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July 12, 2014, 9:50 pm

Micro-loan gives life to tea business

Oliver and Company Tea Room owner Brenda Board has a message for aspiring entrepreneurs. This Northwest Philadelphia business owner insisted that despite the economy and tight financing for small businesses, dare to start a business now. Board knows this first hand because when she conceived her business two decades ago the economy was equally challenging.

Board’s tenacity has paid off. Recently, she was among the recipients of a micro-loan through FINATA, a nonprofit community development financial institution. She received her portion of the $322,500 in support loans at a special reception held at the FINATA Center, earlier this month.

“On Oct. 1 we will be hosting a special high tea holiday event to celebrate our 20th anniversary (tentatively) at the Chestnut Hill Hotel,” Board said. “We do an A-course French cuisine served at the high tea hour of 5 p.m. in historical properties. We’re now going global because I am a world class tea educator.”

Six local major banks announced their new collaboration to expand micro-lending to Philadelphia’s small businesses. So, Board was among those present as micro-entrepreneur Micah Gold-Markel, owner of Solar States, “flipped the switch” on the 30 kilowatt solar panel installation at the FINATA headquarters recently. The six banks were Bank of America, Citibank, Citizens, PNC, TD Bank and Wells Fargo.

The bank funding supports loan loss reserves, technical assistance service and operating capital. Their contributions help FINATA leverage a $750,000 loan from the Small Business Administration Microloan Program and a $125,000 grant form the City of Philadelphia’s Commerce Department.

“The Urban Affairs Coalition is really proud of this initiative,” said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, the UAC’s president and CEO. “The banks came together through our organization to respond to the needs in the community for more loan capital for micro-entrepreneurs, including minority and immigrant entrepreneurs.”

“We are honored to be selected as the initiative’s non-profit partner and are eager to build a much larger micro-lending program in Philadelphia,” said Luis Mora, president of FINATA. “With funds from the various banks, the Small Business Administration and the City of Philadelphia’s Commerce Department, we are able to not only serve under banked or unbanked individuals, but also create jobs for the entire Philadelphia community.”

This is good news for business owners like Board.

Though her business doesn’t officially have a home base, the monthly events draw sometimes more than 700. From these her company gets orders for various events held throughout the year at an array of venues.

“This goes to show that you can start your dream business now by preparing for the future, because I can tell you that your day will come if you do,” Board said.