Success Stories

Shirley Joann Wikner stands in front of an airplane.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year for 2017, Shirley Wikner conquered her fear of flying to build Aviation Charter and Executive Aviation in 1988 with her husband, Roger. When he died suddenly in 2012, she fought on several fronts to preserve the company and emerged stronger than ever. Today, thanks to her tenacity - and with a bit of help from the SBA and their resource partner WomenVenture - Shirley employs 54 people in Eden Prairie, Minn.  The business works throughout the contiguous United States, Canada, and Mexico providing corporate flights, flights to organ transplant teams, patient transport, and airline freight. In addition to her role as employer, Shirley’s gifts of both time and money truly enrich her community, including her role as a primary fundraiser for LifeSource, a medical nonprofit that promotes organ, eye, and tissue donation and her longtime financial support of the Minnesota Vikings Children’s Fund which... Read More

A business owner stands next to counter top samples mounted on a wall

If you drive along I-94 in Woodbury, Minn., you can’t miss the word ‘CABINETS’ in big, bold letters on the side of the road—a sight that easily catches the eye of any homeowner or contractor with new construction or renovation in mind. A short jaunt along the frontage road will lead you to CREATIONS Cabinetry, where entrepreneur Maelei Catt is making her lifelong dream of small business ownership a reality. She’s gone from dream to reality thanks to help from the Women’s Business Development Center at WomenVenture in Minneapolis, Minn. and a microloan funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Hard working and fiercely independent, Maelei was destined to be an entrepreneur. “From the very beginning, I knew that I didn’t want to keep working for people. I don’t ever want to work that hard again, unless it’s for myself,” says Maelei. Though her initial plan was to open a restaurant, her talent and experience with selling and designing cabinetry, as well as... Read More

Christine Jaques, owner at AX Fitness

In Minnesota, the SBA works with a number of local partners to counsel, mentor and train entrepreneurs and small businesses.  Women Venture, an SBA Women’s Business Center receives funding from the SBA to provide services to help small business thrive and grow. One of the businesses it has helped do just that is AX Fitness in Minneapolis. 

Christine Jaques turned to fitness during a very difficult time in her life—she had lost her job, was living on friends’ couches, and had recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Undeterred by these obstacles, Christine went back to school, got certified as a fitness instructor, and started teaching at a local fitness studio. While there, she developed her AX Fitness model and built strong relationships with her clients, many of whom were members of the Minnesota RollerGirls roller derby team. In 2013, her loyal roller derby clients encouraged Christine to follow her dream and open her own business. They even provided the funding... Read More

Lee Gregory, owner of Sir Lines-A-Lot

When Lee Gregory and his wife Meggin started Sir Lines-A-Lot in 2004 with a single pick-up truck and a used striping machine, they believed that if they provided excellent customer service and a quality product, the business would grow.  And it did, but slowly.  With stagnant or slow growth for three or four years, their banker recommended Lee participate in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Program.

The Emerging Leaders Program focuses on small, poised-for-growth companies with potential for job creation.  The seven-month intensive, executive entrepreneurship education series includes approximately 100 hours of classroom time per participant and provides the opportunity for small business owners to work with experienced mentors, attend workshops and develop connections with their peers, city leaders and financial communities.

Nearly 70 percent of the graduates have achieved revenue growth and more than 80 percent created new jobs or retained... Read More