Bankers Leap Bakers And Bankers

July 17, 2006
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When Dick Lindrup and Walt Grzybowski launched their Muskegon-based commercial bakery, R.W. Bakers Co., in 2002, they did so on a literal wing and a prayer. They were veterans of the commercial baking industry with aspirations of running a business with Christian principles in job-starved Muskegon

It was a noble plan, but not one the banks could see eye-to-eye with.

"We didn't have any customers specifically lined up," Grzybowski said. "They were asking, 'What kind of business are you going to have?' and 'How are you going to pay us back?' It made them nervous."

Bank after bank rejected their business plan, and they became convinced they would have to "sell their souls" — sell a portion of the business to investors or buy risk financing at a high premium.

But instead, Dave Seppala, formerly of Muskegon Commerce Bank, suggested the SBA's 504 loan program and facilitated the 10 percent equity loan.

"Without that and Dave's foresight, we wouldn't exist," Lindrup said.

Over the next three years, R.W. Bakers grew nearly 400 percent and has gone back to the bank several times for its expansion needs. When Seppala moved to Fifth Third Bank, he brought the account with him.    

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