Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Heavenly Flowers Too - Amityville, N.Y.

Heavenly Flowers Too - Amityville, N.Y.

“There’s such a freedom attached to this program,” Cruz says.  “I am saving quite a bit of money, which I can put back into the business. It’s amazing, when you consider that I had been directing everything to pay off those online loans.”

The SmartLoan™ application process is intended to take applicants less than 30 minutes to complete. A team decides on the loan in 48 hours, and approved loans are funded within five days.

 Maria Cruz opened her first flower shop, Heavenly Flowers Too, in 2009, with cash she had saved while working at her sister’s 20-year-old Heavenly Flowers shop in Freeport, on Long Island. Cruz opened her second shop, Heavenly Flowers 3 in 2015, again investing cash to get the business up and running. That summer, she sought out loans to replace some failed equipment and provide working capital during an uncharacteristically slow summer season. Traditional lenders turned her down flat.

 “I couldn’t understand why no one would loan to me. I just kept running into a dead end,” says Cruz. Both shops were profitable and her credit was good, but the only loan options available to her came through the large pool of largely unregulated, high-cost lenders that are accessed online. With her business in distress, she took the loans.

Cruz wasn’t sure if her small floral business would survive the enormous $11,000 obligation she paid each month to cover debts to three different online lenders. After several months of paying $550 a day to the online lenders, an SBA representative pointed Cruz to the Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale College, which then directed her to the bank-backed EGF SmartLoan™.

The EGF SmartLoan™ specifically benefits underserved communities and businesses that have difficulty securing loans from banks or other traditional lending sources. It is designed to meet the needs of business owners who seek the speed of an online lending process and provides an option to businesses that cannot currently qualify with their traditional banks. SmartLoan™ offers a simplified application process that allows borrowers to prequalify, complete an online loan application and receive a funding decision quickly—usually within 48 hours.

The loans, which range from $10,000 to $100,000, offer competitive rates. They can be used for working capital, improvement or expansion, and facility and technology upgrades. Excelsior Growth Fund also offers unique services, providing borrowers with consulting services that are critical to the ongoing health of the business.

As the signature SmartLoan™ process is designed to do, Cruz accessed a $60,000 loan just three days after her application was approved, thereby reducing her monthly payments to $902 from $11,140.

“There’s such a freedom attached to this program,” Cruz says.  “I am saving quite a bit of money, which I can put back into the business. It’s amazing, when you consider that I had been directing everything to pay off those online loans.”

The SmartLoan™ application process is intended to take applicants less than 30 minutes to complete. A team decides on the loan in 48 hours, and approved loans are funded within five days. In all, the process is designed to take no more than a week.  Excelsior then works with the approved businesses to improve their cash flow and business plans.

EGF and the Capital Access Program were perfect fits for Heavenly Flowers, as the business did not meet conventional underwriting criteria and was operating with a small cash flow, said Steve Cohen, President of EGF. “The Capital Access Program allowed us to take on more risk with Maria’s loan than we may have otherwise, which allowed us to qualify her for financing,” Cohen said.

Cruz plans to hire two more employees, which will increase staff to five, and is completing a walk-in cooler renovation at the Amityville shop that gives her space for more inventory as her business grows.

“My first thought about the loan process was, ‘What’s the catch?’ But there isn’t one,” Cruz says. “You call them, they call you right back. You email them, they email you right back. They’re always there, no matter what you need. I’m their biggest fan.”