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With WISE Advice, Consulting Partnership Goes the Distance

Hall & Hay Consulting Associates owners Cadmona Hall, PhD, LMFT (l.) and Heather Hay, PhD, LMFT (r.) at the 2011 International Family Therapy Association World Congress in Amsterdam, Holland.

In 2008, Cadmona Hall and Heather Hay were completing their PhDs in Marriage and Family Therapy at Syracuse University. Their decision to choose Syracuse for their academic studies would result in a life-changing friendship and business. Hall and Hay became close friends while working at Hospice of Central NY, where their collaboration sparked an unexpected idea.

Hay realized after a joint presentation that they were meant to work together: “We have great synergy, a great presenting partnership and strong friendship. That was the first kernel of the business idea being planted and it took a little while before we got things into motion.”

After their graduation, the two continued discussing their fledgling business concept.

“We talked through the idea of doing this together professionally and what we are most passionate about, which is grief and loss and reaching out to others,” recounts Hall.  “We started to think about how to put things into place strategically to develop an official, legitimate business. We ended up birthing this business in separate locations and I think that is a testament to our relationship.”

Together Hay and Hall decided to launch Hall & Hay Consulting Associates in 2010. At the time, Hall was pursuing a full-time faculty position in Chicago and Hay had stayed in Syracuse for a clinical position. Starting a business in separate locations, in addition to their full-time jobs, encouraged Hay and Hall to grow the business in ways they didn’t initially anticipate.

The partners found just the right source of business assistance in Joanne Lenweaver, director of the WISE Women’s Business Center in downtown Syracuse. With Lenweaver’s guidance, the partners were able to avoid early errors in setting up their operations and develop a business model that worked for their unique needs and goals. Structuring a consulting startup where Hay and Hall’s time is the product required a careful balance with their existing professional positions and busy personal lives. Unlike other businesses that have easily quantifiable products, as consultants they had to get comfortable selling themselves in a transparent way to their clients.

Hay and Hall continue to get counseling from WISE: “We find it to be such a helpful resource when we are at a crossroads and we need a different perspective or additional information. Graduate school taught us to be great researchers, educators and clinicians, but Joanne’s business mentoring and support is instrumental,” says Hay.

Today, the business offers presentations and trainings, program design and development, consultations, and organizational assessments for grief, trauma and loss issues. Mental health professionals are the mainstay of H&H Consulting’s client base, since grief counseling is often an area of minimal clinical training and education.  The company’s trauma and loss services have been highly sought after from organizations as well, from corporate human resource departments to K-12 school district staff and students. For 2014, Hay and Hall are focusing on improving their company website, building a new social media platform, creating new written resources for grief and loss, and offering new services and training programs. The partners have been invited to present on several new topics this year, including wellness and prevention, sociocultural trauma, and the public health issue of Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on family members.

Presentations are what inspired Hay and Hall from the very beginning to go into business together, and are where they work best in tandem. With technology, travel and teamwork as part of their business model, the 600-mile separation offers no obstacle for Hall and Hay to make their unexpected business successful. Their consulting partnership’s strength is the very thing that started their business in the first place: an enduring friendship.

“We’re really great friends as well as a strong business team, which makes working together really enjoyable and entertaining,” says Hall. “Knowing each other well enough to be able to have difficult conversations around our strengths, our growth areas and how we may need to divide responsibilities set the stage for us to be successful.”

 

Scott Warzecha, Owner, Netgain

Minnesota 2014 Small Business Person of the Year

Saint Cloud – Scott Warzecha, President and Founder of Netgain, based in Saint Cloud, has been named the Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Small Business Person of the year is selected annually based on growth in sales or unit volume, increase in the number of employees, financial strength, innovativeness of product or service and evidence of contributions to community-oriented projects. Gail Ivers, Vice President of the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce nominated Warzecha for this award.

Warzecha, a St. Cloud native, started his career as a salesman at Team Electronics, but it was during his 13 years at Marco that he had the idea to do things differently.

The concept was cloud computing. It may seem like old news today, but when Warzecha first talked of the idea in 2000 of providing cloud services to businesses, it was unheard of. His technology employer wouldn’t even consider the idea because they believed it was a fad. At the time, businesses had their computing resources in the back room of their buildings and brought in technicians to fix and update the machines and their software. To implement his vision for cloud services fully, Warzecha had to quit his job and start his own company, Netgain.

About three years ago, Warzecha made a strategic shift at Netgain. Instead of being a general service IT company, they decided to focus their services on the health care industry, especially small hospitals and rural clinics that are large enough to need things like electronic medical records and networked computer systems. That transition has taken the company from just over 50 employees in 2011 to almost 100 today.

