It takes money to make money. Anyone who has managed a growing business can appreciate that adage.
In 2012, Anointed Flooring Inc. of Charlotte found itself in a quandary: It had won a major contract that required additional workers. Problem was, the company, 8 years old at the time, lacked cash flow levels sufficient to meet its bulked-up payroll.
What followed is typical of small but growing businesses, yet it also illustrates the importance of alternative lenders, such as The Support Center of Raleigh, which I wrote about in this column two weeks ago.
Like nearly every small business, Anointed Flooring started with a dream. Rodney Farris, currently vice president, had been putting down floors since age 16, mainly in small, residential projects. He later got some commercial experience and decided to branch out on his own.
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Camisha Farris, his wife, was working in banking, but left at her husband’s request and became president of the company they founded on faith. Those early years, she said, were extremely hard.
“It’s about establishing the name, and that takes a while,” Camisha Farris recalled. “So for me, I didn’t think it was coming fast enough, so I went back to corporate and stayed there for another year or so.”
Then, shortly after she returned to Anointed Flooring, the recession struck, wiping out the subprime loans that had fueled so much of the region’s housing boom, and which in turn had fueled the Farrises’ young business.
“We really started seeing the plummet in 2009.”
As the U.S. economy improved and the couple focused less on residential projects and more on commercial and government contracts, Anointed Flooring landed a major deal with the Charlotte Housing Authority. And that’s when their cash flow needs were exposed.
Rejected for a business loan by a bank (not enough track record, the banker said), they turned to The Support Center, a nonprofit, alternative business lender that is expanding its operations in the Charlotte region. Some eight days later, the Farrises had their cash.
Although The Support Center serves a broad market, president and CEO Lenwood Long Sr. said the organization is especially committed to “underserved” groups and communities.
In addition to making loans, The Support Center also hosts a series of free workshops that seeks to reinforce basic business skills – business management, how to write a business plan, money management, and the importance of paying bills on time and maintaining good credit.
In the case of Rodney and Camisha Farris, the center also recommended them to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, a training initiative at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass.
Camisha Farris said the 12-week program, funded by the Goldman Sachs Foundation, was like getting a “fast-track MBA.”
“It’s about management, really,” she said of the lessons learned from her experience. “If you are a good manager, you’re going to be an excellent business owner. Managing your business finances … that’s huge.”