After striking out with traditional lenders, these entrepreneurs got the startup loan then needed

March 19, 2019

Around fall 2017, city of San Diego officials closed down two arts and studio spaces in thriving arts center Barrio Logan, in a crackdown of unpermitted warehouses.

Among the artists suddenly displaced were entrepreneurs and co-founders of a popular creators’ collective: Brittany Kaszas, Brook Dailey, Kristin Dinnis and Sarah Anderson.

As they lamented the closure and lack of common artists’ space in the area, they landed on the idea of San Diego Made Factory. It would be a home for all types of creatives, including small business owners, handmade craft-makers and artists, among others.

But the creative quartet wanted to do this project the right way. Taking to heart the city’s enforcement spree, they needed a business loan to finance the proper permitting for above-board tenant improvements — major changes business owners make to their space.

“We needed a long-term investment to make San Diego Made Factory happen,” Dailey said. “Something like this doesn’t happen overnight.”

Here’s how CDC Small Business Finance, a community lender with a 40-year track record, helped them finance tenant improvements and realize their goal of opening an affordable, welcoming space for creatives.

Joining forces to create San Diego Made

The four friends and business partners met at Union, one of the Barrio Logan warehouses that shuttered in 2017.

They each are creators in their own right. Dinnis makes clothes namely ballroom gowns; Kaszas is a graphic designer and marketer; and Dailey along with Anderson own and operate a design and build woodworking company.

In addition to maintaining their businesses, they joined forces to form San Diego Made in 2014. It’s an organization of creatives — from designers to artists — who pay an annual membership fee for placement on their website and bi-annual “Maker” events at Lafayette Hotel, in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood.

With the closing of two artists’ spaces, Union and Glashaus, their goal was to jumpstart essentially a brick-and-mortar version of the community they had already built and nurtured.

Financing critical for project’s success

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Extensive tenant improvements at San Diego Made Factory in Logan Heights.

If the fearless foursome wanted to avoid the fate of their creative-space predecessors, they knew they needed enough money, or capital, to pay for the required permits, expert help and plans.

They also needed financing for the proper build-out, or tenant improvements, of the co-working, event, and studio space along with furniture and equipment. Construction has included putting up walls, installing an accessibility lift, and extensive plumbing work. 

“We realized we needed to finance the project to make it successful,” Dinnis said.

Like many small business owners looking for a startup loan, they struck out with traditional lenders who typically shy away from such deals since they’re perceived as riskier.

The good news is, community-based lenders like CDC Small Business Finance have more flexibility to lend to up-and-coming business owners because our loans are backed by the government.

Related: 3 challenges for female business owners and how to fix them

After working with loan officer Anna Marie Cruz in the early stages of financing, they collaborated with relationship manager Nick Miluso to get to the financing finish line.

Miluso helped the entrepreneurs price out the project they envisioned, matched them with two affordable small business loans that fit their dynamic needs, and ultimately got them approved and funded.

Each financing deal by CDC is personalized to the specific needs of each small business borrower. Behind the scenes, Miluso and other loan experts strategically structure loans to get clients funded with sustainable capital.

In the case of San Diego Made, we provided two loans instead of one when the entrepreneurs realized they needed more funds to fuel their construction. Believing in their project, we made that happen so they could keep build-out going strong. Unlike traditional lenders, we have more flexibility to pivot to the needs of our clients.

“It’s great to see (CDC’s) part of this whole process,” said Miluso, on a recent trip to the San Diego Made Factory to see the ongoing tenant improvements.

Kaszas was blown away by the quality of customer service from the whole loan team at CDC Small Business Finance.

“This is not the level of care we’d get if we had worked with a regular bank,” Kaszas said. “CDC answered our questions and waited for us to find the right place to make the project work.”

Tenant improvements: ‘The pieces are coming together’

In clockwise order: CDC Small Business Finance relationship manager Nick Miluso with members of San Diego Made touring the building and shots of construction.

Whether you’re a co-working space, restaurant or office building, tenant improvements are a common stage in the lead-up to a grand opening. These are significant changes made to a leased space that may or may not require permitting.

San Diego Made’s vision of an all-in-one creatives headquarters, the co-founders realized, would require extensive planning, permitting and construction.

Admittedly, navigating everything from financing to construction has been more difficult than imagined — something many entrepreneurs come to realize. “But the pieces are coming together, with (CDC’s) support and people who believe in us,” Kaszas said.

For their San Diego Made Factory concept, they signed a lease on a 12,000-square-foot warehouse in San Diego’s Logan Heights area, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. The area is poised for a revival, with bordering Barrio Logan exploding with a vibrant arts scene and innovative small businesses.  

Slated for a Spring 2019 opening, their custom-designed Factory will feature:

  • 27 individual studio spaces,
  • Flex desks for rent,
  • 1,200-square-foot event area,
  • Podcasting room,
  • Lounge space,
  • Kitchen and dining area,
  • And more.

Their vision was to create a welcoming space that broke the traditional office mold.

“The aim was to provide an affordable space, not in a high rise, that provides a community for creatives,” Anderson said. “We wanted to see more of that.”

‘All working together’ to make it happen

Soon, all the construction dust will be swept away and artists will start filling their studios at San Diego Made Factory.  

Recently, Kaszas, Dailey, Dinnis and Anderson took a moment to reflect on their next chapter of their community-based business.

“It had to be us all working together” to make this happen, Anderson said.

“We lean on each other,” Dailey added. “That’s what helped us make what San Diego Made what it is today. Our hope is this space will help all small business owners grow in this community.”

For more on San Diego Made Factory, 2031 Commercial St., San Diego, and their active fundraiser, visit their website

One of the loans that San Diego Made received is part of the San Diego Small Business Collaborative Loan Program – This Program is funded in whole or in part with Community Development Block Grant program funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the City of San Diego.

CDC Small Business Finance is a believer in the transformative power of business loans on up-and-coming communities. The financing we’ve provided over the last 40 years has powered the revival of several communities across California, Arizona and Nevada.

Are you ready to change your community? 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 or (619) 243-8667.

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