Blog/News

Green Your Business

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

The devastating effects of climate change have rapidly increased in the last few years. As a result, businesses of all sizes and across industries are taking it upon themselves to be more eco-friendly. Though most business owners recognize the urgency to reduce their wasteful or pollutive practices, many are concerned about the cost and complexity of implementing greener habits. Although some large-scale changes can be expensive, investment in environmentally sound systems absolutely pays off over time. Here are some of the ways your business can adjust its practices to take better care of the environment.

Change Your Lightbulbs

One of the simplest things your business can do to reduce energy use is to change your lightbulbs. Halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) use 25-80% less energy than regular incandescents and last 3-25 times longer. Some cost slightly more initially, but more than cover their own price in longevity and reduction in your energy bills.

Recycle Everything

Recycling your paper, plastic and metal goods is a great start, but these days, it’s remarkably easy to find facilities that will recycle just about everything. Specialized recycling centers nationwide allow customers to deposit old electronics, appliances, batteries, and other items that were once difficult or impossible to recycle. Many of these centers even offer pick-up services for businesses that need to remove large amounts of heavy equipment at once.

Encourage Your Employees Not to Drive

One of the biggest problems employees face, regardless of location or industry, is their daily commute. Although they may be tempted to drive, encouraging them to carpool, bike, or use public transportation can drastically decrease your workforce’s negative impact on the environment. This can be as simple as posting a sign-up sheet in your workplace for carpools based on location and/or department.

If you’re located in one of the many cities that offer bike sharing, you can offer to pay for some, or all of the cost of your employees’ bike rentals should they choose to ride to work. You can also offer employer transportation benefits to those who use public transit. Regardless of which method(s) you choose, offering your employees a simple, inexpensive alternative to driving to work is a wise move.

Switch to PCW (Post-Consumer Waste) Paper

Although the world has largely transitioned to paperless documents, some businesses can’t avoid printing on a regular basis. If your business requires printing, make sure to use PCW paper products and packaging wherever possible. Although recycled paper is an improvement on new, or “virgin” paper products, it isn’t a regulated designation. Only PCW products are made entirely from recycled paper. They also use 45% less energy and create half as much waste in the manufacturing process as traditional paper products.

Eliminate Excessive Packaging and Single-Use Items Wherever Possible

This one can be a bit harder for employers to accept, but things like single-use coffee pods, plastic cutlery, water cooler jugs, and styrofoam cups make up a significant portion of the excessive waste North America produces. As an alternative, consider regular coffee, a water filter and reusable dishes and cutlery to keep your workplace from producing unnecessary trash that won’t biodegrade. You’ll also save the money you would’ve spent on refills for your water cooler, disposable dishes, and cutlery.

Clean Up Your Cleaning Products

Cleaning your office with harsh chemicals isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s bad for your employees. Harsh cleaning products can cause allergic reactions and other cumulatively negative effects on your workforce’s health. Switch out your cleaning products for their green alternatives and you’ll find your workplace a much happier, more energetic environment with fewer sick days.

There are dozens of small changes you can make to create an office culture that takes better care of the environment. Business owners are too often bogged down by the idea of installing solar panels and other environmentally sound systems that are effective, but expensive and impractical. By implementing these small, inexpensive changes, you can dramatically decrease your business’s carbon footprint and inspire your employees to do the same in their private lives. A healthy planet is good for people and businesses alike!


Business Credit 101

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

One of the most crucial components to effectively fund a business is its credit history. Credit reports help lenders determine how likely a business or individual is to repay their debt. While most individuals are aware of their credit scores, too many don’t know where those numbers come from or what details go into determining them, let alone how business credit is measured. Here are some of the basics of building and maintaining good credit as a business.

  • Simple steps to establishing a business’s credit.

As a fledgling business owner, the thought of establishing your business’s credit from square one may seem a bit daunting, but don’t be discouraged. Most of the processes involved in establishing good credit will serve you and your business in more ways than one.

