From the July 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

National -- To most people, UPS means package delivery. In the future, however, small-business owners may begin to think venture capital when they hear the name, thanks to the multimillion-dollar Strategic Enterprise Fund the company recently established.

The fund's managers can invest up to $2 million in a single company that offers a service or product of strategic interest to UPS. This could include businesses in the fulfillment aspect of e-commerce, digital conversion, bar-coding technologies and alternative delivery methods, to name a few.

Eligible companies should be in the early stages of development but shouldn't be start-ups, and should have a product ready to go to market. There also should be some revenue coming into the firm, but the venture does not need to be profitable.

UPS expects to take an equity interest in each company, to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. The mail industry giant will also typically ask for a seat on the board of directors or request the right to visit board meetings. UPS officials expect their relationship with the company to last from three to six years and envision exit strategies that might include issuing IPOs or implementing an internal or external buyout.

Interested firms in the continental United States and Canada should submit a business plan and a statement explaining why their product has a strategic relevance to UPS. For more information on the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, call (404) 828-7082.

Firm Helps You Get The Word Out

National -- If you want to promote your business but don't know a thing about public relations, PR Newswire can put your company in all the right places at a relatively low cost. The 44-year-old service has 27 bureaus in major cities throughout the United States that specialize in sending press releases and photos to newspapers, magazines, newswires, radio and TV stations, and online resources.

"A small business in Chicago, for example, can send a 400-word release to all media in Chicago for $100," says PR Newswire's Ira Krawitz.

PR Newswire won't write your news releases, but it provides guidance and a free kit with instructions on how to write one. To obtain the kit or more information on PR Newswire, call (800) 832-5522, ext. 1527.

Small Firms Benefit From Merrill Lynch Program

Southern California -- Financial powerhouse Merrill Lynch & Co. has made a 10-year commitment to provide minority entrepreneurs in Los Angeles and Orange counties with capital and financial help via a program it developed called the Southern California Partnership for Economic Achievement.

The program specifically targets Asian-American, Latino and African-American entrepreneurs in the two counties; the help includes free counseling and a chance to apply for part of the $20 million in dedicated loan funds and $5 million in equity investment capital.

The counseling consists of business financial planning services, seminars and one-on-one consultations. Topics include cash management, human resource needs and succession planning.

Requests of at least $100,000 from the loan fund will be reviewed individually; all eligible firms must have completed the business financial planning process.

Entrepreneurs need not be clients of Merrill Lynch to take advantage of the services. However, they should have been in business at least four years, have a minimum of $500,000 in sales, and have good credit. For more information, call (888) SOCAL-ML.

Exporters Get Help Close To Home

Southern California -- The El Segundo-based Export SBDC (Small Business Development Center) has opened an outreach center in Santa Fe Springs to provide small firms in the area with free help from trade veterans. Among the services provided are counseling, access to trade databases, and training programs, such as the Exportwise Certificate. The center, open Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment (call 562-941-2903), is one of four satellites the Export SBDC has established. The others are in:

  • Long Beach, (562) 980-4550; staffed on an as-needed basis; call for an appointment.
  • El Monte, (626) 459-4111; open Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; call for an appointment or to use the computer.
  • Santa Barbara/Ventura, (805) 644-6191; open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for individualized counseling and to use trade databases.