Getting funding through various Federal Government grants can be a complex journey that can take more than a year to come to fruition. A company’s “staying power” to go through the process can be daunting, but when we hear a good news story we want to share. To help CKCA members learn about what it takes to get government support here’s a story about Casa Flores Cabinetry. There is much to learn and share from their experience. Check this out!
CKCA interviewed Jolanda Slagmolen-Flores, AKBD, General Manager at Casa Flores Cabinetry.
Pictured left with her husband Humberto Flores. You can read about the company here.
CKCA: Can you just tell us a little bit about your business – how long have you been in business, how many employees, how many kitchens do you produce in a month, square footage of your shop?
Casa Flores: We started our business in 2006. We currently have 7 employees and a 3500 square foot shop. The “how many kitchens a month” question is always hard to answer because we do so much more than kitchens! And in many cases we are doing a whole home which includes a kitchen as well as bathrooms, laundry room, mudroom, etc etc. Our sales are just under $1M/year
CKCA: How did you find out about the Federal Government funding that was available?
Casa Flores: The government made a big announcement in October, but although I heard about it on the news, it was brought to my attention by our local Chamber of Commerce. I am part of a peer mentoring group made up entirely of women, so the facilitator thought this would be of interest to our group
CKCA: Why was it of interest to you?
Casa Flores: We are currently in the process of scaling our business by investing in new equipment and technology. Specifically, we wanted to invest in new software (Cabinet Vision) and a CNC machine to help us grow our business. We also recently launched a new product line that depends on quick production times. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy focuses on businesses that are looking to grow. In addition, priority was given to businesses with products and/or services related to one of the Economic Strategy Table
Sectors. One of these sectors is Advanced Manufacturing so our goals were a good fit with the program
CKCA: What made you apply and go through the process?
Casa Flores:The grant was for up to $100,000 of NON-REPAYABLE grant money. This is a HUGE boost for a small business like ours. I put a significant amount of time into the application, but the potential rewards were well worth it.
CKCA: How was the process overall, did you find it lengthy or fairly straightforward?
Casa Flores: I think success in anything reflects the amount of time you are willing put into it. I did put a lot of time and thought into the application. Other people may have put in less time but not been successful in obtaining funding.
CKCA: Did you seek help from anyone or did you do on your own?
Casa Flores: I sought the help of people with more experience than me. I prepared the application on my own but then ran it by a couple of people and learned an important lesson – I initially applied for just over $50,000, with the logic that I had a better chance of receiving $50,000 than $100,000. However, both of my advisors questioned why I hadn’t applied for the full amount. So I revised the application and thank goodness I did! I was approved for the full $100,000
CKCA: How will you use this funding?
Casa Flores: We have already purchased Cabinet Vision and hired a new employee to work with the program. The next step will be to purchase the CNC machine
CKCA: What outcomes are you looking to achieve from this injection of funding?
Casa Flores: In order to be competitive, we believe we must invest in new technology and equipment. This can be difficult as a small business. The funding is a huge boost for us and we believe it will allow us to grow exponentially rather than incrementally.
CKCA: Will you be required to show the return on investment to the funder/feds?
Casa Flores: Yes. As part of the application process we had to set goals and timelines. When we apply for reimbursement we are accountable for showing whether we are meeting those targets
CKCA: What would you say to other manufacturers who may seem discouraged about seeking government funding?
Casa Flores: A lot of time and effort went into the application process, and there is a lot of additional paperwork involved after approval to actually obtain the funds. However in our case a $100,000 capital injection is a huge boost to our business and well worth the time and effort
CKCA: Is there anything you would have done differently/any lessons learned in the process to help make that process easier?
Casa Flores: Not anything that would make the process easier. However what I was told was that it is very important to FOLLOW ALL OF THE INSTRUCTIONS PRECISELY. This will not make things easier but will result is a higher chance of success.
CKCA: Any final thoughts/comments?
Casa Flores: An important thing to be aware of is that many government programs (like this one) require you to invest the money first, and then request reimbursement. Furthermore, it is usually necessary for the company to invest money over and above what the government is investing, in order to obtain the funds. In our case, we were approved for 62% funding, which means that in order to obtain the funds we must first invest $162,0000, and we can then receive a $100,000 reimbursement. The most challenging part is cash-flowing the initial investment, so it is important to make sure you have access to capital prior to applying.