Thread Capital and our client TECPark were recently featured in the Triad Business Journal as part of a series of articles sponsored by Wells Fargo. To read the other articles in the series click here
In 2016, Alana and Steven Bennett’s youngest son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. That led them to look for places to take him and his older brother for recreation and education, like horseback riding and music fairs.
Quickly, they discovered these environments often could not accommodate typical developing and atypical developing children at the same time. Wanting to create inclusive and interactive environments their boys could experience together, the parents began hosting pop-up events like Easter egg hunts and movie-and-pizza nights at parks and community centers around their hometown of Mebane near Burlington.
By early 2021, when the boys were 12 and 7, the Bennetts decided to create a business focusing on inclusive childcare. Funding from Thread Capital, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) providing small business loans in North Carolina, gave them the money to open TECpark in Burlington in January 2022.
The business offers flexible childcare, educational programming, and facility rental and space for children’s parties. Life skills development and social opportunities are also part of the business model for individuals with ADHD; autism; Down syndrome; physical disabilities; and learning, social and emotional disorders.
Soon after opening, rain and snow flooded the building through a leak in the roof. The Bennetts moved as many of the furnishings that could be saved into storage, while they paused to strategize. After explaining their situation to Thread Capital, they received payment extension that helped the Bennetts save TECpark.
“Being able to have that relationship with Thread Capital at the local level made it possible to open a physical facility, hire staff and outfit the space,” Alana Bennett said. “And then, when a disaster hit, that relationship gave us the breathing room to push our payments out while we regrouped and figured everything out.”
The business did, indeed, regroup and reopened last summer.
Coaching and connections
Thread Capital serves entrepreneurs like the Bennetts with the help of Wells Fargo. The bank has been an annual supporter of Thread Capital since it was established in 2018, providing more than $400,000 over the years to help fund coaching, connections and loan programs designed for small business owners. Wells Fargo also has provided grants for marketing, which helps Thread Capital reach more small business owners.
“Wells Fargo is proud to continue our support for Thread Capital and their efforts to assist small businesses in North Carolina,” said Clarence McDonald, Commercial Banking market executive for Wells Fargo in the Triad. “Small businesses are the heartbeat of our communities and Wells Fargo is committed to helping them succeed financially.”
With hundreds of locations and more than 34,000 employees in North Carolina, Wells Fargo is committed to supporting communities in the state in the areas of housing, small business, financial health and a low-carbon future. In 2021, Wells Fargo provided more than $12.3 million in grants to
nonprofit organizations across North Carolina, making it one of the top corporate philanthropists. The bank is particularly focused on assisting small business owners and entrepreneurs; philanthropic efforts and giving back through grants and employee volunteerism/nonprofit board service; and support of racially and ethnically diverse small businesses disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
“Thread Capital’s work with small business owners across the state of North Carolina is made possible by its partners,” said Jonathan Brereton, executive director of Thread Capital. “Providing coaching, connections and capital to thousands of small business owners has been made possible by Wells Fargo. They have supported us through our start, several hurricanes and a global pandemic. We are grateful for their support, and we look forward to working together for years to come.”
Thread Capital originally referred the Bennetts to a different lender in 2021. When that didn’t work out, the couple returned to Thread Capital and received coaching and a connection to Operation HOPE, which provides financial education, courses on credit score improvement, and information on pathways toward homeownership and starting a business.
To help the Bennetts secure the loan, Thread Capital worked with them to tweak financial projections and shift the business model toward memberships. “They were responsive, easy to work with and open-minded in terms of our feedback,” said Chris Lovegreen, Thread Capital’s lending team manager. “We always try to focus not just on the business but the people behind the business when we’re making decisions about a loan.
“We were right in our assessment of the Bennetts who wear their passion for their business on their sleeves. A lot of other business owners may have thrown in the towel when their leasehold improvements were destroyed, but not Alana and Steve. They are both humble and resilient.”