How this couple used SBA loans to buy ‘once in a lifetime’ business
Have you always wanted to travel deep into the ocean waters for an up-close look at sea life? Are you curious about what you can find in a shipwreck just off the coast of Southern California?
These aquatic adventures are all possible through San Diego-based Waterhorse Charters, owned by husband-and-wife business partners Zachary Weisman and Karina Sanchez.
Aboard their 46-foot custom dive boat, they take divers of all levels through kelp forests in Point Loma and La Jolla; “Shipwreck Alley” just a few miles off Mission Bay; and even Mexico’s Coronado Islands.
Their entrepreneurial voyage began after they spotted what they called a “once in a lifetime opportunity” in buying a business. They went on to relentlessly pursue that dream, from locking down affordable financing to refining their day-to-day operations.
In their case, a pair of SBA loans through community lender and nonprofit CDC Small Business Finance helped that process along and still sustains them today.
Can you get a business loan as a startup?
Founded in 2007, Waterhorse Charters’ previous owners were looking to get out of the diving business. That disclosure immediately caught the interest of Weisman, who began working there in 2017. He has a decade of experience in the water-sports, sailing, and diving industries.
After working through the numbers and consulting with family, Weisman and Sanchez were interested in buying the business and knew the best way to do it was to find business financing.
Both in their late 20s, they sought out a lender willing to take a chance on two young entrepreneurs with no collateral and little credit history. If you’ve ever tried to get a business loan through a traditional bank, you’ll know how difficult that can be.
Also potentially working against the couple was the fact they wanted to buy a business, which in the traditional financing world is considered a startup. Conventional bank lenders tend to shy away from startup loans.
How SBA loans step up for new entrepreneurs
Weisman did some online searching and through SBA’s LenderMatch service found Kelly Klein, a loan officer at CDC Small Business Finance. Unlike traditional banks, CDC has more flexibility to lend to startups like theirs, which proved promising for the young San Diego couple.
The couple ended up getting two loans: an SBA Community Advantage loan to fund the business acquisition, and a companion SBA Microloan to ensure they have enough funds to operate the business moving forward.
“We were looking hard to find a lender,” said Sanchez, who works as a digital marketing manager by day. “That’s when we found CDC who gave us a really good loan package.”
CDC Small Business Finance, the couple mentioned, was easy to work with and responsive, answering every email and phone call to provide constructive feedback on how to navigate the loan process and get to the finish line.
Klein, the loan officer who worked with Waterhorse Charters, was blown away by the couple’s determination to get their loan approved. Obstacles cropped up during the pre-qualification process, but they weren’t deterred.
“Their passion and eagerness to purchase the business led them to combat every obstacle head on,” Klein said. “They were both very patient and willing to do whatever it took to meet our loan requirements. It was exciting for me to guide such enthusiastic people through the loan process and help get them prequalified.”
Free business coaching after buying business
As an alternative lender focused on local communities, CDC Small Business Finance goes beyond just providing affordable business loans. We’re also there for you after you close.
In the case of Waterhorse Charters, we paired them with senior business advisor Chuck Sinks, who routinely checks in on the couple to answer any business operation questions. We do this at no cost to borrower clients.
Related: Are SBA business loans hard to get?
Weisman and Sanchez said Sinks’ help has been invaluable, helping them sort through matters from day-to-day operations to marketing and accounting. They’re grateful a financial institution was willing to take a chance on them and provide a steady stream of support before, during and after funding.
“They made our dream come true,” Weisman said. “Hat’s off to them (CDC) for helping us get this loan.”
Are you ready to set sail on your entrepreneurial voyage? Named SBA’s 2018 Microlender of the Year, CDC Small Business Finance is a champion of all small business owners, in all stages.
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