By Stefan Yablonski
Robert Natoli, the Oswego entrepreneur who built Rentavision, a rent-to-own business, and in 1999 sold it for a reportedly $92 million, is entering a new line of business — business to business lending.
Colonial Finance Group Inc. will lend up to $1 million to business people who want to expand or entrepreneurs who want to start a business.
“Colonial Finance Group has been around — it’s been incorporated for quite a while. We have done other things with that business,” he said. “But in terms of loaning money — we are just starting that now.”
Natoli, 67, said he started the new line of business because he grew dissatisfied with the banking industry.
“Primarily, I think the small business person really is not understood by the typical banker,” the Oswego native said. “Judging by what I went through back in the day and a lot of tales that I hear from friends now, I figured this would be a very good time to launch this type of business. And, it is after COVID, of course. A lot of businesses were hurt, so maybe they need some financing to get back up on their feet again — to expand or whatever.”
He said he has a team in place ready to help those who need money.
“We have your typical secretary answering the phone, a team that works in loan origination and checks on the applications. We have a sales department where people will greet the potential customers and on and on,” he said.
The company, which is based in Oswego, will lend any amount up to a $1 million, based on the customer’s needs.
“What we feel their needs are. There are a multitude of businesses — service industry, retail, fitness and on and on,” he said. “We have a good idea about what the small business person would actually need.
“We don’t want to give them more than they need, because obviously you are paying for money and they would be paying more than they need to. So, in essence we are helping them grow.”
“If a person comes to us, they would find that within a few days they would have a yes or a no. It would be that quick,” he said. “If you go to the typical bank you would have to go before a committee. It could be up to six months before you get a no from a bank.”
When he was building Rentavision, “I went to 33 banks, 33, before I got a yes,” he said.
In many ways banks are antiquated when it comes to working with ambitious entrepreneurs, according to Natoli. They don’t understand their needs and they don’t work in concert to their pace, he added.
“And that is what we offer,” he said. “There is a place for banks, don’t get me wrong. If you want to get a mortgage on your home, buy an automobile, you know. I am not knocking banks. It’s just in this particular area; I feel that we would definitely be better at serving the entrepreneur than a bank would be.”
Are there any federal or state regulations he needs to comply with?
“Oh, always. We are in New York state; of course there are — but we have already jumped through those hoops. I have somebody that does just that stuff,” he said. “New York has more laws and regulations than I think any other state — maybe aside from California. I am not sure; I have never opened a business in California. But I hear it’s not very pleasant.”
“But, on the same token, it’s also a barrier to entry of competition — I always look on the bright side of things, you know that,” he added.
The Oswego native graduated from Oswego High School and attended SUNY Oswego, graduating with a degree in communications. In 2005 he started Time Buyer Auto Sales, a business that sells cars and finances the sale. According to the 2023 Business Guide, the company has 14 employees in Oswego
Natoli is also the author of “True Vision 4 Success,” a book that focuses on what he has done to achieve professional and personal success through thinking.