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Get Growing: Up Start Loan Fund Small Business Success Stories

When the team at CenterState CEO began designing Up Start, a collaborative, neighborhood-based business development program, they knew they would need a lending partner that was flexible, creative, and mission-driven. Cooperative Federal was excited to help, building on our three-plus decades of experience serving microbusinesses in Syracuse. Salt City Coffee and AFICA were among the first cohort of Up Start graduates to be funded by a dedicated loan pool at Coop Fed.

Antonisha Owens founded AFICA when she was working as a hair stylist at a local beauty salon, and as a salesperson at a natural foods store. She started treating her customers with a blend of oils instead of chemicals, and the incredible results inspired her to create her own line of all-natural skin and haircare products. After a few years of growing her business through spa parties, online sales, and assistance from resources like the WISE Center, she was ready to take production to the next level. Up Start helped her build out a business plan, and Coop Fed gave her a working capital loan to put those plans into action. “It was very good, very informative,” she says about the loan process with Coop Fed. “They told me things you don’t normally ask, or don’t know you need to.” The added support made her feel confident about the progress of her business and the ideas she had for the future of AFICA. “I know it’ll be a long road,” she says, “but it’s worth taking.”  

Aaron Metthe channeled a life-long love for coffee brewing into the founding of his business, Salt City Coffee. He started as a home-based business, selling bags of finely roasted coffee beans and fair-trade tea leaves through an online store, but his vision was bigger than that: Aaron wanted to share his craft with customers at his very own community-minded coffee shop. This vision led him to UP Start, which helped him navigate the “curvy road" (as he describes it) to secure a cafe location; and to Coop Fed, which gave him a loan for key cafe equipment. Today, Salt City Coffee is a welcomed addition to the Near West Side business community – a place Aaron designed to feel “warm, comfortable, inviting, a place to connect.” 


Learn more about our Small Business Loans Programs.