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Mickey Coffino leans against one of her recycling company’s trucks; written on the truck door it says Queen City Metal Recycling, not for hire.
Mickey Coffino’s recycling company in Charlotte, North Carolina, buys and sells thousands of tons of metal each month. Photo Credit: Jennifer Donaldson

From hair brushing to car crushing

After 30 years, Mickey Coffino made the leap from hair salon owner to recycling center CEO, but the loan that made that move possible almost became her undoing until she found Wells Fargo banker Chris Underwood.

For Michelle “Mickey” Coffino, owner of Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage in Charlotte, North Carolina, 2017 was a year filled with the type of extreme highs and lows that many self-employed business owners face along their entrepreneurial journey.

In April of that year, the U.S. Small Business Administration named Coffino the North Carolina Small Business Person of the Year. The government organization recognized Coffino for growing her business — annual revenue improved from $1 million to $15 million in just two years — and for her focus on giving back to the community.

Mickey Coffino with Queen City Metal Garage Supervisor Alice Looney. Coffino was named North Carolina Small Business Person of the Year in 2017 for her economic impact and employment opportunities for people coming out of incarceration. (4:15)
“I was really fortunate that Chris Underwood at Wells Fargo went to bat for me, believed in me, and most of all, had the true compassion to understand that just because I was a woman didn’t mean I didn’t know how to run a business.”

— Mickey Coffino

“I have a 501(c)(3) Second Chance program, and we do a re-entry program to take men and women out of incarceration and give them a skill set, a trade, and an employment opportunity,” said Coffino. “For me, that’s been my biggest passion — hiring and helping people that might otherwise have no employment options and truly giving them a second chance.”

Ironically, during the same period of time that Coffino was nationally recognized for her business success, the very loan that had enabled her to purchase the metal recycling company was increasingly weighing on her bottom line.

Back in 2013, Coffino, who also owns and operates a hair salon, made the decision to diversify her revenue stream and bought a 4.5-acre salvage yard, using an SBA loan to fund the majority of the purchase price.

Four years later, the $1.9 million loan’s variable interest rate had continued to rise, creating a monthly bill that Coffino, a single mother with triplets, was struggling to afford.

“I had been to six banks with my loan. I have an excellent credit score. I have great relationships with a lot of people in the community — yet every single bank said no to helping me refinance my business debt,” recalled Coffino. “I was really fortunate that Chris Underwood at Wells Fargo went to bat for me, believed in me, and most of all, had the true compassion to understand that just because I was a woman didn’t mean I didn’t know how to run a business.”

Mickey Coffino and Chris Underwood talk together at her salvage yard.
Business owner Mickey Coffino worked with Wells Fargo banker Chris Underwood to refinance the loan she used to buy her recycling company.

The two dug into Coffino’s financial situation, identified opportunities to grow her business while eliminating debt, and moved her into a 10-year, fixed rate loan.

“Scrap metal and recycling can be a very volatile industry. Mickey bought the business in 2013, and by 2015, the bottom fell out of the commodities market, and prices dropped from 12 cents to 3 cents a pound. But even with the resulting decline in revenue, I could tell she knew what she was doing,” said Underwood, a business banking relationship manager at Wells Fargo. “She was not only able to survive that downturn, but also grow assets and pay down debt, and that’s a testament to her abilities as an operator and an entrepreneur.”

Wells Fargo’s ability to find a financial solution for Coffino is reflective of a $200 billion commitment to financing sustainability efforts.

Today, Coffino’s company buys and sells thousands of tons of metal each month and is a local leader in recycling bulk electronics and salvaging the reusable parts from up to 300 cars a week.

With the new loan terms allowing Coffino better management of her monthly finances, she turned to Wells Fargo for additional banking services, including a line of credit and business credit cards to help with her company’s cash flow needs.

“The relationships I have with Wells Fargo has taken my company to the next level,” said Coffino. “If you want to grow your business, network your business, and expand your business, you need to have a banking relationship, and I’m very fortunate that I have a great business banker like Chris Underwood who supports me as a woman-owned business to help me grow my business to the complete next level.”

Contributors: Dustin Wilson
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