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Loan Resources

This regularly-updated guide gives an overview of funding resources available to small business owners in Arizona. Arizona Microcredit Initiative Microloans Overview Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that empowers underserved entrepreneurs to start or expand businesses through low-interest microloans that are tailored to fit your business needs. Qualifications Loan funds must be used to purchase revenue-generating assets Fulfill collateral Agree to AMI’s loan schedule Person of good character Application Process Fill out a loan interest form with your basic contact information and business details Meet with an AMI staff member to discuss your business and its needs Fill out a loan application with your personal and business information Include required documents in your application submission Required Documents Personal Federal Tax Return (2016 and 2017) Last 6 months bank statements (personal and business accounts) Active tradeline (utility bill or landlord reference) Employer ID Number or Tax ID Number for business Planned loan budget Complete authorization to pull a credit report form from our partner Marisol (Phase II only) Desert Financial Credit Union Small Business Emergency Loan Overview This loan program is designed to help cover operational expenses such as payroll, utilities, rent, and taxes for businesses negatively affected by the pandemic. Qualifications Business must be physically located within Desert Financial’s field of membership. Business must be independently owned and operated. Business must have been established for a minimum of 3 years. A personal guarantee is required Application Process Fill out a loan information request with your basic contact information. A representative will reach out to discuss your options. Walkthrough the loan application process with the representative. Required Documents Information is not available to the public Kiva Crowdfunding Loans Overview Kiva is an international nonprofit, founded in 2005 in San Francisco, with a mission to expand financial access to help underserved communities thrive by crowdfunding loans. Qualifications Business be based in the United States Must be over 18 years old Loan must be used for business purposes Business must not be engaged in multi-level marketing/direct sales, illegal activities (e.g. gambling, scams), or pure financial investing (e.g. stocks) Cannot currently be in foreclosure, bankruptcy, or under any liens Must be willing to demonstrate your social capital by having a small number of friends and family make a loan Application Process Fill out a loan application If your application is approved, prove your creditworthiness by inviting friends and family to donate to you Go public on Kiva for 30 days, lenders crowdfund in increments of $25 or more Borrower repays the loan based on the repayment schedule and the borrower’s ability Required Documents Business proof Approximate credit score Income Major monthly payments PayPal account Growth Partners Arizona Small Business Success Loans Overview Growth Partners Arizona helps nonprofit leaders and small business owners who create change in economically distressed communities gain the operational resources and business guidance they need to improve the lives and economic wellbeing of Arizona residents. Qualifications Do business in Arizona (valid business license and be in good standing with the state of Arizona) Annual revenues in excess of $50,000 In business for at least two tax filing periods; no start-up businesses Minimum FICO score of 660 Priority is given to businesses located in CDFI investment areas Application Process Fill out a loan application with your basic information and loan request details Include required documents in your application submission Before submitting these materials, please contact Lesli Pintor at (520) 382-9218 or for further instructions Required Documents Copy of business license Confirmation of business registration and certification of Good Standing with the State of Arizona Office of the Corporation Commission Two years of historical business financial statements Two years of business and personal federal tax returns Interim business financial statements (current within 45 days of application) Business debt schedule dated consistent with the interim business financial statement Personal financial statement dated with 45 days of application U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan COVID EIDL Overview The SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to help businesses and homeowners recover from declared disasters. *Amount Varies Qualifications If you are a small businesses, nonprofit organization of any size, or a U.S. agricultural business with 500 or fewer employees that have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you can apply for the COVID-19 EIDL. This loan applies to all businesses based in any U.S. state, territory, or the District of Columbia. Application Process Check disaster loan declarations in your area Apply for a disaster loan on the SBA website Check your loan status online for updates Required Documents Information is not available to the public Business Development Finance Corporation Loan Overview We are one of Arizona's most experienced SBA lenders, and we have tools and resources that simplify the SBA 504 loan process. Qualifications Facing immediate pressure because of COVID-19 SBA 504 Eligible SBA 7(A) Eligible Application Process Contact BDFC to have a team leader assist you with our SBA applications and loan process CARES Act Readiness Program for Small Businesses Overview Arizona Small Business Association and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry have teamed up to launch a free training program to help small business owners navigate the different programs and relief funds offered as a part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. The program focuses on financial planning and helps with submitting documents. It is self-guided and can be completed at your own pace, in some cases in less than an hour. Courses are offered in both English and Spanish. Program Details elect either the novice or experienced borrower track based on your experience with borrowing from the Small Business Administration Enroll by creating an account with your basic contact and business information Depending on your selected track, you will go through two to five online classes that can be accessed from a desktop, tablet, or mobile device Upon completing the program, you will receive a Certificate of Participation that grants you access to a live webinar with business experts Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Build Playbook Continue to Elevate Playbook

