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Success Stories

Henry Schwartz of MobCraft Talks with SBA Administrator Linda McMahon in the Taproom


In 2011, Henry Schwartz and Andrew and Anthony Gierczak began researching commercial brewing operations since they had brewed their own beer in college. Working with the business incubator at University of Wisconsin Whitewater, they identified a business case for a brewery that generated flavor ideas and monthly pre-orders of beer via crowdsourcing and high-touch interaction with its customers. MobCraft started production in 2013 on a shoestring budget, using excess production capacity at an existing Madison brewery and taproom. By 2015, they were outgrowing their shared facility as production expanded from 48 barrels in their first year to 556 barrels.


MobCraft used SBA financing at critical junctures in its growth. The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), an SBA micro-lender and Community Advantage lender, provided a $75,000 Community Advantage loan to purchase a bottling machine in 2014. This cut bottling time from... Read More

Dan and Elizabeth Donoghue at the Chocolate Caper's Counter


Ellen and Claude Marendaz started selling their distinctive praliné chocolates at Madison’s famous farmers' market in 1983. By the mid-1980s, they established The Chocolate Caper in nearby Oregon and became a Main Street staple. Fast forwardto 2013, when Dan and Elizabeth Donoghue were pursuing their dream of a baking business. Elizabeth began making her baked goods when Dan became ill in 2012, and word of her tasty products spread. At first, the Donoghues were looking for shared kitche nspace and approached The Chocolate Caper in early 2014. That didn’t work out, but several months later, when Ellen and Claude decided they wanted to retire, they contacted the young couple. This time a match was made, and the Marendaz’ began teaching the new Chocolate Caper owners the art of making the chocolates. The pralines, with chocolate and nut butters topped with a hard chocolate shell, are still the signature item of the shop. In late 2014, before they re-opened, Dan and... Read More


Kate Blake started her career with a degree in clothing, textiles and merchandising and a keen interest in shoes. She spent three years as footwear buyer for Belk, a major department store chain in the Southeast, then became a sales representative for Steve Madden's shoe brand. When she recognized a desire to open her own store in 2001, she began saving her money without knowing exactly when she would take the plunge. In September 2005, “I had a flash of inspiration and I knew this was theright time,” she says. The next day, she saw a for rent sign at a desirable Milwaukee Third Ward location, walked in, and signed a lease the same day. She moved into the space on October 31, and (shoo) opened on November 5, featuring unique, high qualityfootwear. While preparing to open, Kate spent two months scouting out the right product to fill the store, seeking advice from her business contacts on merchandising, sales, and more. She determined that she would need $100,000 to... Read More

Eric Ness and Kristina Pence-Dunow at Hometown Trolley


In 1978 Hometown Trolley was a brand-new player in the trackless trolley business and a family-owned company in the rural northern Wisconsin. That same year, Kristina Pence-Dunow married into the family and the firm, becoming president and CEOin 1991. She and her husband divorced in 1996 and he left the business to pursue his own interests. Kristina kept the company going, taking out her first SBA loan in 2005, while raising two children and completing her degree in Business Administration atUW-Green Bay in 2012. When a major bus manufacturer targeted the trolley market and achieved sales of close to 100 trolleys a year, substantially more than the 25 to 30 sold by the half-dozen competitors in the market at the time, Hometown Trolley had to act. Kristina says, “We decided to respond to their focus on volume by investing in our innovation.” Kristina’s second husband became the company’s innovator, developing a full-battery electric trolley in 2011. Soon Hometown... Read More