Small Business: The Heartbeat of Central TexasPhoto by Randy Lane

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This September, we celebrate National Small Business Week — an initiative spearheaded by the Small Business Administration for over 50 years. This year, in particular, recognizing and empowering small businesses feels timelier than ever.

While much of 2020 has been spent responding to the economic or social impact of COVID-19, this week we want to take a step back and highlight the spirit, dedication, hard work, and hope of entrepreneurs and small business owners in Central Texas. Their stories inspire us daily. This week is an important reminder that even during this tumultuous year, small businesses continue to open, persevere, and remain the heartbeat of Central Texas.

Central Texas Means Business

Around here, small business is a great business to be in. Our Central Texas community remains one of the better areas in the country to start and grow a business.

In Texas specifically, starting a new business may be more attainable than in other parts of our country. Texas’ lack of state income or corporate tax, fast-growing and diverse population, and relatively simplified state regulations support the fact that our state holds the second-highest number of small businesses (just behind California). In 2018, 2.6 million small businesses and counting were in operation around the state, providing over 194,000 net new jobs.

Closer to home, in McLennan County, our growing population provides a favorable market for new businesses looking to open shop. Each year, our county grows by 2.07 percent (significantly higher than the United States’ annual population growth of 0.66 percent). Accelerating demand in nearly every industry is part of the winning formula for local entrepreneurs. TFNB Your Bank for Life customers like Andrew Owens, of Belle Window Cleaning, and Shamica Evans, of Waffle Chic, have been able to succeed thanks in part to the growing demand for services like residential and commercial cleaning and local, specialty cuisine.

While the demand and market are certainly here, funding those early stages of business development isn’t always so certain. Finding the right loans and grants to get a business off the ground is what changes ideas into action.


We talk about “small business,” but what does that term really mean?

The federal government’s Small Business Administration, or the SBA, has its own particular set of standards that define it: companies with less than $7 million in sales and fewer than five hundred employees.

The name, however, can be deceiving. Individually, these businesses may be small, but small business is big business in the United States, Texas, and our Waco area: 

More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create nearly two out of every three new jobs in the United States each year.

What “SBA-Preferred” Really Means

Small businesses have turned to TFNB for guidance and financial resources since our earliest days. Today, that continues thanks to our status as the only SBA-preferred lender headquartered in McLennan County. The SBA helps American small businesses in many ways, but their lending program in particular helps first-time or experienced business owners secure financing when they may not qualify at other banks or credit unions.

More than anything, being an SBA-preferred lender is hugely beneficial for our customers. It means we can help entrepreneurs secure funds faster because we have the authority to make final credit decisions on SBA-guaranteed loans. Other lending institutions must submit applications to the SBA for review. That not only takes longer, but it means an SBA lending specialist makes the final call on the loan — someone who doesn’t intimately understand the Central Texas community and a business’ potential value here.

Being an SBA-preferred lender is central to our mission as one of Central Texas’ oldest community banks; It’s an opportunity to keep decision-making here with local residents — the way it should be.


As a community bank and SBA-preferred lender, we offer the best of both worlds: local, supportive service paired with invaluable resources you may expect to find at a large financial institution in Dallas or Houston.

Travis Kemp, TFNB’s Chief Lending Officer, says that guidance and leadership from the Dallas-Fort Worth SBA District Office have been critical in helping TFNB grow our now significant SBA lending resources: “We work alongside our Lender Relations Specialist, Derenda Fisher, who is an invaluable resource for our institution. She has made sure to keep us informed of all the SBA options available for our small business customers. With the help of the Dallas-Fort Worth team, we can serve our customers while knowing we have small business advocates available when we need them.”


Our partnership with the SBA also gives us the perspective to understand the real benefits their loans offer new or experienced business owners.

SBA loans don’t just come with competitive rates and fees, but often come with lower down payment requirements, flexible overhead requirement, and no collateral. With loans from $500 to $5.5 million, they can be a valuable lending option for small businesses.

