Over the years, Taylor Symone has used three loans from DreamSpring to grow her business, including buying more inventory as her business’s popularity took off. What was the experience like? In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Kristin and Darren are joined by Metta Smith, chief lending and client experience officer for DreamSpring, and Symone, spa owner and DreamSpring client, to discuss how DreamSpring helped her achieve her entrepreneurial dreams, best practices when securing your first small business loan, and the partnership between DreamSpring and ABMP.
More Details for ABMP Members: https://www.dreamspring.org/professional-assist#partnership
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0:00:50.5 Darren Buford: I'm Darren Buford.
0:00:51.7 Kristin Coverly: And I'm Kristin Coverly.
0:00:53.3 DB: And welcome to the ABMP podcast, a podcast where we speak with the massage and bodywork profession. Our guests today are Metta Smith and Taylor Symone. Metta is Chief Lending and Client Experience Officer for DreamSpring. Taylor is a member of our sister association for ABMP called ASCP, Associated Skin Care Professionals and a DreamSpring client based in Dallas, Texas. Her day spa Touching Skin employees nine individuals providing beauty and hair treatments, therapeutic post-operative care, massages, and facials. Hello, Metta, Taylor and Kristin.
0:01:27.0 Taylor Symone: Hi, how are you guys doing this morning?
0:01:30.3 Metta Smith: Hi, nice to see you this morning.
0:01:32.5 KC: Metta and Taylor, thank you so much for joining us on The ABMP podcast. We are really excited to talk to you today about micro loans. And listeners, if you're like me as a practitioner, I don't really think a lot about loans and using a loan and seeking out alone as a way to build and sustain my business, but maybe we should be. So micro loans might be something that's a really great option for you that you don't even know much about yet, so let's learn about all of that together. And we're gonna start at the very beginning, Metta and Taylor, what is DreamSpring?
0:02:05.1 MS: So, DreamSpring is an award-winning non-profit community development financial institution. Our mission is to increase access to business credit and provide loans to enable underserved entrepreneurs to realize their dreams. That's a little dry. So to give it a little bit more color, we really believe human potential is unleashed when all people have the opportunity to shape their own future, and we exist to break down systemic barriers that inhibit that reality. The way that we do that is by providing micro-loans to entrepreneurs with a business dream, and we're very excited to see our entrepreneurs that we work with grow their dreams through the loans that we're able to provide.
0:02:55.3 DB: So my question here for you, Metta and Taylor is, let's dive into this a little bit, why is this important? Why is your mission important? And start to explain exactly what DreamSpring offers for our members.
0:03:11.5 MS: Sure, I'm happy to jump in there, but Taylor, feel free to fill in any gaps that you see. So DreamSpring offers small business loans from $200 to $2 million, that's very unusual in the lending space. Often traditional financial institutions don't offer such a small loan as $200, our average loan size is $15000. And if you think about your own business, especially in the body work space, you might not need that much funding in order to do some renovations in your space, add inventory that you're going to sell to your client base. And so considering a small business loan for $5000, that's what we do every day, and we've really perfected that art in terms of how we work with clients, understanding their needs, the amount of documentation that we may request and how we make our decisions are all designed around small businesses, just like those in the personal service space.
0:04:18.9 TS: Just to add on to that, I will say that the process is super easy. They literally ask you for things that you look at every day, bank statements, the purpose of the loan. They ask for what you're doing currently within your business in order to gauge what they feel you would be able to handle. And once you complete that first one, you're able to go back and re-loan and get more if you need more, because you've already proved your credibility with the company. So I like the fact that you're able to build a personal relationship with them, and it's not just going in and asking for money, and then now you have to speak to somebody else again and kind of build that rapport over, so you can have that one-on-one relationship.
0:05:02.4 KC: Listeners, if you don't know yet, DreamSpring is a member discount partner with ABMP. So Metta, will you tell us a little bit more about that partnership and what that looks like for ABMP members?
