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Wyoming District Office
100 East B Street, Federal Building, Room 4001 P.O. Box 44001Casper, WY 82602
Merrill Inc. is a woman-owned Class A General Contracting Company located in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The firm specializes in site excavation, underground utilities, road construction, building construction and more. Cheyenne is the capital and largest city in the state, but it retains a friendly, small town feel. F.E. Warren Air Force Base, the largest contracting activity in the state is located in Cheyenne. Today, F.E. Warren AFB is one of Merrill Inc.’s customers, but it didn’t start out that way. Jeni Merrill founded Merrill Inc. in 1991 but she kept her day job to pay the bills and worked her business at night. For nearly fifteen years, the firm grew very slowly. During the last five years, the firm’s growth has exploded. Why? What strategies did Merrill Inc. pursue that resulted in strong and sustained revenue growth and job creation during this time, when so many other firms in the construction industry have struggled? Jeni took three major steps over a two year period beginning in 2007 that collectively propelled her business forward. First, she began to work full time in her business and earned her Class A General Contractors License. Second, she applied to participate in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development Program. Third, she began strategically growing her firm’s bonding capacity with the SBA’s Surety Bond Guarantee Program. Although Jeni had been completing private sector projects for years, she realized her firm was missing opportunities in government markets. She started learning about government contracting processes, certified payroll requirements and bonding. As federal doors began to open for Merrill Inc. the firm faced a larger challenge. It had the ability to bond small projects but its bonding company would not consider projects above $500,000. Jeni was unable to accept the opportunities that were being offered to her firm through the 8(a) Business Development Program because she couldn’t meet the bonding requirements. She approached Deb Farris, the Business Development Specialist she worked with in the SBA’s Wyoming District Office. Deb provided Jeni with information about the SBA’s Surety Bond Guarantee Program. It’s not the agency’s best known program, but it provided exactly the financial assistance that Merrill Inc. needed. Jeni said the underwriting process was rigorous but it taught her to work with her CPA firm and carefully manage her firm’s financials and work in progress schedules. With the SBA guarantee in place she was able to qualify for a $750,000 bond and began growing her bonding capacity quickly and strategically. A little over a year later, Merrill Inc. was able to secure the necessary bonding on its own and can now bond projects up to $5 million dollars. Jeni attributes her success to the many talented people who are part of the Merrill Inc. team. She is proud that her firm provides good jobs for people who are willing to work hard. She also believes the SBA’s programs create real opportunities for small business, which she is able to pay forward into jobs and subcontracting opportunities. Over the last year or so, Merrill Inc. hired more than fifty subcontractors, all of which are helping to keep people working in rural America. Jennifer Merrill, President of Merrill Inc., represents the very best in small business today. She is doing exactly what our country needs most right now-working hard, reinvesting her profits in her company and putting more Americans to work each year. By combining determination and hard work with the financial assistance and business development opportunities offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jeni demonstrates that it is still possible for a small business owner to live the American dream and create her own success.