More than a business: A unique, close-knit community brought to life by a simple loan

Success Story
February 8, 2018

A version of this blog post originally appeared on Cnote’s website. CNote is a financial platform for socially conscious savers and investors. CDC Small Business Finance is a proud partner.

Traveler is a community-focused business that offers much more than its cleanly branded storefront suggests.

“It’s kind of a two-part business model,” said founder and surfing aficionado Julie Cox. “Retail — home goods, gifts, men’s/women’s clothing, some gear — everything you’d need for a picnic or going out hiking on the mountain.

“And then the second part is the surf club in the backyard, with membership-based clients,“ added Cox, a one-time competitive longboarder who surfed on the Roxy team for eight years.

Surf club and retailer in Northern California.

Backyard area of Traveler, a retailer-surf club hybrid and community center.

Founded in October 2016, the retailer-surf club hybrid is just steps from Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, Calif. The inviting space is frequented by surfers, tourists — and community members.

On a recent weekday, surf club members chatted about tides and life on their way to the back locker area. Tourists milled into the shop to browse through socially responsible goods, from flashlights to maps and Patagonia jackets. Traveler is also a space for the surrounding community. It can be converted into a large open space to host events, city meetings, classes and movie screenings.

“I think that’s important to build,” Cox said. “It’s not just social media and screen time…You’re sitting next to someone, looking at them in the face and talking and having meaningful connections.”

“Traveler’s definitely a little meeting spot, a little hub,” she added.

Turning passion into a venture, community

Cox drew on her passions of surfing, photography and being outdoors to create Traveler. Her experience leading up to starting the business has mostly centered on camping and surfing. She even worked at a surf museum.

Like all entrepreneurs, she had to work hard, with much patience and planning, to turn her vision into a reality. She took a business class, tested the idea, and developed a sound business model and funding plan.

Surf club and outdoors-inspired retailer in Northern California.

Traveler carries socially responsible goods, from flashlights to Patagonia jackets.

Her last hurdle was getting a working-capital loan for inventory, fixtures and equipment. Applying for a loan can be stressful. It involves many phone calls, paperwork and suspense as you wonder whether this will be the breakthrough for your business. 

But in the end, Cox secured funding from CDC Small Business Finance, a leading U.S. small business lender focused on helping entrepreneurs in underserved markets obtain financing. Over the last 40 years, they have provided more than $13 billion in funding to 11,000-plus borrowers — leading to more than 180,000 jobs created or preserved.

“CDC…they were really great to work with,” Cox said. “I got great terms on the loan.”

Unlike traditional lenders, CDC Small Business Finance considers a borrower’s whole story instead of focusing solely on the hard numbers. Through personal customer service, small business owners are matched with the best loan to support their long-term success.


‘A crystallizing moment’

Cox remembers her opening party, where she hosted the community and had live music and snacks. Seeing her customers enjoy the experience she had created was a crystallizing moment.

Traveler and all the community that comes with it is yet another success story that came about through community lending. These investments aren’t just in people, or businesses. They build communities.

“You know as a startup, it’s hard to get a loan in general,” Cox said. “But the fact that we’re giving back to the community and we’re employing local people — that was very important for them.”

What’s next for Traveler? Membership is growing so fast that Cox plans to expand the company’s surfboard storage in the coming year.

Jobs created/preserved: 4.  

More on Cnote: The Oakland-based company’s flagship product offers a 2.5% return on savings — and 100% social impact — by tapping into Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, which exist to help finance underserved small business owners. Learn more about Cnote and their mission here.

CDC Small Business Finance offers several 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 financing plan that best suits you.