How many times has fear or an obstacle stopped you from pursuing your biggest goals? If you’re like John Sloan, they haven’t. As his story proves, all you need is passion, determination, and a credit union on your side to accomplish your dreams.
As businesses were failing across the country, John was undeterred from starting his own. The Great Recession left homeowners with mortgages they couldn’t afford and business owners unable to get credit from recoiling banks. Instead of seeing a hurdle, Sloan viewed the recession as an opportunity to take risk when others were afraid. But he couldn’t do it all on his own; it turns out a local credit union was there for John to dream bigger.
A Family of Entrepreneurs
In 1975, John’s dad founded High Country Outfitters, an outdoor retail store and outfitter providing guides, services, and courses. When John graduated from college, he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and open up his own store that he could run independently.
“It was something that I grew up around,” John explained. “I basically come from a family of entrepreneurs. They own restaurants, retail stores, and real estate businesses. I’ve seen my peers and my parents be their own bosses and it was something I knew I always wanted to do. I guess I’ve never known anything else.”
So after college, John struck out on his own and opened up his own High Country Outfitters location in Marietta, Georgia—despite our imploding economy that threatened even the most successful businesses.
Taking a Chance
“I opened up the store during one of the worst recessions the country’s ever seen,” John said. “Funds were hard to come by. When we started off, things were pretty tight.”
To get the store off the ground, John would have to rely on credit to purchase inventory for the new store. But John didn’t have a credit history—he barely knew what a credit card was.
That made the road to becoming a business owner even rockier. He was repeatedly denied credit at several national banks. “It was a classic Catch-22—I had to have credit to get a credit card but couldn’t build credit without one,” said John.
Looking for another way, he decided to give Delta Community Credit Union a try. “They just treated me differently,” John explained. “They were able to give me a starter credit card with a very small limit, but I was able to build credit with it.”
Soon John was putting $30,000 to $50,000 a month on credit as demand for his products grew. “Being that no other bank would even give me a credit card, there’s no way I would have been able to pay for the merchandise in my store without one,” he admitted.
The Credit Union Family
Today, John works with several different banks as his business needs change, but he always goes back to his credit union, largely because of the relationship he built with its staff.
“I go into a huge credit union and it feels a little bit more like my business, which is a local, family run business,” he said. “I think people enjoy shopping with me because we’re going to give them a more personal experience, and that’s the same thing that I get when I go into my credit union. They’re able to go to bat for me whenever I need something.”
John has found that large, commercial banks don’t really seem to care about him or his business, seeing his accounts as a tiny speck on their balance sheets. Credit unions, on the other hand, are willing to work with him one-on-one to understand his financial goals and help make them happen. “I’m working with a family,” said John.
So if you have similar aspirations of starting a business, know that there’s a group of people ready and eager to help. Clearly, John attributes fulfilling his dream of owning a business to credit unions — perhaps someday you will too.