Still recovering from startup costs, strained by the recession, and turned away by her bank, Diane Bowers desperately needed a small loan to help make ends meet. With Rising Tide, she was able to keep her doors open and make the smart business decisions that would help it grow.
Five days after opening the doors to her brand new small business, Diane Bower’s gallery and gift shop experienced severe smoke and water damage when the building next door burned down. Two months later, the space was still under remediation and her landlord canceled her lease.
Bower has never been one to let a few setbacks get her down. She found another building with a space three times the size of her former shop, had the interior built out, restocked with new inventory and had her grand reopening all within just five short months.
“That first full year was great. And then the recession hit,” recalls Bowers.
Making Ends Meet
Just Around the Corner trades in affordable fine art, featuring 185 artists—some local and some from across the country. Bowers also works with five fair trade organizations to source from and support at risk women around the world. No one was buying art as the downturn got progressively worse. Even affordable art. And Bowers was struggling.
Visit Just Around the Corner on the web at jatcgallery.com.
She had worked almost constantly since she was 14 (which added up to almost 50 years at the time) and never defaulted on a loan in her life, but her credit score was in the toilet because she was forced to rely too heavily on credit cards to cover startup costs just to get the doors open.
When a friend recommended she reach out to Rising Tide Community Loan Fund, she was skeptical.
“I kept thinking there is no way anyone is going loan me money!” Bower said. “But I had a 5-year lease and giving up was never an option. It’s just not my style. I believe if you work hard enough, you can always work your way out of trouble.”
“The application process was very simple and very straightforward. There are strict criteria, of course, but there wasn’t nearly as much emphasis on credit scores. And I could apply for just what I needed—no more. Loan minimums at big banks are $100,000 or $200,000. If you don’t need that much, they’re just not equipped to help.”
But Bowers contacted Rising Tide anyway and began the application process for a micro-loan of $35,000—just what she felt she needed to keep her doors open and her shelves stocked with inventory. Although she expected the recession might change her business dramatically, she still believed it was important for people to feel like they could have beautiful, handmade things—maybe even more so—and that it was a viable business plan.
“The application process was very simple and very straightforward. There are strict criteria, of course, but there wasn’t nearly as much emphasis on credit scores,” Bowers said. “And I could apply for just what I needed—no more. Loan minimums at big banks are $100,000 or $200,000. If you don’t need that much, they’re just not equipped to help.”
Making It Grow
It goes without saying Bowers got the loan. But what she did with it didn’t just help her keep her doors open, it gave her the freedom to make a number of business decisions that grew Just Around the Corner into a company that helps support five families. And allowed Bowers to become a beacon in the community.
With the loan from Rising Tide, Bowers was able to take a chance at increasing the complexity of her business.
“I couldn’t even breath before. I had very limited offerings and was taking artists on consignment. There’s an opportunity for a much higher profit margin when you buy outright, but I couldn’t buy,” Bowers said. “The Rising Tide loan allowed me to pay off debt, hire an employee, and own a much larger percent of my inventory.”
Today, Bowers has four employees, owns 60% of her inventory, and has a plan to own an additional 10% year over year—and she’s paid off the original Rising Tide loan. She also volunteers extensively in the surrounding community, including sitting on the Rising Tide board of directors.
“Without Rising Tide, I would have been out of business and mostly likely bankrupt,” Bowers said. “I’m so incredibly grateful for the support I’ve received and if I can help another small business the way I was helped, that can only make the community stronger.”