Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nayla Yared, Co-Founder of Xpand Now, located in Sunrise, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Most small businesses' major challenge is securing the funds needed to grow to the next level. Entrepreneurs usually have a clear vision for their business; however, they need help translating this vision into a business plan and financial plan that would appeal to lenders and investors. Xpand Now helps entrepreneurs obtain funds by building the tools, business plans, and financial plans that will appeal to investors and lenders. Once we establish the contact, Xpand Now facilitates the due diligence to close the deal.
After the financing is secured, we serve as CFO on demand, ensuring lenders/investor relationships, such as preparing monthly reports, updating investors' expected returns, and building lenders' Draw requests. I work with clients to keep track of their budget, optimize costs, organize their accounting, and insure the accounts are audit/tax ready.
My clients are typically entrepreneurs that want to grow their business from a small to a medium size company; we served multiple industries in multiple markets. In South Florida, most of my clients are real estate developers.
Tell us about yourself
I was born and grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, during the civil war. I studied software engineering and was lucky to be accepted to a master's program in a prestigious French college in Paris. I started my professional career in Engineering, Marketing, and International Business Development for a multinational company, Alcatel-Lucent, based in Paris. After a decade in Paris, I moved to the USA, where I founded, owned, and managed several businesses and non-profit organizations and got to know the challenges of entrepreneurship. When my sister-in-law, a long-time business consultant, moved from Lebanon to Florida in 2016, we both created Xpand Now. Our goal was to help small businesses grow. What motivates me every day is to know I am helping my clients achieve their dream. Early on, it was clear that the clients that could afford our services were small established businesses that had reached a crucial point where they could get external financing to grow. Although Startups and micro enterprises are usually in great need of professional consulting, they cannot afford it. This is the reason why I decided to volunteer my time with SCORE. My sister-in-law was hired as a full-time CFO, and I took over the business.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
As a business owner, my client's success is what defines my success. When my clients obtain the financing, they need to develop their plans, or when they improve their bottom line by optimizing their operations, expanding their offering, or exporting their products successfully, then I know that my mission was successful. The relationship I build with my clients is what leads me to success. I build a partnership with businesses from an early stage and follow them up every step of the way to help them build a path to success. One example is a real estate developer that was planning to develop his first major project, a multi-use building that includes offices, retail, and a hotel. I started working with him at a very early stage, and we were able to raise investor's equity, EB5 loans, and a senior construction loan even though he was new to big developments. Despite the pandemic that brought big disruptions to construction, the project was completed, and all offices and retail were sold; the hotel is now a very successful Hilton hotel. I am still serving as financial administrator for this project. This developer is now building a bigger project, we ensured 120M in equity and loan, and I am in charge of the financial administration of this project as well.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Like most startups, Xpand Now has had its share of challenges. The initial challenge was the discovery and the assessment of the needs of the local businesses and the definition of where Xpand Now will bring value to its customers. Cities, counties, state and federal organizations already offer many services to small companies. We adapted our offering to provide personalized services that businesses direly need.
Another challenge was access to the target market. In the early stages, I attended many networking events. I built several solid connections but mostly with other service providers who, just like me, were after access to business owners. I noticed that business owners do not attend these types of networking events. I had to find different ways to connect with my potential customers.
The hardest thing for me was staying motivated, persevering when we started and trying to find our first clients. Another challenge is balancing personal and professional life, especially since I work from home. I had to learn to stick to a schedule and disconnect evenings and weekends.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Not anyone is made to be an entrepreneur. Before quitting a job and investing your time and money in a new venture, people need to really assess what their priorities are and understand the challenges of starting a business. These are some important tips for starting and growing a business:
- Perseverance: When you start a business, it takes several months to a year before you start seeing the light. If you give up or get discouraged easily, you will not be able to succeed. You also need to plan ahead; you will most likely have expenses and no income for a certain time, so you will need to afford it.
- Flexibility: I started several businesses in the last 15 years. Every time I had a vision of what I wanted to do and a business plan. In each occurrence, as I started the business, I learned more about the market opportunities and the wants and needs of my target market and changed my plan to take advantage of these opportunities.
- Seek Professional Help: When an entrepreneur starts a business, he/she has very limited funds, mostly his/her own money and, with some luck, family or friends' contributions. This entrepreneur will try to do everything on his/her own to save money. This is ok for micro businesses; however, once the business starts getting traction, external help from professionals becomes necessary to take the business to the next level. Entrepreneurs need to assess their strengths and weaknesses and bring in people that will fill the gap and bring a fresh view to the business.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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