This is part of a series of stories highlighting credit unions making small business loans in Missouri and the need for S. 2231, the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Act.
Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union (ABECU) was founded in February 1939, near the end of the Depression, and started with eight members and $55 in assets. After two years, the credit union had 700 members and $37,000 in assets. Today, ABECU serves 114,000 members and has $1.3 billion in assets.
The credit union originally served the financial needs of the employees and retirees of Anheuser-Busch companies, wholly-owned subsidiaries and select distributors and their immediate family members. In 1997, ABECU introduced American Eagle Credit Union, its community division serving all those who live or work in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Jefferson County in Missouri, as well as two counties in Illinois.
ABECU has 28 branches, including 11 in the St. Louis metropolitan area. No matter the changes in membership and size, the core purpose of ABECU remains to help its members achieve financial success.
And that includes small business owners. Here are a few of the people ABECU is helping with small business efforts:
A family-owned business in operation since 1910, Fox River Dairy specializes in wholesale food service. Brothers Dan and Ken Probst have owned Fox River Dairy since 1995, and have tripled the company’s sales during that time. The company works with 12 local producers of artisan food products that are sold exclusively to its clients, which include fine hotels, country clubs, restaurants and caterers. One of the keys to Fox River Dairy’s success is their approach, “anything, anytime and no minimum order.”
Long-time members of Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union (ABECU), Fox River Dairy still maintained bank accounts elsewhere. In 2010, Fox River Dairy had the opportunity to expand into a warehouse space that would double their capabilities. When Dan and Ken approached their bank, “We were immediately told ‘Don’t even ask, we aren’t lending anything to anyone,’” explains Dan Probst.
They turned to ABECU for help, and were struck by the credit union’s focus on people, not just dollars and cents.
“When we were preparing our loan documents we were actually asked to include our company background story. Yes, that’s right, our personal story about how we got into the business and, why we loved what we were doing,” says Dan. “I was absolutely blown away that a financial institution would consider that as a determining factor in deciding whether they wanted to work with us or not.”
Fox River Dairy received the loan they needed to grow from ABECU – which has brought more employees and opportunities to others.
“Without the ability to grow our business with the help we received from our credit union, we would not have been able to add the new employees that we have added in the last year,” explains Dan. “And because of our new capabilities we have helped several other small local businesses to grow by getting their product to more foodservice and retail establishments.”
Community Resource Associates (CRA) works to help people with disabilities have access to affordable and integrated housing throughout the United States. As founder and president of CRA, Derrick provides conference presentations, training, strategic board planning retreats, workshops and management consultation nationwide regarding issues related to people with disabilities.
Derrick works extensively in the closing of residential facilities, transforming systems that support individuals with disabilities to implement best practices, and establishing community wraparound services for individuals who are in crisis. He is also deeply involved in teaching and coaching how to pair person-centered planning with individual budgets as part of the implementation of self-determination in a Medicaid environment.
CRA had significant deposits and accounts at a large regional bank, but was unable to obtain credit financing from the bank for their company’s needs. The Dufresnes live near an American Eagle Credit Union (a division of ABECU) branch in West St. Louis County, and came in asking for a business line of credit. AECU provided a modest line of credit, which was increased in the second year and allows CRA to stay current with its expenses. As a consultant that travels across the country, travel expenses must often be paid before CRA receives payment for services.
The credit union’s personal interest in their company and their needs made the difference for the Dufresnes.
“Everyone knows our names. We moved our business and personal accounts to American Eagle because they were interested in learning and understanding our story and serving our business needs from our first meeting,” explains Carol Dufresne, who also serves as CRA’s corporate secretary. “American Eagle looked at the big picture and realized that supporting our business was in everyone’s best interests. We have not disappointed them, nor have they let us down.”
St. Louis Chapter credit unions: Make contacts with U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt by phone, by email, and/or in person today, highlighting the small business lending efforts and asking for support of S. 2231, the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Act.