Outside the Box: Idea Financial’s Unusual Path to Alternative Finance

How many lawyers does it take to start up an alternative finance company? Two, according to Idea Financial’s Co-founders, Justin Leto and Larry Bassuk.

Idea, a Miami-based company which offers lines of credit to SMB owners, is the product of Leto and Bassuk’s partnership over the course of years, the latter told deBanked. “We took a leap of faith and left our practices and we began developing this business out of the conference room of our own firm.” But before that, the pair worked together as both lawyers and entrepreneurs.

Beginning in 2011, they met when Leto was already running his own practice and Bassuk was working as an associate for a different firm on the same floor. What started as a chance meeting developed into talks of what’s missing from their industry, which ultimately led to their early ventures together: their own legal firm, Leto | Bassuk, and Level Insurance.

While the former of these is no longer operating, due to their focus shifting to Idea, Level is still providing services to those looking for a niche form of insurance. Established in 2016, the company offers Litigation Cost Protection which covers those lawyers who work on contingency, this being the agreement of them being paid a percentage of the assets they recover for the client, thus earning nothing if the client loses.

Born from Leto and Bassuk’s own experiences as attorneys, Level Insurance provided that initial entrepreneurial step outside of a law firm. And while it afforded the comfort of overlapping with the legal industry, their decision to go into alternative finance brought with it a new marketplace as well as new challenges.

Although it was founded in March 2017, Idea Financial’s first year in business was largely spent working out of Leto | Bassuk’s conference room, figuring out strategies, technology, and credit models; as well as making key hires and developing their product. In fact, it wasn’t until January of 2018 that Idea made their first loan. Initially backed with $20 million by Warsaw-based Idea Bank, which specializes in servicing small businesses, Idea Financial has since secured another $70 million from the fintech bank, Cross River Bank, and has funded $50 million to nearly six hundred businesses.

Now at 35 employees and with a new office beyond the walls of the old conference room, Leto asserts business is going well despite the odds having been stacked against them. “Some would have called [Idea Bank] crazy because they gave two people who were from outside the space this kind of money to build a business and lend money without any strict covenants. So, Larry and I were left to make our own rules.”

And looking forward, Bassuk is confident of their future, lauding much of the company’s strength to the diversity of their workforce, with recruits from Montenegro, Russia, Colombia, and Venezuela, and their unique backgrounds. “We’re all about recruiting top talent, all about diversity of thought.”

“We’re not from the finance space, we’re not from the alternative lending space either, we came at this opportunity with a different approach.”

August 28, 2019 | By: Brendan Garrett

5 Smart & Simple Ways to Boost Summer Sales

Summertime is in full-swing! 

Take advantage of the spirit of the season with 5 fun, and creative ways to entice summertime spending.

1.    Create an event, host a summertime ‘open-house’ and invite customers to check out your latest and greatest seasonal merchandise. Implement festive seasonal displays & create some give away items to generate excitement and gain attendees. 

2.    Take advantage for the warmer weather and host daily side walk sales.  Utilize your Social Media platforms & e-mail marketing databases to help spread the word.

3.    Holiday themed promos,Create discount codes and coupons around key holidays to generate both in-person and online traffic. Everyone loves to celebrate a good deal!

4.    Create a guide to the season.  Generate a style guide & and give your shoppers a sneak preview of your store’s collection.  Everyone loves good inspo – especially when it leads to a sale.  Your clients may even find exactly what they are looking for in your e-mail.

5.    Create a no cost contest.  Customers love contests because it’s a FREE opportunity to win something.  Utilize your social media & e-mail marketing databases and communicate your contest guidelines for both how to enter and winner selection.  Generate a fun hashtag for the event to really engage your followers!

Attention Small Businesses: Here is What You Must Know About Gen Z Consumers

Generation Z is on track to be the most money-driven, financially powerful generation ever. This generation’s unique habits will play a vital role in shaping America’s commerce. Young people’s consumer habits will also be a key driver in influencing retail practices in the future.

This was the finding of a new report released by Morning Consult. It’s titled ‘Understanding Gen Z: How America’s Largest, Most Diverse, Best-Educated, and Most Financially Powerful Generation Will Shape the Future.’

The report is based on thousands of interviews with 18 to 21-year-olds.

