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Invena Corporation - Exporting from the Prairie

Invena Corporation - Matt Wilson

Hidden in a small town in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Invena Corporation has kept a low-profile for nearly 20 years. Known as a “skunkworks” prototype development firm, Invena’s customers like the remote location and rural work ethic, far away from the prying eyes of competitors. It’s here, in Eureka, Kansas (population 2,633) that we find the 2017 SBA Kansas Exporter of the Year.

The family business was rooted in family and community. Eureka native Matt Wilson and his mother Carma quit their corporate jobs to care for the cancer-stricken patriarch of the family, Glen Wilson. With Matt’s engineering background and Carma’s accounting skills, they established Invena (a play on the word Inventors) in the guest bedroom to enable Carma to work from their home while Matt traveled as a design consultant. In time, Glen recovered, and the family focused their efforts on growing the company and their community. They soon discovered the symbiotic relationship between Invena and Eureka “We are as much a cause as a company now,” says Wilson, “we can’t grow our company if the town doesn’t grow too. We’ve got to do both.” Only one year ago, Eureka was struck by a tornado, and Invena contributed money, equipment, and manpower along with 1,000 other volunteers to dig out and rebuild.

They bought an abandoned 1917 Santa Fe depot for a headquarters, and Matt and his wife Cammie bought an old house built in 1925 by a local oilman. Both were restored and are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The company is holding a 100th birthday celebration for their historic office on Memorial Day weekend, complete with period actors and railroad activities galore.

The depot facility allowed Invena to expand its business, and hire their first employee, Craig Olson, a local inventor and craftsman.  As the company grew, Invena started manufacturing the equipment they invented, and began exporting to clients overseas. As the projects grew larger and longer, Wilson and the Olpe State Bank sought the help of the Eastern Kansas Economic Development District (EKEDD) in 2002 to obtain an Export Working Capital Program (EWCP) line of credit, a CAPLine loan, and America's Recovery Capital (ARC) Loan to fund the resulting cash needs.  “We learned the hard way that growth really drains the checking account”, says Wilson, “and conventional banks don’t like the export business.”

The company outgrew their depot by 2006, so they bought a 22,500 sf building across town funded by a SBA 504 loan from the South Central Kansas Economic Development District (SCKEDD), a Certified Development Company (CDC).  The financing also helped Wilson make improvements to the building and purchase equipment, including a 10 ton bridge crane. Today, the company has 27 employees and serves Fortune 50 customers in over 60 countries around the world. In 2017, they will launch their e-commerce operation to market their products to the mass market.

Company Name: 
Invena Corporation
Eureka, Kansas
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InvenaPlant4 989Kb
Depot2013 2773Kb