Eden Center, based in Virginia, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower entrepreneurs and small business owners. In the past, Eden Center has been helping clients from across the nation with real estate and marketing needs. The non-profit organization is also known for its entrepreneurial training programs. It was founded by Douglas Ebenstein, a former franchisor who also serves as its executive director.
Douglas started his career as a food distributor and marketing manager for a national food company. From there, he decided to pursue a successful career in the food industry, ultimately becoming the president of a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need to start and grow a successful food business. One of the resources he used was a food processing company. Known at that time as a processing services firm, Douglas developed his own food processing company that processed food products for non-profit organizations. The company later evolved into Eden Center, Inc., and it remains today a national food processing giant.
As the company grew, Douglas became interested in non-profit organization and franchising in general. He realized that if food processing and franchising were related, there would be a great opportunity in the business. When he left the national food processing company, he formed the non-profit organization and named it Eden Center. The non-profit organization focused on three things: assisting entrepreneurs obtain capital; educating entrepreneurs on how food processing works; and promoting the use of fair-trade food in the food industry. Together, these three activities created a hotbed of business for Eden Center.
The first step in creating an Eden Center business was to get capital. The non-profit owner needed money to expand his food processing center and hire employees. To do this, he turned to local banks and credit unions for loans and he used a portion of his profits from his food processing center business to help him obtain a loan from Wells Fargo Bank. The non-profit began operations in March, 1994. Since its inception, Douglas has received more than $12 million in loans and equity from local and national sources.
The second step in setting up an Eden Center business was to acquire employees. According to Douglas, “The employees from the food processing company will make the company more efficient and will bring professionalism to the non-profit.” Employees have come to appreciate Douglas’s laid back attitude and his ability to relate with people. In addition, the employees enjoy having a job that is both fun and provides a substantial income. There are about 35 employees in the non-profit organization.
The third step in starting an Eden Center business was to purchase the equipment necessary to operate the non-profit. According to Douglas, his biggest challenge was to secure equipment that would continue to perform at a high level without costing the non-profit much money. One of the best purchases he made was a food processing center. The equipment cost him about two thousand dollars, but he says it has paid off by helping to increase the number of clients in the food processing center serves and giving him a larger profit.
The fourth and final step in establishing an Eden Center business was to obtain funding. This was one of the biggest obstacles for him and his business partner, Mark Weiser. They had applied for a series of loans, all of which were denied. One of the reasons they were rejected was that their business had no collateral or proven success. Douglas and Mark decided to give their business and their lives together and were willing to put all of their capital at risk.
Once the business was up and running, Douglas Ebenstein realized he had to increase the capital to obtain more office space. He needed to hire more employees or buy a bigger building so that his customers would have more space to walk around and shop. Although he was able to receive loans from local banks, they were not as substantial as he had hoped for. Finally, after numerous failed attempts at obtaining small business financing, he decided to look for angel investors and capitalized by using some of his personal savings.