After graduating from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1999, Itzel Meador began her financial career at Arkansas Capital Corporation. While there, she saw a number of small business applicants with good plans, drive, and determination but who could not meet normal banking requirements for commercial loans due to the risk of the business, lack of collateral, start-up nature, or seasonal nature of the venture. To overcome this problem and to provide a financial tool to help foster entrepreneurial growth in Arkansas, Ms. Meador became a strong proponent of utilizing the Small Business Administration Guaranty Programs, as well as the SBA 504 Program.
In 2006, SBA awarded Itzel Meador Financial Services Advocate of the Year for Arkansas. Her determination to help small business owners has led to over 150 million dollars of financial assistance to small businesses through the use of SBA loan products.
Since 2015, Itzel has been the Vice President-SBA specialist for the state of Arkansas at Regions Bank. In 2016 after her SBA loan volume was ranked #2 for the entire SBA division, she was awarded Sales Person of the Year, allowing her to reach Chairman’s level for Regions Bank.
Itzel currently serves on the loan review board for RMI which is a SBA 504 Certified Development Company that provides 504 loans in Hot Springs and NWA. Additionally, she is a Board of Director for the Children’s Protection Center in Little Rock, AR.
CBI Team Fort Smith-River Valley has had the privilege of working with Itzel through the process of selling several local businesses. Here's her great advice on SBA trends, hurdles, and misconceptions.
AS AN SBA LOAN SPECIALIST, WHAT ARE SOME HURDLES ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS OR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS SHOULD ANTICIPATE WHEN PURSUING FINANCING?
SBA allows entrepreneurs to receive more capital funds than through traditional financing. However, the small business owner still has to inject cash into a project and typically it is 10%. How you handle your personal finances is a reflection of how you will operate your business. If your personal lifestyle illustrates you are living above your means and/or have bad personal credit, it will create a challenge to get an SBA loan.
WHAT COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SBA LOANS DO YOU REGULARLY ENCOUNTER?
The myth most people believe : SBA is a lengthy process with heavy documentation. SBA loans are mainly used for startups or for non-creditworthy individuals.
The truth about SBA loans: If you work with an experienced SBA lender, the process is very streamlined. Our average turnaround from beginning to end is 45-60 days.
Most SBA loans are used by “middle class entrepreneurs”. They need to grow their business so they need more capital and longer terms than can be provided conventionally. If the business has limited collateral but has strong cashflow, SBA is the best option for them.
WHAT ECONOMIC TRENDS ARE YOU NOTICING AS YOU WORK WITH BUSINESSES IN THE FORT SMITH-RIVER VALLEY AREA?
Many successful business owners are maturing and need to pass along their business to a younger generation. The younger entrepreneur has limited capital but has established experience in the industry. An SBA loan can be used to help this transition be financed with less seller financing.*
As the economy continues to improve, small business owners need to make capital improvements to grow their business but their cash reserves are limited. With an SBA loan, they are able to get longer terms with less money down and we can provide a line of credit to help them with their growing operating capital needs.
*Editor's Note: If you are an older business owner and and think your business would not be appealing to a younger buyer, or if you are under the impression that younger buyers in the River Valley region are scarce, an SBA loan could help the sale of your business. Likewise, if you are a younger buyer and think you could never own a business due to lack of financing, an SBA loan could provide financing for you.
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Most of my customers are receiving a very large business loan that becomes a turning point in their lives. I am helping people achieve their goals and dreams so they can be successful. The customer has made some important financial/personal commitments and it can be a risky endeavor for their family. Therefore, I provide a lot of consulting and guidance along the way. When a customer looks to me as an advisor/partner and not just as their banker, I know I have done my job correctly and it is very rewarding. They are very appreciative because they need someone looking out for their financial interests and giving them good advice they can trust.
YOU HAVE HAD A VERY SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN THIS INDUSTRY. WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES?
There aren’t many people who have dedicated themselves to SBA lending because there are a lot of regulations, and it can be difficult to navigate through them. I know how beneficial SBA loans can be to entrepreneurs if they are done correctly and for the right reason. I attribute my success to having integrity and treating others like I would like to be treated. Even if I can’t make a deal happen, I explain the reasons and allow the customer to make the necessary corrections. If it is simply not going to be possible, I would rather provide a quick “no” then mislead the customer. My reputation is everything to me.
For more information about Itzel, follow her on Linked In.