Holly Sheppard, owner of Fig & Pig Catering, has grown her business from a solo startup to one of the most sought-after caterers in metropolitan New York. With the aim of furthering Fig & Pig’s success, Holly turned to SBA Lender Match to find a business lender who could help her realize her dreams.
Within two days, the SBA’s free online tool matched Holly with Pursuit to help her access the funding she needed to stabilize cash flow and grow her business further.
Here’s more about Holly, Fig & Pig and how the SBA and Pursuit helped her grow and get through the challenges of the pandemic.
Succeeding through creativity, excellence and joy
As a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, Holly entered a profession that enables her to showcase her creativity and commitment to excellence. And in an extremely competitive industry, what truly sets Fig & Pig apart is Holly’s equal commitment to bringing a sense of joy and fun to her work. This is apparent in everything that she and her team do together, from day-to-day operations to the tone they help set for the weddings and other celebrations they cater.
The other key ingredients to Fig & Pig’s success? Fear and fearlessness. As Holly explains, “I tell my team to be fearless in what they create, but to hold onto just enough fear to make them strive for outstanding results, every time. It’s easy to get complacent, especially when you’ve grown into a successful business. I want our team to experiment and come up with great ideas and execute them, but I also want us to hang onto some of that scrappy, startup-like fear that makes us want to prove ourselves over and over again.”
SBA Lender Match and Pursuit: Supporting small businesses together
About two years ago, Holly decided to apply for a working capital loan to improve cash flow and help stabilize Fig & Pig’s finances during her business’s seasonal cycles: As a caterer whose primary events are weddings and related celebrations, she wanted to be financially prepared for the typical winter wind down.
With that goal in mind, she started an online search for potential funders. Her search led her to SBA Lender Match, a free online tool that matches small businesses across the country to small lenders and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which she then used as a starting point. After a simple online process, she was matched with Pursuit and heard from their team just two days later.
Soon, Holly and Fig & Pig were approved for a $20,000 SBA Microloan with Pursuit, which gave her the working capital she needed. “We didn’t slow down at all that year, though,” she says, “so I decided to make some kitchen upgrades that would improve efficiencies and enable our team take on some new culinary challenges.”
Holly says that the entire process – from the SBA Lender Match tool through the application and approval process with Pursuit – was great. “It was excellent, really pleasant. The online tool was easy to use and the Pursuit team was very helpful. I could see that they really wanted to understand Fig & Pig. They even came to my business and sat down with me so that they could see our operations and get to know my vision,” she says.
Coming through the pandemic with fresh ideas
Holly says that prior to the pandemic, Fig & Pig was on track for its best year ever. Then, the mandated business closures shuttered her operations for several months. Even now, while her business has technically reopened, the limitations on event capacity are taking a toll.
“We recently catered a wedding that was supposed to be a full-blown affair for 150 guests. We had to modify it to socially distant cocktails and apps for 50 guests, followed by dinner for 12,” she explains. “And most other events that we had booked are delayed until next year.”
Because of COVID-19-related business challenges, Pursuit and the SBA helped again, with an SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, which helped Holly keep the business going.
Now, although uncertainty is the only certainty for caterers, Holly’s creating her own new opportunities to generate revenue and learn new skills.
One of her current ideas? “I’m doing barbeque pop-ups, which is incredibly hard work but also really fun,” she says. “It’s a whole different way of operating and I know there’s money to be made in it, although I’m really just at the jumping-off point now.”
Clearly, she’s generating buzz, as Holly and Fig & Pig were recently featured in a New York Times article on how caterers are pivoting.
Know that it gets easier
Even amid so much industry upheaval, when Holly’s asked to give advice to other entrepreneurs, she says, “Know that it gets easier. Early on, those are the hardest years. With Fig & Pig, I had no money, no help, I did everything myself. But somehow, you make it work and you grow and there you are years down the line, with a successful business and dozens of employees. That’s why I know we’ll get through this time, too. And remember, be fearless, but keep the fear, too!”