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Yes, You Can Get An SBA Loan. Ask this Fashion Entrepreneur.

Renee Claire Bertrand founder of Bedhead Pajamas on growing a small business
Renee Claire Bertrand founder of Bedhead Pajamas on growing a small business

The founder of Bedhead Pajamas was able to expand her business with an SBA loan.

It all started with a young woman from Ontario, Canada, with a passion for fabrics and fashion who spent long winters in her basement sewing and designing. Little did Renee Claire Bertrand know that her years of honing DIY fundamentals and her creative take on fashion would transform the world of sleepwear.

In 1981, long before Etsy, fashion bloggers or Instagram #lookbooks, Bertrand loaded up her van and headed west to Los Angeles to make a statement in the fashion world. Like so many in L.A. with a dream, she designed clothing by day and waited tables at night. One day, as she was delivering a collection of her dresses to a local retailer, she caught sight of a pair of pajamas in a boutique window. Although fashion was an extremely competitive space, Bertrand quickly learned that the world of pajamas was not – at least, not yet. She realized that sleepwear at that time lacked sophistication and fine tailoring, and she knew she had found an untapped segment of the market. Bertrand dove into this new pursuit, learning how to make her own dyed and patterned cotton textiles. BedHead Pajamas was born.

Bertrand’s unique, often whimsical patterns quickly generated interest, with several major stores scooping up her distinctive collections. Within just three years, the company was producing more than 50,000 pairs of pajamas, all personally designed by Bertrand and locally sewn. The brand is now sold in more than 1,500 boutiques and numerous department stores worldwide. It has even become a wardrobe staple on several TV shows, including the popular sitcom “New Girl.”

Small Businesses Can Get Loans

Revenue was steady for BedHead Pajamas, but a larger location was a necessary stepping-stone to expansion. But Bertrand didn’t think that a small-business loan was attainable.

In 2014, small businesses made up 99.7 percent of employers nationwide and 99.2 percent in California, according to the Small Business Administration. Yet many small businesses aren’t familiar with how SBA loans can help them transform their businesses.

Like Bertrand, many small-business owners are skeptical when it comes to borrowing funds, thinking that the requirements and process will be difficult or complicated. She said working with an experienced SBA lender saved a lot of steps and made the process easier.

One of the major advantages of an SBA loan is in real estate financing: SBA borrowers can purchase a building and enjoy up to 90 percent financing and 25-year terms, as opposed to the 65 percent financing with five- to 10-year terms usually offered by conventional loans. “Those are all huge perks, especially when cash flow is limited,” said Wai-Chun Li, senior vice president and manager of the SBA Lending Department at East West Bank.

The Lightbulb Moment

After talking with her loan officer, Bertrand was surprised by some of the options available to her. Not only could she purchase a building with an SBA loan, but she could do so with a mortgage payment that was less than her monthly rent.

“Additionally, the increasing equity in her building could help fund her retirement, making her SBA loan not only perfect for the short term, but a great long-term investment,” Li said.

Today, BedHead Pajamas continues to grow, adding new lines for children, tweens, “Mommy and Me” and men. “I had no idea an SBA loan could take me so far,” Bertrand said. “Not only am I enjoying the ride, I feel confident about my future, too.”

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