Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), is a member of the Friends of the SBA Microloan program and located in Georgia. Since its inception in 1999, ACE has lent more than $37 million to 725 small businesses, saving or created more than 6,200 jobs in the state. ACE uses these federal programs and leverages significant private funds to assist underserved borrowers who are frequently overlooked by the traditional institutions. The SBA Microloan program is an important part of the organization’s financial tools that they use to meet the capital needs of their communities’ underserved entrepreneurs and small businesses. A great example of this work with community businesses is their assistance to River Dog Paddle Co.
The River Dog Paddle Co. was started by Mike and Connie Sams. The business is an outpost rental shop that provides paddle boarding lessons and gear for the outdoorsy enthusiast. The name of their shop evolved from their passion for paddle boarding and the stray dog the couple rescued that was in distress along the Coosa River. They also provide Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) sales, rentals, demos, lessons, yoga, fitness classes and the opportunity to explore the areas waterways.
Connie Sams explains that River Dog Paddle Co. came to be as a result of opportunities that just presented themselves to her and her husband, Mike.
She notes, “We were both passionate about our city, the outdoors, and Stand up Paddle Boarding. Instead of hesitating or questioning when circumstances led us down this path, we leapt with ‘hopes’ our net would appear, which it did. I am a Human Resources (HR) Professional, and had worked in HR over 15 years at the time I opened the shop. My husband had worked in hospitality over 20 years, and he runs the day-to-day operations of the company, while I continue to work full-time in HR.”
The Sams didn’t have an elaborate, long-standing plan to open River Dog and needed funding to get things rolling. Thanks to ACE, Mike and Connie Sams were able to secure the technical assistance and financing necessary to successfully and sustainably open up their store in Rome, Georgia.
Prior to providing the loan, ACE worked with the Sams to establish expenses and budgets, helping them understand what would be needed in terms of capital and sales to get their business up and running, as well as earning enough revenue to cover their expenses. As a part of that process, Connie also prepared a business plan to transform her concept into reality.
The timeframe, from concept to opening, was May of 2014 to August of 2014. They began by running a small-scale paddle board rental out of their converted motorcycle trailer and eventually opened the doors of their retail shop on November 28, 2014. The funds were used for initial inventory, remodeling, and fixtures in the store.
In December 2015, the Sams expanded their business and opened a beer garden, called River Dog Outpost. The Outpost is located just across the street from their shop.
After the loan, ACE has continued to provide technical assistance, serving as an educational resource.
“I have to say my ACE loan specialist, Maria, was exceptional,” Connie said. “She was helpful and personal all along the way, and hand delivered my funding check to the shop, which showed me she truly cared about my business.”
Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) works with people from Georgia to help fund their business ideas. For more information regarding Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), visit their website. Visit River Dog Paddle Co.’s website for more information on their business.