First, you’ll need to either incorporate your business or form an LLC to establish your business as a legal entity. Then, you’ll need to get an employer identification number (EIN) from the federal government and open a bank account on behalf of your business. This is essential to legitimizing your business and ensuring that your personal and professional finances are appropriately differentiated. There are corporate service providers that can help with these steps if you feel ill-equipped or nervous.

Finally, you should register for a DUNS number with credit reporting agency Dun & Bradstreet. A DUNS is a nine-digit number that allows the agency to identify your business’s location and financial activity. Although it isn’t absolutely necessary, a DUNS number will simplify financial reporting on behalf of your business and allow creditors and suppliers to easily run a credit check on your company. These steps will help you establish a transparent, trustworthy business and taking them early will serve you well as your business grows.

  • Business and personal credit reports are different.

If you seek funding for your business, your personal credit may not have much bearing unless you are the sole owner and your business is very new. It’s also important to note that while personal credit scores range from 300 to 850, business credit scores usually range from 0 to 100. Lots of uninformed entrepreneurs are shocked and confused to find a much lower number than expected when they check their business’s credit score, so don’t fret.

It’s important to stay on top of your business’s credit and ledger even if you don’t currently need funding, as you never know when you might need a financial boost to seize a growth opportunity. The best way to ensure that your business has optimal credit and financial records is to pay all your bills (including utilities and rent on your workspace) consistently and on time. The better your business’s credit, the more options you will have if you decide to seek out funding. It is also important to note that credit reporting is less consistent for businesses than for individuals. This means that creditors will often ask to see a more thorough history of your business’s finances than you might expect, so even small delinquencies are likely to show up.

  • If your business’s credit is compromised, don’t panic!

Although your business’s credit score is important, a temporarily low score isn’t necessarily a death sentence. Low credit scores are usually a symptom of overzealous borrowing and/or underwhelming revenues, but they can be remedied over time. Provided you find a way to pay off your business’s debt, its credit score will gradually recover. If you find that your operational costs make it difficult for you to pay off your debt without accruing more, there are alternate ways to bridge those financial gaps.

If production costs are straining your working capital, consider seeking financing against your open purchase orders or invoices. The primary benefit of these kinds of financing is that they generally rely on your retail customers’ creditworthiness rather than your own. This means that rather than depleting your funds to produce large orders and/or struggling to stay afloat while your customers take their time to pay, you can receive the bulk of those funds upfront. The other benefit is that in many cases, you don’t need to repay your financier. Private lenders that offer financing against receivables will often collect from your customers on your behalf, so you’ll save time as well as money.

In short, carefully managing your business’s credit and general financial activity affords you a lot of options to mitigate the challenges that come with growth. The more consistent your financial records, the better you will be able to handle changes and recover from any difficulty your business may face in the future.

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Financing for a New Market

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

Innovation, in every sense of the word, has taken over. The combination of consistent technological advances and a global market in flux has changed the culture and functionality of business operations on a global scale. One of the most remarkable results of this has been a rise in creative financing methods designed to serve new business models or those that were previously difficult to fund.

Although some funding options are universally available to those with strong credit (i.e. SBA loans for new small businesses), managing a business’s debt and retaining maximum equity can be a tricky balance, particularly if you have lackluster credit or no credit at all. Fortunately, financiers are creating new services and creatively applying existing ones to accommodate businesses that previously didn’t exist or had limited access to sustainable funding. Here are a few of the most accessible and adaptable forms of financing available.

Inventory Financing

If you sell seasonally specific or highly specialized products, inventory financing is a great way to maintain your working capital without giving up equity or accruing excessive debt. For example, let’s say you sell specialty liqueurs year-round, but approximately 70% of your sales occur in the month leading up to Valentine’s Day. Even with healthy annual sales volumes, this inconsistency can complicate year-round operations and strain your resources.