Problem Solving 101

How to Handle Your Business Issues with the Most Efficiency and the Least Stress Learn how to develop your critical thinking skills so you will be able to overcome any problem that may arise when starting a business. Problem-solving is a business skill that often takes time and experience to learn to do effectively – this is just a beginners’ guide on how to structure that process. AMI’s Consultants have robust experience in solving problems, and are willing to help! To work with us 1:1 to solve your most pressing business problems, send us an email at or schedule a free appointment at This guide has been published by Arizona Microcredit Initiative, 501(c)(3), an Arizona-based nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting underserved entrepreneurs in the Phoenix area through microlending, consulting, and education services. Visit our website to learn more! An Introduction to Business Problems You probably don’t need anyone to explain what a business problem is – you deal with them daily and have a much better understanding of where they come from, how serious they are, and, to a degree, how to solve them. The purpose of this document is to provide you, the prospective or current entrepreneur / small business owner, with tools to structure your thinking about problems so that 1.) you can more smoothly tackle them yourself and 2.) train others on your team who aren’t as involved as you to solve problems on their own. Business problems arise in all sizes and in all aspects of business. Here are a very select few, but the ones you might encounter may be much larger or smaller in size, scope, and importance to your business. This is just a list of examples: My sales this month have been lower than usual The supplier is planning on hiking his prices, which will lower my margins The landlord is planning on increasing rent There's a new competitor opening soon nearby Some customers left negative reviews about my business The fact is, there’s no want for business problems in entrepreneurship. Real, practical, and impactful solutions, though, are much rarer. We at the Arizona Microcredit Initiative can’t guarantee that this guide will lead to the perfect solution to all your problems, but what it can do is give you the tools to maximize your chances that you do find it. The process of identifying a problem could be called problem discovery – it’s the realization that there’s a gap between the businesses’ perfect condition (its ideal state) and where the business is now (its current state). To put it simply, business problem solving is the process of bridging the gap between those two. The Stages of Problem Solving Problem-solving can be thought of as a cycle with five distinct steps, the first of which we’re already familiar with – problem discovery. It’s where we identify what exactly the problem is. The other stages are developing a hypothesis, framing your thinking, research & analysis, and generating solutions. Below is how we at AMI visualize problems that we solve for entrepreneurs. It’s important to remember that problem solving is cyclical – you’ll never run out of problems to solve, but they should be tackled one at a time. You may have heard the saying “smooth is fast, fast is smooth” – that applies to problem-solving, too. Tackle one at a time, and more problems are likely to be solved that way. The Stages Explained Step 1: Problem Discovery This is the stage in which problems should be identified. Some tips we have for stating your problem are the following: •Pick exactly one problem – it’s easy to combine two or three into one, but solving that many at once is more complex •Identify the source of the problem – where is it coming from? Who or what is causing it? This can help identify stakeholders •Know your timeline – some problems you have months solve, some just weeks, and for others you may have just days. Understanding the timeline can help save your efforts in terms of finding a usable solution Step 2: Formulate a Hypothesis This stage feels more academic than it really is. What we’re really doing here is making a claim that we can test about the problem that has been identified. Here’s an example: if the problem is “my revenue numbers are lower than normal,” then an example of a hypothesis could be, “my revenue numbers are lower than normal because my prices are too high.” A hypothesis is an explanation for the problem, which is the most important part. Exercise: My business problem is _______________________________________________________________ My hypothesis is _______________________________________________________________ Step 3: Framing Your Thinking For most people, this stage is the trickiest part of problem-solving. Framing your thinking essentially involves making a list of those factors that would influence your hypothesis (in other words, all the considerations that matter) and prioritizing those factors so you can identify where to start with your analysis. If this sounds abstract, it is; here’s an example to better illustrate: Problem: Revenue has declined this month Hypothesis: Revenue has declined this month because of new competition Framing your Thinking: •What is the number of competitors I have? Is it different than it was before? •What is the pricing level of each competitor? Is it different than before? •What changes did I make internally over this period? Is anything different? • This list is neither perfect nor comprehensive but should give you a flavor for how to make your list of considerations. Next is the task of prioritizing these things. Finding out the number of competitors is easy – a quick internet search would give us that answer. The pricing level of our competitors would need a bit more research. Understanding internal changes would require making a log of business decisions to find what could have triggered this. Exercise: Make a list of all the reasons or factors that could help uphold or disprove your hypothesis •_________________________________________________________________ •_________________________________________________________________ •_________________________________________________________________ •_________________________________________________________________ Step 4: Research and Analysis If Step 3 is the most difficult to understand in this cycle, Step 4 is the most difficult to actually do, because it usually entails the most work out of the 5 Steps. The research and analysis phase consists of doing whatever analysis needs to be done about the factors you identified in Step 3. For example, for the factors outlined above (number of competitors, pricing strategies, and internal changes), the analysis could look like this: Use the internet to understand what competitors are in my area or space now. Is this number different than before? If so, who are the new players? Based on this line of questioning, you might need to do a fresh round of market research. Use the internet, chambers of commerce, professional associations, or other contacts to understand what products or services the competitors offer, and at what prices. How different are these prices from your own? Compile a log of all the business decisions made in the past month. Did any of them have a tangible impact on revenue drivers? Did I make inventory changes? Did I change prices? Did I change the quality of any of my products or services? This phase can multiply quickly if left unchecked. That’s why it’s important to make a fixed list of analyses that you’re going to do before you do them. When AMI begins consulting, we use a document called a “Scope of Work” that outlines what we’re going to do, and by when. This helps us keep problem-solving from getting out of hand. Another tip is to make sure that you’re focusing on conclusions. Knowing the number of competitors is somewhat useful, but knowing the competitors compared to before, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and knowing where your business needs to change is far more useful. Step 4: Identifying a Solution Now is when you can solve the problem! The reason we recommend doing all the research first is so that less time is spent making changes, which can be costly or risky, and more time figuring out exactly where and what the problem is. When you visit the doctor, they don’t operate on you without knowing what’s causing the issue. As an example, if you saw your revenue falling, the first instinct might be to increase your marketing or lower your prices. But if the real reason for your declining revenue was that the latest batch of inventory had blemishes that caused customers to be dissatisfied with them, then neither of your actions would have solved the problem, meaning you’ve incurred costs without addressing the problem. Using this framework helps address that. The solution stage is the most creative phase and the one in which we have the least guidance. Some tips we can give are as follows: Know what you can reasonably accomplish – if money, time, or support were no object, we could solve almost anything. Entrepreneurs often have runways, however, and finding solutions that fit within our constraints is often challenging Be creative and have alternatives – while your first plan may seem like it checks all the boxes, it’s important to have backups. Have plans A, B, and C, and be willing to try all of them if needed. Having backups is almost never a bad idea. Leverage your network – it takes a community to make a business successful. Think of mentors, professional partners, friends, associates, or any other supporters you may have. The path forward is your decision, but perspective can help. Make a plan and execute – after you make a plan, it’s time to execute it. We recommend thinking through the steps, how long each step should take, and the specific actions you’ll need to take. Breaking things down can make this less overwhelming. Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return to Start Here Return to Build

