Parlaying personal views of sustainability
Received a $135,000 loan, a $10,000 line of credit, and started new business.
In mid-2019, Justin and Anna Marino were searching for the “right” business to open in Old Town Alexandria, with “right” meaning a retail business that represented their personal environmental views on preservation and sustainability.
When they found a two-story townhouse on King Street in the Historic District, they began writing a business plan for a first-floor retail shop and a second-level Airbnb property designed to be an eco-conscious alternative to a hotel suite. Alexandria SBDC’s Business Analyst Jack Parker helped them create a viable plan and found a bank interested in the project that was to become the first such brick-and-mortar, zero-waste sustainable products store in the region. They would be offering bulk-grocery products, sustainable-living products, health & beauty, and children’s products. Anna is a “runner” and has over 7,000 viewers on her Blog, in addition to being a well-versed social-media marketer for her online athletic clothing business. Their store also received local media attention prior and during their opening.
In early January, they closed on the $125,000 SBA term loan and a $10,000 line of credit with M&T Bank. Then they began the build-out process on Mason & Greens when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded, causing a veritable shut down of retail businesses. In effect, they were forced to open in the teeth of the storm without eligibility for the EIDL or PPP loan programs.
The online store, on their well-designed website, was relatively easy to launch, but in-store shoppers and guests for the suite upstairs were another matter. They had some success in May with by-appointment shopping, but the website sales took off right away, surprising everyone including themselves that they were able to breakeven for their first month. After reopening, in-store sales continued to improve and since August, the Airbnb suite has generated enough revenue to pay the monthly rent for the building.