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Entrepreneurs pitch bankers for loans at Melville forum

Wearing a blue pinstriped suit and loafers shined to a high gloss, Azizi Bilal was ready to work the room.

At a Small Business Administration matchmaking event - to link bankers with would-be borrowers - Bilal strolled from table to table making his pitch to lenders Wednesday afternoon at a Marriott Hotel conference room in Melville.

"Everyone's encouraging," Bilal, 34, of Roosevelt, said as he took a break. "But I haven't found anyone who can help me yet."

Bilal hopes to arrange financing for his ambulette company, Royal Transportation. He was among several dozen small- business owners at the event.

Pravina Raghavan, the SBA's district director for New York, said the matchmaking idea was meant not to arrange loans on the spot, but to let people like Bilal know that there are loans out there, available for qualified borrowers.

"This is an easy way for them to approach bankers," Raghavan said. "A lot of times that's something small-business owners are afraid to do."

Others who chatted up the bankers included entrepreneur Jon Fliedner, 66, of Calverton, a retired sociology professor at Suffolk County Community College. He hoped to borrow a few thousand dollars to promote his business,, which sells his patented circular billiard ball racks. Unfortunately the bankers, he said, were only interested in loaning larger amounts.

Amanda Goldenberg, who owns Audio Unlimited in Hicksville, said she already has an SBA loan but attended the conference to expand her network of potential loan sources.

She's met a couple of lenders "who are open to hearing the story" that comes with her business, Goldenberg, 31, said. She bought Audio Unlimited, which has 10 employees, last year; it sells and installs audio and video systems for schools, government buildings, businesses and houses of worship.

After meeting several bankers, Goldenberg took a moment to have a cup of tea.

"I'm not done," she said, before going back into the matchmaking room. "I'm just taking a break."

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