Social Media 101

Social Media is a vital part is reaching out to customers on an online platform. Here the AMI team will walk you through how to set up a social media account for your business! Basics of Instagram for Small Businesses In today’s digital world, entrepreneurs (like you!) have the opportunity to expand their reach with the use of social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. The days of the ever time-consuming door-to-door sales and sole word-of-mouth advertising are gone. Expanding your digital footprint will enable your potential customers and other interested parties (think local news stations or local entrepreneur-empowering organizations like us) to more easily find your business. It helps customers understand what your business is all about, and allows you to establish a platform to more personally connect with your customers. This tutorial is the first part of an Instagram mini-series: it will take you through the basics of building and setting up an Instagram account for your business. How to Create an Instagram Account Step 1: Go to your smart device’s app store, look up Instagram, and download. Use the red circles as a guide if needed. If you already have a personal profile, great! However, let’s make a second account specifically for your business. Step 2: Select an email and password that you will remember and use often. Select a username that should clearly reflect your business, such as your business name if it's not already taken. (Hint: if it is already taken, try adding “AZ” to the end of it!) Tip: Unless your business has a number, try to refrain from using numbers in your username. For example, our Instagram is @azmicrocredit, not @ami480. Step 3: Upload a profile picture—this should be a picture of your company logo. Once your account information is created, you will be prompted with some of the following options. If you have contacts with any current or potential customers, it would be a great idea to let them know you have created an Instagram! Also, you should upload a profile picture of your company logo. Step 4: Lastly, you will be taken to your account where you may once again be prompted to sync contacts and/or be given suggestions on accounts to follow. How to Navigate Instagram Setting up Notifications How to Post Posting on Your Page The next section of this article, “Content Creation Tips,” details what you should post specifically. Posting on your Story What is an Instagram Story? Unlike a regular post, an Instagram Story only lasts for 24 hours. You can use this to your advantage by posting about special daily deals or events your business is participating in. Posting on your story is the same process as a normal post, except you will click on the top left icon labeled “Your Story”. Content Creation Tips Branding Your Business Define your brand. What is at the core of your business? What are your business’s values and mission? What do your customers value, and who is your target demographic? These questions can guide how you think about your business. If you run a food business that is centered around delicious meals with a fun and vibrant community, you can showcase your food with bold colors. Occasionally show gatherings of people-centered around your food. If your business is driven by your team and your employees, feel free to showcase your team members and write about the awesome work that they’re doing! Take and edit great pictures. Although you don’t need to be a professional photographer to run an Instagram, it still helps to have clear, quality photos. Make sure that your photos are lit properly, not blurry, and focus on the subject that you want your customers to see. Create compelling captions. Tell a story through your caption—it makes the photo more meaningful, and if your picture needs a bit of explanation, the caption can give your potential customers clarification of what is in the photo. Captions can carry your personality—make them anywhere from punny, whimsical, down-to-earth, informative. Building an Audience Liking, Commenting, Following Instagram is not just about the content that you produce: it’s about the community that you establish on the platform. To begin growing and expanding your Instagram audience, one simple trick is to Like and Comment on the posts of related IG users, and even Follow them as well. For example, if your business is located in the Phoenix area, you can follow @downtownphoenix, @downtownchandler, @downtowntempe, and other cities’ pages. If your business sells food, then you can follow Arizona-specific food Instagrams (such as @azfoodie) to start building the base of users you follow. Interacting with closely-affiliated accounts will help others (your potential customers!) in the community find your business through their Instagram pages as well. Hashtags Another way to build your audience is to search and follow hashtags in addition to using them in your post. What is a #hashtag? A hashtag is a keyword phrase with a pound sign in front of it, and it helps to label and identify your post. It helps other Instagram users find your content easily on that same topic—for example, if you have a food business in Arizona, you can utilize #AZfood #Phoenixfoodie to help steer traffic towards your post. Additional Resources AMI will be continuing our Instagram mini-series to help you establish the best Instagram presence for your small business. In the meantime, we’ve curated a list of some of the best articles that you can continue to read to improve your business’s digital presence. General Business Instagram Tips Content Creation Instagram Stories Instagram Analytics Instagram Advertisements About AMI: Contact Us Arizona Microcredit Initiative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that strives to empower the underserved entrepreneurs around the Phoenix valley through business instruction, microloans, and consulting. If you have any questions or comments about the article/want to learn more about how to leverage the digital world for your small business, please feel free to contact AMI at Subscribe to our newsletter to keep updated on the Instagram mini-series and receive more educational material for your small business! Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return to Start Here Return to Build

