In 1996 Tracy Levesque and her partner Mia Levesque founded YIKES, Inc, now a substantial business with 8 full-time employees. Located in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia, YIKES provides Web design and development services for companies and non-profit. YIKES builds a wide range of custom-made, dynamic Websites. Since its founding, YIKES has made a serious commitment to sustainable business practices and social responsibility.

In December 2009, Tracy began the process of seeking financing to purchase and renovate a pair of vacant, rundown buildings in the neighboring area of Fishtown. The renovation would bring the buildings to LEED Platinum status, the highest level of this Green Building certification program. The buildings contain 2 storefronts and 4 apartments, YIKES would move into one of the storefronts and the rest would be rented out. She and her partner had good credit, her business had good credit and an excellent track record, and the seller was willing to work with the timeline required to make the sale happen. 

Her experience illustrates the perseverance, thoroughness, creativity and professionalism needed by entrepreneurs during the financial challenges of “the Great Recession.” It also highlights the many resources available to assist entrepreneurs throughout the City of Philadelphia. Many big banks were not making loans they would have previously made.

Tracy quickly found that the big commercial banks she spoke with would not offer her and her partner a loan, so she dug deeper for more options: “I called every resource I could find. I found that even people who are difficult to reach will call you back if you are persistent. Everyone I talked to along the way expressed enthusiasm and support for the project.” 

She found and leveraged advice and resources from many sources:  PIDC, the City of Philadelphia, the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC), legislators (Senator Farnese sent her to the Wharton SBDC), a great realtor, the Sustainable Business Network, New Kensington CDC and Tim MacDonald from Onion Flats. She learned the City of Philadelphia Office of Business Services would assign YIKES a liaison to help her navigate the resources and services the City of Philadelphia offers small businesses. Evelyn Montalvo of PIDC was a wonderful guide explaining the process of obtaining funding from her organization

“The Wharton SBDC also helped us focus on improving the business," she said. "Our Wharton SBDC consultant advised us increasing our sales to make the new building and other expansions pay off. After that discussion, we redesigned our own Website; we also had the confidence to hire a new marketing director and review our Marketing materials.”