Talene Kasparian-Cleveland’s dream of owning her own floral and gift shop started when she entered college. She had the opportunity to work part time for Fowler Floral & Gifts. After two years and at the ripe old age of 19, the owner asked if she would like to purchase the business. The process to find financing began in the Spring of 2004. She went from bank to bank, finance company to finance company. She had a business plan but no one was interested. This was when the economy was booming. Talene couldn’t help but think was it because she was 19, was it because she was a woman, was the dollar amount too high or was her business plan not good enough?
Finally, Talene made contact with Valley Small Business Development Corporation (“Valley”) who listened and gave her a chance. On November 1, 2004, at the age of 20 and a full-time college student, Talene also became a business owner. It has now been almost 9 years since her journey began. She has seen a lot of changes in the floral and retail gift industries as well as with the economy. Talene often wonders how she did it. How did she finish college in 4 ½ years and own a business? Did she ever sleep?
Owning a business has been the biggest challenge of her life. Through all of the challenges the economy has handed Talene, she has never been a day late on her loan and should be debt free within this year. Talene feels tremendous gratitude to Valley for believing in her abilities and providing the opportunity for her to live her dream.
May Youa Vu
May Flower is a small Farmer’s Market owned by May Youa Vu. May Youa grows vegetables and a variety of local flowers year round and sells it at local farmers markets throughout the County of Fresno. She immigrated to France in the early 80’s and came to the United States over 10 years ago. She settled in Portland, Oregon initially before moving to Fresno where most of her family resides. She comes from a farming family with a history of growing vegetables and flowers. Her farming experience here in the U.S. began in 2000 when she started farming with her late husband.
In 2010, May Youa leased 4 acres of land, of which 3 acres were used to farm vegetables and 1 acre for flowers. May Youa wanted to expand her farmer’s market so she applied for a loan at Valley Small Business Development Corporation and was approved for a loan through the Feed the Hunger Foundation loan program. May Youa was able to purchase all of her equipment which allowed her to expand the business. She is now able to attend more farmers markets in Fresno and hopes to travel to larger cities in the near future.
Jim Mizuki’s family has farmed outside of Sanger since before the 1940’s. Jim, age 92, still cares for 50 acres of almonds himself. Jim credits Valley Small Business Development Corporation and the State Loan Guarantee Program for providing financing to agriculture at a time when small farmers were unable to obtain credit. With the change of policy at a local bank that was financing his ranch, Jim’s loan was terminated and he had to find another source of financing. He had experienced financial setbacks for several years due to depressed markets for grapes. Jim was recommended to Valley Small Business Development Corporation and met with Debbie Raven and her staff to explain his financial situation, needs, future plans, and ultimate goals for years to come. Jim was really impressed with their service stating that “they have a broad knowledge of agriculture and farming operations. They were actually listening to my needs”.
“With the experience that I’ve had since, I couldn’t be any happier and confident of the business relationship that I have with Valley. I would highly recommend any person to contact Valley for their needs. I know that Valley will treat them professionally and with great respect.” -Jim Mizuki
Bradley Harlan started farming alfalfa and feed crops with his father upon obtaining his Masters from Kansas State in 1979. He became the sole proprietor of this farming operation upon his father’s death in 2002. In 1992, Brad and his wife, Blair, started Simply Delicious, a catering service that specializes in BBQ ribs, chicken, and tri-tip. This catering business sustained the farming operation through the lean years. He recently decided to further diversity his operation to include permanent crops in 2007 with the help of Valley Small Business Development Corporation (“Valley”).
“Valley’s method of doing business is similar to when I started farming 30 years ago. They focus on the relationship with the borrower and what is best for the borrower’s long-term needs. Thanks to the programs and services that the Valley offers, we now have accomplished the first phase of our dream to develop our ranch to permanent crops. ” -Bradley Harlan