When Opportunity Knocks

Monday, November 29, 2004

Eddie Smith was born and raised in the Martin Luther King community in north Shreveport. A career in the Army took him away from home but when he retired from the service in 1985, he and his family returned to the community of his birth.

[Photo: Felicia Bell and Eddie Smith]
Community Development Small Business Loan Specialist Felicia Bell.

Eddie juggled family life and college classes at Grambling State University, commuting 140 miles daily. Always alert for opportunities, he saw a need for a college specialty shop. The Grambling Gift & Souvenir Shop was a success and so was Eddie Smith, graduating in 1987 with a degree in political science.

Building on his Grambling success, he opened a small gift shop near Southern University-Shreveport in his home community. The area was suffering from the recession of the 80's. But Eddie Smith was not one to ignore opportunity. He began teaching ROTC at Green Oaks High School. "Sergeant Smith" began another chapter in a life filled with hard work, ambition and accomplishment.

The first location for his gift shop in Shreveport was a small building, well suited for his needs at the time, but soon outgrown. In 1994, he was presented with an opportunity to purchase and renovate a larger building in a great location. The bank offered him 80% of the capital necessary and suggested he contact the City of Shreveport's small business loan program to request HUD CDBG-funded gap financing for the remaining 20%. After meeting with local community development officials, fine-tuning his business plan and a presentation to the small business loan committee, his application for $20,000 in CDBG funds was approved to assist in the purchase of the building and adjacent land.

The public/private partnership made his project possible, and ten years later, the loan is paid off and the business is thriving. Never late with a payment, Eddie Smith's enterprise has created jobs in the community for local high school students, and made possible opportunities for other entrepreneurs. Half of his building houses a beauty and barbershop where independent operators rent space to serve their growing clientele.

Eddie Smith plans to retire from teaching ROTC in May 2006. But that doesn't mean he'll have time to go fishing. He and wife Bobbie are thinking about how to expand the business, increase the inventory and hours of operation, and maybe apply for another small business loan.

Commercial activity in the Martin Luther King neighborhood has grown since he started his business there, Eddie notes with pride. "There's a Dollar Store opening down the street. Have to stay competitive", he smiles. "The city's CDBG small business loan program really helped me. There are a number of things I can do to make my business grow." And after all, it's not like Eddie Smith to stand by when opportunity knocks.

Content Archived: September 09, 2009