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Company experiences almost instant growth upon purchasing headquarters

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When a business owner wants to leave a lasting impression with a potential client or customer, they often offer a gift — such as a pen or a mug — with the company information inscribed. Similarly, when a little league team wants to acknowledge its players and coaches, a large banner is posted in the team stands.

The production of these items and many more are made possible by Instant Imprints, a San Diego promotional items company with 50 franchises currently open in 18 states and more on the way.

Instant Imprints merges several products and services — embroidery, screen printing, signage, heat transfers and promotional items — under one roof. The first store opened in San Diego in 1992, and within three years, president Leo Kats and his father Lev, CEO, began developing a franchising concept.

In 2002, Instant Imprints opened its first retail franchise store in San Diego and has experienced phenomenal growth in the three years since.

Earlier this year, Leo and his partners sought out a larger facility to own — a 20,000-square-foot building in Sorrento Valley.

Leo was working with a broker from Voit Commercial who referred him to Ray Weamer, vice president of SBA Business Development at California Bank & Trust. Weamer, along with Mike Sarthou of CDC Small Business Finance, helped Leo secure an SBA 504 loan in a whirlwind process that wrapped up in an almost unprecedented nine business days.

“Nobody thought we could get it done,” Leo said. “Working with Ray was great and since then, we’ve moved all our business banking to California Bank & Trust.”

The 504 loan program provides businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings. Ninety percent financing is provided for businesses buying or building commercial properties. The repayment of the loan advanced by the private lender -- 50 percent of the project loan -- is not insured or guaranteed by SBA or any other federal agency. The loan advanced by a CDC - 40 percent of the project loan -- is guaranteed by SBA in the financing of a 504 project. The remaining 10 percent is contributed generally by the owner.

The larger building enabled Leo and his partners to merge their corporate office with their construction division, and also allows for future growth. A classroom in one portion of the building allows Leo and his staff to train 24 franchisees at one time. The construction division enables the franchise support staff to build the stores’ showrooms.

“We’re at a point to where we can stage more than one store at a time,” Leo said.

Leo’s trust in California Bank & Trust, which is headquartered in San Diego, runs so deep that the bank is also assisting Instant Imprint franchisees with their SBA 7(a) loans, which is the basic small business loan.

California Bank & Trust, a Preferred SBA Lender, provides a variety of products, resources and financing solutions for businesses and individuals, including wealth management, Internet banking, commercial and small business lending, cash management and international banking.

With business booming in the United States, the founders of Instant Imprints are setting their sights on other countries, including Australia, Canada and Mexico. Already, an advertising campaign has begun in Japan and Singapore.

The Instant Imprint team moved into its new headquarters this past March and since then it continues to make a lasting impression in the business of franchising.

For more information on Instant Imprints, visit www.instantimprints.com.

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