The Ins and Outs of Financial Literacy – What Should You Know?

The Ins and Outs of Financial Literacy – What Should You Know?

The first thing that usually pops into people’s minds when they think of “financial literacy” is usually an endless Excel spreadsheet filled with numbers that are impossible to understand. Only one-third of adults in the world understand basic financial concepts, and 4 out of 7 Americans are considered financially illiterate. However, financial literacy is a crucial tool that isn’t all that hard to learn! Below, we talk about some of the most important tips that can help you strengthen your knowledge of personal finance.

  1. Keep a Budget: Keeping a simple budget is a great way to stay on top of your personal finances! It’s okay if you’re not a math wiz – you can set up a simple spreadsheet to record your income and monthly expenses, and there are great tools and websites to help you stay on track, like Mint.com!
  2. Prioritize Saving: If you’re trying to save up for something big, do it step-by-step! Save small amounts over a longer period of time – this will help you track your budget and make sure you can afford bigger-ticket items.
  3. Watch Your Credit: Don’t get caught up in crazy credit card offers! Be sure to stay on top of any line of credit that you open. It’s much easier to keep up a good credit score if you don’t have any blemishes or late payments on your credit history. Using your credit cards regularly with small expenses is a great way to build credit! Consistent, timely payment is key.
  4. Keep Your Finances Secure: Make sure to keep any information related to your personal finances private. Don’t input your credit card information on a public device, and don’t share your passwords to bank accounts with other people! The stronger the password, the better, and be sure to change it every so often.

These are just a few tips for keeping your own personal finances on track. HMFI offers a series of modules for more detailed information on how to take your understanding of personal finance to the next level and improve your ability to budget, save, and build credit. Check it out now!

Georgie Wilson, SFS ’24


All You Need to Know About Microfinance

All You Need to Know About Microfinance

Since 2008, HMFI has worked to disburse micro loans to members of the D.C. community, and we’ve been working to constantly grow our impact in microfinance within the DMV area. However, one of our most common questions is, what exactly is microfinance? 

Microfinance, or micro loans, is a form of banking services provided to members of communities all over the world who cannot gain funds or resources from traditional banking routes. Microfinance has existed for hundreds of years, yet it began to gain attention in the 1980s as the Grameen Bank was founded to help startup businesses in Bangladesh. Since then, microfinance has flourished throughout the world, including the United States.

This financial avenue has directly impacted over 120 million people by 2021, yet the World Bank has estimated that at least 500 million people have been indirectly impacted by the benefits of microfinance too. Microfinance is specifically crucial to the D.C. community, as many individuals within the area are faced with limited financial resources that traditional banks do not cater to. With over 37,000 businesses with less than 50 employees in Washington D.C. as of 2020, there is a great need for microfinance institutions to support small businesses in the D.C. and greater DMV area. 

HMFI has disbursed 13 loans to clients in the DMV area, and our mission is to make sure to provide clients with working capital in order to make a tangible, long-lasting impact. Ranging from a real estate business to a food truck, HMFI has worked for over the past decade to make microfinance and micro loans available to hard-working D.C. small business owners. Whether it be a Small Business Loan or an Impact Loan, HMFI offers D.C. small businesses the opportunity to grow and improve as much as possible!

 

Georgie Wilson, SFS ’24


Updating Online Platforms!

How to Stay Connected with Clients During COVID-19 Series

Updating Online Platforms

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people are increasingly relying on business websites and emails for information. Sending out regularly scheduled newsletters and maintaining a polished website are two ways to ensure that your clients have access to relevant information regarding your business. Below are some ways to help maintain strong relationships with clients through newsletters and your website.

Send out weekly or monthly newsletters

1.Include weekly updates about your business

Write about how your business is working to adapt and serve clients during COVID-19. You can also include information about changes you are making to your product/service as well as employee updates.

2. Share news related to your business

You can include links to news articles that are related to your business or the DMV area. This will help your clients stay updated with your business and industry as a whole. It will also make your newsletters more timely and engaging.

3. Feature different clients or employees in newsletters

Featuring clients in newsletters is a great way to show appreciation for your clients and dedication to clients as individuals. Featuring employees will give your newsletters more of a personal touch and offer a sense of human connection.

4. Provide helpful tips for clients

By providing tips to clients, you can increase clients’ incentive to click on and read through your newsletters. This can help bring more attention to your business as well as help your clients personally.

Update your website

1. Make sure your social media is up to date on the website

As businesses are constantly shifting their strategies and operations during the pandemic, it is important to keep clients updated about changes. To make sure that clients know the latest information, go through your website and make sure there is nothing outdated.

