Small Business Credit Profile: The Cookie Cups


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Owner Nicole Pomije funded her sugary startup with strategic use of credit cards

Erica Sandberg is a prominent personal finance authority and author of “Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families.” She writes “Small Business Credit Profiles,” a weekly column featuring small business owners’ journey with credit and credit cards for

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All Nicole Pomije wanted to do was whip up a batch of
chocolate chip cookies. Without a proper baking sheet, she used what she had: a
mini cupcake pan. The inspired result was so delicious that she founded The
Cookie Cups, a bakery in Wayzata, Minnesota. Everything, from fresh
strawberry cookies to mac and cheese bites, is in cupcake form.

“People love the brand,” says Pomije.  “When they get their pink box you can see the
happiness on their faces. They thank me for being here. This neighborhood didn’t
have many options before we started. It’s an older area that’s turning around.
We’re a positive part of the community.”

Successful now, The Cookie Cups may never have risen
without some plastic injection.

Creating a retail bakery space from the ground up must have
been financially daunting. How did credit cards fit in?

I self-funded as much as possible and used a lot of my
money up. The only loan I took out was for $7,000. The rest was credit cards. I
had two before I started, a Gold Delta
SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
and a Bank of America card, and I
already owed on them. So I called Bank of America for a credit line increase,
and they gave it to me. It was scary to add to
my debt, but I had to pull out as much money as I could for the business, but
in a way that didn’t put me in a terrible financial position.

When did you know you needed greater borrowing power?

The Cookie Cups storefront

During construction I discovered that everything cost more
than I anticipated. When you’re building a space, nothing is what you think it’s
going to be. There were all these surprises, like when the contractor tore up a
wall for electricity, but there were no wires. That construction bill doubled,
and I didn’t have the money. In a panic, I went online and started applying for
credit cards. I got a lot of denials, and all the applications were hurting my
score. It was about 630 and I was in huge debt, but somehow, I was approved for
a couple of cards.

See related: Credit card application denied? 3 steps to getting the next one approved

Which accounts were you eventually granted?

A Citi
Double Cash Card
, and it’s been great. I get 2
percent cash back on certain purchases. I see the money I earned right away and
redeem it as a statement credit. The other is a low limit Credit One card, and
it’s been good for smaller things. I wouldn’t have been able to pay for what I
needed without these credit lines. There was all this stuff I had to have, like
the shelving and stainless-steel equipment. I charged them and when I paid the
card down, I’d use it again. It was a really trying process and I got really
creative. I made it work.

“In the beginning it’s OK to send the minimum payments, just keep up so
your credit report shows you’re in good standing. As
long as you have cards that give you cash back or miles and manage them
smartly, it’s dumb not to use them for a business.”

So these are your personal accounts, but what about
business cards?

I’ll branch out to business cards soon. I’d like to have
one through Bank
of America that’s linked to my other accounts. I
also want a business American Express
with high rewards and little or no fees. They’re an easy
company to work with. Great customer service and you can always get someone on
the phone. I’ll let certain employees have access to the business cards so they
can pay venders when I’m not there. That would be a big help.

Any credit card advice to other entrepreneurs?

Do your research before applying so you don’t hurt your
credit score
! Honestly, I didn’t realize how many are out there, and they all
have different rewards, fees, that kind of thing. Then when you get them, be
prepared for the bills. In the beginning it’s
OK to send the minimum payments, just keep up so your credit report shows you’re
in good standing. As long as you have
cards that give you cash back or miles and manage them smartly, it’s dumb not
to use them for a business. I’ll
be starting The Cookie Cups catering and opening a second store. Of course, I’ll
be using credit cards when I need them!

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