Partner Spotlight: Bryan Crosby

Bryan Crosby is the Chief Executive Officer of Southeastern Packaging Technologies (SPT) and a valued partner of Three Roots Capital. SPT was a local startup that has grown and matured to offer turnkey solutions for brand managers and retail partners to seamlessly transition consumer packaged goods (CPG) in automotive and household chemicals into eco-friendly packaging.

The company’s patent portfolio includes FunLPro Closure Technologies, a high-end dispensing system for CPG fluid containers, and proprietary Bag-in-Box and Stand-up-Pouch systems that reduce plastic waste by up to 85 percent and maximize storage space.

A Maryville native, Crosby was drafted to play for the Milwaukee Brewers out of high school. In 2009, he returned to Tennessee to attend Middle Tennessee State University and then worked in financial services for a few years. He returned to Knoxville in 2014 to start his MBA program at the University of Tennessee (UTK) as an Entrepreneur Fellow and to develop a business plan for commercializing the FunLPro, a unique pouring device invented by his father and business partner.

At UTK, the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation named Crosby one of four student-led startup company winners in the fall 2014 Boyd Venture Challenge, where he received $7,500 to finance his growing company. It was during this “Shark Tank-style” challenge that Crosby met Chris Miller before he became Chief Financial Officer at Three Roots Capital. The two stayed in touch, and Miller connected him with the rest of the Three Roots team after Miller joined Three Roots.

“I always enjoy working with Three Roots because they know their space better than anyone,” emphasized Crosby. “It’s been an absolute pleasure working with them over the years. They are filling a very big and meaningful void in the funding market for East Tennessee.”

Despite his company’s growth, Crosby remarked that it is challenging to gain access to traditional financing as a small business in a rural area. In 2018, Three Roots provided SPT with a loan through their Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).

“We got it closed very quickly,” said Crosby. “We used the $50,000 RMAP loan to buy tooling for an injection mold machine that manufacturers our mechanisms for flexible packaging.”

At the moment, Crosby said the SPT team is working diligently to transition or “cross the chasm” from startup mode to a more traditional business model. The Three Roots staff has been an invaluable source of expertise during this process, explained Crosby.

“If we have an idea about what we need, we can lay it out in a general way to them and they can tell us what to do in about 10 minutes,” said Crosby. “It’s an extremely advantageous relationship because we don’t have to spend hours or months identifying exactly what lending sources to pursue.”

Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program

Three Roots Capital is helping promote rural economic growth in the region through microloans and business assistance made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).

Small businesses are the backbone of rural communities, yet rural entrepreneurs often struggle to find easy access to capital and business training. Through the RMAP program, Three Roots strives to address this gap by providing loans and technical assistance directly to rural entrepreneurs and small businesses across East Tennessee. Even now, the global pandemic presents yet another economic obstacle for these companies to overcome.

“One of our missions is to bring access to capital for people who live in low-to-moderate income areas, which ends up being rural communities some of the time,” said Dennis Corley, Business Development and Community Relationships Manager at Three Roots. “It just makes sense to offer this tool for entrepreneurs since a lot of our target market is rural.”

In order to qualify for RMAP loans and technical assistance, businesses must be located in a rural census tract, according to USDA mapping, and cannot employ more than 10 people. The maximum loan size is $50,000, and an RMAP loan cannot cover more than 75 percent of total project costs.

Entrepreneurs may use these loans for working capital and debt refinancing, but Corley shared that many small businesses they have helped have used the loan for purchasing equipment or supplies. Two notable RMAP loan recipients include Historic Brushy Mountain State Pen and Southeastern Packaging Technologies.

As featured in a previous newsletter story, Three Roots and other partners helped Brushy Mountain’s Operating Partner Pete Waddington turn the former prison in Morgan County into a popular tourist attraction, distillery, restaurant, music venue and gift shop. RMAP loans helped Waddington buy restaurant equipment and inventory at his restaurant and equipment used at the distillery.

At Southeastern Packaging Technologies, an RMAP loan helped Chief Executive Officer Bryan Crosby buy tooling for their injection molding equipment to help grow his small business.

Three Roots finds eligible businesses for RMAP assistance through prospecting and referrals. Corley referred to this challenging process as “threading a needle” because businesses must be mature enough to repay a loan but not so mature that they have too many employees, among other restrictions.

“Rural businesses that meet these qualifications are candidates to work with Three Roots, and we are seeking companies that can benefit from our help,” explained Corley. “We want more people in our network to not only be aware that this tool is available but to send entrepreneurs our way when they think they might be eligible. We want to use our knowledge and resources to provide as much capital and expertise as we can to rural entrepreneurs.”

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