Unique Startup Finds Financing That Fits
Tune into this week’s episode of Money, I’m Home as Lynne is joined by Consumers’ Business Loan Manager Shannon Dwyer and the CEO of LABR to discuss the company’s startup experience and how their partnership with Consumers helped set them on the path to success.
0:00:06.8 Lynne Jarman-Johnson (LJJ): Money, I’m home. Welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. From finance to fitness, we have it all. And today, we have very special guests talking about business and making sure we help your business grow. Let’s introduce you, Taylor Preston. He is the CEO of LABR. Wait till you hear about this new startup company here in West Michigan. And Shannon Dwyer is our business loan manager here in Grand Rapids and the whole West Michigan market, and she is helping make sure that you succeed in your business. Shannon, thanks so much for being with us today.
0:00:39.6 Shannon Dwyer (SD): Yeah, thanks for having me.
0:00:41.0 LJJ: Well, we are so excited to hear this story. And Taylor, I’m going to start with you. You are a young entrepreneur. Tell us a little bit about how you started.
0:00:49.0 Taylor Preston (TP): It all started from my business partner, Christian Hefner, and an idea way long ago that we couldn’t pull off at the time, and it turns out it was a good idea. And over the years, we talked more and more and more and finally gave it a whack, and we started LABR, which provides unskilled labor to businesses. It’s similar to an Uber-type app where businesses have a need for workers in short duration, they enter it on the app and then our workers pick up shifts that fit their schedule.
0:01:13.9 LJJ: This is so exciting. Shannon, tell me, do you remember the first time you heard about this novel idea here in the marketplace?
0:01:21.7 SD: Yeah, absolutely. And we hear it from businesses all the time, and I think, especially after COVID, it’s like staffing is continually their biggest pain point. But I think, like, in meeting with you, it’s like, okay, you’re bringing a solution to this problem in a really innovative way that I don’t feel like it’s been done like that in this market. So yeah, it was exciting. And then it was pretty neat because early on, Taylor, it was mostly you and Christian. And could you talk a little bit about how it’s transformed?
0:01:52.0 TP: Yeah, I absolutely kind of go on and on about that. But at the very beginning, when we were just thinking it was such a good idea, we got very lucky by COVID, as you mentioned, and the timing. I’ll take all the luck we can get. We couldn’t have asked for a better time to launch it. Getting going, it’s a lot of talking and dreaming. And then we finally took the plunge to do it, which is when I got put in touch with Shannon. We were a pretty tough business to finance at the time. And that’s how our whole relationship started.
0:02:20.0 LJJ: You mentioned that. It’s still tough out there, isn’t it? And what is it about Consumers that helped you, Taylor?
0:02:25.3 TP: I think the flexibility upfront. We’re not an asset-based company. We’re a tech startup with codebase. And just the fact that she’d even sit down with me was awesome. And then Kurt came up with some creative ways that we were able to get some initial working capital that we definitely needed. I was ready to be done being the bank so it worked out pretty well. And she was super helpful in how we frame it up and what was important in the underwriting process and get something that was fair to the bank and also fair to us. That was instrumental in us getting going back in… Was that 2021?
0:02:54.0 LJJ: Shannon, how do you feel? Here it is. You’re listening to the needs of a very unique business, but this is what you do all day long.
0:03:01.7 SD: Right, right. And every business is so different. But I will say you came with a plan. We worked together to come up with a solution, but you were extremely organized, you know, had your plan set out, had your projections. We creatively structured something. So, I think all of that helps. It’s like when you come into a financial institution, you don’t know exactly what it is that you’re going to need, and we can absolutely work together. But I think coming in as prepared as you were, it was definitely helpful.
0:03:30.4 TP: Well, that’s funny that you say that because I’m pretty sure I started off saying, “I doubt there’s anything you could do to help, but here you go.”
0:03:35.1 SD: “But this is what I’m doing. This is where we’re going.” And, no, it was super helpful for us.
0:03:41.3 TP: Well, it was awesome at the beginning just to get the ball rolling, and the relationship evolved from there. And I always say, “No news is good news.” And it’s just been easy the whole time, which usually that’s not the experience for any service provider or bank or lender, so it’s been, hopefully, a mutually beneficial relationship, and it’s been awesome.
