After 18 years in the education and philanthropy sectors, Ramona Thomas returned to her childhood passion: chocolate. “I remember the candy store in the Bronx neighborhood where I grew up – chocolate candy bars and Swedish fish were my favorites,” she said. Her love of baking and sweets led her to start My Chocolate Soul® – in January 2011 with the goal of creating delicious, all-natural sweets without the preservatives, colorings, and artificial ingredients commonly found in modern mass-market products. Since its launch, My Chocolate Soul’s sweets have been in high demand. In 2014, the ESPY Awards presented its high profile attendees with Ramona’s confections in their gift bags and in 2015, her chocolates were featured at the NBA All Star Weekend.
As the business grows, it is clear that demand for My Chocolate Soul sweets will soon outpace Ramona’s ability to keep up with the increasing number of orders while operating out of the shared commercial kitchen space she has been renting. Financing from LISC allows Ramona to lease a kitchen space and retail storefront of her own to grow her operations.
“There is no way I could expand and grow my business without the loan and support from LISC Small Business. They are helping me reach my goals and fulfill my dream,” she said. An SBA Community Advantage loan through LISC allows My Chocolate Soul to finance leasehold improvements, equipment purchases, and working capital.
As one of only three nationwide Community Advantage lenders, LISC Small Business can provide loans between $50,000 and $250,000 to small businesses seeking financing options with more flexible rates and terms than those offered by conventional lenders. SBA introduced the Community Advantage program in 2011 as a pilot initiative aimed at expanding access to capital in underserved communities in partnership with mission-focused lenders like LISC.