Success Stories

Lynn Sutton and SBA staff

The Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development program helps small disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace and access government contracts. Participation in the program is divided into two phases over nine years: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage. When companies graduate, business owners are equipped with skills and strategies that will help them continue to thrive outside of the program.

Lynn Sutton of Kairos Worldwide, a recent 8(a) program graduate, is celebrating her company’s growth while looking ahead to the next chapter. Before joining the program, Kairos Worldwide had one employee; now, it has 20.

“Seeing the difference we make in the lives of the people we work with – both clients and employees – is the best part,” Sutton said.

Kairos Worldwide was born in 2004. Sutton, who grew up on Chicago’s West Side and graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a degree in industrial... Read More

Bob Hunter Sr. and Bob Hunter Jr.

If you walked into S&J Door and asked for Bob Hunter, you’d need to clarify your request. The father and son team who started the company share not only a name, but adjacent offices, decades of industry experience, and a firm commitment to customer service. To simplify communications, the men have long gone by the nicknames of Senior and Junior, which inspired their company name of S&J Door.

The Frankfort, Illinois, commercial door supplier installs, maintains, and repairs automatic doors, steel security doors and frames, commercial hardware, commercial overhead and high-speed doors, and bathroom partitions and other related accessories for clients throughout Chicagoland.

Bob Hunter Senior and Junior previously worked together at another door company, and Senior had more than two decades of experience. But changes at that company drove the pair to depart. “It was a difference in business opinions,” said Junior, who had been in sales. “When you come to work... Read More

John DeCosmo (right) and the team at Ulta Lit.

In spring of 2016, Glenview, Illinois-based Ulta-Lit Tree Company was entering into its busiest time of the year when owner John DeCosmo learned that the company’s purchase order line of credit was not going to be renewed. But when DeCosmo tapped into his longstanding relationships with First American Bank in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, he learned of a valuable opportunity: the SBA’s Seasonal CAPLines Program. Within a few weeks, the company had closed on a SBA-guaranteed loan from First American Bank worth $1.5 million. “I don’t know where we’d be without that loan,” DeCosmo said.

The SBA’s CAPLines program provides loans up to $5 million to help small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working capital needs. The Seasonal Line of Credit Program, one of four distinct loan programs under the CAPLines umbrella, supports the buildup of inventory, accounts receivable or labor and materials above normal usage for seasonal inventory.

Ulta-Lit was well suited for... Read More

Carl Tutt

Set your business up for success by starting with a problem, Chicago resident and small business owner Carl Tutt advises. “You have to impact something,” he said. “You have to either solve the problem or create a situation that didn’t exist before.”

Seven years ago, he took his own advice. Inspired by President Obama’s call for energy efficiency and LED lighting in the White House in his first inauguration speech in 2009, Tutt launched Integrating Green Technologies, an environmental consulting and services firm that delivers efficient lighting and wastewater management solutions for government and commercial clients nationwide. Tutt was also able to capitalize on the 25 years’ of experience he gained at McDonald’s Corporation where, as a procurement manager, he helped reduce energy costs at restaurants.

“When I left the corporate environment I said I want to do something that’s going to impact the world,” Tutt said. “Water is a natural resource; you can’t fabricate... Read More