0:05:14.9 MS: Absolutely. So, we started a partnership back in December of 2022, and through the relationship between the two organizations, we offer a line of credit, which is very similar to a credit card where you can draw and repay and draw and repay up to $2500 for members of ABMP. That line of credit, you're automatically qualified for it, as long as you're a member of ABMP, and that line of credit is available to you for two years. So it's a great opportunity as an emergency fund, you don't need it today, but you don't know what's coming in the next few months. Maybe there'll be an opportunity to take advantage of a special deal when it comes to inventory or you see a particular new piece of equipment you want to acquire for your business. Having that emergency fund you know you can rely on that's there for you for two years can make a huge difference because being a member of ABMP gives you access to this line of credit. We're really excited about the partnership and being able to make that offer to members.
0:06:24.3 KC: And members, if you are interested, you can go to abmp.com/discounts to learn more and get the link for the DreamSpring site.
0:06:36.6 DB: So Metta and Taylor, can you explain something to me, I'm just curious a little bit, why is this space unique that DreamSpring offers versus going to your traditional bank?
0:06:49.1 MS: One of the things that makes DreamSpring very unique is we like to fund startup businesses. A lot of traditional lenders like banks will start working with businesses once they're two years old. DreamSpring is all about startups. 45% of the loans that we fund are to start a business. So maybe you're in that inception place, you have an idea, you're looking for your first lease space that you're going to use, or you're even operating out of your home, that is absolutely the type of business that we wanna serve. We wanna encourage those budding entrepreneurs that are just coming up with that vision of what their first business or their second business or their 14th business is going to be.
0:07:34.0 MS: We wanna fund those ideas, and so startups is definitely part of what we do. And then as Taylor mentioned, we really do like to have a personal relationship with our clients. Even if you're getting a $500 loan, we wanna know what your idea is of how you're going to use that $500 to bring that business idea into fruition. And so yes, we really lean in on the personal relationship as well as connecting our entrepreneurs with resources that are going to help them sustain and grow their business, we wanna see them be successful in whatever success means for them.
0:08:12.5 TS: And I agree with Metta. When you're a start-up business, you're really just trying to get things off from the ground. So there are a lot of things that you need, a lot of essential things that you need in order to solidify your foundation. So when you are going to the companies like DreamSpring, there's a different type of conversation and process that they have with you in order to get to know your business and the idea and understand what you're trying to do, so that they can find a way to help you instead of fitting you in a rubrics, if that makes sense. If you go to a normal bank, they have a certain criteria, certain rubrics that they want you to abide by, but if you're a start-up business, you're probably not gonna have a P&L, you're probably not gonna have a balance sheet, you're probably just gonna have your bank statements to show that you work a regular job and you're needing assistance because you have this vision and this idea.
0:09:03.9 TS: And you know that you can't fully put your paycheck into this business that you're trying to get up off the ground, so you need somebody that believes in you just as much as you believe in yourself to assist you with that process. So DreamSpring does just that for their clients, because when I opened up... Well, I originally opened up with a business partner, and so when we opened up, we opened up in 2019, and ironically, we opened right before the pandemic hit. And so our first loan was, I think it was either a $1500 or a $2500 loan, and we were able to pay that back within six months, even while going into the pandemic and able to re-loan because when we re-loaned, our idea was structured around the comfortability of individuals during the pandemic.
0:09:52.6 TS: So we were traveling to people's homes because they were more comfortable in their homes than they were coming to the facility. So DreamSpring was able to allow us to re-loan in order to fund the new idea we had to restructure our business and keep our business afloat. So I like the fact that they... Again, I'm all about personal relationships, because I feel like if you have a really good personal relationship with your banker, with your realtor, with your financing company, then you have a higher percentage rate of growing because they know and understand what you need, and I like the fact that DreamSpring does that. So having a start-up business is one of the hardest things to do because you're having to understand and learn the kinks of your company. So to take that chance to be a part of a vision and to watch it grow, it's a beautiful thing 'cause they watch me grow.
0:10:53.4 S1: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors. Anatomy Trains is excited to be back in person in the lab with Anatomy Trains' author Tom Myers and master dissector Todd Garcia at the laboratories for anatomical enlightenment in Boulder, Colorado. Join us for a new four-day in-person fascial dissection intensive, October 24 to 27, 2023, where you'll have the unique opportunity to see in the most natural conditions possible and dissect for yourself what's under the skin. Visit anatomytrains.com for details. Let's get back to our conversation.
0:11:40.3 DB: Taylor, do you mind telling our audience what specifically you took the first loan for and any subsequent loans? I think they might relate or be curious about that.
