For 10 years, they operated the business out of Teresa’s basement in a space that was so small that they would often work in shifts beginning at 4AM, because they couldn’t fit all of their employees in the space at once. As business continued to grow, Sarah and Teresa had no choice but to look for ways to expand their operations. They reached out to Kim Bennett, Community Ventures’ Vice President for Commercial Lending. “Kim had been our loan officer at a bank years ago. When we reached out, she suggested this new loan to us. I don’t know what we would do without Kim’s help and guidance. She bent over backwards to help us.” Kim helped them secure an SBA 504 Loan, which provides financing for capital projects like the one they had in mind. “There was a two-story brick building we found, with so much more space than we could have ever imagined. We got a great deal on the place and with this capital, we were able to outfit it with a state of the art kitchen, a walk-in freezer and refrigerator, and a new exhaust system.” The 504 program is administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The loan program is a great way for small and medium-sized businesses to grow by expanding their access to favorable long term fixed-asset financing. Community Ventures provides 40% of the financing, while the applicant can choose a bank lender to finance 50% of the project. The applicant puts forth the remaining 10% as down payment. Financing can be used to purchase land, construct new buildings, purchase existing buildings (plus renovations), purchase equipment/machinery, and more.
With the loan secured and their building complete, the mother/daughter duo now face a new set of challenges presented by the recent pandemic. “The pandemic has definitely impacted us greatly. Business is starting to pick back up but it’s still not at the level it had been.” When the pandemic first hit, it took a significant toll on their business. “We had 15-20 events scheduled near the end of March. When the pandemic reached Kentucky, every single event was cancelled”, says Teresa. They donated the food they could no longer use to the local women’s and men’s shelters, and they began tightening their belts to prepare for the months to come. They lost 6 employees who had to go on unemployment, and they hope to be able to bring them back as soon as possible. “We’re able to provide our services again, but it looks different. We offer no contact serving, where we prepare all the food, set it up, then we leave. Once the event is over, we come back and clean up. We want to make sure everyone we serve is safe and healthy, and we want to make sure we are protected as well.” They remain optimistic about the future, and are hopeful that they can get back to full capacity once it is safe.
Their parting words - a piece of advice for future food entrepreneurs. “No matter how big you get, you always need to have some presence or hand in your business. Don’t start it and turn it over to someone else to run. Grow slowly, pay your bills first, and then start adding new equipment and things. Take care of necessities first.”
To learn more about the SBA 504 Loan Program, contact Community Ventures’ Senior Vice President for Commercial Lending, Lynn Littrell at firstname.lastname@example.org