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Barefoot Books
• Apr 8, 2024

There’s nothing quite like having a child to see the world through a fresh perspective. When this happened to Nancy Traversy, Co-Founder of children’s book publisher, Barefoot Books, her first of four babies was only three weeks old. Suddenly, she realized that she, and her cofounder Tessa Strickland, both had a similar vision for parenthood and how they might build a career upon it. “We’d both done a lot of traveling in our careers and wanted our children to be raised as global citizens, aware of the wonderfully diverse world we live in. We couldn’t really find books that were as inclusive and eye-opening as we wanted.”

So, in 1992, they formed Barefoot Books, to solve that problem for their own children, and children everywhere. Ever since, they’ve been working with writers, artists, and musicians from around the world, publishing books with diverse characters and families for all children - from babies through elementary school.

When it came time for business banking needs, Nancy thought back to her Toronto roots, where she’d opened her first savings account after starting her first job, trusting the bank again in a “full circle” way, she says.

Navigating through challenging times

Like many small businesses, the pandemic posed many new challenges. She thought, “How will all of this work?” especially when it came time to apply for a PPP loan. “No one knew what they were doing and were trying to navigate it, and it was so lovely to have a human being that was supportive and helpful, and said, ‘This is how it works,’” she says. That person was Renee Durning, Relationship Manager at TD Bank.

“Obviously retail was way down during the pandemic and education was affected…we had a need for more support,” Nancy says. She remembers the pleasure of meeting Renee in person, as she came out to the publishing offices, and it wasn’t just a “transactional banking relationship,” Nancy says. “It’s nice for your banker to see that you’re a real company with real people trying to really do something, and it’s not always easy to do what we’re doing…trying to be pioneers. Sometimes your income statement and balance sheet doesn’t tell the whole story of what you’re trying to do.”

Renee, who also had small children, knew of Barefoot Books already, so when Nancy’s team reached out for help in leasing some office space, she was able to help them get settled and answer financial questions. Renee also remembers being in the background watching Barefoot’s PPP loans move through the application steps, intentionally keeping an eye on its progress for Nancy. “If there was any piece missing, we would get alerted and could reach out to the customer to let them know,” Renee says.

An impact felt around the world

The trust they built during those initial interactions led to a more recent financial decision, when last summer Nancy decided to apply for a business credit line to help with everyday operating cash flow needs, Renee says. The credit line allowed Nancy’s business to keep multiple channels thriving despite pandemic setbacks.

The extra security of the line of credit allowed multiple business initiatives to continue, including publishing 300,000 books for orphans impacted by HIV/AIDS in Mozambique. Last year, they collaborated with an organization to translate 20 of their books into 20 different languages. “It was to fund the kind of publishing we want to do, which is funding literacy needs and working with nonprofit organizations. We aren’t a publisher that relies on Amazon and Target and the mass market.”

Nancy’s collaboration with Renee at TD Bank means their “fiercely independent” vision continues on today.

How Small Businesses can determine if they might need a business line of credit

Business Plans: Telling your financial story

Do they have a business plan? Has the business plan been updated at least annually? “It should be thought of as a breathing, living document,” Renee says. There are multiple times when the business plan should especially be updated, she adds:

“Are there new contracts underway? Are there new projects underway? How do those new projects impact the need for more working capital?” Keeping the business plan ready to showcase to banking partners is essential, she adds.

Staying organized: Financial Statements

Renee remembers that Nancy and her team were so knowledgeable about all of their numbers, and their financial statements were well kept. “That was key to provide not only what those numbers were, but the narrative of what those numbers meant,” Renee says. “That helps us understand why, yes, we can provide lending resources and financing certain dollar amounts, and the type of financing tools that might help.” For example, some businesses might need a term loan versus a line of credit. Seeing that the business owners understand the numbers themselves is helpful in the loan process. Renee says if you are only meeting with an accountant at tax time, it might be time to level up.

A Vision: Answers to your big picture mission

Your banker will help you focus in on what you really want and need from your business, so you can think through questions like:

  • How did you start your business?
  • What are you looking to do to grow the business?
  • What changes are you hoping to accomplish or upcoming opportunities?
  • Who is your management?
  • What are your services? Are you in a specific niche?
  • What makes your product or service unique?

These responses would be in the business plan, but are also great to know as part of your own narrative.

Want to learn more about small business?
How One Interior Design Small Business Saved Her Company From Debt
If You Have a Passion, You Can Move Any Stone in Your Way — One Small Business Owner’s Determination to Serve the Health of Her Community
Enriching the Florida Community, One Smile at a Time – The SEDA Dental Story

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