0:11:50.9 TS: When I first started in the spa industry, I had a business partner, me and my business partner was working out of a one-suite salon, where we just... It was one suite. It was really not that big. And we somehow made it work. We took a loan out with DreamSpring in order to fund inventory to obtain more materials to travel because our main focus at that time was working events in order to get exposure so people know who we were, where we were and those type of things. So the first loan that we took out was for inventory just to get the things that we needed, lotions, oils, skin care products, those type of things. We paid that one back, I wanna say it was within seven or eight months. We didn't even need the entire time-frame because we just had that much revenue coming in. The second loan that we took out, within... We opened in February, by August, we moved to a bigger space. So we went from one room to three rooms.
0:12:51.5 TS: And so when we moved to the three rooms, that was around the time that the pandemic was starting to hit, so we were just getting into a groove, we were making the money and then December everything was beginning to go downhill. So we had to get a loan right before then in order to do some upgrades to our space because we went from one room to three rooms, we needed more equipment, those type of things, and we ended up using a portion of that to fund our travel. So within that, I had an old car that I wasn't using, we turned that into a travel car, we got it wrapped. We bought all of our PPP materials so that we had our gloves, our face masks. We were like... And the body suits, and we converted our in-spa company to more of a travel company because at that time there was a lot of people getting cosmetic surgery and people, they weren't able to go into facilities, so that became our niche, that became our market. And so we utilized that.
0:13:51.4 TS: So we ended up paying that one off, and then I think within a year of moving into that location, we moved into a bigger location, which is the one that you all came and was able to see. So now we have about seven rooms, so when we moved into that location, we were able to obtain a grant to assist with the build-out, because it was just an open space. I built walls and everything here. And then we obtained another loan from DreamSpring in order to up our inventory. Again, our clients by this time had tripled. And then in December 2021, I bought out my business partner, and so with buying out my business partner, I paid off the DreamSpring loan, and I ended up re-loaning with them. I always set up a pay structure to where it's like, instead of paying monthly or every two weeks, I pay a certain amount in order to pay down the interest. So, if you're listening to me, make sure that you pay the 1st and the 15th, so that you're paying more down on the principal and less on the interest.
0:14:54.6 KC: I love it, and I love two things about that success story. Number one, of course, it starts with you, your initiative, your drive, your work ethic and your vision, and you made that happen, but number two, the fact that you use micro-loans to keep the process moving. And you didn't say to yourself, well, I'll wait until X before I get that three-room area and then I'll wait until this happens to get, no, the seven room. You went ahead and you got micro loans at just the right moment to keep your momentum and to keep moving forward. I think that's really exciting.
0:15:29.2 DB: Metta, let me ask you a question with regards to typical loans you might find in the massage or the aesthetics space. Is there kind of a typical startup fee that you kind of hear in these areas or a typical amount?
0:15:44.3 MS: No, we don't have a typical amount. I think it really depends on the vision of the entrepreneur, some people wanna start with a stand-alone space and they're gonna acquire a commercial real estate and that's gonna be a huge loan, but other small business owners are just looking for a few thousands. So leasing their first space and they wanna have inventory or to buy the massage bed or that sort of thing. So like I said, we have a real range of products for our clients, $200 to $2 million, so we really listen to the story of the entrepreneur, understand their needs and then match the loan to what they can afford and what they're looking to do in terms of their project.
0:16:26.1 MS: And I wanted to highlight one other thing that Taylor said, which is she likes to make payments on the 1st and the 15th and pay off her loans early, and I think that's a really good coaching for every entrepreneur and DreamSpring likes to give folks long terms to pay back their loan, but the payments are very affordable at the same time, there are no pre-payment penalty. So if you pay us off early, congratulations, we're gonna celebrate you for doing that, and we encourage our entrepreneurs to be smart in how they're using those loan funds to make it as inexpensive as possible for themselves.
0:17:00.1 KC: I'm curious what areas does DreamSpring serve?
0:17:02.9 MS: We serve 27 states, so it would take me a long time to walk through all of those, but you can find which states we serve on our website, dreamspring.org. A good half of the country though, a lot in the South and the Midwest, and the West.
