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Success Stories

Success Stories

Ever since she was a six-year-old managing the cherry pickers on her grandparents’ farm, Rita Santillanes and her family have known she was “a natural born boss.”

Now, Rita and her husband John are the owners of four Peppertree Inns – a part of the Best Western Plus franchise – in Spokane, Liberty Lake, Omak and Auburn. The hotels collectively employ approximately 85 people in Washington state including their oldest son, daughter-in-law and John’s sister.

“I love coming to work. This business is always exciting to me. Each day is different and I enjoy working with our employees and seeing them learn, grow and improve their lives.” Rita said. “We have focused on keeping and growing our own talent and have several long-term employees who are key to running a successful multi-location business.”

Following her early cherry picking days on her family farm, Rita had her first experience in the hospitality industry working in her mother’s restaurant. When Rita’s... Read More

In late 2012, Reeves Clippard was having a “crisis of confidence” in determining which direction to take his solar panel installation business. The co-founder and CEO of A&R Solar in Seattle had recently laid off several employees following a sharp increase in work – including winning a local contract to be preferred installers for the Solarize Washington program – and then a decline in work.

Clippard started his business after realizing he spent more time researching renewable energy than focusing on his unsatisfying IT job. He started small through bootstrapping efforts but quickly grew his team in three years.

“It was our first taste of growing too fast. We felt blindsided and were surprised why we didn’t see it coming,” Clippard said. “We knew we needed to get tools and metrics in place, and Emerging Leaders helped us make that happen.”

The SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative is a seven-month, executive education course for small business owners and... Read More

Call Center CEO's actions in revolutionizing industry earns her SBA 2013 Washington state Small Business Person of the Year award

EASTSOUND, Wash. -- Jill Blankenship will tell anyone who listens that the days of needing a giant office space to house a call center are long gone. Also heading the way of the dinosaurs are proprietary employees who only handle technical support over-the-phone for one company.

Blankenship’s company Frontline Call Center is in a relatively small building (compared to massive call center office spaces) and her employees provide customer service support for a number of clients. What makes her very different from the competition, though, is where her business is located – in Eastsound, Wash., on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Islands.

The remote setting means that she can only have a handful of employees physically work at the main business building, so she hired other call center agents across the country to be able to provide 24-hour assistance to the company’s clients. Blankenship’s innovation, dedication to technology, savvy business planning and help from the U... Read More

SBA 504 loan helps family of farmers secure retirement with new million-dollar farmhouse

LYNDEN, Wash. – John and Dorie Belisle plan to retire in several years and like many longtime small business owners, want to ensure they have a nest egg to fall back on when they hand their 30-acre farm over to future owners.

The owners of Bellewood Acres in Lynden, since 1995, have just about everything you could ask for in a person-friendly farm – 25,000 apple trees with several varieties of apples complete with a u-pick section year round; a portion of land devoted to cucumbers and corn, and a giant pumpkin patch for picking at Halloween.

What they did not have, though, was a massive farmhouse that could serve as a store for their produce and market bistro and bakery, a warehouse, office space for staff, dedicated space for local artists to display their work, or even a distillery.

That all changed thanks to a U.S. Small Business Administration Certified Development Company/504 loan that helped them purchase and build a 14,000 square foot building that they... Read More

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