Campus Protothon banks on Stanford, UC Berkeley ideas

According to a recent survey we conducted, the Great Recession taught 9 out of 10 millennials the importance of saving. But what’s missing are the simple, personalized, and engaging solutions that help more than 70 million-plus millennial financial services consumers actually begin saving and building long-term financial health.

Who better to help us develop these financial services and bust the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle than millennial consumers themselves? That’s the idea behind our first Campus Protothon Oct. 13 for students from Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

innovation, technology, millennials, California, banking, hackathon, challengeA protothon is a participatory design experience, where people from different backgrounds and skills come together in teams to generate ideas and design “prototype” solutions. Think of the competition as a “code-less” hackathon — a chance to create something amazing from just an idea, with creativity as the only requirement. We’ll empower up to 25 students from each school with tools, knowledge, and support. They’ll bring the ideas to tap online and mobile platforms and revolutionize millennial money management. All currently registered Stanford and UC Berkeley students who are California residents and at least 18 years old as of Oct. 8, 2014, are eligible.*

Getting involved

Attend one of two information sessions:

  • UC Berkeley: School of Information, 202 South Hall, Sept. 30, 5-7 p.m. Pacific time
  • Stanford University: Kehillah Hall, 2/F, Koret Pavilion, Oct. 6, 5-7 p.m. Pacific time

Then, from a valid UC Berkeley or Stanford email address, apply by emailing with your name, address, and resume. The deadline is 6 p.m. Pacific time Oct. 8. Up to 25 students will be selected from each university from a broad range of student majors and academic levels.

The Protothon experience

On Oct. 13, we’ll shuttle Protothon participants from Stanford and UC Berkeley to our downtown San Francisco campus. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they’ll work in teams to solve and present their solutions to a financial health problem.

Wells Fargo leaders will serve as mentors and advisors throughout the day. Winning teams will receive cash prizes ($10,000 first prize, $5,000 second prize), the potential for startup funding through Wells Fargo, and an invitation to attend an Oct. 23 awards ceremony in Silicon Valley with venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and Wells Fargo leaders.

I’m excited about the day and what it will bring because, as Wells Fargo’s millennial segment manager, I see the incredible contributions this generation makes every day at Wells Fargo, across financial services, and around the world.

Believe me, the best is yet to come!

About Alec
Based in San Francisco, Hughes leads Wells Fargo’s efforts to better understand and meet the financial needs of the more than 70 million millennial consumers in the U.S. — the most technologically advanced and educated generation in the nation’s history.

* THIS IS A JUDGED CONTEST. NO ENTRY FEE OR PURCHASE REQUIRED. Email for full details, including Official Rules for the Competition. Official Rules include complete eligibility, contest questions, judging criteria, and prize redemption requirements.

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The philanthropy buzz: Every act matters in Community Support season

Most people are shocked to hear I’m a beekeeper. About six years ago, my wife, Susan, and I started our first colony. We’re avid gardeners and wanted to use honeybees around our house in Minnesota to help fertilize and maintain our three-acre prairie garden of native grasses and wildflowers of yarrow, tall blazing star, purple prairie clover, and joe-pye weed.

Honeybees are small, but their impact isn’t. Their pollination accounts for nearly a third of the food we eat in the U.S., valued at more than $15 billion. Their work ethic fittingly illustrates the spirit and selflessness at work during this Community Support and United Way giving season.

Like beekeeping, everyday actions — in any size — can make a huge difference. At Wells Fargo in 2013, our team members alone contributed more than $89 million and logged 1.69 million volunteer hours to 25,000 nonprofits and schools to continue a long tradition of  team member philanthropy.

Through my beekeeping and support of the University of Minnesota’s new Bee and Pollinator Research Lab, I’d like to think that I’m also doing my small part to strengthen my community — increasing the health of local honeybee populations, and, in turn, protecting our food supply and human health. The lab is researching an issue called Colony Collapse Disorder — the decline of bee populations due to poor nutrition, habitat loss, overuse of pesticides, diseases, and parasites.

I spend a few hours every week tending my five hives, and this past season we harvested 120 pounds of honey. Luckily I don’t get stung often. Despite my close proximity to 250,000 of them, bees usually mind their own business because they have a lot of work to do.

What can you do to help support your community? Maybe it’s planting flowers, growing plants without pesticides, or even starting your own bee colony?

