How a “Lovely No” Turned into a Big Yes for Business Success
In 2005, business owners Malcolm and Hebert joined OnPath FCU with hopes of obtaining funds to purchase an asset for their already established business, Professional Funeral Services. Instead of instantly receiving funding, they received financial advice that would set their business up for a successful future. From working capital, lines of credit, renovations, to a second location in Port Allen, the two entrepreneurs have been able to expand their business beyond what they imagined over the last 15 years. We sat down to talk with the owners about what they’ve done to overcome business challenges, advice for future entrepreneurs and how OnPath FCU has helped them along the way.
What financial advice did you receive that helped set your business up for success?
Malcolm: The story goes this way: In 2005 we tried to get our first limousine for the business, so we went to OnPath FCU (ASI FCU at the time) with a nice little proposal. The commercial lending manager listened to us and kindly told us no. It was a lovely no. He said, “Get a $250 secured credit card and come back in 6 months.” We got the card, we used it, paid it off and came back in 6 months. We were then able to get the funds we needed to buy the limousine as well as open the door to receive other business-related funds.
What inspired the addition of a second location?
Malcolm & Hebert: We were in the process of finding a location in the Baton Rouge area to make transportation easier. We have a contract with LSU Medical School downtown and we do anatomical donations, within a 200-mile radius. From here to Lake Charles up to Alexandria down to the boot up into Mississippi. We are constantly up and down the highway. The new location helps because about 50% of the donations come from areas closer to Port Allen. Instead of leaving from New Orleans to travel to those areas we have a spot there and it helps increase our response time.
As a business owner, what would you say has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Malcolm & Hebert: We opened our business in 2004 and right after that, Hurricane Katrina hit. We were left speechless, but we kept on grinding. Just as many entrepreneurs, you’re good at what you do but you must learn how to manage the business part of things, so financially you make a lot of mistakes. We didn’t come from people who had silver spoons in their mouths or a stash full of cash hiding somewhere. We figured the more people we bring in the easier the cash flow would be, but it turned out to be the opposite. We’ve been able to borrow our way into things. But it takes a while to get out of that and be in a positive equity position. With the help of OnPath FCU, we’ve been able to get back on path and now we’ve blossomed like little trees.
How would you describe your experience with OnPath FCU?
Malcolm & Hebert: It’s been good. We were never the traditional ideal commercial banking candidates and the credit union really took the time to get to know us, learn our story, know our business and we’ve been given good direction to make the right moves. The Commercial Lending Team is always the first to call. We can send Lacey (Commercial Lending Administrator) an email and 5 minutes later we get a response. We go to the branches often and the tellers are familiar with us and they’ve also been very excellent. Hebert and I have both done personal business with OnPath FCU. A lot of times we think maybe we can’t do this or that, but then we call and there like yes this is a great idea, we can do this, do you need anything else? Sometimes we wonder, can it be that easy?
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who’s thinking about starting a business?
Hebert: Live your dream. Try. Nothing beats a failure like a try. Set goals and have a vision because if you don’t discipline yourself it may become difficult.
Don’t have the microwave mentality. You know where you put in work for 3 weeks and you think you have it all figured out instantly. Nowadays everything is about instant gratification, we get the news right away, we step outside the food is right there, doing school projects and the information is right there just by googling it. The dream in your head is wonderful but once you get into it, it’s not as easy.
What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t have the best credit now and would like to start a business?
Malcolm: Get the secure card, use it, pay it off, use it, pay it off, and start small. Don’t go to the bank asking for $50,000. Try $5,000 working capital then move to the next thing. You can be ambitious but be realistic. If you’re the non-traditional entrepreneur and you don’t have the 800-credit score or a million dollars sitting in the bank, I’d recommend just going talk to a commercial lender at OnPath FCU, and they can tell you what you need to do. They don’t always say no. They actually take a full picture of what your operations are and can tell you, “If we can’t do this, then we can do this and if you do these three steps then come back to me for what you originally came for.” It’s not always just no and move on to the next thing. If you have the dream, credentials and you put in the work you can get the financial help you need.
images of the inside of Professional Funeral Services
As Malcolm and Hebert continue to grow and build their business, they also want to make sure they take care of the community that’s helped take care of them. “We want to make sure we continue our operating purposes and give the youth and others the opportunity to experience this thing called success”, says Malcolm. Professional Funeral Services offers an internship program for the youth as well as a program to become a funeral director.
When the businessmen aren’t working at the the funeral home you can find them and their team out in the community feeding the homeless, handing out turkeys for holidays and giving back to the places that have given them the opportunity to do what they do now. “When you put that energy out there you get it back. Like the saying, we lift as we climb.” says Hebert.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Professional Funeral Service, is fully committed to their Ministry of Caring for the bereaved families. While they are adhering to the government mandates and the CDC advisories, they remain available 24 hours, 7 days a week with a complete array of services.
You can learn more about the services Professional Funeral Services offers here https://www.professionalfuneralservices.com/