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Ellensburg Cidery Named 2020 SBA Seattle District Rural Business of the Year

Wheel Line Cider Honored as Part of Annual National Small Business Week, Shares Business Journey Before and Through Coronavirus Outbreak
Release Date: 
Monday, June 29, 2020
Release Number: 
2020-06-29
Advisory Date: 
Monday, June 29, 2020
Contact: 
Lisa White | lisa.white@sba.gov | 206-553-7050

SEATTLE – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 2020 Seattle District Rural Business of the Year is Wheel Line Cider in Ellensburg, WA.

Founded in 2017, Wheel Line Cider is a woman-owned craft cidery which includes an onsite press, fermentation tanks, apple orchard and tasting room.  Wheel Line Cider is dedicated to the craft of reviving and pressing heirloom bittersweet apples.

In only three years, Founder Susie Jensen took Wheel Line Cider from an idea to a reality and went from a staff of one to five full-time employees, while growing a popular presence both in-person and online. Cider production has doubled during the past year and Jensen recently added a cold storage area to production. Wheel Line Cider is one of the few woman-owned cideries with their own apple orchard in the United States.

“Small businesses are often the heart and economic engine of rural communities,” SBA Seattle District Director Kerrie Hurd said. “Susie Jensen has built a unique business and created jobs. We are honored to celebrate her accomplishments and positive impact on her community.”

The SBA Seattle Rural Business of the Year recognizes a rural entrepreneur that demonstrates staying power and substantiated history as an established business with at least three years of business operation.

The small business awards program is part of National Small Business Week, which is typically held during the first week of May every year since 1963. National Small Business Week award announcements and celebrations were postponed this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The 2020 dates for National Small Business Week have yet to be announced.

“I was surprised that I was selected but it is great to have your hard work validated by small business professionals,” Jensen said. “It will give us tremendous visibility as well as credibility as we move forward with distribution during these uncertain times.”

When Jensen retired from being an art teacher, she knew she wasn’t quite ready for quiet retirement life. Through her travels she discovered a love for full-bodied dry hard cider and decided she wanted to produce her own cider. After participating and receiving encouraging feedback from judges in the Kittitas and Yakima County Enterprise Challenge Business Plan Competition, Jensen recognized the need for a business plan and setting goals.

Jensen sought out business expertise from SBA Resource Partner SCORE Mentors for startup guidance, and then began meeting regularly with Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Adviser Sarah Truglio. Thanks to Truglio’s consistent advising, Jensen has developed and implemented a sustainable business model, both in terms of financial and environmental sustainability. The cidery has achieved a zero-waste model by giving the apple waste from the press to local farmers for livestock feed.

Wheel Line Cider supports the local community in many ways. Jensen regularly participates in community events and programs such as the Ellensburg art program for kids and the Think Twice Program as a volunteer, donor and sponsor. Additionally, she purchases supplies locally and employs local craftspeople to maximize the impact of the business in her community.

When the pandemic hit, Jensen pivoted Wheel Line Cider to begin online sales. They have also expanded into a second farmer’s market, now selling cider in both the Ellensburg and Wenatchee markets. Jensen is also exploring how to break into government contract work.

“National Small Business Week is a time to recognize the impact entrepreneurs and small businesses have on our economy and in our local communities,” SBA Pacific Northwest Regional Administrator Jeremy Field said. “Like many things in 2020, the journeys of this year’s award winners took a turn most didn’t anticipate. However, themes of ingenuity and tenacity remain the same as small business owners continue to inspire us in new and meaningful ways.”

A celebration honoring local SBA winners from Washington and the SBA Seattle District – which serves Washington and northern Idaho – has been postponed due to the pandemic but is slated to be rescheduled once conditions are safe to do so. Other SBA local awards that will be recognized at the celebration include Small Business Person of the Year, Exporter of the Year, 8(a) Graduate of the Year, Veteran-Owned Business of the Year, Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Rising Startup of the Year.

For more information about National Small Business Week, visit www.sba.gov/nsbw.

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About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov. The Seattle District serves Washington and northern Idaho with office locations in Seattle and Spokane.

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