2. Provide resources for your clients relevant to COVID-19

Many individuals have had to adapt during COVID-19. To make this process easier, provide resources to your clients that are also relevant to your business. This is just another way to show your clients that you care about them personally.

3. Improve website format/layout if necessary

Because people are increasingly relying on online platforms for information, take some time to update and polish your website. Make sure it is organized so that clients can easily navigate it. Grouping similar information under tabs can help make your website more organized.


What to expect on your first call with HMFI!

What To Expect on Your First Call With HMFI!

By Arman Alim (MSB’24)

HMFI has the pleasure of serving small business owners throughout the DMV area with the utmost kindness, diligence, and respect. As an organization we pride ourselves on getting to know you and your business on a personal level and not just as another number! 

We love talking to potential clients and hearing their stories as well as challenges as they shape the past, present, and future of any business. 

In order to get to know you better and best serve you on a holistic level, you’ll have the pleasure of talking to an amazing member of our client services team! I know it can be nerve-wracking and even overwhelming to meet with us, but I can assure you that it will be a seamless and productive experience for both of us!

To make everything smoother, here’s what you should expect!

1. Expect to be politely and enthusiastically greeted by an awesome member of our HMFI team

They will do everything in their power to make you feel comfortable and feel valued by our organization. We are here to serve and support you!

2. Be ready to talk about yourself!

We love to hear about what makes you as awesome as you are. Everyone has unique stories and interesting experiences that have shaped them and their business.

3. Expect to explain the business and what makes it great!

Each business has its own strengths and unique aspects that truly makes it stand out. We want to hear about them in detail in order to best serve you.

4. Expect to be followed up with in a timely manner!

Everyone in the client services team is here to help you throughout the process, and will ensure that you have all the necessary information going forward. We will make sure you know what the next steps are as soon as possible.

HMFI is truly an amazing organization with extraordinary people serving fantastic individuals and small businesses. 

You should be sure to expect all of these things the next time we have the chance to sit down and speak with you! We’re here to help and make everything go as smoothly as possible. We look forward to meeting you! 

Published on August 21, 2021


Using Facebook as a Business Tool

Using Facebook to Promote Your Business: Get your name out there!

By Arman Alim (MSB’24)

With over 100 million monthly users in the United States, everyone is on Facebook: young and old. Although the social media space can be a difficult place to navigate, it can also be a gold mine when it comes to growing your business and getting your name out there.

Facebook gives you so many opportunities and avenues to promote your business. Here is a guide to utilizing Facebook to your advantage:

1. Create a page for your business!

This will be the face of your business on the website and will ensure that everyone has a centralized place to see all the aspects of your business. 

2. Make sure you have a business logo that is professionally produced as your profile picture

Don’t just pick any picture because people will often judge the quality of your business by the appearance and layout of the page. Put your best foot forward and pick an eye-catching profile picture.

3. Include a professional-looking banner that shows off your business

It can be anything unique to you and your business. Maybe a picture of the staff, front desk, product, or anything else that is relevant! Make your page pop.

4. Ensure you have contact information in the “About” section of your page so people can reach you easily

It is essential that people have proper contact information especially if they are interested in your business. This can be an email address or phone number, whichever is more convenient for you!

5. Make sure you post content that showcases your business!

If you’re a restaurant owner, show off your food with detailed descriptions. If you’re a gym owner, show off your gym space and equipment. Whatever you do, make sure you show off the quality of your business in the posts section. This section should be able to summarize exactly what your business does and give people an idea of what they can expect from you!

6.Try to get as many reviews as possible!

Ask past customers to do you a favor and give you a review. People use these as a way to evaluate the legitimacy of your business. Make sure you put your best foot forward and have stellar reviews.

7. Join small business Facebook groups and advertise/connect with other business owners there

People are always looking to support local businesses whether that be consumers or fellow small businesses in your area. Get your message out there by contacting groups that are relevant to your business and actively network on them.

8. If you have extra funds, try out Facebook Ads!

They are an excellent way to create traffic on your page and get the word out about your business to more people. Although it can be pricey, it can be a good way to get people in the door which could bolster your business.

Facebook is a buzzing place where you can grow your business and get a foothold in the online space. Make sure you sign up today and get your name out there. Follow this guide and you’ll be on your way to Facebook stardom!

