I’m not scared of opening the Café, I’m not scared of working long hours and busting my ass to make it a successful business, I’m not scared of the two months of reno coming ahead, I’m scared of our financial system, I’m scared of banks and the crazy people running them. Seriously. They’re crazy. The system is so dysfunctional, the procedures make no sense whatsoever, the people sitting behind their desk don’t understand the first thing about what’s happening in Paris regarding food and coffee, and yet, they are the ones making the call, they are the people we need a green light from. I’m shocked.
The good news is we met with the great people over at PIE (for Paris Initiative Entreprise) and they get it. They help financing projects like ours and can grant loans up to 30K at 0% interest rate. But more than the money itself, they give you credibility, meaning that if PIE backs your project the banks let the guard down and 4 times out of 5 is more willing to give you the money you’re asking for. The way it works is you put together a big ass application, hope they call you back for a face to face interview, then if you pass, you have to introduce the project to a board of 6 juries (bankers, restaurateurs etc.) and they will grill the crap out of you, ask all of the annoying questions and put the fingers where it hurts for 40 minutes. That was last Tuesday.
We showed up at 9:30am, I had designed a sexy little booklet for each jury, printed on nice paper, we had the financials all locked down, we thought we were good. And then they came at us hard! “I see here on the menu that you’re going to make everything from scratch, that scares me, can you explain how you’re going to do this?” “I see here that you hired an accountant. So basically when there is something you don’t like to do or suck at, you just pay somebody else to deal with it, am I right?” and so on. It was brutal. By the end of it I was half talking half shouting “That’s definitely not what I said!” “I have to disagree!” etc. It wasn’t looking good. “We’ll let you know our decision by the end of the day, thank you”. We walked out pretty bummed. With less than 3 weeks to gather 160K and still no green light from the bank we needed PIE’s golden seal of approval pretty badly.
After a quiet metro ride back home we anxiously waited for the mighty phone call. Rushing to our phones at every Instagram push notifications. Finally they called Sarah at 12pm to let her know that we had been granted their maximum loan of 30K. Hooray!
So things are definitely looking up! We hired a broker specialized in restaurant loans, he’s super optimistic and not too worried about the June 30th deadline. We met with the Banque Populaire yesterday accompanied by him and they seemed pretty keen.
So here’s where we’re at:
- HSBC: No
- LCL: Super slow. Fucked us over a bit by asking for more elements 3 weeks after our initial meeting. Really? We should hear more by Tuesday.
- BNP: Looking good. They worked hard and seem super keen + they financed other speciality cafés in Paris. We’ll know for sure by June 20th.
- BRED: Answer by June 24th.
- Societe Generale: We should know by Tuesday.
Fingers crossed! 16 days and counting! There is going to be so much champagne when we get approved for a loan. I’m talking waterfalls of booze. I can’t wait for this part of the process to be over and start up the real work! Getting there, slowly but surely.