If you’re not already volunteering, consider starting today. You can find opportunities by contacting your local United Way or going online to and looking in the HandsOnNetwork section to find the HandsOn volunteer chapter near you.

As honeybees teach us well, many small acts can make a huge difference.

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North Pole Air Conditioning: Wells Fargo Works’ tips grow sales

Lisandro Fernandez head of North Pole Heating and Air Conditioning


Editor’s note: Lisandro Fernandez gives this update about North Pole Air Conditioning and Heating Services, Inc., in Orlando, Fla. — one of five businesses that was awarded $25,000 and professional guidance through the Wells Fargo Works Project video series.

My goal every day is to work hard so I can provide for my family. When I first opened my business, I’d worry that my company wouldn’t survive and I wouldn’t be able to support my family. I’d think, “What if I don’t make enough money this year?” and “What if I lose customers to my competition?”

But I’ve learned that “What ifs?” can go both ways. Today, I sleep better at night because business has taken off as a result of my participation in the Wells Fargo Works Project.

Meet one of the other businesses showcased in the video series on the Wells Fargo Stories website. Created to help others learn from our experience, the series is part of Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM, the company’s commitment to small businesses.

The exposure from the Wells Fargo Works Project boosted sales, added customers, and gave us a presence in social media that we never had before. 2014 is not even over yet, but average monthly sales are more than twice what they were in 2013. My company has also attracted nearly 75 additional residential customers.

As a small businessman, I’ve learned how important marketing is to business success — and making it part of your business plan. The business advisor Wells Fargo provided through the Wells Fargo Works Project identified right away that I needed a marketing campaign to reach existing and potential customers. We immediately got to work and saw some exciting results:

  • 312 visits in July to my new website.
  • 780 Google+ visits to our company page.
  • 211 likes on Facebook — important third-party endorsements for my business in Orlando.
  • Features on the North American Technician Excellence’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

What’s most exciting is that this is just the beginning for my company. The support from Wells Fargo has elevated North Pole Air Conditioning and Heating Services to the next level, and I now have the tools and knowledge to keep the success going. I love what I do and am thankful that I’ve emerged as a more confident business owner ready to take my business to the top!

Where are they now?  Kelly Lester of EasyLunchboxes and Zoey Van Jones, owner of Zoey Van Jones Brow Studio give a blog update on their growing businesses following their participation with the Wells Fargo Works Project.

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5 ways to financially prepare for emergencies

The wildfire closes in on Venditto's Black Forest community.

The wildfire closes in on Venditto’s Black Forest community.

When my husband and I moved to Black Forest, Colorado, one of the first things we noticed was how close the trees were to our house. My husband, a retired firefighter, knew they’d become a highway to destruction in any wildfire, so he cleared the trees from 100 feet around our house.

That fire line saved our house in the massive Black Forest wildfires of 2013, which burned 14,280 acres, killed two people, destroyed 486 homes, and caused $85 million in damages.

The experience revealed some gaps I needed to close to financially prepare for emergencies. When I got the call to evacuate I only had 30 minutes to leave, and I realized I had plenty to learn.

Even though I had spent 13 years at Wells Fargo helping our banking stores prepare for and cope with the aftermath of a host of disasters, I didn’t feel adequately prepared. Here’s my advice to help you be ready:

1. Make a checklist. I only expected to be displaced for one night — not eight — so I just brought some medicine and casual clothes. In hindsight, I should’ve prepared for the worst and brought all of my medications and work clothes, too. If my house had burned down, I would have had to replace nearly all of my personal items. A checklist helps you remember what to bring because, when disaster strikes, you won’t have the time — or the mental clarity — to round up everything.

2. Take photos of irreplaceable items and store them online. This will assist you in gathering up what you can before evacuating, but will also come in handy if you have to make an insurance claim. Can you list everything that’s irreplaceable in your house off the top of your head? Very few people can, which is why it’s important to have photos of the irreplaceable and valuable items in your home. Go from room to room and empty drawers and boxes to snap pictures of family heirlooms or valuable paintings. Better yet, video everything. If you have valuable items, get them appraised before disaster strikes, and make sure you know where jewelry and other valuable items are so you don’t leave them behind.

