Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem | Partner Series
Mastering Hard Conversations – How to Talk While Networking: Conversations to Best Explain Your Business
October 7, 2021
Sara Carter, Program Coordinator from CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center, lead the conversation with LeKesa Whitner of Start:Me Spartanburg and entrepreneur Tamika Thompson. LeKesa hears pitches and stories from many business owners, so she has a great perspective on how to stand out. Tamika is the owner of Beyond this February, a Black women owned independent bookstore that prioritizes Black stories year-round. Tamika has been a finalist in the Start:Me and Leap program.
See Tamika’s Facebook page for her pop-up book shops, including this Sunday at the Hub City Farmer’s Market.
Visit StartGrowUpstate.com for resources to start and grow your businesses!
Shared Chat and Contact information:
Proterra, a leading commercial electric vehicle technology company with manufacturing operations in Greenville, will become publicly listed through a merger with special purpose acquisition company ArcLight Clean Transition Corporation (Nasdaq: ACTC).
Many in our Upstate region know the story of Proterra’s move to Greenville and subsequent loss of funding. What may not be known is that over the years VentureSouth and the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) invested over $5,000,000 to support Proterra’s growth. It was these two groups coming together that helped keep Proterra alive and its manufacturing in Greenville.
VentureSouth’s investors started propping up Proterra in 2011 through the Upstate Carolina Angel Network (UCAN). As of today, 95 individual angel investor-members of VentureSouth, plus about 50 angel investors through 2 of the VentureSouth funds, believed in the electric bus company enough to continue investing almost $5,000,000 over the years. These VentureSouth angels can invest as little as $5000 to support growing companies in the southeast.
SCRA’s role was more than a funding partner. When the primary investor did not materialize in 2011, Proterra enrolled in SCRA’s SC Launch Program and became a Member Company in 2011. Proterra continued to progress through the program and became investible in 2011 with a $250,000 loan from SC Launch, Inc., SCRA’s investment affiliate. SC Launch, Inc. also provided an additional $180,000 in 2012 to help fund new equipment. SCRA stepped in and provided the funding and support Proterra needed to grow to its next phase of success and is considered an early investor on which Proterra’s success is built. Today, Proterra remains an SC Launch, Inc. Portfolio Company.
Proterra’s move to become publicly listed provides a financial return on the risk all those investors took in 2011 and over the years. When local investors support local companies, as those businesses grow and realize a return, the proceeds flow back into our Upstate and provide even more investment funds for growing companies. This is an all-around win for our entrepreneurs.
While most of Proterra’s electric buses have been deployed in California and other parts of the country, there are already several on the road here in the Upstate. In 2015, the town of Seneca became the world’s first all-electric bus fleet when they purchased six Proterra buses. The City of Greenville added four Proterra buses to their fleet in 2019.
In 2020, because of the generosity of local funders such as Michelin and Hollingsworth Funds, Greenlink received funds from the Federal Transit Administration to purchase 6 additional Proterra battery electric buses. When these buses arrive Greenlink will have a total of 10 Proterra buses, giving citizens all over Greenville cleaner air, additional transportation options and the smooth, quiet ride of a Proterra bus.
Proterra’s journey reflects our region’s growing understanding of the importance of supporting high-impact companies and other entrepreneurial ventures. It exemplifies what can be accomplished by collective investment and shared risk.
An Upstate Thank You to all of the UCAN, VentureSouth and SCRA investors.
Earl Gregorich, CBA
Area Manager & Business Consultant
Greenville Area Small Business Development Centers
In partnership with Clemson University
On January 11, 2021, the SBA and the U.S. Treasury Department reopened the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for First Draw PPP loans. Second Draw PPP Loans were made available on January 13, 2021. Interested borrowers can apply for both PPP loans through participating lenders but, you may want to check into the details first.
It is recommended you work with your local SC Small Business Development Center and your business banking professional. The SBA.gov website has a Lender Match tool and a lender mapping tool if you need help finding a lender.
As part of the second draw, there is a $25 billion set-aside for borrowers who meet specific criteria like, having a maximum of 10 employees and need a loans of $250,000 or less. Borrowers considered for the set aside program must also be located in low or moderate income neighborhoods.
The Second Draw PPP loans can be used for payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, worker protection costs (PPE), and uninsured property damage costs due to looting or vandalism occurring in 2020. Other supplier and operating expenses may also be acceptable uses of funds as outlined on the SBA.gov website.
