When Dr. Michaels opened the Hartford Veterinary Clinic in 2009, her business brought a much needed service that had not been in Hartford for more than 20 years. Her business also generated additional tax revenue for the community and created jobs for skilled employees and young people who may be interested in pursuing a career in veterinary science. The clinic works exclusively with small animals such as dogs and cats, provides preventative and corrective surgeries and is a source of a variety of retail items such as pet food, toys, leashes and grooming supplies. In addition to the clinic being a valuable asset to Hartford and a new business opportunity for Dr. Michaels, it also allowed for Dr. Michaels and her husband to raise their four sons closer to the rest of their family. Dr. Michaels has made her presence and the presence of her business known in the community as she is involved with professional organizations, family and social organizations and provides a semiannual community service project for pet owners. She is a member of the Hartford Economic Development Corporation, United States Women of Today and with four sons, is active in school, sports, scouting and church activities. One of the community service events she does is to assist pet owners who do not have financial resources to vaccinate their pets. Dr. Michaels donates her time and staff for this event and the only charge is for the vaccinations. Dr. Michaels received a U.S. Small Business Administration 504 loan with Dakota Business Finance, a 7(a) loan with Reliabank in Hartford and worked with the Small Business Development Center in Sioux Falls.
SOUTH DAKOTA SMALL BUSINESS PERSONS OF THE YEAR
Kevin & Emily Berg, Owners
First Manufacturing LLC
Humboldt, South Dakota
What do two mechanical engineering students at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology do after writing a business plan together for a class? They graduate, get married and start the business of course. Kevin and Emily Berg, owners of First Manufacturing LLC, did just that. Starting as a small home-based machine shop with only a manual mill and a manual lathe, First Manufacturing originally opened in Rocklin, California, in January 2003, but relocated to South Dakota later that year. As small business owners, they had questions about hiring employees, marketing and growing their sales, and contacted the Sioux Falls Small Business Development Center in Sioux Falls. The SBDC assisted the Bergs in leveraging their own investment dollars to obtain financing through a local lender and the APEX loan program of the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development. With these monies, the Bergs were able to purchase additional equipment and the former grocery store building in Humboldt to further grow and have room to manage the contracts they were landing.
Taking advantage of historically low interest rates, First Manufacturing again contacted the SBDC to assist in putting together a plan to refinance as well as obtain some additional working capital to support ongoing expansion. This was done through a Small Business Administration loan with great loan terms allowing the Bergs to obtain the working capital necessary for the business while minimizing the impact of the monthly cash flow.
First Manufacturing became a full-time venture in 2006 and has tripled in size, providing CNC milling, CAD/CAM work, turning, inspection and assembly. The company is experienced in a wide variety of materials including aluminum, steel, stainless steel, plastics and composite materials. In addition to being a component manufacturer providing materials for companies such as Daktronics, First Manufacturing also produces their own product lines, including the Copperhead Ag Furrow Cruiser, which received an award in the 2010 Governor’s Giant Vision competition.
Even in the midst of a recession, First Manufacturing has demonstrated outstanding growth. From 2009 to 2010, the Bergs increased revenues 134% which was followed by another 109% growth in sales in 2011. Consecutive years of doubling sales have also led to substantial increases in payroll, up 190% in 2010 and 161% in 2011 to keep up with demand.
Leigh Kamstra, Chef/Owner of Roma's Ristorante located in Spearfish, South Dakota.
For 37 years an old, stone, dilapidated building stood empty in Spearfish, South Dakota. But it caught the eye of a college student who was then attending Black Hills State University. Leigh Kamstra didn’t know exactly at the time how or why, but she knew somehow her future would be in that building. It would be several years before she would have her answer.
With a head for numbers and bookkeeping abilities, Leigh earned her degree in business and a minor in computer science. After graduation, she spent 10 years in the banking industry in California and Denver. Then one day in 1994 after a very stressful day at the office, Leigh saw a commercial for a culinary arts degree program offered through the Colorado Institute of Art. It was like a light bulb went off in her head and this businesswoman made a spontaneous decision – she was going to chuck her successful banking career and try a new occupation. After all, she always loved to cook and bake (even though she will admit she was never good at it) and found it to be a great stress reliever. Once Leigh made up her mind, there was no turning back.
Leigh started attending the 18-month culinary arts program which was very intense. Out of a class of 125 students, only 42 graduated. Leigh loved every minute of it and finished first in her class. She graduated with a 4.0 grade point average, three gold medals and two silvers. After graduation, Leigh started her cooking career in Colorado working in head chef positions in Boulder and Cherry Creek.
At Christmastime in 1999, Leigh was home back in Spearfish visiting her family and decided to check on her favorite building. It was still there and still empty, but now there was a “for sale or lease” sign in the window. Leigh could picture herself and her restaurant there. Things started moving quickly and after some negotiating with the owner for a lease Leigh could afford and a loan of $60,000 guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the refurbishing of the building began in March 2000. There were multiple challenges the old building presented such as no electricity or water, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. After three months of whirlwind activity, Leigh transformed the building into a unique and quaint Italian restaurant, Roma’s Ristorante.
During the next 10 year’s Roma’s became known as a premier restaurant in Spearfish and the regional area, but it wasn’t all an easy adventure. There were issues with the building lease, people stopped eating out after 9/11/2001 for some time and sales took a drastic decline, and Leigh went through some personal problems as well. Leigh persevered and business increased to the point where she started thinking about expanding her business. This was viewed as a risky proposition as she had an established and successful business at her chosen location, but Leigh knew she had outgrown her special building. She only had 23 tables and sales were maxed out as they couldn’t turn them over fast enough to make more money. So Leigh moved forward and with an SBA 504 loan of $598,000, she designed, constructed and opened the doors of her brand new building in June 2010.
The new building offers more seating, a more efficient kitchen space, and better visibility from the interstate which carries thousands of visitors through the Black Hills National Forest. There is also an elevated area for musicians to perform and a meeting room for special occasions. Since the restaurant opened in its new location, sales have nearly doubled and employees have increased from 11 to 35 also helping the local economy.
Leigh is active in the Spearfish community. She has donated the use of the restaurant on several occasions to host fundraisers for various non-profit organizations in the community, donated goods and services to feed the animals at the wildlife sanctuary and is a board member of the Northern Hills Alcohol and Drug Services.