Arkansas Finish Line
January 15, 2019 | Case Studies
How it Began
Mike Vaculik returned to Arkansas looking for his next big win. After spending most of his 20s as a semi-pro hockey player in Canada, Mike had reluctantly come to accept the fact that “you get old and people get faster,” and that his next shift wouldn’t be on the ice, but rather somewhere in the equally rough-and-tumble world of American business. So, after trading in his skates for a pair of steel toes, Mike packed his bags and made the trip south to the Little Rock area where his path to small business ownership began.
Through an introduction from a friend, Mike landed a job at a local furniture repair store. There he would spend his days reupholstering sofas, refinishing dinged tables, and reviving aged leather, feeling a deep sense of satisfaction each time a customer flashed a “good as new” grin across their face. With an athlete’s determination, Mike honed his craft, quickly gaining a reputation as an expert repairman and developing a loyal following not just for his technical skill, but also for his reliable, personable service. While he wasn’t aware of it at the time, it would be this loyal following that would help transform Mike from small business employee to small business owner just a few months later.
As the old saying goes, “When one door closes another opens.” Mike’s opening arrived after one-and-a-half years on the job when his company hit a rough patch and was forced to close its doors. Rather than look for another job, Mike saw an opportunity to carry on what he had started at his former employer and go into business for himself.
So, in January 2013, with six of his most loyal clients in tow, Finish Line Furniture Repair and Auto Revive was born.
The Early Years
When Finish Line first launched, Mike was a one-man-band focused exclusively on furniture repair. Retailers, both national chains and local mom-and-pop operations, would contract with Finish Line to handle repairs in their customers’ homes. Every time a retailer received a complaint or logged a warranty claim, they would call on Mike, who would hop in his truck, head out to the client’s home, and work his magic. Though his first year was modest – he managed just $32k in sales – Mike could sense that there was significant growth ahead. And he was right.
As word spread about Finish Line, Mike was inundated with requests from new retailers. Moreover, what had started as a casual side-hustle – repairing leather interiors, paint scratches, and dented door panels on automobiles – had become a second, full-blown line of business. To keep pace with growing customer demand, Mike needed to start hiring a team. Though expanding his workforce solved the problem of satisfying all his new customers, it created a problem of its own: While Finish Line’s revenue was growing, Mike noticed that his cash balance was dwindling.
Though Finish Line repaired furniture and automobiles for the end consumer, it was paid by the retailer who had originally made the sale. And, while Mike had to pay his repairman every Monday for the jobs they completed, his retailer clients often took as long as 90 days to pay him.
“Every day I’d go to the mailbox,” Mike lamented, “and I’d see Pizza Hut fliers, but no checks.”
Mike’s customers always paid; they simply took their time doing so. And, in the interim, Mike sometimes struggled to meet payroll.
“I’ve always paid my guys. I’ve never once been late,” Mike stated proudly. “There were times I had to sell some toys to make sure I could, but I would go poor to make sure my team is taken care of.”
Realizing that growth was consuming cash faster than he could collect it from his customers, Mike decided that he needed to build a cash cushion that would enable him to continue expanding without wondering whether his account would be in the red come payday. So, he started looking for financing.
At the suggestion of a friend and fellow entrepreneur, Mike connected with a loan advisor at a New York City-based brokerage that specializes in helping small businesses find products to help bridge cash flow gaps. After completing a quick application – consisting of a credit report and few months’ worth of bank statements – Mike was presented with a handful of options for fast cash, the most attractive among them being from Forward Financing.
While working through a loan broker was a bit frustrating, Mike was amazed at just how smooth and transparent everything became once he connected directly with his account representative at Forward Financing, Brian.
Brian explained clearly how the financing worked, what was required to fund, and when Mike would be eligible for a renewal. Within days, Mike had $5k in his bank account, giving him sufficient capital to buy an advanced stain extractor and maintain a buffer for payroll.
“My experience with Forward Financing hasn’t been good, it has been amazing!” Mike explained. “They didn’t overpromise or underpromise. They told me what to expect and kept me informed throughout the entire process. There were no loopholes or fine print. Forward Financing was right on the money.”
Receiving Funding… Again
As Finish Line continued to grow, Mike saw yet another opportunity to put additional financing to use. This time he wanted to purchase a paint mixing machine that would allow him to perfectly match colors on furniture and leather. However, before he could call Brian, his account manager at Forward Financing, his phone started to ring. It was Brian.
After repaying more than 60% of his first advance, Mike learned that he was eligible for a renewal. He explained to Brian that this time he needed more money — $10k in total – and Brian didn’t skip a beat obtaining an approval.
“The second time around was so easy from start to finish,” commented Mike. “Brian already understood my financials and knew exactly where I needed to be.”
Where is Finish Line Now
With hard work, determination, and some financial support from Forward Financing along the way, Finish Line Furniture and Auto Revive is on pace to record $750k in sales in 2018. The company has grown from six furniture clients to more than 100, along with 12 automobile dealerships. Mike’s company now has nearly 20 people on staff across 11 states working on behalf of name-brand clients such as Ashley Furniture, Costco, and Restoration Hardware.
And, Mike isn’t planning to stop there.
“Business is booming,” he exclaimed. “In 2019, I see no reason why we won’t be a million-dollar company!”