We're On The Move!
You missed me, huh?! I know you did!
Well, let’s start with the obvious…remember all that build up about purchasing a truck in effort to take the business mobile??? Your girl did it! It happened and she (the truck) is already rolling through Oakland, spreading all kinds of joy!!! If you’ve followed me on social media over the past couple months, you got to be apart of the process of seeing me work to gain enough funds in order to purchase the truck. If you weren’t able to follow along, don’t worry, I will give you a brief recap.
When the journey to purchase the truck began, I needed to first prepare both my personal and business finances accordingly. I, then needed to assess what the various funding options looked like and how it fit my situation. Not really having the best clue of how to navigate those waters, I was very fortunate to have my business mentor from the Uptima Business Bootcamp assist me. We discussed my personal finances and how personal loans and crowdfunding will help boost me into the best situation and set Esscents of Flowers up for success. This led us into a conversation about finance charges, high interests and how we wanted to steer clear from anything that fit into those categories. During this same time, The Runway Project was gearing up to start accepting applications for their loan program. The Runway Project is all about “closing the friends and family capital gap” for African American Entrepreneurs. I won’t get too deep into the wealth gap between African American families and their white counterparts because this is supposed to be a joyous newsletter :) But, to briefly touch on it, the white median household wealth is over $140,000 while the black median household wealth is around $11,000. Let’s allow that to sink in for just a second… While it’s a hard pill to swallow, its the truth.
I didn’t come from a wealthy family, going to someone within my reach and asking for a $20,000 loan was out of the question. So, the Runway Project stood in to bridge the gap and allowed me to gain access to capital in order to expand the business. Going through the Runway Project process was a bit draining. There were a lot of revisions to financial spreadsheets and my business plan, but I wouldn’t change a thing. This process allowed me to better understand the financial health of my personal and business finances. It also gave me a greater appreciation for my mentor because I know I vexed her nerves, but she’s too sweet to say otherwise :)
So, I got all my documents together, along with a pitch deck and presented to the Runway Project panel. That was probably one of the quickest 30-minute meetings that I’ve ever had in my life. After it was all said and done, I had to wait. Waiting came with these questions and more -
Did I talk too fast?
Were my intentions clear?
Was I loud enough, but not too loud?
Should I have fleshed this or that out a bit more during my explanation?
Was I good enough?
All of this was running through my mind. And all those questions were broken up when I received a call from my mentor letting me know that I received the loan from Project Runway!!! SAY WHAAATTTT???? YES! WAIT WHAT? Honestly, all I remember from this phone call was my mentor letting me know that she believed in me, that I could totally do this and me crying because this was so unreal. Yes, real tears flowed, lol.
You thought that was it? HAAA! This loan had to be coupled with another source of funding. See, I had already scoped out a truck, talked to the owner and put down a deposit so she didn’t sell it. While the Runway Project loan was covering a majority of the cost, I still needed a little bit more. It wasn’t enough to just purchase the truck, I needed to have the truck wrapped, registered and insured. All these things were not cheap. During another conversation with my mentor, she floated the idea of crowdfunding. (Let’s pause for a second… I always swore against crowdfunding for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I didn’t think people took crowdfunding seriously enough to were they were comfortable with giving you money towards your business plan(s)). And we’re back. After much discussion, I decided to go with KIVA to bring in that last bit of capital to help cover all the costs of getting the truck and operating it under Esscents of Flowers. Let me tell you, after my KIVA profile went live, the nerves set in big time. My profile had to be convincing. I was banking on people believing in me to where they didn’t mind lending at least $25 to my campaign. With Kiva, the lender can choose to get the money they lent back over a period of time which makes it less of a risk and more appealing.
I needed to raise $10,000 in 45 days. Guess what??? That happened in 4! FOUR! F-O-U-R DAYS! This was all due to a community that’s been built and some very gracious people that don’t know me, but believe in the vision. Thank you for your support! Your support is part of the reason I am where I am, so you deserve to delight in this accomplishment as well! Also, I’m a believer in crowdfunding now :)
Funding is done, truck is purchased and now residing in Oakland. Maybe one day I can get around to telling you how wonderful the seller of the truck was to me. She was amazing through the process of purchasing the truck and extremely supportive.
So, where are we now? The Esscents of Flowers truck is currently rolling though the streets of Oakland! I can’t tell you what it means to me to drive through the streets and see people give me the nod of approval. In a matter of one to two minutes max, we have this conversation where no words are spoken, but I can feel them telling me how proud they are. And, I am once again reminded just how important this business is. It’s more than selling flowers, it’s also about hope and how pursuing your dream doesn’t just affect you, it has the power to affect an entire community.
Thank you for being apart of the Esscents of Flowers community. Your support doesn’t go unnoticed. Your words of encouragement gives me fuel to continue. Running this business isn’t the easiest, especially coupled with other responsibilities. But, I’m constantly rejuvenated by the community that’s been built and that’s a beautiful feeling.
Please, please, please go to my website and any of the following social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook or Instagram) to see where the truck and I will be. Come out and support, or just come say “Hi!” Continue to spread the word as you have been doing.
Again, I am forever thankful for all of you and your support.
Love and Peace,
Esscents of Flowers, Ariana Marbley