Gen Z Consumers

The survey explores the consumer habits of Generation Z — those born between 1997 and 2012. And it provides important insight for small business retailers. It examines what they should be doing to appeal to what will be the most money-driven, financially-powerful generation there’s ever been.

While enamored with major technology and social media brands, Generation Z enjoys shopping in-person. The survey found 48% of all Gen Z adults enjoy shopping in-store more than digital methods of shopping.

The figure is slightly higher amongst female adult Gen Z’s. 55% of the women interviewed say shopping in a physical store is their preferred way to shop. That contrasts with 40% of Gen Z men.

Debit Cards are Gen Z Consumer’s Preferred Payment Method

The research also looked at the way Gen Z pay for everyday items. It found the debit card is the most common way to pay for items. 47% of all Gen Z adults purchase products with a debit card. 30% of Generation Z adults use cash to buy things like groceries and gas. And 11% regularly use credit cards.

The survey participants were also asked about reviews. This included which types of reviews mattered to them the most when looking to try a new product or service.

41% of the Gen Z’s interviewed said consumer reviews and ratings on a website are most important. And 38% believe recommendations from friends or family are the most important type of review when determining whether to purchase a product or service.

Gen Z Consumers Value Expert Reviews

36% of the 18 to 21-year-olds interviewed said they believe expert reviews are most important, and 17% said a recommendation from an influencer or account they follow on social media was the most important type of review when it comes to deciding whether to buy something.

The report also notes the importance Generation Z places on convenient, quick and efficient shopping transactions. As the report’s authors note:

“Two-day delivery and other seamless online shopping experiences have become commonplace in the years since Gen Z first began spending serious money, driving high expectations about convenience.”

Gen Z is set to become the most financially driven generation. So it is vital small businesses keep up to speed with what this generation deem as important.

To remain competitive amongst this generation of spenders, small businesses need to provide the seamless, quick and convenient service this young generation expects.

Small businesses will need to consider their business reviews and be proactive in making online consumer reviews work in their favor.

Given that Gen Z consumers prefer in-store shopping, a retailer would be wise to provide customers with a choice of shopping in-store and from an ecommerce site.

The key takeaway is that the financially motivated Generation Z is poised to be one of the biggest consumers in America and consequently small businesses need to cater for the age group’s demands, habits and preferences in order to appeal to a generation of spenders.

5 Expert Social Media Tips To Help Your Small Business Succeed

5 Expert Social Media Tips To Help Your Small Business Succeed

Social media is a great way for small business owners to connect with prospects and customers. Done right, it can make sales skyrocket. Some entrepreneurs have even built an entire business on a social media platform, but if you’re not careful, it can be time consuming, distracting, or even backfire by alienating customers and prospects.

Here are 5 Social Media tips to help your small business build  a successful presence on social media platforms:

1. Lead with objectives

Start with your top three marketing objectives, then evaluate how social media may help you achieve them. Business owners buy into the idea that they have to be in all these new places or they will be left behind, but social media has to help you reach your objectives or you’re just wasting time. Don’t think of social media as a megaphone for your business, but think about how it can help you reach your goals.

2. Know Your Audience

Understanding your audience has profound implications for your social media marketing strategy. From the perspective of developing your content and SEO strategy, it helps you answer vital questions such as: who are your customers? What are their most urgent and pressing concerns? What kind of content do they want to see? What factors are they focused on in terms of making a buying decision. This information helps you decide what strategy will reach them most effectively on every point from design and copy to keyword research and content deployment.

3. Build your Community 

Concentrating on growing your community and engagement on Social Media platforms can absolutely boost sales and conversion rates. It will also lead toward amazing opportunities for collaboration. Just make sure that you understand that building engaging communities online is a marathon not a sprint. Online Communities are a form of digital currency. The more engaged your community is, the more you can cash in on opportunities for growth, partnerships, and potential leads. 

4. Create a Content Calendar

Planning your social media activities will allow you to post consistently—and get more consistent results. You can create a strategy and actually get better results with less time and effort. You can determine which activities to automate and which to assign if you plan ahead. 

5. Don’t try to do it yourself

As a small business owner, your time is limited, so delegate social media work to someone (or a team) in your company, or engage an outside expert. Then add the cost of your social media strategy to your budget.