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Entrepreneur Mom

with Aliza Sherman

If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.

To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.

Dear American Express, please take me back

Categories: Legal Stuff, Work/Life

2 comments

American Express CompanyImage via Wikipedia

This is a tale of a female entrepreneur who used to have an American Express card but lost it in the chaos of the Internet bubble bursting and a breakup with a long term boyfriend.

Dear American Express,

I would like an American Express card, please.

Why, you ask?

Because I’m a successful entrepreneur with a fast-growing company in the emerging tech space.

Because I have regular travel expenses each month that I pay off the following month.

Because I love what I see American Express doing with the Open initiative for small businesses.

Because I love what I see American Express doing with cause-related initiatives.

Because I love the perks of having an AmEx card (Do you still do that extra protection for members when they rent cars? I used to love that.)

Because I love the prestige that having an AmEx card brings. Call me superficial, but it really is a status symbol to flash your AmEx (don’t leave home without it, and all that).

I know our breakup was horrible. My bad. I really don’t want to say “I was a victim,” because I don’t believe in that stance, however, the reasons I renegged on my promise to you is because of the following:

When I started my first company, I made an error judgment and brought my boyfriend at the time on as a part-owner and CEO. He told me flat out that if I didn’t do this, he’d break up with me. I know, I know, 20/20 hindsight makes me cringe and wonder “what was I thinking??” But you know what they say about love and one’s ability to have rational insights in the throes of it.

Eventually, I left the company and started a new one moments before the Internet meltdown. I had received angel funding for this venture and my new business partner and I returned the money - all $250,000 - with $80,000 of it paid back over time. Then I left Manhattan, eventually broke up with the boyfriend and thought that was that.

Suddenly, a lien was placed against my personal bank accounts. An $80,000 lien to be exact. Why? Because my former boyfriend aka business partner was defaulting on the line of credit for the company that he took over when I left. He didn’t believe in banks so he didn’t have anything the creditors could go after. Instead, they came after me.

Turns out after my resignation, nothing was done to remove my name from corporate records. Also turns out that the many things my ex had me sign over the years included several contracts where I was apparently personally guaranteeing loans. At that time, I had no idea what that meant.

Three years after leaving the company, I went to a lawyer to see what could be done to extricate myself from the financial mess that seemed out of my control.

“Declare bankruptcy,” he said. I broke down. But there was no way around it.

The lawyer advised that in order for the bankruptcy to go through, I also had to include my credit card debt in the filing. I was allowed to keep a single card - Capital One - with a tiny limit - $600 - but for the rest I was instructed to walk away from them and furnish the credit card companies with my bankruptcy paperwork.

I can’t remember how much I owe you. $4000? $7000? Regardless, I’m sorry. I would love to make amends, but if I offer to pay you back, my lawyer advised me that all other creditors who were dismissed can come back to me for money. That would crush me financially.

Please know that I’m in good standing now. I’ve worked 8 years to get my credit rating back up. I pay off my personal credit card in full just about every month. Other than a few minor mishaps stemming from the usual ups and downs of cash flow crunches that any entrepreneur has faced, I think I’m in good shape.

I know it will take time to earn your trust, but if you are willing to let me back into your fold, I promise I won’t disappoint you.

Sincerely,

Aliza Sherman

Entrepreneur

Have you lost and regained your financial status? What happened and what did you do?

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2 comments so far...

  • No! Aliza, don’t do it. :) You can do all of that stuff if you can just fight to live a debt free lifestyle. Travel expenses from a separate bank account using a Visa debit card (same protections) accomplish the same things. Granted, the “travel perks” are missing but I would sacrifice those for the security of being debt free.

    The lesson learned from the story above should be that debt (and iffy decisions :) caused the the problems: “defaulting on the line of credit,” “personally guaranteeing loans” and of course the bankruptcy that ensued. I’ll be happy to help if I can.

    Michael Sitarzewski  |  April 19th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

  • Aliza

    You seem ilke a nice person. Believe, no - you don’t want to go back to American Express as it is now. Forget Open, forget the nice ads about how much they like to support small businesses.

    None of it is true.

    My business partner and I choose American Express for our credit line because they offered it, we had good relationships with AmEx as individuals and as a business.

    What could go wrong?

    Well, you know. All the big money boys were playing fast games with the money they were given and managed to blow it all. They still ended up rich, but your and my money? Problems.

    And what did American Express do? It closed down every single one of the credit lines it had put out to small businesses. Every one.

    It cut back on limits. It put limits on its nice Gold cards. Our business requires large purchases to resell to our clients. A few months of not using AmEx for larger purchases meant, suddenly they would only allow a few thousands.

    In short, small business people of America - do NOT fall for the idea that AmEx is for you. Go - walk, don’t run - to a local bank or credit union. These people DO care if your business thrives.

    Forget the AmEx you once knew Aliza. They messed with us much much worse than the $7-8000 they lost from you.

    Another Small Business Owner  |  April 19th, 2010 at 8:40 pm

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