With inventory financing services, your financier will simply store your unsold inventory in a secure third-party warehouse, then provide you with a loan or line of credit, using the stored inventory as collateral. Since you won’t need those bottles until next January, you’ll have plenty of time to supplement your operational funds, pay off the funding you receive, and distribute the goods in time for Valentine’s Day. Businesses that benefit most from inventory financing are wholesalers who sell non-perishable consumer goods, as they needn’t worry about a lack of quality control if their inventory spends weeks or months in storage before distribution.

Business Line of Credit

Although a line of credit isn’t exactly a new method of financing, its versatility makes it worth mentioning in this context. Since a massive proportion of new businesses don’t sell tangible goods, the lack of readily available collateral can make it difficult for them to secure funding. Unsecured lines of credit are specifically useful for this because, much like credit cards, they don’t necessarily require traditional forms of collateral. Lines of credit are also like credit cards in that if you consistently pay off your balance, cash advances up to the full amount in your assigned credit line are available to you at any time.

Equipment Financing

For businesses that sell perishable goods or don’t sell goods at all, equipment financing is an attractive option. If your business uses expensive appliances or computers, you may be eligible to receive a loan or line of credit against your equipment, much the same way an individual would against a car or real property. Provided that the value of your equipment is equal to or greater than your business’s financial need, this is one of the simplest options. Most businesses in the service industry can take advantage of this, including some that are particularly difficult to finance like restaurants, medical practices, laundromats, and factories.

Short or Medium-Term Loans

Short or medium-term loans from private lenders are a somewhat expensive option, but they can be extremely useful if your business needs cash immediately and can pay it back very quickly. These loans are generally approved within a day and as a result, have higher interest rates than a standard bank loan would. If you receive a large wholesale order for which you expect to receive payment immediately, a short/medium-term loan can provide you with the cash you need to produce and ship the goods and bridge the financial gap that can occur when you have to pay to fulfill an order before you receive any payment from your customer. There are a few ways to address this problem, but if timeliness takes priority over cost, this kind of loan is the best choice.

Purchase Order Financing

If you’re dealing with the cost prohibitive nature of production, but don’t have particularly good credit, purchase order financing might be your best option. Purchase order financing (sometimes called “PO funding”) relies on the creditworthiness of your customers rather than that of your own business. You receive a cash advance against confirmed, open purchase orders to help pay for production of the orders in question. This kind of financing also allows significant flexibility and can combine with other financial arrangements like receivables financing. This means you can easily establish a seamless system that allows you to fulfill orders quickly and consistently without potentially draining your operational funds or accruing more debt than you can manage.


In short, funding options have never been more plentiful. If your business needs a financial boost, there is likely a perfect solution to your needs and limitations. Be sure to research your options and choose a reputable lender who will walk you through its process and fees to ensure that you get the best solution for your business and budget.

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Handling SBA Loan Lags

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

The current government shutdown is the subject of nation-wide distress for myriad reasons. Sources are reporting that the shutdown, which is officially the longest in US history, has delayed public services like tax refunds, food, beverage and aviation product safety inspections, and millions of dollars in Small Business Association loans.

Generally, the SBA handles approximately $200 million in loans daily, but since the shutdown began, they’ve been unable to provide any financing aside from disaster assistance. As a result, hundreds of small businesses nationwide have waited a month for vital funds to help them grow and operate.

While many of the delayed loans are relatively small amounts, nearly 40% of them are known as 504 loans. These are meant to help business owners purchase real estate or costly equipment and can amount to $20 million or more. Regardless of quantity, many small business owners who rely on these loans are wondering how to bridge the gap until SBA loans are readily available again. The answer depends on where each business falls in the wide variety of industries the SBA serves.

Substituting these loans directly is tricky. If you or your business have very good credit, you may be able to replace your SBA loan with a regular bank loan, but it will likely take at least 60 days to reach you, which is decidedly unhelpful when speed is a priority.

