Life as a MN small business person: a 15 minute tutorial

Scrambling for capital. Dealing with the stress. Loving what you do.

If you want to know what it’s like to be a small business person in Minnesota these days, take 15 minutes and scroll through the virtual forum below. It’s a quick lesson in the joys and frustrations of running your own shop.

We asked nine entrepreneurs in MPR’s Public Insight Network to talk about credit and cash flow in this economy. They did more, opening a wide ranging conversation on credit, government aid, the strain of starting a business and and what it’s like to take that leap into being your own boss.

Check out the dialog below. Here are some of the highlights.

Credit. It’s been difficult to impossible at times in this recession to get the credit needed to run a small businesses.

“Tight is the wrong word – non-existent seems to fit a little better,” said Michael Schaffer, president of M.A. Schaffer Accounting Services. “Working capital has become extremely hard to come buy, especially for those who need the money.

Schaffer recalled when he started in 2006, :I walked into and out of the bank in less than an hour. With no business plan, unincorporated, and one client, I was given a Line of Credit, Credit Card and Overdraft Line – all based my my credit score and signiture.”

“I had perfect credit when applying for my loan. But the bank kept wanting more and more liquid equity for collateral, said Crystal Pollard, owner of Bellies to Babies.

Amy Goetz, founder Bramblewood Treats told us she’s dealt with the “We’d like to, but…” conversation with her banker. “I have a great relationship with my banker … But the automatic program spits a big “no” out.” The problem, she said, is that, “I have a student loan on my credit history and don’t own my own home.”

Joys / stresses of starting a business. The work is their passion but it comes at price in time and stress.

“It’s a scary decision, especially now,” said Pollard. “But if it’s something you’re passionate about and commited to, it is one of the best decisions you can make….This is the most stressed I have ever been, but it is totally worth it knowing I’m able to help so many women…With so many people being laid off work and losing jobs, why not start the business you’ve been dreaming about?

“Oh, yea, the stress … it ebbs and flows – but I think I’m used to it now,” said Shawn Sheely, founder Analog Interactive. I’ve been trying really hard to reduce stress in myself and my employees by working fewer hours and through simplifying our repetitive tasks and processes.

Goetz says she often calls the business, “my other baby and the only thing I’d rather do. But, the stress is on my shoulders all the time.”

Solutions. We asked in various forms what if anything lenders and/or government could do to make things better.

“Somehow, we have to get low interest money to SMALL business owners for capital,” said Brady Jass, president B&H Manufacturing. “Big corps have access to investors, lower rates, etc. It is in the country’s best interest to fund small businesses to furnish competition to larger corporations. They have tons of advantages that we dont have.”

“I’m not sure there’s much more I can tell Congress,” said Jason Rysavy, founder Catalyst Studios. “It really feels like success rides on my shoulders (and my employees). I’d rather be scrutinized vs handing over cash I may not be able to pay back.”

“Make it easier to run a business,” said Sheely. “I have to shop health, 401k, pay a myriad of taxes and matches…why can’t I just pay my employees their salary and let the governement collect the taxes – I have better things to do than their paperwork.

Health Care. Paying for health care is on everyone’s mind these days. But finding real solutions is an absolute must for small businesses.

“Our health care has risen 20-25% every year for the last 9 years,” said Rysavy. “And we pay 100% of the employee and 75% of the dependents, so it’s killing us.”

“Heathcare costs are killing small business potential,” said Sheely. “Large companies can manage this through economies of scale … we’re very vulnerable on this one. Can you say pre-existing condition?”

Added Pollard: “I don’t offer healthcare to my employees because my family can’t even afford it right now. My son is 3 and we can’t afford to cover him. We’re working on getting state for him.

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