3. File away important papers. Keep a “go” file in your home that contains every important document that you might need in an emergency. You never know how quickly you’ll have to evacuate. This Wells Fargo Advisors emergency preparedness checklist identifies the papers that you should consider including in your file.

Venditto's home survived because her husband cleared a section of trees around its perimeter.

Venditto’s home survived because her husband cleared a section of trees around its perimeter.

4. Understand your insurance. Luckily, we had more than enough insurance coverage, and I was confident that our insurance would have covered any damage to our home. However, it’s important to have a solid understanding of your insurance policies so that you’re able to recognize any gaps in your coverage before a natural disaster occurs.

5. Keep cash on hand. Sadly, price gouging is rather common in emergencies, which I experienced after the Black Forest wildfires. Many businesses hiked their prices and only accepted cash. Consider keeping a few hundred dollars in cash on hand to see you through if your area loses power or banks and ATMs go offline.

These are some of the lessons I learned when the disaster affected me personally and the flames rolled toward my house. Do you have any you’d add? Have you had a similar experience you’d like to share? Use the “Leave a comment” feature below.

About Donna

A 37-year Wells Fargo veteran, Venditto works for Wells Fargo’s Corporate Properties Group where, as Western Region retail store property director, she oversees the work of property managers assigned to bank locations in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Washington state.


Soldiers to Summits climber reflects before Mount Whitney ascent

Jody Brower.

Jody Brower

Editor’s note: Wells Fargo is sponsoring the 2014 Soldiers to Summits, Mission: Mount Whitney. A program of No Barriers USA, Soldiers to Summits uses mountains as a metaphor and a training ground, to help empower wounded veterans to overcome mental and physical barriers. On the eve of the ascent, summit team member Jody Brower — husband of a Wells Fargo bank branch manager in Garner, North Carolina — shares four life lessons he’s learned while training for the expedition.

Preparing to climb the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States will teach you a lot about life.

I’m one of 13 wounded veterans who will climb California’s Mount Whitney — all 14,505 feet of it — in just a few days. We represent the Air Force, Army, Army National Guard, Navy, and Marine Corps. We represent those with post-traumatic stress, hearing loss, loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries, partial paralysis, and more. We represent those who have struggled and those who still struggle.

We all wanted to be a part of Soldiers to Summits for our own reasons. And we’re all looking to overcome our own challenges. But I suspect we all knew that the preparation for climbing Mount Whitney would help us climb mountains we need to scale in other areas of our lives.

Jody’s team trains for the Mount Whitney ascent on Colorado’s James Peak.

Jody’s team trains for the Mount Whitney ascent on Colorado’s James Peak.

I believe the lessons I’ve learned so far extend well beyond mountain-climbing and apply to life in general.

  1. Living your life in fear is not living your life at all. I love all things outdoors, but I’ve certainly never climbed a 14,505-foot mountain. It will definitely be a challenge. The weather and terrain will play a factor, and I’m sure we’ll all be more tired than we can imagine. To say we’re working through some fears would be an understatement.

    But we all know that, for as difficult as the climb will be, the feeling of making it to the top will defy words. Life is about walking, (or in our case, climbing), through your fears. It’s about finding your way to the top when the top seems out of reach. Every mountain has a peak. No matter what obstacles we face, if we just keep going, we’ll reach the top. And we’ll be better, stronger people for having done so.

  2. The people on the journey with you can make all the difference. The veterans I’m climbing with are incredible, and are making this experience even more powerful and memorable for me. We work well together. We learn from each other. We cheer each other on. I’ve made friendships that I know will last a lifetime, and I can’t imagine climbing this mountain with anyone else.

    Climbing is a metaphor for the journey of our lives. It’s important to surround ourselves with people who will enrich our lives, encourage us, and root for us. (Meet my Mission: Mount Whitney teammates on the Soldiers to Summits website.)

  3. Lightening someone else’s load can be the game changer that lifts them to the top. One of the best things about this experience so far has been watching everyone help everyone else. We like to push ourselves and push each other. It helps us grow, and helps us to believe in ourselves and each other. We’ve made other, smaller climbs to prepare for Mount Whitney.

    During our climb of Colorado’s James Peak, if one of us was struggling, someone else was right there to see how they could help. If we needed to take gear from someone else’s back to lighten their load, we did that. If we pay attention to the people around us, and offer to take some of the load off, it might be just what they need to make it to the top. And they’ll remember that and lighten our load when we need it, too. (Watch a video on Wells Fargo Stories to hear more about my teammates’ stories and our James Peak training climb.)

