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SMALL BUSINESS

Serving up no-interest loans

An L.A. group offers start-ups and others as much as $15,000

July 07, 2008|Cyndia Zwahlen | Special to The Times

Ice-cream maker Mortarotti appreciates her interest-free loan, which she is repaying at the rate of $250 a month. But she expects to need more money than the nonprofit lender can supply for her next step.

In 18 to 24 months, she and her co-owner and boyfriend, Zachary Cox, hope to open a retail shop, possibly in Culver City's proposed Westside Market Hall, which would house food artisans, restaurants and farmers' stalls.

"We're going to need more substantial loans or investors when we expand to a storefront," said Mortarotti, who sells her ice cream at three farmers markets for $9 a pint or $3 half a cup. Her most popular flavors include brown sugar-vanilla bean, Aztec chocolate with chilies and strawberry-balsamic vinegar sorbet.

She also supplies special events and delivers her products to a handful of wholesale customers, including Bar on 4 at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.

Soon, Auntie Em's Kitchen in Eagle Rock will serve her ice cream flavors and carry them in the business' retail section.

This week Mortarotti will unveil a revamped website that will enable customers nationwide to order a six-pint package of her seasonal flavors shipped on dry ice for $110, including shipping.

"Things," Mortarotti said, "are heating up."

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cyndia.zwahlen@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Interest-free loans

The nonprofit Jewish Free Loan Assn. offers no-interest loans of as much as $15,000 for start-ups and existing small businesses. Here are some details of the program:

Loan funds: Five micro-enterprise loan funds, two of which are nonsectarian.

Number of loans: 20 micro-enterprise loans (Jan.-June 2008)

Amount lent: $4.5 million in micro-enterprise loans over the last 12 years

Number of applicants: Three to seven loan application packets are received each week.

Acceptance rate: 75% make it to phase two, the interview.

Requirements: They include permanent residency in Los Angeles County, two creditworthy California residents as co-signers, a viable business plan and cash flow projections, a demonstrated need for the loan and the ability to pay it back.

Contact: For more information, contact the association at (323) 761-8830, or go to www.jfla.org.

Source: Jewish Free Loan Assn.

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