I’m sure you are doing a double-take at the title. A whole YEAR! Yeah, an entire year has gone by since I have blogged about the nitty-gritty details of this expansion. It’s been, well…busy!
Let’s frame this conversation and give it some perspective. Here is a cool timeline on what has happened since we signed the lease for ‘The Valley’ location:
August 2014: Signed lease for the Merriman Valley location.
September 2015: Opening day! (Remember ‘Coming this Winter’) 😉
January 2016: 4rth fermentor added
April 2016: 2nd POS machine added, 5th fermentor added
June 2016: 6th (and final) fermentor added, doubling our capacity since opening day
September 2016: 1-Year Anniversary, also started looking at the first of many locations for expansion.
January 2017: Started serving food
February 2017: First peek at Canal Place
March 2017: Began expansion business plan and projections.
September 2017: 2-Year Anniversary, first bank rejected our loan application for a 2nd location (Canal Place). This is the beginning of week 48.
February 2018: Approved by the sixth (?) bank for the Canal Place expansion
March 2018: Signed the lease for Canal Place
September 2018: 3-Year Anniversary
October 2018: The bank loan closed, funds are available, demo permit issued
November 2018: Remaining permits (except plumbing) issued, down payment on equipment sent. This is week 108.
IT’S BEEN OVER TWO YEARS!
Apparently expansions aren’t easy, or quick. From the writing of the expansion business plan to pitching to a half dozen or more banks, to the final commitment letter by the last bank, to the loan actually closing, it was 17 months. As I write this that doesn’t seem right…but it is. Each bank I went to took a month or two for discussions. But it also allowed my business plan and numbers to get better and better. I actually have to thank one of the last banks, that didn’t really reject me, but had a high bar regarding equity, that got me to finally understand what the actual numbers that a bank is looking for. I redid the spreadsheets for, like the billionth time, and with these cumulative revisions the final bank was on the same page as me…we spoke each others language…finally.
*Know that there was a high-bar set anyways, understandably. We were considered a startup with less than three years of financials. We were asking for a $2million+ loan. The property was a lease which made it even more difficult (bank couldn’t take it back if this failed). Several banks wanted me to have a distributor lined up (assured cashflow)…something that I was unsure of and unwilling to commit to as I believed more in the restaurant margins versus distributing.
Who do you know?
Each bank’s rejection allowed me to understand a little bit more on what they were looking for. Fifty percent of getting this loan also ended up being ‘who you know’. I went to Chamber of Commerce meetings, Akron City meetings, Akron Downtown Partnership meetings, brewer meetings, talked to customers that are owners that have been in my position (thanks Brad), etc., and through each connection that I made, I was able to get a little bit closer to finding the bank that was a match for this project. Every lead led to another lead. And that lead begat another.
It was in late Fall/early Winter of 2017 that I remember distinctly. My phone was in my pocket, I was leaving my house and it it was COLD. I heard something as I was opening the car door. It was my phone ringing. I fumbled to answer it on the last ring before voicemail was triggered. It was a banker calling me back. He told me that this ‘deal’ wasn’t for them but told me to, “call this guy”. I called that guy. I ended up finding my bank for this deal.
Don’t give up
Whatever you want to accomplish comes down to two things: people connections and a ‘don’t give up’ attitude. The former is something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not a particularly socially-outgoing individual. But if one believes in what they are trying to do, they ‘naturally’ become social as they have the confidence and knowledge to carry the conversation which will result in things-getting-done.
To this day, I thank every rejection that I got. The knowledge from those rejections allowed my thinking to evolve to the point that this deal WOULD get done…and make no mistake, there are no hard feelings, only gratitude. I will even take it a little further: A friend of the first bank that rejected me ended up being my attorney with the credentials to raise the equity needed to satisfy the last bank’s terms for the loan to go through. It’s a small world that we are intricately connected to. I finally understood how ‘getting things done in Akron (or insert any city)’ worked.
Fast-forward >> to now
Since the last bank agreed to this deal, a lot has happened. You will probably read about it in my memoirs ;), but for now, I will press ‘play’ and get us to what is going on now.
At the moment, I am eagerly awaiting to start building now that most of the permits are done. The brewing equipment IS getting manufactured meaning that the timeline is more-or-less fixed. All that the dominos have to do is ‘fall’. Everything is lined up. We got to the top of the hill…now all we have to do is let gravity take us to the finish-line.
Perhaps I’m being too confident or over-simplistic. But I have had nearly two years to think about and plan Canal Place. Let’s see how good I really am.