Continuing our series on professionals in the alternative and commercial finance spaces to find out more about how they succeed in their business. The experience levels will vary but these are people who work very hard at their craft. They take care of their clients first, above all else, in order to build a long-lasting business.
Todays Featured Professional is Heather Francis, CEO Elevate Funding
Please tell everyone about you, your business, and how you got into the industry.
My name is Heather Francis, and I am the CEO and Founder of Elevate Funding. Elevate Funding is a provider of Merchant Cash Advance, which is a product that purchases the future sales of small businesses, allowing them quick access to working capital. I have been a part of this industry since 2009, and I honestly stumbled my way into the space. Moving on from the elevator pitch, I want to give you some info most people don’t know.
I wasn’t interested in finance when I was a kid. I wanted to be a hairstylist, a lawyer, a teacher, and ultimately tried making my way into the medical field. I never saw myself in finance, but when I was hired out of college at a private equity firm, everything clicked, and my brain just started thinking of ways to do it better.
Personally, I have two boys and a husband of 13 years who is in law enforcement. I label myself as the “modern soccer mom.” I am “modern” because we use an SUV instead of a minivan, but that is the only distinction. My oldest is a goalie in the MLS Next program with Jacksonville Football Club, so soccer is a big part of our lives, and it keeps us on the road throughout the southeast. I have perfected the balance of working remotely while traveling for his events – with the help of my husband, Onstar internet, and the wonderful team at Elevate. My dream job would be singing. I love music, but I am tone def. My taste in music is very eclectic. Spotify gave up on suggesting music for me since I am all over the place. Even in my business travels, I am always looking for nearby concerts.
A final point that many don’t know is that I am an introvert. I really have to get outside my comfort zone when traveling for business events and push myself not to hide out in the groups that make me feel comfortable. I usually hold myself to a goal of approaching five people a day, but sometimes I just can’t do it. So, if you see me at a show [when we have them again], please don’t hesitate to approach me. It actually saves me a lot of anxiety!
What products do you offer?
Elevate is a Merchant Cash Advance direct funder. A Merchant Cash Advance is the purchase and sale of future receivables for a small business. We have built multiple programs under that umbrella – the Embark programs, the Flex Funds add-on, and now the Abound program, which is our newest addition.
What documents are needed and how long does the whole funding process take?
We require an application, three months of bank statements, proof of ownership, a voided check, and a driver’s license. The funding process is usually dependent on the business owner and how quickly they move to sign agreements and provide requested documentation. Our average timeframe is about 24 hours.
In what ways does Elevate help lead the industry? What makes you stand out as a direct funder in the MCA space?
Elevate is all about transparency – both with our partners and the business owners we service. We strive to continue improving and building upon our business model while putting our merchants first. Elevate is also a part of the Small Business Finance Association (SBFA), and we continue to work with the association (along with state and federal regulators) to improve our industry.
What advice would you give small business owners who are considering alternative funding for their businesses?
My advice to any business owner looking to obtain capital for your business is to be honest with yourself on what you need, what you can afford, and what your business is really worth. Once you have those metrics, you can successfully start looking into products and find what fits your needs.
What are your growth goals for the new year? What are you hoping to accomplish in 2021?
This year is going to be weird – coming off the pandemic and seeing how we move forward – it’s going to be a telling time. Below, you’ll find some of our goals for the year – some are new things we want to try; some are processes we want to add on to; and some are processes we want to remove completely.
The new: to provide valuable updates to our proprietary client management system (Elevate View), to create synergistic relationships with vendors that will help improve small business financial outlooks, and to see our organic growth take off.
The old: to continue to grow our brand through social media campaigns, to continue to provide educational content to both merchants and referral partners alike, and to continue innovating our financial products for the betterment of small business.
The ugly: to remove the slow and unsafe email submission practice, and to remove our COVID restrictions.
What is your top piece of advice you would give to owners/CEOs of other small businesses?
This may be contradictory to what most people see on their LinkedIn feeds, but I will share it anyway. It is okay to be still! Sometimes we need to slow down and stand still to see the full picture. I find that most of the ideas that have any worth come to me when I am in a moment of stillness.
What are you most proud of when you look back on Elevates growth and progress through the years?
We have held true, and will continue to hold true, to our core values; from the first deal funded to the last payment received, we are here for the benefit of the merchant and to help small businesses achieve their goals. I am proud that we have not given up our integrity for the sake of a dollar.
Anything else you would like to mention?
We recently came out with a great addition to our merchant portal that will greatly benefit our small business owners. We have set up a self-service feature that gives merchants control of their payments – that way they can keep us up to date on how their sales are fluctuating and we can adjust their payment amounts in a more timely manner.
Heather Francis is the CEO and Founder of Elevate Funding. She can be reached at: