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How an SBA loan helped Christopher Benson expand his guitar amp business, Benson Amps

Apr 04, 2024

Christopher Benson holds guitar while adjusting amplifier equipment in a studio
Christopher Benson, founder of Benson Amps.

From playing music to starting a business

Benson Amps is a guitar amplifier manufacturer that makes high-quality guitar amps and sells them across the globe. Their international success is reflected in their products – made-in-the-U.S.A., heirloom quality, cream-of-the-crop guitar amps.

“I’ve been a musician my whole life, playing in bands and later playing in rock clubs in the early 2000s,” says Christopher Benson, founder of Benson Amps. “I was constantly playing and making music with friends, and at some point, I got interested in whether I could make a guitar amp.”

After he briefly played on a vintage amp and was struck by its sound, Christopher decided he wanted to make one himself. He started learning the process by working as a guitar amp repair technician and eventually decided to take the leap and start his own guitar amp company.

“I started in my garage and then moved into a small space,” says Christopher. “Then I started hiring employees and moved into a bigger space. And now we are about twenty employees between three different spaces. It grew out of a passion and ambition to work for myself doing my own designs and selling them.”

Benson preamp products lined up on display

How Benson guitar amps are different

Christopher had three main objectives for his business: to make great, long-lasting guitar amps, to create jobs and treat his employees well, and to maintain a stable and profitable business.

“I love being able to give jobs to people,” he says. “Being able to provide a job and stability, and watching something get made by them, it’s kind of cool and similar to being in a band.”

Christopher and his team source their parts domestically and within Portland whenever they can, and some they make themselves in-house. “A lot of mass-produced amps, because they aren’t always put together with good materials and using good practices, have a lifespan that they are good for – about ten to twenty years with everyday use – but eventually they just fall apart.”

Benson amps are designed to last a lifetime. “If someone does regular maintenance on them, they can last for about one hundred years. We call them heirloom quality amps. They are expensive, but it’s like a nice watch, that is always going to be around and be fixable and serviceable. It’s hard for me to think about something with my name on it ending up in the dump because it reached the end of its usefulness.”

Stacks of Benson guitar amps sit in a warehouse

How an SBA loan supported the business

A few years ago, Christopher started to consider purchasing a commercial space for Benson Amps.

“I have a business mentor who connected me with Beneficial State Bank when I told him that I wanted to buy a space to move the shop to, which would help solve some issues like the instability of renting a space,” says Christopher.

After getting in touch with the Beneficial State Bank SBA team and submitting all the necessary paperwork, Christopher was approved for an SBA loan. “Getting an SBA loan was far easier than I thought it would be,” he explains. “I think a couple months later we had a loan for a small, commercially zoned house in Portland, and it was relatively painless.”

SBA (Small Business Administration) loans are business loans that are partially guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration and have flexible terms and low interest rates. SBA loans can be a great option for covering working capital needs, expansions, or, in Christopher’s case, real estate purchases.

I don’t think enough people are even aware of SBA loans. A lot of business owners that I’ve talked to think you can only get ten-year loans, but with SBA loans it’s twenty-five years. There’s no way we could have done a ten-year mortgage on a million-dollar property, but it becomes doable if that gets extended.

Christopher Benson, founder of Benson Amps

Christopher and his team use the new space for manufacturing tasks like amp wiring and pedal building. “A commercial loan is doable, and it’s going to be much nicer to own than to rent, so business owners should take advantage of the SBA program at Beneficial State Bank and try to buy their own space.”

A pink guitar amp on a table in a warehouse

Portland-made products that make waves across the globe

Today, Benson Amps products are sold internationally, with dealers across the globe including Japan, Australia, Thailand, and across the U.S. Through a dedication to building a company that prioritizes its people, the planet, and making the highest quality product they can, Benson Amps remains one of Portland’s prized craft manufacturers.

Visit the Benson Amps website to learn more about their products.

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