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Here’s How via Our Partners at Start Small Think Big

The pandemic has transformed the way we interact with one another. Whether it’s taking a meeting over Zoom or using more online banking services. As a result, small businesses must continue to adapt. While 90% of US commerce takes place in-person, it’s rapidly shifting online–and it will continue to–even after the pandemic is over.

Earlier this month, we spoke to Jennifer DaSilva, Founder and Executive Director of Start Small Think Big– a nonprofit that provides under-resourced small business owners across the country with free, legal, and financial services. Her advice for small businesses post-pandemic? Prioritize the E-Commerce transition now. Below, we offer three tips to help your small business make the digital leap easier:

  1. Design a Lead Generating Website: Your website is your most effective sales platform. It’s not an online brochure but can function as a tool to generate targeted leads and nurture customer relationships.  Now is the time to identify your target audience and design a website with personalized messaging that speaks directly to them. Many free and accessible platforms now exist to help small business owners integrate sales funnels into their websites to drive more traffic.
  2. Build-Up Your E-commerce Capabilities: From apps to online stores and texting clients, the E-Commerce web can quickly feel overwhelming. But like most things in business, a build-out plan can ease the transition. Begin by mapping out the tools you think you need to reach your customer segments online. Secondly, analyze your product suite. Can you easily translate the value of your products online, or do they need to be adapted? Finally, what will selling your products online require of your operations and marketing capacities? As you transition to E-Commerce, knowing the impacts across your business is crucial.
  3. Remember Your Local Community: Small businesses have a greater reach than ever before. Online, it can be tempting to appeal to all markets. But the rise of movements like Shop Local and Shop Small indicates that consumers want to support their local small businesses –- especially when so many are still struggling. So, keep your message and impact locally by collaborating with neighboring small businesses and appealing to your community’s preferences. The market right around you is likely more extensive than you know.

We are first and foremost a community bank in NYC, but we are also a small business. We understand the importance of an online presence. Using our digital banking system, you can stay close to your business balances or check out the latest savings account rate. Along the way, we have never lost sight of our priority–you. You can access your accounts with us from wherever you are, but you can also trust that we are reinvesting your money into New York City.

Learn more about what we have done to support our community by checking out work with local small businesses and nonprofits on our blog. We have worked with The Lehman Center for Performing ArtsThe Forward, and Chelsea Restoration, to name a few. Invest your dollars locally by opening a business checking accountpersonal checking account, or personal savings account today!!

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Launching a small business isn’t easy. It takes grit, patience, and creativity to make your vision come true. Entrepreneurship is a full-time job, and it requires more than hard work and perseverance to succeed: it also requires know-how. In addition to finding and securing investments for their ventures, entrepreneurs have to comply with governments regulations and licensing requirements. Keeping track of all the funding opportunities and paperwork can get overwhelming – as can marketing and advertising and business development for your small business. That’s where Small Start Thing Big comes in.

Founded in 2010, Start Small Think Big is a national nonprofit organization with offices in NYC that offers free legal, financial, and marketing assistance to low-to-moderate income business owners. Like us, they empower under-resourced entrepreneurs to build thriving businesses in historically disadvantaged areas to stimulate economic activity that benefits them, their families, and their community. We share a common goal, and we partner with Start Small Think Big whenever we get the chance.

“We started working with Spring Bank pretty early on to provide financial workshops for small business owners in the New York area,” says Jennifer DaSilva, Founder and Executive Director of Start Small Think Big. “There aren’t many community banks that have such a strong commitment to small business lending. So, we knew that Spring Bank’s personalized approach and affordable banking products were the perfect fit for our client base.”

“Women and People of Color own 80% of the small businesses we support,” she continues. “Their average revenue is between $45,000 to $50,000 a year. They typically have one to two employees and operate between one and five years in food, retail, and other service industries. They are a reflection of our country’s demographics and market shifts.”

Small businesses are the US economy. Over 99% of America’s 28.7 million firms are small businesses, yet many small business owners struggle to access good financial advising and affordable business checking accounts. And for many entrepreneurs, it isn’t easy to get a loan

Thanks to market incentives, large banks prioritize large corporations because they are their most profitable clients. But we believe that approach is short-sighted. So, as Start Small Think Big spells it out for us: we can build a more sustainable and equitable economy – if we focus on small firms.

“A lot of people start small businesses out of necessity,” explains Jennifer. “Whether they have lost jobs or gotten sick, so many small business owners have been cut out of the mainstream economy. That’s why our client base is overwhelmingly women, immigrants, and formerly incarcerated people because, for many, entrepreneurship is the only vehicle they have to build a livelihood.”

