Boxes of healthy fruit snacks are unloaded at the Crispy Green warehouse. The company’s snacks — in flavors like mango and apple — are in over 5,000 retail stores across 45 states. But, founder and CEO Angela Liu says she’s come a long way from where she started.
“Started literally in my garage as my warehouse,” Liu said.
Liu says she didn’t have any background on how to start a business, let alone about the snack market, but she believed in the freeze drying technology used to make her product so she put in the hard work.
“I would drive all the way to Bronx for a PTA program. I know it’s not a place to sell a lot of product. It’s certainly not covering my gas cost. But I just say it’s an opportunity to get someone, even if it’s 10 parents or 10 kids come by taste the product and say ‘I like it’, it’s 10 new customers or 10 new potential customers and the word spreads,” she said.
Liu initially got financial help from friends and family, but her first loan was backed by the Small Business Administration, or SBA. She also used the federal agency’s resources to help her with her business plan and for guidance
“That was very helpful because for a small business entrepreneur and having that loan and line of credit as a security line, a lifeline, gives a lot of sense of security,” Liu said.
Soon her company started getting profiled in newspapers and Liu was being recognized as a “rising star.”
For 65 years, the SBA has been helping small businesses like Liu’s across the country with things like loans, counseling and government contracting.
“It started with Eisenhower as a way to help small businesses get into defense contracting actually and has since expanded beyond that,” said Lead Business Opportunity Specialist at the SBA, Dominick Belfiore.
Companies like Nike, Ben & Jerry’s, Chipotle, Federal Express, Apple and Chobani yogurt also got help from the SBA in the early stages. This year, the organization is on track to approve $34 billion in loans to small businesses across the country. That’s a 13 percent increase over last year.
“Statistics show that seven in 10 new jobs are created in small business, not large business,” said Rep. Leonard Lance.
In New Jersey, it’s the way same upward trend. The SBA is on target to approve $900 million in loan guarantees, and the organization says that shows that entrepreneurs are optimistic enough to continue to invest more in their business.
“You have to be willing to do everything yourself and do things that you never tried,” Liu said.
Liu says in order to grow her company to a recognized brand it was also important to surround herself with good consultants, people with knowledge on the food industry and people with marketing expertise.
You can still find old packaging in the archives at her new warehouse as a reminder of her small business beginnings.