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

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

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

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

“I kept thinking about how great it would have been on the first day of my company to understand that these resources and networks and conferences existed,” Rodz said.

“I was surprised at how difficult it was to start a business (in the United States), especially for women,” Gore said. “The general idea (of Hello Alice) was to use machine learning that a small business owner, depending on their stage of growth and physical location in our industry, could use.”

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The Houston-based company is highly focused on the financial health and well-being of small businesses, measuring its success when entrepreneurs are given equitable access to capital.

Hello Alice relied heavily on the data and demographics of their business owners to help break down the barriers that prevented BIPOC and LGBTQ+ businesses from succeeding.

“Access to capital and financial health is by far the most difficult thing for any business owner,” 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 entrepreneurs are women and 76% identify with the BIPOC community.

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

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

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

Rodz and Gore believe that there is no single guide to help businesses succeed and provide funding 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 more than $1 trillion in funding demand funding sought but not received by the community. of small businesses as a whole.

Business owners told Hello Alice that they wanted training, mentoring, and guidance related to having a business credit card.

Hello Alice recently launched a credit card in partnership with MasterCard to help business owners receive operating credit to grow their business while gaining benefits, education, and cash back opportunities unique to their specific industry.

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

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“If you live in the United States and you don’t have any credit or bad credit, you can’t get credit or you get it at 50% plus interest or you offer a guarantee,” Gore said.

Rodz said the card is an introductory tool that introduces small business owners to “equity continuity” in small chunks while receiving financial guidance and improving the business owner’s credit.

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

“We provide them with best-in-class support, mentorship and mentorship and leverage that volume to make sure we provide them with the best opportunities and access.”

Sara Edwards is the business reporter for The Press Democrat. She can be reached at 707-521-5487 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sedwards380.

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