How a loan fund helped a Saint-Louis entrepreneur transform and grow her business

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St. Louis-based Tiffany Wesley’s business was born out of personal necessity. Wesley had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and wanted to incorporate organic and gluten-free products into her lifestyle, but she quickly realized how difficult it was to find them. Undeterred, she began to create her own all-natural skin and personal care products, making body butters and essential oils for herself, and later a chamomile soap with honey and honey. oats to treat her daughter’s eczema. The before and after photos she posted on social media lit a fire and requests from friends and family started to pile up. Pure Vibes was launched in 2013 from Wesley’s basement.

The business followed a trajectory that many small businesses are familiar with: from heartbreaking beginnings, patronage of friends and family, and then the need for more capital to keep growing. Wesley competed for funding through a business acceleration program and took second place. This qualified her for a micro-loan from Justine PETERSEN, a community development finance institution (CDFI) that provides capital to businesses in underserved communities. This investment helped Wesley’s business flourish. But in 2020, she hit a wall.

“We’ve gone beyond our space and our customer base has gone from local pickups at my front door to customers across the country,” Wesley said. “I wanted to increase production and move to an e-commerce model, but I just didn’t have enough capital to propel my business. ”

The solution to Wesley’s challenge was a second larger loan from Justine PETERSEN made possible by Charter Communications, a Fortune 100 broadband connectivity company and cable operator known to more than 31 million customers as Spectrum. Through its Spectrum Community Investment Loan Fund, Charter has pledged more than $ 22 million to support small businesses in its 41 states, including a $ 10 million partnership with the National Urban League and the National Action Network to support black-owned businesses.

“Investing in CDFIs helps build the financial infrastructure of a community,” said Jeff Buller, vice president of Charter and head of the Loan Fund. “Our goal is to generate economic impact through investing in small businesses and creating jobs in underserved communities. Through the Loan Fund, we invest directly in the communities where our employees and customers live and work.

Along with the Loan Fund, in addition to investing $ 1 million with Justine PETERSEN, Charter also provided a grant to provide technical assistance and small business training to local business owners.

Charter chose Justine PETERSEN as its investment partner because of her track record of community impact in the St. Louis area, where Charter has more than 5,300 employees and a large customer base. Charter is also committed to empowering and investing in communities to change lives in a sustainable way through community impact programs focused on digital literacy, underrepresented students and community organizations that employees support.

According to a 2018 Small Business Administration report, black business owners are more likely to be under-capitalized when starting their business and experience higher rejection rates when trying to seek out relationships. funding. And, if approved, black business owners are twice as likely as white business owners to receive less than the amount requested.

“The possibility of securing a large loan can really transform a business,” said Galen Gondolfi, Senior Loan Advisor for Justine PETERSEN. “Minority-owned businesses generally tend to be under capital, especially when it comes to larger loans. The investment of Charter’s loan fund is critical, allowing us to provide the larger loans needed for small businesses like Pure Vibes to grow.

With the investment from the Spectrum Community Investment Loan Fund, Wesley will increase the manufacturing and distribution capacity of Pure Vibes by purchasing additional equipment and moving to a larger facility. It will also be able to hire a new full-time employee and a new part-time employee. Wesley’s next goal is to be financially strong and give back by donating hygiene products to low-income and homeless residents in St. Louis.

Wesley’s advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is, “Don’t be afraid to get started. Often times black business owners fear failure when it comes to applying for financing – have the confidence to take your chance.


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