Nashville business owner Martha Lupai pivoted from braids to bottles in 2020.

When the pandemic forced her salon of ten years, S&E African Hair Braiding, to close its doors temporarily, Martha saw an opening. Losing the revenue freed up time she decided to spend creating the all-natural parfum line with essential oils she long ago envisioned for her line of natural hair and body care products, Neta’s Naturals.

“If you do what you love, it is going to be hard, but you can do it if you believe in yourself. Being in business is about making money but also making a difference, and I believe in making natural beauty products that are better for my customer’s health.”

Replacing the revenue meant moving fast to bring the fragrance to market and working out distribution and packaging to put it in the hands of her customers. While her salon had provided a go-to channel for Neta’s Naturals, its doors would remain closed since her services require hours of close contact with each customer. Purchasing the aluminum bottles that she carefully selected to carry her fragrance required an up-front investment her dwindling revenues could not cover.

Undeterred, she solved her distribution challenge by securing a larger space in Nashville Farmers Market, an open-air stall where she began selling Neta’s Naturals in 2020. For financing, she knew to turn to Pathway Lending, where she had been a friend and client for many years participating in learning programs and working closely with Pathway’s business advisors and mentors.

“While I was starting my business, I attended so many classes to learn and grow. Pathway is a great service to expand your mind and ways of thinking about how to do business,” said Martha.

With a loan from Pathway Lending funded in part by a grant from Wells Fargo’s Diverse Community Capital Program, Martha purchased the aluminum bottles she needed to package and distribute her new fragrance line, Fate.

“I have faith that whatever we are going through is for a bigger purpose. I would have never created my new perfume line if I had not been locked down for three months,” she explained.

Now that Fate is showing promise for Neta’s Naturals, Martha looks forward to growing her team and expanding her marketing efforts with the aim of securing retail distribution. She plans to continue working with Pathway advisors and participating in learning programs to reach her goals.

“Pathway is making a difference in the Nashville community, and as long as they keep doing that, we can keep doing what we love.”

Pathway Lending and Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital

 Whether you need education to get capital ready or need capital to grow your business, Pathway Lending is here to help you take your next step. Pathway offers a complete catalog of loan products, including Paycheck Protection Program loans, and a full range of learning programs, from classrooms to one-to-one coaching, to businesses at any stage in any industry.⁠

Partnerships with agencies and philanthropies serve as an opportunity for Pathway to provide learning programs to loan clients at no cost. Wells Fargo committed an additional $100 million in grant capital, to continue and expand the program through 2020.

DCC funds are intended to be utilized by CDFIs to lend to diverse small business owners, support initiatives that increase access to capital and resources (such as technical assistance, marketing, outreach), and help more diverse small business owners get the coaching and education resources they may need. The program also has a social capital component, focused on activities to build effective support networks and social infrastructure among CDFIs for the purpose of increasing lending to diverse small businesses. Wells Fargo is collaborating with Opportunity Finance Network to execute certain aspects of the program.