October 8 – A new business loan program wants to help start-ups in the Monadnock area get an early start in their operations, with the first such investment going to a drone-powered aerial photography and inspection company in Hinsdale.
The Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship in Keene and the Regional Economic Development Center recently teamed up to introduce the Hannah Grimes Center Revolving Loan Fund, which seeks to lend between $5,000 and $50,000 to new businesses like Eagle Eye Air Support, which founder Grant Crandall launched in Hinsdale. this spring.
Crandall was the program’s first nominee in May. He flies drones to take aerial photography, monitor construction projects and perform thermal imaging for his business, which he runs solo from home. Crandall is a licensed unmanned aircraft pilot, certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a press release from Hannah Grimes on the revolving loan fund.
“Especially real estate agents and people like that [hire me]”Crandall said. “The biggest part of this business was actually making people aware that this technology exists and that you can do it. With lots of footwork, knocking on doors and throwing at people to give a sense of what’s possible and what’s out there, that helps.”
Eagle Eye Air Support’s thermal imaging capabilities have helped local firefighters find the source of blazes before they spread, such as in the case of a wildfire near Route 63 between Hinsdale and Chesterfield that Crandall detected by drone.
“I was at my brother-in-law’s house showing him the drone and I spotted it on the hill,” he said. “They had trouble locating it and I located them using latitude and longitude. When I get a call for them, I do it all for free; I don’t charge anything for the utility.”
But Crandall hit a snag considering the future of his business with what he saw as outdated equipment that would have put him behind potential competition if someone else started a similar business in the area. . He wanted to apply for a cash investment, but his short history in the business hampered his plans.
“Trying to do small business loans, [lenders] I want to see six months of income and everything and I was like, ‘I don’t have that,'” he said.
Then he heard about the new revolving loan fund through a contact with the Small Business Administration. Crandall found that the program is open to funding new ventures as long as he has properly defined his business plan and what he would use the loan for if chosen as the beneficiary.
Hannah Grimes Center executive director Mary Ann Kristiansen said the partnership with REDC was formed after Hannah Grimes felt there was a need for a loan program to encourage future new businesses in the region, but said it was something his organization would not be prepared to handle on its own.
“REDC has an incredible reputation for providing really comprehensive services and technical assistance to these entrepreneurs who are not yet fully bankable,” Kristiansen said. “We fundraise locally, so [program funds] comes from our community. »
After Hannah Grimes and the REDC reviewed Crandall’s application, they contacted him in July to grant him the loan and sent him on July 15. Crandall said he received $20,000 in working capital to be repaid in installments for up to five years.
REDC Chair Laurel Adams said a five-year term is standard for “micro-loans,” meaning those under $50,000.
“We are doing a full review of the uses of the fund, including the budget for those and projections of how the business will be able to support debt repayment,” Adams said. “Once the loan is granted, especially in the case of a startup, they receive a quarterly review to check in and see how they are doing against their expenses and projections.”
In Crandall’s case, the need for a loan was twofold.
“The biggest expense was new equipment, batteries and everything to do with it,” Crandall said of his intention to loan out. “A second piece of [money] dabbled in marketing, creating a website, business cards, advertisements and apparel, as well as vehicle repair and lettering. »
Crandall said he hoped to repay his loan in full within three years, if possible, to avoid the additional interest that would accrue if he took the full five-year time allowance.
Other companies are now applying for the program, and REDC and Hannah Grimes will assess applicants once a month, Adams said. As they looked at other potential borrowers, she said the hope was that the revolving loan fund could continue to be a financial opportunity for business owners who cannot otherwise access loans due to factors such as limited experience.
“We feel like we’re getting them into the business pipeline earlier, they’re building their personal wealth sooner, they’re paying taxes sooner. [and] it helps our economy all around,” Adams said. “Partnering with Hannah Grimes helps us take this to a deeper level in the greater Keene area.
Trisha Nail can be reached at 352-1234, ext. 1436, or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter