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Success Stories

From handsprings to business owner, Brenda Nolby learned cartwheels and more from her self-taught cheerleading mother and advanced her own skills through gymnastics teams in high school and college.  Her passion for self-growth was matched by her drive to help others succeed.  Giving back to her community by creating a thriving business and using it as a vehicle to improve lives is why she was chosen to be the 2018 Minnesota SBA Small Business Person of the Year.

Jam Hops Gymnastics Factory, Inc., in Ham Lake, Minn., is in the business of transforming children’s lives, strengthening their future and improving their community. Its core business offers many opportunities including youth classes and competitive programs for gymnastics and dance, cheer-leading and ninja classes, an academic preschool and a theater program. These provide families with activities that are beneficial for the over-all development of children.

Jam Hops was formed in 1997 with the merger of two... Read More

Frank Duan in front of project photos

When Frank Duan came to the United States from China to study architecture he didn’t plan to stay, but, with services from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the land of opportunity contributed to him starting his own business, Duan Corporation, in 2002.

After working at corporate architecture firms for 10 years, Duan seized the opportunity to start his own small business when asked to design Mai Village Vietnamese Restaurant. Since that time he has designed over 100 restaurants, including Kobe Restaurant in Plymouth, Minn., Yumi’s Sushi Bar in Excelsior, Minn., and the Burger Place in the U.S. Bank Plaza building in downtown Minneapolis.

Duan’s company has benefited from the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program, into which he was accepted in 2009.  The program offers a broad scope of assistance, including business counseling and sole-source access to government contracts, to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51 percent by socially and economically... Read More

Taina Burgos

Grand Avenue in Saint Paul, Minn. is a mecca for small businesses housed in quaint buildings. Nestled among the many shops you’ll find the home of Avivage Massage. Owned by Taina Burgos, Avivage is a safe and harmonious space that offers an array of therapeutic massage services for both individuals and couples. Avivage is one of the more than 1,000 women entrepreneurs that WomenVenture, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, helped in FY 2016-17.

Taina’s path to small business ownership has not been an easy one. As a young Latina girl growing up in Miami, teachers would yell at her for not knowing her numbers and tell her she wasn’t good enough to attend college. She dropped out of school in her junior year and ultimately found work as a travel agent. At 21, she found herself a single mom to a beautiful baby girl. Wanting more opportunities for herself and her daughter, she attended massage school and found work as a massage therapist. In 2008, she... Read More

hanging wood sign for Rockwood Lodge

In 2015, sisters Stephanie Lightner and Carol Seim were approached by their husbands, Carl Madsen and Mike Seim, to undertake the adventure of small business ownership and a move north.  Twin Cities residents, the four joined together and, with the help of an SBA loan facilitated by the Minnesota Business Finance Corporation, purchased Rockwood Lodge and Outfitters in Grand Marais, Minn.

Rockwood Lodge is a historic resort on the Gunflint Trail on the eastern half of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The four partners benefited from a SBA 504 loan to purchase the existing lodge and outfitter resort. Along with a lodge, cabins, bunkhouse, fishing, hiking, and canoeing, they also provide outfitting services for camping excursions with entry to the BWCAW.

The BWCAW is a unique area located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. Over one million acres in size, it extends nearly 150 miles along the International... Read More