The New Fund Will Provide Loans of up to $250,000 to Small Businesses in the Adult Craft Beverage Industry
Small wineries, vineyards and distilleries in rural parts of Oregon have a new source for funding.
Quinton Jay, the founder and managing director of nonprofit Oregon Micro Fund, has announced the opening of a new fund that will provide loans between $50,000 and $250,000 for small, adult-craft beverage businesses as well as companies that support that industry.
Jay has first-hand experience with the challenges that entrepreneurs who are trying to start and grow adult craft beverage businesses, such as wineries and distilleries, face when it comes to accessing capital and obtaining loans. He also knows the financial pitfalls that can be encountered on the way to trying to start and grow a successful business in the industry.
Jay’s career path started in banking with a position in middle-market lending at Bank of America. The experience included attending a several-week training program to learn how to provide loans to clients.
“It was a great training ground for a young person to learn about business and banking,” Jay told Opportunity magazine.
He added to that financial base by going back to school to study business, and then picking up more training from Coca-Cola. Eventually, though, he decided to try a new industry. He moved into a general manager position for a winery, adding a new facet to his resume.
His unique mix of skills and experience soon caught the eye of a private equity firm focused on the wine industry. The firm offered Jay a job as a managing director, a position that seemed custom-made for his diverse background.
“It marked my two areas of expertise: banking and wine. I was able to push those two things together,” Jay said.
After about five years in that position, Jay was ready to try his hand at a more entrepreneurial venture. He found a prime spot inside a butcher shop that had been in the area since 1958 and opened a wine and spirits shop. As the business grew, he found he needed more money to purchase inventory. However, Jay faced the same challenge that many entrepreneurs face — his small operation prevented him from accessing the capital he needed. With few options, he turned to merchant loans, which provided adequate capital, but at the cost of high interest rates and inflexible payback terms.
Then Jay stumbled across information about microloans. The small loans, usually $50,000 or less, are available through nonprofit community-based organizations rather than traditional banks and are designed to help low-income and historically under-served entrepreneurs start and grow micro and small businesses.
Because Oregon Micro Fund’s two active funds are supported with money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the loans they provide must be used to support small rural businesses such as wineries and vineyards in parts of Oregon with populations of 50,000 or less.
Oregon Micro Fund
Address: 2420 N.E. Sandy Blvd., Suite 129, Portland
SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT
The more Jay looked into the world of microloans, the more he began thinking about how he could use his lending and wine experience to help entrepreneurs in the adult craft beverage industry connect with affordable funding that would allow them to start and grow small businesses without incurring high debt.
He decided to establish Oregon Micro Fund as a nonprofit with a public-private partnership lending approach. In addition to tapping some private funding and some of his own money, his banking and wine industry experience helped him obtain his first round of microloan funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Because the funding came from the USDA, Oregon Micro Fund is required to focus on entrepreneurs and small businesses located in rural parts of Oregon with 50,000 or fewer populations.
With that initial pool of money, Jay started his first fund about three years ago. That money provided loans between $5,000 and $50,000 for six businesses. Projects supported with the funding included establishing a vineyard trellis infrastructure, purchasing vineyard farming and winemaking equipment, and distillery inventory growth financing. At least two of the loans supported businesses started by Latino entrepreneurs, Jay said.
To help the entrepreneurs that Oregon Micro Fund lends to boost their chances of success, Jay has compiled a team of small business owners, financial lending experts, entrepreneurs, and technologists to provide support. Entrepreneurs who receive lending from Oregon Micro Fund, for example, can access in-house business coaching.
“It helps people understand the business better, understand their cash flows,” Jay said.
Like its initial fund, Oregon Micro Fund’s second fund is supported by USDA funding. While the first fund has loan limits of $50,000, the new fund will provide loans between $50,000 and $250,000 for adult craft beverage businesses and supporting businesses in rural parts of Oregon.
PROJECTS FOR THE GREATER GOOD
Jay sees Oregon Micro Fund as providing a much-needed boost to small businesses looking to find a footing and grow. However, he also needs to back businesses that will be able to pay off their loans. So, Jay has developed his criteria for what he looks for when it comes to funding ventures. For starters, he wants to see entrepreneurs possess a deep understanding of — and an equally deep connection to — what they do.
“That’s a really big thing to me,” he said. “I’m looking for someone deeply committed to what they’re doing. That commitment needs to resonate not just across the product they do but the business they run. Are they willing to go in at 11 o’clock at night to do that one stupid thing? Are they willing to do a 10- or 20-person event to build up their brand and relationships? That’s what it takes to succeed.”
He also leans toward businesses that are using their resources and money in positive ways, such as for job creation or projects that will yield results that benefit the greater good.
And finally, he prefers to work with businesses that have been in operation for at least one or two years.
“One year is a minimum,” he said. “Everyone can fake it for one year. But two years is my magic number. In order to make it to two years, you have to really be committed.”
Interested in Applying for a Loan?
Entrepreneurs can submit requests by email or online.