Contract Negotiation

Contract negotiation is a critical activity for any business. AMI walks you through the process here! --- COMING SOON --- Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return to Start Here Return to Build

Small Business Upskilling

Customer Obsessed Taking customer relationships to the next step through customer and market information allows you to take your business to the next level. Utilizing readily available statistics can help small business owners with market research and competitive analysis. References General Business Statistics NAICS Statistics Statistical Abstract of the United States U.S. Census Bureau Consumer Statistics & Demographics Consumer Credit Data Consumer Product Safety American FactFinder Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic Indicators Consumer Price Index Bureau of Economic Analysis Employment and Unemployment Statistics Marketing Upskilling Facebook Blueprint Facebook Blueprint is a one-stop shop for everything there is to know Facebook Business Page including best practices for posting and advertising on Facebook and Instagram. Social Media Monitoring Learn actionable social monitoring takeaways for people of all skills levels related to keyword filtering, Google related searches, monitoring strategies for Facebook, and more! Email Marketing for E-Commerce Create engaging email marketing campaigns and learn to optimize your strategy in order to increase business revenue. Inbound Marketing Certification This HubSpot certification will teach the basics of email marketing, content marketing, SEO, reporting, and more to cultivate modern-day inbound marketing strategy. Analytics Upskilling Microsoft Excel Basics Introduction to Analytics Data Analytics with Excel PivotTables Google Analytics Academy SEO Training Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Elevate Playbook

Building Customer Relationships- Promotion Strategies

The best way to grow your followers, and thus your business, is to provide a value-add for them. Ask yourself what would make someone want to connect with your business. For example, running promotions or giveaways from your social media page can provide a benefit to those who connect. What is a Promotional Strategy and why is it important? Promotional strategies are designed to generate interest in your product or band. They use a unique combination of advertising, sales promotion, and promotional platforms, such as social media, to encourage customers to buy your product. It is a useful method to get more people to try your products, keep customers loyal, and identifying potential customers. What are some examples of Promotional Strategies? There are a wide variety of Promotional Strategies that are available for one to use. An example would be the use of coupons, which consumers can go and use to redeem a discount. Another one would be Buy One Get One Free, BOGO’s are a great way for one to get their product into more people’s hands as these deals are often time-sensitive and it will incentive people to get the deal. And lastly, one of the most popular strategies from a consumer’s perspective is a giveaway. A giveaway gives people an opportunity to use a product for the first time. With all of these strategies, ensure that your strategy matches your business’s brand standards. For example, Trader Joe's does not give out coupons but does have seasonal items as a promotional strategy. Everyday examples of promotion strategies In this example, Ritz Crackers has partnered with Costco and is doing a giveaway to get their product into the hands of more people as a Promotional Strategy. In this example, Subway is offering a BOGO deal on their Subs. This is an example of a Promotional Strategy in Action. How to use Social Media to promote your product Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, can be a useful tool for increasing awareness and generating interest for your products. Introducing promotions on your business’ social media will inform existing customers as well as those already interested in your products of new opportunities to try your products at a discounted rate. This both rewards your loyal customer base and introduces new customers to your business. Reaching your target demographic While using your business’ social media platforms is an effective method of reaching customers, creating targeted ads on social media will enable you to reach more prospective customers. Identifying those who might be interested in your products, either by cites they interact with or recent searches, will reach prospective customers that might not have heard of your brand. You can learn more about how to create social media ads at Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Build Playbook

