Success Stories

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

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