Online platform connected to Sonoma County Hello Alice helps business owners launch successfully

Overworked small business owners often say they work 25 hours a day, eight days a week.

Many often feel lost in the maze of business loans, accessing venture capital and finding the best resources to make a small business successful.

That’s what inspired co-founders Carolyn Rodz of Houston and Elizabeth Gore of Sonoma County to launch their online platform Hello Alice in 2017.

The co-founders met when Gore was working as an entrepreneur-in-residence for Dell in 2015 and was looking at ways the company could advance small businesses.

Rodz had just sold her second company and was working on the early stages of Hello Alice, where small business owners could get a better idea of ​​the resources they had — like funding, networks, and funding opportunities — and how to access what they didn’t.

“I kept thinking how great it would have been on day one of my business to understand that these resources and networks and conferences exist,” Rodz said.

“I was shocked at how difficult it was to start a business[in America]especially for women,” Gore said. “The whole idea (from Hello Alice) was to use machine learning that a small business owner could use depending on the growth stage and physical location in our industry.”

The Houston-based firm has a strong focus on the financial health and well-being of small businesses and measures its success by providing entrepreneurs with equitable access to capital

Hello Alice relied heavily on data and demographics of its business owners to break down barriers that were preventing BIPOC and LGBTQ+ businesses from succeeding.

“Accessing capital and financial health is by far the most difficult thing for any entrepreneur to do,” Gore said.

There are over 1 million small business owners using Hello Alice along with 7,332 small business owners in Sonoma County. According to data from Hello Alice, 69% of these business owners are women and 76% identify with the BIPOC community.

Emma Mann of Three Sisters Apothecary turned to Hello Alice when she wanted to grow her business.

When the 2020 pandemic hit and the majority of sales came from online orders, Three Sisters secured a $10,000 grant to buy more heating tanks for their soaps.

“I can easily quadruple our production,” said Mann.

Rodz and Gore believe that there is no one-size-fits-all guide to helping companies become successful and provide funding opportunities and support through industry-specific business loan and grant opportunities.

According to a Hello Alice press release, there is a $40 billion gap in access to capital for BIPOC entrepreneurs, small business owners, and over $1 trillion in unpaid funding sought but not received by the small business community as a whole.

Business owners told Hello Alice that they would like coaching, mentoring and advice on owning a business credit card.

Hello Alice recently launched a credit card in partnership with MasterCard to help business owners obtain business loans to grow their business while receiving benefits, education and cash back opportunities unique to their specific industry.

“Access to capital was the #1 pain point for small business owners, and when we started examining the data, particularly in relation to women and minority-owned businesses, there was a huge gap in that access knowledge” said Rodz said.

“If you live in the United States and you have no credit history or bad credit, you either can’t get a loan or you can get a loan at 50% plus interest or put up collateral,” Gore said.

Rodz said the card is an introductory tool that introduces small business owners to the “capital continuum” in bite-sized chunks while also providing financial mentoring and improving the entrepreneur’s credit rating.

“It’s not just access to credit, it’s a sense of community for me,” Rodz said. “We bring these business owners together and they learn from each other.

“We provide them with world-class support, mentoring and guidance, and leverage that volume to ensure we’re giving them the best opportunities and access.”

Sara Edwards is an economics reporter for The Press Democrat. You can reach her at 707-521-5487 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sedwards380.

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