0:17:21.0 DB: And one of the things that both of you mentioned were the training and support services that DreamSpring offer. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
0:17:30.6 MS: I'd be happy to. So we love to work with our entrepreneurs and with partner organizations. So for us, in our partnership with ABMP, we like to let our personal care service providers know about the relationship between the two organizations so they can sign up with ABMP as well. But for other organizations, maybe they need help with marketing or maybe they're thinking, okay, I'm going from a salon with three rooms to seven rooms, and I'm not quite sure how I'm gonna tackle that and I need some business planning help. So we're gonna connect to that entrepreneur with a resource that's local to them, that can help them build out that plan, so they don't have to feel like they have to do it on their own, because there are a lot of free resources out there for entrepreneurs. And it might be hard for someone to find, okay, what's the free resource that's close to me? DreamSpring has done the research, we've created relationships with those resources and we connect our clients with those resources. That's a huge piece of what we provide to our clients.
0:18:40.8 DB: And as we start to bring this podcast to a close, I thought, Metta, it'd be a good point for you... I know that DreamSpring is a mission-driven organization. Can you just explain that a little bit to our listeners?
0:18:52.2 MS: Yep, so we're a non-profit organization, which means we do fundraise to help ensure that we can continue to bring our products and services to clients like Taylor. Our mission is really to support underserved entrepreneurs build their business dreams, grow their business dreams through access to capital, meaning giving out small businesses micro loans to help them grow their business dreams.
0:19:24.1 DB: I'm really impressed to see that your statistic that I've seen is that 93% of your loans are for underserved populations. That's just incredible.
0:19:33.4 MS: Yeah, we're very proud of that statistic. And it goes into everything that we do. Every new product, new service that we roll out, it's really from the focus of our clients. In fact, we have a client advisory council board, it's a group of clients who sit down every quarter. We run ideas, products, even changes to our website or our application behind them to get their feedback, so we really understand how are clients going to see this, what's in their best interest and is from the client's perspective, not our perspective, so we make sure that the language is right, that the actual product is going to best serve their business needs. And so the client advisory council board has been critical as we continue to grow and serve entrepreneurs, and that's really helped us hit that 93% of our products going to underserved entrepreneurs.
0:20:34.1 DB: And Taylor, I'm curious, do you have any final thoughts for our listeners as the model for micro loans for estheticians and massage therapists?
0:20:43.3 TS: My final thoughts, I would just like to tell everyone that I know that as a small business owner, getting a loan is in the back of our minds, because the first thing that we think about when getting a loan is, okay, we're gonna be in debt and we just started this company, how is this gonna work for me? But as I keep reiterating it, as I keep saying, building good relationships with the financial companies that are there to help you is always very important, and because DreamSpring is a very personal-oriented company, you will be able to grow your business and grow a relationship that will not only support you and your company, but that will also support you in your mission and your end goal. Because it's one thing to say, oh okay, I believe in your business, but it's another thing to believe in your purpose and your mission and DreamSpring does just that.
0:21:36.2 TS: 'Cause I know that when we first loaned, we were literally just starting, and I was like, man, my credit isn't the best, I had to provide all these documents 'cause I had my identity stolen and I was like, there are certain things on my credit that is not me, I was providing Police statements. I was literally begging like, look, do not hold that against me. I handle my finances very well, but they were understanding. And so I'm just grateful to be able to be a mini spokesperson to help other companies learn and understand, especially minority women learn and understand like, look, here's a company that is for you. Here's a company that will assist you, and here's a company that will support you the entire way.
0:22:17.3 MS: And I do wanna add, a fine for your first business loan can be a really scary experience and a very intimidating experience and at DreamSpring we really understand that because that's who we're really serving. And so please don't be scared or intimidated, at DreamSpring we have loan officers, they're going to hold your hand the whole way through the process. We know exactly where you're coming from, a lot of our loan officers are small business owners themselves or have been small business owners. And so they really know what that experience is like. We're here to help you through that process in a way that's going to feel great, not scary. So please don't be intimidated. We're here to help.
0:23:00.7 DB: I wanna thank our guests today, Metta Smith and Taylor Symone. For more information about DreamSpring, visit abmp.com or dreamspring.org/professional-assist. We'll put the links in our show notes. Thanks, Metta, Taylor and Kristin.
0:23:17.5 MS: Thank you.
0:23:18.3 TS: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
0:23:18.3 KC: Metta and Taylor, thank you so much for that great conversation today about micro loans and DreamSpring.
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