Kalico Kitchen Designs, East Orange, NJ

Andray Hall_Kalico Designs

When owner Andray Hall opened Kalico Kitchen Designs in East Orange, New Jersey in September 2017, he didn’t approach his business from the typical mix of experience that entrepreneurs usually tell about.

Instead, as Andray says, “I had no experience in construction or kitchen design or anything like that. I had just gotten out of prison. My brother and son are contractors, though, and they encouraged me to open the business. Two weeks after I was released, we started setting it up and just a few months later, we opened our doors.”

Kalico Kitchen Designs sells the nation’s top brands of kitchen and bath cabinetry. Kalico also offers a full slate of design and installation services. With recent growing interest in home offices and home-entertainment rooms, too, Kalico’s team is ready with the high-quality products and outstanding service that have made them one of the leading cabinetry- and storage-design companies in Essex County in just three years.

Finding strength, opportunities and help from others

“Resilient” and “open to new opportunities” aren’t terms that Andray would have used to described his younger self. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t always a team player,” he explains. “I liked to do things on my own. That’s how I learn. But now, I’m more open to learning from others and accepting advice, too, and that’s helping me grow the business.”

An important element of that assistance is getting help funding the business.

Andray says that when he wrapped up the first months of business and closed out 2017, “We had about $20,000 in gross revenue – and about $16,000 in debt. The first few months of 2018 were the hardest of my adult life, because I felt buried in debt and this new business and a new life, and I didn’t really know what to do. And while I believe that it’s okay to make changes if you realize that something’s not right, I didn’t have a ‘Plan B’. So, I just had to keep going. We ended that year with $170,000 in sales.”

While that’s an impressive increase within just one full year of operations, because the margins are slim when using premade cabinetry, Andray started to look for funding to help Kalico grow.

A recommendation leads to Pursuit

Asked about how he learned about Pursuit, Andray says that Fundera had recommended Pursuit as a potential funder and Pursuit’s specialists followed up. (Fundera is an online funding-information and loan-brokerage platform that’s targeted to small business owners, to help them learn about loan options.)

“Learning about Pursuit was great. My Pursuit team helped me get a working capital loan so that Kalico would have a more stable financial foundation. With that in place, we set a goal of hitting $1 million in sales in five years,” he explains, “and in 2019, the business grew by 240% and grossed $405,000. And with 2020 off to a strong start, I realized that I could make the $1 million goal in four years. Think about that, from where I started. That’s incredible!”

A hard hit from the pandemic

With the coronavirus outbreak, home-renovation projects were essentially put on hold.

“We went from $50,000 in March to $9,000 in April,” Andray says. “Our financial stability just evaporated.”

The first thing he did was call his team at Pursuit, who worked with him to secure an SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

With that funding in hand, Andray was able to have some income and keep his employees on Kalico’s payroll, too – a point that’s particularly important to Andray, who understands the hurdles that his team have faced in their own lives and who wants to help ease their way forward.

Andray admits that it’s been a tough time during the pandemic, though, as his business faces many expenses that aren’t covered by the program-specific loans. But he also says that Pursuit’s help getting through the rough spots has been much more than simply financial, too.

“The emotional support from Pursuit has been as important to me as the financial support,” admits Andray. “They call me to see how things are going and ask how they can help. We talk through the issues and they let me ask any questions I have. They’re always happy to help and whenever anything comes up, they never say ‘no.’ They find answers and give guidance. It really helps to know that they’ve got my back.”

In addition to loans, Andray’s also receiving financial-management assistance from Pursuit’s Consulting Corps pros, including Sheneya Wilson.

Growing past the pandemic

The challenges presented by the pandemic have also helped Andray realize some new opportunities.

To improve marketing and outreach, which previously had been largely accomplished through word-of-mouth, Andray built a beautiful website using GoDaddy’s website platform. He plans to use Pursuit’s consulting services to help him expand it further, including enhanced online product offerings, an ecommerce store and virtual, do-it-yourself design services.

And despite the setbacks, Andray’s resilience still shines through. Asked for advice for other entrepreneurs, without hesitation he answers, “Ask questions when you don’t know something and ask for help when you need it. And be patient as you learn. You have to be patient.”

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