October 29, 2010 in City

Local agency helps small businesses with loans

By The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photo

Robert Flora, of Creative Surface Inspirations, puts the finishing touches on the floor of a unit at Garage Town USA in Coeur d’Alene on Thursday. Creative Surface Inspirations, which does concrete floors and surfaces, received a $22,000 SNAP Financial Access loan to buy a new truck.
(Full-size photo)

Kay Kallenbach can’t say enough good things about SNAP Financial Access.

The nonprofit community development financial institution gave Kallenbach more than a business loan when nobody else would; it gave her life purpose after her daughter died a few years ago.

“It was the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me,” Kallenbach said of the loan. “I was in a very bad situation. I had lost my source of income and SNAP worked to get me a loan to buy a business.”

SNAP Financial Access – a subsidiary of SNAP, the nonprofit community action agency – will help a lot more folks like Kallenbach thanks to a recent federal loan and grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The $200,000 SBA loan in turn can be lent to more Spokane County microenterprises, creating jobs for low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs.

At a time when traditional lending institutions are keeping a tight fist on credit, Financial Access is authorized to provide loans of up to $35,000.

“We are concerned about credit, too, but not the same way as a bank,” said Kerri Rodkey, director of SNAP Financial Access. “We look at the mission and benefit to low-income people.”

In addition, the nonprofit agency also was awarded an SBA grant of about $158,000 under the federal Program for Investment in MicroEntrepreneurs Act to provide training and technical assistance to disadvantaged business owners.

The grant also will provide help to businesses owned by minorities and women, Rodkey said.

So far this year, it has provided training and technical assistance to 259 existing or prospective business owners and made loans to 24 business owners, resulting in 55 business starts or expansions and 59 new jobs.

Since 1998 when the microenterprise program began, SNAP Financial Access has provided $1.6 million in loans to 146 borrowers.

It has partnered with Numerica and The Union credit unions, among other institutions, to make loans to stores, restaurants, building contractors, truckers, auto mechanics and hair salons.

One such borrower was Creative Surface Inspirations, 3012 N. Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley.

This year, the small concrete company used a $22,000 SNAP loan to buy a truck, which made it possible for the business to branch out into floor and surface polishing. The truck is used to transport four 1,000-pound polishing machines and two new employees to run them.

“We have doubled our sales from last year,” said Kat Mitchell, a principal in the company, which recently picked up a new floor-polishing client, Walmart in Wenatchee.

Mitchell said no other bank would loan Creative Surface Inspirations money because the company was only 2 years old. Now, she said, a credit union has bought the loan, expanding the company’s credit potential and freeing up more money for other SNAP loans.

A couple years ago, SNAP Financial Access made all the difference in the world to Kallenbach, now 67, who lost her income as a caregiver when her daughter died of complications from cancer.

“The bank didn’t want to give me a loan,” Kallenbach said.

But SNAP loaned her $36,000 to take over Spencer’s Antiques Market and Village Flea Market, which provides space to dealers in antiques and collectibles.

When she took over the business on North Market Street, Kallenbach had 12 dealers. Now, relocated at 1325 N. Division St., the business boasts 72 dealers.

“It was just me back then,” Kallenbach said. “Now I have one full-time and three part-time employees.”

She said there is no limit to what her business is capable of accomplishing.

“I am so very grateful to SNAP,” Kallenbach said. “They believed in me and gave me a chance.”

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