BankCherokee SVP of Business Loans Steve Johnson
BankCherokee’s Steve Johnson developed an appreciation of community banking as a kid growing up in a small town. He looked forward to trips to the bank with his dad and the free roll of Life Savers he’d get from the teller with each visit. But it wasn’t the candy that drew Johnson in. It was the sense of community he felt when he was there. The local bank was like a trusted neighbor—everyone knew his name, and looked out for him and his family.
A St. Paul transplant, Johnson gravitated toward a career in banking after graduating with a degree in business administration and finance from St. Thomas University. He got his start at Liberty Bank and quickly developed a penchant for working with small business owners. He realized early on that when he supported neighborhood businesses personally, it often led to professional banking partnerships. Helping families realize their entrepreneurial dreams inspired Johnson, and watching the impact those businesses had on the local economy energized him.
After more than two decades in business banking, Johnson joined BankCherokee as Senior Vice President of business loans in 2013. A Preferred Lending Partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Johnson specializes in BankCherokee’s SBA loan programs, which provide financing to qualified borrowers for a variety of for-profit business purposes. Loans may be used for working capital, purchasing equipment or inventory, refinancing other debts or purchasing real estate. Business owners may also obtain an SBA loan to acquire other businesses.
SBA loans offer many benefits to small businesses—low down payments, long payment terms and reasonable interest rates. “SBA programs provide the borrower an opportunity to obtain a loan or loan terms that would not otherwise be available without the assistance of the SBA guaranty,” Johnson explained.
Johnson is transparent about the SBA loan application process with would-be borrowers. The process requires more paperwork than a conventional loan, and an acceptable credit score and a demonstrated ability to repay are a must. “A business will still find it challenging to qualify for an SBA loan if the company has a limited track record or poor credit.” He added, “The SBA loan program is a valuable tool to allow BankCherokee to go to bat for businesses that we believe are reliable borrowers but that don’t quite qualify conventionally.” As a Preferred Lending Partner, BankCherokee has the ability to approve a loan on behalf of SBA.
Johnson has gone to bat for a number of clients including a family-owned restaurant, an immigrant-owned spa and a neighborhood hair salon. Ask him the favorite part of his job and he will tell you it is the role he plays in helping people realize their own version of the American dream. “Without community banks like BankCherokee, many of our local mom and pop businesses wouldn’t exist,” Johnson said. “I am proud to be able to support those businesses—not just in my work, but in my personal life as well.”