Business owner Sarah Chen is passionate about floral design – and Oak Creek Florist shows it.
Ranked one of the top 100 florists in the nation, Oak Creek has been a part of the East Bay community for years. However, getting there was a challenge. The shop opened in 2007, getting its start in Pleasant Hill and later relocating to Martinez in 2012.
Chen had the chance to pursue her dream of opening a florist shop after years spent operating a restaurant with her husband. Together, they decided they wanted a reliable 9-5 business that would leave plenty of family time. The combination of quality and creativity was a perfect fit for Chen, however, there was always one big problem: the lease.
Despite the business’ success and dedicated customers, there was always a lot of uncertainty around lease renewals. Renegotiating every two years with constant rent increases and the possibility of losing the space was taking its toll on Chen’s plans to grow the business.
“We’ve always wanted to have our own property for stability, and so we don’t have to move around,” she tells us. “Landlords don’t look for long-term leases anymore – it’s frustrating and a lot of work to move from one location to another.”
Chen wanted more for her business and her customers. She needed funding to buy a permanent home for Oak Creek Florist.
Business Owners Face Misconceptions and Uncertainty When Looking for Funding
Despite Chen’s incredibly well-run business and strong balance sheet, she wasn’t sure if property ownership was within reach. The issue in the way was simple: the down payment.
“You have to have at least 30 percent down payment,” she recounted. “That’s very harmful to a family-owned small business, so that’s why we never thought we could afford to buy property.”
Thanks to all this, it took a while to start looking – even once Chen was sure she wanted to buy property. But the business was selling more flowers and welcoming more staff. Everyone stood to benefit if Chen was successful.
Luckily, she heard about the SBA 504 Loan Program and its 10 percent down payment option. She got in touch with Wendy Guan from TMC Financing, and they started to put together a plan. Chen still had doubts the SBA 504 loan was too good to be true and was hesitant to tell anyone about her plans.
TMC Financing’s SBA 504 Loan Program Helped Oak Creek Florist to Bloom
With the SBA 504 Program, business owners can buy commercial real estate and other fixed assets with below-market, long-term fixed interest rates. There are no balloon payments to worry about, and the loans are fully amortized over a 25-year period.
In addition to buying a commercial property, business owners can use proceeds to construct new or upgrade existing buildings, purchase equipment with at least a 10-year life expectancy, or convert facilities to use energy-efficient technology such as solar panels.
With help from TMC Financing, Chen was on the way to her goals in no time.
“We were really worried about how we were going to make a loan work,” Chen said. “It was lovely to get connected with Wendy – she’s such a sweetheart and she explained everything to me in detail. She was always so patient and would always return my calls promptly.”
Leading a team of eight drivers and thirteen designers, her days can be hectic. Wendy was there throughout the process, which was just what Chen needed and made the winning difference as Chen balanced the demands of her schedule with the ongoing loan process. It can take months to get through the complete process, but anything is possible with the right help on your side.
Chen closed on the perfect location for Oak Creek Florist in Concord with 90 percent financing. Chen is the proud owner of 2820 Broadmoor Avenue and is thrilled with her below-market rate, fixed for 25 years.
“This year is really a dream come true,” Chen says. “We have a lot more space and it’s a lot safer for my employees. It’s very exciting to come in and work at your own property. I feel so proud. Miracles happen.”