OCEAN CITY – The popular Hoop Tea brand will expand thanks to a $250,000 VOLT loan.
State and local officials presented a check for $250,000 to Danny Robinson of Backshore Brewing to aid in the expanded distribution of Hoop Tea. The alcoholic drink, “summer in a jar” as Robinson calls it, will make its way to neighboring states now that the company has the money to expand the product line.
“These VOLT loans are critically important to support small business,” Senator Jim Mathias said as he helped present the check.
VOLT loans, made possible by the revenue generated by the video lottery terminals at Maryland casinos, are offered to small, minority- and women-owned businesses as low interest loans. To qualify, companies must employ fewer than 500 people and have annual revenues that average $35 million or less over three years. Past recipients have included Smart Graphics Design in Pocomoke and Plak That in West Ocean City.
Mathias said the loans were important in today’s world because the “character loans” that were available years ago no longer existed. He said banks were increasingly cautious and that it wasn’t unusual for the best ideas presented with the utmost diligence to have their loan requests turned down. That, he says, is when VOLT loans make all the difference.
“There are times these monies are critically important,” Mathias said.
Robinson said Backshore Brewing released Hoop Tea at its 10th Street Boardwalk location last year.
“It’s an alcoholic tea but it’s got a low alcohol percentage so it’s made to drink all day in the sun,” he said.
Made with organic sweeteners and all natural ingredients, it proved “explosively” popular. Tourists were eager to see it sold in their home states so Robinson started looking at expansion. Plans to make it available in Delaware and Virginia as well as in Maryland came to a halt when Robinson couldn’t get a traditional bank loan to fund supplies and equipment.
“While it was an exciting venture, we stalled because of a lack of capital,” he said.
The plan was too risky for banks, and even if Robinson had been able to secure a loan it would have come with a high interest rate. When Mathias told Robinson about the VOLT program, he wasted no time in applying. After several months of working with Worcester County’s economic development staff, he secured a $250,000 low interest loan for the business. Presented with the check Tuesday, Robinson was thrilled.
“I don’t think there’s a better investment the state could make than small business,” he said. “Small business is a multiplier. It creates jobs and economic growth.”
Merry Mears, Worcester County’s economic development director, said that more than $1 million in VOLT loans had been awarded to county businesses in recent years. She said she was happy to see that number grow.
“We’re excited to work with Danny,” she said, “and we’re excited to support an already successful entrepreneur.”
Following Tuesday’s presentation in Ocean City, a second took place in Snow Hill. There, the Daily Brew Coffee Shop on Washington Street was awarded a VOLT loan to allow owner Lorissa McAllister, “to pursue her dream to own a specialty coffee shop in a quaint town setting.”