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Alternative Business Financing: How a Fisherman Became President of Leading Retirement Solutions

November 01, 2017

Kirsten Curry, founder and owner of Leading Retirement Solutions (LRS), has worked her way to the top of not just one, but two male-dominated industries, starting her professional career as a commercial fisherman in Alaska and now in her current career in the financial services industry.

Curry has experienced continued success with her current business venture, despite the challenges she has experienced in obtaining business funding critical to the continued upward trajectory of her company. Curry recently learned that she wasn’t alone in her challenge to obtain traditional bank financing for her woman owned business. National statistics reveal that a mere 16% of traditional bank loaned dollars are granted to women owned businesses. This is a sobering number considering that 39% of businesses in the U.S. are women owned.

Curry cites additional troubling statistics for women owned businesses - less than 2% of women owned businesses ever exceed $1 million in annual revenues, a goal that has already been accomplished by Curry and Leading Retirement Solutions. She wonders if it is because women business owners cannot get the business funding to push their enterprises to the next level, a financial situation Curry is currently facing as LRS is poised for its next phase of expansion and growth.

Raised with an entrepreneurial spirit, before she founded LRS, Curry plied the seas for over a decade working in the family business as a commercial fisherman in Alaska. Curry always knew she would one day start and own a company and those long, exhausting and demanding days of fishing taught her the necessary discipline she would need to build and operate her own successful business enterprise. Though the fishing industry was and remains male-dominated, Curry quickly learned how to be taken seriously and commanded respect. Eventually, she decided to leave the world of commercial fishing and pursued studies at Gonzaga University and then at Seattle University School of Law. Afterwards, she played with the idea of maritime law as well as a few other business ideas before she found herself partnering with two others in a multi-company business venture focused on tax, retirement and legal services for emerging businesses.

All three used their personal savings as initial capital to start the company and then recycled company revenues back into the company to fuel its growth; truly building the company from the ground up. Curry’s entrepreneurial spirit was soaring until one day the partnership fell apart. Though her partners left the company, Curry made the decision to press on. With a fresh start, she renamed the company Leading Retirement Solutions and continued to build her company into the successful, thriving business that it is today. Curry has found herself driven by a passion for the retirement preparedness of others and believes her company offers incredibly valuable services to businesses and their owners.

In the wake of her partnership dissolution, Curry’s goal was to grow the company and make it the success she knew it would be. She took out a $25,000 loan from her parents, and used her personal savings, again, to fund the business. Today, Curry advises her clients that when calculating new business expenditures to “double it… you can try and budget, but you always end up needing more.” LRS passed one million in revenue last year, which Curry is extremely proud of. It’s in her nature, however, to constantly look to the future and set the bar higher and higher. Currently, Curry is seeking more funding for the company as she is planning for growth at LRS. Last year’s expenses had increased exponentially because of technology, service and clientele expansions and this year she is predicting even more capital expenditures and technology investments to take LRS to the next level.

Curry has tried getting a business loan, but has been turned down by three banks so far. She’s been to a private bank, a federally backed bank, and has even used the SBA’s latest tools in matching businesses with financial institutions that would best meet their needs. A large part of the unwillingness by banks to grant her a loan is the fact that LRS was not revenue positive last year, due to the huge expansion the company made. “It doesn’t matter that our revenue was 25% more than the previous year,” Curry says, “banks only want to see that we had profitability and will not extend a loan, otherwise.”

The funds Curry is trying to procure for her business would go towards the company’s operations. Because LRS obtains a majority of its revenues in the first few months of a calendar year, LRS’ finance and accounting team must strategically allocate costs throughout the year, which can get tricky when trying to advance a business. Trying to explain this to banks is oftentimes frustrating for Curry and her team – they just want to see that the business has profits within their lending parameters.

For the future, Curry is going to grow her company even though she hasn’t received the funding she requires. However, she is quite aware of numerous alternative venues to fund her business and is currently weighing her options. At this point, Curry doesn’t want to limit her company to the previous forms of business financing they received, and will continue to seek all available options. Despite the banks’ rejections, she sees it only as one more hurdle experienced by business owners as she sets her sights on achieving national brand recognition for LRS.

There are numerous alternative or nontraditional routes to funding and investing money for emerging businesses that are often unknown to the greater business community. Leading Retirement Solutions is proud to bring you unique stories (including our own) of prosperous business ventures that find success despite the financial obstacles laid before them.

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