Within five days of application, ApplePie can
provide a commitment letter for the loan, telling the
borrower what is required to close the loan. The loan can
close as quickly as 30 days, depending on whether the
borrower can obtain required documents, like leases.
Thomas says the company can also provide a quick
“no” which allows the borrower the ability to move on
to try another lender. She adds that if the company can’t
help the borrower, they will offer some other options.
Joining the Boys’ Club
Thomas is the rare woman leading a fintech company.
After developing the concept, she brought in co-founder
and COO, Jeff Pelletier, who was her CEO at a company
20 years ago, and Jeff Zinn as head of capital markets.
“I jokingly said in my first year of business that it
was 10 guys and a girl,” she says. “I would have loved
to hire more women and particularly have them on my
executive team. But I look at who is best for my position.
It’s not about gender.”
She adds that several women have invested in the
business, and she is happy that more women are coming
into the finance industry. “We’re about 20% women
now, and I have a goal to get that number up.”
For Thomas, running ApplePie gives her an opportu-
nity to “use all my muscles. It’s a culmination for me of
being able to apply a lot of what I’ve done in a way and
to an industry that I love serving. I like that businesses
are created. Every employee that comes to work here
knows they’re creating jobs. And you’re working with
“We who sit here in Silicon Valley think we’re the
innovators. But these are some of the best brands in the
country, created through the franchise model, and it’s
inspiring to listen to their passion, their stories and to
serve them. I like serving that everyday person who is
trying to change their life.”
So why ApplePie?
Zinn, a longtime colleague of Thomas’s, explains that
before the company launched, they were sitting in
Thomas’s kitchen talking about a name.
“She wanted it to be easy to apply for a loan,” he
recalls. “And what could be easier than ApplePie?” abfj
NADINE BONNER is editor of ABF Journal.
tion and a quick response time — not 24 hours like
some lenders, but applicants can receive a commitment letter within five days. The big difference between
ApplePie’s applicants and other borrowers is they have
already been screened by the brands and approved for
“It’s really a growth engine for [franchisors],”
Thomas says. “You know what happened to small
business lending back in 2008 with all the regulation.
It really changed how banks could interface with that
kind of borrower. And a transaction below $5 million
was a lot less interesting.
“The SBA program was created [by the govern-
ment], but it only services about 20% of the market, and
it’s really a hard process for people. So it was ripe for
disruption and doing things differently. It was so clear
that this was something that could apply to small busi-
ness, but you need a scalable model because small busi-
nesses are fragmented.”
Due diligence is difficult when evaluating small busi-
nesses, she adds, because there is no way to determine
if the businesses would succeed or how much revenue a
store should generate. Lending to a franchise eliminates
many of these unknown factors.
“So, in my assessment, having been a franchise
investor for the last 25 years myself on the equity side,
it was clear to me this was the blueprint for business,”
Partnerships with the Brands
ApplePie partners with popular national brands like
Dunkin Donuts, 7/11 and Hand and Stone that already
have successful track records, eliminating a lot of the
guesswork. While franchise websites offer an open
invitation to apply, they grant their licenses selectively,
choosing both the applicants and the locations they feel
are a match for the brand. By partnering with the brands
themselves, ApplePie receives a steady stream of preapproved entrepreneurs looking for financing.
“We sign up the brands and, through the brands, we
receive qualified franchisees who already own units and
are building more or are new to the system and want to
build their first one,” Thomas explains.
ApplePie itself is funded by hedge funds, family
offices and “high net individuals,” she says.
The application process is entirely digital, and
Thomas credits the technology with the company’s
“They [borrowers] come to our site and, if they are
working with an approved brand, they are fast-tracked
through a loan process and application. If they are not
working with an approved brand, we let them know we
are not working with that brand at this time,” she says,
and for the latter group, the process may be a bit slower.
“They are assigned to a loan officer who works
with them as they submit information. We analyze the
information; it goes through our originations team. They
package that for credit. The credit team reviews that and
processes the loan.”
Like other fintech lenders, ApplePie has developed a
proprietary algorithm to vet and qualify borrowers.
“We who sit here in Silicon Valley think we’re the innovators. But these are some of the best brands in
the country, created through the franchise model, and
it’s inspiring to listen to their passion, their stories and
to serve them. I like serving that everyday person who
is trying to change their life.”