In the dynamic tapestry of today’s ever-evolving business landscape, dynamic leaders stand as architects of change, shaping industries and workspaces of tomorrow. Their innovative thinking, adaptability, and visionary approach to challenges create a ripple effect that resonates far beyond their organizations. With the power to embrace emerging technologies, navigate complex global markets, and foster diverse and inclusive environments, these leaders infuse every corner of their industries with new energy.
As they dismantle traditional hierarchies and blur the lines between sectors, dynamic leaders redefine collaboration, spurring creativity, and igniting cross-functional synergies. Their commitment to continuous learning and ability to pivot swiftly ensure that they remain at the forefront of industry trends. Through their unwavering dedication, these leaders inspire others to push boundaries, break molds, and realize their full potential, ultimately propelling us into a future brimming with possibilities.
Featuring for The Enterprise World’s this issue of The Most Successful Business Leaders to Watch Out For is the story of Laura J. Brandao. Laura, with her dynamic leadership is helping companies and individuals create a strong vision for the future. Highlighting along with her journey at Lighthouse Lending Capital is also the importance of its BLOC (Business Line of Credit) program.
Lighthouse Lending Capital
Laura Brandao is the CEO of Lighthouse Lending Capital (a division of Equity Prime Mortgage) and a staunch supporter of diversity, inclusion, and equity in the business world. A career spent advocating equal access to financial programs for women, minorities and disadvantaged people has brought Laura Brandao to the intersection of passion and obsession. Whether it is buying a home or starting a business, she has fought for equal financial access and opportunity for all.
Laura’s newest project stems from a commitment to help small, minority and disadvantaged businesses reach their financial goals. Her target market? The nearly 150,000 contractors doing business with the federal government. She has been a champion of this mission since inception and Lighthouse is proud to support her in this effort.
Developing a program geared specifically to providing access to capital for these businesses represents a one of a kind opportunity.
Lighthouse and Partners and the BLOC Program
A business line of credit (BLOC) is designed to give small businesses access to capital they need to manage and grow their business.
There are many reasons why a small business would benefit from a BLOC and it can be an excellent way to manage and grow a business. Federal contractors have a very specific motivation to secure a BLOC because it can enable them to grow their business without compromising the equity in their company.
Serving the underserved is core to Lighthouse’s mission. These groups include women, minorities, combat disabled veterans and other socially and economically disadvantaged sectors in our communities. The program allows these groups to compete for contracts on an equal footing by providing the surety funds required to be considered for the BLOC funding.
Lighthouse has partnered with the marketing and services company, BLOC4bonds, to help small businesses as they compete in bidding on government contracts. Enabling them with access to capital is just one way this partnership supports growth.
The numbers indicate that small businesses owned by women, service-disabled veterans, and those in economically and socially disadvantaged circumstances are afforded a smaller overall percentage of the available loans than traditional small businesses. In 2023, the loans provided to the groups named above comprised only 3.5% of the total average award by type. The reasons for this can be many, but one of them is certainly that small business owners may not know what benefits they are entitled to, and they don’t apply for them.
Angelyca Russell – BLOC Recipient
A beneficiary of this program is Angelyca Russell, President of AEM Services. Laura Brandao and Angelyca spoke this month and discussed Angelyca’s experience with the BLOC program and how this partnership was able to assist her in getting her company approved and funded to grow.
Angelyca grew up in a home where her parents were entrepreneurs and small business owners. They owned and operated a construction business in Nashville and worked hard to make it a success. Their business was a minority owned one but not woman owned.
Angelyca is a self-confessed go-getter with boundless energy and a drive to succeed. She learned her work ethic from her hard-working parents and while she was taking small business classes at Georgia Tech in 2012, she learned about the programs that were available to help support small businesses that were less likely to be approved for financing.
Angelyca learned about the SBA’s 8A program, and the set-asides provided for businesses that needed to be on equal footing to compete for federal contracts. She subcontracted with her parent’s company for smaller jobs but when she was ready to branch out and start her own painting business, she was connected with BLOC4Bonds and developed a working relationship with them which resulted in her securing the BLOC that launched her company, AEM Services LLC.