Published on August 21, 2021


Networking 101: Branching out and growing your business & network

Guide to Networking

By Arman Alim (MSB’24)

Getting yourself and your business out in the world can be tough and stressful, but it doesn’t always have to be

Networking is an essential part of everyday life from friends and family to the workplace. Especially in regards to businesses, networking can be the difference between your business/ professional life going under and staying afloat. Here are several things to keep in mind in order to make networking painless and an asset to your business.

1. Attend networking events!

 These events should be focused on your business segment or anything you anticipate growing into! Try to use them to gain expertise in your field as well as get to know people with similar backgrounds as you.

1. Try out Eventbrite! It is an awesome place to find events. There are thousands of in person and virtual events posted.

2. Facebook Posts/Groups! Another place where people are constantly posting events locally and virtually.

2. Bring a friend/partner with you to networking events!

They can make icebreakers that much easier and can help you better articulate your business, goals, and vision when networking. There is power in numbers and that definitely applies when networking.

3. Always make sure you follow up!

You can only talk so much with someone at a time, make sure you are able reconnect and continue to build important relationships! Find something that you can follow up with, ANYTHING to get the conversation to roll over.

4. Follow up with clients that you have previously worked with 

Ask them to refer you to others that might be helpful to your business going forward! Everyone always has a friend that can give a helping hand!

Keep a list of past clients and make sure you reach out to them! Your past clients know your worth and can advocate for you best! 

5. Network with people that you wouldn’t naturally consider!

Maybe someone from a completely different business or background. Having differing perspectives and viewpoints can be extremely helpful.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself! Anyone and everyone can help you in their own unique way.

6.Don’t be afraid to reach out online to network!

People that are valuable can be all over the place. The internet gives us the opportunity to meet with people face to face from all over the world, USE IT!

The world is more interconnected than ever, you can definitely make valuable connections over the internet through Zoom Calls and other platforms! Overcome distance and gain knowledge! 

7. Networking doesn’t have to be super formal!

Just find people you would think could help you or give you good advice & meet them over lunch casually and talk business! 

Find any excuse to get to know people and pick their brain. It can be over coffee, lunch, a walk in the park, or anything where two people can talk to each other.

Networking and getting yourself out there isn’t a scary process and can actually be fun! Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to success personally and professionally.

Published on August 13, 2021


Small Businesses: Tips for Boosting Social Media Engagement

What Is Social Media Engagement?

By Jared Price (MSB’23)

Social media engagement is a measure of how people are interacting with your social media content. There are several metrics used to track interaction and activity across social media platforms: number of likes, comments, shares, retweets, followers and audience growth, click-throughs, tagged or untagged mentions, etc. The popular social media platforms for marketing include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, and TikTok. Regardless of the platform or metric, high levels of engagement shows that followers are interested in your posts and want to support your business. High engagement is heavily correlated with better marketing reach, greater brand awareness, and improvement in ROI.

Improving Social Media Engagement

A big challenge facing companies’ marketing efforts, especially in the wake of the pandemic, is low engagement rate across social media platforms. Social media engagement is critical to enhancing marketing reach and creating greater brand awareness. Luckily, there are several steps that can be taken to improve your business’s social media engagement. Below we break down some important tips to help boost engagement rate across your platforms:

1. Analyze your engagement

It is important to establish a baseline before putting an engagement strategy into place. Tracking your current number of followers, comments, like, and shares on average per post will help you measure your growth going forward. Make sure to track your engagement regularly and think about what trends are influencing your data (i.e. if certain posts working better than others, specific months generate more engagement than others, etc.).

2. Get to know your audience

Conducting audience research is a great way to gauge who is interacting with your content. Make the effort to identify and analyze your target market – learn as much as you can about their demographics, interests, other likes, etc. From there, you will gain a better understanding of which social media platforms to post on, when to publish, what type of content is likely to generate the most engagement, your brand image, and much more.

3. User-Generated Content

A great way to boost media engagement is to encourage more user-generated content. Having clients post about your company on social media about the services they received is useful.  tactic that allows clients to interact with your brand and get their content featured on your profile. Depending on the platform, there are several creative ways to get your audience into your content: answering user-generated questions, posting polls, hosting media upload contests, or simply spotlighting customers in your story.

4. Real-Time Interactions

Another tactic is to better utilize social media reach to create real-time interactions with clients. For example, employees could host weekly Q&A’s about their work using Instagram and Facebook Live Video features. Another form of real-time interaction could include manually replying to your audience directly on platforms by monitoring and engaging in the comments section. These are creative ways of engaging your audience.

5. Quality AND Quantity

Lastly, posting frequently and using high-quality visuals (photos, videos, infographics, GIFS) across all platforms is critical to boosting engagement. There are many third-party sites that help generate high-quality content. Canva is a very simple and efficient third-party photo editor for your branding images and content posts. HMFI’s marketing team uses canva to create and design our media posts. There are several other options available as well.

