From the May 2009 issue of Entrepreneur

Funding may seem scarce for most businesses right now, but there's a new option for independent local producers. Whole Foods Market is helping independent local producers expand and grow their businesses through its Local Producer Loan Program, which lends up to $10 million annually and accepts applications on a rolling basis. Applicants must be a local producer of a high-quality product, have adequate cash flow to cover debt, present a viable business plan and preferably be located near a Whole Foods Market. Ready to apply? Click here for more information.

Daniel Korson and Matthew Rogers, 27 and 30, respectively, are recipients of the Local Producer Loan. Although the program is generally reserved for existing entrepreneurs wanting to expand their business, the pair was able to secure $20,000 for their startup, Coracao Confections, an Emeryville, Calif.-based chocolate company that uses all organic ingredients, antioxidant-rich raw cacao and low glycemic sugars. Although it took four months for them to get approved for the loan, the funding was crucial in helping the founders get their business off the ground last August, especially because friends, family, banks, community lenders and angel investors had all turned them down. Now they project year-end sales to reach $200,000.

What should you know before applying?

  • Build a relationship of trust, Korson advises. "At the end of the day, it comes down to whether they believe and trust in you as a person, believe in your product and feel you have what it takes to make your business successful."
  • Refine who you're making your product for, Korson says, "and do your homework to see who your competition is and if you'll actually be filling a demand."
  • Be honest and dependable, Korson says, "and remember that when you're looking for a loan, you're dealing with real people."