Tiffany Wesley’s St. Louis-based company was founded out of personal need. Wesley was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and wanted to incorporate organic and gluten-free products into her lifestyle, but quickly learned how difficult they were to find. Undeterred, she began to create her own natural skin and self-care products. She made body butters and essential oils for herself and later made a honey-oat-chamomile soap to treat her daughter’s eczema. The before and after photos she posted on social media lit a fire and inquiries from friends and family piled up. Pure Vibes was started out of Wesley’s basement in 2013.
The company pursued a path many small businesses know well: scratchy beginnings, patronage from friends and family, and then the need for more capital to keep growing. Wesley applied for funding from a business accelerator program and took second place. This qualified her for a microloan from Justine PETERSEN, a community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides capital to businesses in underserved communities. That investment helped Wesley’s business flourish. But in 2020 she hit a wall.
“We’ve gotten bigger and our customer base has changed from local pickups at my doorstep to bringing customers across the country,” said Wesley. “I wanted to increase production and move to an e-commerce model, but I just didn’t have enough capital to grow my business.”
The solution to Wesley’s challenge was a second, major loan from Justine PETERSEN made possible by Charter Communications, a Fortune 100 broadband connectivity company and cable operator known as Spectrum to over 31 million customers. Through the Spectrum Community Investment Loan Fund, Charter has committed over $ 22 million to support small businesses in 41 states, including a $ 10 million business support partnership with the National Urban League and the National Action Network in black possession.
“Investing in CDFIs helps build a community’s financial infrastructure,” said Jeff Buller, vice president, charter and head of the loan fund. “Our goal is to make economic impacts by investing in small businesses and creating jobs in underserved communities. Through the loan fund, we invest directly in the communities in which our employees and customers live and work. “
Using the loan fund, Charter not only invested $ 1 million in Justine PETERSEN, but also made a grant to provide technical support and small business training to local business owners.
Charter selected Justine PETERSEN as its investment partner because of her proven community impact in the St. Louis area, where Charter employs over 5,300 people and a large customer base. Charter is also committed to empowering and investing in communities to transform lives through community impact programs that focus on digital literacy, under-represented college students, and staff-supported community organizations.
According to a 2018 report by the Small Business Administration, black business owners are more likely to be undercapitalized to start their business and experience higher rejection rates when trying to build funding relationships. And if approved, black business owners are twice as likely as white business owners to get less than the amount requested.
“The ability to get a big loan can really transform a business,” said Galen Gondolfi, senior loan advisor at Justine PETERSEN. “Minority-owned companies generally tend to starve for capital – especially when it comes to larger loans. Investing in Charter’s loan fund is vital and allows us to provide the larger loans that small businesses like Pure Vibes need to improve their scalability. “
Thanks to the investment from the Spectrum Community Investment Loan Fund, Wesley will increase the manufacturing and distribution capacity of Pure Vibes by purchasing additional equipment and moving to a larger facility. She can also hire a new full-time employee and a part-time employee. Wesley’s next goal is to be in a strong financial place and to give back by donating hygiene products to low-income residents and the homeless in St. Louis.
Wesley’s advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is, “Don’t be afraid to get out of there. Often times, black business owners fear failure when it comes to applying for funding – have the confidence to take your shot. “