How Valley Bank and three brothers worked together to get a Tampa cycling and yoga studio off the ground

Library | 9/27/2019

3 BrothersIt took the Nicholas brothers years to put together a plan for a cycling and yoga studio in one of Tampa’s fastest up and coming neighborhoods – and only months to watch the project come to fruition.

That’s not to say the studio, Union Three, which will operate under Lift Tampa LLC, didn’t face hurdles along the way. The brothers, Frank, Richard and Matt, which make up the “three” in the business name, were told by advisors that as a startup it would be impossible to fund. Leasing wasn’t an option, as it would require a monthly mortgage payment on top of buildout expenses. They landed on Valley Bank’s Small Business Administration program through word-of-mouth.

But then they hit another snag. The seller of the property in the Channelside district had a stipulation that the deal had to be closed by the end of 2018 — just as the government shutdown was starting up.

The bank, which has one of the largest SBA programs in the nation, not only got the transaction approved for the property, but was also able to tag on a 7a loan for renovations that allowed the brothers to have one monthly mortgage payment.

“We had gotten critical SBA approvals prior to the shutdown so we could close at the end of the year. It could have easily fallen apart,” said Richard Nicholas, partner at Union Three. “Valley even said they would find a way to bridge the gap to make it happen by the end of the year if they need to do it.”


Valley’s expansion

Valley Bank, which merged with USAmeribank in early 2018, has one of the top SBA programs in the nation. At the time of the merger, Valley asked USAmeribank’s team to run its entire SBA program.

“It went very quickly from being the No. 1 lender in Tampa Bay and one of the top lenders in Alabama to running an SBA program for four states,” said Chris Kneer, senior vice president and division head of SBA lending at Valley Bank.

The merger allowed USAmeribank’s SBA program to expand throughout Florida and into New York and New Jersey. At the time of the expansion, USAmeribank was processing so many SBA loans it nearly maxed out its yearly government production limit, Kneer said. The acquisition, he said, was perfect timing.
Now the program is run out of a facility in Ybor City where most of the behind-the-scenes work is performed. The SBA team each Monday checks in via videoconference with other states’ teams to update and brainstorm.


The SBA stereotype

The Nicholas brothers admit they were skeptical of taking on an SBA loan; the program’s reputation as a whole leaves customers to believe it’s a slow and complicated process. Valley, they said, quashed that stereotype.

The bank builds an entire team around one client looking for an SBA loan, including a specialist, a commercial lender, a branch team to get accounts open and the opportunity to take advantage of the rest of Valley’s services.

“I think that’s what really puts us ahead of others. [Customers] feel like they’ve got a partner in their deal and for [the brothers] it was just a natural fit because a lot of us are Tampa people and we did our due diligence,” Kneer said. “Once we commit to a deal that’s the deal they’re going to get.”


A Tampa connection

Valley’s knowledge of the Tampa Bay area drew the Nicholas brothers to its SBA program. The three grew up in Tampa and wanted someone who knew the area and the right people to get the deal done.

Frank Nicholas, Union Three’s operating partner and lead instructor, said the brothers always knew they wanted to open their own business. The idea for a cycling and yoga studio began when Frank, while living in Austin, got hooked on the practices. He eventually became a cycling instructor, winning “best of” awards in a local magazine in 2017 and 2018.

“I grew to love the clients. Hearing their breakthrough stories was something that I grew to love,” Frank said. His wife, Danielle, is also an instructor.
Eventually, his brother Richard began taking Frank’s classes when he would visit. Many talks and much planning later and Union Three was born.
The 36,000-square-foot building, once completed, will have 45 bikes, 30 yoga mats, common area, lockers with vanities and kombucha stations, among other amenities. The business is expected to open in the fall.

“Richard and I talked and we agreed that Tampa is ready and hungry for really premium product and I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t have to travel to New York City or Austin or LA to take your favorite cycling or yoga class,” Frank said.

Interested in an SBA Loan from Valley?

The success of your business is important to us. That's why we would like to help you achieve your business goals with an SBA Loan from Valley.

The success of your business is important to us. That's why we would like to help you achieve your business goals with an SBA Loan from Valley.