11 Small Businesses Helped by Credit Unions
From providing a micro loan to get a food truck up and running to approving capital for a disabled member’s rehabilitation startup, credit unions continue to help small businesses.
Many of them, some owners have said, were flatly turned down by several banks.
Their stories continue to pour in but here are just a few examples of how credit unions have helped small businesses launch and expand. Some were even rescued from the brink of financial collapse.
Here is a look at 11 of them.
When the $563 million National Institutes of Health Federal Credit Union in Rockville, Md., launched its business services program a few years ago, the cooperative was on a mission to tap into its growing healthcare and biomedical field of membership. A NIHFCU business loan helped Afshin and Leila Abedi of Gaithersburg, Md., to launch the Loving Care Adult Medical Daycare earlier this year. The center provides medical, social, recreational, educational and rehabilitative services to disabled adults and seniors in Montgomery County.
Andrew Verge, owner and operator of Spud Brothers Food Services, said he didn’t have many assets or own a home but he thought he had a great idea for his startup. Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union in Penticton, British Columbia, thought so too and approved a micro loan for Verge through the cooperative’s participation in the Remarkable Micro-Loan program.
Offered by 45 credit unions in British Columbia, young adults ages 18 to 29 are encouraged to share their business ideas and goals. Those with the best ideas are rewarded with a micro-loan up to $5,000.
Verge said if it weren’t for Valley First and the micro loan, he’s not sure if he would still be in business.
“I have always liked the idea of doing something that no one else was doing, delivering food right there to the customer, at the beach, at the park, or at the arena,” Verge said. “The micro-loan program, through Valley First, has provided the opportunity to do that.”
Alice Brown turned an injury from a head-on car crash into an innovative knee brace through her new company, In The Groove, thanks to the $675 million Wildfire Credit Union.
The Saginaw, Mich.-based cooperative approved a small business loan after Brown struggled to get capital from other sources.
Brown designed a knee brace that aims to relieve pain while restoring normal movement. With the loan from Wildfire, she was able to hire four full-time employees and one part-time employee for her online company.
“Thanks to Wildfire’s support, I’ve been given the opportunity to bring my knee brace to people who need it while creating jobs and contributing to the local economy,” Brown said. “Without the help and support from my credit union, I never would have been able to see my idea through.”
Facing cost overruns and construction delays, Mink Chocolates was on the verge of closing down for good.
Faith Gibson said if it wasn’t for Envision Financial, her chocolate shop, where the specialty is combining chocolate and coffee beans, would not have gotten off the ground.
Envision Financial is a division of First West Credit Union in Langley, British Columbia.
“They believed in me, and they believed in my business; I couldn’t find that anywhere else,” Gibson explained. “Without their support and step-by-step guidance I wouldn’t be here today. Fast forward one year and it’s so much better. I can honestly say that Envision Financial made my dream come true.”
Four loans to refinance two commercial properties, buy new equipment and expand from the $563 million National Institutes of Health Federal Credit Union in Rockville, Md., have helped Histo-Scientific Research Laboratories Inc. since the company formed in 1999.
The research lab provides histology, pathology and archive services to biotechnology firms, medical device and pharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations, government interests and university researchers.
More than $1 million in loans from Affinity Federal Credit Union in Basking Ridge, N.J., has helped the 15-year old DeSantis Construction grow.
Started as a small residential paving firm, the Somerset, N.J.-based company has expanded into a full-service general contractor working on commercial and government projects and specializing in milling, asphalt paving, storm drainage, concrete and complete site work.
Affinity Business Solutions, the business services department at the $2 billion Affinity, has a relationship with the Small Business Development Center at Raritan Valley Community College to host sessions that appeal to established and budding entrepreneurs.
Free counseling is also available to those who have specific questions about any direction they may need to go in to build their businesses.
The SBA named Patrick McDermott, assistant vice president of Affinity Business Solutions, its 2011 New Jersey Financial Services Champion of the Year.
