While small businesses across the U.S. are reopening and adapting to the new normal, we’ll be highlighting stories of OnDeck customers who are facing these challenges head on. They share ways they changed their business operations to deal with new realities and how they used financing from OnDeck to help along the way.
We recently spoke with OnDeck customer Mario Fortunato, who owns MarDona Specialty Foods in New York City. He has used his OnDeck financing for cash flow and inventory while his restaurant customers were being impacted by the pandemic.
Tell us about your business. How did it come about?
MarDona started in 2007 while I was a bookkeeper and accountant of another specialty foods business, Wild Forest. Wild Forest was all about truffle oil, but to me that product wasn’t as attractive or accessible to the everyday person, and I wanted to change that. I created MarDona because I wanted to make quality product that an average Joe would buy, and I brought Wild Forest into the MarDona fold in 2011.
MarDona now covers three labels – MarDona, Wild Forest, and La Truffe Royal (our French label). We specialize in truffle oil and salts, olive oils, balsamic vinegars and glazes, pasta sauces, dried mushrooms, giardiniera, muffulettas, and more. We ship nationwide and offer products on Amazon and through Restaurant Depot, a major client of ours.
What have been some of your biggest challenges as a small business owner?
Financing has always been an issue: making sure I have enough cash to pay my bills, my distributors, and myself. However, getting materials for things like glass, caps, and jars is probably our biggest challenge. For example, I can get a high-quality glass bottle straight from Italy for one price, but it could be much less expensive it I get it from a market like China. You always want to have a high-quality product, but you also want to keep your costs manageable so you can make money. That’s always something we wrestle with.
Why did you choose OnDeck and what’s been your most memorable experience working with us?
I have a background in accounting and credit, and I can say for certain that OnDeck is legit and easy to work with. I’ve been with OnDeck since 2015 and I get decisions in 24 hours or sooner. Everyone I worked with is pleasant and I’ve never had a problem.
How have you used the money?
My most recent loan from OnDeck was used for cash flow and inventory. Demand for our product was high, but I didn’t have enough glass jars on order to meet demand. On top of that, we needed to make sure we continued to pay salaries and other fixed costs. The PPP loan I got wasn’t enough, and neither was the $5,000 SBA Emergency Loan. OnDeck knows my business well, and I’m thankful that OnDeck gave me what I needed.
How has the coronavirus impacted your business?
We were having the best year ever before COVID hit. We were up 55% year over year in January and February, and March was on the cusp of another great month. March ended up down 10% year over year, and from April through June we were down 80% because all our major restaurant clients and specialty grocers were closed. We were lucky to have our consumer business to keep us going. By the middle of June, things started to reopen in the city; we also benefited from Restaurant Depot selling to the general public, and not just members.
It’s slowly coming back, but we’re still running a little bit behind year to date. Most NYC restaurants are still shut down and fall and winter are around the corner, so we’ll see what happens.
What do you love about being a small business owner?
At the end of the day, I put a product out there with my name on it and it feels great. I enjoy seeing the purchase orders come in. That’s what drives me every day.
Hopefully when COVID gets under control, I’d like to increase our clientele, get our product in more stores, and come up with new products. I don’t have any set plans to sell the business or retire. When my wife retires, she’ll join me at MarDona and down the road, I’d like to open my own plant and fulfillment center and have my children take over.