Any small business owner knows that it’s not always easy to get funding, especially when it comes to taking out a loan. Although small businesses vastly outnumber their big business counterparts when it comes to the national economy, they often struggle more. Due to tightened regulations, lower cash flow, less time in business, and lack of collateral, big banks often don’t want to take a chance on lending to small businesses.
Because American small businesses are such an important part of the economy, the U.S. Small Business Administration was created to give them a boost. The idea is to encourage local economic growth by creating jobs and boosting innovation. Although you can’t get a loan directly from the SBA, the administration works with lenders across the country. They provide a guarantee to lenders so they feel more secure loaning to small businesses. It’s like having a cosigner from the federal government.
It’s easy to find a list of big businesses that started small. Apple famously started in a garage (even if that story’s a little exaggerated), Starbucks was a small shop in Seattle, and Warby Parker began when a grad student lost his eyeglasses. Many of them started with help from the SBA and still get funding through SBA programs. Here are a few of the lesser-known success stories of small business up-and-comers.
Vanished Valley Brewing Company
Named after four towns that were submerged during the creation of Quabbin Reservoir near Boston, this small brewer was started in 2016. Just as they were ready to expand into a new dining space, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, shutting down eateries all over the country. Thinking fast, the company moved to a delivery and take-out model and began distributing its beers to retail stores. Loans from the SBA enabled them to survive through the pandemic until they could open again with a new beer garden outdoor gathering space.
Paragon Precision Metal, LLC
After Bob Williford retired from pharmaceuticals he and his son, Paul, decided to put Paul’s experience as a laser cutting engineer to work for the family. This father-son duo now produces fabricated steel and aluminum products for agricultural, industrial, and electrical companies in McPherson, Kansas. It took a lot of help from technical engineers and the Kansas SBDC before they had a business plan in place. To find the financial support they needed for equipment, they got an SBA 7a/504 loan package. They became operational in 2020 and used SBA relief programs to make it through the next two years.
Advanced Technology Construction
ATC started out in 1999 providing general contracting services to the Tacoma, Washington area. In 2012, the company was purchased by Dennis Farrow and has since grown to service the entire west coast. ATC now boasts contracts with the National Parks Service, U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, and Veterans Affairs. Farrow funded his purchase of the company and launched its growth with an SBA 7a loan. Later, he completed the SBA 8a program aimed at teaching business owners how to land government contracts. ATC now operates as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business with over 400 completed projects.
Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery
For over 30 years, WWII veteran Lewis J. Bressett (Lou) operated Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery in Hanover, New Hampshire. It was taken over in 2018 by Jarett Berke, a fellow Marine. A New York native, Berke grew up in his parents’ Mexican restaurant, so he knew a thing or two about the industry. But instead of joining up with the family business, Berke entered the military and became a helicopter pilot, serving in Africa, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. After 11 years, he retired and looked to further his career in business. With the help of an SBA 7a loan, he was able to buy Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery. He later expanded the business using an SBA 504 loan. Today, Lou’s is part of the Upper Eateries and Retail Consumer Cooperative Society, with rave consumer reviews.
Miriam’s Earthen Cookware
Did you know that cooking with common metal and glazed cookware can be unhealthy? That’s what Kattumuri discovered after she was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. After some research into clay cookware, she discovered that very few were made without chemical additives, and even fewer were made in America. So, she set out to become a sustainable, pure-clay cookware producer. She expanded her workshop and paid for manufacturing equipment with microloans from the SBA in 2015 and 2021. Now, she is free of diabetes and produces a successful line of 100% non-toxic, healthy, and ‘green’ cookware, not to mention classes and cookbooks.
As you can see, more than a few small businesses have used SBA loans to start, sustain, and grow. But SBA loans aren’t the only financial tools available to small business owners. Here are a few examples to spark your creativity and start thinking outside the box.
The famous coffee chain, Starbucks, has taken advantage of several loans over the years. But one creative way they get added capital is by selling bonds to personal investors. With corporate bonds, the company sells what’s essentially an I.O.U. in return for investment in the company. Then, the company pays investors back their initial purchase price plus interest when the bond matures. As of July 2022, Starbucks has raised billions of dollars using this method.
If you’ve been around since the era of USB flash drives, perhaps you remember how easy they were to misplace. That’s the driver (no pun intended) behind Drew Houston’s idea to create an easy file storage system that users could sync across devices. That idea became DropBox, which has been in operation since 2008. DropBox got its funding from angel investor Y Combinator. Angel investors are private individuals who invest their own money in business startups.
How many Subway restaurants did you pass on your way to work this morning? You might be surprised to learn that it’s the largest single-brand restaurant chain in the world, with over 37,000 locations globally. It all started way back in 1965 when founder Fred DeLuca borrowed $1000 from a friend in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Now, Subway rivals both Mcdonald’s and Starbucks for the number of locations worldwide and makes over $10 billion annually. Today, most small businesses still start with loans from friends and family. Just make sure to get everything in writing.
Whether you decide to seek funding from the SBA or another source is up to you, but one resource you should always have on your side is a broker. Loan brokers help you navigate to determine if an SBA or another type of financing is best for your business objectives. What worked for the businesses above may or may not be the key to your small business. Brokers can help you think creatively to find money where you’d least expect it.