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Having an entrepreneurial spirit is one of the many common threads shared by Kabbage employees. As a company that promotes both collective and individual growth, we celebrate when our employees delve deeper into their interests outside of the office and, in some cases, make a business out of it. We sat down with four Kabbage entrepreneurs to learn about their companies and how they strike a balance between contributing to Kabbage and running their companies.

Cosecha – Katie Garstin, Marketing

Cosecha, meaning “harvest” in Spanish, is a chocolate company founded by Katie in Marketing. While living in Panama for two years, Katie visited a cocoa farm and learned about the practice of making chocolate. She brought this inspiration back to the U.S. and consumed as much as she could about the process through articles on the internet, recipes and books.

Katie invested in small-scale equipment that allows her to replicate the detailed process from roasting the cocoa beans to forming the bars from scratch. Like many entrepreneurs, Katie started with a period of trial and error to consider the many variables that go into making the perfect chocolate. The room temperature must be just right, the chocolate has to be the right temperate to mold it, and the ingredients must be measured very precisely. As Katie perfected her unique chocolate bars using cocoa beans imported from Panama, she started producing the chocolate in larger quantities to sell it.

Katie maintains strong ties with the Panamanian farmers who harvest her cocoa beans. This is crucial because farming is a waning tradition in Panama, as many children of farmers seek other careers. Katie wants to inspire the children to be proud of their family roots; she doesn’t want them to feel as if cocoa farming is a burden. To keep the Panamanian origins of Cosecha, she commissioned Mariery Young, an artist from Panama, to design the colorful chocolate wrappers. In a nutshell, this packaging represents the whole company: though she is U.S.-based, many parts of Panama are central to the company and the product.

Working at Kabbage has kept Katie motivated and optimistic about Cosecha. “Kabbage is a very supportive place when it comes to being an entrepreneur,” she said. “My advice to fellow entrepreneurs is just go for it. Ask questions, do research and share your ideas with as many people and in as many ways as you can.”

Bryn Mawr Goods – Willie Marlow, Service Desk

Willie, who leads our in-house Service Desk, has always had an interest in textiles and fashion. While working at Apple for seven years, he noticed a large portion of the store’s revenue was generated through accessories. After examining the backpack and taking notes on all its features, he bought some leather and a sewing machine and started practicing his own creations.

Once he conquered sewing a straight line, he purchased a backpack pattern. “The first backpack I made was horrible,” he said. “I decided to focus on simpler projects I knew I could do well, so I made wallets and computer sleeves. Learning to sew was like a big puzzle. I taught myself how to sew by trial and error and gradually put the pieces together.”

After a lot of practice, Willie parlayed his passion into a business called Bryn Mawr Goods. He was thrilled to find that people loved the authenticity and durability of his products. Despite the time-consuming nature of running a business, Willie loves that he can dictate his own hours and choose how fast or slow the company grows. As the sole person behind the brand, he is determined to perfect each product before he puts it on the market.

Willie continues to pursue his goals in both his job at Kabbage and in his own business because he loves both paths. “Starting a company by yourself can be tiring on your body and mind, but stay focused, and you will go far,” he said. “Inevitably, every entrepreneur reaches a point when he or she needs to ask for help, and doing so can only bring about positive change.”

Be Good Shop – Bryanna Simpson, Customer Service

Bryanna never would have guessed that her jewelry hobby would turn into a full-fledged business. When she moved from California to Atlanta in 2012, she wanted to learn new skills. She took two classes: one on beekeeping and one on jewelry making. While the beekeeping hobby didn’t stick, Bryanna continued to make jewelry. With encouragement from her friends and family – her first customers – she began selling her creations on Etsy and eventually created her own BeGoodShop website and began filling wholesale orders to local businesses.

Bryanna’s goal is to make simple, clean pieces that use high-quality materials. Because of the versatility, Be Good Shop has risen in popularity in a few short years.

Outside of her expertise on the Customer Service team at Kabbage, Bryanna has learned about all aspects of operating a business, including marketing, sales and production. Like many retailers, she enjoys an annual lift at the end of the year as many customers buy her jewelry as gifts.

“One of my favorite parts of owning Be Good Shop is talking to customers and interacting with people when I participate in festivals and popup shops,” she said. “Asking questions is always important when starting a business because you want to use as much information as is available.”

FamilyHood – Marcus Whitaker, Service Desk

It’s not every day someone is inspired to start a business by a house party, but that’s exactly what happened to Marcus, a member of our Service Desk team. One of his roommates suggested he throw a house party in a way that no one ever had. Marcus invited a few local musicians, requested that all guests dress up and bought beer from a local brewery. The party drew a crowd of around 100. Following this success, Marcus began hosting more events with ever-growing attendance.

Marcus decided to make his talent for hosting events into a company he named FamilyHood. Later, partnered with Jake, a painter and art enthusiast, to specialize in the creative side of the business, while Marcus oversees the behind-the-scenes work. The company now exists to bring together people from all parts of Atlanta.

FamilyHood throws art gallery-style parties every month at Eventide, a local brewery. These events feature local artists and musicians. This combination of drinks, art and music creates an eclectic experience that displays diversity and an inclusive and united atmosphere. FamilyHood’s tagline, “community vibes,” embodies the energy of the company. The events are a place where people from many backgrounds and locations can come together and share an enjoyable experience.

Since starting the events, FamilyHood’s events have gotten so popular that most Atlanta artists are familiar with the company now.

Even though the prospect of failure can be intimidating, owning a business has ultimately been rewarding for Marcus. “Having creative freedom is what I love most about being an entrepreneur,” he said. “With running a startup, it’s always a gamble; you may be making the right decision, or the wrong one, but ultimately the company won’t grow unless you make those tough choices.”

Though it can be challenging to balance his job at Kabbage with FamilyHood, he says that it’s worth it because he loves both jobs so much that it doesn’t feel like work; he gets to follow his passion.

These Kabbage entrepreneurs are inspirational and a great representation of the hard-working small business owners we fund every day. Their persistence in growing their businesses while balancing full-time careers at Kabbage is remarkable – and we have even more current and former team members who have started their own companies. Though starting a business can be intimidating and exhausting, these four small business owners have demonstrated that they have what it takes to continue to be successful leaders.

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Kabbage Team

The Kabbage Team is here to not only fund the small business loans you need, but to help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.

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