Weave Gotcha Covered!
Kansas City, Missouri | Second Stage, Main Street
For its first ten years in business, Weave Gotcha Covered! never took on any debt. Owner Kelly Wilson was proud of her scrappy approach to getting the supplies and equipment she needed to start, grow and run her custom drapery and furnishings business.
Chairs, tables, sewing machines, microwave and fridge for the office breakroom—“we dug through dumpsters, we raided Craig’s list, we begged or borrowed everything we needed,” Wilson says.
Wilson had a chance to reevaluate her business strategy and rethink her attitude toward debt as a participant in ScaleUP! KC, an intense four-month coaching program offered at no cost to participants thanks to funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Each year, ScaleUP! helps up to 30 Kansas City businesses aim for their first $1 million in revenue. Wilson is an alumna of the first cohort.
During a ScaleUP! “financial collision” session, participants met with area loan officers and funding specialists to get tips on how to access capital for their businesses. That’s when Wilson met Kelly Pruneau, network manager at Women’s Capital Connection and entrepreneurial advisor for the Women’s Business Center.
Pruneau encouraged Wilson to start dreaming about what she could do if she had more capital to grow her business.
Wilson is no stranger to dreaming big.
Ten years ago, she lost everything—her job, her house, her savings. She found a minimum wage job at a fabric store and soon after, was making custom drapery. She leveraged those skills and opened her own business.
Wilson steadily grew Weave Gotcha Covered! from $12,500 in revenue its first year to over $700,000 in 2015. She leveraged word of mouth and strategic partnerships as well as the timely training, planning and one-on-one coaching she received from ScaleUP! KC.
“Since the beginning, we’ve really concentrated on paying our bills and staying afloat,” says Wilson. “We never stopped to think about what money would allow our business to do.”
And so, taking Pruneau’s advice, Wilson made her wish list: general manager, branded vehicles, customized CRM software and an expansion to accommodate a community sewing lab. Then she applied for a microloan through the WE-Lend Initiative, a national microloan fund administered locally by the Women’s Business Center. One of the first two recipients, Wilson was awarded $29,000.
WE-Lend is Kansas City’s second microloan program, aimed at helping small businesses that can’t secure funding from traditional banks and credit unions. The microloan fund comes to Kansas City via the national We-Lend Initiative, a joint effort involving Women Impacting Public Policy, Sam’s Club and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
With loans ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 and interest rates at 7 to 12 percent over three years, the newest microloan fund is an important piece of Kansas City’s funding continuum. (See more about Kansas City’s action plan to bring more funds to Kansas City entrepreneurs in We Create Capital.)
The WE-Lend fund complements the KC Microloan Program, operated by the Justine Petersen organization.
While the WE-Lend microloan program will look at credit history, business plan and financials, the focus is less on collateral and more on ability to pay—helping entrepreneurs build their credit history and prove their trustworthiness to bankers.
“The money gave us the ability to dream and really know we could start making changes happen,” Wilson says.
A social entrepreneur as well as a business owner, Wilson believe in paying her good fortune forward and giving other women the materials they need to weave bigger dreams.
“I have always believed that you should show up and do what you can in life,” says Wilson. “I can make a living working out of my house. I don’t need the headaches of running a business, but I have the ability to provide jobs and give back. So that’s my responsibility. And my employees are my number one priority.”
Wilson hires women through the 100 Jobs for 100 Moms Initiative and is building a community Sewing Lab to give others the opportunity to learn new skills and create their own businesses. And when Wilson was named one of Thinking Bigger Business Media’s 25 under 25, she invited her whole staff to the black-tie gala, launching a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for their tickets and collecting donated formal wear.
From jobs to sewing lab to black-tie gala to starting a business that has the power to change lives, Wilson notes, “If you don’t know it exists, you can’t dream it.”