Karen Mills, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, came to the Toledo area Aug. 23 to help the Zaliouk family celebrate plans to expand their business, and their company, YZ Enterprises, with the help of an SBA loan through Huntington Bank.
“Great companies are built by great people. We’re here to celebrate a great company and the entrepreneurs who built it,” Mills said at a press conference held at YZ Enterprises in Maumee.
“We’re helping small businesses to what they do best. We’re working with entrepreneurs to help them grow. Our job in government is to put the wind at their back,” Mills said.
Mills recognized the Zaliouk family for planning to expand its business and marketing of its Almondina brand cookies. YZ Enterprises plans to expand its 18,000-square-foot facility, where production has maxed out at 100,000 cookies daily. The additional production line will double that production.
“We’re proud to join a long line of businesses that have benefited from SBA by partnering with the SBA and Huntington Bank to put delicious healthy cookies on every table, not just in America but around the world,” said Yuval Zaliouk, president and CEO of YZ Enterprises.
Mills toured the company facilities with Zaliouk and saw how the cookies are produced and packaged firsthand. Mills, her official party and other guests at the press conference sampled Almondina cookies and received a gift bag of them.
YZ Enterprises refinanced their existing loan with an SBA loan to improve its cash flow. The company also received two additional SBA loans that totaled $608,000 for expansion.
The SBA loans are being used to cover the construction loan of $350,000 for the expansion to its facilities and refinancing the company’s debt, according to Tamar Zaliouk-Markham, vice president of finance and treasurer at YZ Enterprises.
She reported that work has already begun on the air-conditioning in the first phase of the project and they expect to have construction of the loading dock completed before winter arrives. She is the daughter of founders and owners, Zavul and Susan Zaliouk.
Zaliouk-Markham reported that the company has 30 employees, including six new workers hired this year. They plan to increase sales and hire an additional five people in 2013 following the expansion.
Zaliouk-Markham worked with Tina Kern and Jeff Banks of Huntington Bank to put together the SBA loan package.
“We support small business with passion. It’s our advocacy since we believe that small business drives the economy,” said Jeremy Guitierrez, senior vice president and Northwest Ohio market manager for Huntington.
“SBA loans are an important tool in our kit. Huntington is the number one SBA lender in Ohio and number three nationally in number of SBA loans,” Guitierrez said.
Zaliouk said that, without Huntington Bank, which has supported their business since it was founded in 1989, “we wouldn’t be here today.”
Mills reported that the SBA had a record year in 2011 in Ohio in terms of SBA loans granted.
“President Obama wants to make sure that small businesses have access to capital. The president says ‘where small business succeeds, America succeeds,’ ” Mills said.
As SBA administrator, Mills travels regularly, at least once a week to a total of 40 states so far, to keep in touch with small businesses.
Zaliouk, a former conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and his grandmother are excellent examples of Mills’ statement. He enjoyed his grandmother Dina’s cookies as a boy growing up in Haifa, Israel.
As generous as she was in giving away her recipes, Grandmother Dina kept the one for the “petit gateau sec,” meaning dry little cookie in French, a secret until the end of her life. She finally revealed the secret to her daughter, Ahuda, Zaliouk’s mother, he said.
“Your grandmother was an entrepreneur and a great cook,” Mills said to Zaliouk. “Entrepreneurs come from all walks of life.”
“Grandma Dina was a smart little cookie and is guiding us today from above,” Zaliouk said.
Grandmother Dina “could not have imagined that would be making her cookies here in Maumee for sale around the world,” he said.
His family began making the cookies for sale in the kitchen of their home in the late 1980s. He and Susan founded YZ Enterprises in 1989 and built the current facility in Maumee for the business, opening it in 1995.
The original all-natural Almondina cookie is made with almonds and raisins with no cholesterol, added fat, salt or preservatives. Since the original recipe, they have added nine additional flavors and introduced three new flavors in 2012, Zaliouk said.
“The cookies are unique in that they are delicious and healthy,” he said.
Their first customer was The Andersons in Maumee, according to Zaliouk. Almondina cookies are now available locally at The Andersons, The Fresh Market, Giant Eagle, Kazmaier’s, and Walt Churchill’s Markets, and at Wal-Mart and other retailers in all 50 states and Israel.
Mills was scheduled to visit Ballreich Brothers in Tiffin, a family-owned company that has produced potato chips since 1920, on Thursday afternoon.