Success Stories

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

Apple Awards' Dennis Smith and His Staff in their Hayward Shop


When Dennis Smith was coaching high school basketball in the 1980s, he never dreamed his dissatisfaction with local trophy products for his teams would set him on a journey to government contracting. After building a golf course in the 1990s and selling personalized trophies and awards there, Smith decided to open a small shop in the town of Hayward. In fall 1996 he went to look at Apple Awards, a mail order awards business whose owners had recently moved from Green Bay to Hayward. When the owners realized they needed to sell the business and retire, Smith was in the right place at the right time. Apple Awards historically has sold to teachers’ associations and educational organizations. Its brass, marble and crystal apple products are sourced from India, Taiwan and China with personalizing and base production taking place at its Hayward shop. Smith keeps a ready stock for quick service and ships products to all 50 states, Canada and occasionally China.

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Thomasina Ivy (center) Receives Wisconsin's 2016 8(a) Graduate of the Year Award


When Thomasina M. Ivy was working for a large corporation in 2000, she was told it would be many years before she could be considered for a vice presidency. With extensive experience already built, she rejected that path, as she wanted more for herself and the community, especially because the Milwaukee native had seen firsthand the effects of urban poverty, lack of education, and economic decline.

Ivy founded TMI Consulting LLC in March 2001 as a single person firm. TMI provides professional services for local state and federal governments as well as commercial businesses. Its core competencies include business process re-engineering, financial and risk management, infrastructure support, project and program management, and security services. The firm’s core values are integrity, innovation and growth, and from the beginning it has successfully demonstrated all three. While her first clients were major corporations,many from her extensive network of... Read More

Specialty Cheese Company's team in front of the new facility


Wisconsin is well known for its cows, cheese, and dairy production. But how many people know that cheese is the flavor of home for people around the globe? Paul Scharfman, president and founder of Specialty Cheese Company, Inc., in Reeseville, has built a business which has brought those familiar tastes to immigrants and foreign expatriates since 1991. SCC has focused on Middle Eastern, Indian, and Mexican cheese blends, including Paneer from India, Duroblando from Central America, and Naboulsi from the Middle East. Using its proprietary technology, SCC produces cheeses with superior taste and shelf life. It also is proficient at providing smaller, customized runs. SCC currently has 500 SKUs, spread over 100 different customers.


With goals of increasing its share of world demand for its Paneer cheese, frying cheeses and healthy cheese snacks, SCC began to implement a well-planned export strategy in 2012 after 20 years of domestic production... Read More