COVID-19 relief options and additional resources

Success Stories


Jen Bellefleur and Kelsey Lee-Karol, co-owners of New Gild Jewelers in Minneapolis, Minn., met as jewelers working in the industry for others.  Restless, they dreamt of opening their own business, one where they could focus their talents on designing beautiful custom pieces for a wide range of people and occasions. They also wanted to create a work environment that would value staff, have good wages and supportive working conditions.

Going for it in 2017, they made the leap from employees to owners with a clear vision but no formal business plan. They found a location and signed a lease and then started looking for outside capital to augment their savings and credit card spending.


Luckily for them, they were referred to WomenVenture, an SBA microlender. Working with a loan officer who saw their vision and said, “I’m going to help you make this happen,” they quickly created a written business plan to get a start-up loan.

In... Read More


Persistence has a way of paying off, especially when persistence is paired with assistance.  Shantae Holmes, owner of All Washed Up Laundry Services, knows this first-hand and has experienced that pay off many times in her entrepreneurial journey.  Most recently, it’s been through her sticking with the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program and getting assistance from SBA’s Minnesota Business Opportunity Specialist Shaun McClary.

The 8(a) Program is a business assistance program for small-disadvantaged businesses. It offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

When Holmes entered the program in 2016, her company had already received several government contracts but as an independent she hadn’t set up her pricing structure to meet the challenges that inflation and COVID would bring.  In 2021 when her contract with Camp Ripley, in Little Falls, Minn. was... Read More


Ruby Tungseth-Dowden, originally from the Philippines, grew up in the restaurant business. With a bachelor’s degree in accounting and while working in the health care industry, she began her small business journey in 2018 by selling eggrolls at festivals in Ottertail County, Minn. Even before that she was following her passion for cooking by feeding her coworkers at Lake Region Health Care. Soon, they started ordering her eggrolls, which she used to raise money for poorer families in the Philippines.

After two years selling eggrolls at special events around the area under a tent, Ruby’s community rallied around her and she created Ruby’s Pinoy Foods, which focuses on serving Filipino foods in the Fergus Falls area. Among others, Mayor Ben Schierer, owner of Union Pizza and Brewing, offered his pizza kitchen for her to make her eggrolls when they were closed on Sundays and Jaime Price-Anderson, owner of Variant Digital, helped Ruby create her first business... Read More


When Kayla Zuidema and Valerie Mackenthun opened Hutchinson, Minn. based Compass Occasions in 2014, it was with a goal of eventually adding an event space of their own. They never could have imagined they’d end up doing so during a global pandemic, but with some help from the SBA, two local resource partners, that’s exactly what ended up happening.  

The Southwest Small Business Development Center helped them apply for and receive a variety of covid relief funding through SBA, the State of Minnesota, and McLeod County programs, which was essential to the survival of the business.  The Southwest Initiative Foundation also provided loan funding that was instrumental in assisting them to make key technological advancements during the “downtime” of 2020 when businesses were shuttered. 


Using the shutdowns wisely, Zuidema and Mackenthun reached out to SWIF for help working “on” their business. They participated in a 10-week reinvention... Read More