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By CNote, Financial Planning

CNote & HIP Webinar Recording: Income + Impact, Investing in Volatile Times

On February 27, 2019, CNote co-hosted a webinar with HIP Investor that was moderated by Sonya Dreizler of Solutions with Sonya.

The presenters highlighted some of the investment options currently available, tools for measuring impact, and some unique advantages that come with an impact investment strategy.

CNote’s CEO, Catherine Berman, presented for CNote and answered attendee questions about CNote’s offerings and how CNote is helping to mobilize more community investment.

The webinar is worth a listen if you’d like to learn more about impact investing.

Webinar Recording and Slides

If you weren’t able to watch the webinar live you can watch the recording at your leisure. You can also download and review the slides here.

Join CNote’s Mailing List To Get Updates About Future Webinars

If you’d like to stay in touch and get notifications when we host future webinars and other events, please provide your email below.

Financial Professional Looking For More Information?

If you’re a financial advisor looking to offer CNote to your clients, visit our Advisor page to learn more about how CNote can help you deliver strong returns and impact to your clients. There, you can also start a conversation with one of advisor onboarding experts.

By CNote, Small Businesses

Visualizing Your Impact

Creating Success Stories

Seeing the impact of your investment is a persistent challenge for impact investors.

It can be difficult to take abstract metrics like dollars invested or jobs created and visualize what that means for individuals and the communities they live in.

We created this short video to highlight how impactful your investment in CNote can be.

Diving Deeper On Impact

If you would like to read the detailed profiles of these success stories, you can review them here.

By CNote, Impact Metrics

CNote’s Q4 2018 Impact Metrics – Infographic

We know one of the main reasons you invest with CNote, is because of the impact your investment has.

We’re proud to share our Q4 impact data.

As you may have noticed, our quarterly job creation numbers are trending upwards along with our allocations across key demographics, like women, minority communities, and LMI communities.

In Q4 2018, our members helped create/maintain 430 jobs!

Over 65% of all invested capital was deployed with minority-led businesses!

We are extremely proud of our Q4 results and will be releasing our full 2018 Impact Report shortly. In the interim, check out our 2017 Annual report.

By CNote

CNote is Now a Certified B Corp

We believe business can be a force for good.

That idea is embedded in our social mission of closing the wealth gap and building a more inclusive economy for everyone.

Our team thought it was only natural we formalize that commitment by becoming a Certified B Corporation®. Now CNote’s commitment to profit with purpose becomes even more clear for our investors, members, and partners.

We’re excited to join a growing list of companies that are working to build sustainable businesses along with a better world.

Some statistics about B Corps™:

  • There are over 2,600 certified companies
  • Covering 150 industries and 60 countries
  • B Corps were 65 percent more likely to survive the great recession in 2009

What B Corp Status Means

CNote was certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. That required us to evaluate how our practices impact our employees, our community, the environment, and our customers.

“Think of it this way: USDA certifies organic foods, and Good Housekeeping puts its seal of approval on quality products, like washing machines and skillets. And since 2006, a nonprofit organization called B Lab has been certifying corporations it deems to be concerned about their communities and the environment.” – NPR

Certified B Corporations® are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit.

They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.

This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.

The entire CNote teams is excited to be a part of this movement!

By CNote

CNote + HIP Investor Webinar

Want to add impact and ESG to your portfolios?

Not sure how to get started with impact investing?

Want to hear industry experts talk about their passion for leveraging finance to build a better world?

Great, sign up for our FREE “Investing for Income + Impact” webinar.

Join CNote and Friends for a Free Webinar

Join us on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, featuring leaders in income and impact — Cat Berman, CEO of CNote; R. Paul Herman, CEO of HIP Investor; and Sonya Dreizler, CEO of Solutions with Sonya.

The webinar will be emceed by Sonya Dreizler, who helps advisors and financial experts pursue impact Investing, and how to better manage your RIA, Mutual Fund, and Broker-Dealer.

Please join us for an insightful exploration and deep discussion on Income + Impact, along with active Q and A along the way.

What We’ll Cover

This and much more:

  • Portfolio options that generate Income and Impact across multiple asset classes, including strategies involving muni bonds, real estate, cash alternatives, and other asset classes
  • How you can invest in community development and increase capital access for women and people of color
  • How to structure a portfolio to target UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) across both U.S. and Global markets


Feb 27, 2019, at 1:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Register for Free

RSVP: “Investing for Income + Impact” on Feb. 27 @ 1:00 pm

By CNote

CNote In The News – A Solid Start to 2019

What We’re Focused On

Our mission at CNote is to create competitive financial products that make money for our investors while building a more inclusive economy.


We know its a big goal, but big goals can create big change.

