How we became the most trusted, leading small business lender in Arizona


May 14, 2021

The head of a homegrown soul-food empire buys another restaurant building to increase his employee base to 200.

An award-winning caterer refinances out of a high-interest online debt to improve her business’ cash flow and retain 20 workers.

And an in-demand BBQ & grill supplier doubles his headquarters’ space to allow for much-needed hiring.

These are just some of the borrower clients who FE Small Business Finance has served since opening our Arizona office in 2006. Since then, we’ve provided roughly $700 million in total SBA lending to entrepreneurs statewide to help them fulfill their unique business needs.

In May 2021, the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized FE Small Business Finance’s efforts as a community lender. The agency named FE its 2021 Arizona SBA 504 Lender of the Year for greatest 504 loan production and impact.

The SBA 504 loan allows small business owners to buy buildings, land, or major assets with just 10% down, and comes with a long-term, fixed interest rate. The program is also an effective driver of economic development.

“ FE is honored to receive this award,” said company chief executive and president Kurt Chilcott. “This recognition is a testament to Arizona commercial loan officer Chris Bane and his team’s commitment to helping small businesses grow with SBA 504 financing.”

#1 SBA 504 financing provider in 2021

Leading the state’s community lenders, FE Small Business Finance provided more than $40 million in SBA 504 loans to entrepreneurs in Arizona.

Chris Bane

FE’s Arizona office is led by Chris Bane, a 12-year veteran of SBA lending. In his career, Bane has closed more than $350 million in commercial real estate loans.  Bane is supported by his loan team: Joe Kennedy, Rob Bellomy and Denise Garcia.

“I’m proud of FE’s impact in Arizona,” Bane said. “The SBA 504 loan is such a powerful tool for small businesses and communities. We can see the impact in the growing success of businesses, the buildings being improved and the jobs created.”

Mike Owen, FE’s chief credit officer, says Bane’s strong work ethic, strategic thinking and robust relationships with banking and broker partners are all factors in the company’s success in the Grand Canyon State.

“Chris does a great job in Arizona by establishing FE as a market leader,” Owen said. “Other business lenders and brokers consider him an integral part of the SBA lending landscape in Arizona.”

SBA 504 loans: low-cost financing and jobs creator

SBA 504 loans are a multifunctional economic tool.

For small business owners, these loans allow them to buy commercial real estate, land and heavy equipment, with just 10% down instead of up to 30% down if you were to work with a conventional bank lender.

With a less challenging barrier to entry, this allows a broader, more diverse group of entrepreneurs to own real estate, build equity, stabilize their business’s occupancy cost and plan for their business’s future growth opportunities.

Related: How to get a sub-5% building loan in a rising rate environment

That’s by design. SBA 504 loans are backed by the SBA. This allows lenders like FE to consider small business borrowers who are considered a bit higher risk, whether it’s due to example such as a historical credit blemish, type of business industry, uniqueness of property or a shorter repayment business track record but reliance on upward trends.

Another positive result of lowering the barrier to entry is the creation of jobs, which gives local, regional and state economies the routine shot in the arm they need. Nationwide, this SBA loan program has created more than 2 million jobs and counting.

How have SBA 504 loans helped Arizonans succeed?

BBQ Island Doubles Building Size, Saves $2,000 a Month: BBQ Island’s exploding popularity as a BBQ and grill supplier meant they were bursting at the seams. To accommodate this growth, they required a larger space. A traditional bank lender referred BBQ Island to FE’s Chris Bane to get a long-term, fixed-rate SBA 504 loan. The loan went toward buying a building that doubled their square footage and saved the owners $2,000 in monthly occupancy costs. With the savings, they were able to hire another employee, bringing their total employee count to more than 20. “It was a huge sense of relief to get it approved and to know that all of our plans we’ve made were going to be able to move forward,” said Adam Ebert, the company’s long-time chief financial officer. (Read their full story here.)

Related: Should I refi my commercial real estate loan with an SBA 504 loan?

Local Soul Food Chain Gains 5th Location with SBA 504 Loan: After launching in 2002, Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles took off like a rocket, with celebrity fans that included Charles Barkley, Shaq and Muhammad Ali. Over the years, owner Larry White Jr. grew his mini-empire to multiple locations in the metro Phoenix area, with the aide of SBA 504 loans. One of those loans was used to secure a permanent location for his fifth restaurant. He now employs more than 200 people. “Hard work pays off,” White said. (Read their full story here.)

Also Serving Arizona Entrepreneurs’ Non-Real Estate Needs

The SBA 504 loan is not the only SBA financing FE provides in Arizona. We also provide:

Chris Flowers, Loan Officer

Chris Flowers

Chris Flowers, a 20-year veteran in business lending, leads FE’s small business lending efforts in the state. The Army veteran is experienced in helping entrepreneurs secure financing to launch or grow their dream businesses.

See how SBA small business lending helped these entrepreneurs attain their goals:

Liberation From Cumbersome Online Business Debt: Noelle Salinas’ catering career took off, thanks to her flavorful creations and five-star online reviews. Still, her business financials lagged. The culprit? High-interest financing from an online-only lender, which meant her cash flow was taking a beating. Salinas worked with FE Small Business Finance to refinance her expensive online debt into an affordable SBA Community Advantage loan. With her improved cash flow, she can focus on expanding her catering company.

“When I got the text from Chris Flowers ( FE loan officer) that I’d been approved for the loan, I was extremely relieved,” she said. “Others I worked with at FE were also very helpful.”

Related: Top 5 Ways to Use Your Small Business Loan

Low-Cost Financing Paves Way for Company Growth: As the importance of personal self-care has grown, so has Med-Stone Enterprises, the maker of a fast-heating, battery-charged massage stone marketed toward mobile massage therapists. In 2021, co-owner Sabrina Ebel of Youngtown, Ariz., returned to FE for more SBA financing to buy more inventory and expand the business.

“Getting two loans from the SBA program has allowed us to buy additional inventory and mainstream the production of our stones,” Ebel said. “This year we will be launching our new product, thanks to getting the funding from SBA,” she added.

Work hand-in-hand with the leading SBA lender in Arizona. FE Small Business Finance has the flexibility to offer several, affordable loan options for business owners thanks to the backing of the SBA.

Interested in an SBA 504 loan? Contact Chris Bane.

Are you looking for a non-real estate loan. Reach out to Chris Flowers.

Whether you’re in California, Arizona or Nevada, work with our loan experts to get matched with a financing plan that best suits you. Let’s talk! Reach us at or (619) 243-8667.

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