SBA Programs Help Compass Occasions Use Pandemic “Downtime” to Add Tech and Grow
When Kayla Zuidema and Valerie Mackenthun opened Hutchinson, Minn. based Compass Occasions in 2014, it was with a goal of eventually adding an event space of their own. They never could have imagined they’d end up doing so during a global pandemic, but with some help from the SBA, two local resource partners, that’s exactly what ended up happening.
The Southwest Small Business Development Center helped them apply for and receive a variety of covid relief funding through SBA, the State of Minnesota, and McLeod County programs, which was essential to the survival of the business. The Southwest Initiative Foundation also provided loan funding that was instrumental in assisting them to make key technological advancements during the “downtime” of 2020 when businesses were shuttered.
Using the shutdowns wisely, Zuidema and Mackenthun reached out to SWIF for help working “on” their business. They participated in a 10-week reinvention workshop with three other businesses. This virtual workshop provided them with invaluable tools to help them assess the challenging business landscape and create a new vision for their future. They also receive ongoing QuickBooks training to help them with their financial management.
Adding technology to an industry that previously was all about the face-to-face connections, they created a virtual tour of the space to minimize in person tours, and implemented a contactless check in through a remote lock system to limit exposure with guests. This has saved them countless hours, allowing them to do even more to grow the business. Some of that time now goes to creating events to showcase their decor services through Facebook Live, Instagram, and TikTok.
The business consulting assistance received from the SBDC and SWIF, and funding from the SBA and SWIF, gave Zuidema and Mackenthun the boost they needed to come out the other side of the pandemic stronger. Compass Occasions now offers weddings with Zoom invites for guests that can’t attend, an online catalog of services for those who can’t meet in person and more. It’s also allowed the pair to help others, including non-profits with discounted event services.