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Ace Hardware of Silver Lake opened its doors in July thanks to SBA’s 7(a) loan program. Gary Skrla was laid off from his corporate job and headed to the SBA office in Seattle to discuss his business ideas with Ed Milan, a SCORE representative. After a few counseling sessions, he decided to follow his dream and open a hardware store. His past hardware industry experience helped him decide the ACE Hardware franchise would be a good fit.
He found the perfect location in Everett – a new strip mall in the Silver Lake neighborhood and worked out the tenant improvements details. Timing is everything. Skrla took advantage of the new lending incentives of increased guarantees and reduced fees. He worked out the details in his loan application and received financing through Seattle-based Fortune Bank and the SBA 7(a) Loan Program. Lisa Forrest, vice president with Fortune Bank said, “Gary is a perfect example of what can be done with an SBA loan. He has an incredible range of experience including working in the hardware, lumber and nursery business. He has always wanted his own business. The Silver Lake area is growing and was ready for additional services and the 20 jobs the new store will generate are welcome, too.”
As part of the Recovery Act, SBA temporarily eliminated fees paid by the borrowers in the 7(a) program. The bank decision to provide an SBA 7(a) loan for $879,000 resulted in a savings of $19,777 in waived fees. This helped to get the inventory needed and provided the working capital to have the store open on time. “I wish I had done this sooner,” Skrla said. “It’s not that difficult; we are not six months into it and look where we are at.” Hard work and perseverance paid off for Skrla. He did his research, knew the industry, hired experienced staff, and sought out business assistance.
Michelle Hsu and her husband Nicholas first arrived in the U.S. from Taiwan in 1989, under the federal government’s Treaty Investors Visa and settled in Texas to invest in oil and real estate, and make their fortune. Then came the infamous Big Bust. Caught off guard, the Hsu’s cut their losses, pulled up stakes and re-settled in Florida. This painful lesson about the importance of researching business trends was not lost on them; as Michelle has since parlayed it into a blazingly successful new enterprise – the International Academic Alliance.
In Taiwan, Michelle had been considered a pioneer in the concept of “off-site” MBAs. She leveraged that experience to create multi- national, cross-cultural business education programs in the U.S. Rather than start completely from scratch, she streamlined the process by establishing course accreditation partnerships with major colleges and universities in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan and North Dakota, simultaneously giving those institutions a presence overseas.
The Hsu’s relocated to New York in 1994, anticipating and then capitalizing on computerscience education in major urban markets. The business did well until the combined catastrophes of 9/11 and the death of Nicholas threw a wrench into the works. Going back to the drawing board, Hsu identified the next big thing as the healthcare sector, and nursing in particular. She launched a successful partnership program with the Corcoran School of Nursing, and soon extended the partnership to Adelphi University. Starting with three nursing prep students in 2002, the program has since graduated 200 nurses, with another 400 students
currently in the pipeline.
Grappling with the blessings and burdens of unprecedented growth, Hsu realized she needed additional working capital to better serve her students. She applied for, and received, a $200,000 loan from United Commercial Bank. The loan was guarantied by the U.S. Small Business Administration under its ExpressLoan Program, which allows a private lender to use its own paperwork in place of the SBA’s in return for a 50 percent guaranty of the loan amount.
The loan enabled Hsu to open a second “capsule campus” at 250 W. 40th Street. (The original campus remains on Sixth Avenue near Bryant Park.) The new campus hosts master’s degree programs in accounting, finance and business administration, in partnership with accredited colleges in the U.S., China and India. With overseas offices in Beijing, Taipei, Mumbai and Bangalore, the company now has 11 employees and 15 adjunct professors on staff, and annual receipts since the loan, have grown from $1.1 million to $2 million.
Hsu was honored last year for her community service with an award from the Queens Theatre in the Park, and was recently elected to its board of directors. This spirit of service, combined with a hard-won zeal for research and trend-spotting, has positioned Michelle Hsu and the “Alliance” for continued success. And, as Hsu freely admits, having the right partners – her husband, her university affiliates, and the SBA – certainly helps.
More information about International Academic Alliance can be found at: www.iaaprograms.com.
Dr. Justin Kim owner of Trinity Vision Center continues to get the assistance he needs through SBA and its loan programs. He started his eye care center right before the economic down turn by utilizing the Patriot Express Loan Program for leasehold improvements, equipment and inventory. As he continued to operate and develop his clientele he experienced a need for more working capital that would allow him the flexibility to increase his marketing efforts in a time of economic uncertainty.
The Recovery Act came at the perfect time for many small businesses and the opportunities it delivered help Dr. Kim. Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union, known for its financial loan assistance to veteran-owned small businesses, provided the capital Kim needed. The credit union was able to receive a higher guaranty percentage of 90 percent and waive the borrower fee. Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union received an award during National Small Business Week 2009 for its loan activity support to the San Antonio military community with the use of SBA’s Patriot Express Loan Program.