In 1994, Texas-based Seville Farms, Inc. began delivering high-quality live goods, mostly greenhouse-grown plants, to some of the largest retailers across the state, including The Home Depot and Walmart. Brothers Billy and Bobby Bretlinger had so much success that their business quickly grew to neighboring Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico.
That growth exploded exponentially when they began selling to Lowe’s, one of the largest home improvement box stores in the country. Today, Lowe’s is Seville’s Farms number one customer and the company has grown to more than 5 million square feet of greenhouse space to accommodate the demand of its buyers.
Working Capital Crunch
In 2017, Seville Farms found itself in a cash-flow crisis when its bank stopped servicing its industry. For more than 20 years, the company had relied on a bank line of credit to manage cash flow and provide liquidity.
“We were with a very large bank that had a group that specialized in lending to greenhouse growers, in particular, in their agribusiness division,” said Billy, now President at Seville Farms. “They had taken some losses in the division and decided to get out of lending in the greenhouse business.”
Undeterred, the Bretlingers and their partners sought out another bank to provide financing. However, having such a large concentration of their total business with Lowe’s made traditional funding difficult for Seville.
“At the time about 95 percent of our sales were to Lowes,” said Billy. So we reached out to a firm that specializes in helping businesses find non-traditional lenders.
Seville Farms provides greenhouse-grown plants to major retailers from their six locations in Texas.
“That’s how we found LSQ.”
Starting with AR Finance and Management
Seville Farms began working with LSQ that same year. They received a $15 million facility and 90-percent advance rate and an inventory line of credit via LSQ’s specialty finance network to continue operations, manage seasonal demand, and stimulate growth.
The LSQ facility was the company’s first experience working with an accounts receivable finance program.
“There was some initial apprehension since we had only used traditional lines of credit and asset-based lending predicated by our receivables and inventory up to that point.”
Billy and team, including controller Dianne Kelm, were quickly assuaged by the relationship LSQ built with Seville and the ease of use of the LSQ FastTrack® platform to process invoices and receive early payments.
“It’s very easy,” said Kelm. “In fact, our assistant controller was doing the entry in FastTrack within weeks of being hired. It was really easy for her to just jump right in and pick that up.
“Any information that I need, any detail or data that I need, is there (in FastTrack).”
Accounts Payable Finance to Help Meet Seasonal Demand
According to Billy, 70 percent of Seville Farm’s business comes in March, April, May, and June. That means that inventory from their suppliers has to be bought in the winter when cash flow is tight.
“We have certain smaller and overseas suppliers that need their money upfront,” said Billy. “We buy containers and shipping racks, and things like that from China that have to be paid for on arrival. It definitely stretched our liquidity.”
To help maintain their cash flow without threatening their supply chain health, Seville Farms partnered with LSQ to implement a supply chain finance program in 2019.
With the accounts payable financing, suppliers are able to access on-demand payments through FastTrack and, since the program uses third-party funding, Seville can hold on to their cash for 90 or 120 days before paying LSQ.
“It (the supply chain finance program) has greatly helped our working capital situation,” Billy said. “We used to spend a lot of money building our inventory late fall through the winter. With the LSQ supply chain finance program, we can focus on meeting our payroll and facilities expenses instead of using up our working capital on vendor expenses when we have less cash coming in.”
When Seville kicked off their supply chain finance program, they had no way of knowing how important the working capital boost to build inventory would be. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking hold a few months later, their buyers saw a huge demand in the spring of 2020 and Seville was able to keep garden centers stocked, something Billy credits to their relationship with LSQ and the accounts receivable and payable programs.
“The business had a week where we sold $5 million worth of product, and we had never sold more than $4 million in any one week,” Billy said. “We didn’t have any trouble drawing on those funds.”