Honeycomb Credit is a small crowdfunding company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It typically handles 10 inquiries a day from business owners seeking loans from the community. Since pandemic hit, it is averaging 30 to 40 daily.
“We’ve completed about a dozen live campaigns already and recently closed our first tranche of relief loans,” said Chip Homer, director of growth at Honeycomb Credit. “Eleven people in Pittsburgh are helping thousands of businesses reach out to the community to access capital.”
Honeycomb Credit’s business model differs from traditional crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. Instead of letting people invest in return for merchandise, Honeycomb enables individuals to crowdfund loans for local businesses. It’s running 12 relief loan campaigns and has deployed $1.5 million in community capital since launching in 2017.
Government deregulation eases the process
The demand Honeycomb and other crowdfunding platforms are seeing is the result of the federal government’s well-intentioned moves that help and hurt small businesses. At the onset of the pandemic, Congress released $350 billion in small business aid but that ran out in days. Small businesses were forced to look for alternatives. That’s where crowdfunding came in.
To help spur lending, the Securities and Exchange Commission is relaxing some of the crowdfunding rules to make it easier for small businesses to launch campaigns. The new rules require companies to file an independent audit only if they are raising $250,000 or more. The limit was $107,000 before the pandemic. Small businesses can also launch offerings without all the documentation traditionally required.
When announcing the SEC would temporarily ease reporting requirements, chairman Jay Clayton said he was responding to feedback from Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee and others who expressed difficulty in conducting an offering quickly enough to survive the pandemic-induced slowdown. “In the current environment, many established small businesses are facing challenges accessing urgently needed capital in a timely and cost-effective manner,” Clayton said.
While bank loans are an option, they are hard to come. Take the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Loan program, announced in March and launched in June. Businesses with less than 15,000 employees and under $5 billion in revenue in 2019 are eligible to apply for loans through approved banks. Banks can sell most of the loans to the Federal Reserve, mitigating their risk from defaults. But the Brookings Institution said in a recent research report banks aren’t showing much interest in the program. Some point to the complexity associated with the loans. As of the start of July, the Fed said not one bank has issued a Main Street loan.
In addition to crowdfunding loans, Honeycomb is selling loyalty bonds for its business customers. They are gift cards worth 1.3 times their value. Customers get the gift card in four installments over 24 months. Payouts start six months after the campaign ends to avoid overwhelming business owners. The crowdfunding company is currently running 37 loyalty bond campaigns. “They have been responsive and have streamlined some of the processes we had to go through to help during the pandemic,” said Homer of Honeycomb Credit. “It gives them more wiggle room.”
When the pandemic hit, Justin Strong, owner of Strong II Dry Cleaners in Pittsburgh, quickly took advantage of any aid available to small businesses. Even though dry cleaners were classified as essential businesses, shelter-in-place orders decreased the need for service.
Like other business owners, Strong found it difficult to wait for funding. Instead of remaining idle, he sought alternatives, including Honeycomb Credit. “I wasn’t really excited about putting my energy into crowdfunding. I was one foot in and one foot out,” said Strong. Strong did not need the crowdfunding as government loans came through during the application process.
Thanks to a little nudging by Honeycomb, Strong moved ahead with the campaign. He could use the money to purchase high-end equipment to provide deep cleaning services to gyms and hotels once businesses began to reopen. It also seems prudent to have money in the bank in case loans are harder to come by in the post-Covid-19 world.
A little over a week after Strong launched his campaign, he raised $25,000 for the 90-year-old black-owned dry cleaning business. The campaign yielded $15,000 more than his borrowing goal. Generally it takes 40 days for a campaign to fund. “It was surprising. A lot of people I didn’t know, random people, started investing,” said Strong. Strong isn’t a stranger to borrowing money as a business owner. In the past he would pay much more for the access whether it was through a predatory loan or an equipment leasing arrangement.
Many business owners are turning to crowdfunding to raise capital. Ever since the Jumpstart Our Business Startups or JOBS Act made it possible for individuals to act as investors, crowdfunding has been taking off. “It’s here to stay,” said Ken Alozie, a certified SCORE mentor and principal at Greenwood Capital Advisors. “We’ve been seeing more and more activity in the crowdfunding market even prior to the pandemic.”
