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Meet Yellow Brick Academy: A Case Study

April 10, 2024

In the heart of west-central Wisconsin, you’ll find the vibrant and innovative Yellow Brick Academy. Owned and operated by one of only two Board-Certified Behavior Analyst, Doctoral level (BCBA-D) in the Chippewa Valley, Dr. Julie Ackerlund Brandt, Yellow Brick Academy emerged from a deep-seated desire to provide specialized behavioral therapy and education for children with diverse needs.

The Vision Takes Flight

During her undergraduate years, as she worked closely with children with developmental disabilities and neurotypical development, Dr. Julie observed a significant gap in services throughout much of Wisconsin, where families struggled to find suitable resources for their children.

Life took her to different places, and it wasn’t until she found herself back in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, facing the familiar landscape of her undergraduate days, that the idea began to crystallize. Together with her husband, they envisioned a place where children with diverse needs could thrive, and families could break free from the constraints of traditional in-home services.

Dr. Julie set out to turn this dream into reality, though it would prove to be no easy feat. The road to Yellow Brick Academy was paved with challenges, including:

  1. purchasing a suitable location,
  2. navigating the complexities of starting a small business in a highly specialized industry,
  3. and securing funding for the new venture.

January 2021: with business plans in hand, she began working with a financial institution on her application for a U.S. Small Business Administration loan, and a realtor on securing the nearly 8,000 square foot building on Ohm Avenue.

June 2021: as Dr. Julie executed a purchase agreement for the property, she and her husband could already see the possibilities, and set a target closing date for August.

July 2021: heartbreak and panic strike when Julie receives a call from the financial institution, “your application has been denied.”

The Banking Problem

Like so many Americans the COVID-19 pandemic created hardship for Dr. Julie and her husband.

Outside the Box: Despite the merits of her experience and her business plan, the on-paper impacts of the pandemic left Dr. Julie and her husband outside of their bank’s box to obtain credit.

The result: A denial and a quickly closed door.

Just weeks before the target closing, Dr. Julie was on the hook for the building purchase, with start-up business expenses steadily rolling in and no way to pay for either. Panicked and crying, she called her realtor to share the news and ask for help to back out of the building purchase.

“Dr. Julie shared that she’ll never forget her realtor’s response, “Breathe Julie, let me make a call.” ”


The Solution: CCFBank’s SBA Lending Expert, Justin Harings

Enroute to his son’s t-ball game, Justin takes the call. After hearing the story, he knew the opportunity was worth pursuing and immediately called CCFBank’s senior leadership to discuss in more detail.

Yes, CCFBank is a $1.8 Billion-dollar financial institution, but it’s the executive leadership team’s dedication to nimble, local, community first decision making that makes all the difference. Within minutes Justin secured executive leadership’s buy-in and he got to work.

Delivering Hope: Justin called Dr. Julie, “We’re excited to work with you! Full transparency, you’re going to have to start your financing journey from the beginning. It’s going to mean re-pulling business documents, and completing application paperwork, but trust me when I say I’m here to guide you every step of the way.”

“Every Friday he reached out,” Dr. Julie recalled. “Not only to me but my realtor, the building seller, all of us. And sometimes it was just to say there’s nothing to share, I just want to let you know I’m still working. Justin’s approach was completely different, and so comforting. Even though he was a complete stranger that entered our journey at the most chaotic point, his actions earned my unwavering trust.”


Tailored Financial Solutions

Justin worked closely with Yellow Brick Academy to understand their business plans, and tailor financing solutions that included an SBA 7(a) loan, to provide the necessary start-up capital.

Responsive Customer Service: he provided responsive and personalized customer support to promptly address Yellow Brick Academy’s inquiries and concerns. Dr. Julie found comfort in knowing that she had a dedicated team ready to assist her at every step.

Financial Advisory Services: understanding the complexities of running a specialized institution, Justin provided valuable financial advisory services to Dr. Julie and her team. This included guidance on cash flow management, budgeting, and optimizing financial resources.

Building a Trusted Relationship: beyond the financial support, CCFBank built a trusted relationship with Yellow Brick Academy. Commercial Banker Justin Harings took the time to understand the Academy’s mission, vision, and values, providing steady support and guidance.

Accessibility and Convenience: With digital banking tools and online resources, CCFBank offered Yellow Brick Academy the convenience of managing their accounts from anywhere. This ensured efficiency in financial management, easy access to banking services and fraud prevention technology.

“I’m proud to say that in early September 2021 we closed on the Yellow Brick Academy SBA loan, and I got to help Dr. Julie and her husband celebrate!”

Justin Harings
Yellow Brick Academy’s Commercial Banker

Starting a small business is a complex and mammoth endeavor. There are so many moving parts, and most lenders expect entrepreneurs to not only be experts in their industry, but to also know the ins and outs of all facets of running a business. CCFBank understands that the latter doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s where our team shines.

Of course, we run applications through our lending software to review credit scores and risk data models, but we also take the time to listen to the dream and fully understand our customer’s passion and pursuit. It’s not always just about the numbers, especially when it comes to funding Small Businesses.

Results: Yellow Brick Academy Thrives with CCFBank’s Support

Dr. Julie and her team have the financial foundation and support they need to focus on their mission: creating a nurturing and inclusive environment where every child can reach their full potential. The partnership between Yellow Brick Academy and CCFBank stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, dedication, and a shared commitment to making a difference in the lives of children.

“With CCFBank by our side, we have not just found a financial partner, but a trusted ally who believes in our vision and shares our passion for helping children thrive.”

Dr. Julie Ackerlund Brandt
Yellow Brick Academy

Written by Tyler Tomesh

Tyler Tomesh is the Chief Banking Officer at CCFBank, and he leads the Commercial and Consumer Banking Team. Tyler has worked in various positions since he began his banking career in 2003 and has been with CCF since 2010 where...

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