Some Exciting News

Occasionally, we’re lucky enough to receive industry recognition or build partnerships that help push us towards our goals and remind us that the work we’re doing resonates with a broader audience.

This week is one of those weeks for our team.

We wanted to briefly mention a few highlights we’re proud of.

Mastercard Start Path

We’re excited to announce that we’ve been selected to join this year’s Mastercard Start Path cohort.

It’s a long-running program with a track record of helping startups build key partnerships and gain broader access to customers, investors, and ecosystems.

Nearly 200 companies have participated in the program, and we’ve connected with nearly 10,000 of the world’s smartest startup founders to build the future of commerce together.

Thanks to the entire Mastercard team for their support!

CB Insights

Additionally, we’re grateful for recent recognition from CB Insights in their 2019 Fintech Trends to watch report.

We were previously invited to their Demo Day event, and given CB Insights’ growing reputation as a key provider of business intelligence and predictor of trends, we’re grateful they think our impact-focused Fintech company is worth a mention.

If you’re interested in Fintech or just enjoy lots of charts, their 2019 report is worth a look. The slide (p. 77) mentioning CNote is excerpted below.


We’re hoping 2019 is filled with even more milestones like this. Learn more about CNote.
By Borrower Stories, Wisdom

Yahaira Caraballo – Nail Glam Studio – Sisters Find Success in the South Bronx

Yahaira and her sister Onaney

Perseverance Breeds Success

It’s October 1st, 2013, opening day for Nail Glam Studio and Yahaira Caraballo is nervous. After months of grueling effort, her south Bronx-based nail salon is finally ready and open to the public.

The only problem? The public didn’t come. Not on the first day, at least.

Like everything that brought her to this point, however, Yahaira’s persistence soon paid off. Although Nail Glam Studio, in her own words “didn’t make a dime the first day,” it did manage to turn a profit by the end of the first week and has only grown since.

Nail Glam Studio Founder, Yahaira Caraballo

While Yahaira’s determination enabled her to push past a number of obstacles, it took the help of many other hands to effectively turn Nail Glam Studios from a vision in her head into a thriving business.

One primary source assistance came from CNote’s CDFI partner, the Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF), which provided essential guidance in the early stages of forming the business, along with the funds to make the necessary upgrades to comply with new regulations and to expand operations.

The other essential ingredient in Yahaira’s small business success story is family. From her brother helping to build and repair the shop to her husband providing the painting expertise, she was not short on support from those closest to her.

Yahaira did not just receive help from family, however, but was able to provide something even more important to her sister, Onaney Caraballo. In fact, one could say that Onaney was the driving force behind the idea to open Nail Glam Studios all along.

The Origins of Nail Glam Studio

Yahaira was sure that she wanted to start a business since she was young but just couldn’t find a place where she could make an impact. Despite taking on a full-time job in New York City, she still never lost her entrepreneurial ambition and continued to look for ideas and ways that she could turn her dream into reality. In the end, her sister provided the inspiration to finally take the steps towards forming a small business of her own.

Nail Glam Studio Team

Following a move to New York City from their native Dominican Republic in 2003, Onaney quickly established herself as a stylist, gaining recognition at local nail salons and practicing on Yahaira in her spare time. Seeing her sister’s talent and looking to finally realize her own dream to be a small business owner, Yahaira cleared her savings account and began to take the steps necessary to open Nail Glam Studios.

Nail Glam Studios soon become more than just a business for the two sisters. In fact, it became a way for both to live out their respective dreams and come together in a way they never previously imagined. Where Yahaira could fulfill her ambition of owning and operating a small business, Onaney could finally have the kind of stable and supportive working environment that enabled her to focus on improving her craft without worrying about working hours or other issues that usually come with freelance and studio work.

The idea was in place. Now Yahaira just needed funding to get Nail Glam Studios off the ground.

Getting a Loan

Yahaira first sought to get a personal loan from Chase Bank. Such loans come attached with high interest rates on repayment, but Yahaira was dedicated to seeing the idea of opening a nail salon for her sister through to completion. While she was refused for the loan on the grounds because that local branch did not invest in small businesses of Nail Glam’s size, she was given referrals that culminated with her collaboration with EGF.

EGF helped connect Yahaira with the right experts, who were able to walk her through the intricacies of operating a small business. For example, they taught her how to complete the required paperwork, including a fully-formed business plan, that were required to apply for a loan. Along with the business advice and guidance, EGF provided the loan necessary for Nail Glam Studio to comply with the aforementioned state regulations, as well as enable the hiring of two additional staff members to expand the business with new pedicure and manicure stations.

Success and Community-Centered Growth

Since that first day without a paying customer, Yahaira estimates that they see more than one new customer every day simply through word-of-mouth. She credits this to a number of factors, including her focus on providing quality service at an affordable price. However, the emphasis on building a strong community is what really sets Nail Glam Studios apart from other nail salons in the area.

