Felix Schwartz and Nataliya Antipova opened their first Edible Arrangements shop in 2005. With no access to bank capital, they scraped together $25,000 from friends, credit cards and extended lines of credit. Despite being successful franchise operators with a proven business model and four locations, Schwartz and Antipova, partners in business and in life, were discouraged by the terms offered by traditional lenders when they sought funding for their fifth Brooklyn location.
That's when they turned to The Brooklyn Fund. Schwartz is a member of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and read about the fund in a chamber newsletter, where he learned that the program was designed to help immigrant and veteran small business owners.
The couple were perfect candidates: Schwartz had come to the United States from the former Soviet Union in 1989 to make a better life for himself and his two children. Antipova and her child emigrated from the Ukraine to the U.S. in 1994, after the Soviet Union had collapsed. And now they were running four successful Edible Arrangements stores. The franchise concept, inspired by the floral industry, makes and delivers fresh fruit arrangements and baskets
"It was a lot to take on because the SBA requires a lot paper work, but the chamber helped me to prepare and submit all the documents," said Schwartz, a college graduate who worked as a business consultant when he first arrived to this country. Antipova, who had earned a master's degree in engineering in the Ukraine, later graduated from New York University College of Dentistry and became a dental hygienist. She now works full time for the business.
They were approved for a $300,000 loan through The Brooklyn Fund to open their fifth location, a storefront on Flatbush Avenue. The Brooklyn Fund was launched by the Brooklyn Chamber in May 2013, in partnership with the New York Business Development Corp. and the Brooklyn Chamber's NYC Business Solutions Center. The $10 million fund offers small, government-backed loans up to $350,000 through the U.S. Small Business Administration's Community Advantage and Small Loan Advantage programs.
Interest rates on these loans are lower than those of conventional lenders, the borrower's initial investment is far less than what banks require, and principal payments are often deferred, ultimately freeing up more capital for growing the business.
Dave Hanold, NYBDC vice president, said he was impressed with Schwartz' business acumen, and the success that the businesses had achieved in a few short years.
"While banks he had approached were concerned at the prospect of building out a new location, we were comfortable due to his track record of owning, managing, and growing several other successful Edible Arrangements stores in Brooklyn," Hanold said. "He is a dedicated and savvy entrepreneur. As such, we were comfortable approving the request based on its projected income."
The Flatbush store opened in April of this year. It provides full-time jobs for seven people, all of whom live locally and were unemployed before they started working at the shop. In all, the five shops employ 35 full-time people.
Felix Schwartz and Nataliya Antipova of Edible Arrangements