Ogden City’s Business Information Center (BIC) is having a successful year after providing loans to nine locally owned businesses looking to gain more stable financial footing and expand their dreams. The BIC is the city’s answer to entrepreneurs needing business resources like capital opportunities, technical assistance, and business development counseling.
Each of the small businesses that pepper the streets play an important role in the success of the community. Julio Otay, Senior Project Coordinator with the Business Information Center, says, “The benefit for Ogden is mainly the job creation. We know that when a business is successful, it will require more employees. We want those businesses to stay here in Ogden, the jobs to stay here, the taxes to stay here. It’s beneficial for the city and those who live in Ogden.”
Fit Life Meal Prep, located at 339 East 2250 South, just north of The Junction in downtown Ogden, is one of those small businesses contributing to the community both as an employer and as a health advocate. Lilian Arriaza started her career as a licensed pharmacy technician, but decided to combine her passions of cooking and health to create Fit Life Meal Prep. Arriaza says, “I have a lot of passion for this business. If you think about it, pharmacy and the kitchen is about the same. A pharmacy we follow our recipe to make medications, to compound. The same thing is in the kitchen.”
She started this dream out of her own kitchen, cooking through the night to fill meal prep orders and deliver them to homes across the Wasatch Front. Soon she outgrew that space and needed to expand, but just as she was beginning to celebrate in her success, the pandemic hit. “Covid hit us, and I had just quit my full-time job at the hospital and my husband quit his job because we were doing the business full time. We were left with nothing, and we were like, ‘What can we do,’” she explains.
Arriaza looked to the BIC and Ogden City’s partner, the Weber State University Small Business Development Center, to both help her business stabilize and grow. Otay remembers going through the loan process with Arriaza, “We sat down with her, analyzed the problem, what she needed — which was working capital. We let her know about our program, she applied, we made a presentation to the loan committee, and it got approved.”
Fit Life Meal Prep expanded their business to open a fitness café, offer free health classes, fund marketing to expand clientele, all while she continues to offer home delivery of meal prep kits. “With the help the city is giving me this year, I was able to catch up," Arriaza says. “To get to this point, it has cost me tears, money, and it takes a lot, but I believe in my business so much.”
Otay sees how much these local entrepreneurs put into their dreams saying, “Small businesses sometime feel like they’re on their own, and they are. The owners are the ones working all the time, at the front desk or serving, and sometimes they need help knowing what to do next. Often times, it’s just a visit to the BIC or other vital small business service providers that can help provide the needed direction."
“In this community we have an amazing resource of people they can work with. The Suazo Business Center partnership, our partnership with Weber State’s Wildcat Microfund, and the collaborations with the Hispanic Chamber and Ogden-Weber Chamber are a big part of supporting these small businesses," says Otay. If the BIC isn’t the right fit, we can connect a business with a community partner that can help. "I think there’s a lot of people with an idea, who want to start a business here in Ogden. We have seen a lot of businesses come in that have heard about the BIC, looking for how to get started or needing help on a business plan, and some are just looking for funding.”
“It takes about three to four months to get from the loan application until the loan funding is provided," explains Otay. “We also guide businesses to other community financial institutions that can help. We get people where they need to go.”
Arriaza says she will continue to work hard to keep her family-owned business going but takes comfort knowing the staff at the Business Information Center, like Otay, are supporting her. “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or even next year, but I’ll tell you, I have the satisfaction to have done everything that I wanted to," says Arriaza.
That’s one of the primary goals of Ogden City’s Business Information Center says Otay, "Our main purpose is to help the entrepreneur start up or get the business to continue in a role of success. We have great resources that other cities don’t provide.” After this last round of successful loan applications, staff at the BIC are updating their process and expect to reopen for new loan applications this summer. To learn more about the BIC and other business resources, head to Business Information Center | Ogden, UT (ogdencity.com) or call 801-629-8613.