Working with the UW Oshkosh SDBC is an extremely valuable resource for starting a small business. I first met with my counselor Tom Richter while seeking advice on my accounting practices for an online business I was running at the time. Tom's insights were extremely beneficial to me and helped me grow that business by 200% in the 2nd year of operation.
In fact that growth allowed me to explore another business venture of mine, called Fix It Sticks. I invented Fix It Sticks to bridge the gap between traditional bicycle tools, like a Y-wrench, that are great in the shop and other bicycle multi-tools that are designed to be portable. Fix It Sticks is a great bike tool, but building a business is about more than just an idea, you need a strategy. The SDBC assisted in my growth by providing guidance to gain greater media exposure, control costs and better analyze my production process for Fix It Sticks. Most bike tools are not made in the USA, but Fix It Sticks are. Tom helped to bring the SDBC's resources to bare by sending my project out to multiple vendors which yielded a great partnership to assist in my next products. This helps us keep manufacturing in the USA.
Competing with large companies like Park Tool and Crank Brothers in the cycling tool market forces me to make smart choices with my limited resources. The SDBC is a trusted partner with no ulterior motives other than my success. Within 6 months of our launch on www.fixitsticks.com business is booming. Without the SDBC I don't think our bicycle tools, Fix It Sticks would be where it is today.
Inventor and Founder of Fix It Sticks bicycle multi-tool
SBDC Assistance Helps Butcher Block Meat and Cheese
For six years Kim and MariBeth Theusch dreamed of starting a business together. In November 2012, their dream became a reality when they opened Butcher Block Meats & Cheese in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Before launching their business, the Theusch's conducted countless hours of research and planning with some help from the UW-Oshkosh Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
"We had done some research about where we wanted to locate the shop and Oshkosh seemed like the best location as far as being pro business," says MariBeth. "The SBDC did a primary survey for us to determine whether it was viable, whether there was a market for us. That was very helpful."
The SBDC also advised the couple on their initial marketing plan and website design and even helped determine the best name for the business. "In the survey they asked about business names, which was helpful, because the name we thought we were going to use was actually not liked by people," adds MariBeth.
Butcher Block Meats & Cheese sells all Wisconsin-produced cheeses and sources its meats locally and regionally. Kim Theusch is the chief sausage maker, a skill he has mastered to the delight of anyone who samples his sausage. "We are one of the few companies that takes the time to hand craft our sausages the way it used to be done," he says. "It really has become sort of a lost art."
Many of the cheeses sold in the shop cannot be found anywhere else in the area. "And we cut to order," adds MariBeth. "Customers can come in and sample whatever we have in the case and can buy as much or as little as they want."
As with many new business, marketing is a primary challenge. The Theusch's currently market their business through radio, newspaper, billboards and social media. "We are trying a little bit of everything," notes MariBeth. "When people come in, we ask how they heard about us. We are trying to determine what has been effective and where to put our marketing dollars going forward."
Both Kim and MariBeth work fulltime at the shop with one part-time employee. They look forward to continued growth. "We want to be a contributor to the community, to hire people and just to make a good living for ourselves," says MariBeth.
To learn more about this new Wisconsin business check out www.bbmcoshkosh.comor stop by 234 N. Koeller St. in Oshkosh and taste Kim's handmade sausage for yourself.
How can we ever forget our first meeting with Tom Richter, Business Counselor from the UW Oshkosh Small Business Development Center? My business partner, Patti Brinkman, and I were in the process of investigating buying the small mental health clinic we worked for and needed some guidance in...everything! How do we decide how much to pay for the clinic? Where do we get the money? And finally, what the heck were we doing? Tom asked us the right questions and gave us the confidence to move forward with purchasing the assets of the clinic and starting our own entity moving forward. It was clear from the very beginning that he thought "we could do it" and at times he was the only one with that kind of confidence in us!
The first time we met with Tom was February 16, 2012. As I recall, we had a stack of papers and some ideas and that was about it. Tom gave us a packet of information with worksheets that we could fill out to help us get a business plan together, define our marketing needs and objectives, and become more aware of our competition and our position in our local marketplace. As therapists, these were not things we ever thought about and the counseling from the SBDC helped us go from employees to employers, thinking about the business aspect of our clinic, where we were and where we wanted to head. It was frightening and exciting at the same time. A big question for us was whether or not to purchase a building. As I said, Tom always asked the right questions and this time his question was, "Why would you NOT purchase a building to house your business?"
After investigation and much blood sweat and tears, Patti and I purchased a building on October 12, 2012 and began the process of renovating it to house our clinic. We closed on the assets of the business on December 28, 2012 and began business in our new building as a new entity on January 2, 2013. The learning curve has been steep. Many things we simply couldn't understand until we did them and the last few months, between the building and the business have been intense, to say the least. We have never been sorry that we took the time to do the prep work that Tom encouraged us to do and that we started early with a set plan and deadlines in mind.
Tom recently came back to town and toured our new building. We were so proud to show him all we've accomplished since our last meeting and thanked him for all his help. We discussed what issues had come up along the way that we were prepared for (hard work!) and some that we hadn't (personnel issues). We told him how we were doing certain things and he gave us ideas about changes we may need to make and pointed out things we should be aware of as we go along. We will never be sorry that we contacted the SBDC and Tom for help, things could have gone much less smoothly if we hadn't.
Northshore Clinic, LLC
805 N. 6th St., Sheboygan, WI 53081
Today Green 3 sells its unique clothing online, in a number of catalogs and at about 1,000 specialty stores throughout the United States. Sandy Martin started Green 3 in 2005. Her husband, Jim Martin, a former OshKosh B'Gosh employee, joined the company one year later. Green 3 apparel uses only sustainable fibers and recycled or reclaimed materials, and the unique environmentally focused fashions are American made, something rare in the apparel industry.
When the Martins needed help advancing their small business, they turned to the UW-Oshkosh Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Business counselor Phil Florek worked with the Martins to create an updated business plan and introduced them to a network of resources devoted to assisting Wisconsin small businesses. "We worked closely with Phil Florek, Phil is an encyclopedia of business knowledge," says Jim Martin. "To have access to someone like that for guidance and as a mentor is incredibly invaluable for us." Martin adds, "If we have a question about anything - about the university, the banking community, small business development - Phil and the SBDC office have the proper contacts and can steer us in the right direction.
"Continued growth, ten full-time and up to 12 part-time employees go to work at Green 3's facility in Oshkosh, a location that Martin says garners media interest. "Oshkosh is known worldwide for high-quality USA-made apparel," says Martin. "Eight of our team are ex-Oshkosh B'Gosh workers. We have technical designers, graphic artists, pattern makers and sewers, who all have really highly developed skills in the apparel industry, because they were here working for B'Gosh. "Last year the Martins moved the business to a new facility on State Road 44 in Oshkosh that included a 1000-square foot storefront. It seized the opportunity to expose its brand further with storefront sales. Though 99% of the current business is wholesale, the Martins hope to continue growth on all fronts. "There is a lot of low hanging fruit for us on the wholesale side," says Jim Martin. "And then strategically our plans are to grow the retail business, our store and our e-commerce." Check out the unique Green 3 apparel designs at www.green3apparel.com.
Sandy & Jim Martin