We’ve discussed creative financing methods before, but not in terms of which methods are fastest. Depending on your budget, there are a few options that will give you access to quick funding for your business:

  • Factoring your receivables.

If you’re selling goods to creditworthy retailers, you can receive financing against your unpaid invoices. Provided you have all necessary materials and enough volume to qualify, you may receive funds within a day or two with this method.

  • Finance your purchase orders.

Purchase order financing (or PO financing) is a method designed precisely for wholesalers who need help covering production and shipping costs while they wait for their customers to pay. So, if you have purchase orders from creditworthy customers and need to bolster your business’s funds, PO financing is a great option.

  • Borrow against your unsold inventory.

If you have a stockpile of unsold inventory and a solid track record of consistent sales, you can borrow against your unsold inventory. This can take slightly longer than financing against your receivables or purchase orders since it requires a field examination (as do any lending arrangements involving goods, equipment, or real estate), but can be a highly useful tool if you find yourself in a slow season.

  • Enter a merchant cash advance agreement.

If your customers pay you with credit or debit cards regularly, you may want to consider merchant cash advance options. Merchant cash advance arrangements, or MCAs, aren’t technically considered loans, but operate in a very similar way. At the onset, you receive a lump sum in exchange for a percentage of your future credit/debit card sales. With an MCA, you will receive funds very quickly, but it is important to note that this is by far the most expensive option, as interest tends to run extremely high among MCAs and compounds over time.

There are numerous ways to handle an unexpected lag in your business’s operational funds, but be careful not to let an urgent situation lead you to poor lending choices that could hurt you down the road.

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Tackling Common Problems, Part 2

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

There are numerous difficulties associated with starting a new business. Establishing sustainable practices that leave room for growth is complex, but crucial to building a successful company and brand. We’ve already talked a bit about smoothing out cashflow and creating a sensible production process, but now let’s talk about some of the vaguer aspects of building a business:

  • Problem: you’re in the early stages of building your business and while you know what products you want to design and sell, you aren’t sure how to establish a brand for your business. How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors and create your own space in the market?

Establishing a brand is one of the most complex and crucial steps to building a successful business. Without a clear voice and intention, you are likely to get lost in a sea of businesses that sell similar products. The first step is to identify your niche: who is most likely to buy your products? Do your products appeal to an underrepresented demographic, or will you have to work hard to stand out among a large, commercially popular group?

Once you’ve figured out who your target audience is, you can start thinking about ways to more effectively appeal to that demographic. You may want to think about what else is popular or important among the people who buy your products and take a multi-pronged approach. There are a few ways to approach this depending on your priorities and preferences.

Most businesses have an overarching goal or company philosophy that guides their practices. Some businesses even take a stance on sociopolitical issues, as Uber, Lyft, and several others famously did after the 2016 election. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, it’s important to consider the fact that you may lose as many customers as you gain in doing so, depending on the issue and stance you choose. Some less divisive tactics include supporting a charitable cause and advertising your involvement or arranging a licensing agreement with a public figure (social media influencer, celebrity, etc.) who is relevant to your target demographic.

Another potential way to build your brand is to partner with a company in a similar field. Associating your business with an already trusted brand is a great way to establish yourself as a legitimate competitor and begin to form valuable relationships across your industry.

  • Problem: you recently decided to start hiring a team and expanding your business, but you’re not sure where to look or how best to choose new employees, especially since you can only hire a small number of people within your current operational budget. How can you ensure that you’re building your business in the most efficient and practical way?

We’ve talked about the complexities of hiring a new team within a limited budget before, but the key factors to consider are universal. Before hiring anyone, identify your business’s needs and do some research to determine the most efficient solutions. There are almost certainly businesses just like yours who’ve already figured out the best approach through trial and error, so looking into their methods will often save you the trouble of learning the hard way.

