The Business of Business: An Interview with Constance Anderson
The nature of business is continually evolving. Since March, small businesses across the country have adapted to limited in-person contact and other challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. For small businesses struggling to adapt or get off the ground, The Center by Lendistry, led by President, Constance Anderson has become a trusted partner in a challenging time.
Anderson heads The Center by Lendistry, the non-profit arm of Lendistry, the nation's #2 Small Business Administration (SBA) Community Advantage Lender. The Center provides help for small businesses through counseling, technical assistance and lending, prioritizing small businesses in underserved communities.
Anderson has spent this turbulent year helping small business owners get organized and access disaster loan programs, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). According to Anderson, "During the pandemic, The Center, as of September 30, 2020, has helped nearly 4000 clients with more than $180 million in funding."
“I knew that [The Center] would allow me to, I like to use the term, stretch and flex.”
Before joining The Center last year, Anderson served as director of a prominent business development corporation, and she has served as a board member on multiple large non-profits. Her storied career has led her to her current passion for helping small businesses.
"I knew that [The Center] would allow me to; I like to use the term, stretch and flex. I came into this environment being totally fearless. And I'm going to look at every opportunity that is presented to me that will allow me and the organization to continue to grow and provide services," Anderson said.
An essential feature that Anderson has championed at The Center is their one-on-one consultation services for businesses. Anderson listens to business owners' specific needs and asks what they need to get to the next level.
"We're really looking at where that client or business owner is today? What are their needs? What's going to help them to become sustainable? What's going to help them to access capital, and how would we go about doing that?" Anderson explains.
Access to capital is a common pain-point for small business owners from underserved communities, especially Black-owned businesses. There are many reports of large banks discriminating against Black customers, and access to capital through a line of credit can be a determining factor whether a business can stay open during a time of financial hardship.
During the pandemic, Anderson has also worked to help business owners find new sources of income. In one success story, Anderson told Suite Life SoCal, she helped Rosalind Pennington, owner of The New Townhouse restaurant in Los Angeles, get a contract with L.A. County to provide food for senior citizens. Since then, Pennington has received two additional contracts and hired back her chefs and back-office staff.
"The Center was key in helping me to pivot during COVID-19. They provided the necessary resources to help my business develop and grow in general. They also offered 15 online classes to help my business grow during the pandemic." Pennington explained.
"In addition, the classes were not just for me as an owner, but The Center provided resources for me to educate my staff with the certification courses needed in the restaurant industry," Pennington enthusiastically shared.
The business of being in business is complex outside of a pandemic. When asked what type of help her clients usually need when they come to her, Anderson emphasized the need for good bookkeeping and organization.
"One of the struggles is a business owner not being able to apply for some of the easiest, best funding in the world because they don't know where their corporate documents are. They don't have a financial statement. They don't have any way of telling me what their revenue looked like two years ago through today so we can support all of those efforts."
Anderson's passion for small business seems like a calling, especially considering that she can help business owners who have historically lacked access to the management skills and capital that she can provide.
"I have friends that own businesses. I see their challenges, and I see where the services that we provide can support them. So, for me, the gratification that I get from supporting a small business helps me to sleep at night. Just the idea of being able to be available for a business owner to call me and say, 'Hey, Constance, this is my struggle. Can you help me or do you know someone who can?' That's what I want to be. That's what I strive to be. That's what I'm passionate about. So when I'm in a position to support small businesses, I think it is a blessing."
Small businesses that need assistance can benefit from Anderson and her passionate team of professionals by logging on at thecenterbylendistry.org.