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Success Stories

Timothy Leek

A lifetime spent in the funeral business has made Timothy Leek an expert in guiding people through some of life’s most difficult and emotional moments. With assistance from the Small Business Administration and its partners, he’s expanding his business and with it, his impact on his local community.   

Leek’s father started Leek & Sons Funeral Home in Danville, Ill., more than 60 years ago, and Leek grew up above the family business, enabling him to “speak the language” at a young age. But even with his decades of experience, he still found value in reaching out to the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Danville Area Community College, specifically in crafting a business plan.

“My experience has been great,” Leek said. “Carol Nichols really took me by the hand, to guide and answer any questions.”

Nichols is the executive director of the Illinois SBDC at Danville Area Community College, which offers no-cost one-on-one business consultation and low... Read More

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