January 8, 2018
Biz Money

Search for alternative funding leads Yarmouth small business to digital marketplace lender

Revamping a flower business can be thorny, as Mark Ranalletti and his wife, Kathryn Wallingford, discovered after buying Calyx Flowers Inc. in Yarmouth in 2015.

"There isn't a thing I haven't rebuilt, changed, enhanced or modified," Ranalletti says of the business, which ships flowers from growers around the country to retail customers ordering online.

Besides building a new website, the couple created a new order management system for the call center and redid everything on the back end, from accounting and inventory to data management and product maintenance. They also sped up delivery times from two days to one. All that cost money, but their own funds combined with traditional bank financing fell short of what was needed, especially without assets to put up as collateral.

An online search for alternative funding led Ranalletti to Lendio, a digital marketplace for small business loans. Soon after that he got a call from Donovan White, Lendio's franchise owner in Biddeford, to set up a meeting and run through the platform. Out of three loan options that White turned up, Ranalletti chose one for $44,000 that came through in 48 hours.

"They helped us bridge the cash gap and we're going to be healthy as a result," says Ranalletti, won over by White's personal involvement and the quick turnaround.

Lendio, founded in 2011 in Silicon Slopes, Utah, has worked with more than 30,000 small businesses, writing $600 million in loans. It connects with entrepreneurs through 19 franchisees in 26 territories. Lendio gets paid by a nationwide network of 75 lenders and does not charge entrepreneurs for its services.

The company's founder and CEO, Brock Blake, has likened the platform to digital travel aggregator sites like Kayak and Expedia, where users can do comparison shopping. He underscores that Lendio does not compete with lenders, but aims to give borrowers easier access to them.

Lendio spokeswoman Melanie King said via email that the franchise model is designed to reach business owners who "still want that personal touch when it comes to financial services, but also the options and speed that only come with the technology of an online marketplace."

In Biddeford, White has helped process seven loans since May 2017, and estimates that 10 more are in the works.

"My modus operandi is to find the lowest cost of capital for anybody that lands on my desk," he says. He starts by assessing clients' needs, by when they need the funding and their documentation, and says that a low credit score isn't an insurmountable obstacle. "There are a lot of life circumstances that lead to lower credit scores," he says. "It doesn't mean they're not fundable."


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