More than ever, helping microbusinesses thrive takes empathy
It’s impossible not to root for entrepreneurs who bravely go off on their own, wanting to be their own boss. They’re pushing themselves every day, trying new things, doing great work, and driving the world’s economy. Most people aren’t aware, but 98% of all businesses in the U.S. have fewer than 20 employees. The life of an entrepreneur isn’t an easy path, and it’s even more challenging during a pandemic when uncertainty is heightened. But, it’s a calling, and as an entrepreneur, you feel that you’re sacrificing some of yourself if you don’t go after it.
I owned multiple small businesses before I started Wave with my co-founder James Lochrie. For one of those businesses, I had to get a merchant account in order to accept payments. It was one of the most frustrating, difficult things I’ve ever done (and for a lot of small business owners it hasn’t gotten a lot easier 9 years later. And don’t get me started on applying for a loan!).
The average small business owner doesn’t go into business to perform financial tasks like invoicing, accounting, and payroll. They often don’t have time for it and they may hate it like I did. The financial life of a small business owner can be disorganized. I’ve been there. It can remain a stress point for them, especially at tax time. They’re often not passionate about managing their finances, or they lack accounting knowledge, and it can get them in a lot of trouble if not done correctly. It can be fraught with risk including IRS and other government penalties. And many entrepreneurs may not always know what opportunities or relief efforts are available to them when they need them.
Coming off two failed startups, I was passionate about solving what I knew got in the way of the joy of successfully running a small business.
Powering the microbusiness economy with Wave Money
Traditionally, it’s been difficult for banks and software companies to build solutions specifically for small business owners due to challenges of scale. But as I mentioned earlier this year at the CES fireside chat on powering the microbusiness economy, we’re at a tipping point in the economy where previously hard-to-serve small business owners are suddenly within reach for solution providers. For example, the doors of ecommerce have been thrown wide open, allowing many more small businesses and microbusinesses to sell online. We’ve seen the same for brick and mortar retail with expanding point-of-sale options. And software providers for service-based businesses like Wave no longer need shelf space in big box stores to compete. Instead, we can reach potential customers through search engines and app stores.
When we looked at this space, we saw there wasn’t payment software built for the small business owner; it was mostly built for the accountant. Many of the other solutions don’t serve many microbusinesses. Research shows more than 40% of microbusiness owners use spreadsheets or other manual processes. There’s a better way.
At Wave, we just announced Wave Money, a new small business payment solution to address the needs of microbusiness owners. It’s the only no-fee business bank account that manages bookkeeping automatically. In today’s economy, every dollar counts, and the average Wave business pays more than $425 in annual bank fees. By contrast, Wave Money has no monthly fees, no account minimums, no transfer fees, and manages bookkeeping automatically making it easier for service-based businesses to track business expenses with little prior knowledge or experience.
Wave Money is the solution I could have used early on in my small business endeavors. Seventy-eight percent of Canadian small businesses are service-based. Think consultants, web designers, photographers, plumbers, and many more. They’re invoicing constantly and often need to chase down payments. For the average small business owner that can be a massive pain point. Wave Money shakes up the banking industry by offering a free banking and bookkeeping solution that empowers small business owners to focus on running their business while knowing they’ve handled their finances.
How empathy yields innovation for microbusinesses
The entrepreneur’s journey can be very difficult and lonely. We tend to romanticize entrepreneurship because entrepreneurs embody so many values that matter to us. Entrepreneurs also need empathy, in both normal times, and especially now, for what they’re going through. As government orders begin lifting and social distancing remains, there’s no clear roadmap for new entrepreneurs to get started or for existing small businesses to rebuild and survive.
Much of Wave’s innovation has involved enabling small businesses to collect payments faster and more efficiently as it’s the number one way to solve cash flow problems. Beyond looking at ways to get small businesses paid faster, when we developed Wave Money, we focused on how the banking industry could improve the lives of small business owners. We created Wave Money to simplify the experience for small business owners who, like when I started out, don’t have the time or passion for finances. Empathy, and a critical eye for what was needed, helped us deliver the first free combined banking, payments, and bookkeeping solution.
Having empathy for what entrepreneurs go through on a day-to-day basis is the best mindset to build great products. As I said, nine years ago, getting a merchant account so I could accept payments was a painful process. Now with Wave, we’ve simplified the process so you can open a merchant account by entering basic business information and be quickly set up to accept payments. Including Wave Money, we’ve created solutions that help small business owners bank with no fees, increase their visibility and professionalism, track payments, and get paid faster, all being ready for tax time.
At Wave, we are specifically focused on empowering brave entrepreneurs to take better control of their financial lives. Through empathy and innovation, we will continue to develop ways to help small businesses thrive which in turn leads to a thriving economy for us all.
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