10 Dane County small businesses making a difference

Ready for some mind-blowing stats?

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Wisconsin has more than 440,000 small businesses (defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees). Those businesses represent 97.8% of all employers in the Badger State and employ 51.8% of the private sector workforce. Most are also very small, with 75% of all businesses having no employees and many having fewer than 20.

That’s a lot of economic power for a bunch of very small businesses. In fact, nearly 87% of all Wisconsin exports in 2013 came from small businesses. In short, small businesses make the Wisconsin economy go.

Ten area businesses were honored for their distinctive achievements on June 28 at the 34th annual Dane County Small Business Awards. Each year, these prestigious awards recognize 10 successful small Dane County businesses that have rewarding workplace environments and contribute to their community.

Contributions to the community were a particular hallmark of each of this year’s honorees.

“Small businesses aren’t always about making money — sometimes they’re not even about making money at all. They’re about community,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi noted during the event. “You are what makes up the fiber of our community.”

Dr. Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at UW–Madison, was the morning’s keynote presenter and he recognized each of the small business award winners for cultivating work environments that promoted a positive outlook.

“People with high levels of psychological wellbeing are also physically healthier,” Davidson noted. “This raises questions for the business world. Depression is the leading cause of disability. More than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, so having strategies to deal with the causes of depression and cultivate healthy habits at work can help reduce costs for small businesses.”

This year’s award winners come from a wide variety of industries, with differing challenges and goals, but all have strived to foster a positive sense of community both in and out of the office to become leaders in their fields.

Byce & Worman Family Dentistry — Madison
Brad Byce and Peter Worman, Owners

Byce & Worman Family Dentistry is a modern, state-of-the-art dental practice offering Madison area patients a full-range of general and cosmetic dental services, from routine check-ups to complete smile makeovers. The company was started seven years ago, and has already grown from five employees at its inception to 17 employees today. From day one they have placed a high importance on staying current in dentistry technology, which includes laser dentistry, digital impressions, and digital X-rays. They also pride themselves on providing a healthy a work/life balance for their employees and creating a fun and friendly environment for all employees and patients. In addition to participating in numerous charitable events, Byce & Worman also opened its doors to Badgercare Forward Health Insurance patients in 2011, and the organization assists local schools by providing dental care free of charge to students who have no dental insurance.

Enivison IT — Madison
Nancy Pautsch, President

Envision IT is a tech consulting firm specializing in networks, systems, virtualization, proactive operations support, cloud technologies, and software development. In 2013, owner Beau Smithback brought on a new executive team and they strategically transformed the company into a “firm of endearment,” inspired by principles discussed in the books Conscious Capitalism and Firms of Endearment. The company operates on the basic premise that, “We can do good and be good to all stakeholders — employees, clients, partners, and the community — and still make a profit.” During its 15 years in business, Envision IT has grown from two to 20 employees based on core principles of considering employees the source of everything and endearing them; marrying human core values to a business purpose; and fostering a culture of give, give, give and recognizing that it results in win, win, win.

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Fish & Associates Inc. — Middleton
Andrew Fickett, President

Fish & Associates Inc., partners with the transportation, engineering, and construction industries to provide highly technical structural engineering, inspection, and testing services. More simply put, they inspect buildings and structures to make sure they won’t fall down. The company has been around for 15 years and enjoyed steady growth. Founded by Phil Fish as a one-man venture in 2001, Fish & Associates now has 23 employees, and in recent years opened additional offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Fish & Associates prides itself on a family-like company culture that is supportive and fair-minded to everyone on staff. Among participating with other community events and organizations, Fish & Associates has sponsored a Habitat for Humanity build in its parking lot and supports employees who wish to volunteer for various charitable organizations of their choice. In fact, the company added an additional paid eight-hour day per year for employees to work with a charitable organization or community effort of their choice.

Meicher CPAs LLP — Middleton
Gordon Meicher, Managing Partner

Meicher CPAs is a locally owned public accounting firm that was founded in 1981 by managing partner Gordy Meicher. Meicher CPAs provides a full range of tax and accounting services to small business and individual clients throughout Wisconsin and the rest of the country. The accounting industry has changed a lot during Meicher’s 35 years in business; finding and retaining bright and ambitious CPAs has been one of the biggest changes. Older generations valued money and career advancement while millennials place more value on time off and flexible work schedules. Meicher has embraced these changes by offering its CPAs time-and-a-half-pay for overtime, flexible work schedules, and reduced summer hours. The firm has grown from a one-man operation to employing 35 people, largely by doing the best possible job its clients at the lowest, most competitive cost. As a result, 99% of Meicher’s business comes by word of mouth, which has driven growth since its inception.

Revelation PR, Advertising & Social Media — Madison
Brian Lee, President

Revelation PR, Advertising & Social Media is a full-service, integrated communications agency that bridges traditional and new methodologies to help individuals and companies accomplish their goals — strengthening their brand and making money. While still a relatively young company — it was started in 2011 — Revelation has seen steady year-after-year growth. Revelation works with nonprofits on a reduced-fee or in-kind basis and also donates to the PRSA Foundation, which is committed to increasing diversity in the world of public relations, and Champions for PRSSA, which helps fund scholarships for college PR students. The company offers this bit of wisdom to other small business owners: surround yourself with smart, talented, and experienced people, and don’t be afraid to seek out advice.

