Online platform with Sonoma County connection Hello Alice helps business owners launch for success

Overworked small business owners often say they work 25 hours a day, eight days a week.

Many people can often feel lost in the maze of business loans, accessing venture capital and finding the best resources to make a small business successful.

That’s what inspired co-founders Carolyn Rodz, based in Houston, and Elizabeth Gore, based out of Sonoma County, to launch their online platform Hello Alice in 2017.

The co-founders met when Gore was working for Dell as an entrepreneur back in 2015, looking for ways the company could help promote small businesses.

Rodz had just sold his second company and was working on what was the early stages of Hello Alice where small business owners could get a better idea of ​​what resources they had — such as funding, networking and grant opportunities — and how to access what they didn’t.

“I just kept thinking how great this would have been on day one of my business to understand that these resources and networks and conferences existed,” Rodz said.

“I was shocked at how hard it was to start a business (in America), especially for women,” Gore said. “The whole idea (with Hello Alice) was to use machine learning that a small business owner, based on their stage of growth and physical location in our industry) could use.”

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The Houston-based company is hyper-focused on the financial health and well-being of small businesses, measuring its success when entrepreneurs get fair access to capital

Hi Alice relied heavily on the data and demographics of her business owners to help break down barriers that prevented BIPOC and LGBTQ+ businesses from being successful.

“Access to capital and financial health is, for any entrepreneur, the absolute hardest thing,” Gore said.

There are over 1 million small business owners using Hello Alice with 7,332 small business owners in Sonoma County. According to data from Hello Alice, 69% of these business owners are women and 76% identify with the BIPOC community.

Emma Mann of Three Sisters Apothecary turned to Hello Alice when she wanted to scale up her business.

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When the pandemic hit in 2020 and the majority of sales came from online orders, Three Sisters was able to secure a $10,000 grant to purchase more heating tanks for their soaps.

“I can easily quadruple our production,” Mann said.

Rodz and Gore believe there is no one-size-fits-all guide to helping businesses succeed and provide financing opportunities and assistance through business loan and grant opportunities that are industry-specific.

According to a press release from Hello Alice, there is a $40 billion gap in access to capital for BIPOC entrepreneurs, small business owners, and over $1 trillion of unment funding demand funding sought but not received by the small business community as a whole.

Business owners told Hello Alice that they wanted the coaching, mentoring and guidance associated with having a business credit card.

Hello Alice recently launched a credit card in partnership with MasterCard to help business owners obtain operational credit to grow their business while earning benefits, training and cashback opportunities unique to their specific industry.

“Access to capital has been the number one pain point for small business owners, and when we started digging into the data, particularly around women and minority-owned businesses, there was a huge gap in this knowledge around access,” Rodz said.

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“If you live in the United States and you have no credit history or bad credit, you either can’t get credit or you get credit at 50% plus interest or put up collateral,” Gore said.

Rodz said the card is an introductory tool that introduces small business owners to the “capital continuum” in small chunks while providing financial mentoring and improving the business owner’s credit.

“It’s not just access to credit, it’s to me a sense of community,” Rodz said. “We bring these business owners together and they learn from each other.

“We provide best-in-class support, mentoring and guidance to them and leverage that volume to ensure we provide them with the best opportunities and access.”

Sara Edwards is a business reporter for The Press Democrat. You can reach her at 707-521-5487 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sedwards380.

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