  4. The team begins its climb on Sept. 6 and is expected to reach the summit on Sept. 11.

    The team begins its climb on Sept. 6 and is expected to reach the summit on Sept. 11.

  5. Find what brings you peace and remember to draw from it. I feel at home when I’m outdoors. I draw energy from it. I forget about problems and to-do lists, and mistakes. Most of all, I feel an incredible sense of stillness and calm. I imagine that when we all make it to the top of Mount Whitney, I’ll feel all of those things times 100. This experience has served as a powerful reminder for me that we all need to take time to recharge our batteries. We all have to find those things that fill us up and remember to draw from them when we’re feeling down.

I’m looking forward to our entire team making it to the summit, and the life lessons still to come that will help us through this journey and beyond.

Learn more about Wells Fargo’s commitment to military servicemembers and their families.

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Emerging Scholars grad: Clemson program changed my life

Nekedra on the campus of Clemson University.

Nekedra on the campus of Clemson University.

Editor’s note: Since its founding in 2002, the Wells Fargo-supported Emerging Scholars program at Clemson University has created a college-going culture among high school students from three of South Carolina’s poorest counties. Emerging Scholars grad Nekedra Moore shares how in this guest post on the Wells Fargo Blog.

As an accounting major at Clemson University, I know the importance of numbers — and two in particular stand out when I think about the Emerging Scholars program:

  • 7.9. That’s the percentage of adults over age 25 in my county who have a bachelor’s degree.
  • 76. That’s the percentage of students from my high school who graduate each year.

Those numbers are a result of the poverty in an area where interstate highways mean travelers easily can bypass many rural communities and where factory shutterings reflect a shift in manufacturing.

There’s currently not a lot of opportunity there, which is a big problem when you’re a high school student and life’s best opportunities should lie ahead, not behind. Perhaps because of the current state, sadly, many people don’t expect much of themselves or their communities.

And that includes going to college. In Hampton County where I’m from, graduating from high school is the celebrated milestone. My mom, who works for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, went to Columbia College for her criminal justice and HR studies, which puts me in a small group.

The statistics I shared at the beginning tells you just how rare college grads (or people with any college experience) are in my hometown.

Emerging Scholars is changing that culture and the numbers. Consider this: Since retired Navy captain and educator Byron Wiley created the program at Clemson in 2002, 100 percent of the 340 Emerging Scholars grads to date have graduated from high school and 90 percent have gone on to colleges across South Carolina or to officer school and other positions in our military.

There are so many successes but here’s one example: Grad Juree Capers went on to earn a Ph.D. from Texas A&M and is now on the faculty at Georgia Southern.

See the Wells Fargo Stories website for more Emerging Scholars coverage.

Program basics

So what is Emerging Scholars, exactly, and how does it work? Guidance counselors in the five participating high schools help identify promising C and B students with the desire to achieve more and grow personally.

Beginning with the summer of their freshman years, the students selected (an average of about 10 per school) go to college-prep boot camp at Clemson for three consecutive summers — taking courses in art, English, math, science, public speaking, SAT preparation, and other skills. The closer you get to college, the longer the residential program at Clemson is. It starts at one week before your -sophomore year, then lengthens to a two-week stay before your junior year, and then is three weeks long before your senior year.

Once you return home each year, you take continuing education workshops back in the Lowcountry at the University of South Carolina’s Salkahatchie campus in Allendale. Parents have their own college weekend at Clemson and, throughout your Emerging Scholars program years, you visit about a dozen colleges and universities, including a road trip to Atlanta.

Your official college coming out as an Emerging Scholar is the “stoling” ceremony each April. That’s when Amber Lange, the Emerging Scholars program director, gives you a special Emerging Scholars stole to wear at your high school graduation and your college is announced. It’s a proud moment for family, friends, and student alike.

Personal impact

Before Emerging Scholars, I had never seen the Upstate part of my state, which includes Clemson, Greenville, Spartanburg, and other cities.

Nekedra accepts her Program Assistant of the Year Award from the 11th Emerging Scholars class of graduates.

Nekedra accepts her Program Assistant of the Year Award from the 11th Emerging Scholars class of graduates.

