COVID-19 relief options and additional resources

SBA counseling, 504 Loan help family-owned funeral home expand downstate

Timothy Leek

A lifetime spent in the funeral business has made Timothy Leek an expert in guiding people through some of life’s most difficult and emotional moments. With assistance from the Small Business Administration and its partners, he’s expanding his business and with it, his impact on his local community.   

Leek’s father started Leek & Sons Funeral Home in Danville, Ill., more than 60 years ago, and Leek grew up above the family business, enabling him to “speak the language” at a young age. But even with his decades of experience, he still found value in reaching out to the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Danville Area Community College, specifically in crafting a business plan.

“My experience has been great,” Leek said. “Carol Nichols really took me by the hand, to guide and answer any questions.”

Nichols is the executive director of the Illinois SBDC at Danville Area Community College, which offers no-cost one-on-one business consultation and low-cost workshops for small businesses at all stages.

“Mr. Leek and his family have built a strong business through consistent professionalism and concern for the families he serves.  Our center is proud to have been a part of that through assistance in developing a business plan, financial projections and from time-to-time having the opportunity to sit in with lenders, government officials and contractors,” she said. “It is wonderful to watch projects develop from the idea stage to reality.”

Working with the SBDC also helped Leek prepare for his next move – securing an SBA-backed 504 Loan so his company could expand into Champaign. Leek & Sons was already doing business in Champaign-Urbana, about 35 miles away, and the loan allowed to them to construct a new facility. Leek expects to hire more staff when the second location opens in April or May of 2017.

“It depends on the growth,” he said. “I can already see I’m going to need a new director.”

SBA 504 Loans provide financing for major fixed assets such as equipment or real estate. The SBA’s 504 Certified Development Companies (CDCs) work with banks and other lenders to make loans in first position on reasonable terms, helping to reduce risk to lenders and allowing borrowers to contribute a smaller down payment and access favorable interest rates. SomerCor 504 served as the CDC facilitating First National Bank of Catlin’s loan to Leek & Sons.

“It is a real joy to provide a quality fixed rate loan option for businesses in Illinois,” SomerCor Vice President Darin R. Gehrke said. “SomerCor is happy to help Mr. Leek grow and expand in order to better service his market.”

The new facility and support from the SBA has allowed this longtime family-run business to continue to thrive for its next generation of owners – Leek has two children in college who expect to study mortuary science, as well – while making a difference in the lives of those who need its services. The best part of his job, Leek says, is helping those people in tough times.

“This job’s not for everyone, but it’s been rewarding. We try to give the families closure, and we try to be as affordable as possible,” he said. “You have to make a profit, but you want to be accessible to people.”

Reflecting on the assistance he has received, Leek recommends other small business owners also take advantage of free resources and training available to them. Although entrepreneurs often want to move fast, he advises that being patient can end up paying off in the long run.

“I thought about this expansion years ago, but financially it wasn’t my time. It takes a lot of saving,” he said. “A lot of times people think you just go in and get a loan, but you have to be prepared for that loan. I’m still learning as I go.”

Company Name: 
Leek & Sons Funeral Home
Danville, Illinois