Once you know what you need, boil it down to the essentials and act as quickly as you can without rushing the decision-making process. The benefits of hiring the right people dramatically outweigh the cost of additional salaries, especially when your existing team is massively overloaded with work. As long as you vet your potential employees carefully and hire the best people you can, you’ll have a solid foundation for your team as it continues to grow.

  • You’ve got a great team and your business is growing more quickly and dramatically all the time. You’re excited, but you start to realize what Peter Parker learned from his uncle: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Having a growing and thriving business is the goal, but before your business reaches its potential, you need to consider things like healthcare and human resources if you want to keep your employees happy. You value the employees you have and want to do right by them, but how do you start?

Employee resources and benefits are crucial to a growing business, but the vast array of options and variables can be difficult to sort out without prior experience. Obviously, you should work out your budget and do your research, but if you plan to secure health insurance first, it is wise to hire a trustworthy insurance broker. The broker will be able to walk you through the options available within your budget and explain any complicated jargon that may confuse you.

If you decide to establish your human resources department first, however, you may find that you’ll be better equipped to approach employee benefits without needing a broker. Many small businesses start out without a human resources department, leaving employment issues to the owner or individual department heads. This can work for a while, but as the business grows, those responsibilities can quickly become overwhelming, especially for those who aren’t HR professionals. Hiring an HR professional will free up other employees to take better care of their regular responsibilities, plus your HR person will be qualified to ensure that your business is operating within legal parameters and isn’t risking a lawsuit.

In both cases, guidance from an experienced professional is a massive advantage, especially since a wrong move could cost your company dearly.

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Tackling Common Problems, Part 1

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

Running a wholesale business is financially and logistically complex. There’s a lot to monitor and numerous variables can force you, the business owner, to think and act quickly to effectively manage unforeseen difficulties. Fortunately, most of these difficulties fall into a few categories of common problems that come up for small to mid-sized businesses.

Since these issues are common, solutions are readily available, though perhaps not obvious to less experienced business owners. Addressing them is just a matter of having enough experience to know how best to do it. Here are a few examples of common hiccups for which new businesses might not be prepared and what to do if they come up:

  • Problem: you’re a clothing designer and you decide to start producing and selling your designs independently. You have your designs and samples ready, you’ve sold some pieces direct to customers online, and you’ve even had promising discussions with local boutiques that would like to sell your pieces. There’s just one problem: you’re running this business by yourself and there’s no way you can produce the quantities the boutiques want in the given time frame. How can you get your business off the ground and establish a sustainable production structure?

Designers and inventors consistently run into the same problem: how can I produce the required amount of my product by the time my customer needs it without overextending my resources? There are a few ways to handle this. One is to simply turn down orders you can’t reasonably fulfill using your current production processes, but that means you’d miss out on opportunities for growth.

Another approach is to hire a team to manufacture your products on-site. This is an expensive option since it involves hiring new employees and acquiring new equipment, but it allows you to control product quality and directly and provides a foundation for increased output. As long as the business doesn’t grow more quickly than your overhead can accommodate, manufacturing on-site is a perfectly viable option.

Alternately, many designers and inventors choose to outsource their manufacturing processes, which removes the need for additional employees and specialized facilities. Some creators aren’t comfortable handing their designs over entirely, usually because they worry that their design will be plagiarized or that product quality will suffer. While quality and security concerns are valid, sufficient research and vetting will indicate whether a production facility is trustworthy. As long as you do your homework, outsourcing is an effective and efficient way to increase production.

  • Problem: a buyer at a big-box retailer contacts you to place a huge order. Your production line is ready, but you soon realize that the cost of fulfilling such a big order will leave your operational funds severely depleted. You don’t want to pass up the opportunity to gain bigger customers and expand your business, so how can you fulfill the order without dipping into funds you need to run your business?

Many flourishing wholesalers lose traction because they pass on big orders from influential retailers out of fear that they’ll lose equity or acquire unmanageable debt. What a lot of new business owners don’t realize is that there are ways to supplement business-related costs that don’t involve expensive traditional-style loans.