My older cousins told me about the program, and I remember seeing their pictures on Facebook and beginning to see myself in their shoes. When I got to the ninth grade, I talked to my guidance counselor, who gave me the program deadlines and when I could fill out an application.

I’m so glad I did. If it wasn’t for Emerging Scholars, I would not be at Clemson today. I’d have never seen the opportunities beyond my town or learned that it’s OK to challenge myself, spread my wings, and leave home.

That first summer at Clemson, I felt like I did more work in one week than I had done in a whole year back at home, and I had access to technology and other resources for the first time that many students of better funded school districts had enjoyed for years.

Through Emerging Scholars, I’ve made so many connections with people at Wells Fargo who have had successful careers in banking. And working as an Emerging Scholars program assistant (think a camp counselor) the last two years at Clemson, I’ve learned I have a passion for working with youth. This year, campers voted me the woman “PA of the Year” this year.

The experience has helped me realize how many children there are who need guidance and someone to push and motivate them, too. From the time you step off the first bus here in Clemson the summer after your freshman year in high school until you graduate from the program, the talk is all about college and what you can be.

Where you’re from and all the talents you bring are just a starting point in your journey and not the destination.

However I use my math, accounting, people and mentoring skills, I hope I can have the same kind of influence on others that so many have had on me through Emerging Scholars. I’m already giving back and doing my best to help other kids walking the halls of Wade Hampton dream big, reach high and know people believe in them.

You can do great things!

To learn more about Emerging Scholars, visit

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EasyLunchboxes: Growing to sell with Wells Fargo Works

Editor’s note: Singer, actress, and mompreneur Kelly Lester gives an update on EasyLunchboxes, which she founded in 2009. It’s one of five businesses that received $25,000 each and professional guidance through the Wells Fargo Works Project video series.

I’m deep into my favorite season for Back to school. For those of us in the lunchbox business, it’s like Christmas season for retailers.

Kelly at home with EasyLunchboxes's signature products.

Kelly at home with EasyLunchboxes’s signature products.

2014 already has been a productive year, thanks in part to being featured in the Wells Fargo Works Project, which included $25,000 in goods and services for my business which sells Bento-style compartmentalized lunch containers and cooler bags that make packing lunches fun, easy and green.

As an actress and singer, I love being in front of the camera, so I was thrilled when Wells Fargo gave me the resources to produce two new videos. The first video, now on my website and YouTube channel, added more than 50,000 new Facebook fans.

I’m in pre-production on the second video — a hip-hop music video featuring me, some of the coolest teens on the block, and of course, lunch packing! Nutritious, delicious lunches, packed for work or school, are my passion.

All this exposure has further boosted sales for the fifth consecutive year of record receipts for EasyLunchboxes. Our products are sold online in the U.S. and Canada, and I’m excited that they’ll soon be available in Australia, too.

Meet the other businesses showcased in the video series on the Wells Fargo Stories website. Created to help others learn from our experiences, the series is part of Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM, the company’s commitment to small businesses.

Given these growth trends, I believe the time is right for me to turn my company over to someone with experience in worldwide distribution and relationships with large retailers.

That will, in turn, expand sales channels outside of my own website and and allow me to realize my goal of stepping down as owner while remaining the face of the EasyLunchboxes brand. 

I’ve just partnered with an investment banker to guide me through the process, identify and negotiate with the right parties, and successfully complete the transaction. Coco Soodek, the small business consultant Wells Fargo hired to work with me during the video, helped me make that important connection.

As a business owner, I’ve also learned how important a comprehensive business valuation is to selling your business. That was done by Wells Fargo business advisors. I now have peace of mind knowing Wells Fargo’s valuation will be an important tool as my investment banker begins to talk with potential buyers.

Through Wells Fargo Works, I’m grateful to Wells Fargo for allowing me to share my products, packing tips, and healthy living ideas with more families than ever before.

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Improving conditions boost Small Business Index score

In another sign of our improving economy, our latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey of small business owners finds optimism continuing to trend up as conditions improve for their businesses.

Conducted July 7-11, the quarterly survey of 600 small business owners measures current and future perceptions of business health. The overall index score of positive 49 reported in third quarter 2014 is up two points from April.

