TALEA Beer Co. and an SBA 7(a) Loan: A New Craft-Beer Experience in Brooklyn and Beyond

TALEA Beer Company co-founders and owners LeAnn Darland and Tara Hankinson

Photo credits: Nachman Blizinsky

TALEA Beer Company co-founders and owners LeAnn Darland and Tara Hankinson recognized an inherent shortcoming in the booming craft-beer industry: it missed the mark for a target clientele of devotees who, like them, longed for refreshing brews in an environment as appealing as any high-end Brooklyn brunch spot. They also noticed a major gap in the industry: even today, only about 3% of craft breweries are 100% women-owned and operated.

They created TALEA to fill that void and change the dynamic, and their success is a clear indication that they’ve tapped into an important and evolving industry niche. Here’s how an SBA 7(a) loan through Pursuit helped them create the business that they envisioned, including the ability to scale quickly to meet ever-growing demand.

A shared passion leads to a business venture

As fans of craft beer and home-brewing, as well as colleagues at an e-commerce beer start-up, it didn’t take long for Tara and LeAnn’s collegial relationship to turn into an idea for a groundbreaking beer-based venture. In 2019, they formalized TALEA and began selling their craft brews to restaurants and stores throughout the New York metro area and beyond, with plans to open a taproom, too.

Among their offerings, their flagship beer, Sun Up, is “a hazy IPA with hints of pineapple,” Tara explains, “but it’s not sweet, it’s got just enough fruit. It’s the first beer that we offered and has been a perennial best-seller.” It’s also LeAnn’s favorite. Tara’s current favorite is Watermelon Splash, which is brewed with watermelon and sea salt. And the favorite of taproom guests is Al Dente, which Tara describes as “an Italian-style pilsner as dry-hopped and with a light bitterness,” and notes of rosemary, honey, jasmine, and focaccia. It’s a pilsner with personality.”

Their fresh flavors and appealing graphics were an instant hit with their target clientele – people like them who want easy-drinking, surprising-in-all-the-best-ways beer selections. It wasn’t long before restaurants and retail shops were clamoring to carry their products, from Michelin-starred restaurants and boutique neighborhood beer stores to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

Planning for rapid growth

Early on, Tara and LeAnn used personal savings and investments from family, friends, and angel investors to get the business off the ground, but they soon realized that it would take additional funding to bring their dream to fruition.

“As we planned the business, we envisioned a taproom with a modern, high-end aesthetic and fulfilling that part of the project took a lot of the initial funding that we’d raised,” Tara says. “At the same time, we knew that we needed the capability to scale.”

It was also important to them that they could maintain autonomy as majority owners of the business, as well as to have the financial stability that a long-term business loan could provide. So, rather than look for additional investors, they began looking for the right small business loan.

An SBA 7(a) loan has the advantages they need

Despite their early success, Tara and LeAnn had concerns about financing. “The last thing we wanted was to underfund the business early on, then chase financing to grow. Instead, we planned for growth from the start, including having the capacity to scale production for our wholesale accounts and taproom business. But we were concerned about finding a lender to work with us, simply because it was still a new business,” Tara admits.

They learned about Pursuit through their industry networks and got in touch. Working with Pursuit Loan Officer Dustin Krause, they tackled the process of securing an SBA 7(a) loan, which provides financing up to $5 million, to purchase the production equipment they needed. The timing of the application process – in the thick of the pandemic – created additional challenges, but they persevered with help from Pursuit, and received their loan in the summer of 2020.

“The SBA loan process is very involved and can be challenging along the way,” Tara admits, “but in the end, it was worth it. We got the funding we needed to purchase our production equipment, and we’re grateful for that.”

Their Pursuit loan officer, Dustin says, “It’s difficult enough to run a small business, and to make the decision to grow during the pandemic, when this industry was hit the hardest, takes the right ownership team. Tara and LeAnn are that team. When issues come up, they focus on solutions to reach their goals. They’re talented entrepreneurs with a great vision for their business, and they make great beer!” He adds, “Sun Up is my favorite.”

A small business loan provides financial stability and leverage

They opened the flagship Williamsburg taproom in 2021 and since then, TALEA has added a second taproom in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood, with plans underway for two new taprooms in Manhattan this year. That means that they’ve already created 55-60 new jobs, including about 20-25 full-time salaried positions. They also have the capacity to brew more than three million pints each year.

“Having the SBA 7(a) loan over a longer term has been great,” she says, “because it enabled us to have working capital and to pay back our loan over an extended period. So, in addition to helping us purchase the equipment we needed, our SBA loan has had huge benefits.”

Pursuit can help you get the financing you need

With loan options from $10,000 to $5.5 million, Pursuit has funding options that can help you get the financing you need, including loans for equipment, commercial property, working capital, to refinance high-cost business-related debt, and much more.

Take a look at more than 15 small business loan programs, then contact us to learn about how we can help you, too.

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