After moving from the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf South to aid in Hurricane Katrina recovery, Marla Miller was itching for an entrepreneurial project. “I wanted to find something that everyone needed, but they just didn’t know it yet,” says Marla.
Working with and on behalf of young children as a grant writer in New Orleans, Marla saw a gap in the after-school programs available and recalled the Tumblebus craze in Seattle. Designed to build confidence, strength, and coordination while learning early gymnastics skills, Marla knew a Tumblebus in the Big Easy would be a hit.
In 2012, Marla purchased a 30-foot school bus and retrofitted it with equipment to serve young children across Greater New Orleans; but to get the bus rolling, Marla still needed one key component—a banking relationship.
“I researched banks and visited a number of institutions to establish a full service relationship with, but none felt right. No one took this venture seriously,” Marla explains. “Once I visited Hancock Whitney, I had no need to go to any other bank. I immediately knew this was where I wanted to be,” she continues.
Zip-lining to success
Like the fan-favorite zip-line activity on the bus, opening a business with no formal experience, is a combination of exhilaration and fear. “That was something that scared me, but I kept inching forward with Hancock Whitney’s help,” says Marla. “They took the time and continue to take the time, whenever I need it, to answer my questions. I have always felt they have my best interest in mind,” Marla shares.
Early on Marla worked with her banker to better understand her seasonal cash flow, brainstorming ideas on how to plan for upcoming expenses and down time. “Since my business is tied to the educational system, when school is out of session, so is my business,” says Marla. “We came up with a plan to supplement revenue by hosting camps on the weekends and during months when school is out,” she adds.
Keeping the magic alive
For five years, Marla’s days were filled with rambunctious toddlers, persistent special needs students working to improve their gross and fine motor skills and joy—immense joy. However in 2017, Marla’s 1997 International Harvester bus lost its transmission during the slowest time of the season and she thought Tumblebus Big Easy might be done, for good. “I just knew this was it, the end of my business,” Marla recalls.
Determined to save her bus, she turned again to Hancock Whitney. The bank extended Marla a business line of credit allowing her to successfully repair the bus. By maintaining the line of credit for any future repairs or enhancements, Marla is certain she will return week after week in her big yellow bus to the 200 little smiling faces that depend on her to learn and grow.
“Hancock Whitney literally saved my business. Had it not been for my banker and the financing they offered, I would have shut down,” Marla shares. “Hancock Whitney has been with me every step of the way.”