One way to approach the issue is to apply for a line of credit with a bank or private financial institution. Just like a credit card, a line of credit allows you to defer expenses that might be prohibitive. As long as you and/or your business is creditworthy and you are able to pay on time, there is very little downside to securing a line of credit on behalf of your business.

Another option is to use alternative lending (or “alt lending”). Alt lending is a growing and thriving field in which lenders use creative financing methods, meaning that you don’t necessarily need perfect credit to receive funding. Private financial institutions who offer alt lending solutions can offer funding against purchase orders, invoices, equipment, and even unsold inventory. Most importantly, this method allows you to borrow small amounts as needed, rather than borrowing a lump sum and worrying that you’ll accrue excessive interest.


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Ugly Veggies Might Save the Planet

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

Recent studies have indicated that damage to the environment has progressed further than previously believed, so numerous corporations across industries are making changes to reduce waste and increase sustainability in their production processes. The produce industry is contributing significantly to this international shift, promoting more sustainable shopping and eating habits among its consumers.

One of the most prevalent efforts to this end is the recent “ugly produce” movement. As it currently stands, approximately 6 billion pounds of produce is wasted annually in the US. Much of the wasted food is perfectly safe to eat, but doesn’t meet the US Department of Agriculture’s appearance standards due to irregular size, shape, or surface imperfections like spots or minor bruising. Several grocery providers across the US have implemented programs like Imperfect Produce, Hungry Harvest, and Kroger’s Peculiar Picks that sell these items, which might otherwise go to waste.

Obviously, this movement is helpful in the global effort to limit wastage. It cleverly addresses the food waste issue and offers shoppers access to fresh, albeit slightly blemished, produce at discounted prices. However, the movement is the subject of controversy due to its perceived harm to food banks and independent farmers. Historically, grocery stores and suppliers would often donate some or all of their visually imperfect produce to food banks, who are obviously less choosy than the average consumer when it comes to the appearance of the food they receive. The arrival of the ugly produce movement concerned several experts, who speculated that consumers in search of a bargain would dip into supplies that were previously designated to food banks. Several food banks and other charities confirmed, however, that the quantity of wasted (but edible) food far outweighs the amount that food banks need to feed the underserved masses.

Another reason to embrace visually imperfect produce is that organic fruits and vegetables are treated with smaller amounts of less aggressive pesticides and are thus more likely to naturally vary in appearance. Recently, some experts have even asserted that visually imperfect fruits and vegetables may be tastier and healthier than their unblemished counterparts. Orchardist Eliza Greenman conducted an unofficial experiment on her pesticide-free apples, comparing those blemished from fighting off pests, excessive heat and fungus, with their unmarred equivalents. Remarkably, she found that the scarred apples had 2-5% higher sugar content. Likewise, another study found higher levels of antioxidant phenols and fruit acids in organic fruit when compared with those treated with more aggressive pesticides.

We’ve suspected the nutritional benefits of organic produce for some time. Although the spectrum of factors that contribute to antioxidant content isn’t fully understood, many of the antioxidants that naturally occur in fruits like apples develop in response to natural threats like pests and fungus. This means that attempts to artificially protect crops from these natural burdens makes our produce prettier, but potentially less flavorful and healthy.

In short, public embrace of “ugly” produce is good for the planet and apparently, good for our bodies.


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Bridging the Wage Gap

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

For many years, the gender wage gap has been the topic of numerous discussions, articles and debates. Despite increasing attention on the subject, most business owners genuinely believe that they pay all of their employees fairly and based on merit. Counterintuitive as it may be, the most confident CEOs are often the worst offenders.

