What More Can You Ask From Your Bank?
Several years ago Carole Ebner changed careers. She gave up her own interior decorating business to work for an advertising specialties company. It was a choice that led to a rewarding and lucrative career as well as a relationship with Clarkston State Bank.
Carole decided to start her own advertising specialties business after a few years — Ebner Design Associates, Inc. Acting as a distributor for specialty suppliers and working out of her home, she knew she could keep inventory and overhead costs down. Her bank gave her a line of credit to get started and within a few years her sales topped $800,000 a year. "There were three of us in an office in my home, and products and samples were stored throughout the house and garage," Carole says. "So, after a couple of years, when a bank representative said he wanted to see our operation, I proudly showed him all that we were accomplishing."
But Carole's bank had become concerned. Even though she and her husband personally guaranteed the loan, she had no equity. "They asked for a meeting with my accountant, and I told my husband they were going to pull my loan," she says. "Even though we had always paid it off on time or before it was due, and we had $1 million a year in sales, they still sent us a registered letter telling me they were freezing my line of credit."
Carole was angry and worried. Before the meeting she decided to find other loan options in case her bank did pull her loan. A friend suggested she call the late Dave Harrison, then CSB president "I was so impressed with Dave and the bank's policy," says Carole. "He was gracious and wonderful. It's very unusual to find a man my age or older, especially from the established banking community, who's so supportive of a woman in business."
Then, when Carole met with her former bank's officials and they would not give a reason for "treating her so badly" even though she had an exemplary record, she walked out without learning whether or not they would have pulled her loan. "My husband told them that they advertised that they wanted small businesses just like mine, but because of the way I was treated they lost me." She closed her accounts and moved to CSB.
That was in July of 1999, just six months after CSB opened. Since then, she has increased her line of credit, and moved her business from her home into an office-warehouse complex in Farmington Hills. She now has eight women working for her and represents over 500 businesses.
"We distribute everything from pencils, coffee cups and wearables to Baccarat crystal, for about 3,000 suppliers. The day-in, day-out part of our business is sales of items imprinted with a logo of an event or company," says Carole. Customers include schools, universities, medical centers, casinos and small companies to individual weddings or bar and bat mitzvahs. Ebner Design also offers design development and graphic artwork. "We really run the gamut," says Carole.
Because of Carole's own nature and her interior decorating background, integrity and customer service are very important to her. "Customer service is our focus, and I feel it's what sets us apart. This is a commission-only business, so customer service is especially important, whether the order is large or small." That's why she feels a special kinship with the people at CSB who also focus on customer service.
Carole considered Dave Harrison a mentor and was devasted when he and his wife Wanda were killed in an accident in August. Kris Ehlke, CSB Operations Officer and Branch Manager, called Carole to tell her of Dave's death. "That was so considerate of her, that just blew me away," says Carole.
"I like that people know me, and no matter when I call, they're helpful. They don't delay renewal of my credit line, they're small and intimate and they've become a customer too. I don't know what else I could ask from a bank," says Carole. The free courier service also makes it easy to bank farther away.
Carole now works with Tom Clarke, Vice President and Commercial Loan Officer. "Carole's story is typical of how business owners start up. They pay attention to every penny and that's how they become successful.," says Tom.