Darryl and Anne Marie Bennick opened their home-based personal training studio in 2004. Business was growing steadily until space limitations in their Manhattan loft apartment forced the couple to turn away potential clients, essentially severing the ability to grow their business.
"We were maxed out," said Darryl, who owns the The Live Well Company with his wife, Anne Marie. "There are only enough hours in the day, and we were working as much as we could possibly manage. We were turning away business. We couldn't possibly take on more people or hire other trainers because we lacked the space."
The Bennicks needed to expand. In 2011, their loan request was declined by their bank of account. A representative from Pace University's Small Business Development Center, from which the couple was enlisting help for their business plan, referred them to The 504 Company.
"They came by to meet with us, looked at our financials, and drilled us with tons of questions about the business," Darryl said.
David Hanold, Vice President at The 504 Company, took into account the success that the Bennicks were having at their home-based location, using their historical performance to understand projected revenue at a stand-alone location.
The 504 Company approved a $150,000 Community Advantage Loan to open and renovate a bricks-and-mortar studio, purchase furniture and equipment, and provide the Bennicks with working capital.
"Live Well's project was considered a start-up by banks, and thus too risky for traditional financing. But based on our understanding of their unique project, the loan was approved in the summer of 2012," Hanold said.
The Community Advantage fund focuses on small businesses in underserved communities, with a goal of driving economic growth and creating jobs. The targeted program was launched in early 2011. It provides 7(a) loans up to $250,000 for business acquisitions, leasehold improvements, equipment, working capital, inventory, and refinancing debt.
Meanwhile, the Bennicks had begun paying the lease on the 4,000 square feet of space on West Street, in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood, where they would open the new studio. Their plan to renovate and open the space by the end of 2012, a few months after signing the lease, was foiled by construction delays. That plan took another unfortunate turn when Hurricane Sandy tore up the East Coast in October 2012, doing extensive damage to the property the Bennicks were preparing to renovate.
"We were already feeling stretched. We were carrying two leases, including the one for old space, and there was a lot of not knowing. Renovations didn't start until Dec. 13, 2013, long after we expected to be operating," Darryl said.
To help counter the temporary loss of business during that time, NYBDC provided a $25,000 Hurricane Sandy Relief Loan. "It was a scary time. Thanks to NYBDC, we're here. The Sandy loan gave us a cushion," Darryl said. The Live Well Company's business has grown enough to sustain seven part-time trainers, and the fitness center now rents space to two physical therapists.
"We have good crew of people we like. We've kept the integrity of our brand. We're growing it the way we believe is the right way for the fitness industry," Darryl said. "We're proud of how it's going."
Anne Marie and Darryl Bennick, owners of The Live Well Company
Dave Hanold of NYBDC with Anne Marie and Darryl Bennick of The Live Well Company