Nickquae “Lucky” Williams had more than a vision of the cocktail lounge and light-fare venue that she’d eventually open: She had a comprehensive plan, a long-term strategy for growth, and $70,000 in equity. Here’s how Pursuit helped her secure an SBA community advantage loan to open her dream business, Lucky’s Cocktail Lounge, in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood.
Building the foundation for a lifelong dream
Since she was a teen, Lucky planned her dream establishment. After graduating from college, she moved from her hometown of Pittsburgh to New York City, where she worked multiple jobs in restaurants and the hospitality industry. “I wanted to learn every facet,” she says, “so that when I opened my business, I’d operate from a place of experience and empathy.”
As she gained experience, she also made key connections who helped her hone her vision. A fine-dining executive chef, Michael Vignola of Catch Hospitality Group, introduced her to tapas – a selection of lighter, smaller plates. Similarly, her vision for the venue evolved from a casual, “second living room” style to something equally as welcoming but with distinctive touches of luxury and elegance.
Pursuit and the SBA Community Advantage Loan
As she honed her restaurant knowledge, Lucky scoured New York to find the right location and was approved for an equity loan of $70,000 on a property she owned in Pittsburgh. Then she worked with designer/contractor Yuko Kawaga who gave her much more insight and solid budget figures for the entire buildout of the project.
And that, she says, was eye-opening.
“I thought with the equity I had available, I was pretty well positioned,” she admits. “Then I realized that I needed a lot more for the space, about $250,000 in total. With a typical commercial loan, that would mean I’d need more than $80,000 just to be considered because those loans require 30% owner equity. This is my first business and I had planned it for so long and wanted everything to be right, with all the bells and whistles to make it my dream place. So, this news was discouraging initially, but I wasn’t going to give up.”
Lucky says a representative at a commercial bank had mentioned Pursuit to her and through this connection, she also learned about the SBA community advantage loan, which could be used for all of the business uses that she needed. Additionally, the SBA community advantage program only requires 10% of owner equity. “This meant that I could put $25,000 in to meet my owner equity requirement, rather than spending the full $70,000. That’s given me breathing room,” she says.
About the SBA approval process, she says, “I think business owners hear that it can be hard, but I saw the steps as a good experience. When potential funders ask a lot of questions that means they’re interested. They want to know that you’re ready to take on business ownership and that you’re as prepared as possible for unknowns.”
Lucky’s deal was funded in full, and today, she’s the proud owner of her dream establishment, no compromises needed.
“This isn’t a fairy tale. I worked so hard to get all the pieces in place, but I know that the odds of getting funding to open a bar and restaurant are against entrepreneurs, to begin with, and, to be honest, especially for a young, Black woman,” she says. “But I never felt that way with Pursuit, I never felt like my dream was out of reach. It meant everything to know that Pursuit believed in me and my vision and understood that I’m a worthwhile investment.”
Lucky’s Cocktails opens and community support is strong
“We’d trained our staff and finalized opening plans. The last step, getting our liquor license, came through, too, so we were ready to open, which was scheduled for March 30, 2020. That, as we all know, became the time that everything shut down,” Lucky says. “And we hadn’t been open so we didn’t qualify for pandemic-relief programs, like PPP loans.”
Lucky’s a strong negotiator and she worked with vendors, her landlord, and others to work out terms for partial or deferred payments that would help the business hold on until they could open. “Our loan with Pursuit was already underway and our team helped us get a reprieve,” she says. While waiting for her business to open, she worked for Door Dash to make ends meet.
From November 2020, when Lucky’s finally opened, through early February 2021, the business had more pandemic-related starts and stops, which Lucky admits were tough but good learning experiences, too. “We reopened on Valentine’s Day 2021 and it has been great since,” she says. “We were below our projections for a while, but as a new bar opening in the middle of the pandemic, I was happy and proud of what we accomplished.” Revenue has steadily increased over recent months, too, and her business is on track to achieve projections.
Learn about how Pursuit can help you, too
Lucky says that what made Pursuit so different was that her business advisor, Simone Obermaier, was so determined to support her and to make funding work.
“You have to find a funder that believes in you. Simone made the whole process human and compassionate and she worked tirelessly on my behalf. It would’ve taken me 20 years to save up enough money to bring this to fruition and instead, I got the loan I needed and I’ve opened the place of my dreams. So, if you’re getting turned down, don’t get discouraged – as hard as it is, view it as ‘protection’ that the right funder will come at the right time,” she says. Pursuit can help support your dream too. Take a look at our range of loan options, then contact us to find the best fit for your business.