To that end, Nail Glam Studios holds community events every three months, usually corresponding with public holidays like Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. Yahaira sees the events as a way to give back to those who are a vital component in the nail salon’s success.

Yahaira particularly enjoys Customer Appreciation Month, held every October to commemorate Nail Glam Studio’s founding–and that first nerve-wracking day–where she provides free goodie bags filled with nail-care products to customers.

A Family Success

Yahaira with her brother and sister

While building a community of happy customers in the south Bronx makes Yahaira proud, the most meaningful impact comes from much closer to home. A great example coming in the form of a text message from her nephew. In that message, he thanked his aunt for providing a place for his mom, Onaney, to practice nail styling and pursue her passion. This display of gratitude touched Yahaira and served as proof that she had achieved in what she set out to do–both professionally and personally. After all, none of this would have happened without Onaney, and now the sisters have succeeded in building a thriving business together.

Looking Forward

What began as a three-person operation has, with the help of the SBA micro-loan from EGF, now expanded to a staff of seven. For her part, Yahaira says that she is grateful for the loan and all support she has received until now from EGF. “I’m speechless with everything I’ve gotten as result of submitting this application. They have a lot to offer.”

Yahaira is now paying forward the help she was given by EGF in her own way, assisting other small business owners in the south Bronx as they seek to overcome the inevitable struggles encountered while striving to their own entrepreneurial dreams. She also has ambitions to open another store in the future to create even more employment in the local community.

Her story underscores the commitment of CNote and the EGF to helping ambitious women like Yahaira receive the support they need to turn their dreams into reality and enable local communities to thrive as a result. If you, too, would like to make a difference, please consider investing in CNote today.

Learn More:

  • Nail Glam Studio
  • Excelsior Growth Fund – A leading CDFI based out of New York and the CNote partner that provided the loan and technical assistance that helped make Nail Glam Studio a reality
  • CNote – Interested in helping create another success story? CNote makes it easy to invest in great CDFIs like the Excelsior Growth Fund, helping you earn more while having a positive impact on businesses and communities across America.
By Quick Tips

Financial Quick Tip: How to Identify Helpful Financial Advice Online, And Avoid The Junk

(And Why You Shouldn’t Take Financial Advice from Twitter)

The face behind most of the financial advice you’re reading online.

Today we’re going to have a bit of fun looking at the highs and lows of financial advice available on the internet.

Don’t take this post too seriously, but nonetheless, we’ve actually tried to include some useful resources along with clearly useless advice you’ll see below.

The Bad

What happens when roughly eighty percent of people in a country have access to the internet but as many as two-thirds of them cannot pass a basic financial literacy test?

Tweets like this:

And this:

As we’ve grown more accustomed to having approximately the sum total of all human knowledge one click away, it is tempting to set aside rational thought and expect the top Google search results or social media will provide us the definitive answer on a topic.

While this works fine when learning innovative origami techniques or the perfect method to boil eggs, talk is cheap and uncritically trusting unsolicited online advice can be hazardous to your financial health.

For instance, you might encounter reasonable-looking money management advice like the following:

But with 6-month CD rates hovering around one percent, this means locking $500 into a CD would roughly earn a whopping… drumroll, please… $5. And even that is on the better end of what you could reasonably have expected over the past decade in what has been a uniquely low-interest-rate environment. Not bad advice, just maybe not the best advice for your situation.

Still, its better than this advice:

Which leads to:

The Good

Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of places to find great advice. You just have to know where to look and make sure that its a trusted source. Generally, let common sense be your guide.

One great crowd-sourced option is the Personal Finance subreddit. Not only does this community curate some of the best topical financial advice, but the admins and active users have created a great “wiki” page that answers many common financial questions and provides life-stage financial advice based on your age (25-35 example).

They also cover the fundamentals in a comprehensive way, from things like building an emergency fund, prioritizing the debts you pay off, and 401k matching suggestions (hint, contribute the % your employer will match, at a minimum).

This really basic flowchart from that subreddit provides some key guideposts on building savings and retirement investments for someone who has no idea about money:

Finally, r/personalfinance has a great reading list that can help you get started on a lifetime of financial success.

Even Twitter has the occasional gem, you just have to dig through all the junk.

All fun aside, here are a few key qualities that distinguish the most helpful online financial advice from the not-so-helpful.

All of these criteria do not necessarily make a piece of advice useful, but you should look for at least one or two to be present before taking what you’re reading seriously.

Helpful financial advice should be:

1) Accessible

What good is financial advice if you can’t actually use it?

The most useful financial advice will be relevant to your situation and actionable. You also might ask yourself whether your financial goals match the advice on offer. If not, pay extra heed not to get sucked into an overblown get-rich-quick scheme, possibly in the form of unsolicited email newsletters alerting you to the “investing opportunity of a lifetime” in some “little-known industry” poised for “incredible gains.” If nothing else, at least such emails give us an opportunity to be thankful for spam filters.

