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Congratulations to our clients for successfully starting and operating their businesses!

Owens Community Development Group

Skilled Assets, LLC

Shelly's Sweet Shoppe

Rag Doll Clothing Exchange

Wee-Peats Kids Resale

Somtech E-Cycling

Olive Oils and More

P & G Medical Billing

Citizens Advocate Media

Midgett's Multitask Management Services

We communicate our success stories to our state and federal sponsors, as well as media outlets. If you are an SBDC client and would like to be considered for a Success Story, please contact our office at (618) 650-2929.

Owens Community & Development Group Provides Affordable, Quality Housing to Saint Clair County

Owens Community & Development Group has been buying and renovating homes in the East St. Louis area for the last five years and has helped the growing need for adequate homes for the less fortunate. Business owner Walter Owens decided to change his vision and expand to buying and renovating dilapidated apartment complexes in East St. Louis as well.

To execute his new plan, Walter realized that he would need a business loan to help him renovate an eight-unit apartment complex which he purchased last year. So in December of 2011, Walter became an SBDC client and began working with the SBDC to draft his business plan to help him obtain a loan. Walter worked extremely hard on his business plan and made contact with SBDC counselors weekly to help him with his progress.

In May of 2012, Walter was rewarded with the months of hard work that he put in to his business plan. Owens Community & Development Group was approved for a loan to complete the renovations on his eight-unit apartment complex. As a result of this, Owens will now be able to have the complex fully occupied with tenants, which will help his business as a whole moving forward. Not only did writing the business plan help him obtain a loan, it also helped him realized his goals for the future of his company and how he could maximize his success.

Renting an apartment or house from Owens Community & Development Group has many benefits. Walter makes great efforts to provide the less fortunate with affordable and quality places to live in the East St. Louis area. His rental prices are very competitive, and as an added bonus, the company pays for its tenants' water, sewer, and trash bills. Walter strongly believes that you should not have to pay an arm and a leg to live in quality housing.

If you would like to contact Walter Owens, you can E-mail him at

SBDC Client Skilled Assets Makes Opportunities Happen for both Job Applicants and Organizations

When Michelle Aikman attended classes at the Small Business Development Center in Spokane, Washington a few years ago, it helped her evaluate smaller entrepreneurship projects. These projects were all part of her exploration to determine a career that was compatible with her passion, skills and work life balance needs. With relocating multiple times because of her role as an active duty military spouse, Aikman became extremely skilled at seeking and securing satisfying employment as an engineer. To Aikman, starting an employment strategy business was something that "aligned with what I'm passionate about."

After learning that there was an SBDC in Edwardsville, Aikman signed up for the February 2011 "Starting a Business" workshop and got to work on her business plan. "The SBDC assured me that I was heading in the right direction," says Aikman. The low-costs of the SBDC's services and their knowledge of local area resources were also very helpful to her.

As Aikman's business planning continued, what stood out to her was that "you can't just do [start a business] a little bit," and fully invested her time and energy. Fiercely determined, she started Skilled Assets, LLC in Maryville, IL in April 2011. One way that she helps job applicants change their outlook and see skills in a new way is by providing personalized feedback on clients' resume and cover letter writing. Kristen Dorsey Birk received assistance on her cover letter from Skilled Assets and was definitely grateful for having the outside perspective. Within two days, Skilled Assets helped Kristen transform the cover letter that she had been working on for a year. Now, Kristen works for Skilled Assets, LLC as the company's Marketing & Communications Coordinator.

A year into starting, Skilled Assets, LLC continues to help people see the possibilities in their career path and provide them with direction through one-on-one consulting at reasonable prices, and the organization continues to grow. Their webinars and TUNE in events on their website are a great introduction to their services and an opportunity for people across the country improve their employment strategies. Skilled Assets can also work with companies and organizations to help them "see the talent and skill sets available to them" in potential employees and volunteers.

The years leading up to the start of Skilled Assets, LLC have been a learning experience, both in employment strategy and starting a business. The same advice that Aikman has for people who want to start a business could also apply to people wanting to use their transferable skills to secure employment: "If you don't believe in it, no one else will. Stick up for yourself."

To learn more about the ways that SBDC client Skilled Assets, LLC can help you or your organization, visit their website at

How Sweet It Is: SBDC Client Shelly Pruett Takes Her Business to the Next Level

Above: Could Shelly's springtime creations be any cuter??

Baking had been a passion of Shelly Pruett's for years. When the Wood River resident volunteered to bake cupcakes as a fundraiser at her local Relay for Life, all the people wanting to buy cupcakes after the event made her realize what an opportunity it could be. That made her think about starting her own business. Shortly after the Relay event, she attended the SBDC's "Starting a Business in Illinois" workshop to learn more about business registration and the steps involved in business planning. Although a storefront location would have been ideal to Shelly, she wanted to get started right away, and instead began as a home-based bakery. The SBDC answered Shelly's start-up questions and provided assistance wherever possible. During the second half of 2011, Shelly's Sweet Shoppe took orders for cupcakes, cakes, and more, and quickly gained a loyal group of fans as a home-based business.

With hundreds of "likes" on Facebook, word about the Shoppe can travel fast! A lot of the Shoppe's posts are about the new cake flavors that customers can try. There are over 80 flavors to try, from Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper flavored to the Elvis cupcake (banana cake with peanut butter frosting), Shelly can please anyone's sweet tooth. The decorations on the sweets, including the cakes sculpted into fun shapes, really have a visual appeal to them too.

