Leef’s Small Business Lesson: Know Your Community, Know Your Customer and Know What Sets You Apart

At OnDeck, we value the uniqueness of each and every one of our customers. No two small businesses or business owners are quite alike – and we strengthened our appreciation of this when our CEO Noah Breslow visited San Francisco, CA-based Leef Smith, owner of Mission: Comics & Art.

Starting Out: Leef began his career at Visa and a few technology startups. He always had an interest in the arts, and noticed that there weren’t any quality comic book stores in his San Francisco neighborhood of Mission. It’s a community that fervently supports local business – the city recently rallied to protest a big box retailer opening in the area – and won. After he was laid off during the financial crisis, he aggregated his personal savings and credit cards to open Mission: Comics & Arts.

Growing the business: Leef was able to grow sales 400% in the first few years and developed a loyal customer base. His reputation for supporting local artists dovetailed nicely with Mission’s values and personality – a small business owner helping other small business owners was a real differentiator within the community. Over time, purchasing inventory become his biggest obstacle. Leef houses an eclectic mix of over 15,000 unique titles, but needs to order all comics from his distributor two months in advance with seven day payment terms.

Looking for capital: Leef needed financing to accommodate his cash flow cycle, and decided to apply for a bank loan from a local credit union. The application process took weeks and was extremely labor intensive – despite having a healthy business, he was ultimately declined and left feeling frustrated. In July of this year, he decided to look online for financing and was introduced to OnDeck through a referral partner. His application process took minutes, he was approved within one day and recieved financing a few days later.

Over the next few months, he was able to purchase the inventory he needed and accommodate all of his customers’ requests. He recently took out a second loan with OnDeck, and is now in an even better position to take advantage of the busy holiday season.

Leef’s Big Lesson:

“When you’re competing with big box and online retailers, the one thing that really sets your business apart is customer service. Know your community, know your customer and know why your business is an enjoyable place to visit.”

If your business is in a similar position to Leef and in need of financing to accommodate cash flow cycles, OnDeck is here to help. Our Loan Specialists are available 6-days a week to help small businesses like Leef’s access capital – when they need it.