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Laura Stewart launched her insurance adjustment company, The Stewart Group, in Dallas, TX in 1998. Her business thrived for more than two decades, in good times and bad. It even weathered the 2008 financial crisis, but the coronavirus pandemic threatened the company’s survival.
By the first of May, Stewart was fed up. She had been waiting for weeks on her lending institution to come through with the money it had promised to save businesses like hers through the Paycheck Protection Program. She was getting nowhere with the loan process and her business was sinking, just like thousands of others around the country. Out of desperation, she reached out to someone she didn’t even know. She wasn’t asking for anything more than a little help.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has spent the coronavirus pandemic calling on the nation’s big banks to loosen their reserves to help struggling businesses.
“Banks are playing themselves,” Cuban recently told CNBC. “They’re being banks, and they’re trying to determine if the credits are good, and that’s leading to a lot of small businesses that are left out in the cold.” Cuban has called for clearer loan rules from the Small Business Administration, and more proactive help from the banks to keep small businesses afloat while the world deals with this unprecedented crisis.
So when Cuban heard from Stewart about her difficulties dealing with the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, he acted quickly.
Cuban and Stewart had no prior relationship. But the Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star did not refer her to one of the big banks but instead recommended Dallas’ Vista Bank, a community bank that has been working to get money to businesses faster than their big bank counterparts.
“We have been working around the clock,” Vista Bank CEO and President John Steinmetz recently told CNBC’s Kelly Evans. “We’ve been funding at a pretty rapid pace,” he added. He more than made good on that.
Based on Cuban’s referral, Stewart reached out and applied for a loan from Vista Bank after hours. And at 10:13 p.m. that night, a loan officer responded to her. She had been approved for a loan. Total wait time: about three hours.
“I am so glad that I reached out to Mark Cuban and couldn’t be more grateful that he took time out of his hectic schedule to help a person he has never met,” said Stewart. “It would be great if all Americans possessed this type of work ethic, attitude, and character, and I’m so thankful that he knew just who to send me to that could rescue my business – Vista Bank. I look forward to meeting the team that stayed up with me that night, making sure my application got funded, and maybe one day, I’ll get to thank Mr. Cuban personally.”
“These are not numbers on a balance sheet,” Vista president Steinmetz told CNBC. “These are numbers not rolling across the bottom of your screen. These are people who are not currently in the unemployment line.” They want to keep their businesses alive and make payroll for their employees, he added, urging banks and agencies to continue working together.
Vista’s loans to small businesses affected by the coronavirus have ranged from just $281 to $7.8 million.
“Thankfully, Ms. Stewart’s experience with Mr. Cuban was not an anomaly,” said Steinmetz. “Since referring his Texas twitter following to us last week and individually sending countless small business owners our way, he has truly made a difference for the future of Dallas.”
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