Finding the Right Funding for a Lifelong Passion

Group of five years old girls dancing during a preschool performance outdoor while a sunny day

Fundbox customer Marian Roth-Cramer has been teaching young people to dance for decades. Dance is her art, her passion, and her small business. When she wrote us a letter describing the frustration she faced in trying to get business funding, we knew we needed to hear her story.

She told us, “I tried to go through my bank [to get funding]; they advised me of the tasks I needed to complete in order to get a line of credit. After diligently and properly running my business and accomplishing those goals, or so I thought, I was told No, I needed to do more! I was done. I hunted for alternative funding options, which is how I found Fundbox.”

We spoke to Marian recently to learn more about her business, and her experience trying to get a conventional loan. Our conversation might sound familiar to any small business owner who has ever tried to find the right funding to grow and sustain their business.

Marian Roth-Cramer, Director and Founder of Ms. Marian’s Dance Garden

Marian Roth-Cramer, Director and Founder of Ms. Marian’s Dance Garden

Fundbox: First things first: tell us about you and what you do. Can you give a brief overview of your business and what you provide to your customers?

Marian Roth-Cramer: I’m Marian, and I have taught dance to kids in San Francisco since 1985. I was an artist in residence in the school system, then opened a dance studio. During the dot-com boom, I was evicted along with several other artists. Next, I was hired at the YMCA as an independent contractor, where I developed a children’s dance program there. We did performing and teaching with kids as young as 3, all the way through high school. Eventually, I decided to move on, and found a place in my neighborhood. I’ve had that studio for 5 years!

Part of what I do for kids is not just teach them to dance. Yes, we learn about dance, performance, and movement, but we also talk about becoming good citizens, being productive, and contributing to society. We talk about how to plan, how to think about their careers, develop their independence, and their future. If you have a teacher for your whole life—from age three through high school—that teacher can have a truly huge impact.

Fundbox: Can you share some of your biggest challenges when it comes to finances or operating your business successfully?

MRC: I moved from being a professional dancer, to running dance companies, to being an artist in residence for 10 years….all these situations where I was either an employee or a contractor. Eventually I had to figure out how to get the funds for up-front costs and really build a business. That’s a big challenge.

Fundbox: In the past, you’ve been turned down for credit by banks because your credit history didn’t reflect reality. Can you share your experience?

MRC: I went to a bank and was told that I didn’t have a credit history as a woman, as an individual. I only had one as a spouse—under my husband’s name! I’m going to be 65. I didn’t have anything that was under my name, because of being married and how I had lived. I even hyphenated my name, but it didn’t matter; I still had a really difficult time getting my own stuff. I had a Macy’s card but I didn’t have my own regular credit card.

I did work with a credit union, but that also didn’t help: even though I had an account with them for 13 years, when I went to them for help with a line of credit for my business, they told me they didn’t fund businesses. I was happy with them as a customer, but it didn’t help my credit history one bit.

The bank told me that if I ran my business for a year and met certain parameters they would give me a line of credit. I followed their rules, but after a year, they changed the rules! In the end, I went to a different bank. When I wanted to be independent and strike out on my own, and not have my husband sign everything, I found it really difficult, every step of the way.

Fundbox: How did you learn about Fundbox and what led you to sign up?

MRC: I found Fundbox through Quickbooks. Fundbox has saved me when business was slower, or when people don’t pay on time. I’m thrilled to be able to have that option offered to me and use it.

Now it seems like everyone wants to give you money—there are so many advertisements for loans all over the place. Back when I opened up 5 years ago, though, that was not the case. I am very grateful to Fundbox, it really has saved me a few times.

Fundbox: Are you using Fundbox the way you thought you would? Or are you using it differently? How?

MRC: Yes, I use it the way I have always used it, and that is: when my clients don’t pay on time. I’ve always had fabulous parents, they do follow through. But I am sensitive to their financial issues and there are interruptions sometimes with payment. It helps me keep financial discipline. I use it to help me meet my bills when I can’t get paid on time and when we have seasonal lulls.

Fundbox: Has having access to extra funds helped you in a particular way, such as growing the business?

MRC: It’s mostly helped in the day-to-day. There was one time that I used Fundbox to help with a big PR campaign that was really helpful to the business. A couple years ago, we had an opportunity to do a video. We worked with a big company that gave us access to a videographer for free. We then were able to work with that videographer to create something that we could own.

Fundbox: Any other feedback to share about your experience with Fundbox?

MRC: Fundbox is a great program, it’s very smart. It’s done really respectfully and it’s really helpful. I think it’s great. I also want to thank the folks from Fundbox who came up to my studio and celebrated Small Business Week with me! It’s great to be appreciated.

Fundbox: We always try to show our appreciation for our small business customers! Thanks Marian, and best of luck to you.

About Marian Roth-Cramer:

Marian Roth-Cramer (AKA Ms. Marian) is the Director of Ms. Marian’s Dance Garden. She has a BA in Theatre & Dance from Barat College (outside Chicago) and an MFA cum laude in Dance & Choreography from Mills College, Oakland, CA. Previously, she created the Children’s Dance Program at San Francisco’s Richmond District YMCA, and led it for 12 years. You can find Ms Marian’s Dance Garden online, on Facebook, and in San Francisco.

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