Barton, Vermont Supermarket Keeping Up With Competition

Success Story: Vermont

VtSBDC Advising Assists Privately-Owned Grocery Store

Vermont SBDC SuccessAs large chain grocery stores continue to put pressure on small privately-owned markets, Vermont grocers are having to continually hone their business skills in order to compete against companies like Hannaford, Price Chopper and others. Raymond Sweeney, owner of C&C Supermarket in Barton, Vermont, knows that as well as anyone.

He said he got into the grocery business because “I enjoy what I do and my vision for the business,” but he admitted he could use some help projecting the future of his business. That is why he contacted Ross Hart, area advisor at the Vermont Small Business Development Center (SBDC). With a possible Wal-Mart opening up nearby, the two quickly went to work developing a reasonable cash flow model for the 71 Church Street market.

While the store was already known for great service, friendly staff, good prices, its fresh bakery and home cooked deli specials, as well as its produce department, meaty grinders and warehouse specials, Sweeney said Hart helped him create “a vision for where to take the business.”  (more…)

Health Food Company’s Distribution Channel Grows Beyond the Gym

Success Story: Idaho

Fit Wrapz, Idaho SBDC SuccessFounder Shige Toyoguchi started Fit Wrapz out of his kitchen, selling his products to personal training clients. With assistance developing a business plan at the Idaho SBDC in Boise, he decided to ‘go all in’ and moved into the SBDC-operated Boise Business Accelerator in 2012.

After raising over $1.3M of startup capital and with consultation from the SBDC, Fit Wrapz scaled its manufacturing out of the local food business incubator. Today, Fit Wrapz products are made in a world class USDA inspected, SQFIII facility.

Fit Wrapz provides convenient, delicious and healthy food, with a focus on “heat & eat” options for customers who lead active lifestyles. These nutritious products allow consumers to take the guess work out of what they eat.

Fit Wrapz has expanded distribution to grocery stores, hotels, coffee shops, natural food stores and university athletic departments across the country. Future plans include growing distribution through retail channels to reach critical mass, allowing the profits to fund product development and continued growth.

“I highly recommend utilizing [the SBDC’s] vast resources to grow your business,” says owner Shige Toyoguchi.

To learn more about Fit Wrapz, visit

To learn more about the Idaho SBDC, visit

Building Great Cabinets – and Great Lives

Success Story: Missouri

Phillip CohenPhillip Cohen, founder and CEO of Cohen Architectural Woodworking in St. James, Missouri, is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2017 Small Business Person of the Year for Missouri.

Not bad for a former hippie.

And one-time, self-described, homeless drug user.

And father of nine, most of whom work in the business.

And savvy businessman who began woodworking as therapy and turned it into a 75-employee, 54,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in St. James, with a branch office in Lenexa, Kansas, that can accommodate large-scale and multi-unit rollouts. Projected sales are in the $14 million range.

“Back in the 90s, when I was real broken, I wrote a book for a missionary in Nicaragua,” says Cohen. “He told me God would heal me someday, that I would have a story to change peoples’ lives. That I have to quit thinking about myself, start thinking of others.”

“I never thought God would heal me. But I made a promise that if he would, I’d spend my life healing others.”

And that’s the cornerstone of Cohen Architectural Woodworking, a full-service cabinetry and millwork facility where personal and group development are emphasized over the scrum of orders.  (more…)

Hawaii #SBDC Client Wins National “Small Business Person of the Year” – and Recap #SmallBusinessWeek

Small Business Week Winner presentationAs part of National Small Business Week, Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon, and First Daughter and entrepreneur Ivanka Trump recognized this year’s Small Business Persons of the Year and other national award winners at a ceremony and reception at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., on Monday, May 1st, 2017.

“It is my extreme pleasure to announce that husband-and-wife business partners Garrett and Melanie Marrero of Maui Brewing Company are this year’s national Small Business Persons of the Year,” McMahon said. “Their innovative spirit, with assistance from the SBA and its lending and partners, created a thriving business and hundreds of jobs for their community.”

Garrett Marrero and Charles "Tee" RoweGarrett and Melanie started working with the Hawaii SBDC in 2004, when they were seeking financing for their first project – a small, seven-barrel brewpub launched with the help of SBA financing. Today, Maui Brewing Company is the largest craft beer producer in Hawaii.

“Garrett and Melanie have shown impressive growth, expanding the size, sales and scope of their business,” McMahon said. “By 2007, increasing demand led them to open a second location in Lahaina with a 25-barrel capacity, giving them the ability to provide brewery tours and making it a tourist destination as well. By 2013, they were producing more than 19,000 barrels of beer a year, boosting revenues to more than $10 million. They have since expanded with a new 18,000 square-foot restaurant that opened in Oahu last year, and new brewpubs and eateries are scheduled to open later this year. By the end of 2018, Maui Brewing Company will employ a workforce of 700.”  (more…)

Wisconsin #SBDC Client Named State & National “Small Business Person of the Year” Finalist #SmallBusinessWeek

Administrator Linda McMahon, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, announced on March 16th, 2017, this year’s Small Business Person of the Year winners from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“It is my honor and distinct pleasure to announce the 54 winners from across the U.S. and its territories,” McMahon said. “These small business owners define entrepreneurial spirit and best represent the 28 million small businesses that are the backbone and economic engine for today’s economy. I look forward to welcoming the winners to Washington next month when they are officially honored for their achievements.”

Hometown Trolley

The Wisconsin winner is Wisconsin SBDC client Kristina Pence-Dunow, President & CEO, Double K, Inc., dba Hometown Trolley, Inc. of Crandon, Wisconsin. Hometown Trolley was also selected by SBA as a finalist for the “National Small Business Person of the Year” award. Hometown Trolley will join the other finalists on Monday, May 1st, for an awards luncheon where SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will announce the America’s “Small Business Person of the Year” for 2017.

Combining 19th-century charm with 21st-century technology, Hometown Trolley has more than 2,300 cars in public and private transportation use, mostly in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.  (more…)