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SBA small business loan fuels launch of ‘Berkeley’s premier poke spot’

August 15, 2018 | Small Business Loans
SBA small business loan fuels launch of ‘Berkeley’s premier poke spot’, CDC Small Business

Bay Area restauranteur Jeffrey Wang sees business ownership as one’s ticket to many kinds of freedom. It provides him the freedom to create his own work schedule and break free from corporate America’s definition of success.

“I wanted to view the level of my success on my own terms, as opposed to letting the review of a superior determine my worthiness as a worker,” Wang said.

Determined to become an entrepreneur, Wang sat down a couple years ago to sketch out a business plan for a new take on the Asian fusion poke trend. This one would focus on using quality, sustainably caught fish and locally sourced produce.

With the help of an SBA working-capital loan from CDC Small Business Finance, Wang and his business partner, Walter Mak, are now co-owners of the wildly successful Poke Parlor — a nod to a diced raw fish dish native to Hawaiian cuisine.

Self-billed as “Berkeley’s premier poke spot,” Poke Parlor has become a popular hangout for the UC Berkeley campus crowd and spun a second location, in Cupertino, Calif.

Financing helps business vision come true

Both in their late 20s, Wang and Mak have been friends since high school. As longtime pals and experienced professionals in the food and global-logistics sectors, they worked out naturally as co-entrepreneurs.

Wang had some savings to execute on their poke-eatery concept but it wasn’t enough to finance the whole project. Launching a restaurant in general goes beyond just renting out a physical location. You also need to pay for typical line items such as tenant improvements, equipment and working capital.

SBA small business loan fuels launch of ‘Berkeley’s premier poke spot’, CDC Small Business

Inside Poke Parlor’s first location, in Berkeley, Calif., made possible by an SBA loan.

After speaking with several lenders, the duo decided to work with CDC Small Business Finance to obtain an SBA small business loan. CDC is a leading small business lender and nonprofit that focuses on helping underserved markets including women and minorities. Compared to traditional lenders, CDC is more flexible in terms of small business loan requirements and types of businesses we fund.

“Without financing through CDC, our vision would never have come to fruition,” Wang said. “I was very excited and ready to move forward as quickly as possible. It was a very big moment for us knowing others believed we could succeed.”

SBA small business loan fuels eatery’s success, expansion

SBA small business loan fuels launch of ‘Berkeley’s premier poke spot’, CDC Small Business

Poke Parlor was made possible by an SBA loan via CDC Small Business Finance.

Acknowledging the fact poke has entered super-trend territory, Wang and Mak made a conscious decision to set themselves apart from their competition by putting a few twists on the cuisine.

They include:

    • Featuring ingredients that are 100 percent sustainably sourced,
    • Offering tacos and paninis (dubbed pokenini) to the menu.
    • Using locally sourced, organic and non-GMO.

“We also pride ourselves in only serving our food in biodegradable bowls, cups and utensils,” Wang said.

After four months of operation, Wang and Mak have opened a second location in Cupertino, Calif., thanks in part to positive reviews they’ve received from customers.

They have a four-plus star rating on Yelp and 4.8 star rating on Google and Facebook.

Advice for aspiring small business owners

Thinking about starting your own small business? Here’s what Wang offered to novice entrepreneurs, in terms of advice:

“The startup stage can be the most daunting because you have nothing tangible to reassure yourself you’re headed in the right direction,” he said.

“There are definitely no guarantees and there will undoubtedly be hiccups along the way to achieving your goal. But if you don’t stop pushing forward and keep the right vision in mind, anything is possible.”

CDC Small Business Finance offers several small business 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 small business loan that best suits you. Let’s talk! Reach us at loaninfo@cdcloans.com or (619) 243-8667.

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