As a membership organization, FORGE borrows money from the SBA, USDA, charities, foundations, and individual investors to lend to start-up businesses, families in need, small farmers, and individuals denied credit by the conventional banking system.
The FORGE membership consists of current and former borrowers, investors, donors, and other supporters of our mission. Members receive an annual newsletter and other relevant updates. Payment of the $35 membership fee guarantees lifetime membership in the organization.
Freckled Hen Farmhouse, Co-owners Luke and Natalie Freeman
Natalie and I are co-owners of Freckled Hen Farmhouse, an online mercantile selling quality home provisions and farm supplies with a storefront location in downtown Fayetteville. We launched the business in March of 2016 with financing from FORGE. The business was an outgrowth of our lifestyle and interests – we live on a small farm in Fayetteville raising laying hens, goats, and a large vegetable garden. Natalie has been a blogger since 2008 and has developed a large online following on her blog and Instagram account, with many of her followers especially attracted to our farming lifestyle and Natalie’s farmhouse décor. Natalie has retail experience and realized that there was a real opportunity for us to market products that we were using on our own farm and in our home. Our online marketing was a natural outgrowth of Natalie’s activity on social media and her skill with photography.
Before our meeting with Bill and Martha, we were considering fundraising from friends and family, but were relieved to hear that would could qualify for a business loan through FORGE.
We had visited with Bill Fox and Martha Londagin at the Small Business and Technology Development Center associated with the Walton College of Business to seek feedback on our business plan and advice on starting a retail business. During our meeting Bill really encouraged us to get in touch with FORGE for a small business loan, so FORGE was the first and only lending institution we pursued. Before our meeting with Bill and Martha, we were considering fundraising from friends and family, but were relieved to hear that we would qualify for a business loan through FORGE.
I would recommend that any entrepreneur with a business idea seek advice from as many people as he or she can before launching the business. The input we received from Bill and Martha at the SBTDC was invaluable, in addition to the advice we received from Carol Reeves at the Business College and Scott and Rebecca at Hayseed Ventures. These people helped shape our approach and strategy in launching the business and gave a great outside perspective. We have such a supportive small business community in NWA and we are so grateful for all the free advice and support we have received along the way.
We believe that entrepreneurs and small business owners contribute significantly to the culture and vibrancy of a community and we are so happy to contribute to that. As we grow the business we will be hiring employees to work in shipping and to manage the store front, contributing to job opportunities in or community. As I mentioned above, we will be seeking out local artisans for high-quality home goods and farm supplies. And we will be sourcing from local farmers to supply our store with produce and value-added farm products. This circulation of money within our local community will contribute – albeit in small ways – to the continued economic growth of NWA.