With So Many Small Businesses Struggling To Stay Open Right Now, Imagine Starting One - Colorado Public Radio

With So Many Small Businesses Struggling To Stay Open Right Now, Imagine Starting One - Colorado Public Radio

With So Many Small Businesses Struggling To Stay Open Right Now, Imagine Starting One - Colorado Public Radio

Posted: 08 Jun 2020 03:09 AM PDT

Colorado Springs resident Terri Moon likes to tell a story about when her daughter, Rebecca, was about six-years-old. The little girl would set up a little store in the family's basement and sell whatever she found around the house that she thought her parents might buy.

"We just really knew from a pretty young age that Rebecca was a real entrepreneur. She had that entrepreneur spirit," Terri said at the opening night party for Moon's new Colorado Springs boutique, Moonbeam Clothiers.

Now 26-years-old, Moon has launched her first grown-up business in the middle of a global pandemic and resulting economic downturn. On top of that, her focus is high-end fashion, not exactly the most recession-proof industry. 

Located in a narrow storefront in Colorado Springs' downtown, Moonbeam Clothiers offers a carefully curated selection of ethically-sourced garments. Denim menswear items with tags made out of 'hunted leather,' produced by a Native American-owned company, hang next to pieces made from recycled ocean trash and leggings composed of plastic from soda bottles. 

Dan Boyce/CPR News
Rebecca Moon interacts with patrons during the grand opening of Moonbeam Clothiers on May 29th, 2020.

Moon also has pieces of her own on sale. Fashion design is her real passion, something she knew she wanted to pursue when she enrolled in International Business at the University of Denver.

The risky timing of her endeavor isn't lost on Rebecca. In fact, she says she's a 7 out of 10 on the 'scared scale' about it all. The timing almost couldn't have been worse; after years of planning and saving, she signed a lease on her downtown space in mid-February and originally planned to open on March 20. 

"(On) March 15, I was sitting in my garage with my boyfriend building these shelves," she said, indicating the shelving on the walls of her narrow store, "watching all the news roll in, and they closed down all the restaurants, and I was just like 'OK, this is not gonna happen.'"

That same day, March 15, she was laid off from her bartending job. Between mid-March and mid-May, she had no income and a new lease to pay. She's now left with a small financial cushion for her boutique clothing store to survive a rocky start.

"Honestly, things like credit cards and loan payments being frozen for a little bit right now are really helpful, because if I was paying everything in cash upfront I'd be in a really tight spot I think," she said.

She's not alone; the pandemic has decimated the state's economy and driven unemployment to historic heights — 11.3 percent in April.

By late May Colorado businesses had received more than 97,000 federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, totaling over $10 billion, according to the Small Business Administration.

Still, Moon has not given up. On the last Friday in May, she held her grand opening, two months later than expected.

Dan Boyce/CPR News
Rebecca Moon is limiting customers to 10 at a time in the shop to maintain proper social distancing.

Dozens of customers attended, entering the shop 10 at a time to allow for proper social distancing. Moon drank from a glass of pink champagne, her red lipstick matching her chic red blouse. Her friend Joey Osgard looked over from her post supervising the sales counter and noted Rebecca seemed wound up as she interacted with the patrons.

"Yeah, definitely," Osgard said. "You can tell by her body language and her posture and the way that she's moving around that she's still nervous."

And who wouldn't be nervous on a night like that, even in the best of times? 

Regardless, the grand opening was a success for the Colorado Springs native; she made enough on sales to her wide network of family and friends to pay her store's lease for the month. Now she just has to worry about the next one.

Dan Boyce/CPR News
Moon sews a cloth face mask, part of an order from a local restaurant.

And so the real test begins for Moonbeam Clothiers. Asked about business in the week and a half after the opening, she said it's been slow. However, she is keeping busy. 

At a sewing table set up behind the sales counter, she's been working away, filling an order for 300 cloth face masks for local restaurants.

Best Cost Cutting Ideas for Your Business - Small Business Trends

Posted: 08 Jun 2020 05:56 AM PDT

Investing in your business is often necessary to improve operations and increase profits over time. However, those expenses can sometimes grow too much and become unsustainable for small businesses. Currently, many businesses are struggling due to closures and social distancing practices, so they're looking for cost cutting options to stay in business through a tough time. Whether you're facing an immediate loss of funds or a prolonged period of cash flow issues, learning how to cut costs in business can be essential for keeping your operation afloat.

In some cases, a few minor shifts can help you save big on your monthly expenses. In other instances, more severe cost cutting measures may be necessary. Luckily, there are cost cutting options big and small that are available to businesses of all types and sizes.