We concur. Like Start Small Think Big, the majority of the businesses we serve operate in low and moderate-income communities. That’s why we designed our products and services to help people build wealth and accomplish their dreams. Flexibility, transparency, and great pricing in our business and consumer accounts are how we aim to make our commitment to financial inclusion real.

We invite you to join us and Start Small Think Big in our mission to create a world where all people have equal access and opportunity to build prosperous futures. You can read more about our commitment to local small businesses on our blog. See how your business can benefit from opening up a small business checking account with us here. And of course, visit the Start Small Think Big website to learn how your business can benefit from their services.

A Spring Bank PPP Story

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It’s been over a year since social distancing protocols forced venues to close. While these measures impacted all of us, they had a devastating effect on NYC’s performing arts. Thousands of art venues across all five boroughs were shuttered to keep our city safe.

With performances canceled indefinitely, thousands of jobs disappeared, and opportunities for community-building became scarcer. The loss of ticket sales and philanthropic donations left performing arts venues fighting for survival. So, when the Lehman Center for Performing Arts, The Bronx’s premier concert hall, reached out for support with applying for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan, we jumped at the opportunity to help.

Founded in 1980, the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts celebrates 40 years of bringing culturally diverse music, dance, and affordable theatre performances to residents of The Bronx.

“Right before the pandemic started, we renovated the performance hall in celebration of our fortieth anniversary,” says Eva Bornstein, Executive Director of the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts. “We had special programming scheduled, only to lose our 2019-2020 season and 90 percent of our earned revenue.”

The season’s cancellation caused the loss of jobs for part-time stagehands and ushers, but there were still many permanent staff members to support. That’s where the PPP Loan came in. Our staff helped the Lehman Center secure the funds they needed to cover payroll and insurance for permanent staff members, along with other miscellaneous expenses.

As vaccinations increase, Lehman Center for the Performing Arts plans to reopen this fall. However, it will need a significant influx of funds to rehire the stagehands that make the performances it houses possible. Thankfully, the PPP funds – along with grant sources, will help Lehman Center for the Performing Arts prepare for a fall season.

“Thanks to Spring Bank’s patience and expertise – which you can only get at a community bank – we submitted all of the documents required and survived during this challenging time,” says Eva.

If all goes according to plan, the Lehman Center for Performing Arts will host its first performance for its in-person audience on October 2nd. The headliner will be Andy Montanez, a world-class salsa singer from Puerto Rico. It’s one of many in a long line of multicultural and affordable performances offered by the Lehman Center of the Performing Arts over the last 40 years, earning it the moniker “the Lincoln Center of the Bronx.”

You can find out how the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts earned that title by visiting their website and watching some of their past performances. You can support their invaluable work by donating here. Take a behind-the-scenes look at our work with the Lehman Center by reading our staff profile on Xavier Givens, who was instrumental in helping them secure a PPP loan. Learn more about our support for NYC arts here.

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When the pandemic first hit, we all went into information overdrive. Information about the coronavirus’s severity and health protocols was changing by the minute; it was overwhelming. Having clear and accurate information about COVID-19 and our response to it was a matter of life and death – especially for direct service providers. But, thanks to The Bronx Health and Housing Consortium, over 60 hospitals, health homes, community-based organizations, managed care plans, and government agencies got rapid access to the information they needed to serve the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

“After a decade of fostering deep relationships in The Bronx, we knew we had a unique role to play in bridging the gap between government agencies and frontline workers,” says Bonnie Mohan, Executive Director of The Bronx Health and Housing Consortium. “We began organizing virtual townhalls where medical experts were able to speak to our member organizations, so they could better support our borough as it confronts a multitude of crises at the intersection of the sectors we exist to serve.”

Getting everyone together – and on such short notice – was no easy matter, but it’s what The Bronx Health and Housing Consortium does best. Started in 2011 and incorporated as a 501-c-3 in 2017, they have brought together organizations in the health, housing, and homelessness sectors to improve healthcare systems for the most disadvantaged New Yorkers.

“We started doing this work before we ever had a way to pay for it,” says Bonnie Mohan. “It was a passion project for us, and we are proud to see the impact our work has had on The Bronx and beyond.”

In addition to organizing town halls, The Bronx Health and Housing Consortium carries out the only hospital homeless census that provides crucial data about the number of homeless people seeking care or shelter in New York City emergency departments. They recently launched a newsletter that includes news, resources, and funding opportunities to its member organizations.

