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After landlord decides to bulldoze office space, Bay Area entrepreneur keeps business going with versatile SBA business loan

March 20, 2018 | Small Business Loans
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A version of this blog post originally appeared on CNote’s website. CNote is a financial platform for socially conscious savers and investors. CDC Small Business Finance, a leading small business lender, is a proud partner of this company.

Hanging on Jennifer Katz’s door is an alphabet poster in a frame.

You can’t find this poster in a classroom-supply store. It’s an original piece of art, painstakingly drawn by a child. Each letter cleverly depicted as an animal, from Ashley the Alligator to Zac the “Zeabra.”

This child’s artwork brings these letters to life, much the way Katz and her dedicated staff use speech and language therapy to open new doors of communication for the patients they serve.

The poster captures the spirit of Jennifer Katz, Inc., a speech and language therapy center that helps children with their ABCs and fundamentals of communication and speech. The thriving practice of 16 accredited speech pathologists also offers treatments for a wide range of issues including feeding, stuttering and communication challenges related to autism-spectrum disorder.

“We really try to support the whole child and the whole family,” Katz said.

Humble Beginnings: From Car to Office Space

Katz’s journey to this point was not free from challenges. Katz began working as an independent practitioner in 2006, which in those days, was no cakewalk. “It was just myself, also still in my car (my trunk was my office), going from house to house,” she said.

Eventually, she upgraded from her car to a basement space in Noe Valley, a quaint, family-dense neighborhood in San Francisco. There, she made her first attempt at marketing: a free day of speech and language screening.

 

“I thought, ‘I’m not even going to be able to keep up,’” she said.

For anyone who’s ever been a bright-eyed small-business owner, you might have guessed: No one came. But Katz didn’t give up.

In the next several years, she moved out of that basement, secured an endorsement from a respected mentor, broadened her network, and brought on board handful of other speech pathologists.

Thriving Practice Faces Landlord Challenges

Katz and her practice were in a great place a few years ago, when her practice hit a sudden roadblock. Their landlord had decided to tear down and remodel the office space they occupied. Katz had no choice but to quickly relocate to keep her practice afloat.

Moving meant her rent would more than double, and she needed to find suitable facilities for her practice’s unique needs. She and her team needed to find new offices, fast.

After a trying search, she finally found a new office in the same area. But her problems didn’t end there. The new space required a complete remodel to fit her practice’s needs. This meant coming up with funding for major construction when the budget was already strained.

Katz looked at some online lenders, but their onerous rates and opaque terms dissuaded her. At one point, she was concerned her practice and the livelihood of her employees might be in jeopardy.

SBA Business Loan Saves the Day

Through a friend’s recommendation, Katz connected with the U.S. Small Business Administration who then put her in touch with CDC Small Business Finance, a leading small business lender and non-profit organization.

She went on to apply for an SBA working-capital loan. This type of financing can be used for tenant improvements and maxes out at $250,000. Her CDC loan officer, she said, helped make the process as smooth as possible.

“He was amazing,” said Katz, referring to Al Thiel, now a relationship manager at CDC Small Business Finance.

Thiel worked to get Katz the loan quickly to avoid any interruption to her practice, she said. Ultimately, she secured a loan to relocate her office to a larger space, meet expenses and grow the practice.

“It would’ve been such a shame for our families,” said Katz, of the prospect of shuttering her business.

“Here’s this business that’s doing well, and there’s a need,” she added. “But I just don’t have a couple hundred thousand dollars that I could just put toward this.”  

Success Through Word-of-Mouth Marketing

The company’s premises are decorated thoughtfully and playfully for the children. The waiting room features a bright cartoon mural by a local artist. In the back of the building, there’s a studio with pieces of an indoor playground stacked against the walls.

Jennifer Katz, Inc. continues to flourish and serve patients across its Bay Area community. Instead of running promotions out of a basement, Katz gets most of her clients come through word-of-mouth.

“That really has been our marketing — just trying to deliver really high-quality services and let that sort of speak for itself,” Katz said.

Katz’s journey serves as an inspiring example of the positive impact local businesses and entrepreneurs can have on the communities they serve.

Her company takes the extra step to communicate with doctors and other non-speech practitioners within their mutually trusted network of professionals, regarding their patients. Even the staff at the front desk take care of the families by simplifying and demystifying paperwork and insurance processes.

Regarding her success today, Katz reflects, “I never set out to say, ‘I want to have X.’ It was more just this need, and this demand, that we fill and continue to fill.”

Jobs created/preserved: 15

More on CNote: The Oakland-based company’s flagship product offers a 2.5% return on savings — and 100% social impact — by tapping into Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, which exist to help finance underserved small business owners. Learn more about CNote and their mission here.

CDC Small Business Finance offers several loan options for business owners who want to grow their operations and are planning for their long-term needs. Tell our loan experts about your business, and they’ll work to match you with a financing plan that best suits you.

Let’s talk! Reach us at loaninfo@cdcloans.com or (619) 243-8667.


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