Female entrepreneur uses San Diego loan program to grow business


July 11, 2021

To be perfectly clear, San Diego entrepreneur Cindy Cate was very pleased in 2015 with what she’d created from scratch – the Hello Birdie Nail & Lash Lab in North Park, a thriving San Diego neighborhood. Customers were loving her nail-art creativity and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

But there was just so much more she wanted to do: push industry boundaries, grow faster, create more jobs and put smiles on more customer faces. To get there, she needed to add more stations in the Hello Birdie “nest,” add more staff to her flock and expand her retail line of products, all of which required financial flexibility at a time when she was somewhat constrained by high-interest debt.

So faced with these challenges, Cindy went on a hunt for more affordable financing to achieve her vision. After getting an all-too-quick no from a large bank, she saw a notice posted by the North Park Main Street organization about a new loan program offering fixed-rate financing capped at 5 percent. Intrigued, she called FE Small Business Finance, the nonprofit lender partnering with the City of San Diego on the Small Business Collaborative program* to help business owners in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods like North Park.

FE believes the flow of low-interest capital paired with customized business coaching can deliver the boost these areas have needed for a long time. If a business succeeds, it positively impacts its employees and those who live in that community.

The coaching Cindy received as part of this unique financing program came from FE loan officer Miriam Torres Baltys and Senior Business Advisor Ray Hivoral, who both jumped in to help.

“The loan process was easy,” she said. “Ray and Miriam anticipated my questions, provided answers and gave me a timeline of what to expect.”

Her $100,000 “Oprah” Moment

It was not long before Cindy got an email informing her that she had been approved for a $100,000 loan.

“It was a real Oprah moment for me, a huge inner celebration,” she said, holding back tears. “It was the first time I had pursued something so big on my own and succeeded.”

Fortified with new financing, Cindy refinanced a high-interest loan and credit card debt and invested in new

Cindy Cate: “Don’t let fear stop you.”

tenant improvements to accommodate new, artistic clinicians. Her team has grown from five to 19 employees who all buy into Hello Birdie’s emphasis on helping customers leave the busyness of life at the salon door so they can relax and have fun.

While supporting and nurturing her young team takes up a lot of her time, Cindy leaves room in her schedule for meet-ups with other small business owners where she benefits from the exchange of ideas and sharing what she’s learned as an entrepreneur. Her best advice seems simple and yet profound.

A Tip for Fledgling Entrepreneurs

“Don’t let fear stop you from starting,” she said. “If you have the heart and passion, trust than you’ll find support for your dream along the way.”

Cindy continues to reap the benefits of her new relationship with FE advisor Ray, who she says is always available to explore new ideas, including the prospect of hatching another salon, perhaps in North County, when the timing is right. In the meantime, she’s content with what she calls her most satisfying moments – walking into her fully booked salon and seeing clients and staff having a wonderful time.

“When Hello Birdie is filled with the fruits of my best intentions, that’s when I feel the most grateful,” she confided.

Learn more about the San Diego Small Business Collaborative Loan

FE Small Business Finance is proud to partner with the city of San Diego in improving access to capital for entrepreneurs. We are grateful the city has created this program that aligns with our mission and helps us deliver low-cost business loans to areas that need it most.

Wondering if you qualify for the San Diego Small Business Collaborative Loan? You’ll need a business license, company financials, or for a startup a strong business plan. And your business needs to be located in City Heights, Logan Heights, San Ysidro or a Diamond District. Reach out to our Senior Business Advisor Ray Hivoral  rhivoral@cdcloans.com to learn more.  FE Small Business Finance also offers free business advising through this program, particularly if you’re looking to start a business.

*This Program is funded in whole or in part with Community Development Block Grant program funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the City of San Diego.

Does Cindy’s story strike a chord with the entrepreneur in you?  Tell our loan experts about your business, and they’ll work to match you with a financing plan that best suits you. Let’s talk! Reach us at loaninfo@cdcloans.com or (619) 243-8667.


In case you missed it:
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#Loantipsixty: Be Prepared When Applying For A Small Business Loan
How We Can Help More Black Small Business Owners Succeed: Are You In?
What Are Interest Rates For Affordable Small Business Loans?

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