SBA offers information on small business loans, grants, bonds and other financial assistance. Find out which method of financing is right for you!Learn More about Small Business Loans, Grants, Bonds & Other Financial Assistance
While SBA does not make loans directly, you can find a local lender who can help you with your loan application. You may also speak directly with a local SBA representative by calling .
Events & Workshops
Explore events by this district office.
For Small Business Owners
Resources in Your Area
Resources from Our Office
News & Press Releases
Sisters Tea Parlor & Boutique is located in Buckner, KY. Equal parts tea room and gift shop, the business is located in a prosperous suburb just 20 minutes northeast of Louisville, KY. While successful on the surface, Sisters needed SBA assistance to survive.
Connie Young founded Sisters Gift Shop in 2002. The business grew slowly but steadily, and Ms. Young moved the location twice in five years for more space as well as better parking and visibility. Ms. Young decided to add a tea room but knew that would require even more space, necessitating a fourth and final move.
Connie Young renamed the business Sisters Tea Parlor & Boutique and asked her daughter, Lori Crowe, to help manage the firm. With 12 years of experience in marketing and management, Crowe also brought with her a passion for baking. The mother/daughter team developed the tea room concept. “In our minds, this idea could only succeed. Since we were not a traditional restaurant, there wasn’t a model to follow, so we had to find our own way,” said Crowe.
The tea parlor served its first tea on Mother’s Day weekend to rave reviews. Although a large budget was devoted to traditional advertising, word of mouth was the best marketing tool. The women, however, could not ascertain the effectiveness of their marketing. “We knew word of mouth would snowball,” said Crowe, “but we thought it would happen faster. Added Young, “We had to educate the public about the tea room and reach our target market.”
The business is the only true tea room in the region and has no direct competition in its market, but that created unique challenges, and the owners had difficulty finding advisors. The 2008 recession and soaring gas prices created a severe cash flow problem, because the business was perceived as a luxury. Despite efforts to offer less expensive choices, extend business hours, decrease labor costs and increase marketing, Sisters Tea Parlor & Boutique struggled to survive.
Connie Young’s youngest daughter, Kelly Stariha, joined the team in 2011, assuming a managerial role with a focus on human resources. This new leadership team needed a business plan, so they met with Sharron Johnson, Director of the Women Business Center (WBC) of Kentucky. Ms. Johnson provided the women with SBA resources and SCORE counselors, who helped recreate the company’s marketing literature and examined the financial reports, enabling Sisters Tea Parlor & Boutique to be in the black for the first time in years. In fact, sales have increased almost 46% in slightly more than a year with assistance from the WBC and SCORE resources.
Johnson also assisted the Sisters team with creating a contract for a large off-site catering event at the nationally-acclaimed Frazier History Museum in Louisville. That event gave the business unprecedented exposure to their target market as well as revenue at a critical time. Johnson then encouraged the women to seek additional contracts opportunities.
Sisters Tea Parlor & Boutique management attended business seminars at the WBC of Kentucky as well as its Women’s Business Expo in 2012, which included motivational speakers as well as workshops on marketing and social media, allowing the women to work with experts in developing new marketing mediums. The expo also allowed the women to showcase their business and reach hundreds of attendees who were the company’s target market.
Johnson then introduced Sisters’ leadership to the local president of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and to key personnel at the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau to explore event opportunities. Most recently, Johnson connected the women to students in the MBA program at local university, where the business will receive free business assistance from students.
Through the SBA and its resource partners, the Women’s Business Center and SCORE, Sisters Tea Parlor & Boutique has received advice from counselors who have proven invaluable to the business, which is now stronger fiscally and becoming a leader in its industry. Learn more information on the loan programs, counseling services and other small business services offered by SBA from your lender, www.SBA.gov and your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), SCORE Chapter or Women’s Business Center.
With her Army husband deployed overseas, Chelsey Hershey returned to her home town to finish up a business degree and with a dream to go into business for herself. She found a place for sale and during a long-distance call to her husband exclaimed: “I could be a business owner tomorrow!”
His quick and supportive answer? “Go for it!”
And within a few months, her shop, Down Home Emporium, made a quick name for itself as the go-to florist in rural central Nebraska. Her place offers fresh and silk arrangements, brand-name greeting cards, a selection of toys and jewelry, and the perfect feature to finish off any home décor.
“We take care of a lot of little towns that don’t have floral services,” said Hershey, who offers services for weddings and funerals up to 75 miles away from the shop’s location in Arnold.
