Not far from the site of the old Nabisco factory in Northeast Philadelphia, a nondescript warehouse reveals the unexpected behind its doors. Inside, one of Philly’s fastest-growing, multi-million-dollar manufacturing businesses hums along, nearly bursting at its seams.
“SureShade started with an off-hand comment I made to my husband Ron about needing more shade over our heads while we were boating on the Delaware River,” says company co-founder Dana Russikoff. “Before I knew it, he was designing a boat shade that could easily expand and retract with the touch of a button and didn’t block my view with support poles.”
It was the height of the Great Recession, but that didn’t stop them. Dana and Ron filed for patents, went to their first trade show and a business was born.
Walk through SureShade headquarters in the Somerton section of Philadelphia today, and you’d never guess they once struggled to fill their building with ideal equipment and machinery. This month marks six years since they acquired the SBA 7A loan that allowed them to thrive there.
When SureShade started up, it was in a tough economic environment where Dana Russikoff admits there was no disposable income for the boating industry, and SureShade was facing a funding challenge that could make or break its business.
“Capital was hard to come by, and we needed it to go from start-up to early growth,” says Russikoff. “Some people we talked to didn’t understand our story and what our business was about, and some looked at our needs only in terms of a conventional loan.”
Russikoff continues, “We didn’t want a partner or angel investor at that point. But all our seed investment went into intellectual property, and we didn’t have enough money for a traditional loan’s one-to-one collateral.”
Through research, Russikoff says she found out about SBA loans but still didn’t have the time to devote to the process or figure out how to package a successful loan application. That’s when she was introduced to Seedcopa, a private non-profit that works with lenders to help small to mid-sized businesses in Pennsylvania obtain government loans.
Says Russikoff, “Overnight, I went from being told ‘no,’ to working toward getting our loan approved. Seedcopa was a game changer for the business.”
“The first question every small business should be asking itself is, ‘How do lenders see me?’” explains Sherwood Robbins, Managing Director of Seedcopa. “We specialize in taking the time to listen to small businesses as they tell their stories. Then we translate those stories into financial terms common to the commercial lending arena.”
For SureShade, the SBA 7A loan was an ideal fit.
“It’s a bank loan with a government guarantee behind it,” says Robbins. “It’s a great way for growing businesses to get the money they need to expand, from banks that might be unwilling to take the risk otherwise.”
SureShade used much of the $325,000 in loan money to build customized castings and molds that would enable volume production of its parts and components. Previously, they machined each component one by one. Now they could go from one-off production to high-volume. Soon their staff of four employees grew to 20.
“Part of the funds also went to capital, taking care of open payables, and paying off a bank line of credit. The loan really solidified our financial foundation,” says Russikoff.
It also helped solidify SureShade’s contracts with other growing businesses, half of which are local and 85 percent of which are in the U.S. SureShade works with a casting company in King of Prussia, an injection molding company in Douglasville, a machining company in Warminster and a polishing company in Quakertown. All metal comes from mills in the U.S. (North Carolina and Florida), and a canvas fabricator is in Tennessee.
Today, SureShade is the only maker of retractable telescoping marine sunshades that are designed, manufactured and assembled in the U.S. The product is a must-have feature on more than 100 boat brands, and the company has grown 45 percent in revenue in the last year.
It turns out, the SBA loan through Seedcopa came through at a critical time. On the heels of its closing, SureShade was ranked number six in the Philadelphia Business Journal’s “50 on Fire Fastest Growing Companies” for average revenue growth 2013-2015. The company saw its number of employees double during that time period, enjoyed an average two-year growth of 73.4 percent, with total revenue rising from $1.29 million in 2013 to $3.75 million in 2015.
Now fresh off the Dubai International Boat Show, SureShade is poised for the next stage of its growth.
“Our original work space off Roosevelt Boulevard was an 1,100 square-foot garage with an office upstairs, and even after renting a couple of more units, we’re still there and need more space,” says Russikoff. SureShade says it’s actively looking to lease a larger space, and they’re looking for capital to fund this next critical stage of growth.
“We’re back at it again, exploring financing alternatives,” says Russikoff. “But this time we’re starting off with sound advice and insight from Seedcopa.”
For over thirty years, Seedcopa has helped businesses get the money they need to start, grow and expand. We are proud that the loan programs we work with promote economic development.
Together with economic development-minded partners throughout Pennsylvania, we help to grow local businesses, create and retain jobs and stimulate local communities.
Our team has over 75 years of combined government lending experience and a dedication to excellent customer service. Seedcopa’s Preliminary Assessment has been designed to give you a thorough, yet quick, initial review of a borrower’s project and then outlines the next potential steps of the loan process.