Q: I am a female, minority entrepreneur on the verge of opening my first day-care center. I would like to open a minimum of three such facilities. Do you have any suggestions on places that may be able to assist me financially?
--Virgie Rentie, chief executive,
Agape International Children's
Learning Centers Inc.
Ai It is very difficult to get start-up financing for any enterprise, including day-care centers, because a new business is considered the riskiest lending proposition for a bank. Start-up financing can be obtained, but unless you are willing to put up some of your own assets as collateral (taking a second mortgage on your home, for instance), it is very difficult to attain because of the element of risk that accompanies an unproven enterprise.
That said, however, there is some good news for you: There are numerous public and private loan programs that specialize in lending to licensed day-care centers. They feature low interest rates, are geared to help start-ups, and many include technical assistance and training in the child-care industry.
The state of California has two loan programs for child-care operators that are administered by private business development agencies. The loan-guarantee program has a $750,000 maximum and the direct-loan program has a $1-million cap. You can get information on how to apply for these programs through the Pacific Coast Regional Small Business Development Corp., at 3255 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1501, in Los Angeles. Ask for Mark Robertson, chief credit officer, at (213) 739-2999, ext. 222, or check the group's Web site at http://www.pcrcorp.org.
Bank of America has a community development banking division that includes a child-care initiative. The bank considers requests for child-care financing for both nonprofit and for-profit facilities. Tony Fahr, at (213) 345-6603, is the lending officer who could provide guidance for you in financing a for-profit start-up.
A San Francisco-based loan program, the Low-Income Housing Fund, has a child-care facility fund that can be reached at (415) 772-9094. And once you've been in business for three years and you're ready to expand, you can apply for a real estate loan for up to $1 million from the California Economic Development Lending Initiative, a consortium of banks established in 1995 to provide financing to small businesses and community organizations throughout California. The Los Angeles office of CEDLI can be reached at (323) 232-4520.
We are in the process of producing a new edition of our book on how to get funding for child care, "Loan Capital for Early Childhood Facilities." You can reach our office to get more information at (510) 251-2600.
--LaVerne Gardner, office
manager, children, youth and family
division, National Economic
Development Law Center, Oakland
Plenty to Check Out Before You Can Cash In
Q: We have developed a magnetic phone card that can be incorporated into mobile phones to neutralize the electromagnetic waves that they emit. I would like information on how to market it.
--JoAnn Ackerman, Cerritos
A: You need to do exhaustive research on the booming cellular telephone industry to determine whether there's a market for this product--who will buy it, how you should pitch it, and what price point to set it at.
If you haven't already taken steps to protect your intellectual property interest in this device, you also need to do a patent search to determine whether you have a unique product, and if you determine that no one else has a patent pending on your device, file for a patent on the technology.
Ultimately, you will want to develop a business plan for your company that will attract potential strategic partners from the cellular telephone manufacturing industry. The Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, on the Internet at http://www.thomasregister.com, is a good place to find contact information for U.S. manufacturers.
--Cindy Malouin, health-care
and technology consultant,
Gathering Material on L.A.'s Garment Industry
Q: My husband and I just started an apparel business. I think we need to do some market research on the Los Angeles area, but I don't know where to find a market researcher. Can you help?
--Nancy Tanada, Los Angeles
A: There are many resources available in Southern California's large apparel industry that should help you locate an industry expert who could do some market research projects for you, or advise you on how to research some aspect of the market yourself.
The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising has a library with a good reference department that is open to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. during the school term. The campus is located downtown at 919 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. The California Mart is home to a specialized apparel industry bookstore, International Fashion Publications, that carries directories of market research firms. The store, located in the lobby at 110 E. 9th St., is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information and help, you might try the Fashion Business Incubator, at (213) 892-1669; the Textile Assn. of Los Angeles, at (213) 627-6173, or on the Internet at http://www.textileassociation.org; or a fashion industry publication, the California Apparel News, at http://www.apparelnews.net.
business researcher, Infomania,
If your business can provide a lesson to other entrepreneurs, contact Karen E. Klein at the Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia, CA 91016, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, address and telephone number.