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SBA Assistance Helps Business Grow

Marine Solutions and Amy Wilkins

Marine Solutions, Inc. (MSI) is a small, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) specializing in engineering and commercial diving. The firm is focused on building and maintaining waterfront, hydraulic, navigation and bridge structures. MSI combines marine engineering and construction experience, to provide clients with high-quality, innovative solutions for their facility by; assessing the problem, designing and then implementing the repair. MSI’s services are provided through a diversified staff of engineers, commercial divers and construction professionals with experience throughout the U.S. and abroad. MSI is majority owned by Amy Wilkins, PE, who seeks to exceed client expectations and to ensure that MSI is always in the forefront of the industry by providing unparalleled service and value through its highly motivated staff.

SBA Assistance: MSI management worked with the Bluegrass SBDC in Lexington, KY to develop their business plan and projections, obtain initial funding, recognize cash flow, profit and growth issues and assist with obtaining funding to alleviate these issues.

  • MSI received an SBA 7(a) loan in 2011 from Fifth Third Bank in Lexington, KY to restructure debt and expand the company’s line of credit.
  • MSI has benefited from small business set-asides throughout the life of the business.
  • MSI received an SBA 7(a) loan from Fifth Third Bank in Lexington, KY in 2014 to allow for the acquisition of a small similar firm in Maryland, allowing MSI to expand its services and service area to the East Coast of the U.S.

Number of employees: There are 37 full-time and 21 part-time employees; 10 jobs were created with the 2011 7(a) loan in the first year, with 16 additional jobs in the subsequent two years, and 7 jobs were created with the 2014 7(a) loan. When the company was founded in 2008, there were just 2 full-time and 6 part-time employees.

Staying power: After seven years, MSI is an emerging leader in the marine engineering and diving industry. The inland (non-coastal) industry is small, and many businesses are either engineering or commercial diving firms, but not both. MSI is unique in offering both services, and the combination of those services provided by one company is in high demand. MSI is managing growth, expanding their niche service areas and developing relationships with their clients to encourage continued opportunities.

Response to adversity or problems: The biggest challenges that MSI has faced is having access to enough capital and having the opportunity to perform work within a tight-knit industry. From its inception, MSI had been underfunded, which caused major cash flow challenges, particularly as the company began to grow and required additional equipment and operating capital for payroll and other needs of a growing business. Initially, MSI was unknown, and many clients did not want to take a chance on the company unless its price was significantly lower than others.

MSI’s president, Amy Wilkins, enrolled in the Profit Mastery course with SBDC in Lexington, KY the fall of 2010. Working with the SBDC after completing this course, MSI was able to recognize its cash flow and profit margin issues and make improvements needed to turn the company around. MSI received an SBA 7(a) loan in April 2011 to restructure the initial start-up loan and past equipment purchases as well as to accommodate the expenditures of starting a large, long-term project and to free up and expand the line of credit.

In March 2012, MSI was awarded a 3-year contract with the U.S. Navy to inspect all of its waterfront facilities in the mid-Atlantic. This contract was set aside for small businesses, allowing MSI a chance to demonstrate their abilities to a client that would otherwise be tough to access due competing against large businesses. This exposure, as well as their prior five years of working reputation, allowed for MSI to adjust its fee schedule to allow for profit and remain their clients’ preferred choice for marine solutions.

Due in large to assistance from the SBA, MSI has reduced debt, increased cash flow and profit, and has grown successfully. The company has capitalized on opportunities created by the SBA and has relied heavily on SBA financial assistance to fund the growth these opportunities produced.

Community Involvement: MSI moved to Nicholasville, a bedroom community of Lexington, in 2011 and has become involved with the Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce. MSI uses local businesses and chamber members whenever possible as suppliers of materials, parts and services. The company also sponsors local school and youth programs in both Lexington and Nicholasville.

Learn more about SBA’s loan programs, free counseling services and other small business programs at, your lender, and your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), SCORE Chapter or Women’s Business Center.