“We knew someone who gave us a referral that got us our first health care account,”  Warzecha says. “Eventually our cloud computing model demonstrated that it lent itself particularly well to medical clinics.”  As the company began to take on clients in the Twin Cities health care market, Warzecha and the Netgain leadership team gained an appreciation for the intense regulatory requirements in the medical services industry. In order to help companies deal with those requirements, Netgain had to be willing to take on the same liabilities as the health care provider, regarding patient data privacy. “Any penalty from a security breach on behalf of the provider is extended to us.”

Reaching into rural communities forced Netgain to expand its business model. Many small, rural communities do not have access to reliable high-speed telecommunications so they require on-site equipment for adequate transmission speeds. At the same time, they often don’t have the time or skill to make the most complex computer systems work. In response to these unique needs, Netgain has extended their services into the hospital itself, by providing Netgain equipment on-site for clients. “This is the complete opposite of what we’ve been doing for the last 11 years,” Warzecha says.

They’re able to take this step because of the best practices developed by Netgain’s datacenter operations. Netgain staff monitor, manage and maintain the client’s equipment remotely. They can run the client’s systems from the Netgain office to provide upgrades or trouble-shooting. If the hospital systems fail, it rolls over the Netgain datacenter in St. Cloud. Today, 95 percent of Netgain’s growth is in the health care industry, and that trend is expected to continue.

Warzecha’s cloud hosting vision in 2000 – once considered unfathomable in the business community – has moved to the mainstream of IT services. But as it has, Warzecha has continued to lead Netgain through an evolution that seeks out the technological advantages and markets that keep the company on a strong growth track. His leadership has helped his company respond to client needs, weather challenges, strengthen St. Cloud, and establish a national presence.

The company’s commitment extends beyond its doors to the greater community. This philanthropic organization has made contributing to the community part of its culture. They annually donate five percent of profits to charity and support community involvement and volunteerism among their employees.

Warzecha will be honored at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards program on May 6, 2014, at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest.

For more information:

Scott Warzecha
President/Founder
Netgain
720 W. Saint Germain
St. Cloud, MN 56301-3501
320-251-4700
scott.warzecha@netgainhosting.com

Solar Business Achieves Sustainable Growth in “Sunny” Seattle

In late 2012, Reeves Clippard was having a “crisis of confidence” in determining which direction to take his solar panel installation business. The co-founder and CEO of A&R Solar in Seattle had recently laid off several employees following a sharp increase in work – including winning a local contract to be preferred installers for the Solarize Washington program – and then a decline in work.

Clippard started his business after realizing he spent more time researching renewable energy than focusing on his unsatisfying IT job. He started small through bootstrapping efforts but quickly grew his team in three years.

“It was our first taste of growing too fast. We felt blindsided and were surprised why we didn’t see it coming,” Clippard said. “We knew we needed to get tools and metrics in place, and Emerging Leaders helped us make that happen.”

The SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative is a seven-month, executive education course for small business owners and executives whose business is on the brink of growth. The program provides the framework, tools and resources for business owners to work on their business rather than in their business.

Clippard began applying the knowledge he gleaned from the Emerging Leaders program which led to hiring six employees, developing specific roles and titles for other management members, and creating a strategic growth plan to accommodate the industry’s market fluctuation.

“Everything pointed to hiring the right staff,” Clippard said. “The Emerging Leaders class showed me we needed to rethink capacity, needed a consistent marketing effort, and needed more sales staff. We transitioned from focusing on delivering the work to pulling in more work and closing more deals.”

Since completing the Emerging Leaders program, A&R Solar has also paid back a loan and completed renovations on a new headquarters building in the Seattle SODO district. Plus, the company is involved with several green energy renovation projects through the state of Washington.

“Reeves is a classic entrepreneur and started the class identifying a few areas he needed help with. After creating his strategic plan, he realized he needed a whole new approach to his business and his leadership,” said Mary Marshall, SBA Emerging Leaders Seattle instructor. “As a result of his new direction, his company has exceeded projections and is on track for the most successful year yet.”

Clippard stated March 2014 is the most successful month in the company’s history with nearly $600,000 of jobs sold, which is almost as much the company’s annual sales in early years. A&R Solar is also “expecting tremendous growth and expansion in 2014.”

For more information about A&R Solar, visit www.a-rsolar.com.

For more information about the SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative, visit www.sba.gov/EmergingLeaders.