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In 2010, the founder of SoMoLend, Candace Klein, began Bad Girl Ventures, a micro-lending program matched with a women’s only, training-based program for participants to earn funding for their start-up companies. There were start-ups that were not able to attain funding through this specific program, and it became apparent that small businesses everywhere needed an advocate. The idea for SoMoLend came from this realization and the desire to assist start-ups that were not able to gain funding through the program.
SoMoLend is the first of its kind in many ways as a fully transparent portal that allows investors to look into the eyes of business borrowers in their own neighborhood before making any lending decisions. With SoMoLend, individuals, banks, local governments, business associations, chambers of commerce and municipalities can invest in small businesses by use of a safe, secure, easy-to-use platform. SoMoLend is designed with the capability of allowing and promoting peer-to-peer lending, by which business borrowers can get loans from friends and family, customers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections.
MO: This is your second company so far. Have you always had entrepreneurial spirit? Do you see any more ventures in your future?
Candace: I always knew that I wanted to change the world, and I realized that the way for me to do this was through starting my two companies. I absolutely see more ventures in my future; I currently have 27 new business ideas sitting in my little book!
MO: How does SoMoLend work? How does your platform differ from the traditional lending process?
Candace: SoMoLend is a lending platform where business borrowers seeking loans fill out and publish one loan application (very similar to an SBA loan application) that is then visible to the lenders on the platform. Lenders make loan offers, borrowers accept the offers , and repayment occurs directly through the SoMoLend platform. Small businesses are able to have exposure to a large array of lenders by filling out one simple loan application instead of the traditional lending process of visiting multiple banks and filling out multiple loan applications.
MO: SoMoLend is the first of its kind in many ways, which is exciting but being the first often comes with a set of unique challenges. What obstacles have you faced while innovating a new, user -friendly and transparent lending system?
Candace: Our biggest challenge has been adapting to comply with the changing regulations in the crowdfunding industry since the passing of the JOBS Act. The JOBS Act is still in its regulatory formation stage and we have been working directly with the SEC and FINRA as the chair of the industry taskforce to help determine the new industry standards.
MO: Where does your passion for finance and social change come from?
Candace: When I began practicing as an attorney, all of my clients were small businesses who were struggling because they were not receiving loans from banks for their businesses. I then became obsessed with alternative forms of lending because I wanted my clients to be successful with their businesses. I launched my first company, Bad Girl Ventures (a microfinance company for women-owned startups who then compete for a business loan), when I realized that in addition to capital, startup entrepreneurs also needed education. Entrepreneurs need to understand debt and all of the various aspects of running a successful business. Through Bad Girl Ventures, hundreds of women have received an education in starting a business and over $650,000 has been loaned through the program. While BGV has been successful, I realized that there were many more business owners that needed access to capital, so I launched SoMoLend with the mission to change the world by allowing small businesses to have all the resources they need to be wildly successful, all while strengthening the sense of community in neighborhoods worldwide.
Another recent initiative is our first SoMoLaunch Business Competition for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Applicants will be evaluated based on their business model, and one winner will receive $5,000 cash, national media, and a mentoring session with me. We thought this would be a creative way to educate entrepreneurs and investors about crowdfunding, while encouraging and recognizing them for their hard work. Interested entrepreneurs can visit www.somolend.com for more information. Registration begins on August 14 and ends September 30th.
MO: How do you manage to balance your law career with being a CEO to SoMoLend?
Candace: My law career has been extremely beneficial as the CEO of SoMoLend and vice versa. My legal training and knowledge I’ve gained from being a corporate attorney has greatly helped me with my involvement in the early regulatory stages of the crowdfunding industry. I feel that these careers are mutually beneficial to one another and both provide me with so much knowledge and experience.
MO: Can you talk about the peer-to-peer lending program that you’re launching nationally in 2013?
Candace: With the passing of the JOBS Act in April 2012, peer-to-peer lending was legalized. Starting in 2013, business owners will be able to receive loans from their friends, family, customers, social media connections, and any other individual interested in investing. This will give small businesses much more access to capital than traditional lending.