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HAMMONTON - The Pascale Sykes Foundation hosted Marketing and Financing Main Streets Through the Heartland at Tomasello Winery on March 9.

The foundation introduced THRIVE South Jersey, a new low-interest small business financing program, and promoted free marketing opportunities that are available through its New Jersey’s Heartland destination marketing campaign.

The event was open to Main Street organizations and other small businesses located within the Heartland region that includes Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester and Western Atlantic counties. Representatives from Main Street organizations in Salem, Woodbury, Hammonton, Vineland, Bridgeton, Millville and Salem as well as several area businesses were in attendance.

“We are not going to charge you for anything or try to get your money,” said Frances Sykes, president of Pascale Sykes Foundation. “What we are going to do is to explain things that we are doing that are hopefully going to bring the kind of economic growth that the people of your area want. This area has many hidden assets. It’s a wonderful area for people to live, work and play.”

New Jersey Community Capital introduced a new financing program named THRIVE South Jersey, and representatives were on hand to meet with business owners before and after the luncheon. The program focuses on Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Small Business Enterprise (SMB) with at least 12 months of operating history and $50,000 of revenue in the prior year that are unable to secure bank financing. Start-up ventures are also considered but on a case by case basis.

Loans range from $20,000 to $300,000 with terms up to 60 months and a fixed rate interest. Applicants should have a minimum average credit score of 625. Some of the eligible uses for the financing include real estate acquisition and renovation, equipment, inventory, leasehold improvements, purchase order/contract advances, relocation, marketing initiative and general working capital.

Leslie Roberson of Folsom recently opened JNR Beauty Supplies at 27 Central Ave. in Hammonton. Business is doing well, and she could use some help to grow her business. So she is planning to pursue one of the low-interest loans.

“It would help with paying employees, conducting advertising, and expanding my inventory,” she said. “It’s exciting, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.”

Marie Mascherin, chief lending officer at New Jersey Community Capital, said they do things that they hope will generate positive impacts on individuals and the community.

“We are different from a bank,” she said. “We are not as regulated so we have a little flexibility to think out of the box. As a small business owner, sometimes it is difficult to go to a commercial bank…We tend to not have a box. We do have some general rules, but we will really try to help you out … We are a lot about your story as well.”

She advised that all business owners contemplate the 5 C’s of Credit when applying for a loan. Consider your character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions because that is where the lender’s focus will be.

Alan Rosenzweig, vice president of Strategic Marketing at Masterpiece, spoke about New Jersey’s Heartland destination marketing campaign explaining the countless ways that the campaign can assist small businesses with reaching out to the public as business owners reach out to them.

“We need you to share and connect with us,” he said. “We need you to give us the information of what’s going on. We’ll post it on Facebook, we’ll send out email blasts. We’ll promote it. We’ll put it on the website. We will get it out there for you. We just need to know what is happening and the way to do that is through njheartland.org our website,” said Rosenzweig.

He listed statistics demonstrating the reach of the website. Since launching in the fall, the website has had more than 43,000 visitors and close to 70,000 page views along with more than 8,000 likes on Facebook.

Eight Facebook advertising campaigns have reached a quarter of a million people, and with 750 email subscribers, the email distribution is approaching 50,000, said Rosenzweig.

Some of the tools available to businesses through njheartland.org include access to event calendars, social media, a new destination map as well special programs like social media coop programs or the Heartland Heroes campaign.

Adventures in the Heartland, a new campaign featuring 30 second clips of destinations in the four-county region, will soon be available.

Former United States congressman and former professional football player Jon Runyan, of “SNJ Business People,” was the guest speaker at the luncheon.

“In New Jersey, small businesses employ almost 2 million people in the state,” he said. “That’s more than half the workforce in the state ... one of the biggest challenges you hear from all small business owners is their bottom line. What is the drawback of doing business in New Jersey — the high taxes. Do you know how you offset that stuff? You use great things like NJ Heartland, free stuff to get your word out and get your marketing out there,” he said.

To access the free marketing tools, visit www.njheartland.org For information about THRIVE South Jersey, visit www.newjerseycommunitycapital.org

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