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Communities Trend in Small Business Lending, the George Bailey Way

Cash mobs began about a year ago in Maine and Bour says they have spread across the country. He is involved with a local radio station in the Newport Beach area to help select businesses for cash mobs.

"It's not a solution for a poorly run business," says Bour, who helped a toy store make $9,000 in one day during a cash mob effort.

Bour says the owners had knowledge of the industry, but lacked a skill set to make a successful retail venture work. He consulted with them after the mob. "The owners, who were wiped out of inventory were going to use all of that money to pay their back rent," says Bour. "I told them 'this is your last shot,' you need to renegotiate with your landlord and use the cash infusion for inventory and other things that will help the business keep running."

Bour says in order for businesses that are in trouble to keep running after such support, someone should be first asking why the business got in trouble and will it really make a difference to keep the business afloat in the long term.

As examples, Bour cited two applications he is currently considering for a cash mob: a restaurant that was poorly managed versus a coffee shop in which the owner's son had cancer and the owners had hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses. "The coffee shop has been in business for years and had financial problems really out of their control; they're probably a good candidate for community support that will make a long-term difference."

As for Clint's BBQ since reopening, it has been tough. Carnley says that the small parking lot makes the restaurant appear full to patrons when it is only half full and wholesale food prices have increased 45% while he has tried to keep his menu prices the same for his loyal customer base.

"I don't have a day go by where I don't have a former customer tell me they pass by the restaurant and it looks like it is doing good. Some people just haven't come back like they did before," says Carnley.

To help fight the perception that they're full, he is putting up a neon sign that reads, "Seating now Available," hoping that will signal to the passersby that the restaurant isn't as full as it appears.

"I will feel like I let the community down if we don't keep going," says Carnley. "We aren't going to let anything beat us."

For any business staring defeat in the face, the neon signal has been raised: "The community is now available to help."

More on small business financing options:

How to get a microloan from a major corporation

Getting a small business loan when the bank says no

Bank of America says "yes," you can get a loan from a big bank

--By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is an Arkansas-based journalist who writes for TheStreet and MainStreet on personal finance, small business and leisure/travel issues.

Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.
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