Equitably disseminating information and bringing people together to work on shared challenges is invaluable; that’s why we decided to recognize their work with a $10,000 Small Business Recovery Grant sponsored by the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that nonprofits are a lifeline for our communities in times of crisis. Unfortunately, their vital work is too often uncompensated. With our Small Business Recovery Grant, we wanted to honor The Bronx Health and Housing Consortium’s efforts. It was the least we could do.

“2020 was a hard year for us,” says Bonnie Mohan. “The pandemic made us lose crucial funding sources while also making our work more demanding. Spring Bank’s flexible grant will allow us to be responsive to the needs of our community.”

“Because of this grant, we can carry out an eviction training moratorium that will help our community address the incoming housing crisis,” she continues. “We could not be more grateful for Spring Bank’s support and partnership.”

Supporting nonprofits is a part of our core mission as a community-based and community-informed bank. To learn more about how we can assist your nonprofit organization, check out our blog on nonprofit lending. You can also learn more about the Small Business Recovery Grant Program and the nine other nonprofits we supported here.

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We are more than a local bank: we are a Community Development Financial Institution or CDFI. CDFIs work to create wealth-building opportunities for economically distressed communities across the United States. But to carry out our work, we need access to affordable capital that we can lend in our communities. That’s where The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York (FHLBNY) comes in.

Founded at the height of the Great Depression, the FHLBNY is part of a national network of 11 Federal Home Loan Banks that exist to advance housing and community development. With over 6,800 member institutions that range from commercial banks to credit unions to insurance companies, Federal Home Loan Banks give their members a flexible credit liquidity source to grow and prosper. We are proud to be members of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York that has supported our work as a CDFI.

“CDFIs help underbanked communities secure home mortgages and other forms of lending,” explains Michael A. Beifeld, First Officer Relationship Manager of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. “As a financial institution that exists to support housing opportunities and community development, we knew that partnering with CDFIs was a no-brainer. That’s why we have accepted them as members since 2010.”

When the pandemic hit, it became clear that it had a disproportionate impact on low-wealth majority-minority communities. CDFIs stepped up to provide crucial financial support in their communities. And the government noticed. In the latest two COVID-19 relief bills, Congress set aside over $20 billion in funding for CDFIs and Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) to help the most negatively impacted communities recover from this crisis.

Throughout the pandemic, we have gone out of our way to support small businesses and nonprofits. We prioritized them because we know they are pillars in our communities, despite being ignored by larger financial institutions. Just in 2020, we secured PPP Loans for 53 nonprofits valued at $35 million. Like us, the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York recognized the challenges faced by nonprofits.

“Nonprofits typically only have three months to raise money via galas and events,” says Mr. Beifeld. “Because of COVID-19, many nonprofits could not raise money to carry out their most basic functions. Seeing the need that there was, we established grant programs for nonprofits.”

We are proud to have taken part in one of those programs: The Small Business Grant Recovery Program. The Small Business Grant Recovery Program offers participating members up to $100,000 in funds to allocate to their small business and nonprofit partners as grants.  In line with our work as a CDFI, we were able to secure a $100,000 grant, allocating $10,000 each, for ten of our nonprofit neighbors.

To learn more about our involvement with the Small Business Recovery Grant Program and the nonprofits we supported, check out our article on it here. You can also read more about CDFIs and their impact on our blog.

Spring Bank Staff Profile

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The Bronx is our home. From the moment we opened our doors nearly 15 years ago, we have worked hard to develop deep relationships with our neighbors and prioritize our community. We locally invest because we have deep roots here. Barry Mann, our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, is one of those people.

“I don’t only work at Spring Bank: I live in The Bronx, just a few blocks away,” says Barry. “This is my community, and I care deeply about the work we do. I am one of the longest-tenured employees at the bank, and I’ve experienced the impact of our community commitment.”

Not only does Barry live and work in the community he serves, but he also leads the first bank to headquarter in The Bronx after decades of disinvestment and abandonment. From first-hand experience, he knows how important it is for communities to have equitable access to the financial system and wealth-building opportunities; and he works hard to make it happen.

“Our loans are designed to help small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals who live in communities that larger banks have tended to ignore,” Barry explains. “I am so proud to work at a bank that takes chances on people and gives them the resources to grow and accomplish their dreams. It’s through their accomplishments that I have seen my hopes for The Bronx become a reality.”

Barry’s roots in this community have motivated him to fight hard for our nonprofit partners disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. He has been instrumental in helping them secure funding to continue their vital work in sectors that range from the arts to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education to housing.  Last month, he secured $100,000 in funding for 10 of our nonprofit partners through the Federal Loan Bank of New York’s Small Business Recovery Grant Program. And as always, he plans to do more.

