Updated: Jul 7, 2015
Tired of lugging around his Nikon D80 and bulky backpack during an extended international adventure, Peter Dering felt the entrepreneurial itch upon his return to the States. Equal parts avid photographer and intrepid traveller, he realized the world needed a better way to carry photography equipment around even the hardest-to-reach corners of the earth. “I just couldn’t forget about this idea I had for a better way to carry a camera – so I just went for it.”
Thus was born Peak Design, a company that makes sturdy accessories for consumers and camera pros who enjoy photographing their active lifestyle. Fast forward four years, and Peak Design is growing rapidly, with Peter and his chief operations guru Dave Anhalt at the helm in San Francisco. Their nonconformist philosophies make entrepreneurship the perfect fit for their lifestyle – and the growing prevalence of social sharing, traveling and photography-based apps means Peak Design’s products often sell out in a flash.
Like any small business owner, Peter wears many hats and always keeps an eye on his long-term goals. “In any given week, I’ll go from being a full-fledged product designer to a data analyst to finance to sales. I really enjoy the fact that running a business is a full-on onslaught of activities that work toward our common goal of being the most trusted, well-known brand in the world of photographic accessories.”
As with many bootstrapped operations, with rapid growth comes great challenges. “We’ve been consistently doubling revenue, profit, and size year after year, so it’s really hard to keep up our inventory levels to sustain that level of growth.” Peter and his team credit a lot of their success to the Internet. “Being a small business is no longer crippling. We can do the same things in large part that huge companies with huge budgets can do.”
However, one major difference remains: huge companies with huge budgets typically don’t always face the same hardship when it comes to obtaining growth capital, because traditional lenders generally feel more comfortable lending to them. In contrast, small businesses are often left in the dark room. “It’s a slog trying to get funding from a traditional financial institution. Banks are antiquated – they’re not set up for a business with our growth trajectory. We’re just not their target market,” says Peter.
After going through the same “song and dance” with his bank year after year, Peter and Dave ultimately gave up on traditional lending – and focused their hopes on Funding Circle. After a quick online application and speedy turnaround, Peak Design received $200,000 in their bank account to order new inventory to meet current customer demand – and focus on new product expansion.
“Funding Circle uses the same resources as banks to make more logical decisions. It’s like, hey, are these guys doing something that can pay back this loan at this interest rate? Then yes — let’s help them grow.”
When comparing their experience with the banks to their experience with Funding Circle, Peter notes, “Traditional lenders are just too slow. Banks are mail, Funding Circle is email. That’s all there is to it.” Ultimately, Peter and David needed funds for immediate inventory fulfillment – and they couldn’t wait four to six months for the SBA or a big bank. “Eliminating that wait time meant more money in my pocket. Two weeks versus six months is the difference between launching a new product or not.”
Since borrowing through Funding Circle, Peak Design has made good on its promise to never stop innovating by adding two new camera straps to their portfolio: Slide and Clutch. “Thanks to Funding Circle, we’re able to launch two new products. Our loan funds went straight to our manufacturer to make our customers happy.”
Their philosophy? Never create anything that doesn’t solve a problem – and don’t be afraid to push boundaries. That approach is one of the reasons they felt comfortable applying with Funding Circle: “I personally didn’t have any reservations using Funding Circle. That’s the kind of thing that we look for: Bay Area folks trying to disrupt the status quo. We were super impressed with Funding Circle’s process. It just made sense – and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”
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