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Interview with Lance McNeill of BCL
Where are you from originally?
Austin, born and raised.
What university did you go to?
I started out at ACC and transferred into Texas State University where I graduated with a BBA and specialized in entrepreneurship. I graduated in May of 2008, right when the Recession was ramping up so it was difficult to find a job. I decided to continue straight through with graduate school and went back to Texas State for my MBA.
I graduated in 2010 and was still having difficulty finding the right job for me, so I joined the Peace Corps and did small business advising in Namibia. I found a passion for economic development and I’m currently at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT Austin where I’m focusing on economic development.
I’ll graduate in May and that’s it for me as far as degrees. I think my education has provided a good foundation for bridging the business and public policy fields.
What brought you to Austin?
My family has lived in Austin since 1964. I was born here.
What is your group’s mission?
The mission of Business and Community Lenders (BCL) of Texas is to further the economic development of Texas by promoting and assisting in the growth and development of small business concerns.
What need does it fulfill?
Many businesses struggle to access capital through traditional means. As a nonprofit organization, we’re a nontraditional lender dedicated to helping traditionally underserved businesses obtain the access to capital they need to succeed.
What exactly does it bring to startups?
We offer technical assistance to start-ups from the idea stage to the financing stage. We work with businesses early on so that they know what is needed to apply for a loan. We’ve embraced crowdfunding as an alternative form of capital that we can help start-ups access. We’ve created a coaching methodology specific to crowdfunding and we’ve partnered with Indiegogo to curate local projects.
What type of startup would benefit from your group?
Local Austin metro area businesses that are seeking a loan and/or crowdfunding.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the initiative?
When we ventured into crowdfunding, we weren’t quite sure how it would fit within our service offerings. We didn’t know if it was a totally separate function or if it would compete with lending. What we’ve learned is that it is absolutely a complement to our lending services. With crowdfunding, we can help entrepreneurs get all or some of the funding they need for their business. If their funding gap isn’t totally fulfilled by crowdfunding, we can look at our lending products and when and entrepreneur has successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign, they’re often a better loan candidate.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
Leverage the resources in Austin as early and as often as possible – there are many resources available to help with all aspects of the business. Often entrepreneurs try to do everything on their own and I see many get into a situation where they get burned out and frustrated or get into an unadvised situation. For example, when entrepreneurs sign a lease and then come talk to a lender about lending only to find out that they cannot qualify for some reason.
Many entrepreneurs are sprinters, trying to get from point A to point D as quickly as possible, but starting up isn’t a sprint – it’s more of a marathon and you have to get from point A to point B first.
What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
The City of Austin Small Business Development Program is amazing. They offer a ton of classes, coaching and connect with many resources throughout the community. They’re a great first point of contact.