Things are never easy for a small-business owner. No matter how hard you try, there are always problems to solve and fires to put out. At least you can take comfort in knowing you're not alone. Every small-business owner goes through the same thing.
BusinessNewsDaily recently caught up with 10 business owners attending the Inner City Capital Connection Conference in New York City to get an idea of what their biggest challenges are. We think you'll be able to relate.
Access to capital
"Our primary challenge as a small business is having access to capital in order to facilitate our exposure," said Clarence McCollum, president and CEO of , an energy company specializing in renewable energy sources. "It is a dual challenge, but [obtaining] capital is a bit more important because with access to funds we can garner more exposure. With capital we can also get out and find business opportunities so we can provide our technological solutions to other companies. We also have some innovative technologies that we are bringing to the forefront. Therein we need capital to help develop those prototypes and file patents."
Finding ways to grow
"Growing the business with limited access to capital and resources presents a big challenge," said Shyam Gulati, CEO of an information-technology firm. "To grow the company we are looking for an equity investment so that can facilitate the growth to the next stage, but it is hard to find."
Competition for government contracts
ABC Security Service
"The biggest challenge that I have is with government contracts and increasing competition," said Ana Chertien, president of . "They usually go for the lowest bid, which means the margins continue to shrink. Sometimes companies go out of business trying to compete. The margins are shrinking and it leaves you asking yourself, ' how do I compete?' Before, I used to compete with three companies and now there are 15 or more companies I compete with."
Keeping up with demand
McMillian's First Steps Child Care Development Center
"Our biggest challenge thus far has been having enough space to handle all the kids that need childcare," said Harold McMillian, vice president of in New Orleans. "After Hurricane Katrina, many day care centers left New Orleans, so we are overpopulated right now. Our present enrollment is 200 and my facility can only hold 200 kids. I am trying to buy a new property now to allow us to have more space."
Getting access to potential customers
“The biggest challenge has been trying to identify who the buyers are," said Kehinde Olajide, president and CEO of , an all-natural-beverage company. "It is very hard to crack that code. Even when you do crack that code, it is always hard to get a return phone call or email. These people are getting hundreds and thousands of emails and phone calls a day.”
Transitioning from being self-funded
"Being, as we are, a technology company transferring technology from the inventors to our commercial company was our first challenge," said Chris Melancon, founder and CEO of , a company specializing in portable water laboratories. "We did that through our manufacturing partner and a lot of time, energy and resources. Now that we have accomplished that, we want to scale the business and to do that we need money. Our current challenge is in raising capital for the company to go from having self-funding and bootstrapping to being able to hire people and sell more products. It is a pretty classic problem, but we are in the middle of that."
Getting paid on time
Jamaican Gourmet Roasting Company
"Our biggest challenge right now is the marketplace," said Jennifer Brown, marketing and sales representative at coffee supplier . "Our challenge is that many of the companies that we do business with are unable to pay their bills as a result of the economy. We [coffee products] are one of the first things that goes in that situation. Our customers still want the product, but they will often times delay the payment and that eats into our working capital. With the economy the way it is, it becomes harder to borrow and many times they are taking away credit lines. It is hard to get that back once it is gone."
Getting a fair price
As a new, small business in the contract manufacturing domain, the biggest hurdle for us is in getting over manufacturers’ price sensitivity in the United States,” said Cara Aley, President and COO of American MoJo Socially Responsible Apparel, a U.S.-based apparel-manufacturing company that focuses on providing sustainable employment opportunities for single moms who are living below the poverty line. "The trick for us (and any small business) has been in being creative and finding a niche in which we can compete, and that is in mass customization for these same manufacturers.This is an arena that allows us to get over the price sensitivity hurdle with manufacturers, as they are willing to pay a bit more for a custom product because the end consumer is willing to do so as well (think Nike ID). We also provide faster delivery to the consumer than an overseas manufacturer could, a lesser environmental impact as a result (up to 25 times less), and employment for a demographic who needs it greatly."
Finding the right people
Harlem Vintage and Nectar
"The biggest challenge is being under-resourced," said Jai Jai Greenfield, co-owner of wine bar. "Not having enough talent and the right amount of capital to do what you really need to do is the challenge for us. We have gotten a lot of really great stable growth through our own organic bootstrapping, but when we think about growth and where we can take the business, we need capital to do that."
Village Tea Company
"The issue we have is finding more capital as you are growing," said Martin Ekechukwi, founder and CEO of , an all-natural-tea company. "You find yourself having to spend money on inventory and that money gets tied up. That means you are not selling your product immediately. You therefore need more money for operations to help turn over the CONLINK|1576|product to store level)). It is hard to see a great product that is sitting on the shelf and it is not moving simply because you don’t have the resources to help move it."