The Payroll Blog

News, tips, and advice for small business owners

Funding Your Dream: Featuring Robyn Barrett, Founder, FSW Funding

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Stefan Schumacher

(Above, the team at FSW Funding provides a unique service that funds small businesses and startups, so they can achieve their dreams. Pictured from left to right: Karla Gates, Chris Zamorano, Founder Robyn Barrett, Wendy Hankerson, Penny Fine, Sanja Terzic)

Many Americans dream about owning their own business.  For the majority of those hopeful entrepreneurs funding that dream can be a major obstacle - especially in this economy. In fact, a quarter of small businesses said in a recent survey that easier access to lending is something Congress should address.

We see lots of news stories about venture capital funding startups, but research shows 98-99 percent of firms seeking venture capital are rejected..  Of course there is the hot new craze of crowdfunding - though most of our small business customers have yet to try this.  A recent survey of our small business customers showed that the majority rely on traditional banks, personal credit card, and friends and family,  - which are not the easiest ways to secure funding these days.  There is another way.  A lesser-known avenue that has helped one of our small business owners help scores of others to start and grow their own American Dream.

Meet Robyn Barrett, founder of FSW Funding.  Like many entrepreneurs, Robyn previously worked in the corporate world prior to starting her own business. "I worked for two major Fortune 500 companies, one went bankrupt and at the other, I saw my colleagues working, working, working and only achieving a certain level of success.  I wanted more and I was always a bit of a risk taker."

So Barrett began - at her kitchen table — to map out her business plan.  She spent a summer doing it and then in 2001 took the plunge into "Startup Land", opening FSW with just herself and her finance background. "I am a CPA and I worked in finance, so I saw this niche opportunity to help small businesses because in many cases they are not a good fit for traditional lending."

FSW Funding provides factoring programs to small businesses which means business owners can get immediate funding as FSW advances cash against approved commercial invoices.  The company also provides credit and limited collection services for accounts receivables management.  This allows them to help fund businesses for rapid growth as well as those who may had some previous credit challenges.

The market for this type of service is growing. Our research shows that one in three small business owners are now considering alternative lending going forward, compared to two years ago when only one in 10 said they would use a non-bank lender.

"One of our greatest challenges as a small business is education.  Most entrepreneurs are focused on their area of expertise and they just don't know about factoring or that this kind of support is out there.  Factoring meets a basic need for most startups because it can help when a business doesn't want to or can't wait the 30, 60 or 90 days for a customer to pay," explains Barrett.

Barrett gets great satisfaction helping other small business owners along their path to success, knowing funding is only one of a myriad challenges faced in today's business environment.

"I've been at this for 13 years and I've been fortunate to have grown with the help of some amazing veteran professionals that work for me.  I don't have to micromanage which is essential.  My first employee is still with me today.  That isn't to say that I haven't had bumps along the way."

One of Barrett's secrets as a small business owner has been hiring talent before the need is critical.  This provides an opportunity to get that hire trained and comfortable before the busy season.  "This has been really critical, because when things get busy, they can get stressful.  In my business, like many others, attention to detail is critical and when people are stressed, they don't have that attention to detail."

When asked about the growth dreams for her business, Barrett offers some sage insights.  "People often ask me about how big I expect my business to become and are surprised by my answer.  I don't want to be big, I want to be the best.  I want to create an environment where my employees and my customers want to be.  I want to do what I love, helping small business owners achieve their dreams, and I want to provide the best service possible. It's really simple.  I want to continue to grow the way we have, make a profit and provide a good environment for my team."

Sounds good to me!  How about you?