Janet Sowell felt drawn to work with small children since she was 16 years old, and in August of 2004 she started making plans for her own pre-school. She began Giggles and Wiggles with just six employees, a small child learning center, and a background in Elementary Education. Janet had the idea that pre-school age children should be given an education, and not just a safe place to play. She also believed that a full-day pre-school Monday through Friday was not just something to make money, but a way to help children make learning connections. Janet explained, “The more connections a child can make before the age of five, the better, as we lose them each day thereafter.” Janet’s child learning center provides many options for parents of pre-school and school age children. For example, Giggles and Wiggles offers a full day pre-school that runs from 8:30am – 3:30pm, summer programs, and before/after school programs for school age children.
Starting the business did not come without its challenges. One of Janet’s first challenges was obtaining an education in Elementary and Early Childhood. It continues to be a process, but she meets this challenge by remaining committed to meeting her goals and the needs of the community. Giggles and Wiggles soon needed more space, and with the help of two SBA 7(a) loans, she was able to move to a larger facility. She also added four additional workers, employing a total of ten people. Another challenge she experienced was maintaining an adequate staff level, because all new staff must undergo a background check and a TB test which can take up to two to three weeks. Janet met this problem by asking a few of her parents to get the background check and TB test, and serve as substitute staff during transition times. Several parents were willing to do so, and this idea allowed her to have an adequate staff level in the event of staff illness or vacation days. She now is teaching 60 pre-school children and 40 school age children throughout the day.
Starting Giggles and Wiggles was not easy, but Janet said that when new business owners are willing to do their homework they are more likely to succeed. She emphasized that a well thought out business plan is one part of successful business planning. Janet also advised entrepreneurs to thoroughly examine the business that they want to start, and ask themselves if there really is a need for the products or services they plan to offer.
Janet is grateful to the SBA and First Interstate Bank for providing her with access to capital and helping her realize a childhood dream of opening a child learning center. A special thank you also goes out to all the fantastic parents of her Giggles and Wiggles children. Giggles and Wiggles is located in the Sunrise Shopping Center and can be reached at 307-266-1379.
Paul Keller, President of Sunshine Office Products Inc. in Worland, decided entrepreneurship was for him and he made it happen. Paul knew he really enjoyed working with people and experiencing new adventures daily. His career in sales, finance, insurance and banking taught him about people, customer service and management.
An opportunity opened up for Paul to purchase the office supply and office furniture store in the same building where his in-laws own a print shop. Paul visited with Leonard Holler, Regional Director of the Small Business Development Center in Casper, Wyoming to help him with the business valuation. “A business's success can be measured, ultimately, by its value,” said Leonard Holler. “The value of a business, determined by its ability to generate cash flow, provides a financial snapshot of where the company stands, how it might be improved and provides for an objective evaluation of the market and current management’s effectiveness. Business valuations and their related financial analysis are not only a measurement of how well a business is operating, but it can give reason to ask more questions about how it can generate future cash flow. In short, business valuations are a significant planning tool for any small business.” His next visit was with his banker, Brent Miller, Security State Bank, who suggested an SBA loan. SBA guaranteed loans are often utilized for start-up businesses that lack tangible collateral and for Paul this was a new entrepreneurial experience. In 2008, Sunshine Office Products received a 7(a) SBA loan that allowed him to purchase the office supply business.
This was a very exciting time for Paul Keller. He had wonderful new ideas for his office supply. The first thing he did was train his three employees to use computerized equipment and an accounting program when taking orders online. Instead of his regular customers having to come into the store, they could now view, select, order and be billed for his products online. The order would be put together quickly and delivered to the customer’s place of business.
Paul has been on this entrepreneurial journey now for over five years. “It has been a privilege to continue the tradition of service at Sunshine Office Products and to serve our wonderful community,” said Paul.
Paul and his wife, Kari, have three children, a daughter 15 years old, a son 12 years old and a daughter 7 years old. In his spare time he serves on several boards, is a member of the local chamber of commerce, coaches T-Ball and youth football, and donates backpacks and school supplies for kids in the community.
The SBA does not endorse the opinions, products or services of any private individual or business entity.