BY SHERI TRUSTY
An Oak Harbor businesswoman achieved an Ohio Department of Development low-interest loan, a major step in helping her sustain and grow her business. In June, Marie Darr was approved for $90,000 from the Women’s Business Enterprise Loan Program. The loan is allowing Darr to purchase the downtown Oak Harbor building that houses her business, Designs by Marie.
Darr’s loan was part of $720,000 in support awarded to three Ohio minority and women-owned businesses by the Ohio Minority Development Financing Advisory Board.
“I was approved for a $90,000 loan at 1½ percent interest. I’m buying the building for $120,000, and the loan is set up to only you give 75 percent of what you’re asking for,” Darr said. “It was a long process, but it was worth it.”
Designs by Marie offers custom and personalized t-shirts and gifts, including local school sports merchandise, jewelry, cups, hair bows and home décor. She can make customized sports t-shirts, sweatshirts and letter jackets, as well as earrings featuring photos of athletes.
“We do all the sports,” Darr said.
Personalized tumblers and coffee mugs are available, and laser cut wooden signs can be purchased as finished products or unfinished as craft projects. The shop is filled with ready-made merchandise that can be purchased on the spot.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Darr said.
The Ohio Department of Development loan will have an impact on the future of Darr’s business, but it was just one element of support that she received since opening in 2016. Several people in the community also contributed to her success.
Oak Harbor Mayor Quinton Babcock helped Darr apply for an Ottawa County Improvement Corporation (OCIC) grant that awarded funds for a new heat press. Babcock also assisted as Darr worked through the Ohio Department of Development loan application process, and he personally drove Darr to Columbus to apply for the loan.
“What other mayor would do that?” Darr asked.
Miranda Hoffman, director of the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Terra State Community College, helped Designs by Marie become a certified woman-owned business.
“Without Quinton and Miranda, I would be dead in the water,” Darr said.
Jessica Grzechowiak, Manager of Communications & Programs at OCIC, helped Darr apply for the heat press grant, and Ottawa County Health Commissioner Jerry Bingham allowed her to keep her shop open as an essential business during COVID shutdowns because she was making and selling facemasks.
“Several people along the way have been absolutely amazing and helped us keep going,” Darr said. “I can say without a doubt that the people in this county are willing to lend a hand or give moral support more than any place I’ve ever lived.”