No business wants to slash their expenses to the bare minimum, but when you absolutely must save money in your business, see our list of cost cutting ideas to stop the bleeding, ease cash flow and improve profits.

Best Tips for Cutting Costs

If you need to save money now and make your company more profitable going forward, here are 31 tips and ideas for cutting costs in a small business.

Work Remotely

If you're a solopreneur or work with a very small team in an office, cutting that lease payment altogether may be worth considering. If you need to collaborate in person, this may not be feasible. However, consider whether or not you can make do with virtual communication or sporadic meetings at a local coworking space. This is definitely one great cost cutting measure for your company.

Go Paperless

Constantly printing hard copies of documents isn't an efficient use of money or resources for you company. If you can, go completely paperless — or at least come up with a system to help team members understand when it's necessary to print so you can cut down on paper waste. Going paperless is also one way you can make your company go green.

Opt for Free Cloud Tools

There are tons of paid tech tools available to help businesses run more efficiently. But there are also tons of free options, like Google Drive for storing files and collaborating you can use as cost cutting measure. Switching one or two of these services could help your bottom line significantly.

Host Virtual Meetings

Traveling to out of town meetings or even across town to speak with clients can lead to increased transportation costs and wasted time. Consider video meetings on Skype or Zoom instead to further your cost cutting plans. Additionally, the ability to meet with potential clients or service providers in other locations can improve your bottom line.

Cut Landline Phones

A dedicated business phone system can help your company appear more professional and give clients, customers, and partners an easy way to get in touch. However, there are VoIP and mobile options now. With VoIP, you can still get a dedicated number that you can run through existing phones. And the people that call you won't know the difference.

Change Your Thermostat

A lot of your company's monthly expenses likely go to heating and cooling. Cut your bills by turning the temperature up just a few degrees in the summer and down in the winter. You may also be able to program your thermostat to adjust automatically when all your employees are out of the office.

Improve Your Insulation

Additionally, your HVAC equipment will run more than necessary if there are gaps around your exterior or insufficient insulation. Fill in drafty areas and have a contractor make sure your walls and ceiling are insulated properly so your equipment runs at maximum efficiency.

Get an HVAC Inspection

It might seem counterproductive to spend on HVAC services when you're trying to cut costs, but seasonal inspections actually help save money in the long run. They help you ensure everything is running efficiently in your company so you don't waste money on energy loss or expensive repairs down the road.

Negotiate Your Rent

Most of your business expenses are likely negotiable. For example, rent is one of the largest, so talk to your landlord to see about a reduced rate. They may be more likely to do so if you agree to pay some upfront, pay early, or sign a prolonged lease. Once you've negotiated lower rent, try this cost cutting measures in other areas like utilities and vendor agreements.

Restructure Loans

Loan repayments may also contribute to your company's financial hardships. Look into refinancing and restructuring options with your lender to see if you can keep payments manageable. Try to do this directly with creditors first. However, there are debt restructuring options from outside credit and financial institutions to further cut your cost in running your company.

Pay Off Debt

If you're in dire straits financially, this likely isn't an option as a cost cutting measure. However, if you have a bit of cash and just want to make your company more efficient financially, pay off some of your debt to avoid paying high-interest rates going forward.

Sign Up for Automatic Payments

Some lenders and vendors offer small discounts for a company that signs up for automatic payments. You can also pay for multiple months upfront, since this means less risk for them. Find out if any of your creditors offer this and then set up automatic withdrawals. Just make sure the funds will actually be available each month. You want to avoid any late fees associated with those payments which will defeat the purpose of your cost cutting agenda.

Cut Traditional Advertising

If you want to cut marketing costs, start with paid advertising campaigns. Traditional platforms like television and print media tend to be especially costly. You can get a lot of attention using free solutions like content marketing and social media. And if you do opt to advertise, social and search platforms often let you set your own budget so you can run small campaigns to grow your company.

Create Marketing Partnerships

Another way to keep your marketing cost down is to partner with other companies and split the expenses. If you offer complementary services, like a florist and wedding planner, combine your resources to create a cohesive ad campaign online, in print media, or at local events. This can ultimately help you increase your reach while also paying less for the ad or initiative.

Encourage Referrals

Word of mouth marketing is a free way to gain new customers and increase profits. But businesses don't always have control over this aspect of their marketing. For example, you can provide people incentives for referrals or sharing about your products or services online to bring in new business without spending any actual money.

