The small business angel in the banking window

Marion Steward

By Gabrielle Saulsbery

Southern Crafted Shutters CEO Kristin Meyer kept hitting roadblocks last year when she needed to refinance a Small Business Administration loan, until someone directed her to Pinnacle Bank Financial Advisor Brittany Hilbert. Within days, Hilbert connected Meyer and her co-owner husband to exactly who and what they needed, and even came to their closing as support.

“As a small business owner, it feels like I’m navigating something totally new every day. When it comes to my banking, I’m so happy to have Brittany on my side, looking out for me. I truly feel like she’s an amazing business partner and resource,” Meyer said.

In fact, behind a small business owner like Meyer, there is often a diligent, dedicated financial professional like Hilbert.

Hilbert’s mom is a serial entrepreneur, and one of her business jaunts — shared kitchens for caterers and food trucks — lined up with Hilbert’s start in banking. A lightbulb went off: The passion and curiosity she heard come out of her mom is what Hilbert wanted to be surrounded by, the kind small business ownership breeds.

“Most of the time you’re working with the people who came up with the idea,” Hilbert shared. “I love listening to how much of themselves go into their businesses.”

She’s passionate about her job at Pinnacle because the bank is relationship focused, not product focused.

“When we go in and talk to businesses, I’m not going out saying, ‘This month I need loans so I’m going to talk to clients about loans.’ I want to know what the client is doing, what their year looks like, what the pain point in the moment is,” she said.

SCOTT WHELCHEL, CAROLINA FOOTHILLS FEDERAL CREDIT UNION

Twelve years in small business consulting had Scott Whelchel of Carolina Foothills questioning why there were so few lenders who would dabble in the $5,000 to $15,000 range.

“The $10,000 to $50,000 window where most community banks are gonna view it more as a personal loan, relying on the credit, it’s a hard thing to do. It takes as much underwriting to do a loan for $17,000 as it does for $170,000,” he said.

“It’s often an ‘If I had my own truck I could do this job in three hours instead of six’ kind of thing. We’re trying to make more opportunities with a little bit of money, still fitting into a structured commercial loan policy in a regulated lending world,” he said.

For customers that do their traditional banking at Carolina Foothills, Whelchel said bank personnel see firsthand the growth in balances month-over-month, post-lending.

“With the funds to buy that first truck, the revenue grows to putting a second crew on the road. Sometimes it’s a hair stylist moving from booth rental to getting their own lease with a landlord.”

Whelchel has connected around 100 businesses to 150 different loans in three years.

VIRGINIA WILSON, COMMUNITY WORKS

According to Virginia Wilson, Community Works served 386 businesses through its women’s business center through coaching, training, and events in 2021; and 54 small businesses were served with COVID relief funds and small- and micro-business loans.

“There was such a need for organizations like us to step in the gap and provide funding where bigger financial institutions fell short, and I’ve seen the incredible financial impact it can have on people’s lives when they’re able to support their family that way and create jobs that way while pursuing their passion,” she said.

The small business angel in the banking window

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