Tuesday, November 16, 2010


. . . Creating 135 Potential Jobs by Providing Low-Interest Loans

GREENVILLE, S.C. (Nov. 15, 2010) – Four local businesses are poised for growth and job creation in 2011, thanks to a financial boost from the Michelin Development Upstate program. With loans totaling $375,000, these small businesses are benefiting from the second year of Michelin Development loans and $2 million investment from Michelin North America.

Michelin Development provides both funding and business expertise to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses throughout the region. These four businesses are the latest to receive Michelin Development loans: Dealer Ignition, Debra’s Hair Studio, Merge and U Designs Weddings.

“Throughout the Upstate, people are keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive,” said John Tully, president of Michelin Development. “Michelin sees the potential of these small businesses and wants them to succeed. For many right now, their biggest need is funding; socially and economically disadvantaged businesses are often the last to receive that funding.”

Each of the following four companies selected for the most recent Michelin Development Upstate loans are well-established small businesses. They are:

~ Dealer Ignition, LLC – Greenville, S.C. This marketing software agency was born from a dealer’s frustration of not having available marketing tools. In 2008, Steven Wagner designed an easy-to-use tool for dealers to effectively market their brands online, then launched his business: Dealer Ignition. Because his product delivers consistent, ROI-driven results, Wagner’s company has experienced explosive growth.

“The Michelin Development loan has provided us with the ability to fund our sales and marketing growth. We look to increase our global presence. Since securing the loan, we have added 370 customers in 38 countries,” explained founder and Head Ignitor Steven Wagner. Dealerignition.com also has jobs opportunities posted on their Careers page.

~ Debra’s Hair Studio – Greenwood, S.C. Debra’s Hair Studio has been successfully serving clients for 23 years. Debra Wright, a professional cosmetologist, is now also a trichologist, studying the structural functions and diseases of human hair. After securing a Michelin Development loan, Wright has been able to complete the educational requirements for trichology, earn a new license and add this service for her clients.

“The Michelin Development loan enabled me to become certified in trichology. We can now treat male and female clients with hair loss and scalp disorders—and early detection is the best prevention,” said Wright. “I am also looking to hire additional salon professionals in the next few years.”

~ MERGE – Greenville, S.C. Eight years ago, Adam Landrum founded this interactive agency in Atlanta, GA. Later, he relocated to join Greenville’s vibrant technology community and partnered with Charles Ratterree. With a results-focused business model, MERGE specializes in a consultative approach to designing strategic web solutions. Their goals are aggressive growth and continuing to build a reputation as one of the leading web firms in the Southeast.

“One of our biggest challenges as young entrepreneurs in this economic climate is to manage our cash flow and still be able to access enough capital to strategically hire into our growth. MERGE foresees doubling its staff in the next few years, and now we have the capital to do so. Our Michelin Development loan will enable us to add talented people and create jobs in this community,” said Ratterree.

~ U Designs Weddings – Greenville, S.C. Originally a wedding photography studio and expanding in 2006 to fill a need for a full service event studio, U Designs offers educated and experienced professionals working together in a unique business model. U Designs does more than help you find outside wedding vendors for floral design, custom printing and catering, their team of artists offer each service in-house and work together to create the perfect wedding day.

“We are just thrilled with our growth in these last four years—we’re one of the areas top event design teams! With the Michelin Development loan we will not only expand our inventory and local team, but also launch a second team in the near future. In addition, we opened a non-profit branch that provides wedding services to our military personnel,” said founder and CEO Brie LeBret. “Our expansion means 15-20 new jobs this year.”

Michelin continues to accept applications for additional low-interest loans. Applications can be submitted online at www.michelindevelopment.us. Once a business owner registers and receives a unique user login, they will be asked to outline business plans and strategies.

Michelin Development Upstate opened its Greenville office in September 2009. Carolina First makes and administers loans for the program and works with the Michelin Development Upstate steering committee, a group of local business and civic leaders, to review loan applications. Once an application has been approved by the steering committee, it undergoes normal financial due diligence by the bank. Loans are available from $10,000 to $100,000 and are funded in partnership with Michelin Development Co. and Carolina First.

Michelin Development Upstate loans are available to socially and economically disadvantaged small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the Upstate of South Carolina. To qualify for the program, companies must be based in one of the following Upstate counties: Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union. Loans will have up to five year payment terms.

Dedicated to the improvement of sustainable mobility, Michelin designs, manufactures and sells tires for every type of vehicle, including airplanes, automobiles, bicycles, earthmovers, farm equipment, heavy-duty trucks, motorcycles and the space shuttle. The company also publishes travel guides, hotel and restaurant guides, maps and road atlases. Headquartered in Greenville, S.C., Michelin North America (www.michelin-us.com) employs more than 20,900 and operates 18 major manufacturing plants in 16 locations.

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