Outsource Short Term Projects

If you regularly hire employees for your business, you may be able to cut costs by outsourcing or using freelancers instead. Only use this option for non-essential or short term projects. But this gives you another cost cutting measure on things like onboarding, benefits, payroll, and additional office space

Cap Employee Expenses

Cutting the number of your employees should only be done as a last resort, but you may be able to cut discretionary spending that is no longer essential to your operations. For example, you might cut some travel expenses and instead send your employees to virtual conferences. Or if you offer credit cards to your employees for discretionary spending, implement policies for what those cards can be used for to cut costs on expenses.

Compare Benefits Packages

Some businesses that offer benefits to employees end up spending more than necessary just because they stick with the same plans for too long. Instead, shop around to find the best rates to lower your cost. Though you want to avoid cutting coverage to the bare minimum, you may be able to find slightly better rates with another provider.

Create a Wellness Program

You may also be able to cut costs in the area of employee healthcare by encouraging healthier lifestyle habits. A wellness program can be enacted fairly quickly and inexpensively and can help you cut costs over time. These programs can help team members improve their diet, get more exercise, and even quit smoking. With people now more aware than ever about their health, this can be an easy buy-in by your team

Allow Telework

Even if you need to have an office space, allowing your employees to work from home even a few days per month can lower your electricity bill, fit into a smaller office space, and limit what you spend on supplies. It also offers other fringe benefits like improving employee morale, since team members will likely appreciate the freedom to create their own schedule.

Unplug Rarely Used Electronics

Your electric bill may be unnecessarily high if you keep extra items plugged in that you don't need. These may include cell phone and laptop chargers, light fixtures, and presentation equipment. Even when turned off, they use a trace amount of electricity, so unplug them or use a power strip you can shut off at the end of the day.

Go Through Your Subscriptions

Lots of small business owners subscribe to various services, mailing lists, and publications. You may belong to multiple professional organizations or use a few tech solutions that do essentially the same thing. If you can condense them and subscribe only to the one or two you really need, you can cut your monthly expenses significantly.

Purchase Used Equipment

Of course, limiting purchases is the best way to control your cost. However, when you need to buy equipment, opt for used over new when possible. Just make sure it's in good condition so you don't end up paying for extra repairs and maintenance. This is a good option when you need items like furniture or display gear.


When you need new equipment or services, confer with other business owners to see if they'd be willing to trade instead of accept direct payments. For example, you might be able to offer marketing assistance to companies that provide your business with website help. Not all companies will accept this type of deal, but try to ask a professional-services firm or vendors before entering into deals. You can also look for companies online that are specifically open to bartering.

Shop Around for Vendors

You may simply be able to find better prices by looking at other vendors. If you haven't shopped around for a while, look for suppliers or service providers in various stages of your supply chain. You could find better options for inventory, office supplies, or even shipping services. If you can find cost reductions, switch or use that as leverage to negotiate a better deal with current suppliers.

Buy in Bulk — Strategically

Sometimes you can get better deals on supplies or inventory by buying in bulk for cost cutting. However, you should only do this when you'll actually use all of those items quickly. Steer clear if you'll need to find extra storage space for those items or if you're just buying for a small bulk discount. The extra upfront price isn't usually worth it in those instances.

Look for Discounts from Your Local Chamber

Your local chamber of commerce may include member discounts to various vendors or service providers, like those that offer web design, marketing, or even shipping and fulfillment services. Check to see if you can get any of the products or services you already use at a discounted rate while also supporting other businesses in your local business group.

Join a Buying Group

Vendors and suppliers with a robust supply chain can usually offer products at deep discounts when they know they're providing a high volume of items on a continuous basis. But many small businesses don't purchase enough products to get a real bulk discount like this. However, you may be able to get better prices by teaming up with other companies in your area as part of a buying group. See if your local chamber or trade organization knows of anything, or confer with other local businesses to start one.

Get an Energy Audit

If you're trying to reduce energy costs, your utility company may be able to help. Some offer energy audits for free or at a low cost. They'll identify or fix problems that lead to energy waste in your office, like old lightbulbs and heating and cooling inefficiencies. This option can help you lower those monthly bills significantly, while also reducing your carbon footprint and helping your utility provider keep costs down.

Look for Tax Deductions

There's no sense in paying more taxes than necessary for your small business. There are free tax solutions available to help you find deductions, and working with a local tax professional is often fairly affordable. Finding a few extra deductions may help you save big on that annual or quarterly tax bill.

