Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 19 March 2013 13:10
Most small-business owners favor customer loyalty over public recognition. But a little a recognition doesn’t hurt, either.
Marie Kessler, owner of Kessler Kreations in Hillsboro, recently received the 2013 “Existing Business of the Year” award from Kansas Small Business Development Services, a program of the Kansas Department of Commerce.
Kessler received the award March 12 in Topeka.
“It’s nice to be recognized because I do put in a lot of hard work here to get this going,” she said.
In 2005, Kessler started her business retailing quilting and fabric goods and services at 114 S. Main. She soon realized she needed additional space to offer the variety of fabrics and services she envisioned.
When the former furniture store next door became available, Kessler saw an opportunity to expand.
She visited with Clint Seibel, the city’s economic development director, who put Kessler in touch with KSBDC through its regional centers at Emporia State University and Butler Community College.
KSBDC provided a financial review of Kessler’s current operation, worked through various issues related to expansion, provided demographic information for the market area as well as cash flow projections for the expanded store.
Kessler then secured financing and provided additional personal capital to buy the building and remodel it.
Kessler said KSBDC’s services were extremely helpful.
“Basically, they know what paperwork you need to take to the bank, they know exactly how to put the numbers together—and you don’t have to do it.
“Then, if you do get service from them as a loan, and as long as you have a loan with them, they offer free services in marketing and QuickBooks training,” she said.
“They will hands-on help you with your business as you grow. It’s just amazing. You can ask any question and they’ll find the answer for you.
“It has been a godsend.”
The expanded store opened Sept. 14, 2011. Along with alleviating her own space constraints, the building has enabled her to lease space for consignment items and a floral shop—all having a synergistic effect for creating cross-business traffic.
The venture is working, she said.
“The key to this business working right at the moment is diversification,” Kessler said. “Not just having one thing, and one thing only, but being willing to try new things and having the consigners in here.”
Kessler has been pleased with the transition, but she said winning the award took her by surprise.
“At first I wasn’t sure how big of a deal it was going to be,” she said. “I felt like it was kind of a default thing, but I figured it was good advertising for the business.”
As she read more about the award, she realized KSBDC officials had chosen to recognize only two of the 2,700 business they had been working with.
“They chose 16 that were showing a success rate—which meant you were still in business, your taxes were paid, your loan is current and you were still showing growth,” Kessler said. “I happened to be one of those. I think I’m the first in our district in quite awhile.”
Kessler was picked to receive the award for an existing business, while a couple in Emporia was feted for a new business.
“When I read how many businesses they had helped and how many they had chosen, I realized it is kind of a big deal,” she said.
The two winners, plus the other finalists, were invited to Topeka last week to be recognized.
“The whole group of us went before the House of Representatives and were recognized before the House in the morning,” she said. “Then we did lunch, and when we came back we happened to meet the governor in the hallway.”
The group also visited the Senate, where they were recognized with a proclamation during session. From there, they went to the Capital Plaza Hotel to set up displays and enjoy a buffet meal.
The two winners then received their awards from their respective state legislators. Sen. Jay Emler was unable to attend, so Kessler received her plaque from Rep. Don Schroeder.
“It was a little overwhelming at times—I’m not one who likes to be the center of attention all the time,” Kessler said of the experience.
“It’s kind of sunk in now, and I really think it is kind of special. It’s nice to know that my hard work has paid off—and somebody noticed.”