Borrowers may qualify for a maximum loan amount of 2.5x average monthly 2019 or 2020 payroll costs up to $2 million. Businesses in the Accommodation and Food Service industries may qualify for 3.5x average monthly payroll costs in 2019 or 2020, up to $2 million. Your business NAICS code must begin with “72” to qualify for the 3.5x multiplier. See your tax returns or contact the SBDC for assistance finding your NAICS codes.
In order to qualify for the Second Draw PPP, you must also have received and used the full amount of a First Draw PPP. You must have 300 or fewer employees and must show at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts between two comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.
If you are interested and meet the qualifications, it is recommended you act fast. The period to apply for a Second Draw PPP will only be open until March 31, 2021 or until funds are exhausted. Borrowers should obtain an application from their lender or download Form 2438SD from the SBA.gov website. This form will outline specific requirements and list any other documentation that may be needed.
Similar to first draw loans, Second Draw PPP Loans made to eligible borrowers may qualify for full loan forgiveness if, during the 8-to-24-week covered period following loan disbursement:
- Employee and compensation levels are maintained in the same manner as required for the First Draw PPP loan (typically no more than a 25% reduction)
- The loan proceeds are spent on payroll costs and other eligible expenses and at least 60 percent of the proceeds are spent on payroll costs
Keep in mind the rules and regulations surrounding stimulus legislation are constantly being adjusted. For the latest information on PPP loans and other small business related stimulus, consult the SBA.gov website or contact your local SC SBDC office.
The SC SBDC advances South Carolina’s economic development by providing entrepreneurs throughout the state no-fee consulting, affordable training programs and access to an array of resources that can help them expand or create a thriving small/medium-size business. Contact the Greenville SBDC office at 864-370-1545.
Upstate Entrepreneur Virtual Ecosystem Workshop – February 3, 2021
Speaker Contact Information
The workshop focused on the program changes and moving forward activities for business owners to access Paycheck Protection Program 2nd Draw Funds, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and traditional SBA loan payment forgiveness.
Below are the key program changes, important guidelines, links to related websites and a copy of the chat comments and questions with abbreviated answers. The Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem and Ten at the Top are not experts on these topics and request that you talk with Earl Gregorich at the SBDC (contact information above) or your accountant to ensure complete understanding and compliance.
For answers to the questions in the chat, please watch the video. You may access the video here.
SBA website with Relief Options: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources
Key Program Changes:
- PPP is only available for companies under 300 employees (500 employee limit last time).
- Applications capped at $2,000,000 for 2.5 months of average monthly payroll ($10,000,000 cap last time).
- All PPP 2nd Draw loans will have the same terms, regardless of lender or borrower.
- The list of acceptable expenses expanded.
- Some non-profit organizations are now eligible for PPP support.
- For EIDL, agricultural businesses with 500 or fewer employees are now eligible.
- For businesses with SBA 7(a), 504 and Microloans, excluding PPP loans, debt relief for up to 6 months of principle, interest and related fees is available for all loans approved up to September 27, 2020. They do not have to be fully disbursed as in the past. SBA will make the monthly payments.
- The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant offers up to 45% of gross earned revenue with maximum grants of $10,000,000. Access online FAQ here. The venue or promoter must not have received a PPP loan on or after December 27, 2020 and must have been in operation as of February 29, 2020.
- Some applications have been revised and streamlined.
- Community Development Financial Institutions can now act as PPP lenders.
- PPP 2nd Draw loan applications are available here
- PPP Application period is January 13, 2021 to March 31, 2021.
- Organizations are generally eligible if they had any single quarter revenue that was at least 25% less in 2020 than in the same quarter in 2019.
- For EIDL funds, if you are in a low-income community and previously received an EIDL advance of less than $10,000 or were denied due to lack of available program funding, can apply again for up to the full $10,000.
- All PPP applications are for expenses going forward, no prior expense coverage.
- To qualify for PPP, a business must show a minimum 25% reduction in revenue for any single, isolated quarter from 2019 to 2020.
- Shuttered Venue Operators Grant is not accepting applications yet. More information available here.