Networking 101

An Introduction to the What, Why, and How of Entrepreneurial Networking What is Networking and Why Should I Do It? AMI exists to make an impact, and it was with that enthusiasm that I marched into a local networking event for small business owners. I was nervous, to be sure – it’s not easy going somewhere unfamiliar surrounded by strangers to peddle your ideas, but I learned quickly that the business community is a friendly place, and within minutes, I had gotten to chatting with another attendee, one who was incredibly passionate about his olive oil business. This passion for business is infectious – and in being receptive to that passion, and sharing my own, AMI was able to build a relationship with him. Networking means a lot to AMI – it helps us connect with the community, our reason for existing. But as a small business owner and entrepreneur, why should it matter to you? Consider this: Forbes reports that half of all small businesses fail within the first 5 years, mostly because of the following reasons: No market need Not enough capital Not the Right Team Competition Pricing Each of these falls into a few major categories that demonstrate the value of networking: Knowledge Sharing, Financial Resources, and Building Your Business Network. Let’s take a closer look at each: Knowledge Sharing Starting a small business is difficult, especially if it’s an entrepreneur’s first time. While you might have a detailed understanding of your product and the problem it solves, running a business requires a wealth of knowledge to do correctly; finding customers, best accounting practices, how to price your products, finding suppliers and distributions, and changing your business to remain relevant are just a few. Other entrepreneurs have experiences that you can learn from and vice versa. Learning from and sharing with others is a great way to grow without making mistakes yourself. Financial Resources Whether through your own savings, investors, donors, or grants, businesses need capital to start, stabilize, and grow. Networking is a great way to collect information on what financial resources are available in your local and greater community. Small business organizations, professional development groups for entrepreneurs, and individuals who want to help are all common players. Networking is a great way to find them. Building Your Business Network Businesses thrive on the support of people and meeting them through networking is a great way to help take your business to the next level. Networking could lead to a new business partner, a key supplier or distributor who understands the value chain, or it could lead to meeting other like-minded individuals who can support you through your entrepreneurial journey. There are so many ways people can support you, whether by improving your business operations or through moral support – building the relationships to help make these things happen is key. How to Network Have an Objective Are you looking to learn from other entrepreneurs? Meet business partners? Connect with suppliers? It’s important to have a clear objective of what you hope to get out of networking; this can change with your needs, but deciding on one helps shape your next steps. Practice Your Pitch When networking, your opener should convey who you are, what you do, why, and what you’re looking for. This introduction should be no more than 30 seconds long but should give others a quick overview. Practicing this can make delivering your intro easier Conduct Research If it’s a single person, learn about their background using the internet or LinkedIn. If it’s an organization, learn more about what they do, why, and how. If it’s an event, try to learn who will be there. Being prepared can make conversations go more smoothly. Have Conversations Ask questions about others’ experiences and share your own. Remember your objectives and the research you conducted. Networking is a two-way street: exchange information and resources and ask how you can help in addition to how they can help you. Always Follow Up Make sure to exchange contact information after your conversation; always try to get theirs so that you can be proactive and continue the relationship. Remember to follow up via phone or e-mail a few days after your initial meeting; hopefully there’s a lot to talk about! Where to Network in Arizona One of the most difficult parts of networking is finding out where to network. A good place to start is by looking at your local small business associations, chambers of commerce, or other entrepreneurial groups, especially on social media platforms like Facebook. For our readers in the Phoenix Metro area, here are a few resources to get started: Local First Arizona Local First Arizona is a nonprofit focusing on community and economic development. Local First connects people, businesses, and communities to achieve a more prosperous Arizona*. If you do not live in Arizona, look for similar nonprofit organizations that foster connectedness in business. Fabric FABRIC is a fashion incubator, business accelerator, design studio, academy, and manufacturer for the fashion industry. Their resources include classes, business services, and a community. Industry-specific organizations are a great place to find like-minded entrepreneurs in your field. Tempe Chamber of Commerce The Tempe Chamber of Commerce represents over 600 businesses and supports business owners through advocacy, connection, and visibility. TCC hosts network development and panel events to meet entrepreneurs and experts in your field*. Almost all cities have a Chamber that serves its communities in similar ways. Consider becoming a member and engaging in the business community. *Some of these organizations may have membership dues; make sure to visit their website or contact them to find out more about the membership process. Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Build Playbook

Building Strategic Partnerships

--- COMING SOON--- Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Build Playbook

Social Media Game- Among Key Demographics

Social media marketing is often a pivotal aspect of operating a small business. Just as you want to know who your customers are, you want to know who is on what platform so you can make informed marketing decisions. You can use the following usage statistics to determine what platforms your target customers are on the most. Key Findings of Statistica and Pew Research Center studies conducted in 2018 and 2019. Facebook and YouTube are the platforms with the most users. For broad marketing campaigns, use these platforms. Pinterest and, to a lesser extent, Instagram and Facebook, have a disproportionally large number of female users. YouTube is the only platform with significantly more male users than female. To reach a younger demographic, use Instagram and Snapchat. Social media marketing is not the most effective tool for reaching an older demographic. Older users are most active on Facebook and YouTube. High earners make up the majority of users on most platforms. Snapchat and Pinterest are the only exceptions. Facebook Demographics Percentage of U.S. participants who say they ever use Facebook Facebook currently has 2.6 billion active users. The average Facebook user is a 25- to 29-year-old woman with an annual income of $75,000+. Youtube Demographics Percentage of U.S. participants who say they ever use YouTube YouTube currently has 2.0 billion active users. The average YouTube user is a 25- to 29-year-old man with an annual income of $75,000+. Instagram Demographics Percentage of U.S. participants who say they ever use Instagram Instagram currently has 1.1 billion active users. The average Instagram user is a 18- to 24-year-old woman with an annual income of $75,000+. Snapchat Demographics Percentage of U.S. participants who say they ever use Snapchat Snapchat currently has 397 million active users. The average Snapchat user is a 18- to 24-year-old person with an annual income of <$30,000. Pinterest Demographics Percentage of U.S. participants who say they ever use Pinterest Pinterest currently has 367 million active users. The average Pinterest user is a 18- to 24-year-old woman with an annual income of $30,000-$74,999. Twitter Demographics Percentage of U.S. participants who say they ever use Twitter Twitter currently has 326 million active users. The average Twitter user is a 18- to 24- year-old man with an annual income of $75,000+ LinkedIn Demographics Percentage of U.S. participants who say they ever use LinkedIn LinkedIn currently has 250 million active users. The average LinkedIn user is a 25- to 29-year-old man with an annual income of $75,000+. The previous information is courtesy of Statistica and Pew Research Center studies conducted in 2018 and 2019. You can find more information at This resource has been created by Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI). AMI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that empowers underserved entrepreneurs to start or expand businesses through consulting services, microloans, and business instruction. For more information, email or visit Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Elevate Playbook

