Terry Quinones, owner of Sierra Traffic Service, wears a black shirt and jeans standing in front of a red, white, and black sign reading "Sierra Traffic Service" and their contact information.

SBA 504 Loan Helps Woman-Owned Traffic Control Business Buy Building

Commercial Real Estate Loans
June 2, 2023

Launching a small business can often feel like being stuck in traffic. Not quite knowing what’s ahead, like lots of potholes. Wasting precious time and resources.

But nothing quite feels like when you’ve navigated your way around the issues and headed home.

There may be no more perfect metaphor than this for Terry Quinones, a woman who found herself perfectly content in her career until a mentor saw promise and suggested an entirely new path in the traffic control field.

While the idea opened a new chapter toward becoming a small business entrepreneur, it was also a journey that would require a lot of support to help navigate toward success.

Forging a New Path

Terry’s journey began while working at an underground pipeline company in the late nineties. Her work ethic and business acumen caught the eye of the owner of the company, so much so that it led to a suggestion that would change the course of Terry’s life.

He encouraged her to get her traffic control license, as he said there was a lot of business in that field in which Terry could excel.

“I thought, ‘Gee, traffic control?’ Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be doing traffic control, but I took on the challenge,” Terry said. “I got my license, and, with my mentor and family’s support, I didn’t look back.”

With her license in hand, Terry founded Sierra Traffic Service in Camarillo, CA, in 2001.

As a business model, Sierra Traffic Service provides road construction safety services involving lane closures, road closures, flagmen, and other associated precautions. So, when you’re driving down the highway and see the construction barricades, cones, and flaggers, that’s their hard work.

While exciting, this significant decision made her realize that starting a business required more than just getting that license.

Terry Quinones and crew stand in front of their fleet of traffic control trucks in Camarillo.
Terry Quinones and crew stand in front of their fleet of traffic control trucks in Camarillo.
Terry walks proudly through her commercial real estate space.
Terry walks proudly through her commercial real estate space.

“It was tough the first couple of years,” Terry adds. “It started from scratch and involved a lot of trial and error. But I am not a quitter, so we just continued providing great customer service, as I made that my mission.”

Despite the growing pains and hitting many bumps in building her business, Terry never gave up. She also kept her relationship with her previous boss, who provided his support to keep her going.

That dedication to customer service shined through as her business grew tenfold over the years. Sierra Traffic Service was on the up and up.

But even with this success, there were still lessons she had yet to learn.

The Winding Road to Ownership

A key aspect of running a successful traffic control business requires a brigade of large trucks, equipment, and job materials. But, of course, that comes with the challenge of housing all that heavy equipment while keeping it easily accessible. So while she leased a small yard in Camarillo for the first few years, eventually, Terry’s answer was to rent a yard in Oxnard, CA.

For her, it was a simple solution that met her needs for over 20 years. But with a lease, she had little control over pricing increases. As a result, she only dreamt of owning her commercial property.

“Properties that fit my needs are so rare,” Terry said. “They need to be secure, as I have a lot of trucks and equipment. Also, there has to be a fenced-in yard with plenty of room. So, they’re tough to pinpoint. But, once I found the property I needed, it made sense to lease it for those 20-odd years.”

Fast-forward to 2020, the wheels began to turn after her commercial real estate broker, Jonathan Wolk of IPA Commercial, tipped her off to a fenced-in property measuring a little over an acre. After meeting with him to view the site, Terry knew they had the perfect fit.

As many small business owners know, finding that dream location is just one part of the equation. So how do you find the financing to purchase that property – especially when you have no experience in the area?

(From left) Terry and CDC Small Business Finance loan officer, Eric Mandell, inside Sierra Traffic Service Headquarters.
(From left) Terry and CDC Small Business Finance loan officer, Eric Mandell, inside Sierra Traffic Service Headquarters.

“I would never have thought that I could qualify for financing, so I was a bit apprehensive, to say the least,” Terry said. “But Jonathan knew what I wanted and how to navigate this purchase. He was so wonderful and knowledgeable in paving the way to ownership for me.”

Since Terry needed dedicated support, Jonathan directed her to Eric Mandell of CDC Small Business Finance, a mission-based lender specializing in SBA 504 commercial real estate loans. Part of the Momentus Capital family of organizations, CDC Small Business Finance provides people with the capital and opportunities they deserve, especially business owners in under-served communities.

Eric has more than 29 years of experience and embodies these values by expertly guiding borrowers through the loan process, ultimately helping them achieve their ownership goals. With this basis and his extensive SBA 504 knowledge, this was a winning combination to see this deal through.

SBA 504 Paves the Way

After reviewing the deal and speaking with Terry about her vision, Eric knew the SBA 504 loan was the perfect product for Sierra Traffic Service’s needs. Based out of Terry’s hometown of Camarillo, Eric saw this opportunity and made it his goal to ensure she secured her prospective location. As expected, the loan process involved some legwork from the borrower’s end, but Terry came prepared with her documentation.

With all her ducks in a row, she applied for a $2,375,000 loan to cover the property’s purchase.

“Like Terry, many business owners are unaware of what they can qualify for, so when it comes to a large purchase like this, they are quite unsure,” Eric said. “It’s my job to help them see the potential of what commercial real estate can do for their business.”

“They don’t realize that the SBA 504 loan is designed to help people and businesses make large purchases like this to own a new building or key piece of property,” he added. “They may know that while you need to put 25-30% down on your home, you only need 10% down on the SBA 504 program. This makes it much easier on the business owner – like Terry.”

Like most deals, however, CDC loan experts run over every application with a fine-toothed comb to uncover and solve potential issues.

Sure enough, Eric discovered some hurdles that had the potential to hold up the deal. However, instead of seeing this as a risk and walking away as other lenders may have, Eric and the team at CDC rolled up their sleeves and worked with Terry through these challenges until the loan was successfully approved.

After working closely with him, Terry discovered that his expertise and approach exceeded her expectations.

“From the beginning, the more I talked to him, the more I was convinced, ‘Hey, this could happen,'” Terry said of Eric. “He was so efficient and responsive to any questions I had. And, of course, I had a million questions. Eric was patient and wonderful, and his expertise went above and beyond. He helped me put it together. To this day, I’m still pinching myself.”

Terry’s story resembles countless entrepreneurs who experience “potholes” while creating and growing their businesses. All she needed was someone to believe in her abilities and show her what options and opportunities were available.

What’s to Come

Now, Terry is the proud owner of her beautiful yard in Camarillo. With this operational base, Terry knows she can navigate unexpected hurdles, especially with a partner like CDC Small Business Finance supporting her.

“Working with CDC Small Business Finance is going to be a godsend for you, really,” Terry said. “I never thought I could own my commercial property, and doing so has allowed me to expand. It’s helped me to create jobs. It’s helped me motivate other women to enter this male-dominated field. We’ve made a lot of progress as women, but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I will forever be grateful for Jonathon and Eric because they were instrumental in making my dream come true.”

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