The Roman Candle — Madison
Brewer Stouffer, Founder & Owner

The Roman Candle was born right here in Madison in 2005 because Brewer Stouffer, a UW–Madison graduate and Madison resident, was bored with pizza. Really bored. And he was uninspired by all the blasé fare brandished on commercials promising ever-larger portions at ever-decreasing prices. Was anyone paying attention to quality, or asking how pizzas could actually be made with fresh ingredients for under 10 bucks? The Roman Candle’s goal was to reinvent a piece of the past, to create a rebirth of the pizza parlor where friends and family could come to unwind and relax. The Roman Candle has sourced ingredients locally since its inception, and all sauces, salad dressings, and dough are made from scratch and by hand in its restaurants. In an industry where turnover averages 50% to 100% annually, The Roman Candle prides itself on its higher-than-average industry retention rates. Its Community Days fundraiser is also a delicious way for area schools and organizations to raise a little money while eating pizza. The Roman Candle donates at least 10% of sales from everyone who mentions the selected organization while ordering on the scheduled day.

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Terso Solutions — Madison
Joe Pleshek, CEO/President

Terso Solutions Inc. provides automated inventory management solutions for tracking high-value medical and scientific products. They are a market leader in the development and application of RFID solutions that enable health care and life science organizations to better manage their supply chains. The company has grown significantly since it was founded in 2005 with only six people; today Terso has 39 employees and sees steady year-to-year revenue growth. Terso is extremely committed to its employees and provides healthy food options, exercise facilities, telecommuting and flexible work options, education reimbursement, and paid training for both personal and professional growth. Terso offers the following advice to other small businesses: The adage “culture trumps strategy, every time” holds true for businesses of any size. Building a diverse team brought together by a common set of core values will lead companies to achieve astounding things.

Tingalls Graphic Design LLC — Fitchburg
Tara Ingalls, Owner/Creative Director

Since 2000, Tingalls Graphic Design has been dedicated to providing its clients with beautiful, eye-catching marketing solutions to help them stand out in a crowded marketplace. Tingalls offers logo design, website development and search engine optimization, print collateral, social media design, tradeshow planning, and much more. The company actually started as a freelance graphic design firm in 2000 as a way for Tara Ingalls to generate enough client work to allow her to work from home and start a family. Now in its 16th year, Tingalls boasts eight employees. There is a high value placed on fun in the workplace — including regular office card games — and Tingalls’ open floor plan offers collaboration, constructive feedback, and skill development for its employees. Tingalls also offers pro bono or low-cost graphic design services to nonprofits through its Giving Tree Program.

Total Care Dental — Madison
Brett Clark and Jason Vandehaar, Doctors and Owners

Total Care Dental is committed to creating an all-around positive dental experience for individuals and families by providing a fun, friendly atmosphere to bring out everyone’s best smiles. They have a team of compassionate dental professionals who are devoted to providing only the best, most comprehensive oral health care and dental services. TCD has been around for 42 years and grown from seven employees and two dentists to 16 employees and two dentists today, with discussions about adding a third dentist to the team. TCD treats its staff like family by offering employees a summer schedule where they can work three days a week to have more time with their families. The company also took the entire staff and their families to Disney World two years ago. And TCD has established a program called “Share A Smile” where free dentistry is provided every second Thursday of the month to clients from St. Vincent de Paul, Middleton Outreach Ministry, and Our Lady of Hope Clinic who need dental work but are unable to afford it.

Yahara Bay Distillers — Madison
Nick and Catherine Quint, Owners

Yahara Bay Distillery — the first distillery in Madison, and second in Wisconsin — was founded in 2007. What was intended to be a side project in retirement for the Nick and Catherine Quint quickly turned into more than either of them had planned. In almost nine years, the family run company has grown from producing three products to more than 40. Products range from bourbon and brandy to rum and liqueurs, and they are distributed in 20 different states. Yahara Bay has grown more than 25% each year and now employs 12 full-time workers, with even more growth on the way in the form of a 20,000-square-foot distillery and event center scheduled to open this fall. Yahara Bay also does little things to say thank you to its employees on a consistent basis, including providing employees with grocery store gifts cards a week before Thanksgiving as well as reserving rooms at a local hotel/water park for each employee and their family. In addition, Yahara Bay has been a large supporter of the LGBT community. The company developed “Pride Vodka,” a product created to help celebrate and promote the beautiful differences we share in this community and beyond. A portion of each bottle sold goes to local organizations that support the LGBT community.

One final award was presented at this year’s Small Business Awards ceremony, in recognition of an individual who has devoted his career to promoting small businesses.

The 2016 Small Business Advocate of the Year Award was presented to Neil Lerner, who has spent the past 20 years directing the Small Business Development Center at UW–Madison, which provides no-cost confidential consulting for small businesses. The center consults with hundreds of clients annually, helping launch new businesses and assisting small business owners with obtaining the capital they need to get their business off the ground. On top of this, Lerner lead and coordinated the Dane County Small Business Awards program for 20 years, prior to taking a new position as the associate state director for the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center, where he will take his skills across the entire state to assist small businesses.

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