Golf Resort Stays Afloat with Bridge Loan; Continues to Grow

A story about partners working together to help small businesses overcome challenges to grow and succeed.

Cheval Golf and Athletic Club is a country club that offers a vast amount of fitness clubs and classes for children and adults. The owner of the club, Larry King, Jr., has always wanted to own his own business and decided to take over Cheval after seeing that getting kids and young families involved in athletics was becoming more important. “Kind of funny how I got into this industry,” he said. “I wanted to own my own small business. I lived in the Cheval community and saw that it had an athletic club that was fledgling, so I kind of looked at that industry, went around the country, researched it and saw the changing times that were happening in the athletic club business, and that was getting kids and young families involved."

While getting Cheval Golf and Athletic Club up and running, in 2011, King’s biggest challenge was the initial start. “The biggest challenge I faced in this small business was initially getting started and making sure the business plan was right,“ King said. “It took about 18 months to make sure the business financials were right and the customer acquisition policies we put in place were going to work.”

King had a good handle on the business, but reached out to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida in 2015 after enduring 31 inches of rain in 25 days, which caused golf revenues to plummet. King sought out Florida SBDC at USF consultant Yanina Rosario for assistance achieving a no interest Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan, as a result of the 2015 West Central Florida Flooding Event, to resolve the damages. Activated by the Governor and administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network and Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Emergency Bridge Loan Program provides short-term, interest-free working capital loans to help impacted businesses “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured long-term recovery resources, such as insurance claims or federal assistance.

As a principal responder in the state’s Emergency Support Function (ESF) 18 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.

With their help, King was able to get an infrastructure loan to help fix the drainage issues. “It allowed me to pay it back interest free after six months,” King explained. “So I was able to hire a company, get the drainage put in place and now we have no more issues.”

After successfully working with the Florida SBDC at USF to get the loan, King is excited to work with the organization in the future to do a market research study via the Center’s Student Teams services. Students from the University of Tampa will conduct the market research study and provide insights to King, with the supervision of a Florida SBDC at USF consultant, to help grow Cheval’s restaurant business. King is looking to get into the take out business for the country club’s restaurant as well. “With 1,500 homes in the community, adding take out is pointing to a 30 percent growth for the business,” he said.

“What they’re going to help us do is market research study in this industry to see what kind of growth we have. [They will] help us design the menus, and then we’re actually going to put an operational plan together, hire people from that, and deliver into this area.”

Since King took over, the Cheval Golf and Athletic Club community has grown drastically. Since taking over, the club has added 500 members. Using King’s previous work experience, he created a values system in the beginning to gain the best members possible. After joining, his first few members referred their mutual friends and so on. “I worked at two great companies prior to taking this business over,” King said. “One was American Express and one was Intuit, which is a software company out of Palo Alto, and they were real big on values – corporate run values. So when I took over here, I created my own values list and I hired within the values and that’s exactly what those two companies did. I really didn’t have to go out and recruit. People are now wanting to come here to be a part of the team.”

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"[With the help of the government and the SBDC, King was able to get an infrastructure loan to help fix the drainage issues.] It allowed me to pay it back interest free after six months. So I was able to hire a company, get the drainage put in place and now we have no more issues.”

Larry King, Jr., Owner — Cheval Golf and Athletic Club