Links to Websites:
2nd Draw PPP Frequently Asked Questions Document here
Shuttered Venue Operators Grant
LenderMatch can help find a lender to PPP 2nd Draw Loans
Faith-based organizations Frequently Asked Questions
From Earl G – GVL SBDC to Everyone :
Acceptable expanded List of Expenses Qualifying for Forgiveness to include – (40% Cap for non-payroll remains)
- “Operations Expense” – business software, cloud computing, other HR & Accounting needs related to operations
- “Supplier Costs” – payments to a supplier for goods essential to operations of the borrower (pre-PPP or perishable)
- “Worker Protection Expenses” – relative to COVID-19 worker safety
- “Covered Property Damage Costs” – due to public disturbances in 2020 not covered by insurance or other
Appalachian Development Corporation
Fund availability is not only for PPP, but it includes waivers for 504, 7a or any other SBA program, funds remain available until expended.
From Earl G – GVL SBDC to Everyone : Keep docs a minimum of 4 years
Chat Q & A
Q: What if you had a 50% decline in one quarter, but revenue increased in the next quarter are you still eligible? Also, is your amount of the loan based on the quarter that makes you eligible or is it based on current expenses/payroll?
A: It is a year over year comparison by quarter. For example, look at the first quarter of 2019 vs. first quarter of 2020. You just need to show that one quarter’s payroll needs to be down by 25% to be eligible.
A: has to do with payroll, not loss. It’s 2.5 times average
Q: Can you please elaborate on the 7a and 504 loans which are available to business which opened after February 15th?
A: 7A is the SBA flagship loan product. PPP built out from this. 504 are the microloan products. These are separate from PPP and have existed for years before the pandemic. The SBA guarantees these loans. It is a good time to consider expansion loan for your business due to six month payback on principal and interest, fees are being waived, guaranteeing up to 90% on the guarantees (if you are in the position to take on debt).
Q: Concerning a 2nd PPP grant. When calculating if you qualify to apply for a 2nd loan do you add the first PPP loan amount to your revenue for 2020 and then see if the amount is at least a 25% reduction from 2019 to apply for the 2nd PPP grant?
A: No. PPP loans are not considered revenue, so you do not count these loans or grants as revenue in these calculations.
Q: Do independent contractor classifications matter?
A: Look at the quarter. Lender is helpful in working through questions like this.
Q: As far as forgiveness goes are you hearing of any obstacles keeping businesses from having forgiven funding for PPP loans?
A: The forgiveness form was too lengthy initially and was simplified in December to a one page form. There is a high demand right now, so there may be a delay in deliverables. No issues in forgiveness.
Q: What is the current interest rate on the PPP loans now?
A: 1%, two year maturity prior to June 5(?), then raised to five years. Only for part not forgiven. No early repayment penalties.
Q: As a sole proprietorship, what can you use your PPP loan on the first PPP, can I use it toward payroll, supply?
A: Yes, use PPP loan on payroll and other operational items after 60%. The application form lists out all items. Maintain 60/40 split. With 8-24 week period for calculating forgiveness, many can justify 100%. PPP and EIDL were meant to be used together; use PPP for payroll, EIDL for operation expenses, for example.
Q: Employees worked for first eight week period, can they still use 24 weeks of payroll after laying people off after eight weeks?
A: Schedule meeting with Earl to ensure qualifications.
Q: Is the EIDL loan at 1% or 2.5%
A: EIDL is at 3.75% for business 2.75 for non-profit for 30 years.
Q: If you put down a deposit for an event, can you use to cover?
A: PPP loans cannot be used for this purpose. Please see list on borrower application form.
Q: Is there a projection of when PPP funds will run out?
A: No, but when Congress reappropriated PPP has gone well. Should money start running out, there will be additional conversations, but don’t delay!
Q: Does being an independent contractor in 2020 and 2021 qualify you or do you have to be an
LLC or have a payroll system in place as of February 15, 2020 to get PPP?
A: Yes, to pay future payroll. Forgiveness begins when the loan is paid out.
Q: Where does grant go on income statement?
A: Other income for grants, loans different. Consider separate checking account.
Sneak Pique Recap
Pique rescheduled tentatively for Fall 2021
Welcome special guests from Converse College – Professor John Jeter’s “Build your brand” class
Creating a Safer Upstate Initiative – Stinson Ferguson introduced the initiative and invited interested parties to contact Justine Allen firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Networking in a Digital Age presentation
Please see the chat stream and additional resources below:
From John Jeter to Everyone: My emails are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. If y’all would be willing to share your emails, that would be cool.
From Jessica Miserendino to Everyone: Great Info Abby! When we host our in-person Pique, we plan to have a headshot booth set up to help enhance your LinkedIn profile!
