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Start-up Small Business Owner Banking on the Sweet Taste of Success

August 11, 2020 | Success Story

Yen “Mark” Tran was well into his third decade working as a network engineer and project manager for multinational giant AT&T when he could no longer avoid the itch.  “I’d always wanted to own my own small business,” said Tran. “It was always a dream of mine.”

So after 22 years managing complex teams and projects, he resigned. You’d think his next step would be to parlay his experience into another high-tech position. But then you wouldn’t be thinking like a fledgling entrepreneur like Tran. Instead, he started exploring retail food franchise opportunities.

He recalls being in a shopping mall he frequented and noticed a long line in front of Somisomi, a Korean-inspired soft serve ice cream shop. An ice cream lover himself, Tran quickly became convinced that Somisomi was the best option to kick-start his entrepreneurial success.

SCORE Seminar Opens Door to SBA Lending

Tran had saved some money of his own to help launch his start-up business, but he needed much more to fund his store tenant improvements, hire 14 employees and pay rent. With the idea of researching Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, he attended a SCORE seminar where he heard speaker Stacey Sanchez, Senior Community Loan Officer with CDC Small Business Finance.

“Stacey was impressive, enthusiastic, friendly and very helpful,” Tran said.

Soon thereafter, in December 2019, Sanchez and her CDC Small Business Finance team members Iliana Farias, Mike Boudinot and Brad Bellah put the finishing touches on $270,000 in financing in the form of two SBA loans, an SBA Community Advantage loan and an SBA Microloan.

“CDC has been a fantastic partner,” Tran said. “The entire team was so responsive and helpful.”

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From Grand Opening Success to COVID Challenges

With store construction soon complete, Tran set his sights on a March 2020 grand opening of Somisomi in Huntington Beach’s Bella Terra mall. On opening day, soft serve ice cream was flowing in a variety of unique flavors. A long line of customers queued out the door. Then the COVID virus hit California and Tran was forced to close his doors temporarily.

“It’s been difficult,” Tran confided “Summer is Somisomi’s biggest sales season. We’re still open for take-out, but we’re hoping as California begins to open up, we’ll get back to our opening day sales level.”

RELATED: Support Your Favorite Small Businesses To Help Ease Impact Of The Coronavirus

Somisomi Fans Still Coming

Owner Mark Tran (left in back) employs 14 people in his new Somisomi store in Bella Terra mall

Ever determined, Tran has refused to give up. Despite the pandemic, Huntington Beach residents and tourists still frequent Tran’s Somisomi location. You can be sure their masks hide many smiles as they lick and devour their favorite flavor ice cream served in a signature goldfish-shaped waffle cone called an Ah-Boong.

Somisomi features 11 flavors in all, some traditional and some on the unusual end of the gustatory spectrum: chocolate, coffee, banana, strawberry, milk tea, milk, matcha, horchata, sesame and ube (bright purple with a nutty taste). And last but not least, Tran’s favorite…Oreo. You can even combine these flavors in a swirl.

“Mark is so excited about his new small business,” said Sanchez. “I predict he’ll bounce back and become the Somisomi king someday.”

Somisomi storefront

Ice cream may not be Tran’s final play in the retail food industry. Product diversity is key, he believes. In fact, he’s already eyeing other types of franchises so he can build what he jokingly calls his small business “empire.” The sweetest thing of all is he may end up laughing all the way to the bank.

Thinking about starting, expanding or buying a small business? Do any of these lending challenges ring familiar with your entrepreneurial journey?  Talk to one of our loan officers who can explain all your options in minutes and find financing that best meets the needs of you and your business. Let’s talk! Reach us at loaninfo@cdcloans.com or (619) 243-8667. You can also apply online.



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