Move Your Office

For those looking for an extreme cost cutting option, moving to a new location can make a big difference. If you're in a big city or a downtown area, consider a less in-demand setting. You can also choose a location where you can enjoy more favorable tax rates. You might also have a bit more space than you need. So, downsizing can help you save on both rent and utilities. This isn't possible for all people, but if your business is location-independent, looking into other options or even opting for a coworking space rather than a traditional lease could make a big impact.


Cutting costs in business can be a tricky road to navigate. But there are plenty of options available that don't involve cutting staff or limiting your operations to the bare minimum. Whether you're looking to save a little on monthly expenses or make a major shift so that your business can be more nimble, the list above includes something for nearly any business. Just make sure to implement cost cuts that work best for your specific situation.

Image: Depositphotos.com

Berkeley startup aims to provide credit cards for students, immigrants - UC Berkeley

Posted: 29 May 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Kristy Kim smiling holding up a credit card on stage

TomoCredit founder and UC Berkeley MBA student Kristy Kim smiles during a presentation to potential investors in New York. She is holding up the credit card she offers to people that have no credit history and can't get approved by bigger banks. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Kim)

When Kristy Kim graduated from UC Berkeley in 2011, she needed a car to commute to Palo Alto for a finance job. But like many young people and recent immigrants, Kim had no credit history and couldn't get approved for a loan to purchase a car.

Kim ended up borrowing cash from family to buy a car, but the problem of not having access to credit kept nagging her.

"It was the first time I realized that, if you do not have a credit score, by default, banks think you are bad with credit," said Kim, who is now pursuing her MBA at the Haas School of Business.

So, last year, as a graduate student, Kim co-founded her own credit card company, TomoCredit, short for Tomorrow's Credit, to provide credit cards to people who don't have a credit score and cannot get approved for credit by bigger banks.

The startup, which employs four other immigrants who come from countries around the world, has raised more than $3 million and has over 15,000 people signed up to use their credit cards. Kim said she owes much of the company's success to her Berkeley education.

"Berkeley is where I first got that entrepreneurship bug," said Kim. "I got to learn from real entrepreneurs who came from outside of the university and shared their knowledge with us. The business community and courses offered here really helped me understand what the expectations are to run my own company."

One of those courses, a blockchain and cryptoeconomics course taught by Berkeley Haas professor Gregory La Blanc, was a catalyst for creating TomoCredit's business model.

Kim spoke as an alumna guest lecturer in La Blanc's class in the summer of 2018 and surveyed students about their experiences accessing credit.

The data Kim collected served as market research she then used to understand the trends and real demand that a product like TomoCredit could fulfill for college-aged students.

"Kristy has gone full circle here at Berkeley,'" said Berkeley Haas professor Kurt Beyer, who taught Kim as an undergraduate in his entrepreneurship and innovation course. "She is now a guest speaker in my graduate entrepreneurship class. I always knew that she would be a successful entrepreneur. I think it has a lot to do with her immigrant background and perseverance." 

The right thing to do

Kristy Kim with her Tomocredit staff of four posing on stage

Kristy Kim, center, and the rest of her TomoCredit team in New York during the Barclays Accelerator demo day last December. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Kim)

Kim started out trying to understand why banks like Wells Fargo, American Express and Bank of America relied on credit scores when so many people — potential customers — didn't have credit scores.

"I met senior executives and told them there are more than 30 million users with this problem, including 53% of college students who do not have a credit score right now," Kim recalled. "They were all aware of this, but they weren't willing to expose themselves to failing regulatory tests."

That was TomoCredit's opening. The company provides 0% interest credit card loans ranging from $100 to $10,000. No credit score is required.

Instead, the company analyzes two years of an applicant's banking history and confirms sources of income to assess the person's credit reliability.

This unique underwriting policy gives TomoCredit an opportunity to disrupt the typical credit bureau system and to extend credit to many consumers who are financially responsible, but can't access traditional credit systems, said Kim.

"When all these big banks and these big players were saying, 'No, that's not possible,' Kristy refused to listen to that," said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program. "She found an elegant way to solve a large, urgent problem."

As someone who grew up in South Korea and came to America when she was 11, Kim said helping immigrants without a credit score is one of the main reasons TomoCredit was created.

"For us, and our team, we are all immigrants, and we know that betting on immigrants is the right thing to do," she said.

Last summer, Kim decided to take a break from her MBA courses to focus on running TomoCredit. She hopes to return to school in the near future.

"Companies can copy us, but we will just try our best to execute faster and be more innovative," said Kim. "Those are traits, as an entrepreneur and student, that Berkeley has instilled in me."


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