Restauranteur Finds the Right Loan and Financing Partner to Grow

Success Story
August 22, 2018

How does she do it? A legitimate question when you hear the story of businesswoman Mia Davis and how she works from sun-up to way past sundown every day in two jobs.

Mia cut her professional teeth in the restaurant business in Guam, but left that life in 1996 to come to San Diego. She became a server at Mikko Sushi in Carlsbad to make ends meet, but at the same time launched an educational journey that yielded bachelors and masters degrees and a CPA license.

Mia started putting her financial expertise to work 11 years ago at International Lottery & Totalizator Systems, a software company in Vista. She rose quickly in the organization and is now the director of finance.

A finance director by day, hands-on restaurateur by night

A Mikko Sushi savory specialty

Most of us would be satisfied to work a 9-to-5 job and call it done. Not Mia, not when you have the restaurant business in your blood. In 2006 she was asked by a friend to invest in an Escondido restaurant – Sushi Nori. Mia not only invested her hard-earned dollars, she poured herself into the business, overhauling the menu, sprucing up the interior and working as a server nights and weekends. Once profitable, she and her friend sold Sushi Nori for a tidy sum.

Like a siren’s call, the sushi business lured Mia back again in 2007. Scraping together personal savings and contributions from family members, Mia and her sister opened Umi Japanese Grill in Oceanside. Eight years later, while working as an evening server at Mikko Sushi in downtown Carlsbad, Mia learned that the owners were going to close the landmark restaurant. Recognizing an opportunity, she promptly bought the restaurant, renovated the interior, updated the menu and reopened the doors to old and new customers. Since 2015, she has increased the restaurant’s revenue 100%.

What makes Mia tick?
“My philosophy is to serve quality fish at reasonable prices,” she says. “Customers spend their hard-earned money with me so I like to return their kindness. Plus, I love to entertain. It’s fun. You couldn’t do what I do if you didn’t enjoy it. So many customers know me now and they’ve become my friends.”

And implausibly, Mia has energy to spare. She recently became intrigued with the idea of opening a third restaurant, this time in Vista on Main Street. “Vista has lots of potential,” she says. “The city’s Main St. area is undergoing a revival with multiple breweries and restaurants opening there.”

Finding the right loan and financing partner
Mia found a building that had housed an art gallery and entered escrow to buy it with a SBA-7a loan. While in escrow, the large down payment required and adjustable rate of the 7a loan made Mia think twice. A commercial real estate broker suggested financing the building with a SBA 504 loan instead. “I knew about SBA lending, but I didn’t know about the 504 loan,” she admitted.

“…everyone at CDC was helpful and efficient.”
Mia Davis
Owner, Mikko Sushi

Mia Googled SBA 504 loans and up popped CDC Small Business Finance, the nation’s largest nonprofit SBA 504 lender. Mia was promptly connected with CDC’s North County loan officer Merri Adams who jumped in to help. Because SBA 504 loans require a bank partner, Merri first approached Mia’s bank, which ultimately denied Mia’s application. Ever more determined, and tapping her in-depth knowledge of other banks’ credit parameters, Merri found a willing partner in HomeStreet Bank which agreed to help finance Mia’s $1.4 million SBA 504 loan.

“Merri was so patient and everyone at CDC was helpful and efficient,” Mia confided.

Mia’s expansion of Mikko Sushi in Vista is now open for business. She expects to hire more than 20 people to help her serve and “entertain” local customers.

Learn more about using SBA 504 financing to buy your own building to invest in your future – visit CDC Small Business Finance. Want to talk with a loan expert directly? Contact us at or call (800) 611-5170.

In case you missed it, here are a couple other inspiring stories of small business growth:
Buying Building Versus Leasing Keeps Biotech Company on Steady Growth Path
How Free Business Coaching with SBA Loan Paved Way for San Diego Pizza Maker’s Growth