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Brooklyn orgs that want you to finance your startup with debt, not equity

The Brooklyn Entrepreneurs Meetup featured two big topics for entrepreneurs: where to work, by way of local coworking leaders, and how to finance expansion, by way of three debt-lenders.

Sam Wils opens up the meetup at Huge, to a very strong audience. Photo by Brady Dale.

Sam Wils opened the seventh Brooklyn Entrepreneurs Meetup by saying that the group only wants to hear from business leaders who would open their shop in Brooklyn even if they had enough money to open anywhere in the world.

It was a worthwhile way to open because place and money were the two main topics at the gathering that took place at Huge’s Dumbo offices on Wednesday.

The first part of the night was devoted to coworking spaces. DUMBO Startup Lab, The Yard and the Brooklyn Creative League represented the first half of the presentations.


Left to right: John Coghlan [DUMBO Startup Lab], Neil Carlson [Brooklyn Creative League] and Morris Levy [The Yard].

  • Morris Levy said he was born and raised in Brooklyn. A real estate professional, he was looking for something he could do during the ‘Great Contraction.’ So he opened a coworking space in Williamsburg, because that’s where he said he had the most fun spending time.
  • Neil Carlson spoke to the Creative League’s move into running classes in the space. He believes the classes have added value when they take place within a trusted community, such as a coworking space.
  • In tech terms, The Yards said it was about 30 percent tech and the Creative League said it was about 20 percent. All three have a lot of freelancers and designers.
  • Carlson said that none of his tech companies are at the venture stage. He believe coworking spaces work best for companies before they have that pressure of venture money forcing them to move toward profit. The collaborative quality of the spaces is good while developing a concept.
  • Levy and Carlson spoke to how they both help their tenants make connections, build clients etc, though Coghlan also cautioned that coworking is not a magic bullet to building a network. It’s on the entrepreneur to seek it out.
  • The chief benefit of coworking, in Coghlan’s opinion, is giving independent workers a professional environment inside a commercial hub.
  • Carlson told the room that they can look forward to a Bed-Stuy branch of his coworking space soon.

lenders at Brooklyn Entrepreneurs Meetup

Jessie Lee [Valley Economic Development Center], Jodine Gordon [Camba] and Monica Guevara [Business Outreach Center]

The second half of presentations was devoted to lenders focused on helping small businesses grow. The three pushed the idea that debt wasn’t so bad and you knew exactly what it was going to cost you. Jessie Lee of the Valley Economic Development Center asked, “What’s more expensive: equity or debt?” Adding that, as a lender, all she wanted was to get paid back. An investor is going to want to get involved, own part of your company and push for an exit.

  • Jodine Gordon of Camba talked about how her organization works to get your business lender ready. It also helps your business work better, such as helping small business owners learn how mobile tools can make their work more efficient.
  • Monica Guevara said that the Business Outreach Center started twenty years ago in Fort Greene. They offer micro-loans up to $50K.
  • Lee said that VEDC is an organization focused on job creation. It can lend from $50,000 to $500,000, but every $50K has to be shown that it will generate one job.
  • VEDC is offering interest rates around six to eight percent. It wants to keep businesses out of unsustainable rates and will work with entrepreneurs who are earning revenue, even if their credit is bad, so long as the business plan looks good.

The beginning and the end of the meetup was devoted to networking and socializing, and a lot of people stuck around on both ends to talk to each other. It appeared that people were eager to make connections, share ideas and collaborate. We met everyone from low-tech to hi-tech around the room.

Companies: Dumbo Startup Lab
Series: Brooklyn

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