Two Wisconsin businesses invited to White House for small business roundtable

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two Wisconsin business owners have received exclusive invitations to the White House for an Aug. 1 roundtable on small business.

Kristina Pence-Dunow of Hometown Trolley, a third-generation family business in Crandon, and Jeff Dykes of Northern Star Fire, an Eau Claire startup and 2017 winner of the Governor’s Business Plan contest, will participate in a discussion on “American Small Business – The Engine of the American Dream.”

Both are Wisconsin Small Business Development Center clients, at UW-Green Bay and UW-Eau Claire, respectively. “Kristina and Jeff represent the ingenuity and persistence of America’s entrepreneurs,” said Bon Wikenheiser, Wisconsin SBDC Network state office director. “Working with them and other like-minded innovators is a great privilege. We are all stronger when we support each other.”

Hometown Trolley is the leading North American manufacturer of trackless trolleys. 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.

Dykes is a fire captain who invented an eight-directional compass to save firefighters who become disoriented in a blaze. Northern Star Fire already has 100 pre-orders and is in the process of negotiations for a 10,000-compass order.

“Northern Star Fire is humbled to have been invited to the White House to discuss small business in America,” said Dykes, a recent awardee of the Ideadvance Seed Fund, which provides entrepreneurship mentoring and funding for UW System staff, faculty and alumni. “We’d like to thank all of the local and state agencies that helped us along the way.”

“Hometown Trolley is a woman-owned American manufacturing company producing trolley buses, an iconic American vehicle. There are many hardships and struggles we face on a daily basis that make it an ongoing battle to keep running, but we’re making it happen with continued expansion and product growth,” Pence-Dunow said. “I hope to discuss with President Trump issues we face as a manufacturing company and what would enable us to continue creating jobs and making quality American-made products.”

Pence-Dunow has been to the nation’s capital twice this year already on behalf of Hometown Trolley: in May to accept the Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year Award from the Small Business Administration and in February as one of 14 American small businesses to spotlight the success of America’s SBDC clients for members of Congress and their staffers.

America’s SBDC is the country’s most comprehensive small business assistance network, with nearly 1,000 service centers helping businesses start, manage and grow through no-cost consulting and low-cost training.

In 2016, 238 businesses were started and 2,567 clients received consulting through the Wisconsin SBDC Network. Companies working with SBDC specialists obtained almost $76 million in loans and investments and created/retained 890 jobs.

Nationally, more than 17,000 businesses were started last year with SBDC assistance, leading to 98,660 new jobs.


About America’s SBDC Network

America’s SBDC represents the nation’s 63 Small Business Development Centers, a national network of partnerships uniting higher education, state and local nonprofit economic development organizations, private enterprise and government. It is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s largest partnership program, providing management and technical assistance to help Americans start, run and grow their own businesses. SBDC clients start a new business every 31 minutes, create a new job every 5 minutes, generate $100,000 in new sales every 7 minutes, and raise $100,000 in capital every 11 minutes.

About Wisconsin SBDC Network

The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center is a statewide network supporting entrepreneurs and business owners through no-cost, confidential consulting and targeted educational programs. Regional SBDC experts facilitate improvement and growth for small and emerging mid-size companies and help launch successful new enterprises. The Wisconsin SBDC is hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

About Hometown Trolley

Hometown Trolley is a third-generation family business and woman-owned manufacturer of trackless trolleys, founded in 1976. The Crandon, Wis., company’s 100 percent American-made trolleys are designed in replica of the nostalgic streetcars of the 1800s, combining high-quality craftsmanship with the latest innovative technology.

SBDC Success Story

About Northern Star Fire

Northern Star Fire was started in 2014 by 20-year fire service veteran Capt. Jeff Dykes. Dykes invented The Northern Star, an eight-directional compass mounted inside a firefighter’s helmet to indicate which direction the firefighter is facing. With nearly 100 firefighters dying in the line of duty each year in the United States, Dykes devised this product to save lives.

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