3 Lessons from a PeopleFund Borrower

PeopleFund is a CDFI = Community Development Financial Institution and is a non-profit lender. A CDFIs’ goal is to broaden economic opportunity by providing access to financial services. CDFIs provide a range of financial products, like mortgages for low-income and first-time home buyers and commercial loans for small businesses (PeopleFund). About 1,000 CDFIs are in operation across the country. 

One of the amazing things about CDFIs is that they offer technical assistance and training programs to small businesses to help them get started and grow sustainably. Some offer mentoring and advisory services (That’s ME!).  We know that learning and growth requires support. 

To apply for financing, small-business owners provide the same kinds of information they would at a bank: business plans, personal and business tax returns, personal financial statements for all business owners, lease agreements, bank statements, income statements and balance sheets. 

Working with a CDFI can mean a more personalized and “high touch” service model.  PeopleFund believes in learning and growth through doing and we reached out to a borrower who recently received funding through PeopleFund to share the experience and what he learned along the way. 


What does it feel like to go through the process of applying for and receiving funding from PeopleFund? 

I had the opportunity to chat with Founder and Coffee Connoisseur, Justin McLaughlin, who conceived, built and continues to grow Xenia Roastery, a boutique specialty coffee roaster.  

Justin works for the City of Fort Worth as a Business Development Coordinator and learned about all of the resources that are available to entrepreneurs by having boots on the ground.  As a startup it can be very difficult to find funders that are willing to listen to your story and help you find a way to fund your growth. His journey led him to PeopleFund as he was seeking funding for his business. 

Xenia Roastery started as a passion project and has grown into a manifestation of the Greek meaning of Xenia, a type of hospitality and friendship. Coffee is a ritual that brings people together around the world and Xenia Roastery aims to help foster this concept by providing the best possible coffee, to your home or office, through a subscription service. 

The first version of Justin’s concept of Xenia Roastery was different than the business that exists today.  The original idea was to create a coffee shop and co-working place to embody that hospitality and community building. As many business owners have experienced in the last year, he had to be agile, creative and innovative to bring his concept to life during a complex time for small businesses across the world.   

And so, the journey began. Most new entrepreneurs, like Mr. McLaughlin, approach their bank when they begin the journey of business funding.  At this stop in his journey, Justin was advised that his hard work on his business plan was misaligned. He was told that his idea wouldn’t work in the way he had envisioned. The truth hurts, but the entrepreneurial spirit means that you keep going. What to do next? Back to the drawing board to re-envision his dream.  

Next stop: Agility. As Justin was re- envisioning his dream, 2020 happened. Xenia Roastery had to do a hard pivot before things started moving. What lessons can we learn about entrepreneurship from Justin’s experience?   

Lesson 1: Entrepreneurship requires patience, endurance, and perseverance.

As the concept of Xenia Roastery solidified into a plan of action it became time to seek funding, again. This time Xenia Roastery had a clear path to revenue and a fully developed business plan to execute the journey to success. Enter PeopleFund. Justin has discovered that entrepreneurship is often a challenge simply due to the ignorance we don’t even know we have. You must keep asking questions until you find the answers. You must be willing to put yourself out there and listen in order to learn and grow. PeopleFund can be the answer to a startup’s funding questions. We can walk alongside you through this part of your journey. 

Lesson 2: We don’t know what we don’t know. 

Facing the many difficult tasks it takes to build a business requires the inimitable bravery of an entrepreneur. As Xenia Roastery began the loan application process, the timeline was murky. One question Justin didn’t know to ask was how long our lending process takes. Remember when we said that one of the biggest challenge’s entrepreneurs face is not knowing what they don’t know? This was one of those learning opportunities. The lending process with PeopleFund is highly personalized. We support you through the process: getting to know you, your business plans, and we help with gathering documents. We are your cheerleaders and support system through this process.  

Lesson 3: The power of positivity is crucial for success. 

Entrepreneurship is hard. When Justin found a partner in PeopleFund that was willing to be supportive and encouraging he understood the value that positivity brought to his journey.   

As lenders, we know that while you may be new to the experience of business lending, you are excellent at what you do. You’ve done the work to find a solution to a problem and then doubled down on that solution to design a way to bring your solution to the world. We are your cheerleaders. We WANT you to succeed. That sounds like a small statement, but it is a huge difference that Justin noticed as he worked through the lending process with PeopleFund.  Real people, invested in your success, read your business plan, look at your financials and inspect your qualifications for lending. While this can take time, we support you throughout the application process.  

Xenia Roastery started as a passion project and has grown, through the determination of its founder, into a unique solution that embodies the warm nature of friendly hospitality.  Entrepreneurship is a journey full of lessons, by remaining open to learning and growing Xenia Roastery persevered and became a PeopleFund client and is working to grow his business with our support.  

Coffee is a ritual that brings people together around the world and Xenia Roastery aims to help foster this concept by providing the best possible coffee to your home or office, through a subscription service. Join us in supporting Justin:  https://xeniaroastery.com/

Are you ready to apply for funding? PeopleFund Loan Application 

Need a little help preparing? PeopleFund Intake Form 


About the Author

Holly Burrow helps educate clients and create partnerships across North Texas.  With a passion for entrepreneurship and small business, Holly’s career has led her to building and growing other people’s small businesses, founding her own businesses, and consulting with new owners to establish and grow their own start-ups. At PeopleFund we believe that healthy small business growth is the key to economic recovery and development and that every person, no matter their background or economic situation, has the ability to become a successful entrepreneur and job creator given access to resources they need. Our goal is to give people the opportunity to turn their talents into a sustainable livelihood and achieve financial stability for themselves and their families.