At this holiday season, in the midst of an economic recession and uncertainty about war in the Middle East, I'm willing to bet that more than a few business owners are looking to get in touch with their angels.

We're not talking about wealthy individuals who invest in your company. We're talking about the other kind of angel-think harps, haloes, Mr. Jordan, Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life.

Oh, so you don't believe they exist? Someone who might persuade you otherwise is Arlene Untenberg, the proprietor of Angels...A Celestial Gathering Place in Milford, Connecticut, a combination angel gift shop (boasting "the largest selection of angels in the Northeast"), holistic healing center and cafe. For Untenberg, running a demanding business is perfectly consistent with a deep spiritual belief.

"While deeply religious people have always believed in angels, you do not have to be a 'spiritual type' to believe in them," says Untenberg. "Every traditional culture in the world accepts the existence of guiding spirits."

Untenberg believes that entrepreneurs need to get in touch with their angels more than most folks do. "When you start a business, you are really in it yourself. Each day there's a new problem, a new headache, and you have to find that grit within yourself to tough [out] the day. Believing you have a personal angel means reaching inside yourself, going really deep, and finding that inspiration to keep going. Angels are a reflection of our own higher self that we call upon."

Although Untenberg believes that her store has a guiding spirit, which she says occasionally manifests itself in the form of a shapeless periwinkle blue shadow or aura (photos available on her Web site, www.angelsblessings.com), she says an angel is more likely to be an intangible presence you cannot experience with your five senses.

"Angels talk through other people," says Untenberg. "You'll be sitting there thinking 'How do they know I'm thinking that right now?' or 'How do they know I'm going through that?'"

As an example of how angels work, Untenberg says that several years ago she was in desperate need of money for her business. She visited several banks and attended an all-day program sponsored by a local organization to help women business owners find financing, but everyone turned her down. "I was desperate," says Untenberg, "because the business was flat, my husband lost his job, and I was being broken every which way. Since I do have faith, I just threw my hands up and surrendered. I asked my angel to send me a sign-should I just shut down the business and get a job?"

The next day, Untenberg received a telephone call from someone at a local bank offering SBA loans. The person told her: "I heard about your business from a friend of mine, who runs a coffee shop down the street from you. I understand you need money. We have something here called a business installment loan. I can take your information over the telephone with no income verification, and you'll have the money in 24 hours." At first, Untenberg was skeptical, but she answered the banker's questions, and the next day-Friday the 13th-she received a wire transfer of more than $50,000.

Untenberg says the key to getting in touch with your personal angel is to "quiet yourself down, stop the chatter inside your head, and really listen." Each day, Untenberg spends at least half an hour in quiet meditation. Sometimes, she says, it helps her to "journal"-write down spontaneously what comes into your head during a meditative state.

Whatever the approach, Untenberg cautions that angels are not to be used as scapegoats for bad business decisions or faulty judgments: You can't say "my angel made me do it," and you certainly can't sue them for malpractice if things don't work out. "Angels are not there to rule your life," she says, "and you still have to make the final choices, but they can give you incredible guidance, if you are willing to listen and accept what you hear."


Cliff Ennico is host of the PBS television series MoneyHunt and a leading expert on managing growing companies. His advice for small businesses regularly appears on the "Protecting Your Business" channel on the Small Business Television Network at www.sbtv.com. E-mail him at cennico@legalcareer.com.