The requirements for an SBA loan applicant are fairly straightforward. The existing or proposed business must:

  • Be a for-profit business
  • Do business within the United States
  • Have invested their own time or money into the venture
  • Have exhausted other financial lending options


Start-Ups, Local Celebrities, and Everything in Between

Our deep knowledge of the Waco market and experience in the small business community helps us guide businesses of all kinds in achieving financial success.

Leslie Rhodes, one of our SBA Loan Servicing Specialists, works with new and returning business owners every day. She says the reason she sees so many experienced business owners is that TFNB is a relationship-focused bank. “We can provide financing regardless of how young or old your business is,” Leslie says, “We are not only committed to helping start-ups, but one of our main priorities is to our existing customers who are looking to expand and grow their companies.”

One of those existing customers is Kissing Tree Vineyards, a local vineyard in Eddy, Texas. When owners Chris and Crystal Grider were ready to expand, they worked with TFNB to make it happen. Taste by Kissing Tree Vineyards is a bistro and wine bar in Central Waco that provided a new happy hour spot and dinner destination for Wacoans. From the earliest plans to the restaurant’s grand opening, TFNB helped the Griders secure the resources they needed to make Taste a great addition to the Waco food scene.

While Kissing Tree Vineyards was ready to expand, Di Campli Italian Ristorante, an Italian eatery in Waco, was looking to get their dream off the ground.

Kristen and Massimo Di Campli wanted to bring Massimo’s family recipes and Italian heritage to Central Texas through authentic Italian food. For Kristen, finding a local banker was important. If she had a question or needed help, she wanted to be able to stop by, talk to a familiar face, and then get back to her busy day. At TFNB, Leslie, Travis, and other members of our lending team worked with Kristen and Massimo from the very beginning to the grand opening and still today. As a community bank, we don’t simply see them as a client — they are a neighbor. We are invested in their success and enjoy supporting them as they continue to make Waco a better place to call home.

During the Good Times and the Bad

Starting or expanding a small business is one thing — but keeping it afloat when times are hard is another.

Earlier this year, we helped many local businesses understand how the CARES Act and its $376 billion relief aid could benefit their business during the earliest weeks of the pandemic and shutdown. We have worked closely both with our SBA Lender Relationship Specialists in Dallas-Fort Worth and our small business partners here to help locate resources for those businesses most affected by the pandemic.

Every day, so many of our small business partners have felt the strain of this economic downturn and lasting uncertainty. As a community bank, this year has changed many things for us, too. We have faced decisions and difficulties we have never faced before.

Even in this time of chance, SBA Lending Specialist Leslie Rhodes is confident in one thing: “Our customer service and dedication to entrepreneurs will not change. Our growing team will continue to serve you to the best of our abilities, and you will always be able to discuss your options with a decision-maker that has your best interest in mind.”

As we move forward together, we are looking for more ways to invest in our community and provide more resources to local organizations. Many banks are there when times are good, but after 130 years in Central Texas, entrepreneurs and business owners can trust that we will still be here — just down the street — when the times are bad, too.

Small Business is the Heartbeat of Central Texas

Small business is usually personal, in the best kind of way. Shamica Evans started Waffle Chic – a chicken and waffles restaurant – because of her vivid memories of meals made with love from her mother and grandmother. She wanted to spread that feeling with the community by making the recipes she loves, along with a few new ones.

When finding her loan, she said that TFNB didn’t treat her like an applicant, or a number — we treated her like family. For many entrepreneurs like Shamica, we know their reasons for starting a small business are deeply personal. They are inspired by their family, their passions, their hobbies, or their unique skills. They have sacrificed savings or given up evenings with family. They have researched new skills or studied business best practices.

They are fully committed to their “why”, so we do all we can to learn about it, too. By better understanding the person and the purpose, we can help more entrepreneurs reach their goals and continue making Central Texas a rich, diverse, and growing small business community.

National Small Business Week, sponsored by the SBA, is September 22 through 24. For information on the free, 3-day virtual conference or more small business resources, visit

Be sure to follow TFNB Your Bank for Life on Facebook and Instagram this week as we highlight more of the local entrepreneurs behind some of Central Texas’ favorite local businesses.