6. Don’t be afraid to experiment

Implementing any or all of these ideas will surely lead to increased engagement rates across our platforms. Take the time to plan your engagement strategy and put it into action. With many businesses still operating virtually, it is critical that your small business knows how to create and share valuable content across social media platforms.

Published on April 25, 2021


DMV Small Business: Ways to Reach a Younger Audience

DMV Small Business Tactics to Reach a Younger Audience

By David Kim (NHS ’24)

What is the importance of targeting the younger generation? There are around 80 million millennials in the U.S., making them the biggest demographic in the country. Millennials also make up most of the workforce. Basically, the reason why marketers target the younger generation is the long-term potential. Most of the younger generation hasn’t reached their peak buying power as most are bogged down by student loans and starting families. However, by building loyalty with the younger generation, it allows companies to have a more secure future within their respective markets. So here are the top nine ways to market the younger demographic:

1. Take a stance on social justice.

    • The younger generation values supporting a social cause, and they’ll feel more motivated if there’s an ulterior motive. Especially in a location like Washington D.C., a hub for socially-minded people, there’s a high demand for businesses that look to improve society. But, make sure your business is not one-dimensional. Adding a social justice message brings depth to your company and builds credibility! For example, Frere Branchiaux Candle Co. in D.C. donate 10% of their proceeds to homeless shelters nationwide.

2. Create value to your product, whether that’s sales or discounts.

    • Younger people love finding things on sale and discounts mainly because they like creating value to their purchases. Further, the typical college student may not have the most amount of funds on hand. For example, instead of offering services or goods at original price, bundle 10% off with a subscription to your newsletter to build a marketing presence while bringing value.

3. Use the right social media channels. 

    • Know where the younger demographic interacts on social media. A majority of younger people don’t even have a Facebook account! Learn how other companies are utilizing TikTok’s algorithm to get millions of views on your product, and research which demographics use which platforms the most. It is even helpful to research which tags are the most popular among your target demographic.

4. Communicate effectively.

    • Younger people have short attention spans so know how to get your message across in a few words and pictures. Use bold font and clear colors to send a simplified message too. You want to capture the audience’s attention and hold onto it to share your message.

5. Prioritize the Mobile Experience.

    • Leverage the technology around you and make sure to prioritize the mobile experience, whether through websites or apps or social media. You can even optimize SEO for google so it’s easier for consumers to find you. Ultimately, by using a mobile experience, it makes it more convenient for users to access your business, and with SEO, it is more likely they will.

6. Know the trends in music, attire, and yes, even memes.

    • Keep updated on recent trends and know how to leverage it correctly. Many products go viral on Tik Tok by using trends. Follow other similar companies and research how the’re keeping up with trends too!

7. Implement the community. 

    • Hiring younger employees could help to give your business a younger perspective. In addition, partnering with student organizations in the local community could show certain aspects of the younger demographic within the D.C. area that your business is personable, local, and convenient. Offering sales to college students or utilizing student club services could also be an additional benefit.

8. Create consistent, recurrent value. 

    • Figure out how your business can keep customers coming back on a consistent model. For example, if you don’t post on your Instagram consistently, people will no longer follow due to the lack of value. Make sure you post consistently and the aesthetic looks similar in order to establish a strong and reliable brand image. 

9. Let customers know how the company is responding to the pandemic.

    • By showing customers how the company is handling COVID, it builds trust and reassurance in people who are more wary of safety and care for other’s health. this can also be through having a dedicated page showing your dedication to safe practices. 

 


Small Business Owners: Retain and Grow Clients during a Pandemic

In a pandemic, keeping in touch with past clients and reaching out to potential ones is more important than ever.

 Thankfully today, connecting with clients over social media is a simple, quick, and effective way to maintain relationships. As the popularity of social media grows, marketing and outreach through online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are becoming increasingly important. Here are few tips about interacting with clients and maintaining an engaging profile on social media.

