Bridge Loan Helps Local Sausage Company Survive, Thrive Following Hurricane Michael

In 1941, Sparks “Pappy” Register founded the Register Meat Company in Cottondale, Florida. He worked for a meat processing plant in Marianna previously and told the owner about his great smoked pork sausage recipe. The owner considered his proposal but ultimately declined due to the cost of the ingredients.

Register Meat Company, a Florida SBDC success storyNot deterred by the owner’s refusal, Pappy began producing his specialty smoked sausage at home and selling it door-to-door out of a washtub.

His product was so successful that he founded the Register Meat Company, which has continuously operated in Cottondale for over 75 years. Register’s Sausage can be purchased in over 140 grocery stores and restaurants across the Florida Panhandle, Lower Alabama, and Southwest Georgia.

Many customers are fiercely loyal to the Register’s brand.

“For many, Register’s Sausage is nostalgic – it reminds them of home,” said business manager Starla Deese.

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael swept through the Panhandle and devastated the community, Register’s, and their customer base.

Seeking help, Al and Ben Kaempfer, owner and chief executive officer and general manager, respectively, turned to the Florida SBDC at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) for help securing a Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan. When asked about their experience with the storm and the assistance received, Ben recalled:

What type of damage occurred?

The city lost the water tower and electricity and we were without power for two weeks. Immediately, we moved our inventory to the freezer and subsequently to our trucks until they ran out of diesel. There were so many trees down that we couldn’t get them out to get diesel. We began giving away sausage to hungry residents in the community. We lost $35,000 worth of inventory because we weren’t able to refrigerate it. Our employees lost everything – one of our team members just got housing this week. We also lost 10 grocery stores permanently that carried our product. 

How did the Emergency Bridge Loan help?

The loan helped us in three ways. In the short-term, it helped us survive because there were still bills that needed to be paid, we needed to make payroll, etc. Beyond that, the loan gave us the ability to focus on growth in the next few months following the storm. The bridge loan gave us the ability to not just survive, but thrive following the storm. Our sales for January and February this year are actually up 40 percent from 2018. In the long-term, it has given us the ability to deal with our insurance and help us continue to do a good job like we have for the last 75 years.  

How helpful was the Florida SBDC at FAMU?

Very helpful. The bridge loan was such a timely process – we were actually surprised at how quickly we applied, got the funds, and also about the terms of the loan. It’s hard to describe how helpful the program was and how much of a relief it was to secure it because my family, my dad’s family, and our employees and their families depend on our business.

About the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network, and supported by Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term, interest-free working capital loan intended to help small businesses “bridge the gap” between the time of a declared disaster and when the business has secured long-term recovery resources, such as insurance proceeds or federal disaster assistance.

As a principal responder in the state’s Emergency Support Function for Business, Industry, and Economic Stabilization, the Florida SBDC Network supports disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation through its Business Continuation Services. As part of its service offering, Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.

Register Meat Company, a Florida SBDC success story

"[The Florida SBDC was] very helpful. The bridge loan was such a timely process – we were actually surprised at how quickly we applied, got the funds, and also about the terms of the loan. It’s hard to describe how helpful the program was and how much of a relief it was to secure it because my family, my dad’s family, and our employees and their families depend on our business."

- Ben Kaempfer, General Manager - Register Meat Company

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