Can new $40 billion bill boost small Minnesota businesses?

Local entrepreneurs already planning to expand

By Sheletta Brundidge
Contributing Writer

Arun Sharma (l), co-owner with Rakesh Sharma of Allume Technologies in Minneapolis, develops website for Lindy Vincent’s (r) small business, Moxie Fitness. Photo: Shelleta Brudidge

Some small business owners breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief when Congress passed President Barack Obama’s $40 billion plan to help entrepreneurs. Proponents of the bill praise the measure, saying it generates $30 billion in federal funds to help smaller banks issue loans to small businesses; additionally, they say it cuts taxes by $12 billion over the coming decade.

Yet, haters are weighing in saying it’s just a Band-Aid to a bigger problem…and warn this new bill is just a dumbed-down version of the ridiculous 2008 bailout funding Congress provided to Wall Street.

The new loan fund would be available to community banks to encourage lending to small businesses. One of the owners of Allume Technologies, a multi-media and web development and photography company in Minneapolis, plans to take advantage of any help they can get. You see, this time last year, Arun Sharma owned a full-time photo studio and was struggling to keep his business afloat: “It was rather difficult, and we were finding out [that] doing just photography alone wasn’t going to pay the bills.”

Hoping to make lemons out of lemonade, he merged his studio with a friend’s IT business in hopes that the two small companies together could make a large impact. Sharma said his friend, Rakesh Sharma (no relation), had tried for years to bring the two companies together but this time, with the recession bringing new clients to a standstill, “He finally convinced me that we should go ahead with this new venture.”

Sharma says as soon as the funds are available at the local community banks, he plans to broaden his business and not just provide web development, design, photography and marketing for clients, but he will invest in new high-definition television cameras and equipment. Along with offering other services, he also hopes to hire additional employees.

“With a loan, we can create local jobs. A $100,000 loan will allow us to provide at least five good paying long-term jobs and with that, expand our business,” Sharma says. The ultimate goal is to build a studio similar to the ones found at major news stations in town.

For Sharma, helping a company build its website is helping the owners tell their story to potential customers. “To us, websites should be like telling a story about the business, and we come and make a storyline for the business. It feels great. And the way we see it, if our clients are successful, we’re successful.”

Fitness trainer and small business owner Lindy Vincent hopes Sharma can help her find the success she’s looking for. On the recommendation of a friend, she set up an appointment to talk with him about designing her website and using online visibility to reach new customers.

However, it’s not just about customers for Vincent: She is on a one-woman crusade to help people live healthier lifestyles. “I’ve always had a passion for fitness, but it was when I ran my first marathon in 2003 that I got the idea of helping others get fit.
“It took the birth of my third child in 2007 for me to step out on faith, leave corporate America and start Moxie Fitness.”

What is Moxie Fitness, you ask? It’s a specially designed efficient workout program for time-crunched professionals. Vincent doesn’t own a gym or workout facility; instead, she meets her clients whenever their schedules permit at a location that’s convenient for them.

Each person she works with gets an individually designed workout routine, fitness plan and eating chart. No two programs are the same, Vincent says, just like no two clients are the same. “Everyone has individual goals, so I cater the specialized programs to what each client needs based on what their goals are.”

With no storefront signs or address to speak of, the website will be the virtual home of Vincent’s business. As a result, it’s very important for her website to reflect who she is and what her business is all about. “It will also serve as a strong marketing vehicle to communicate who I am and what I do, as well as my vision for my business. I want to spread the message of how I can help potential clients make positive changes in their health and fitness.”

Sharma says his company does just that: “We can design Ms. Vincent’s website and help her get noticed by Google and [other] large search engines. Businesses like hers have to optimize these search engines. Be out there, be known and be found.”

Sharma says the new investments he’ll be able to make to his company with low-interest loans will immediately impact his clients, including Vincent. “Once we have the small business loan and build our studio, Ms. Vincent can come in, tape some workout segments and upload them on her website. So when her clients are out of town, they can still get their 30-minute or one-hour training session with her. I see endless possibilities.”

Vincent likes Sharma’s enthusiasm and appreciates what President Obama is doing to help grow small businesses like hers and Allume Technologies. “President Obama’s goal is to support the growth of small businesses, which are the backbone of this economy.”

Lindy Vincent lives in Minnetonka and is the owner of Moxie Fitness; she can be reached at 763-443-2718. Arun Sharma is co-owner of Allume Technologies in Minneapolis and provides comprehensive web development and marketing for small businesses. Got to for more information.

Sheletta Brundidge is a regular contributor to the MSR and host of the CrossRoads television program airing Sundays at 7:30 am on KSTC-TV. She welcomes reader responses to, or visit her website at http://shelet