This slight uptick matches what we’re seeing in the economy overall: Optimism is up, but still a long way from pre-recession levels.

The change in the “present situation” score, or how business owners rate the current conditions for their businesses, drove much of the gains. It’s now at positive 18, which is higher than at any other point since third quarter 2008.

Businesses are cautiously optimistic

3Q 2014 small business index infographic chart image

The positive 49 score reported in third quarter 2014 is two points higher than April 2014. Click the image to see the full infographic of the results.

In our July survey (see an infographic of the results), more small business owners reported that their company’s revenue has increased during the past 12 months (43 percent) than reported an increase in the April survey (36 percent). Cash flow and the ease of obtaining credit during the past 12 months also have improved.

But all the good news is tempered by a less-positive trend: Small business owners remain wary of the future. In fact, the “future expectations” score in our survey is positive 31, down two points from the second quarter.

That’s an area of concern since business owners are optimists by nature. The fact is, small business owners still face a host of challenges. In our survey, they put attracting and retaining customers, growing sales, and finding new business atop the list. When asked for the biggest obstacle to generating new business, small business owners cited: marketing and advertising (14 percent); competition (13 percent); making product improvements and having the latest products (10 percent); and the costs of running the business (10 percent).

Tackling business challenges with technology

Fluzzle Tube customers use the inflatables for a river outing.

Fluzzle Tube customers use the inflatables for a river outing.

What keeps us motivated and encouraged about the future are the countless business owners we work with who are overcoming challenges and finding opportunities every day — including using technology to work smarter and reach more customers.

In fact, we added questions to our latest survey about the impact and use of technology in business. The results clearly show that many are using mobile technology to run and market their businesses and to communicate with their customers.

Fluzzle Tube, based in Sonoma Valley, California, is a case in point. The company name comes from the connective, floating, puzzle-shaped water tubes it makes. Recent college grads, Fluzzle Tube’s co-founders Eddie De Arkos and Clark Whitehead count themselves among the business owners (and Wells Fargo customers) who say sales are up and who expect more of the same in the year ahead.

Whitehead (left) and De Arkos check some of their interlocking water tubes before shipment in the Fluzzle Tube warehouse.

Whitehead (left) and De Arkos check some of their interlocking water tubes before shipment in the Fluzzle Tube warehouse.

Running their company often keeps them out of the office, and out on the river. Fluzzle Tube is among the 40 percent of businesses that told us they are using smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices to do business.

Says Eddie, “I think technology has been the reason we’ve grown exponentially between year one and year two. The Wells Fargo mobile app we use helps our business be more efficient because we’re able to check on the spot how much money we have, and whether transfers went out. We can take pictures of our checks from large retailers using our mobile devices and can submit and transfer them wherever they need to go.”

Looking ahead

It’s encouraging to work with companies like Fluzzle Tube as they find creative ways to build and grow their company at a time when many remain cautious.

It may take time before overall small business optimism and future expectations return to pre-recession levels, but customers like Eddie and Clark remind me every day that the economy is slowly improving, and good things really do lie ahead.

About Doug

Case is Wells Fargo’s Small Business Segment manager responsible for the strategic direction of Wells Fargo’s focus on small business, which includes the Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM website on and its research, tools, and other resources for existing and prospective business owners. Today, Wells Fargo serves approximately 3 million small business customers with annual revenues up to $2 million. Since August 2003, the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index has surveyed small business owners on current and future perceptions about the financial condition of their business.

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Zoey Van Jones: Building a national brand with Wells Fargo Works

Editor’s note: Zoey Van Jones gives this update about her Zoey Van Jones Brow Studio — one of five businesses awarded $25,000 and professional guidance through the Wells Fargo Works Project video series.

Zoey at her brow studio in Pasadena

Zoey at her brow studio in Pasadena

As an eyebrow artist and owner of Zoey Van Jones Brow Studio, it’s important that I read the latest beauty magazines to keep up with the current trends and changing styles.

But I never imagined these same publications would quote me. Yet there I was in and Latina Magazine being quoted as a “brow expert” and offering commentary on how brows can change your face. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t daydreaming!

The coverage is one of many results of being featured in the Wells Fargo Works Project and its educational video series built around the real-life stories of five businesses. Created to help others learn from our experiences, the series is part of Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM, the company’s commitment to small businesses.

