March 1, 2019 | Case Studies
Trish Ciliberti’s path to small business ownership was far from typical. Unlike most business owners who set out to build their dream, Ciliberti started by investing in someone else’s.
The Accidental Operator
Trish Ciliberti’s path to small business ownership was far from typical. Unlike most business owners who set out to build their dream, Ciliberti started by investing in someone else’s. As a longstanding holder of royalty rights from oil wells in Montana and the Dakotas, Ciliberti had built considerable expertise in the energy industry that she parlayed into financial success by investing in other oil, gas, and energy-related projects. Despite her track-record of profitable investing, she one day received an ominous call from federal investigators. The news wasn’t good. One of her largest investments was a fraud. In a matter of minutes, what Ciliberti thought was a “home run” investment had turned into a nightmare.
All was not lost, however. While the operators she invested in had used most of her money to line their own pockets, they had deployed a small amount into the development of a few Oklahoma-based oil wells. So, Trish decided to take back what was hers. After waging a [twelve] month legal battle, Ciliberti finally prevailed and in October 2017 she became the sole and rightful owner of three production-ready wells. Thus, was born Ciliberti Energy.
Building the Business
Once in possession of the wells, Ciliberti’s first order of business was to get them up and running as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, she immediately ran into headwinds. First was the issue of location –Ciliberti lived in Arizona, but the wells were in Oklahoma. Second was the issue of gender – as a woman in the male-dominated oil industry, she had to fight through stereotypes and prejudices to be taken seriously by vendors and customers. Third was the issue of building a team – Ciliberti believes that the oil business is one of who you know, not what you know. To build her staff, Ciliberti couldn’t rely on job boards or resume listings; she had to go into the field and start making connections.
Like many small business owners, Trish persevered. Within months, she had landed a customer, hired an operating team, and started generating revenue. After being defrauded, enduring a protracted legal battle, and overcoming multiple obstacles to bring the wells online, most people would have been content simply to recoup their investment and move on. But, Ciliberti had bigger plans – plans that she knew she couldn’t achieve alone. And so began her search for a financing partner.
Ciliberti didn’t need financing. Her quest for business financing originated from a desire to start building a business credit profile to ensure that she wouldn’t have to support the company on personal loans or credit cards as its cash flow demands grew. While Ciliberti’s borrowing plans demonstrated financial responsibility and foresight, she still met rejection at every bank where she applied. The issues were two-fold: first, despite her long-track record in the industry, her newly formed company – Ciliberti Energy – was less than two years old; and second, the oil and gas industries were viewed as high-risk, landing them on the “restricted industry” list of most lenders.
Unsure of where to turn, Trish went online to search for alternative small business funding options where she connected with a New York-based financing brokerage that introduced her to Forward Financing. Though unfamiliar with merchant cash advance funding and wary of its higher cost relative to traditional funding, Trish was relieved to have found a funding partner that looked beyond her company’s age and industry to instead focus on its current financial success.
“While merchant cash advance funding seemed a bit expensive, I know you have to spend money to make money,” said Ciliberti. “If I had to spend a little extra upfront to build a profitable and steadily growing company for the long-term, I knew that was worth it.”
By working with her dedicated Account Executive, Trish was able to secure an initial advance of $5,000 in [just a couple of days]. A few months later, she received additional funding of nearly triple that amount. Despite some initial concerns about merchant cash advances, Ciliberti felt at ease from the moment of her first interaction with Forward Financing.
“Bobby [her account manager] was awesome! He was so interested in learning about my business and in making sure I had a phenomenal experience,” Ciliberti commented. “And the entire Forward Financing team was the same way – friendly, straightforward, knowledgeable, and easy to deal with.”
With her business credit profile strengthening by the day, Ciliberti is closing in on her future goal of obtaining a $50,000 bank line of credit. In the meantime, she isn’t slowing down. In fact, before working with Forward, she was already eyeing her next acquisition. Now, as a Forward Financing client, Ciliberti Energy is positioned not only for eyeing future opportunities, but for buying them too.