Vision and Mission Statement

Setting the foundations for the purpose of your operations. Overview Mission and vision statements are short descriptions of a business or organization that articulates the goals, objectives, and values of an organization; this is an important tool for making decisions and plans about a business. An organization can have one complete statement that describes its mission and values or two separate mission and vision statements. Mission Statement vs Vision Statement The mission is what the company is and what they do; vision is what they hope to be. Mission statements are more action-oriented and serve to describe the purpose of a company or organization. It expresses the business’s functions and objectives. Having a developed mission statement is necessary to create an accurate vision statement. The vision statement describes where you want your company to go. It provides insight into a business’s values. An understanding of both of these statements is necessary for developing your company’s brand. Necessary Elements What Goes in a Quality Mission Statement? A good mission statement should be one nice sentence at the most. The mission statement should consider the long-term future of the organization and not be limiting. Employees should be asked what they think of the statement and the organization shouldn’t be afraid to alter the statement if circumstances change. 3 Major Components According to Professor Chris Bart, notable authority of organizational mission and vision statements, a mission statement consists of three essential components: Great Examples AMI "The purpose of Arizona Microcredit Initiative is to empower underserved entrepreneurs to start or expand businesses through business instruction, consulting services, and microloans.” LinkedIn “To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Amazon “We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.” What Goes in a Quality Vision Statement? A good vision statement should also be short like a mission statement. The statement is an optimistic outlook about the current state of the organization as well as the future objectives. The vision statement is goal-setting and it should be what the entire organization’s work is looking to create. It should be inspiring. Common Traits Great Examples AMI “An Arizona where neither a challenging background nor lack of resources can stand in the way of a passionate, entrepreneurial spirit.” Apple “To make the best products on earth, and to leave the world better than we found it.” Shopify “Make commerce better for everyone, so businesses can focus on what they do best: building and selling their products.” Decision Making Based on Statements A mission statement should be the ethos of what your company does, and thus should be emphasized in the actions that the company takes within its culture. Whenever there are decisions that you as a leader of an organization are making, the company’s mission statement should align with the actions the organization is taking. The 3 Steps To Take When Decision-Making Step 1 Ask yourself, Why Are You Making The Decision? Understand what the short and long-term implications of the decision are. Step 2 After evaluating the implications of your decision, ensure that that your decision fits your Vision and Mission Statement. Step 3 Ensure that your decision makes business sense. Ask yourself, will this be a net benefit for my net profit in the long-term? If the answer is no, re-evaluate the decision because the long-term profitability of your business will allow you to sustain your business. Great Example Tomm’s Shoes has the goal of ensuring that every person that needs a shoe can get a shoe. This mission statement is embedded into the ethos of the company and that is why for every pair of shoes a person purchases from Tom’s, another shoe is made for a person in need. Toms was able to do this because they could afford it and they deemed it as a business decision that would increase their long-term profitability. Create Your Mission and Vision Statement Mission Statement Below begin brainstorming what your mission statement might be. Think about the three major components of a mission statement and what those are in your business. Feel free to refer back to the page about what a quality mission statement looks like. Vission Statement Below begin brainstorming what your vision statement might be. Go over the 6 common traits and reflect on what values your business holds. Again, feel free to refer back to the page about what a quality vision statement looks like. Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Build Playbook

Data-Driven Decision-Making

Learn how to use your resources wisely and make informed decisions with our Data-Driven Decision Making guide. --- COMING SOON--- Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return to Start Here Return to Build

Building Customer Relationships- Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is vital for business growth. Your business is, after all, built entirely around your customers. This is why whenever you log on to websites or use an application, you are asked to provide a review or give some sort of feedback: the customer’s opinion is the most important piece of information a business can have. Customer Feedback: Your Greatest Source of Learning What is Customer Feedback and Why Does It Matter? Think back to the last time that a cashier handed you a receipt with the link to a survey at the bottom of it. Or the last time that you bought something online and were sent an email asking you to leave a review for the product. Both the receipt with the survey and the request for a review are examples of companies asking you, their customer, for feedback. Customer feedback is information given by customers about their experience with a company’s products or services. It provides insight into their satisfaction level and paints a picture of how they feel about the product or service that they received. Collecting feedback empowers businesses to improve the customer experience through informed decisions. It allows you to know what you’re getting right and what you’re getting wrong in the eyes of the customer. Everyone loves to receive praise, but negative feedback is especially powerful, as it reveals where there is room for improvement. Microsoft founder Bill Gates took this idea to heart, as seen in the quote on the right. Collecting customer feedback is an essential practice for any companies that wants to put customer satisfaction at the forefront. Collecting Customer Customer Feedback Before you can begin collecting feedback, it is important to identify the reason that you’re looking for feedback. Having specific goals in mind that sets the groundwork for the entire process, it can help you determine how to reach your customers, what to ask them, and what to do with the answers that you receive. After all, data collection is great, but it becomes overwhelming and futile without any idea of what to look for in the data. Some examples of goals include the following: Understanding trends in customer satisfaction Identity customer service issues Uncover product performance deficiencies Improves a specific aspect of the customer experience What to Ask and How to Ask It There are a variety of different tools that can be used to gauge how customers feel about their experience with your business. The best way to measure this depends on what you want to learn from your customers and how you want to reach them (more on channels in the next section). 1. Net Promoter Score (NPS) Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures the likelihood that a person will recommend your product or service. It’s one question with a scale of 1 to 10. NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors (customers who would not recommend you) from the percentage of promoters (customers who would recommend you. 2. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) measures how satisfied a customer is with a specific interaction with a company. Like NPS, it’s only one question. 3. Customer Effort Score (CES) Customer Effort Score (CES) measures how much effort was required by your customers to get their problem solved. 4. Social Media Monitoring Social media monitoring allows you to learn what customers are saying about your business in an organic way. Tools like Google Alerts and Mention help you identify mentions of your brand on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other third-party review sites. 5. Feature Request Board If your goal with customer feedback is to improve your product, a feature request board is a helpful tool to gauge product feedback from existing customers. It allows customers to submit their own requests and ideas on how to improve the product. How to Reach Your Customers Now that you’ve decided what you will ask your customers, you need to figure out how to reach them. Oftentimes, the ask and the channel are intertwined; some channels are more appropriate or more effective than others for eliciting responses. Point of Service: Asking for customer feedback at the point of service allows for rapid feedback. However, the customer journey may not have ended yet at this point, so information may be incomplete. Email: When customers’ email addresses are collected, follow-ups can be sent requesting customer feedback. These may include surveys (NPS, CSAT, CES) or open-response questions. Typically, incentives are offered for completion. Business Website: For online websites, embedding opportunities for feedback into the business’ website gives customers the chance to respond at any point during the customer journey. Social Media: Integrating opportunities for feedback into a business’ social media presence can be an easy way to generate responses. Many apps, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, have in-app polling abilities. Phone Call: When customers’ phone numbers are collected, customer feedback can be requested via a call. Calls are associated with low response rates, but conversations can open the door to qualitative feedback. Bringing It All Together So, what would generating customer feedback actually look like for your company? Below are three examples of how to execute the methods covered in this guide. They escalate in both implementation difficulty and the quantity and quality of potential insights. Scenario 1: Informal Inquiry at the Point of Service As customers finish their shopping and pay for their products, you can ask them questions about their experience. Documentation and data collection are difficult with this method, but organic conversations are a great way to start receiving feedback. Many businesses use their point to service interactions to encourage customers to leave feedback online through sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Foursquare. Scenario 2: Follow-Up Email Survey This method requires the collection of customer emails. After the customer has finished their interaction with your business, send a follow-up email asking for feedback via a survey. Here, you can apply what you’ve learned about NPS, CSAT, and CES. Survey creation tools include Google Forms and SurveyMonkey. This process can be simplified through email automation services such as HubSpot, Mailchimp, and Campaign Monitor. Scenario 3: Social Media Monitoring To effectively monitor social media, you will need to use a tool. Google Alerts keeps you informed of any time your brand is mentioned online, while tools like Hootsuite can help you manage and understand your business’s social media accounts. Data from both can be collected and analyzed for insights. Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Build Playbook