Meet the other businesses showcased in the video series on the Wells Fargo Stories website.

Many business owners beat the June 30 deadline to enter the Wells Fargo Works Project contest where they could win an experience like mine, including $25,000. I can’t wait to find out who the winners are in September and see how Wells Fargo helps them grow their business.

As for me, I’ve been a happy Wells Fargo customer and was thankful when the bank supported my business aspirations and provided me with an SBA Express Loan to help my expansion plans.  Then this year, through the Wells Fargo Works Project, the bank also connected  me with a business advisor who offered helpful advice to grow my business and a video blogger to increase traffic to my company’s website. Did it work? Absolutely! My blogger aired a segment on YouTube with a link to my company’s website, which received more than 20,000 visits that day – more than triple the weekly traffic.

The first round of branded ZVJ tweezers are headed to market on our website in early August after taking them to the wholesale market in July, and a new ZVJ tutorial video on how to shape your eyebrows is on YouTube.

At this time last year, I often wondered, “Wouldn’t it be great to sell my products nationally?”

Flash forward to today, and I’m rapidly closing in on that goal. On July 13-15 we showcased our brand and products to top retailers at Cosmoprof in Las Vegas, the largest beauty trade show in the nation.

Our new dedicated sales representative has already generated interest from a major Midwest beauty supply chain and other top retailers, and our next product — ZVJ brow pencils — is in development and slated for launch this fall.

Our success has been overwhelming, and none of it would have been possible without Wells Fargo. To have a major financial institution support your dreams is amazing. Doors that were closed before are now wide open, and I’m taking advantage of every opportunity.

I’m truly excited for the future as I continue to take the Zoey Van Jones brand national. My vision is for people across the country to depend on my products to get that perfect shape for their eyebrows!

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Tips for buying a home: Overcoming three myths of homeownership

For decades, homeownership has been an essential element of the American dream. And buying a home has been viewed as a powerful, positive, and life-changing experience.

Yet I continue to hear from a surprising number of people who believe homebuying is out of reach — particularly those with low to moderate incomes, or who’ve had credit issues in the past, or are unsure of how to build credit.

For Sale - SoldWhen I dig a little deeper, three key myths seem to be at play — and the following tips for buying a home can help remove the perceived roadblocks:

Myth 1: You need 20 percent of the home’s price as a down payment. It’s true that if you put down more, you will have a lower monthly payment. However, 20 percent isn’t necessarily the standard anymore. Through programs like those offered by the FHA (Federal Housing Administration), the down payment for many first-time homebuyers is as low as 3.5 percent.

Myth 2: You need perfect credit. While a strong credit history is helpful, a lower score doesn’t rule out owning a home. Your credit history and credit score will be examined before the decision to loan you money, so it’s a good idea to check your credit history and correct any problems before applying.

Myth 3: The process is too hard. Buying a home can be complicated — but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you’re prepared. Loans must be fully documented, so understanding the types of documentation required is important. Many first-time homebuyers find that the loan application process seems easier than expected when they educate themselves and understand what’s needed at the beginning.

In addition, it’s important to educate yourself so you can make informed choices. Tools like the Online Learning and Planning Center, the My FirstHome® and My Home RoadmapSM services, and the Hands on Banking,® NeighborhoodLIFT® and CityLIFT® programs can help people who are looking to buy, but may not be credit-ready or just need additional information.

Homeownership is personal and powerful

In 1993 interest rates were more than 7 percent. I’ll never forget it because that was the year my wife and I bought our first home together, and we thought we got a great deal! The home was modest, but it felt huge compared to the apartment we’d been renting – and we loved it. There was something undeniably special about having a home to call our own and a place to build our life together.

Today, interest rates are lower and the housing landscape has changed, but what remains constant is the sense of personal pride and financial achievement that comes with owning a home.

In the end, homeownership remains a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous responsibility. And while it may not be right for everyone, if you’re ready to buy and you prepare for the process, it may not be as difficult as you think.

Do you have a personal story about how homeownership helped you achieve your dreams? Use the “Leave a comment” feature below to share your ideas.

About Franklin

Codel is the head of Mortgage Production for Wells Fargo Home Lending, which includes sales, operations, quality, compliance, underwriting, and support for the company’s Retail and Correspondent Mortgage lending channels.

© 2014 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. NML SR ID 399801

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