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Loan breathes new life into rural entrepreneur’s greenhouse venture

For a business of any size, expansion can quickly revert into contraction without enough capital to see it through.

Kathy Davenport of Elizabeth City opened the doors to The Shoppes at Kenyon Bailey in March 2014, providing affordable space to other small business owners to operate with low overhead. There, customers can find jewelry, home decor and all kinds of unique gifts.

Davenport, a problem solver with experience in project management, was confident she could acquire and turn around a failing greenhouse to add a new stream of revenue. But soon she was swamped by the cost of the repairs and upgrades.

“I had gone through every penny I had,” Davenport recalled. “I was on the verge of losing my business.”

A loan from Carolina Small Business Development Fund, coordinated by its staff with the Eastern Women’s Entrepreneurship Center (EWEC) in Elizabeth City, helped turn that around. Thanks to the Tory Burch Capital Program, powered by Bank of America, Davenport was able to save money over the life of the loan in addition to the cash flow benefits of the refinance.

Davenport’s journey of resilience started at The College of Albemarle’s Small Business Center where she sought guidance. There, the program’s director Ginger O’Neal referred her to the EWEC where director Caitlin Davis was on the case.

“Caitlin worked tirelessly to get me the cash I needed to stay in the game,” Davenport said. “I am grateful to her and her team.”

Davenport, a married mother of four and grandmother of five, is not done taking her small business to the next level. She has plans to add a mini golf course and bridal shop. She relishes not only her own entrepreneurial spirit, but cultivating others’ as well.

“I am not just helping customers find the perfect gift,” Davenport explained. “I am also helping other local small businesses succeed. I have had several vendors who have grown and opened their own stores and I take much pride in the part I played in helping them make their dreams come true!”

Through its presence across the state with a focus on borrowers in underserved communities, Carolina Small Business is proud to partner with entrepreneurs like Kathy Davenport to help them transform their vision into success. Since 2010, the non-profit has invested more than $50.7 million through 661 loans to small businesses across North Carolina helping to create or retain more than 2,267 jobs.