Written Success partners with select providers for startup financing and alternative funding solutions for business plan clients. One of these trusted providers is OrangeFi, which was founded by Sebastien Boyer. This Spotlight on Success explores his personal journey in entrepreneurship, and delves into how he helps other business owners through the trials of financing the launch and growth of their business.
Ten years ago, he was working as the manager of a marketing and web company, and one of his clients was looking for financing and was trying to find someone to invest $30,000 in his business. Sebastien started to wonder if there was a way he could help — and that was the first step towards leaving his job and going into business with his brother.
“My younger brother was actually the one who started OrangeFi. My client was looking for money, and I said to my brother, ‘Can we help this guy out?’ Sure enough, he was able to secure the funding, and I found the entire thing to be an enjoyable process. I realized that there’s demand and there’s a solution. I was reaching the top of where I could go with my current company and felt like it was time to make a choice about what was next. So I took the risk to go out on a limb and get involved with something totally different.”
As with any new business venture, the early years were challenging.
“For the first three years, building the business was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. It wasn’t easy. I was working 12-hour days because either you’re going to succeed or you’re not. I didn’t have a plan B; my only fallback was to go back and get another job and no way that was happening. That’s what fueled me to stick it out.”
The Challenge of Securing Funding
One of the bigger challenges that entrepreneurs face when starting up or expanding a business is securing financing. As someone who works to help make this happen, Sebastien knows better than most how hard it can be for an entrepreneur to get the money they need.
Explains Sebastien, “In the startup arena, most banks are not lending. Even on the SBA side, what most folks don’t realize is that you can receive a preapproval letter for an SBA loan, but at the end of the day, the individual bank is the one who lends the money. Each bank has their own underwriting criteria above and beyond SBA, so you could qualify based on SBA standards and still not find a bank that’s willing to fund you.”
Over the past 10 years, the financial industry has seen many shifts, and the world of business financing and loans has been greatly impacted. One of the more prevalent issues that have arisen is entrepreneurs failing to build their business credit, and this can have a big impact when they are looking for financing.
“For the past 10 years, we were mainly helping startups and focusing on financing. We found that with business owners that had been in business for an extended time (with millions of dollars in revenue), were still falling back on a personal guarantee when it was time to get funding. The reason why is that they never built their business credit. So we recently branded and launched Business Credit 101, which gives us a platform to educate business owners on building business credit and helps them to prepare themselves so that they can secure financing without a personal guarantee.”
Preparation Can Make All the Difference
Through his work with clients, Sebastien has come to understand that, while securing financing is key for most entrepreneurs and business owners, there’s also a mindset component that goes along with finding success.
“It’s about much more than just the funding. In mentoring or coaching clients who feel less qualified, it’s really a mindset that they have to get into in order to be successful. Regardless of what anyone else says, if you believe you can be approved, you believe you’re qualified, then you can succeed. For us, it’s not just about being the “approved” guys because we help people get their funding; it’s also having the belief that you can reach your dreams.”
Another key aspect of getting approved for financing that people often underestimate is how prepared they need to be ahead of time. If you want to secure an approval, you need to know exactly what’s going on with your finances and credit scores.
“I see personal credit profiles all the time; folks with 800 credit score scores who, due to an error, don’t have the credit they think they do. Most people don’t take the time to review their profiles, and they miss things, like fraud on their credit report or some accounts not reporting accurately. There are resources to check all of these things, but people don’t use them.”
The good news, as Sebastien explains, is that there are steps people can take to ensure their credit is on its way to where they need it to be.
“Everyone should be looking at their personal and business credit. Look at their personal finances, their business revenue, and see what their strengths and weaknesses are, so they can identify what little things they can do to tighten up and make their profile stronger. When it comes to getting financing of any kind, just a little preparation goes a long way.”
Understanding Clients’ Unique Needs
Like any entrepreneur looking for ways to grow their business, Sebastien is always looking for how he can be of greater service to his clients. By understanding who his clients are and their unique challenges, Sebastien and his team can customize their approach.
“There are essentially two types of clients we work with. The first client is the client that needs financing now and wants to prepare or build their business credit for the future. The other client is someone who doesn’t necessarily have an immediate urgent need for financing, but they understand the value of building business credit. Essentially, it’s the same client in terms of the service that we provide, but the sense of urgency varies.”
This is one of the many reasons I refer my clients to Sebastien when they are looking for startup funding and consider him a trusted partner of Written Success — I know he can offer incredible service and personalized support to my clients.
“Our role is to try to come up with a solution for what a client needs now, while also getting them on a path to building their business credit. We assess their needs and then identify what road map we need to prepare — which is going to be unique for everyone — for them to ultimately reach their goals and build their credit. We don’t charge any upfront fees, and there’s no obligation or commitment for us to do that assessment. From there, the client has the opportunity to enroll in our services, or hire us to help them facilitate and deliver on the funding that they need.”
Paying It Forward
Even now, with two bustling businesses keeping him busy, Sebastien continues to look towards the future and how they can be best positioned for growth without sacrificing top-notch customer experience.
“I see us as growing and scaling in a more strategic and precise way as demand grows. We can easily grow our team and bring in more revenue, but you have to be able to service your clients properly and have the foresight to see potential issues that require your attention so you can get ahead of them. We don’t want to grow our business because it ‘looks good.’ We really want to make sure we have the key people in the right positions based on the demand.”
Sebastien and his team have big plans for the next six to twelve months, which include being highly focused on the educational aspect of the business.
“We’re going to start to reach out to universities and look for opportunities to educate young people. Our office is in a coworking environment, and we’ve collaborated with our officemates already this year to do two events, and we’re going to be doing more networking events. We’re also creating coaching workshops where we can invite other business owners and entrepreneurs to come and learn about business credit. We’re really excited about using this platform because it gives us the opportunity to share information and give back to the community. Eventually, we’ll be looking to contribute to helping young entrepreneurs or maybe even starting a nonprofit.”
As Sebastien reflected on his entrepreneurial journey, I asked him to share what advice he’d give someone who was just getting started. Here’s what he has to say:
“Partnering with other companies is one of the key things that has helped us to be very successful. When you’re starting out as a company, you often have limited resources to be able to expand your marketing and generate traffic for the leads that you want. By partnering with other companies whose clients can benefit from our services is a win for everyone. The client is serviced, and the business that we’re partnered with is happy because now they can work with that client. When I first started, it was a lot of cold calling to individual companies to find sales. If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve spent the first year trying to establish relationships, which is what I do currently versus looking for a customer — focus more on building rapport than selling services.”
Written Success honors Sebastien for dedicating himself to helping other entrepreneurs leverage financial solutions to meet their goals.