Partnership Building

Having strong partners can have a huge benefit to your business. Here are some strategies to effectively utilize those strategies. --- COMING SOON--- Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Elevate Playbook

Excel for Small Business Owners

Excel is a vital tool for small business owners to organize and sort their data. --- COMING SOON--- Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Elevate Playbook

A/B Testing

Learn how you can test two different advertisements to see which one is the most effective in obtaining consumers. --- COMING SOON --- Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Elevate Playbook

Data Foundations

Learn how to use your data foundation as a springboard to see and analyze your data to make data-driven decisions. --- COMING SOON--- Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Elevate Playbook

Supplier Scorecard

Choosing a supplier is a critical step for any business. Our Supplier Selection Analysis guide breaks down how to compare suppliers and ultimately choose the best one for your business. Overview Supplier selection analysis typically requires the following five-step process. 1. Identify Component The process will begin with identifying the separate components that contribute to your final product and categorize them accordingly. An example has been outlined below for your reference for items that may pertain to a local coffee business. 2. Purpose of Component Identify how this product helps your business deliver exceptional product/service and the functional purpose of the component. For example, you are an owner of a local coffee small business and the packaging of your coffee beans requires a label. Providing a label is not only important for allowing customers to identify the product, but it would also include design aspects that would attract the customer to pique their interest in the product in the first place. Therefore, it is important that the design of the logo and label accurately reflects the business values and is attractive to its targeted audience, as it is the first impression a customer gets of the product. 3. Sourcing Requirements Use a bulleted list of at least 4 requirements for the product being sourced and explain why this requirement is in place. The purpose of this section is to start to narrow your supplier search by defining exactly what you need. 4. Supplier Selection Scorecard Based on the categories of components, analyze and weigh each based on the importance to the final product. In this example, we evaluated four categories: cost/pricing, delivery, quality, and service of three label suppliers. Based on the needs of the business, we have weighted these categories respectively: 40%, 35%, 20%, and 5%. In terms of upfront cost, Uprinting definitely had the lowest price which was 100 labels for ~$30 depending on the customized print; however, offered a price match service where they will match a competitor’s price and beat it by 10%. In lead-time, OnlineLabels offers the greatest service of having the product ready to ship in a workday of the order being processed. Most of the vendors' locations were based on the east coast, which is not the ideal location. A strength of customer service was UPrinting’s 24/7 chat which I found useful in asking questions and getting a response right away. 5. SWOT Analysis Create a SWOT analysis identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for each supplier. After comparing the SWOT analyses, proceed with the best supplier. Strengths Strengths are the areas your organization does particularly well and may distinguish you from competitors. Weaknesses Weaknesses are areas for improvement within your organization, which are essential to your resources, systems, and procedures. Opportunities Opportunities are chances for something positive to happen whether that is in the market space or directly for your organization. Threats Threats can relate to anything that negatively impacts our business externally such as market shifts or supply shortages. Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Build Playbook

How to Build a Website

In this video tutorial, our staff walks you through how to build a WIX website, step by step (2019 edition). Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Build Playbook

Why Conduct Market Research?

