Real people sharing their experiences with the NW SBDC.


Karrin Lindow – Nevis Lumber

Karrin Lindow, owner/operator of Nevis Lumber, located in Nevis, Minnesota has been providing quality service and products to the building and home improvement industry of Nevis and Central Minnesota. Nevis Lumber specializes in End Match, V-Groove and Pine Log Siding. Nevis Lumber also has a line of fully assembled sheds.

Karrin’s father purchased Nevis Lumber in 1981, Karrin, nine years old at the time, the youngest of four, started helping out the family business by cleaning the toilets. At that time, Karrin made $0.25 an hour and ended the day with a pop for her hard work. Several years before moving to Nevis in 1981, her family used to vacation there. Karrin’s father was in the lumber industry for several years and it was his dream to own a lumberyard and live in Northern Minnesota.

Karrin didn’t stop at cleaning toilets; she started getting involved in every area of the business. At the age of thirteen she worked in the panel shop and by the time she was seventeen, Karrin began managing the company’s accounts payable and accounts receivable ledgers. By the time Karrin was nineteen she was committed to sales and when she hit the age of twenty-one she began estimating and figuring lumber costs for homes. At the age of twenty-two, Karrin was drawing up soft plans and pulling a load for deliveries when needed.

Karrin began buying the business from her father in 1995 and bought the business full out in 2005. Karrin said, “My father was the best mentor ever and he taught the ins and outs of the lumber industry. Since I bought the business from my father it runs very similar with a few slight differences of my own.”

When Karrin took over Nevis Lumber, she knew very little about business plans and sought out the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for assistance. “When I started, almost every decision I made was pretty much a gut feeling and now after the help and assistance from the SBDC’s professional business consultants, I am better able to project the future and my vision for the business. I now have strategies, goals and thoughts written in my business plan. I have never had to complete a business plan before working with the SBDC and for me it was a huge deal and a potential money saver, because I could actually see things that would not be feasible after creating my business plan,” stated Karrin.

The SBDC’s professional business consultants assisted Karrin with financial projections and taught her how to work with the lending community. “I just assumed you had to take what the bank gave you and that was the only option you got. With the assistance from my consultants, I was taught how to communicate and negotiate with the banker and in the end I saved my business a lot of money,” said Karrin.

Karrin stated that her consultants were amazing and so experienced and because the SBDC’s services are “no cost” to small business owners, it is truly invaluable. Karrin has worked with the SBDC for over three years and will continue to seek the SBDC’s assistance in the area of marketing and strategic planning. Karrin continues to have goals for her business, and is currently working on expanding her lumberyard. Karrin also hopes to venture into owning multiple businesses in the Nevis area and will likely seek out the SBDC’s assistance with her future endeavors.


Don Buerkley – The America Log Maker

Don Buerkley started the America Log Maker because of the unique experiences both he and his wife (Sandy) had in their careers over the past 40 years. They raised show horses that were kept in barn stalls, worked at 3M Company inventing, developing and manufacturing several different products and currently Don is involved in renewable local fuels for outdoor biomass boilers to heat houses and barns.

That is where the America Log Maker comes into play.

The invention of the America Log Maker makes it possible to recycle horse-stall wastes into compressed logs, which can be used as fuel in outdoor wood boilers to provide complimentary heat. This eliminates the messy manure pile outdoors, the cost of disposal and the breeding grounds for flies. The labor to make the logs is a tradeoff of the labor to pile the wastes, disposal of the wastes and fly/bug control methods and materials.

“The SBDC provided research information on understanding the markets and the needs of the customers, and tools to use for more needed info,” said Don. The SBDC’s professional business consultants reviewed and consulted each draft of Don and Sandy’s business plan, start-up cash form, and all of the financial forms submitted. Furthermore, because of the SBDC’s professional business consultants assistance, Don and Sandy were better prepared for the IDEA Competition, which provided the significant support and resources needed in completing the Prototype phases and getting them another step closer for producing a commercialized product. “Our SBDC professional business consultant was always prompt, motivating and an expert at communicating the story and sticking to the point.”

“The consultant has been so great to work with and added such valuable input to my business plan, if I could, I would hire the consultant in a heartbeat.” “The assistance that I received from the SBDC was a major reason the America Log Maker was a finalist in the IDEA Competition,” Don stated.


Greg Gasman – Harmony Food Co-op

Harmony Food Co-op is buoyed by an expanding community that prizes healthful eating, consumer choice and local economic development and with the services provided by the SBDC, Harmony Food Co-op finds itself in an entirely different place.

In the last three years, Harmony has experienced tremendous growth in physical size and sales. Working with the SBDC, a thorough analysis determined that the store should be relocated. In 2011, Harmony traded up from a 3,000 square foot location to a 10,000 square foot store. After the relocation sales grew by 40 percent.

The SBDC has long been an engaged Harmony Food Co-op supporter and technical adviser. Several professional business consultants have analyzed Harmony Food Co-op’s accounting system, provided instruction on QuickBooks accounting software, completed multiple loan packages totaling several million dollars, and consulted on marketing, budgeting and financial analysis.

Currently the SBDC is working together with Harmony to set up a community kitchen to accommodate additional classes and events as well as workspace for food entrepreneurs to take their products from the kitchen directly to the Harmony Food Co-op. The fully equipped, USDA-certified community kitchen opened this spring.

Gasman added, “None of this could have happened without the support of the SBDC and all the other partners, the board, Harmony Food Co-op staff, and of course, Harmony Food Co-op’s member-owners and customers. We’re a great example of what can be accomplished with community support.”


Rich Siegert – The Double Tree and Green Mill

Rich has lived in the Bemidji area for over 40 years and expanding his ventures from owning the area’s nicest hotel, The Hampton Inn and Green Mill Restaurant, to now breaking ground on The Double Tree hotel that will be attached to the Green Mill.

Rich went from running a smaller motel on Lake Bemidji to turning his prime real estate investment into now a beautiful place to stay for business travelers and tourists that also the community and those who visit can enjoy. Rich said, “There is a great sense of pride that goes with owning these hotels and restaurants.”

Rich said that he utilized the SBDC’s services mainly because the local banks financial services really like the way the SBDC assists with the proposals. Rich commented that the “professional business consultant made it much less of a hassle and helped smooth everything out.”

“I could say a lot of positive things about the SBDC but I really noticed how friendly and professional the staff and the consultants were in their profession. They were good to work with, the staff is refreshing and pleasant and when we really needed them, they always pulled through. When dealing with financials they were able to tell me if I was on the right track or completely off.”

Rich continues to say, “The SBDC has been instrumental in my success of this large project and I will continue to utilize their services for future big projects.”

Jeff Hildebrandt and Ben Daigle – Advanced Machining Solutions

Mike Stittsworth – Stittsworth Meats

Don Andree – Ravenrock Jewelry

This is Don Andree, owner of the Ravenrock Jewelry in Bemidji. He received assistance from the Northwest Small Business Development and this is his story.