No woman an island in tough economy

Durango gathering touts new financing for business startups

Durango is known as a local-centric community that places an emphasis on investing in local businesses, and that ethos could soon expand to the online world.

The Crowdfunding Act of 2012 allows small businesses to raise capital by selling equity rather than giving away rewards, which is currently done through websites such as Kickstarter.

“We’re at the dawn of a new era in financing businesses,” said Anthony Edwards, a founder of Crowdfunding Offerings and owner of the San Juan Law Office.

Edwards gave a presentation on crowdfunding to a group of women at the third annual Women’s Small Business Conference.

But startups in need of investors to get off the ground or businesses looking for extra revenue will have to wait until 2013 to offer equity stakes in their businesses. Congress asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to establish regulations and gave the commission until Dec. 31 to create them.

Monisha Merchant, fellow presenter and senior adviser for business affairs for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, encouraged business owners to look into the equity-based crowdfunding, despite potential risks.

“It’s like when businesses switched from taking just cash to credit cards: There is a lot to figure out and a lot of unknowns. You’ll be part of the group that shapes what this will look like,” she said.

The new regulations also give the public another way to support businesses in their communities besides their shopping dollars.

More than 180 women registered for the event, which was hosted by the Colorado Small Business Development Center Network. Crowdfunding was one of 14 presentations that featured topics such as marketing, social media and legislative issues affecting small businesses.

The women also got to hear from local business owners about how they energize their businesses and handle difficult issues.

One attendee was curious about how other owners keep their employees happy and empowered.

Amy Long, owner of April’s Garden, said she encourages employees to give their input and make suggestions.

Pagosa Baking Co. owner Kathy Keyes, agreed and said a lot of the innovation at her company has come from employee suggestions.

Women legislators encouraged entrepreneurs to avail themselves of resources available through government offices during a panel on legislative issues.

“We are often underused when we can help when a business is having a problem,” said Wanda Cason, Four Corners Regional Director for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

Cason and six other women discussed resources and bills coming down that could affect businesses.

Learning that help is out there provided relief to Victoria Peterson, who started her Mancos business Geek on Grand in January.

“The sessions have been fantastic. I found out I have resources out there that can help me,” she said.

jdahl@durangoherald.com