  • Comment on posts clients tag you in!
    • Get people to tag you in their posts, and give them incentive to do so through making sure you response and engage with each one.
    • Commenting and liking your clients’ posts on social media shows that you are interested in them individually, and spending a few minutes each day interacting on social media can help you maintain client relationships in the long run.
    • For example, if a client posts and tags you, respond either welcoming them back to your business or supporting them. 
  • Keep up with your own account and post on a regular schedule
    • Maintaining a strong social media presence requires posting regularly. You can choose to post, one, twice, or multiple times a day, but it is important to stay consistent so that your clients can expect when to see your posts.
    • Make sure that you also post aesthetically similar content (colour-scheme-wise and graphics-wise to curate a cohesive theme and brand on your page!)
  • Answer questions on social media
    • Every week or so, allow clients to ask questions and post the answers on your Facebook or Instagram story. Posting the answers to client questions shows not only that you are responsive to clients but also can help attract new potential clients with similar questions. 
    • On Instagram just go to the story button, click on the sticker button, and find “Questions.” On Facebook, click the plus button above “create a story” then click “create a photo story,” and lastly, click “share to story.”

  • Create/join groups with interests that align with those of your business
    • On Facebook, you can create or join groups that are relevant to your business. You can join groups that pertain to your business’ interests or create new discussion/focus groups to gain feedback from clients and create conversation among your client base.
    • Examples of D.C. area small business groups include “Small Business Owners – DMV (DC, Maryland & Virginia),” “DMV Small Business Support Group,” and “NOVA Small Business Exchange.”

  • Post about the latest news related to your business
    • Sharing links with news related to your business can be a simple, engaging post for clients. For instance, a small gym might post a news story with the latest information about nutrition and fitness. You can post a wide variety of articles ranging from those that cover national news to those focused on the D.C. area.

There are so many ways to stay in touch with clients during a pandemic, especially with the help of modern day technology. At the end of the day, make sure you ultimately stay active on your social media, reach out to clients, answer questions, and engage with them as much as possible.


Biden-Harris Administration and Changes to PPP

Biden-Harris Administration PPP Reform

By Jared Price (MSB’23)

The Biden-Harris Administration is implementing several reforms to Small Business Administration (SBA) programs, specifically the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), in the wake of the pandemic. The changes expand much-needed support to struggling small businesses and further promote equitable access to relief. In the following blog post, we’ll break down these important updates and what they mean for small business owners in the DMV area. 

Important Changes to PPP

Previous relief efforts left behind hard-hit small businesses who needed it most. The latest round of PPP funding under the Biden-Harris Administration prioritized equitable relief efforts for these marginalized businesses. The following reforms support your small business’s efforts to survive, reopen, and rebuild during this time of difficulty:

Provide additional financial support to sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals. A significant majority of all businesses fall into this category. These types of businesses include small independent retailers, home repair contractors, and beauticians. Many businesses in this category operate without employees and are located in low- and moderate-income (LMI) areas. The current PPP calculation formula structurally excludes millions of these applicants or approves them for as little as $1. The Biden-Harris Administration is revising the loan calculation formula and setting aside $1 billion for businesses in this category.

Consistent with the bipartisan bill, eliminate exclusionary restriction that denies small business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions access to relief through the Paycheck Protection Program. Businesses with 20% ownership held by an individual who has either 1) an arrest or conviction for a felony related to financial assistance fraud within the previous five years or 2) any other felony within the previous year are ineligible for PPP. The Biden-Harris administration is pressing for bipartisan reforms included in the PPP Second Chance Act, which would eliminate the second restriction (the one-year look-back).

Eliminate an exclusionary restriction that denies small business owners who are delinquent on their federal student loans access to relief through the Payroll Protection Program. Businesses with 20% held by an individual who is currently delinquent or has defaulted on a federal debt, including a student loan, within the last seven years, are ineligible for PPP. The SBA is working with the Departments of the Treasury and Education to remove the student loan delinquency restriction.

Ensure access for non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents by clarifying that they may use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to apply for relief. Under the PPP statute, all lawful U.S. residents are eligible to access the program. But, a lack of guidance from the SBA in prior rounds of funding created inconsistencies in access for ITIN holders, including Green Card holders or those living in the U.S. on a visa. The SBA issued clear guidance in the past weeks to broaden access to PPP to all lawful U.S. residents.

Additional Relief Efforts

Along with these specific reforms, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking additional steps to ensure equitable distribution of relief. These efforts include: 

  • Addressing waste, fraud, and abuse across all federal programs to create streamlined approval processes.
  • Promoting transparency and accountability by improving the PPP loan application.
  • Improving the Emergency Relief Digital Front Door by updating key areas of SBA websites and providing easy access to relief resources. 
  • Conducting extensive stakeholder outreach to gauge challenges and opportunities in the deliverance of current emergency relief programs.
  • Improving the current lender engagement model to further provide personalized support and access to capital for small businesses.

For additional information about current relief programs and HMFI’s role in supporting your small business, please visit our COVID resource center here.

Published on March 21, 2021