On a positive note, there are a number of blogs that are excellent sources of accessible financial advice on topics ranging from paying off debt to building credit to first time home buying. Some examples include Money Under 30, Get Rich Slowly, and Debt Roundup, just to name a few, but you should search for the resources that best cover your particular financial needs. Just look for clear writing, up-to-date information, and a set of concrete steps that you can take to follow.

2) Authoritative

As with anything in life, it’s nice to know that advice is coming from someone who knows what they’re talking about. For instance, if you have the (ill-advised) aim to get your financial inspiration from Twitter, the odds are more in your favor if you follow the advice of Mark Cuban rather than @catluvr411invest. This doesn’t mean that celebrity investors like Cuban are always right or that anonymous Twitter users are always wrong, but it’s best not to put too much stock in the musings of strangers with little in the way of credibility.

On the topic of Twitter, there are actually some top-notch accounts run by finance experts like Meb Faber and Roger Ma that are accessible to everyone. However, Twitter is generally regarded as a good way to follow real-time financial news rather than a platform to receive actionable financial advice.

It’s important to know who’s giving you the advice.

If you like to know that the financial advice you receive is from someone who has actual qualifications on the subject, you can search the CFP or FINRA databases to check the credentials of the financial professional in question. There are also specialty websites such as Brightscope that can help you quickly and effectively find the financial planning advice you are looking for.

3) Well-Sourced

Good sources of financial advice will provide plenty of links to support any claims made, encouraging you to do your own independent research. This also signals increased credibility, although make sure you actually click the links to verify the information presented.

Creditability is especially welcome when dealing with crowdsourced platforms. For example, the personal finance subreddit mentioned above includes valuable resources and recommendations on commonly-searched topics such as budgeting and saving for retirement, even if the posters have little in the way of proven qualifications–the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of people have critiqued and reviewed the advice means its likely to be more reliable. Nonetheless, it still pays to be wary of any given forum post or comment, but there is no denying that there are occasionally some user-created gems like this personal income spending flowchart.


While the above tips are hardly exhaustive, sources that contain some combination of accessibility, authority and verifiability are much more likely to help you find high-quality financial advice that you are looking for.

Information on the internet can serve as a great compass or a ticking time-bomb depending on who is giving it. Clearly defining your goals in advance and bringing a measure of critical awareness to bear is key when searching for and choosing to follow online financial advice.

After all, there’s plenty of good financial advice out there on the web for those who know how to look.

In the end, the best advice is to build a foundation of personal knowledge so you can make well informed and independent decisions.

By CNote, Impact Metrics

CNote’s 2018 Year End Summary

2018 Impact Metrics At A Glance

Over 1,400 Jobs Created/Maintained

Over 250 Small Businesses Funded

For Each Dollar Invested in CNote:

went to women-led businesses (WLB)
went to minority-led businesses (MLB)
went to Low to Moderate Income (LMI) communities

A Few Words From CNote’s CEO

2018 was a time of significant growth for CNote. The total number of users on our platform grew substantially and we took on institutional investments from amazing partners like the Sierra Club Foundation.

This influx of capital meant we were able to deploy more assets to our network of non-profit lenders across America. Those CNote-investment dollars funded loans that helped individuals pursue their dreams of starting small businesses, helped build affordable housing, and helped to bring economic development to communities that need it most.

Our intention is to continue to deliver competitive financial returns while generating measurable and significant positive social impact. To that end, we’ve roughly doubled our impact metrics from 2017, across the board. While pleased with the 800 jobs created/maintained in 2017, we are thrilled that we nearly doubled that number to more than 1,400 in 2018.

Additionally, our growing network of partners that now covers 37 states, allowed us to deploy capital with even more intention in 2018. This meant that for every dollar you invested in CNote we were able to deliver significant targeted impact. To illustrate, historically around 4.4% of all small business funding goes to women-owned firms. 1 Meanwhile 43% of CNote’s investment dollars were deployed to women-led businesses, almost 10x the norm. It is radical shifts in capital access like this that will build a more inclusive and robust American economy–which is our overarching mission at CNote.

Finally, on the financial front, starting in January 2019, the rate of return on all CNote accounts will be increasing to 2.75%. This is in furtherance of our goal to prove that impactful investing can be profitable as well.

Wishing you a prosperous and impactful 2019!

Cat Berman


Some Small Business Success Stories From 2018

*Note that pro-forma numbers were updated to final impact numbers on March 6, 2019, after receiving finalized impact data from our CDFI partners. Previously, the above numbers were pro-forma calculations based on Q3 performance and the total capital deployed in Q4.