Get help! San Francisco has a wealth of no-to-low resources available to small businesses. Check out: http://www.microbiz.org/cameo-membership/members/

When businesses get help, they’re success rate is 80%, when they don’t their failure rate is 50-80%!

What is the most important belief or principle that guides your work and the trajectory of your organization?

Our vision is to create economic opportunity for all entrepreneurs, to build wealth and strong California communities.

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