Lenders, businesses discuss access to capital at North Charleston workshop

By Lauren Ratcliffe
lratcliffe@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 29, 2012

Entrepreneurs and business owners received an encouraging and sobering outlook on obtaining loans at a financial workshop held by the S.C. Department of Commerce today in North Charleston.

A panel of lenders told a packed room of business owners at Trident Technical College that money is available, but might not be available from every institution.

Trey Gantt, business services manager for S.C. Federal Credit Union, encouraged people looking to start or expand a business to talk with their existing banks and ask upfront if the bank is interested in or able to provide the type of loan needed.

Banks have an appetite for different types of loan products at different times, he said.

James Holland, senior vice president for Southcoast Community Bank, said that something one bank might not be willing to lend on, another might be eager to.

To be considered for funding, lenders urged business owners to come fully prepared and with realistic projections and expectations. They said interim financial statements should be prepared and available to present to a lender.

“We look for trends,” said McLean Wilson, vice president with SouthStar Capital. “I know most companies had a bad 2009. We need to see if things picked up in 2010… Is 2011 holding its own?

“You really need to gauge where your business is on a monthly basis.”

Nontraditional lenders SouthStar Capital and the Local Development Corp., said they have more flexibility in lending options, and may provide solutions to business owners. But like their traditional counterparts, they said they look for a sound business plan and a business owner who is fully prepared and realistic.

“It’s important that you know what your business plan says,” said Sharon Brennan, executive director of the Local Development Corp.

In a second panel, five business owners who successfully navigated the financing process encouraged the audience to be persistent and creative.

“I’m an example of someone who was turned down but kept looking, and eventually was approved by a traditional lender,” said Daniel Russell-Einhorn, owner of Affordabike. “I walked into several banks and said ‘Hey, here is my idea; give me some money.’ I thought because I had sold 100 bikes I had proven myself.”

Russell-Einhorn said persistence with lenders and understanding the lending environment eventually allowed him to find a bank that was interested in his idea and willing to lend.

Wayne Koeckeritz, owner of Food Waste Disposal, LLC, financed the launch of his company on his own because he couldn’t get traditional financing elsewhere.

“I was self-funded because no one else would fund it,” he said. “I learned not to get angry with the process because banks are not investors. They are lenders.”

Koeckeritz said he went to friends and family and asked them to believe not only in his idea, but in him. He said now that he is in a second phase of growth, he is forced to look to traditional options to meet his needs.

“I just need somebody to hear me out,” he said.

After panel discussions, business owners met with a series of lenders in rounds of “speed dating” sessions to present their case and learn more about how best to position themselves to fund their ideas.

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