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Entrepreneurs lean on community banks

Entrepreneurs lean on community banks

​​​​​​​​​​​A bigger piece of the pie​: A case study from Gainesville, Georgia, United States, from WSBI member ICBA's Independent Banker magazine

​​The July issue of Independent Banker magazine focuses on why small businesses love their community banks—especially now. The cover story profiles four enterprising business owners whose community banks have guided them through thick and thin.

​The magazine is available on the Independent Banker website and via the digital edition.​​

Published on WSBI-ESBG website: 3 July 2020

By Roshan McArthur​

Case study: Amanda Wilbanks, Southern Baked Pie Company, Gainesville, Ga.

Amanda Wilbanks founded what is now the Southern Baked Pie Company in Gainesville, Ga., in 2012. She started by bringing sweet and savory pie recipes to life using a family recipe for all-butter pie dough. Today, she operates out of four locations statewide, ships her creations nationwide and is the author of her own pie cookbook, Southern Baked: Celebrating Life with Pie.

“I started out of my house, just baking for my family,” Wilbanks says. “I thought I would take the pies that I was baking to my neighbors, but then we would end up eating a pie before we ever made it to a neighbor’s house. My husband came in one day and said, ‘I think you need to start selling these.’ He said that on a Tuesday, and, by Thursday, I had started selling pies at local festivals here in Gainesville, and it just grew from there.”

Her bank of choice for this extraordinary journey has been $13.1 billion-asset United Community Bank in Blairsville, Ga.—and her banker of choice is Dawn Justus, its vice president and relationship manager for the greater Atlanta area.

“I would say that a big draw to United Community Bank was her,” Wilbanks says, “because I think women root for other women. When I started the business, I think she thought, ‘This is never going to work, but I’m not going to tell this poor girl that!’ She rooted for me. As a small business owner, when you start out and you only have $400 that you want to put in an account, most people would laugh at you. She didn’t, and that meant a lot to me. She still believes in me to this day, and now we’re a multimillion-dollar company.”​

Wilbanks’ main challenge was finding people to fund her fledgling business, and United Community Bank came through with a line of credit that started at $50,000. “It was just nice because they knew us personally,” she says. “They knew the company, a

nd most of the bankers shop with us here in Gainesville, so I think they believed in it and they wanted to see it grow.”

That line of credit allowed Wilbanks to invest in equipment to build out a production facility and, more recently, to expand the business to a new location in Vinings, Ga. “I don’t know that I would have had as good an experience with a large bank, because they don’t necessarily know you as well,” she says. “My kids play ball with Dawn’s kids. It’s nice to have that community feeling.”

When the Covid-19 crisis hit, Wilbanks and Justus were calling and texting outside of office hours. “We just have that kind of a relationship,” Wilbanks says. “You need it at a time like this more than ever. This is the first crisis that we’ve ever been through. We called Dawn the day after President Trump made his first speech and said we need to start figuring out what we need to do here. So, we talked about the line of credit. We talked about the SBA loans that she thought would come through. We started getting our game plan together at the very beginning.”

The results have exceeded expectations so far. “We have not let anyone go, and we’ve kept running,” Wilbanks says. “It’s amazing. It really is.”​ 

Image: Amanda Wilbanks, founder of Southern Baked Pie Company, 

​​​​​​​​with her banker, Dawn Justus from United Community Bank. 

Photo: Audra Melton

U.S. Community banks: Top small-business lenders, leading Paycheck Protection Program participants

Independent Community Bankers of America® (ICBA) President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey released on 2 July a statement on congressional passage of legislation to extend the Paycheck Protection Program through Aug. 8.

"As the nation's top small-business lenders and leading Paycheck Protection Program participants, community banks will continue working to meet the needs of their customers and local communities.

"Community banks have been an economic lifeline to local communities during the Covid-19 pandemic, including through their participation in the Paycheck Protection Program. Combined, they account for more than 66 percent of PPP loans and 63 percent of the program's approved dollar amount, according to SBA data.

"While community banks will continue supporting their local economies, we are also advocating additional reforms to include in the next Covid-19 relief bill to support small businesses and jobs in rural, suburban, and urban markets. In addition to a more straightforward approach to PPP loan forgiveness, ICBA and community bankers also encourage Congress to advance capital and accounting relief, liability protection, tax reform, agricultural support, and more.

"ICBA and the nation's community banks will continue working with Congress and the Trump administration to implement policies that will help local communities recover economically from the Covid-19 pandemic."​

>> Read more case studies like thes in Independent Banker magazine

Communication - institutional & commercial; SME finance