Microloan program helps Vintage V-Twin grow

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A Hillyard, Wash., shop has been repairing and restoring vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles for about six years, but it took a loan from a social service agency to kick-start the small business.

With a microloan of just $8,000, Bill and Sue Tillie were able to expand Vintage V-Twin LLC from a home-based business to a commercial shop. The business does “museum-quality” Harley restoration and custom work. SNAP Financial Access offers loans from $500 to $35,000 to Spokane County “microenterprises” – businesses with fewer than five employees, according to the Spokesman-Review. The nonprofit helps low- to moderate-income families get on track financially with financial education and loans to start up or expand small businesses.

The SNAP loan let the Tillies buy tire service equipment and tire inventory and establish a relationship with Drag Specialties, which means they can repair late-model Harleys as well as doing vintage restorations. Harley enthusiasts from as far away as British Columbia and Montana turn to the Tillies for parts and service for motorcycles built from 1936 to 2010.

“Once we got into Drag Specialties, it opened a lot of doors for us,” says Bill Tillie, an automotive master mechanic with 38 years of experience in motorcycles. The loan led to a 30 percent increase in business, enough to hire another mechanic.

The SNAP microenterprise program is authorized by the federal Community Development Institutions Fund. It has partnered with Numerica and The Union credit unions, and Northwest Business Development Associates, to extend credit with interest rates of between 6 and 8 percent, depending on the loan fund.

Several funding sources are available, including money for city or county residents, refugees and sustainable development.

“We deal with people that can’t get loans through banks,” David Heyamoto, business development manager for SNAP Financial Access, told the newspaper. “Essentially we are doing loans no one else will.”

Posted by Holly Wagner