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SBA Loan Helps (shoo) Step Off on the Right Foot


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 buy merchandise and remodel the space.


Armed with that information, she went to WWBIC (the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation), an SBA Women’s Business Center, Community Advantage Lender and micro-lender. With her residence as collateral and WWBIC’s business guidance, she received a $50,000 loan through U.S. Bank. Despite the conventional wisdom that startup businesses can’t get financing, more than 30 percent of SBA loans in Wisconsin, and about half of SBA micro-loans, are made to startups like (shoo)—about 600 businesses each year.


By combining the loan proceeds with her nest egg, Kate was able to fill the store and build out the space. She achieved positive cash flow within two years. Despite the 2008 recession and working againpart time to make ends meet during that tight time, she paid off the loan in full that year. Her brother came aboard as a partner in January 2007 to help with accounting, website and other functions. They opened a second store in Madison, Wisc., on StateStreet, the town’s main shopping thoroughfare, in 2010 which is still flourishing. As of March 2017, Shoo employs 16 people and celebrated 11 years in business in Milwaukee last year. Kate is re-launching its website – - to sell more online and recently moved to another highly desirable Third Ward location. “WWBIC’s assistance and the SBA loan I received made it possible to get (shoo) off to the right start,” she says.


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Milwaukee, Wisconsin