St. Louis, MO – An international micro lending program designed to assist start-up businesses is paying off for a St. Louis entrepreneur with the endorsement of the Center for the Acceleration of African-American Business (CAAAB).
Andrew Simpson, the owner of Andrew’s Bayou Ribs, a mobile barbecue operation, received a $5,000 loan from Kiva Zip, a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty by leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of micro-finance institutions. With the interest free loan, Simpson used the money to invest in a “commissary” – a kitchen area for food preparation and storage – a vital part of his business growth and expansion plans.
Simpson has two years to repay the loan, adding that he has been turned down for loans from traditional lenders.
“It has already taken me to a new level,” Simpson said. “You must have a commissary to operate a ‘Grade A’ mobile food vehicle. Without the loan, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Additionally, the Kiva Zip loan helped Simpson be part of the restaurant complex that’s soon to open later in the year near Halls Ferry Road and I-270.
Kiva is an international organization which primarily focuses on entrepreneurs around the world, while “Kiva Zip” is the organization’s pilot project in the United States.
Simpson’s loan was endorsed by CAAAB, a non-profit organization that provides support for the growth and development of African-American owned businesses, and a Kiva Zip trustee organization.
Kiva Zip’s work is made possible through an extensive and growing network of trustees who are responsible for sourcing Kiva Zip borrowers, reviewing their business and personal finances, vouching for their character, and publicly endorsing them on the Kiva Zip website. Trustees never actually handle the loans; Kiva Zip disburses directly to the end borrowers.
A sampling of other projects funded in the U.S. by Kiva Zip include: a specialty fish restaurant in Bemidji Beltrami County, Minnesota; a coffee shop in San Francisco, CA; a fully furnished work space solutions company in Springfield, MO; and a bakery the specializes in goods but without the common allergens of gluten, nuts, egg and soy in Pullman Whitman County in Washington.
CAAAB originally worked with Simpson as a business consultant to assist him in developing his business plan. He was referred to CAAAB by another member prior to his joining about a year ago. CAAAB worked with Simpson in developing a proposal to acquire three downtown locations to sale his products, apply for a store location in the Ball Park Village Project under construction adjacent to Busch Stadium and apply for Minority Business Enterprise certification with the City of St. Louis.
Neelu Panth, Director of Research, Social and Economic Development for CAAAB, said Andrew is a hard worker and is dedicated to his business. Panth said the money will help establish a commissary needed to prepare and store the food he sells in order to comply with health regulations.
“He is a quick learner and completes each task associated with any project in an effective and timely manner,” Panth said. “We endorsed him for a Kiva loan to help him continue to grow and develop his business. I see no challenges in him repaying the loan since the money will be used to help him comply with an important City health regulation and serve to increase his revenue and profit.”
Andrew’s Bayou Ribs is a three-year old mobile barbecue currently operating in Lebanon, Illinois and in multiple locations in the St. Louis City, including Grand and Martin Luther King Drive, just outside Busch Stadium, 8th and Walnut and Market and Tucker. He intends to open other units in different metro east areas and metro St. Louis locations.
Simpson was raised in Bastrop, LA where he was introduced to “good southern style bar-b-cue as a way to enjoy country living,” he said. He recalled that as a youngster, he believed one day he would own a BBQ establishment. A 1976 graduate of Ritenour High School in St. Louis, he worked as a die cast machine operator in Rockford, IL. In 1981, he was involved in a work accident that left him disabled.
“Today with my childhood dream and my desire to persevere from life’s pitfalls, I am determined to succeed in my bar-b-cue business,” he said.
Simpson added that what makes his menu “awesome,” which includes pork ribs, chicken, beef and trimmings like potato salad, baked beans and cake, is the sauce that he cultivated from his Louisiana roots.
“The techniques and sauces used is a result of continuous efforts to acquire the secrets of a ‘Louisiana barbeque hut I visited for many years in my hometown of Bastrop, ‘ ” he said. “The owners revealed little things to me at a time, so I tried to match their bar-b-cue, developing a technique of my very own.
“Although the sauce is similar, I have developed my own way to arrive at its succulent finish,” he continued. “True barbecue lovers know the smell of ‘mojo’ and the way back taste of delicious bar-be-cue.”
For more information about CAAAB and Kiva, contact Neelu Panth at 314./533.2411, ext. 109 or visit www.CAAAB.org.