Yahola Creek Restaurant in Flovilla, GA
How a Saturday afternoon email made a difference.
Yahola Creek restaurant is just under three years old, but the owners’ friendly faces are well known throughout United Bank’s footprint. Founders Teanill Burrow, Katie Conkle and Sabrina Bailey are restaurant industry veterans with years of experience between them. When they found a place in Flovilla, Ga., close to Indian Springs, the three friends set out to make their dreams of owning and operating their own restaurant come true.
“After a trillion prayers, a bunch of encouragement from our family and friends and many unavoidable positive signs, we finally mustered up our courage and took a chance with Yahola Creek,” said Teanill.
Right away, the ladies found themselves extraordinarily busy, surpassing their expectations for a restaurant in a small town that was only open on the weekends. Their original plan to staff only 10 people was altered only two weeks after opening as patrons from Griffin, Thomaston, Macon, McDonough, Jackson and Forsyth made the drive to tiny Flovilla to enjoy great food in a relaxing, welcoming environment. Yahola Creek’s staff quickly grew to 21 people, including the three founders, as the restaurant continued to see increased traffic.
“We’re just so thrilled we’ve created a place where people want to come,” said Teanill. “It still takes my breath away to see people come in to eat, laugh and just enjoy their time here, in our ‘house.’”
An Abrupt Change
With the onset of COVID-19, Teanill, Katie and Sabrina found their new restaurant in unchartered waters. Busy weekends abruptly came to a halt as restaurants were restricted to curb side only service. The trio tried to work within the new regulations, but ultimately the new structure didn’t fit their format.
“Things were changing every day for a while,” explained Teanill. “We are not a ‘freezer’ kind of place. Everything we order is fresh and with the new regulations in place, it was hard for us to even know what to order without waste.”
On March 13, 2020, Teanill, Katie and Sabrina made the tough decision to stop employing a full-time staff.
“It was heartbreaking,” explained Teanill. “In our industry, it’s hard to keep great people. We’ve been so lucky because we’ve had so little turnover. Our employees are loyal, and we are loyal to them.”
The restaurant’s three founders started pulling double shifts and doing everything they could to keep the doors open. When they heard about the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), they were interested but also skeptical.
SBA Loan: The First Attempt
Initially, Teanill, Katie and Sabrina decided not to apply for the SBA Paycheck Protection Program. They were hesitant to apply for a loan when they were not sure how they would pay it back under the COVID-19 circumstances. When they learned about the forgiveness component of the program, they decided to reach out to the regional bank that held their business account.
Their first inquiry was made as bankers everywhere prepared for the application portal to be launched. After spending many stressful hours pulling together the necessary documentation, they applied online but were not allowed to speak with anyone personally about the loan by phone. Once their application was received, they were emailed a generic response indicating they may or may not be approved, and the funds could run out. When the initial Paycheck Protection Program funding was depleted, Teanill, Katie and Sabrina had received no more than an automated response from the bank.
The second round of federal funds were approved, and the ladies tried again to connect with their bank, only to receive the same response. A contact within the restaurant industry recommended they reach out to Nat Doughtie at United Bank in Griffin.
SBA Loan Approval through United Bank
Katy and Teanill both banked with United Bank for their personal accounts, so they reached out to Nat via email on a Saturday after business hours. Within ten minutes, he responded to them personally.
“It was incredibly reassuring to just get a response,” said Katy. “We weren’t sure of what the outcome would be, but we knew we had someone on our side, doing whatever he could to help us and that meant the world to us in that moment. Nat made it feel like he was working just for us. He held our hands through every step of the process, and made us confident that our business was exactly the kind of company for which these loans were created.”
Moving Forward with PPP Funds
What did the SBA Paycheck Protection Program loan do for Yahola Creek?
“With this money, we can pay our utilities, rent and do everything we can to bring our employees back to work and off unemployment, said Teanill. “We are taking things slowly, making sure everyone is safe in our work environment. It’s a situation that has definitely rocked us, but with help from United Bank, we have hope that we will weather this storm and come out stronger on the other side.
“Regardless of the approval, this process has taught us that there is a bank that knows us as more than an account number,” she continued. “The United Bank team gave us the same feeling we try to deliver to our customers. We try very hard to make a personal connection with everyone who walks through our doors. To us, they are not just restaurant customers, they are friends and the people who help build our little community. Nat took the same approach with us. It’s nice to know that when you work with United Bank, no matter how big or small you may be, you matter. We are forever grateful and look forward to a full dining room in the near future.”
Let us know if we can help you with your SBA PPP or small business loan. Contact us at 770-567-7211 to connect with one of our lenders.