Andrew Kratz and Joel Graybeal, owners of the Triangle Rock Club, have been named the 2014 Small Business Administration’s North Carolina Small Business Persons of the Year.
The SBA bases the award on a company’s “staying power” and includes factors such as employee growth, innovation of services or products, a substantiated history and community project efforts.
Those community efforts come in the form of raising more than $100,000 for the Durham Ronald McDonald House through its a fund raising event called the Climbathon, where teams of climbers climbed overnight from 8pm until 8am the next day. Teams were awarded prizes for raising the most money and the most ascents. TRC also works with Big Brothers Big Sisters and gives in-kind donations to public and private schools, among other community efforts.
Triangle’s revenue has grown from $330,000 in 2009 to $1.5 million in 2013.
The gym now has 53 employees across two locations in North Carolina. Graybeal told the News Observer that they are in the process of adding 17,000 square feet of climbing space to their 9,000 square foot Morrisville facility. Their 13,000 square foot North Raleigh location opened last September. Graybeal also hopes to eventually open another gym in the area around Raleigh known as the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill).
“We are actively pursuing a Chapel Hill or Durham location,” Graybeal told the Observer. “My goal is to really start that project this year, and depending on whether it’s ground-up (construction) or a modification (to an existing building) will determine the overall time frame.”
Three funding rounds have already garnered the company $5.5 million in expansion funds. According to BizJournals.com TRC received SBA assistance through the SBA 504 and 7(a) loan program. Funding for their first location came from local banks, as well as $775,000 through Self-Help Ventures Fund and VantageSouth Bank. In January 2014, TRC closed on a third 504 Loan for $2.4 million from Business Expansion Funding Corporation (BEFCOR) and VantageSouth. TRC used these funds to purchase their second facility which is in North Raleigh.
Graybeal added “we would not have been able to grow our business at the pace we have without the great lending terms we have gotten through the three rounds of SBA financing to purchase real estate and equipment.”
The TRC team has had to work hard to achieve this growth. From the SBA:
TRC has faced its share of challenges during the firm’s ascent. When scouting for the second location, there were already two parties vying for the space. Knowing it was crucial to their growth plan, Kratz and Graybeal quickly mapped out a strategy to educate the landlord on the strength and reputation of their company and promptly entered into negotiations for a lease-to-own option for the space. The pair opened the new facility within 5 ½ months of signing the lease.
When Bizjournals.com asked about the company’s growth, Graybeal says he lacks a reference point for measurement. “We have no idea how fast anyone else is running the race, so we have no idea how much faster we are running,” Graybeal said. “There’s nothing else like this around here. We have relationships with our peers around the country, but we don’t compare ourselves to others. The only relevant comparison is how we’re doing relevant to our potential.”
In 2013 TRC won the “Steady Growth and Profitability Award” from the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.
Later this month CBJ will have an exclusive article from Joel Graybeal, a former mortgage banker, on ways for climbing gym developers to have better success at obtaining SBA and traditional bank loans.
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