Success Stories

SBA resource partner helps winery navigate economic recession, develop new business strategy

By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

WOODINVILLE, Wash. – In the sometimes pretentious world of winemaking, Bob and Lauren Bullock are pragmatists who think good wine should be an anytime pleasure.

At Eye of the Needle winery, they buy surplus wine from premium wineries and blend, age and bottle it under their own label in an effort to create a flavorful wine for $10-$15.

"We don’t want to be the Friday or Saturday night wine,” Bob said. "We want to be the Sunday through Thursday night wine business.”

Rapid growth
In 2009, the Bullocks’ startup sold its first 440 cases in 11 weeks. By 2012, Eye of the Needle had three part-time employees and annual sales of nearly 6,000 cases - or more than 60,000 bottles of wine. In 2012, four wines - Harvest White, The Eye, Sangiovese and Syrah - won awards at the Seattle Wine Awards and the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Eye of the Needle is selling six different wines in 159... Read More

SBA, WA state export assistance helps high-tech location sharing firm reach new heights

Bryan Trussel could not believe the deal being offered his company by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Washington state Department of Commerce. The two agencies gave him a State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant worth $5,000 that paid for his company to travel to Spain and participate in the 2013 Mobile World Congress last February. The grant also assisted in getting contracts for his company’s mobile application Glympse. “(The STEP grant) allowed my small business to play with the big boys,” Trussel said.

Trussel is the CEO and co-founder of Glympse, a mobile service that allows GPS-enabled mobile phone users to share their location temporarily on a web-based map with anyone they choose. The company was founded in 2008 by Trussel and his friend Steve Miller. The former Microsoft employees decided to turn away from the security of a guaranteed paycheck and went to work for themselves. Having started in a basement in Redmond, the two have grown the... Read More

Military Veteran uses SBA resources to open gluten-free market

A diagnosis of Celiac Disease changed Janell Farnsworth’s life forever. An intelligence officer in the Washington Army National Guard’s 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, finding safe options at the dining facility would prove difficult, as she could no longer eat any foods that contained gluten. After her diagnosis, she scoured the major grocery stores looking for gluten-free options, to little avail. Most stores had a very limited selection. She was also mystified to find Western Washington had only one gluten-free grocery store located in Tacoma, more than 85 miles away from where she lived. Her entrepreneurial spark lit up and she realized there was a way to meet the needs of herself and others with gluten sensitivities in Snohomish County and make a little money while being her own boss. Janell’s Gluten-Free Market in Everett, was born.

Instead of jumping head first into the business without having any prior experience, Farnsworth reached out to the Washington Women... Read More

Sandy Keathley and Ben Kinnebrew of Bellingham were not looking to open K&K Industries in 2004. The small business found them.

Keathley was working as an accountant at Western Washington University in the college of education. Her husband was working for a Canadian firm that had a metal fabrication shop in Ferndale, north of Bellingham.

It offered the only laser metal cutting between Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle. When the Canadians closed the shop and moved the operation across the border, Keathley and Kinnebrew decided to buy a metal-cutting machine.

“It didn’t happen overnight,” said Keathley. “Between March and September of 2004 we operated out of our house. Ben would job-out the work, taking orders for laser cutting to be done in Seattle,” she said.

Keathley was keeping the books. At the same time she was meeting with a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) counselor at Western Washington University, which hosts an office for the... Read More