This story was originally published on ociesmallbusiness.org.
Most small business owners face some obstacles on the road to Startup, but Annika Corbin feels like their “commitment was tested on a daily basis and often the obstacles seemed like they would be impossible to overcome. Having a good idea was not enough. It took a strong business plan, proper funding, guidance from professional resources, and very thick skin.”
The Corbins had come up with a unique concept for a bake shop, one in which they would focus on offering individual pies as compared to whole pies. Another factor unique to the Bake Shop was that it wasn’t going to just focus on sweet, dessert-type pies: it would also offer savory options such as Shepherd’s Pie, Chicken Divan, and Canneloni Pie. Per Annika, “Countless hours of product testing (and tasting!) were involved in formulating our plan for the pie shop. It was a new concept so we had to do all of our own market research and figure out how to carve out our niche. We started making the pies by renting space in a shared commercial kitchen. This allowed us to take on projects and prove…that the idea was working.”
The Corbins chose to locate I Like Pie – Bake Shop in the Claremont Village, more specifically in the courtyard of the local movie theater, as it was ideally suited for their single serving concept. Their product could be enjoyed while sitting in the courtyard, as well as while strolling through the Village.
The concept was solid and innovative. The location was practically tailor-made to their concept. Like it is with many entrepreneurs, however, the one piece to the puzzle that the Corbins lacked was additional financing for the business. Although they had some funds to inject into the business, they still needed a business loan for the remaining funds that would be needed to make their dream a reality. They quickly found a national bank that was enthusiastic about their project, and they secured a tentative loan approval. With all the pieces in place, they signed their lease and started construction. In April 2012, halfway through construction (that they were funding out of their own pocket), the Corbins received word from their lender that their business loan had fallen through.
Now a big decision had to be made. Should they cut their losses and stop their project? Or, should they try and find a new lender (not an easy task in the current economy)? Their intuition told them that they had something special. In fact, they had even been contacted by a production company regarding the possibility of their startup being the focus of a new show that celebrity chef Bobby Flay was developing. Although the timing didn’t work out for the TV show, it did reinforce to the Corbins that they couldn’t give up – that their concept would work.
They had talked with Robert Usher, a business consultant with the Inland Empire SBDC, a few times as they were developing their project. So, they contacted him regarding possible alternative funding sources. He recommended they contact SCE Federal Credit Union, which was expanding their business lending department. The credit union loved the Corbin’s idea, and was able to provide the additional funding that was needed to finalize construction, purchase equipment, and ultimately get the doors open.
We are so pleased to say that our hard work and perseverance has paid off! The Pie Shop is everything we wanted it to be and after only four months, we are exceeding all expectations. The community of Claremont welcomed us with open arms. Our amazing customers find us because of our excellent location and great word-of-mouth so we don’t even need to advertise. Our pies are so popular that we are adding shifts weekly to keep up with demand.