Her business opened in 2014 and by 2021, Angelyca was securing contracts worth nearly 11.5 million dollars. She believes that the relationship between herself and BLOC4Bonds has allowed her to grow her company to the successful enterprise it is today.
Since the beginning of her venture, Angelyca has had two children and continues to grow her business. She has written a book entitled, “How to do Business with the Government” and despite the challenges her company faced during the years of the pandemic, she has thrived and grown on both a professional and personal level.
Angelyca offered some advice to entrepreneurs who could benefit from the BLOC program and the support of financial investment as provided by Lighthouse and BLOC4Bonds. She emphasized the critical importance of developing and maintaining relationships with others and finding mentors to help guide their decision making. She also recommends that they keep educating themselves through classes, especially those related to doing business with the government.
Angelyca also advocates for giving back to others through being genuine and connecting with those who need assistance. She believes that staying true to your roots and providing support and guidance to those who are coming along behind you is the way to build trust and foster success for yourself and others. She believes, as Laura Brandao does, that there is an abundance of success available for anyone who has the drive and willingness to work hard.
Laura’s Mission and Vision for the BLOC Program
For Laura Brandao, the mission of Lighthouse Lending Capital is in alignment with her own personal beliefs and values. She has been a stalwart advocate for the underserved and unrepresented in the financial industry for over twenty years and continues to offer her experience and support to these groups in their drive to succeed.
Laura Brandao has been a proponent of women in business for years and has lent her name, reputation, and endless energy to the promotion of equality in the mortgage industry. She is the chair of many organizations designed to encourage and educate women and support them in achieving their career goals.
She is also a mentor and coach to many women who credit her with helping them overcome obstacles and forge a path to promotion within their organizations. Laura Brandao has faced roadblocks herself and is more than happy to share her experiences and the lessons she learned that helped guide her to the success she enjoys today.
With Lighthouse and its partners in the BLOC program, Laura Brandao has found yet another way to give back to the communities she wants to see served in their financial goals. Being able to offer an equal footing to small businesses owned and operated by groups that might otherwise not qualify for the programs that would allow them to bid on contracts, Lighthouse and its partners are levelling the playing field and giving hope and inspiration to many who might not have had the financial support to follow their dreams.
The Value of Small Business Success for Everyone
There is an innate value to promoting the success of an underserved group of entrepreneurs. Small businesses provide employment opportunities within communities that may be socially and economically disadvantaged because of high unemployment.
There is also benefit to be found in the market competition that keeps prices down and quality arguably higher. There is also the value that hope and inspiration provided to the youth who can now see a future in owning a small business even if they come from a place that might otherwise not provide the opportunity. Those with the drive and energy to reach for their dreams can look to others before them who lead by example.
There is a ripple effect to success. By offering the chance for success to those who might not have even considered the possibility for themselves can encouragement for them to work even harder toward beating the odds and surpassing their own expectations.
Through her stewardship of Lighthouse LC, Laura Brandao is realizing a dream of her own. She can assist those in need of the support to build their own businesses and be given the opportunity to thrive. Throughout Laura’s career, she has always maintained her belief that there is an abundance of success in the world and more than enough for everyone to be afforded their share.
It is with that unwavering recognition of the need for fairness that she has pursued the goal of offering an equal share of support to those who would likely not be able to take advantage of programs like the federal BLOC, so they can be given their own chance to shine and, ultimately, succeed. By covering the gap in the funding required to be eligible, Lighthouse can place the missing plank in the bridge and prevent deserving entrepreneurs from missing the chance to walk the path onto the other side of opportunity.
As an advocate for inclusivity, diversity and equality for all, Laura Brandao has and will continue to promote her vision of a world where the uniqueness of each of us is to be recognized, celebrated, and supported without regard to circumstances that should not be the dictator of eligibility. To achieve this mission, it is imperative that ways to offer equal opportunities to all groups in our society be available.
The Business Line of Credit program at Lighthouse LC in concert with its partners, will ensure that small business owners who face obstacles like gender, ethnic origin and disability as a result of service to their country can be assured of a level playing field when it comes to being considered for the financial assistance they need to successfully grow their own business and forge their individual path to realizing their dreams.
Once the support is in place, it is up to the entrepreneur to invest their time, sweat and hard work to ensure that success is the result of the effort.