A number of factors like career choices and discriminatory family leave laws contribute to the wage gap, but research indicates that these contributors don’t make enough difference to account for the disparity. Unfortunately, the biggest contributors tend to be a combination of archaic gender roles and double standards with regard to negotiation and self-promotion. On average in the US, women earn 79.6% of the salary a man earns in the same full-time, year-round employment conditions. Although the gap has certainly decreased over the years, we’ve got a long way to go, particularly among small and mid-sized businesses, before achieving equity.

Interestingly, companies that genuinely believe that they pay their employees fairly and based on merit often contribute most to the wage gap. For example, 91% of Midwestern employers claim that they pay their employees fairly, but the region has the widest discrepancy in the country, with female employees making an average of 43% less than their male peers. There are several reasons for the dramatic difference between perception and reality, but it primarily boils down to subjectivity of performance reviews and raises combined with (perhaps unintentional) discrimination. These issues are particularly prevalent at small companies where roles and responsibilities can be somewhat vague, complicating the potential for equal compensation. Another common road block on the path to equity is the fact that male employees are statistically far more likely to negotiate a starting salary or a raise than their female colleagues. In fact, even when women do attempt to negotiate, they are often seen as pushy or demanding, where their male colleagues are seen as decisive and empowered for doing the same thing.

Knowing all this, you may be wondering: what can I do to ensure that I’m paying my employees fairly? There are several ways to combat the factors that may lead you to unintentionally contribute to the wage gap. Start by researching anti-discrimination laws on the federal and state level to ensure that you are compliant. Then, simply look at the numbers and see if there is a disparity between the salaries of your male employees and those of your female employees at the same level. If you find that there is, consider why. It may be wise to standardize starting salaries, raises and/or bonuses based on position or level rather than allowing employees to negotiate them.

If, however, you find that your male employees are mostly or all in higher-paid positions than your female employees, you may want to reconsider your criteria for those positions and whether it offers an advantage to men over women. Take this opportunity to evaluate advancement opportunities across your company. If men are at a consistent advantage, give your female employees the opportunity to prove their worth and compete with their male colleagues on a level playing field.

Whether or not you unintentionally offer greater advantages to some employees than others, it is always worth evaluating the contributors that lead to promotions and raises on a company-wide scale. You may notice a discrepancy between competence and compensation and at the end of the day, delegating responsibility to your best people is always wise.


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Spotting Lending Scams

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

Recently, the alternative lending industry has expanded immensely, offering small business owners more funding options than have ever been available before. Unfortunately, this also means that scammers offering fake business loans target small business owners with increasing frequency. Without experience, avoiding these scams can be difficult but, fortunately, there are ways of identifying scams before you get taken in. Here are a few of them:

  • Research your source carefully.

It’s impossible to know everything about a lender before you enter an agreement with them, but where you find the lender (or in some cases, where they find you) is important. Lenders that advertise or reach out to you on networking and social media sites like Craigslist or Reddit are generally not legitimate. Rather than risk losing money to a fake lender, you can use a verified database site specifically designed to provide credible lender options. Vetting is always important, particularly when your business’s finances are involved, so be sure to research your lender as best you can before you commit or put money down.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Beware of any lender that asks you for an ambiguous fee before approving you for financing if the terms seem too good to be true (I.E. 0% interest, “No credit? No problem!”, guaranteed approval). Many financing arrangements involve upfront fees, but always know who you’re dealing with before you pay up. Generally, a scammer’s only goal is to get you to pay the initial fee, which is why they claim that absolutely anyone will qualify.

With some exceptions, most legitimate lenders have credit requirements for their clients. Even those that offer financing to clients with lackluster or nonexistent credit history will require some other type of collateral and will often charge high interest rates to clients with credit issues. Ads and emails from strangers claiming that you are “guaranteed approval” on your future loan are blatant lies, as no lender can guarantee approval without the client’s financial details.

  • Beware of unsolicited offers and “insider” deals.

As a general rule, financiers don’t reach out to businesses with whom they don’t have any relationship. On the rare occasion that they do, they’ll typically ask if you are interested in their particular services, rather than notifying you that you are “pre-approved” or have otherwise been chosen to receive a special deal.