0:03:57.5 SD: Absolutely.
0:03:58.4 LJJ: Taylor, what can you give as far as ideas and, I guess, confidence to those who are seeking to either start a business or that are maybe running into financial difficulties where they just are scratching their heads?
0:04:11.8 TP: Starting a business, I would say just take the plunge. I look back, and I tried to make everything perfect. We had to have an app, we had to have this, we had to have that. The reality is, I could have started that without any of it, and I made my own excuses to not do it. And whether that’s forming an LLC, whether that’s calling the banker for the first time, just do something that starts it yourself. Like put yourself into the accountability seat that you have to do this for somebody else, and that really helps get the ball rolling. And then on the financing side, finding somebody like Shannon that’ll just hear you out. You probably don’t have the answers if you’re in financial trouble, but talking to somebody with a different perspective that’s going to look at it differently and have different perspectives, because you’ve got your business. They deal with hundreds of businesses, and just getting an outside perspective, even if you guys can’t work together, but understanding how they look at it will really help you.
0:04:58.4 SD: And I will say, one thing I’ve noticed with you is that you have a really good mentor circle coming in. It’s like you’ve had these discussions with several people before I think you ever came to us.
0:05:10.0 TP: Yeah.
0:05:10.5 SD: I mean, can you speak to that, just your network and how they’ve coached you and helped you along the way?
0:05:16.5 TP: Yeah, I got fortunate right out of college in my first job that somebody took a risk on me as a mentee for absolutely no reason. And he’s turned into… I probably talk to him weekly now. He’s really helped me through my corporate career before I started this. And I’ve had various mentors throughout my corporate career and then now on the entrepreneurship side. And I would say, back to starting a business, find people that have been there, done that. And you look at the people that have been there, and they realize that people help pull them up. And 9 times out of 10, they’re probably too busy to help you, but they want to because they see themselves in your shoes back when they were trying to build their resume or their business or whatever the case was. That’s been instrumental. And I have one that he’s like, “I’ve already made all the mistakes. What? Don’t go make the same mistake.”
0:05:57.0 SD: Yeah, “Don’t do this, but do this.” Yeah, yeah, for sure.
0:06:00.5 LJJ: Shannon, I think one of the things that I see here that you can feel in this conversation is that partnership. And I’m sure there are times that you have to have difficult conversations with business owners but tell us a little bit about how you’re making things better, even if the answer might be no right now.
0:06:20.8 SD: Yeah, and I think it’s understanding the long-term, which Taylor and his group are so good at staying in communication and saying, “Here’s where we are right now, but here’s where we’re going.” You get that long-term outlook of, “Okay, let’s set this up now so we can plan six months out for… ” Maybe it’s a different product or getting creative. So, I think it’s just always staying in communication to understand where the goals are for the company so you can align yourself with that.
0:06:50.0 LJJ: Taylor, tell us, LABR, how do we find out about it?
0:06:52.8 TP: Well, you can go to labr.com. You can go to the app store or Google Play store, download the app.
0:06:56.9 LJJ: But it’s not L-A-B-O-R.
0:07:00.1 TP: L-A-B-R. We get a lot of Labrs. LABR.
0:07:02.3 LJJ: L-A-B-R.
0:07:03.8 TP: L-A-B-R, yep. And then, on your question to Shannon about how you guys can help businesses, I think the other thing in the entrepreneurial role is, you’re always afraid to tell people bad news. And it’s a two-way street, so the more transparent I can be with Shannon, if we default, that doesn’t go well for anybody. So, I think it’s a two-way street. And the better, more clear you can be about, “Hey, here are the issues we had. Here’s where we’re headed. Here’s how we could use your help.” It’s not a one-way relationship. And the bankers, after you build that relationship, they’re there to help you, not to be the police.
0:07:34.3 SD: Right. Absolutely.
0:07:35.0 LJJ: Well, thank you both so much. This has just been a delight.
0:07:38.6 SD: Thank you, Lynne.
0:07:38.9 TP: Thanks for having us.
0:07:39.5 SD: Yes, thanks for having us.
0:07:41.0 LJJ: Hey, thank you for joining us. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. Money, I’m home. If you’d like a conversation here on the couch, yes, we can do it. [laughter] Money, I’m home with Consumers Credit Union.