Crowdfunding is also a conduit to get donations into the hands of struggling business owners. That’s what Soy Emprendedor, the Winston Salem, North Carolina group that inspires entrepreneurship among Latin and Hispanic populations, is doing with its “Restart Winston Salem: One Tile Campaign.” Launched at the end of May, Soy Emprendedor, The Cumi Group and PixGift teamed up to enable the community to donate to local businesses. Their fundraising efforts will help businesses reopen once restrictions lift. Donations cover cleaning supplies, restocking, marketing, utility bills, and payroll for employees during the first week the business reopens.
The group wants to raise $20,000 initially, aiming to help 40 businesses. It’s currently at 44 percent of its goal. The crowdfunding campaign melds social media with fundraising by encouraging donors to upload a photo and leave a message for the local businesses.
“What we’re trying to accomplish with the donations is to give them a boost when they start reopening. Some of these businesses are so small that going through the process of getting loans and grants is very difficult,” said Karla Mounts, founder of Soy Emprendedor. “The platform allows us to community build virtually.”
(Edited by Adrienne N. Wartts and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)
The post As SEC relaxes rules, small businesses raise money appeared first on Zenger News.
VIDEO: Queens Man Filmed Saying ‘I Can’t Breathe’ in Struggle with Police / VIDEO
*Echoing what’s become a slogan for Black Lives Matter protesters, a stocky security guard yelled “I can’t breathe” as he was tasered seven times during his arrest earlier this summer, resulting in his death.
George Zapantis, a 29-year-old security guard with a history of mental illness from Queens, was killed after a five-minute struggle with police on June 21. The New York Police Department has now posted a new, three-hour video showing Zapantis’ cries during his arrest. In the footage, the suspect is seen at the door of his home before growing angry and attacking police. The mass of bodies bring him to the ground as his shouts turn to squeals, and then silence.
He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital; results of an autopsy are still pending.
George Vomvolakis, an attorney representing Zapantis’ family, called the video’s release “an opportunity for the public to see with their own eyes the excessive force.”
“It doesn’t take a trained professional to realize that six people on top of somebody and tasering them repeatedly could potentially kill them,” Vomvolakis said.
Police responded to Zapantis’ home in Queens, which he shared with his mother and sister, following a call from a neighbor. The complaint said the security guard had approached their 25-year-old son carrying a sword.
After knocking on the door, Zapantis appeared through the glass panes wearing a gladiator outfit, which included a shield and a “sword attached to his left waist,” according to police. He later reappeared at the door without the sword and helmet, moments before he charged officers shouting expletives.
However, the victim makes it clear in the video he is unarmed. He was reportedly tasered the first time when he barged through the screen door to apparently attack officers. While trying to detain the man, during which officers repeatedly shouted at Zapantis to stop struggling and to put his hands behind his back, the officers question whether he is OK after being tasered seven times.
“Does he have a pulse,” asked one officer.
“He’s breathing, right,” said another.
A spokesperson for the NYPD says the matter is still under investigation by the department’s Force Investigation Division. “We do not draw any conclusions about whether an officer’s actions were consistent with department policy and the law until all the facts are known,” said NYPD spokesperson Carlos Nieves.
Three officers were identified as firing their tasers a total of six times. A fourth officer fired a colleague’s taser in “drive stun” mode—a setting intended to immobilize someone by causing pain.
Police brutality and excessive force have been in the media spotlight since George Floyd died at the hands of police in Minneapolis over Memorial Day weekend. The death of Floyd, who also told the officers arresting him that he could not breathe, sparked protests across the United States and elsewhere.
The phrase first gained notoriety following the 2014 death of Eric Garner, who said it while held by New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in a chokehold prohibited by the department. Pantaleo was not indicted in Garner’s death but was fired by the department in 2019.
Overall, American police kill citizens at a much higher rate than in other wealthy nations. Specifically, in the U.S., police kill 33.5 people per 10 million people, which is more than three times higher than the second-most measured country, Canada, at 9.8, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
(Edited by Stephen Thomas Gugliociello and Matthew Hall.)
The post VIDEO: Queens man filmed saying ‘I can’t breathe’ in struggle with police appeared first on Zenger News.