Right on the cusp of opening for business, Rolling Clean Car Wash needed some working capital to get the operation off the ground.
A $15,000 loan from the $11.6 million North Side Community Federal Credit Union in Chicago helped owners Kevin Morris and Denise Buckman-Morris with the startup relief they needed.
The loan came via a partnership between North Side and the Office of the City Treasurer’s Small Business Development Fund.
At the time of approval, Buckman-Morris said the loan would enable the hiring of 10 full-time and 13 part-time employees and help with marketing salary and general operation costs and training at the car detailer based in Chicago’s Austin community.
“This loan allowed us to get a great jump start on the business and provide some cushion to fall back on. It’s a great program because it helps start small businesses when they can’t get help elsewhere,” Buckman-Morris said.
A 2008 tornado nearly destroyed Troy Elevator, an 84-year old Bloomfield, Iowa, grain storage company.
Robert Newton, president of Troy, began working with his lender at that time to restructure the company's long- and short-term debt in an effort to recover from the damages. However, in January 2009, the lender informed Newton it would no longer do business with the company.
The $398 million Community 1st Credit Union in Ottumwa, Iowa, stepped in to provide a guaranteed loan to Troy through the U.S.D.A. Rural Development Loan Program.
The credit union began working with the business in December 2009. After receiving the loan in August of that year, Troy was able to reorganize its operations and keep all 40 jobs in Iowa.
“We are so thankful to Community 1st Credit Union for stepping up to help us during our desperate time of need, especially when banks turned us away," Newton said. “We were able to save our business and the jobs of our employees thanks to this credit union.”
In 2010, the $62 million American Spirit Federal Credit Union approved the first SBA loan financed through a Delaware credit union to Queen Bee Beauty Supply.
The $250,000 SBA 7(a) loan provided the New Castle, Del.-based credit union with a 90% SBA guarantee and saved the beauty supply business $5,940 through an elimination of loan fees under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to the SBA's Delaware District Office.
Eustace Kamanja, co-owner of Queen Bee Beauty Supply, said the loan has “helped changed our lives for the better.”
The owners of the Bagel Factory said were frustrated when Bank of America turned down their request for a loan to open their business.
Suzanne and John Hermann had established a successful track record for their San Antonio bagel shop exceeding annual revenue projections, employing a staff of 14 and securing contracts with a major chain hotel and a local catering service.
The couple also had extensive experience having owned and operated a bagel shop in Augusta, Ga., along with three small coffeehouses.
As it sought out financing for their new business, the Hermanns said their longtime lender, USAA, did not offer business loans and Bank of America rejected the couple but encouraged them to come back when they were ready to open their second location.
The $5 billion Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union in Live Oak, Texas, was able to approve a $380,000 SBA Patriot Express loan for the Hermanns.
"I was thinking, ‘this is insane.’ We have excellent credit scores, my husband is a physician, we own several properties. I was discouraged and just ready to pack it in," Hermann recalled at the time.
When the nation’s economy started to take a turn for the worst, Jamiel’s Shoe World, Rhode Island icon for 75 years, faced serious debt and a possible closure.
The store in Warren, R.I., was forced to close its Warwick store after a rent increase and debts piled up. More than a decade ago, Jamiel’s secured a $600,000 SBA loan with Citizens Bank, a regional financial institution it did business with for 30 years. The loan had been paid down to $200,000, but the $5,000 monthly payments were becoming harder to pay in the midst of a recession.
"They flat out turned me down. They said the reason was because we lost money over the last two years," Francis Jamiel said at the time. "We've been in business for 72 years, we never missed a payment. I thought it was a no brainer."
After being turned down by 10 banks, Jamiel found Coastway Community Credit Union in Cranston, R.I., through a regional economic development organization contact. The cooperative went on to approve a secure a $400,000 SBA loan for the shoe store.
Coastway has since become Coastway Community Bank.
“The moral of the story is the big banks lost out,” Jamiel said. “Little did I know that the big banks love you until you need something.”