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Small business loan was a shoe-in

From Left: Calvin Goings, Tad Van Winkle, Renee Van Winkle and Doug Earl (Viking Bank Lender) in front of Indigo Plum in downtown Poulsbo. - Leila Arciero/Staff Photo
From Left: Calvin Goings, Tad Van Winkle, Renee Van Winkle and Doug Earl (Viking Bank Lender) in front of Indigo Plum in downtown Poulsbo.
— image credit: Leila Arciero/Staff Photo

POULSBO — With defibrillator paddles at the ready, small businesses are doing their part to revive the economy and looking to the federal government for a much-needed jolt.

For Tad and Renee Van Winkle, owners of Indigo Plum, a Poulsbo footwear store, that shock came in the form of a Small Business Administration loan. The guaranteed loan, administered through Viking Bank, allowed the Van Winkles to open the doors to their footwear store in November 2007.

“The interesting thing is we opened up about when the economy started to go down. So we don’t know what it’s like to operate in a good economy,” Renee Van Winkle said. Their business opened in downtown Poulsbo.

The Van Winkles also used their loan to build their inventory, improve their shop space and promote their store. They were able to expand to Gig Harbor in September 2009 and credit the loan for the expansion.

“At Gig Harbor we’re just kind of gearing up so we don’t really know if we could have been better had the economy had been better,” she said.

On Wednesday, the Van Winkles were able to meet the face behind the program that started their business when newly appointed Regional Administrator for the Small Business Administration Calvin Goings, toured Poulsbo. Being President Obama’s point person for small business issues and programs for Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, he’s got a full plate.

“My top priority was to get to small towns because I truly believe that main streets or front streets, as the case may be here in Poulsbo, are where small businesses are struggling and thriving at the same time,” Goings said. “My goal in coming to Poulsbo and actually across the Kitsap peninsula, was I want to see first hand how small businesses are doing and to hear the success stories of Indigo Plum and other small businesses is comforting, to know that small businesses are struggling but they’re making ends meet.”

Besides guaranteed loans offered by the Small Business Administration there are other incentives for small businesses or people wanting to start a business. Goings calls it the three C’s – Capital, Counseling and Contract.

“Access to capital is key for small businesses. Pay your employees, maintain inventory, etc. and so through the national Recovery Act, the Stimulus Act, we’ve actually been able to use stimulus funds to help get capital moving again,” Goings said.

Waiving their loan fees and offering the 90 percent guaranteed loans allows less risk to the lender and saves the small business owner some much-needed cash.

“As a result, we’ve seen our loan volume go up by 80 percent in the state of Washington. So it’s working,” Goings said.

The Small Business Administration also offers a variety of services and counseling for the new or veteran small business owners.

“You can get as little as a one-hour class from SBA or you can get a seven-year training and mentoring program from SBA, all of those are free,” Goings said.

Offering loans, waiving their fees and providing counseling and mentoring are just some of the the Small Business Administration’s improved efforts. With the federal government being one of the largest purchaser of goods and services, the Small Business Administration is working hard to ensure small businesses get their shot at some government contracts.

“At the SBA, it’s our mission to ensure that 23 percent of those billions of dollars in contracts go to small businesses. We make sure (small businesses) have an equal opportunity to get access to those government contracts,” Goings said.

Small businesses seem to be stabilizing, Goings said.

Small businesses are an important slice of Washington’s economy. According to the the Small Business Administration’s Web site, in 2006, small employers in Washington made up 98.2 percent of the state’s employers and 55.7 percent of its private-sector employment.

For more information on the Small Business Administration, go to www.sba.gov.

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