We are a homegrown bank that believes change starts small: to usher in long-lasting social change – we must support our community partners on the ground who are making that change happen. You can learn more about our involvement with the Small Business Recovery Grant Program here. Learn more about ArivaThe Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Custom Collaborative.   You can also read about our free nonprofit checking accounts and how we can support your organization.

Xavier Givens, Business Development Officer, Spring Bank Staff Profile

Imagine transitioning from a career in construction to a career in community banking. Unusual right? After all, construction and banking don’t seem to have much in common. But that’s precisely the transition Xavier Givens, our Business Development Officer, made last fall.

Before joining the team at Spring Bank, Xavier spent over a decade working in construction, starting his career as a laborer, quickly working his way up to becoming a site project manager. And yet, something was missing for Xavier: the human connection and the satisfaction that comes from helping individuals and small businesses sustain and grow.

“In construction, you don’t have a direct connection to people,” Xavier says. “You get contracted, you meet a deadline, and you move on.”

Seeking a way to give back to his community, Xavier volunteered with a nonprofit to teach construction classes. In 2018, through his nonprofit work, Xavier connected with Edison Ortega, our Chief Operating Officer. Their relationship exposed him to the role community banks can play in creating wealth-building opportunities for small businesses and individuals historically excluded from the financial system.

It was the kind of career impact Xavier wanted. He continued to volunteer and lead teams in his construction work, but when COVID-19 hit our city, the desire for connection and local impact increased. Xavier witnessed the pandemic’s immediate effect in his community and home, The Bronx.

“I witnessed dozens of businesses shut their doors,” he says. “In Black and Brown communities, many small businesses were already barely surviving. So, when we experience a catastrophe like the COVID-19 pandemic, it exposed all their weaknesses.”

In August 2020, Xavier joined our team as a Business Development Officer — just in time to step onto the front lines of emergency business lending via the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Since he began his tenure, Xavier has helped dozens of small businesses and nonprofits access the funds they need – and may not be received from a larger financial institution.

Most recently, he helped the Lehman College Performing Arts Center acquire a PPP Loan to continue supporting their 57 employees, even as their doors remain closed in compliance with social distancing regulations.

“I feel so proud that we were able to secure PPP funding for the Lehman Performance Arts Center,” he says. “It’s one of the few places in The Bronx that provides low-cost or free opportunities to engage in culture. The value they bring to The Bronx is immeasurable, and as a community bank, we recognize that, as we do for all our small business neighbors.”

Xavier sometimes wonders how he transitioned from a career in construction to banking. But to us, it seems like a logical step. Xavier has always been a builder, but now – instead of building structures – he builds up small businesses and nonprofits, building up communities. We are so lucky to have the leadership of Xavier, who embodies that mission.

“Our hands-on customer service is vital for our community,” he continues.” It’s an honor to bring much-needed investment to The Bronx and to learn from my colleagues every day.”

To learn more about our commitment to building up our community, check out our work with our partners: The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Chelsea Restoration Project, Ultranauts, and Harlem Pizza Co. If your small business or nonprofit needs lending support, don’t hesitate to reach out. We can’t wait to meet you!

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As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), supporting nonprofits and small businesses is fundamental to our mission. One of the ways we prioritize community-based organizations is through our membership in the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York (FHLBNY). The FHBLNY helps community lenders like us in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands by advancing housing and community growth.

Investing in small business and nonprofit sectors is one key to maintaining financially healthy communities. However, the pandemic and the economic fallout have threatened the survival of countless small businesses and nonprofits that do not have access to affordable credit and cash reserves. So, when we heard that the FHLBNY was offering a Small Business Grant Recovery Program, we immediately signed up!

The Small Business Grant Recovery Program provided participating member banks funds to allocate $10,000 grants to 10 small business and/or nonprofit partners. Beneficiaries needed to demonstrate a decrease in revenue because of COVID-19. Knowing how dramatically the pandemic impacted NYC nonprofits, we reached out to 10 organizations that have inspired us. The grantees are:

Arete Education

Ariva

Bronx River Alliance

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

Custom Collaborative

The Greyston Foundation

The Health and Housing Consortium

Hester Street

Rocking the Boat

Mary Mitchell Family & Youth Center

These nonprofits have wide-ranging missions that include: the arts, financial empowerment, housing, and the environment. For example, Brooklyn-based Arete Living Arts creates artwork that inspires personal, political, or spiritual awakenings. Rocking the Boat, a South Bronx-based nonprofit offers, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) education programs for 200 teenagers a year. We are inspired by the work of all the Small Business Grant Recovery recipients and encourage you to stay tuned as we feature them on our blog over the next several months.