Mary J. Blige, Kenya Barris and More to Appear At 2020 ABFF Online Edition
KENYA BARRIS, MARY J. BLIGE, CURTIS ‘50 CENT’ JACKSON, BARRY JENKINS, GABRIELLE UNION, LENA WAITHE AND MORE TOPLINE PROGRAMMING SLATE FOR 2020 AMERICAN BLACK FILM FESTIVAL
Ten Day Virtual Fest Available to Global Audience August 21-30
Features Mix of Live and On Demand Content
*The first virtual edition of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), now in its 24th year, will feature a robust slate of speakers including Stacey Abrams, Kenya Barris, Mary J. Blige, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Barry Jenkins, Gabrielle Union and Lena Waithe, as well as panels ranging from the business of Hollywood to spotlights on new films and television series. The festival will offer a mix of live and on-demand content from August 21st to 30th at abff.com.
Opening night will feature the HBO Short Film Competition, a platform which has been responsible for showcasing the early work of such industry notables as Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Ben Watkins (Hand of God) and Stephen Caple Jr. (Creed II) followed by a virtual version of ABFF’s legendary “White Party.” It will close with “The Best of American Black Film Festival Awards” Ceremony, hosted by Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker and simulcast on IMDb.com, followed by a post-awards celebration. Presenters include: Lee Daniels (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Laz Alonso (The Boys), Bevy Smith (BEVELATIONS) Logan Browning (Dear White People) and Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods).
Jemele Hill will host a Cadillac sponsored one-on-one conversation with Blige, who is this year’s festival ambassador. In addition to “Conversations With” Blige and Abrams, Angela Rye will moderate a discussion with Barris. Evening programming will also include “Comics on Comedy” hosted by Yvonne Orji (Insecure) featuring Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), a screening of Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, presented by HBO, a first look at the highly anticipated Universal Pictures film, Candyman with director/co-writer Nia DaCosta, and a panel on the new animated series Woke from Sony Pictures Entertainment. Additional highlights include a conversation with directors Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Old Guard), Christine Swanson (The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel) and Jacqueline Olive (Always in Season). Amazon Studios presents a Hot at Amazon panel featuring Barry Jenkins, Lena Waithe and Tracy Oliver; a Garrett Bradley Time conversation as well as a discussion with Stacy Abrams. STARZ presents Power Book II: Ghost panel with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Michael Rainey Jr., Naturi Naughton, Mary J. Blige and Cliff “Method Man” Smith. Netflix brings a discussion with The 40-Year-Old Version writer/director Radha Blank.
There will be opportunities to meet the filmmakers from the competitive categories, panel discussions on “The Hollywood Executive Experience Through The Black Lens,“ ”Navigating the Network and Studio Process,” and ”Black Female Perspectives on Directing and Storytelling” among others. The 90 films featured during the program will be available on-demand for the duration of the festival. The schedule is available here.
“We are gratified by the outpouring of industry support for this year’s ABFF, creating an opportunity for us to reach a global audience with a broad range of compelling content both live and on-demand,” said Jeff Friday, founder and CEO ABFF Ventures. “Although we plan to be back in Miami for 2021, this year’s virtual festival enables us to engage with an audience that might never be able to attend a destination event. Thanks to our sponsors and everyone who participated, we are able to deliver provocative conversation and compelling entertainment when our community most needs it.”
Sponsors to date include WarnerMedia, HBO® (Founding), Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (Presenting Sponsors); Comcast NBCUniversal, Amazon Studios (Premier Sponsors); Cadillac, Sony Pictures Entertainment, IMDb, Netflix, Motion Picture Association (MPA), Jeff Friday Media, Prudential Financial, Starz, a Lionsgate company UMC, Verizon Media (Official Sponsors); AspireTV, Facebook, Morgan Stanley, and Universal Production Music (Supporting Sponsors); Blackfilm.com, Film Independent, and Variety (Marketing Partners).
For more information on ABFF and up-to-date news, go to abff.com and follow @ABFF on Twitter and @AmericanBlackFilmFestival on Instagram and Facebook. Join in on the conversation by using #ABFF20 and #ABFF.
ABFF (American Black Film Festival)
Supermodel Don Benjamin Opens Up About Tyra Banks, His Faith And Making Babies / The Trend
*Supermodel Don Benjamin Talks Tyra Banks, His New Novel “My Truth,” His Faith and Making Babies / The Trend W/ Derrial Christon and Courtney Stewart.
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