Floral Business Blooms Thanks to SBA Microloan

Chelsea Hershey expanded her business, DownHome Emporium, with a microloan from the Center’s Rural Enterprise Assistance Project.

With her Army husband deployed overseas, Chelsea Hershey returned to her hometown while finishing up a business degree and holding a dream to go into business for herself. She found a place for sale and during a long-distance call to her husband exclaimed: “I could be a business owner tomorrow!”

With two loans in hand, one through the Arnold Economic Development Corporation and another through the Custer County Development Corporation, and lots of family help, she opened the doors of DownHome Emporium in November 2011. A couple of years later, Hershey sought financing to expand the business inventory and the business’ offerings and services.

Within a few months, her shop, DownHome Emporium, made a quick name for itself as the go-to florist in rural central Nebraska. Her place offers fresh and silk arrangements, brand-name greeting cards, a selection of toys and jewelry, and the perfect feature to finish off any home décor. Perhaps the store’s best offering is the chance for local artists to offer for sale their handmade collectibles. Hershey said they have everything “from crocheting, to sewing, to woodwork and furniture.”

“We take care of a lot of little towns that don’t have floral services,” said Hershey, who offers services for weddings and funerals up to 75 miles away from the shop’s location in Arnold. It’s a big help that Hershey, along with her two part-timers and a seasonal employee, have a passion to serve their customers.

Hershey said it took a couple of years to understand the business enough gradually to change its offerings and “give a boost for this holiday season.” “The first Christmas was great, but last year I sold a lot of what I had collected, so I really needed to get a fresh set of new inventory and home décor, and I had a few toys from the last few years, that I wanted to get fresh new things,” she said.

Hershey discovered REAP while surfing the SBA’s website. She applied for a microloan to finance purchase of new inventory, renovations for the building’s lighting, and insulation to cut energy costs. She’s already used the proceeds to insulate the store’s display window and the drafty storeroom.

The SBA Microloan Program is the largest federal program solely dedicated to supporting the credit needs of very small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs. Working through a network of community-based nonprofit intermediaries such as REAP, the program provides loans and technical assistance to start-up and emerging small businesses unable to secure credit from conventional banks.

In addition, Hershey got small business planning advice this fall from the REAP Women’s Business Center, which sponsored a five-week refresher class in business management.

“The sky is the limit here,” she said.

DownHome Emporium, 117 S Walnut St, Arnold, Nebraska 69120, 308.848.2203, DownHomeEmporium.com

This article is condensed from the original by Michael Foutch, SBA Nebraska District Office, michael.foutch@sba.gov. See the full article in It’s Your Business - January SBA Nebraska District Office Newsletter.