The goal of doing market research is to equip yourself with the information you need to make informed business decisions about start-up, innovation, growth, and the 4 P's: Product — Improve your product or service based on findings about what your customers really want and need. Focus on things like function, appearance and customer service or warranties. Price — Set a price based on popular profit margins, competitors' prices, financing options or the price a customer is willing to pay. Placement — Decide where to set up and how to distribute a product. Compare the characteristics of various locations and the value of points of sale (retail, wholesale, online). Promotion — Figure out how to best reach particular market segments (teens, families, students, professionals, etc.) in areas of advertising and publicity, social media, and branding. Basic questions to answer with market research: Who are your customers? Describe them in terms of age, occupation, income, lifestyle, educational attainment. What do they buy now? Describe their buying habits relating to your product or service, including how much they buy, their favored suppliers, the most popular features, and the predominant price points. Why do they buy? Depends on the product and its uses. What will make them buy from you? Use detailed information about markets, sales figures, and consumer buying motivations. Types of Market Research Primary Research The goal of primary research is to gather data from analyzing current sales and the effectiveness of current practices. Primary research also takes competitor’s plans into account, giving you information about your competition. How can you collect primary research? Interviews (either by phone or face-to-face) Surveys (online or by mail) Questionnaires (online or by mail) Focus groups gathering a sampling of potential clients or customers and getting their direct feedback Some important questions might include: What factors do you consider when purchasing this product or service? What do you like or dislike about current products or services currently on the market? What areas would you suggest for improvement? What is the appropriate price for a product or service? Secondary Research The goal of secondary research is to analyze data that has already been published. With secondary data, you can identify competitors, establish benchmarks and identify target segments. Your segments are the people who fall into your targeted demographic--people who live a certain lifestyle, exhibit behavioral patterns, or fall into a predetermined age group. Collecting Data No small business can succeed without understanding its customers, its products and services, and the market in general. Competition is often fierce and operating without conducting research may give your competitors an advantage over you. Types of Research Experimental Research – involves manipulating condition and studying effects Correlation Research – involves studying the relationships among variables within a particular group, and frequently suggests the possibility of cause and effect Survey Research – involves describing the characteristics of a group by means of such instruments as interview schedules, questionnaires, and tests. Two categories of data collection: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative (Experimental, Single-subject, correlation, causal-comparative, survey) Qualitative (Ethnographic, historical) Observation Techniques Structured Unstructured Controlled Uncontrolled Non-Participant Disguised Participant Common Marketing Mistakes Using only secondary research. Relying on the published work of others doesn't give you the full picture. It can be a great place to start, of course, but the information you get from secondary research can be outdated. You can miss out on other factors relevant to your business. Using only web resources. When you use common search engines to gather information, you get only data that are available to everyone and it may not be fully accurate. To perform deeper searches while staying within your budget, use the resources at your local library, college campus, or small-business center. Surveying only the people you know Small-business owners sometimes interview only family members and close colleagues when conducting research, but friends and family are often not the best survey subjects. To get the most useful and accurate information, you need to talk to real customers about their needs, wants, and expectations. Industry Due Diligence – for comparative purposes, consider: Companies of relative size. Companies serving the same geographic area, which could be global if you are planning to be a web-based business. Companies with a similar ownership structure. If your business has two partners, look for businesses run by a couple of partners rather than an advisory board of 12. Companies that are relatively new. While you can learn from long-standing businesses, they may be successful today because of their 25-year business history and reputation. You’ll want to use the data you’ve gathered not only to determine how much business you could possibly do but also to figure out how you’ll fit into and adapt to the marketplace. Follow these steps to spending your market research dollars wisely: 1. Determine what you need to know about your market. The more focused the research, the more valuable it will be. 2. Prioritize the results of the first step. You can’t research everything, so concentrate on the information that will give you the best (or quickest) payback. 3. Review less-expensive research alternatives. Small Business Development Centers and the Small Business Administration can help you develop customer surveys. Your trade association will have good secondary research. Be creative. 4. Estimate the cost of performing the research yourself. Keep in mind that with the internet you should not have to spend a ton of money. If you’re considering hiring a consultant or a researcher, remember this is your dream, these are your goals, and this is your business. Don’t pay for what you don’t need. Applications of Market Research Marketing research activities can be divided into 4 main strategic categories: Market Analysis Identifying and evaluating opportunities Competitive analysis Market Segmentation Analyzing market segments and selecting target markets Marketing Strategy Planning and implementing a marketing mix Analyzing marketing performance Steps to complete market research: Formulating the research problem Extensive literature review Developing the objectives Preparing the Research Design including Sample Data Collecting the Data Analysis of Data Generalization and Interpretation Preparation of the report or presentation of results - formal write-ups of conclusions reached Helpful Market Research Tools & Resources Think with Google: Marketer’s Almanac Price: Free Wish you had information on how consumer behavior changes in relation to the seasons, holidays, and other unique events? This tool offers interesting insights into how people browse and buy. American Fact Finder Price: Free A resource for searching U.S. census data. You can filter by age, income, year, race, and location. Business Dynamics Statistics Price: Free It takes census data and allows you to see economic data on job creation, startups and shutdowns, business openings, expansions, and closures. FedStats Price: Free It provides an up-to-date forum for finding data released by federal agencies, including agriculture, education, transportation, and energy. Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Sources: Return Home Return to Build Playbook

5 Ps of Marketing Explained

In this video tutorial, our staff walks you through the 5 P's of Marketing so that you can effectively market your business. Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) has consulting and microloan support for yourself and your business. If you have any more questions, you can schedule an appointment today through or reach out to us at Return Home Continue to Build Playbook