Success Stories


Drivers in Columbia looking to turn their ride from grimy to sparkling often turn to Tiger Express Wash for a quick, quality wash-down.  And when the owner of Tiger Express Wash needed financing to weather a buy-out and expand its offerings, he turned to the SBA 504 Loan Program for help.

A discussion with Roland Bartels of Tiger Express Wash is like observing every business course taught in college applied to a real world situation. His research into profit optimization in the car wash industry is truly impressive—he exemplifies everything SBA and its resource partners tell clients about running a business.

While this level of research might not be what you would expect from the owner of a chain of local car washes, it is clearly a winning formula. In June 2012 Bartels and his previous partner divided their business. Bartels wanted the flex service and exterior service car washes and his partner wanted the self-serve car washes. Bartels planned to go to primarily a... Read More

How the Missouri SBTDC and Mid-Missouri SCORE Helped Wheelchair Personalities Get Rolling to Give Vets and Others a Boost

If you have ever been confined to a wheelchair, even for a short time, you know it can be depersonalizing. It may be that you are below eye level, but no matter the cause, those in wheelchairs are often ignored. Sharon Paulsell and her husband Steve found when running Honor Flights out of Columbia, Missouri that strangers readily approached and thanked ambulatory Veterans for their services while those in wheelchairs were often overlooked. 

Sharon and Steve also found during trips that the hundreds of wheelchairs at the national World War II Memorial all looked the same. Once, a wheelchair from their group was accidentally loaded onto a bus for another Honor Flight leading to an extensive search to track it down.  Luggage tags or newspaper bags tied to the wheelchairs just weren’t cutting it to identify their wheelchairs at a glance. 

The issues became the impetus for the creation of a new business called Wheelchair Personalities.  At first, Sharon didn’t plan... Read More


If you’re one of the thousands of St. Louis-area drivers every day making your way easier through the new I-64/Highway 40 interchange, you can offer a little thanks for the work done there from a small, but fast-growing mom-owned business.

Vicki LaRose’s firm, Civil Design, Inc. (CDI), is on track to break $3 million in sales this year, and has a portfolio of civil engineering projects including work on the Boone Bridge, University of Missouri system, Metropolitan Sewer District and Metrolink.  She began her company as a stay-at-home mom, and over the years thanks in part to SBA small business financing, has expanded to offices in southern Illinois and Kentucky, specializing in construction management, environmental, site development, surveying, water resources, and transportation engineering. 

Pretty good for somebody who didn’t know what kind of engineer she wanted to be when she grew up.  Back in high school, LaRose chalked up good grades in math and science, and... Read More

When Carla Reid signed up for Grace Hill Women’s Business Centers’ Business Development Class she really had no intention of opening a business—ever.  With her background and passion in social services, her goal was to open a non-profit entity to offer men in the community employment training and computer skills classes to help them find work.  Maybe in the distant future she could build a reputation and get client referrals from area agencies.  But after a friend mentioned the business development class, she was curious and signed up.

Thanks to the class, and help from the SBA Microloan program, she’s turned her dream to help her clients into a for-profit business.

Carla’s space in south St. Louis features hardwood floors and trendy exposed brick walls, soft jazz music and sports on the TV.  Make no mistake, it’s a place where a guy can be a guy, while getting sweetly pampered.  Elevated Men’s Salon’s offers haircuts, shaves, manicures, pedicures, facials and more. ... Read More