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Success Stories

Success Stories

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

By Grace Robinson-Seim, Washington Women’s Business Center

SEATTLE -- Business is going well for Karyn Gold-Reineke, founder of Pirouette, an artisan perfume and natural spa luxuries company based in Seattle.

You’ll find her exquisite line of handcrafted perfumes, soaps and lotions in a number of stores around the area, including Town and Country Markets and Whole Foods.

However, when Gold-Reineke was laid off from her comfortable, full-time job at an art museum at the height of the financial collapse in early 2009, her future was anything but certain.

Encouraged by friends and family members to expand on her soap making hobby, Gold-Reineke initially decided to make ends meet by selling the artisan soaps she had previously enjoyed giving out as Christmas gifts.

She started out with a simple Etsy shop, which she managed while working out of her 325 square-foot cottage home in the woods. When she introduced her perfume line, however,... Read More