From Sarah Butler to Everyone: If there are any USC Upstate Alumni in the house, here is how to get involved with Alumni Relations: https://www.uscupstate.edu/alumni/
From Sarah Butler to Everyone: Each college and university in Spartanburg has a Handshake account: https://app.joinhandshake.com/login
From John Jeter to Everyone: Career Services and Development on campus would be your “HR office.”
From Jordan Christian to Everyone: For my fellow Tigers: https://alumni.clemson.edu/get-involved/
From Dean Hybl to Everyone: As a supervisor, I think an employee has to be careful not to be so focused on creating their own personal brand that they seem less interested in supporting the work of the organization. I like the comment about personal reputation more than a personal brand.
From Sarah Butler to Everyone: Career Services at colleges and universities in Spartanburg:
Converse College – https://www.converse.edu/life-at-converse/career-planning/
Spartanburg Community College – https://www.sccsc.edu/services/career/index.php
Spartanburg Methodist College – https://www.smcsc.edu/resources/student-support-services/career-development/
USC Upstate – https://www.uscupstate.edu/academics/university-college/career-management/
Wofford College – https://www.wofford.edu/academics/career-center
From Dean Hybl to Everyone: Great points about relationship building. That can be critical in helping build your knowledge base and network.
From Sarah Butler to Everyone: Abby and Joey– I know you do heavy recruiting for ScanSource specifically, but how much have you reached out to job seekers using LinkedIn? What are things you like to see and what are things you could stand to never see again?
From Justine Allen-Ten at the Top to Everyone: Sometimes I pick up the phone instead of emailing, thoughts?
From Evan Carr to Everyone: Justine, I agree and do the same thing – for me it depends on timing and the content of my questions and requests. Sometimes also depends on how well I know that person and their preferences.
From John Jeter to Everyone: Making calls. Yes!
From Sarah Butler to Everyone: I can confirm and testify about the ScanSource Opportunities. There have been NUMEROUS times when my students have wanted to learn more about the company and the opportunities there. Abby, Joey, and their entire HR team have been extremely helpful in making those connections. I’ve had the same experience with a number of our upstate region companies. It just takes a call or email! They are very helpful and responsive.:)
From Jason Weidman to Everyone: Absolutely, Justine! I totally agree picking up the phone is the way to go. Quicker connections and results.
From Stinson Ferguson to Everyone: Avoid typos on your profile AND in your posts!From John Jeter to Everyone: What about adding blogs/stories on your LinkedIn site?
From Evan Carr to Everyone: And Volunteer work (aside from Boards/Committees)?
From John Jeter to Everyone: Love this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
From Ryan Gravely to Everyone: It’s been super informative! Thank you
From Brittney Scurry to Everyone: lunchclub
Upcoming Event and Resource Links:
Ten at the Top
Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem Workshop
Second Draw PPP – Feb. 4
10:58:24 From Justine Allen-Ten at the Top to Everyone: TATT Chat – Feb. 18
Upstate Mobility Alliance
How Transportation Creates Community Vibrancy – Feb. 23
Upstate Professional Planners
Greenlink Presentation on Mobility – Feb. 24
Britton Rodgers: If you are in Anderson I would love to give you information on our Young Philanthropist Program! https://www.unitedwayofanderson.org/young-philanthropists
Brittney Scurry: LunchClub is a great way to network with people all over the country https://lunchclub.com/?invite_code=brittneys1
Sarah Butler: Spartanburg Young Professionals (SYP)
Jessica Miserendino: If anyone is interested in joining the Pique planning committee, please reach out to Justine! We are looking for new members and would appreciate any input or feedback! email@example.com
Natalie Jones: Anderson Rising, the premier Young Professionals group in Anderson County, has many exciting events coming up including Networking Lunches (virtual, of course), after hours, and professional development events. I am happy to answer any questions – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jordan Campbell: If anyone in here is located in the Clemson Area, the Clemson Chamber is working to start a new Young Professionals group. If you are interested in the program and would like to be a part of the planning committee, please shoot me an email at Jordan.email@example.com so that I can get you some information!
Emelie Hegarty: My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone is interested in more information on learning about how to turn an idea into a business; start-ups hiring in the Upstate; etc.
Britton Rodgers: Here is a little more info: I am happy to talk with you all further. I hope you will join us at United Way! As a Young Philanthropist, you can look forward to:
Serving our community through regular volunteer opportunities. Connecting with like-minded peers to expand your network and give back to our community.
Learning about our area’s most pressing challenges and the ways in which you can help address them through philanthropy and service. Developing your professional skills through regular development opportunities.