Jeryl and Tyrekia Cole from Off the Rox Wine & Beer Shop in the Highlandtown area of Baltimore, Md., have a community-centric mission to make premium wines and craft beers more accessible since opening their storefront in 2018. But the couple’s entrepreneurial roots go back much further. .
“I think what motivates me is the freedom to be entrepreneurial,” says Jeryl, who started the business with Tyrekia when he was just 28 years old. “It started with my grandmother and her entrepreneurial spirit touched my whole family. Her grandmother’s businesses ranged from convenience stores and bars to an arcade. “She even had her own board game and wrote a book,” Jeryl says. “I spoke to her this morning and she asked me, ‘What do you think about opening a children’s art gallery?'”
Off the Rox is in honor of his last name, Rox, who is well known in the Southeastern Baltimore community where they both grew up and opened their new business. They also strive to offer locally made wines and beers in small batches. Unique selections appear on their list of nearly 300 wines, including ‘unicorn’ offerings, like blends that pair well with a barbecue for warmer weather or a smoky lager for the transition to fall.
Jeryl was convinced his concept would work, but discovered that the big banks wouldn’t take a chance on him. It was then that he turned to community funding. With the support of Baltimore Business Lending (a subsidiary of Baltimore Community Loan), they started the business in a new six-story mixed residential and commercial facility that replaced a long-term vacant building.
“Most of the big banks wanted us to be in business for at least three years before lending,” he says. “I knew if someone was willing to understand my business model and my plan, they would believe they had to lend me and it wouldn’t be high risk. I made a point of paying off my loan well before it came due to show that I was serious about my business.
As the business grows, Jeryl says that hiring employees and offering them health insurance is one of his most important accomplishments, as he sees with his own eyes how opportunities are essential for the health of communities. Instead of pushing diversity out of neighborhoods with strict funding and scoring models, he says it’s critical to expand lending opportunities for people like him who come from the community.
“The city of Baltimore is home to, and the lack of minority businesses is a direct correlation with the deeply rooted biases in the world of commercial banking,” he says. “As a community of all, we need to think outside the box and move away from traditional loans. More resources and more awareness are needed. Small businesses are America’s backbone. We need to make it more accessible to find funding.
Jeryl says change requires a more collaborative mindset shift. He sees civic leaders and diverse business owners as the perfect match.
“There has to be an open dialogue with everyone to stimulate business and development in downtown communities,” he says. “Economic advancement only works if all sides are on similar pages. “
Bonnie Crockett, director of small business loans at Baltimore Community Lending, says Off the Rox was their very first small business client and exemplified the type of business they seek to support.
Baltimore Community Lending provides small business loans to startups and emerging small businesses in the city of Baltimore who have strong business plans and reasonable credit but cannot meet guarantees or other qualifications for traditional credit. “, she says.
Rather than requiring entrepreneurs to own a home or other assets in order to use them as collateral, Baltimore Community Lending focuses on business training as a more equitable way to mitigate risk and ensure success in business. long term. For Off the Rox, at least, the approach worked.
“Hopefully this helps the next young adult with a plan to lock in funding,” Jeryl says.
This story is part of our series, CDFI Futures, which explores the community development finance industry through the prism of equity, public policy and inclusive community development. The series is generously supported by Partners for the Common Good. Sign up for PCG’s CapNexus newsletter on capnexus.org.
Hadassah Patterson has been writing for news organizations for more than a decade, contributing to local online news for seven years and with 15 years of trade writing experience. It currently covers politics, business, social justice, culture, food and welfare.