It’s a big help that Hershey, along with her two part-timers and a seasonal employee, have a passion to serve their customers.
“At first, we didn’t advertise very much because frankly we weren’t very experienced,” Hershey said. “But we’ve taken classes through national flower chains and have vastly improved our expertise and the range of services we can offer. We’re still learning, it’s an interesting field and one rewarding and fun.
“We’re always busy with one event or another. Doing weddings for my friends has been wonderful,” she added, “and every funeral feels like a blessing for us to be able to provide this service. We really incorporate what that person was in our arrangements.”
Perhaps the store’s best offering is the chance for local artists to offer for sale their handmade collectibles, “from crocheting, to sewing, to woodwork and furniture,” Hershey said.
“We want to give back to the community shopping at our store something that adds to the economy of our small town,” she added.
While Down Home Emporium markets through newspaper ads and sponsoring local high school athletic game broadcasts on area radio, Hershey aggressively uses social media, such as Facebook, to promote sales and display special arrangements.
Hershey’s entrepreneurial path began slowly, training horses for some spare cash when she was younger, and she picked up experience in retail working with her mom at a boutique in Arnold; that store was in the very building she would later purchase for Down Home Emporium.
After a semester in college in a pre-nursing program, she went off to Cheyenne to study equine business management; after she married, Hershey pursued a business degree with a focus in entrepreneurial studies.
“I had enjoyed through all my moves and throughout college being a sales associate at a western store and a large retail chain, and that experience learning from those stores taught me a lot about merchandising,” she said.
With two loans in hand, one through the Arnold Economic Development Corporation and another through the Custer County Development Corporation, and lots of family help, she opened the doors to the shop in Nov. 2011. A couple of years later, Hershey sought financing to expand the business inventory and the business’ offerings and services.
“I was scared, very nervous, mainly because I didn’t want to go into debt very much,” she admitted. “So I tried not to get very many loans, but that I wouldn’t have inventory stocked. Without going into debt it’s tough to expand.”
Hershey said it took a couple of years to understand the business enough gradually to change its offerings and “give a boost for this holiday season.”
“The first Christmas was great, but last year I sold a lot of what I had collected, so I really needed to get a fresh set of new inventory and home décor, and I had a few toys from the last few years, that I wanted to get fresh new things,” she said. “We’re a small town, so I can’t get a vast amount of items, maybe just ones and twos of things.” Still, an infusion of new inventory would boost sales, she explained, because advertising new items on the shelf in a store in a small town could draw customers back in.
Hershey discovered the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) while surfing the SBA’s web site, and applied for a microloan to finance purchase of new inventory, and renovations for the building’s lighting and insulation to cut energy costs. She’s already used the proceeds to insulate the store’s display window and the drafty store room.
The SBA Microloan Program is the largest federal program solely dedicated to supporting the credit needs of very small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs. Working through a network of community-based nonprofit intermediaries such as REAP, the program provides loans and technical assistance to start-up and emerging small businesses unable to secure credit from conventional banks.
In addition, Hershey got small business planning advice this fall from the REAP Women’s Business Center, which sponsored a five-week refresher class in business management.
And looking toward the future: “We’re always looking for unique items to have in the store,” Hershey said. “We also would really like to expand our wedding and floral service.” Future plans call for expanding delivery to outlying towns lacking a full-service florist shop.
“The sky is the limit here,” she said.
Restaurateur Scott McVean originally established Pain du Monde Cafe in a small Balboa Island storefront in 1988, selling fresh-baked bread, muffins, and delicate pastries. Over the years Pain du Monde Cafe, known also as PdM Cafe, expanded to four locations, all of which are located in Orange County, California. In 2013, McVean decided it was time to grow the brand and establish Pain du Monde Kitchen, a full size, free standing, three meal restaurant. Despite being in business more than 25 years, Scott had never applied for financing from a bank. However, working with Commerce National Bank's Nancy Russell, was able to get the project funded, establish his new location, and hire approximately 55 employees in the process.
According to McVean, "This is a totally different business than my other four locations, and the capital requirements are much more intensive. I couldn't have done it without SBA and Commerce National Bank." Pain du Monde's newest location, in Irvine, has now been open more than 5 months. McVean, for his part, is enjoying serving the community around his newest location. "It has a different feel than my other locations. People stay here after their meals and chat. We've got a lot of families that come in."