To learn more about our mission to support nonprofits, you can read our 2020 Reflection. Learn more about Ariva, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Custom Collaborative. You can also read about our free nonprofit checking accounts and how we can support your organization.

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A Small Business PPP Story

New York City has long been known as a national and international artistic beacon. While the numerous theatres, museums, concert halls, and galleries are the lifeblood of our city, there are also, behind the scenes, hundreds of small businesses that help make our city’s arts scene the best in the world. Chelsea Restoration Associates Inc. is one of those small businesses whose work you may have seen without even knowing it.

Founded in 2004 by John Powell and Amy Sokoloff, Chelsea Restoration is one of New York City’s premier art restoration and conservation studios. They restore and preserve fine paintings that are exhibited in our city’s finest museums, galleries, and dealerships–and they do it from right here in the Bronx!

“It doesn’t matter if the work of art is a family heirloom or something you bought at the flea market, we will restore it,” explains Amy. “We work on paintings that range from $100 to $20 million.”

When COVID-19 hit, the arts were devastated. Without the ability to open venues, artists and the organizations that support them were forced to adapt to a new reality. We are proud to have helped Chelsea Restoration­ during this challenging moment for our city’s arts community with a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

“I am extremely thankful to Spring Bank,” says John. “When the pandemic began, our business flatlined. We did not know how we were going to get through it. But then Spring Bank came along, and they answered all of our calls and emails. Whatever we needed, they were there. Thanks to them, we secured two rounds of PPP funding.”

Before coming to us, Chelsea Restoration tried to get assistance from a large financial institution but was ignored. Small businesses often are. But not with us. As a community bank, we exist to provide personalized and affordable services to all individuals, small businesses and nonprofits.

“We knew that adapting to the pandemic was going to be difficult because so much of our work cannot be done remotely,” says Amy. “But the PPP loan gave us the time to do that. We pivoted to host client consultations and meetings virtually which allowed us to continue our work safely.”

“But it went beyond that,” she continues. “Securing the PPP loan gave us the flexibility to automate a lot of our business processes. Rather than managing our inventory and payroll manually, we can now do it automatically. The benefits will outlast the pandemic because we’ll be able to serve more clients.”

And now, Chelsea Restoration can rehire and employ more people.

“Before the pandemic started, we hired an NYU intern who moved home because of the lockdowns,” says John. “The PPP loan enabled us to hire her back; it prevented one less artist from leaving New York City.”

We know the arts are what make New York City so vibrant and unique. We are proud to have helped when the pandemic disproportionately impacted this vital industry. If you are interested in learning more about how we support the arts, check out our work with the Bronx Museum of the Arts. You can also read more about our PPP lending work here.

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For 50 years, The Bronx Museum of the Arts has been an institutional pillar, at the forefront of arts and culture, racial and social justice, and immortalizing our borough’s rich culture. This year, the Museum Arts celebrates 50 years and the 40th anniversary of its Artists in the Marketplace program, a renowned artist development program. We are inspired by their long history of elevating black, brown, and Asian artists who have historically been excluded from mainstream cultural institutions. The Bronx Museum of the Arts programming and visits remain free, creating access for all of us to experience some of New York City’s most innovative multi-media creators.

“The Bronx Museum of the Arts was founded by local activists who wanted to bring art to the Bronx and highlight its cultural richness,” says Claudette McQueen, Manager for Special Events and Membership.  “Our unique programing and exhibitions reflect the Bronx’s history and how overlooked our borough continues to be. Now more than ever, we remain devoted to our mission of visibility and inclusivity.”

Located a few blocks away from our headquarters and with a shared mission of revitalizing the Bronx, we were pleased when the museum–at the height of the pandemic–reached out to us for assistance with a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

“Reaching out to Spring Bank for support in securing PPP lending was one of the best decisions that the museum has made,” says Alan Highet, CFO and General Counsel at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. “They showed us right away they wanted to help us further our community goals. If you’re looking for a real banking relationship, don’t think twice about Spring Bank.”

The PPP loan helped the Bronx Museum of the Arts transition to virtual programming and digital art exhibitions.  Their team moved quickly to implement health and safety procedures for in-person viewing and expanded their famous Family Affair program so that Bronx families could participate in hands-on activities from home.

“We believe community partners are a critical part of our work. Whether it’s in person or from afar, we are rooted in the Bronx, and we are committed to the people who live here and mutual success,” says Claudette.

We feel the same. We are grateful for community anchors like The Bronx Museum of the Arts. Congratulations on 50 years! We encourage you to celebrate their local commitment and visit them in-person or online for free. Check out their guided tours online, join their Family Affair program, or make an appointment to visit the museum person.