Borrower Story: Roberto’s Winds & Michiko Studios in NYC

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Finding the space to create

While New York City is overflowing with artists and creatives, one thing the city is always short on is space. This is especially true for musicians who need rehearsal spaces that are both affordable and acoustically sound. That’s where Roberto Romeo (pictured) saw a tremendous opportunity to expand his small business and support the community of local musicians.

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As the owner of Roberto’s Winds for more than a decade, Roberto had established a reputation as the premier retailer of woodwinds in New York City. With a showroom and shop known internationally, musicians travel from abroad to purchase instruments and accessories from Roberto, to view his high-end saxophone collection, and to hear his stories after 35 years in the the New York music business.

Getting the funding and guidance to grow

Roberto not only built a successful business, but brought together a large community of musicians that he wanted to support and grow. Listening to the needs of the artists, Roberto formed Michiko Studios, a music rehearsal studio for solo practice, teaching, or large-group rehearsals that can be rented by the hour. By the end of its first full year of operations as an independent company in 2015, Michiko Studios was operating at its full capacity, and Roberto decided he wanted to add more rehearsal rooms to meet the demand. With that decision, however, came the need for additional funding. Roberto didn’t have all the necessary capital to go out and acquire more space. That’s when he turned to Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF) to see if they could help him execute his plan.

Comprehensive support from a CDFI

Roberto already had $200,000 of the $300,000 he budgeted for the expansion, but he needed the rest of the funds to finish the work. The business was going strong and already generating a profit, so creditworthiness wasn’t the key concern.  What the EGF Business Advisory Service (BAS) team did help with was increasing the chance that Oscar’s loan would be approved on more satisfactory terms. Together with Roberto, EGF developed a detailed business and financial plan to demonstrate to lenders that Michiko is solvent and prudently run. The BAS team supported him through every step of the loan process, too. They worked with Roberto extensively one-on-one to package his application, explain lender expectations, and present financial metrics for his business. Roberto was not only approved for $100,000 loan to finish renovations, but also for an extra $150,000 for debt refinance and to purchase additional assets like furniture and studio equipment.

This story is one more example of how CDFIs share in the success of their borrowers. The relationship doesn’t end when you get the loan and they tell you ‘Good luck, no go sink or swim.’ Instead, CDFIs work to help their borrowers succeed. Its a win for everyone. The borrowers get free guidance, and better service, the CDFIs then have more savvy and motivated borrowers, and the communities benefit from increased investment and job growth.

Another success story from the community investment model

Ultimately, with the guidance and funding from EGF and its BAS team, Roberto expanded Michiko Studios to include four more studio spaces and another area for rehearsals. Roberto also hired several employees to support the expansion. This community development project not only filled a need for musicians in the city–leading to more beautiful music–but it helped strengthen the local economy.

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