By the same token, anyone offering “insider” information about business financing, particularly those who claim that they have the scoop on free grants from the federal government, should not be trusted. With extremely rare exception, there is no such thing as a free federal business grant. Besides which, the government isn’t in the habit of hiding grant opportunities from business owners; details on all federal grants are available online.

  • High-pressure salespeople are a sign of trouble.

Any salesperson will have some degree of urgency when they speak to a prospect, but if you’re talking to a supposed lender who insists that you sign on immediately, be wary. This particular issue may not always signify a scam, but any reasonable financier will give you time to sleep on it and come to a decision without a metaphorical gun to your head.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you disclose sensitive information.

This tip is valuable in any situation involving the transfer of sensitive banking or personal details. Never shy away from asking questions. The right financier will be happy to walk you through the process and explain any aspects that may be confusing.

Another way to avoid giving your sensitive information away to unsavory characters is to research your lending options and learn as much as you can about the mechanics of the type of financing you choose. Knowing as much as possible about how the process works in general will prepare you for the process as it should proceed and make you more likely to notice any red flags.


At the end of the day, it can be tricky to avoid scams, but use your best judgment and acknowledge any red flags you encounter before you give away any money or sensitive information.

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Peak Wholesale Seasons

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

If you’re relatively new to the wholesale business, you may find it difficult to navigate peak seasons for wholesale orders. Without ample experience, preparing for these times of year can be a bit of a scramble, but here are a few tips to help you prepare for the busy seasons:

  • Know when your busy seasons are.

This will depend on your industry, as peak demand for different kinds of products varies. There is no hard and fast rule for this, but generally speaking, the following timelines apply:

Apparel orders generally peak between December and January and then between July and August. Footwear and accessory items peak between late December and early February, then again between late July and early September. Hardgoods tend to peak in late January and early March, then again in August-September.

  • Manage your timeline.

To take full advantage of busy seasons successfully, make sure that you have time to fulfill the orders you receive. You can even implement a deadline for your customers to place their orders with you during the busiest times of year (I.E. holidays, back to school, etc.). Generally speaking, your customers will prefer to submit their orders early anyway, but a deadline will ensure that you don’t end up struggling to keep up with last-minute orders.

  • Favor big orders.

During less busy seasons, fulfilling small orders from your retail customers isn’t a problem since orders are generally staggered, which keeps you from becoming overwhelmed. During peak seasons, however, you may want to set a (reasonable) purchase order minimum, either in cost or in number of units. This will distill your orders to the ones that are most worthwhile and discourage your customers from ordering piecemeal, which can throw a wrench in your production schedule.

  • Assess production costs and plan accordingly.

One of the primary challenges any wholesaler faces is managing the cost of fulfilling orders, particularly when retail customers usually prefer to pay on open terms. If you can manage your operational costs such that you are prepared to spend more that usual on production, you’re in great shape. If not, you may want to consider seeking out financing your purchase orders, receivables, or both. These services are generally inexpensive and will allow you to fulfill larger orders than you could otherwise afford.

  • Ship with care.

If you aren’t experienced in managing your own logistics, you may want to seek out a professional, particularly if your production takes place overseas. Any wholesaler who’s experienced subpar logistical management will tell you that a lot can go wrong when your goods are being transported. If you haven’t developed a solid relationship with your factory yet, it may also help to use a letter of credit in place of a deposit when you place orders with them. The letter of credit will protect you from losing your deposit and ensure that your goods arrive on time and as expected.

  • Be ambitious, but reasonable.

Provided that you prepare scrupulously, there is no reason not to be a bit ambitious in planning for your peak seasons, but be mindful of overextending yourself and your resources. Dreaming big and taking risks is part of the territory for an entrepreneur, but be sure that you do the math and make sure you don’t find yourself stuck without the means to complete your orders.


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