In a world of corporations and big banks, the American dream of starting a business from the ground up is becoming harder to achieve. Getting loans and documentation of credit takes a long time and it is easy to lose steam and become discouraged when banks keep saying no. Meet Kabbage, a unique fintech company that sets out to help small businesses and start-ups get the funding they need to be successful. We talked to Co-founder and President, Kathryn Petralia, to get the inside scoop on what separates Kabbage from the rest of the financial world.
1. Where do things stand in the lending marketplace for small businesses to obtain funding?
Small business lending is accelerating largely due to the customer experience and easy access to funding. It's not that banks don't want to serve small businesses. They do, but it's difficult to do so in a cost-effective way. It costs a bank the same to underwrite a $5K loan or a $5M loan. Because of this, small businesses have been widely underserved. Kabbage is unique in that it provides an entirely automated lending service. Using big data and real-time connections with its customers, small businesses can apply, qualify and access a line of credit up to $150,000 in under ten minutes, without having to visit a bank or reapply for future funding. New approaches like this are super-charging the small business lending world, as well as small businesses, with growth and new possibilities.
2. How does Kabbage work?
Small businesses connect basic business data to Kabbage, allowing us to assess credit worthiness in minutes without requiring elaborate documentation, long-approval times or costly manual processes. Customers receive a decision right away, and qualified small businesses have access to an ongoing line of credit up to $150,000. They can take the amount they need whenever they need it, without additional fees, hidden fees, and there are no pre-payment penalties.
3. What kind of businesses are you looking for and why?
Kabbage helps any small business in any industry, from restaurants to construction, salons and spas, auto dealers and retailers. To qualify with Kabbage, a business needs to have been operating for at least one year and have a minimum of $50,000 in annual revenue or $4,200 per month over the last three months. Customers use Kabbage funding to manage cash flow, hiring and marketing as well as long-term needs such as business expansion or strategic investments.
4. What are the advantages of receiving funding through Kabbage rather than a bank?
The first advantage is time. Time is precious to small business owners. With Kabbage they can receive access funding in minutes, not weeks. The second advantage is a data-driven, ongoing partnership. We have a persistent connection to our customers and their business data, allowing us to provide them the capital they need whenever they need it. They never have to walk into a bank or reapply for funding. It allows our customers to focus on building their business and not on banking.
5. What is “alternative lending" and how is it changing small business lending?
Aside from what's provided above, it also helps remove any bias in the lending process. As it's entirely online, automated and analyzes objective business data, the process is 100 percent blind to age, race, gender and background. It removes any discouragement to apply for funding, freeing small businesses to have a chance to grow.
6. What is the future of small business lending now that alternative lenders are growing?
You'll see banks continually adopt these processes. Because it's entirely online, banks don't need to have brick-and-mortar locations to serve their customers. They only need an internet connection. It allows them to expand and reach new customers without heavily investing in new locations or operational costs. Kabbage partners with top global banks such as ING, Santander and Scotia Bank, allowing their small business customers to access funding in a more streamlined manner and have a significantly better customer experience.
7. How did you get involved in this industry?
I have over twenty years of experience working with large and small companies focused on credit, payments and commerce. It was the late 90s when I began to work in alternative lending so when co-founder Rob Frohwein approached me with his idea for Kabbage I immediately saw the value in using technology to reexamine the lending landscape. I could see that the lengthy, manual process that was used for funding decisions could be automated based on access to real-time data generated by numerous business operation.
8. What are the challenges facing women in the tech and banking world?
In recent weeks and months news of sexual harassment has spread across tech and fintech. The reactions I've seen by male VCs and leaders have included plans to “avoid meeting 1:1 with women". This is a massive step backwards and doesn't address the issue of culture in these organizations. It is incumbent upon both men and women to be beyond reproach in this regard, and creating distance between the genders is bad for women and it's bad for business.
9. What advice do you have for girls and young women looking to break into fields that have been traditionally dominated by men?
Although I haven't always been able to seek out a mentor, taking the time to find other women in these fields for advice and gain a new perspective on career paths is a great way to learn and network. There are some wonderful organizations out there for both girls and women that are really helping to break down barriers that previously stood in the way for women to have successful careers traditionally dominated by men.
