Wisconsin businesses spur growth with SBA lending, mentorship

Last week, Americans saw Colorado sub shop owner Carolyn Reed at the State of the Union address, representing America’s small businesses and helping to emphasize their importance in driving the economic recovery.

Only two years ago, Wisconsin’s Deb Carey occupied that seat. Deb and her husband started New Glarus Brewing Co. in New Glarus, Wis., in 1993. They relied on SBA counseling to get the business started, and they grew the business with SBA guaranteed lending to buy their first warehouse. Today, New Glarus Brewing employs 50 people and is the number one microbrewery in Wisconsin by sales volume.

Deb Carey’s story is the story of thousands of small Wisconsin companies — helped by SBA-guaranteed loans and counseling — that contribute to Wisconsin’s economic growth. Since 2009, SBA has guaranteed more than 11,000 loans totaling $3.5 billion to Badger State small businesses. These businesses reported retaining more than 99,000 jobs and creating nearly 33,000 more — all during the Great Recession. 

In 2014 alone, Wisconsin banks guaranteed 1,674 loans for $542 million. Of these, 534 went to new businesses that most likely would not have received financing without the SBA’s guarantee. They now have the precious chance to create jobs and spend money building their businesses, in the process contributing to economic prosperity for their communities. From 2009 to 2014, new businesses financed with SBA loans in Wisconsin reported creating nearly 13,000 new jobs — jobs that would not have existed without these loans.

Last year, SBA sought to make funds more accessible than ever by eliminating fees on loans of $150,000 and less. This strategy benefits the small Main Street businesses that make up the fabric of our state. More than 800 Wisconsin firms saved $950 in fees on average, with savings totaling more than $700,000 for borrowers. For example, Milwaukee’s Purple Door Ice Cream Shoppe used an SBA Community Advantage loan offered through community-based lenders to expand into a new space in Milwaukee’s urban, low-income Walker’s Point neighborhood. The company saved on fees and created 12 jobs. And it is not alone — Wisconsin is a national leader in small loans for the second year running.



While lending dollars can help businesses pay for expansion, SBA’s research shows that mentoring and counseling help businesses hire more employees and generate more revenues. SBA Wisconsin’s partners in counseling, including seven SCORE chapters, 12 Small Business Development Centers, and six Women’s Business Center offices statewide, counsel thousands of businesses and business owners-to-be each year.

For instance, Stacy Nellen-Kolze worked extensively with the SBDC in Green Bay starting in 2009 to develop her business plan. Today, her shop, Nell’s Wigs, provides wigs, mastectomy products, and other services. With the SBDC’s ongoing mentorship, Stacy recently accomplished her latest goal of getting her products and services accepted by health insurance companies. Purple Door Ice Cream Shoppe started as a counseling client of Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., a Women’s Business Center based in Milwaukee and an SBA micro-lender as well.

Other counseling clients have taken their businesses from startup to major growth. For example, Enterforce, an engineering staffing firm started in 2001 with SCORE’s counseling assistance, now employs 248 people.

These are just a few of the ways the U.S. Small Business Administration is helping Wisconsin’s Main Street businesses. There are thousands of entrepreneurs — in Milwaukee, Sarona, La Crosse, Hudson, Madison, and many other communities — that could tell similar stories about how they contribute to Wisconsin’s economic growth with the SBA’s help. Every day, the SBA is here to help your business start, grow, and succeed. For more information, email eric.ness@sba.gov or learn more at www.sba.gov/wi.

Eric Ness is the district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration Wisconsin District.

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