OMAHA – Len Dickson, and his wife, Jule Goeller, and their company, Sand Creek Post and Beam of Wayne, Neb., have been named the Nebraska Small Business of the Year for 2011 by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The company was nominated for the honor by Loren Kucera, Director, Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC), Wayne. They have been invited to attend National Small Business Week May 16-20 in Washington, D.C., and are eligible for selection as National Small Business Person of the Year.
Under the theme, “Empowering Entrepreneurs,” a series of events and educational forums will mark the 58th anniversary of the agency and the 48th annual proclamation of National Small Business Week.
More than 100 outstanding small business owners from across the country, including Sand Creek Post and Beam, will receive awards while gathering for three days at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in our nation’s capital. They will meet with top administration officials, congressional representatives and national business leaders.
Dickinson and Goeller started their business five years ago, growing into a company which blends building and selling technologically advanced pre-cut, pre-engineered kits which preserve authentic Great Plains post-and-beam barns and outbuildings. The firm offers big wood post and beam timber barns and outbuilding kits—many of which even are perfect for a one-of-a-kind rustic home. The frames are assembled on a customer’s existing foundation, and if that customer needs construction advice all the way up to turn-key construction services for the new barn, they provide that, too. Workers at their 27,000-square foot factory in Wayne, and their facility in Cleveland, Ga., mill, cut and assemble barn kits.
“Many of the barns in Nebraska years ago were built from kits from Sears or Montgomery Wards,” Goeller said. “So we brought back an old business and we’re reviving a niche. People don’t have the time these days to do things like get tools and go find people with expertise to build a barn. So if you could have something shipped already pre-packaged, wouldn’t that would work great?”
Keeping with its back-to-the-prairie environmentally-friendly business model, Sand Creek Post and Beam uses all-natural materials, with no chemical preparations. “We pay Arbor Day to plant 10 trees for every customer we have,” Goeller added.
Four years ago, the company embarked on an expansion project which would mean more factory space, an ability to complete more orders, and more jobs for local workers. Kucera played a crucial role for the business coordinating an SBA loan package and grant applications.
The company was approved Oct. 3, 2008, for a 7(a) loan from BankFirst in Wayne to purchase a plant in the town and adding a separate lean-to for building doors and windows for their kits. Around the same time, the firm earned a community development block grant to build a second plant facility on the Wayne property; Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy even stopped by for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Finally, a loan from the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District allowed the company to acquire an abandoned bank for its office building.
From 2006 to 2009, the company grew from $1 million to $5.1 million in revenue, and to 37 employees. Inc. Magazine recognized the firm by naming it the 218th fastest-growing company in the country in 2009. Goeller estimated revenues for 2010 to be between $6 and $7 million.
Plans for the future include placing small production units strategically around the country to cut down on shipping costs. “We would like to expand our sales network, and look at doing more international sales,” Goeller added. “We sold one barn delivered to France, another to Alberta, even people from Australia are interested in obtaining our products.
While the company continues to look toward future growth, they’re proud of their ties to the past, and a picture of rural America of days gone by.
“We even saw a TV commercial for four wheelers, and by chance one of our barns was used as a backdrop,” Goeller said. “That shows our barns really tie into being in the country and being tough and rugged. Some people use a barn when they want something to look American; well, we build those barns!”
Other statewide winners include:
• Small Business of the Year 2011 for Congressional District 1
Technical Maintenance & Service, Lincoln, NE
Nominated by Marisol Rodriguez, NBDC
• Small Business of the Year 2011 for Congressional District 2
Nebraska Dance, LLC, Omaha
Nominated by Jason Hansen, American National Bank
• Small Business of the Year 2011 for Congressional District 3
Clint Spearman Trucking, Scottsbluff
Nominated by Ingrid Battershell, NBDC
• Family Owned Business of the Year 2011 for the State of Nebraska
Ronco Construction Company, Omaha
Nominated by Cliff Mosteller, NBDC
• Women in Business Champion of the Year 2011 – Statewide winner and Region VII winner
Cindy K. Johnson, Grand Island Chamber of Commerce
Nominated by Odee Ingersoll, NBDC
• Veteran Services Champion of the Year 2011 for the State of Nebraska
Lisa Wolford, CSSS.Net, Bellevue
Nominated by Joel Merriman, CSSS.Net
• Financial Services Champion of the Year 2011 for the State of Nebraska
Dave Jibben, West Central Nebraska Development District, Inc., Ogallala
Nominated by Jason Tuller, NBDC
Since Oct. 1, 2009, the SBA has approved more than 880 loans to Nebraska small businesses with a total loan volume of more than $230 million, and has been responsible for creating more than 3,300 new jobs in the state.
In economic downturns, SBA guaranteed loans typically become more attractive because the SBA provides lenders with some cushion for their risks. Lenders can provide SBA guaranteed loans for all business needs but typically turn to SBA for new businesses or businesses with less collateral and smaller equity injections typically required for conventional loans.
While banks nationwide have been hesitant to lend to small businesses, unwilling to take on any risk during the downturn and small businesses themselves have been holding off on taking on more debt, the numbers paint a better picture for Nebraska.