SBA loan program gives small business owners head start

Stacy Nguyen begins each morning with the dough.

“I love to bake, so the fact that I get to start every day playing with dough and making bread, that’s my happy place,” Nguyen said as she kneaded three dozen small loaves of bread.

Over the past five years, she’s been working to perfect the art of baking bánh mì, the Vietnamese term for bread.

“We went to Vietnam so I could actually experience the bread and what it is supposed to taste like, and that actually made a huge difference,” she said.

Nguyen’s husband Mike, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam more than 40 years ago, says cooking and baking runs in the family.


What You Need To Know

  • 20 years after they met, Mike and Stacy Nguyen opened Bánh Mì 47 in downtown Albany this fall
  • The restaurant services bánh mì, a staple of Vietnamese cooking
  • With the help of M&T Bank, the couple received a Small Business Administration loan to help them pay for much of their kitchen equipment
  • SBA loans are typically geared toward new business owners or those in high risk industries who may not typically qualify for traditional financing

“My parents are great cooks, and when we went back to Vietnam, everybody there was a great cook,” he said.

Twenty years after they met at Siena College, the Nguyens decided to go into business for themselves. Each said they grew tired of making long trips centered around getting the perfect bánh mì sandwich.

“There is definitely a void of bánh mì available in the area,” Mike said. “We always used to have to either go to New York City or Boston, or even California to get really good bánh mì.”

“That’s when we decided to take the time to figure out how to make the bread, how to get all of the meats right, and it all sort of just finally came together,” Stacy said.

Earlier this fall, they opened Bánh Mì 47 in downtown Albany, but the couple says it was by no means easy.

“It has been a roller coaster,” Mike said. “We basically signed the lease for this place a month before the COVID shutdown.”

The Nguyens didn’t go through the process of launching a new business alone. They say they got plenty of help from Vince Amodeo and his team at M&T Bank.

M&T partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to get the couple a loan to help them purchase much of their kitchen equipment.

“Businesses that are either startup businesses or they could be in a high-risk industry sometimes can’t qualify for traditional loans,” said Amodeo, who’s a regional business banking manager at M&T. “The SBA program allows businesses like Bánh Mì 47 to get off the ground and get up and running, have the cash flow and access to capital that they direly need.”

M&T is one of the nation’s top 10 providers of SBA loans. Along with helping new businesses, Amodeo says the funding mechanism can aid established entrepreneurs who may be strapped for cash coming out of the pandemic.

“Sometimes in high-risk industries, there could be a situation where there is a lack of collateral,” Amodeo said. “Those are all essential areas that the SBA can kind of come in and play an important part.”

Without the SBA loan, the Nguyens said it likely would’ve taken much longer to achieve their dream.

“We don’t have business experience, we don’t have restaurant experience and they took a minute to listen to our story and understand what we wanted to do, which made a huge difference for us,” Stacy said.

Now that they’re up and running, each says they’re already working to make Bánh Mì 47 bigger and better.

“Everything about it has been fun,” Mike said. “It’s scary, it’s exciting, all of those things rolled into one.”

“The fact that we are kind of on the other side of it now and actually doing it makes it feel that much sweeter,” Stacy Nguyen said. “We are just happy to be here and share our food with everybody.”

Sulema Pringle

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