Marriage can be a tightrope act: when everything is in balance, it is bliss and you feel safe, but once things get shaky, you are unsure about next steps. Add outside forces into the equation like kids, work, finances or a personal crisis and now there's a strong chance that you'll need extra support to keep you from falling.
My husband and I are no strangers to misunderstandings, which are expected in any relationship, but after 7 years of marriage, we were really being tested on how strong our bond was and it had nothing to do with the "7-year itch"--it was when I was diagnosed with PTSD. As a survivor of child sexual abuse who is a perfectionist, I felt guilty about not being the "perfect partner" in our relationship; frustrated that I might be triggered while being intimate; and worried about being seen as broken or weak because of panic attacks. My defense mechanism is to not need anyone, yet my biggest fear is often abandonment.
I am not a trained therapist or relationship expert, but since 2016, I have learned a lot about managing survivorship and PTSD triggers while being in a heterosexual marriage, so I am now sharing some of my practical relationship advice to the partners of survivors to support my fellow female survivors who may be struggling to have a stronger voice in their relationship. Partners of survivors have needs too during this process, but before those needs can be met, they need to understand how to support their survivor partner, and it isn't always an easy path to navigate.
To my fellow survivor sisters in romantic relationships, I write these tips from the perspective of giving advice to your partner, so schedule some quality time to talk with your boo and read these tips together.
I challenge you both to discuss if my advice resonates with you or not! Ultimately, it will help both of you develop an open line of communication about needs, boundaries, triggers and loving one another long-term.
1. To Be or Not to Be Sexy: Your survivor partner probably wants to feel sexy, but is ambivalent about sex. She was a sexual object to someone else and that can wreak havoc on her self-esteem and intimate relationships. She may want you to find her sexy and yet not want to actually be intimate with you. Talk to her about her needs in the bedroom, what will make her feel safe, what will make her feel sexy but not objectified, and remind her that you are attracted to her for a multitude or reasons--not just because of her physical appearance.
2. Safe Words = Safer Sex: Believe it or not, your partner's mind is probably wondering while you are intimate (yep, she isn't just thinking about how amazing you are, ha!). Negative thoughts can flash through her mind depending on her body position, things you say, how she feels, etc. Have a word that you agree on that she can say if she needs a break. It could be as simple as "pause," but it needs to be respected and not questioned so that she knows when it is used, you won't assume that you can sweet talk her into continuing. This doesn't have to be a bedroom only rule. Daytime physical touch or actions could warrant the safe word, as well.
3. Let Her Reconnect: Both partners need attention in a relationship, but sometimes a survivor is distracted. Maybe she was triggered that day, feels sad or her defense mechanisms are up because you did something to upset her and you didn't even know it (and she doesn't know how to explain what happened). If she is distant, ask her if she needs some time alone. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but acknowledging that you can sense some internal conflict will go a long way. Sometimes giving her the space to reconnect with herself before expecting her to be able to focus on you/your needs is just what she needs to be reminded that she is safe and loved in this relationship.
4. Take the 5 Love Languages(r) Test: If you haven't read this book yet or taken the test, please at the very least take the free quiz to learn your individual love language. My top love language was Touch and Words of Affirmation before remembering my abuse and thereafter it became Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. Knowing how your survivor partner prefers to be shown love goes a long way and it will in turn help your needs be met, as they might be different.
5. Be Patient: I know it might be frustrating at times and you can't possibly totally understand what your survivor partner is going through, but patience goes a long way. If your survivor partner is going through the early stages of PTSD, she feels like a lot of her emotional well-being is out of her control. Panic attacks are scary and there are triggers everywhere in society. For example, studies have shown that sexual references are made anywhere from 8 to 10 times during one hour of prime time television (source: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media). My husband is now on high alert when we watch TV and film. He quickly paused a Game of Thrones episode when we started season 2 because he realized a potentially violent sexual scene was coming up, and ultimately we turned it off and never watched the series again. He didn't make a big deal about it and I was relieved.
6. Courage to Heal, Together: The Courage to Heal book has been around for many years and it supported me well during the onset of my first flashbacks of my abuse. At the back of the book is a partners section for couples to read together. I highly recommend it so that you can try to understand from a psychological, physical and emotional stand point what your survivor partner is grappling with and how the two of you can support one another on the path of healing and enjoying life together.