Tell me I’m going to a press conference about how Susquehanna Bank’s SBA lending helps to create jobs, and I’m happy to do it. It’s part of my job. Tell me the press conference is at Philadelphia’s hottest new Italian restaurant at noon, and suddenly it sounds much too enjoyable to be called work.
So I found myself at Amis Trattoria on Monday, attending a press conference held by SBA Administrator Karen Mills…and sampling ricotta ravioli and oxtail ragu.
Mills came to Philadelphia to highlight the importance of Small Business Administration loans in creating jobs. Noted Philadelphia restaurateurs Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin made use of SBA loans to help fund their three restaurants – Vetri in 1998, Osteria in 2007 and Amis earlier this year. The two most recent loans were made through Susquehanna Bank. The restaurants employ more than 100 people. Plus, they produce an untold number of delighted culinary customers each day.
“There are 70,000 stories like this,” Mills said, referring to the number of SBA loans made as part of the federal government’s economic recovery act. “People like Marc and Susquehanna Bank are able to take these businesses even further, and we want to be with them every step of the way.”
She noted that the SBA offers not only funding, but also counselors who can help entrepreneurs learn about tax credits and other opportunities.
Benjamin, one of the partners in Amis, noted that small business owners need to develop relationships with experts in order to be successful. “I can tell you how to judge a good $60 bottle of wine,” he said. “We’re restaurant people; we’re not financial people.”
For expertise in SBA lending, he and Vetri worked with Susquehanna Bank’s Lynn Ozer and Lisa Viscusi. He said they offered insight by going over assets, helping to determine the collateral available for loans, and reviewing how the funds were going to be applied to costs such as construction and inventory. Benjamin urged small business owners to “include your bankers in your planning. Show them how you’re going to spend the money.”
Ozer said that when Susquehanna began working with Vetri on the SBA loan for Osteria, his success with his first restaurant was a key advantage. “We had lots of faith in Marc and his ability to do it again,” she said.
Indeed, Marc Vetri and his team did it again, and again. Twelve years after tapping into SBA lending to found his first business, he and his partners now own three restaurants and employ more than 100 people. Vetri smiled and said, “It’s been an amazing run.”
You can see for yourself when you visit Amis. Be sure to try the oxtail ragu. It’s amazing. And so was everything else I tried. After all, as Jeff Benjamin said, they’re restaurant people.