Above: Shelly Pruett, owner of Shelly's Sweet Shoppe shows hungry customers some of the cupcakes during the Grand Opening in March

As business continued to grow, a storefront location where customers could buy the treats became seemed like the next step for Shelly's Sweet Shoppe. During the fall, a friend of Shelly's recommended that she talk to the Coffee Connection in Wood River. Offering desserts at the local coffee shop was the perfect business match, and the desserts from Shelly's Sweet Shoppe are featured at the Coffee Connection seven days a week. The grand opening of Shelly's Sweet Shoppe at the Coffee Connection was on Saturday March 3rd. Customers loved the free cupcakes and trying new twists on local favorites, such as the gooey butter cake cupcake. When asked what advice she had for people wanting to start their own businesses, Shelly said to take the opportunity and think to yourself, as she did after getting encouragement from her customers, "why not give it a try?".

Congratulations to Shelly on turning her talent into an opportunity and making her storefront idea a reality in a new way! To learn more, visit the shop at:

The Coffee Connection

1808 Vaughn Road - Wood River

1 217.710.0232

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Rag Doll Clothing Exchange

When Eileen McGinn saw the growth and change in her Edwardsville hometown, she saw the potential for a new kind of business there. Local students and young professionals needed a place to buy stylish but affordable clothes, so McGinn decided to start Rag Doll Clothing Exchange. She saw starting her own business as a way to take the lead on a project that's 100% her own investment and 100% in her control.

McGinn started working with the SBDC in the spring to find out more about possible SBA programs, registering a business, and developing her start-up ideas. When she saw how high her start-up costs could be, McGinn decided that she could do it for less. She pulled her resources together, and worked with determination to get it done.

Since starting last summer, Rag Doll Clothing Exchange has become a local place where women can find unique, chic outfits that work for their budgets. Located in the downtown Edwardsville, the store has a fun, cool attitude that definitely makes it worth a trip!

Visit Rag Doll Clothing Exchange:

110 North Kansas Street-Edwardsville, IL

(618) 699-1482

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Wee-Peats Kids Resale

Wee Peats is a child resale clothing store dedicated to providing the community with not only the opportunity to sell back their child's clothes but also providing a high quality product at a low price. The owners, Tina Harris, Tara Hilmes and Kristen Harris, simply wanted to create a store where customers could save money and have fun.

Above: Wee Peats gives excellent customer service with their donation counter

They were determined to get their idea off the ground and needed start-up assistance to help move the process along. With their business plan in hand Wee Peats started working with the Illinois SBDC in late March of this year. Finally, after months of preparation, they accomplished what they set out to do and opened Wee Peats in August 2011.

Above: Plenty of clothing to buy at Wee Peats Kids Resale!

Since their opening, business has been great, and they attribute that to the many steps they took in the preparation portion. Some of the preparation included included looking at the set up of successful retail clothing stores and mirroring it. Although they enjoyed the planning stages it came with a few hurdles and provided them with helpful learning experiences. Some of these learning experiences included:

  • Allowing for at least 6 months of planning, if not more

  • Having full knowledge of what you're getting yourself into

  • Taking enough time to get the store ready

  • Love what you do

Now that Wee Peats is open they have started contacting similar business, associations for resale stores, and going to conferences. This is all in the effort of improving by getting tips, suggestions, and advice from people who are experts in their field. With the opening behind them they can now get back to the new and fun ideas that can help them grow and get better.

Contact Wee-Peats Kids Resale at:

204 Frank Scott Parkway, Fairview Heights

(618) 234-4689

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Somtech E-Cycling

When Stuart Somlar worked at cell phone stores in the area, he saw how frequently his customers bought new electronics and didn't know what to do with their old ones. Stuart became aware of a new law in Illinois prohibiting electronics in landfills, and started some cell phone drop off sites at local businesses to meet that need. Through networking, he saw a need for electronics recycling for more than cell phones. The counselors at the SBDC worked with Stuart to develop his business plan so that he could use it as a road map for starting his business. Along the way, he learned that starting a business takes patience and sacrifice, or as Stuart advised, "You have to sacrifice to make your dream happen."

Above: Stuart Somlar, Jr. in front of the storefront in Alton

Through his hard work and personal investment, Somtech E-Cycling was first opened for business May 16th, 2011. Since then, Stuart has continued his drop-off sites for cell phones at local McDonald's and Bank of Edwardsville locations, and has expanded to also collect computers and televisions from homes and businesses. For a flat fee, members of the community can drop off or call Somtech E-Cycling to pick up almost any electronics when doing some spring cleaning. Now that he has started this unique business venture, Stuart plans to use it to help others through public service. Not only can businesses and customers use Somtech E-Cycling, non-profits can use this business to recycle electronics as a fundraising opportunity. When reflecting on his work with the SBDC, Stuart said, "The SBDC staff helped me effectively draw out the business concept, which helped me bring my concept to reality. Don't change a thing, the program is perfect!! Thank you!!"

Above: Stuart and SBDC Director Kwa Mister (right) in front of the Somtech van

Contact Somtech E-Cycling at:

415 Ridge Street, Alton, IL


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Olive Oils & More

With a lifetime of experience in the family restaurant business, Mary realized very early that business ownership was her career of choice. After making many sacrifices to follow her career desire, Mary decided to seek out assistance from the SBDC consultants. Mary received assistance with her business plan development in order to articulate both her business ideas and financial capabilities. Mary continues to receive support daily from her family, in particular her son Nick Burke. Nick, a current undergraduate student at SIUE, encourages the entrepreneurship displayed through his mom's hard work. Nick explained that his duties are many within the business, but keeping his mom focused on the financial responsibilities is number one on his list.

Above: Some delicious products to choose from in Olive Oils & More

Olive Oils & More has over 24 oils and 22 vinegars representing 7 countries. With extra goodies available such as delectable pastas and different blends of spices, Olive Oils & More should definitely be on your list of "things to do". Open since December 2010, Olive Oils & More is located at 1063 S. State Route 157 #6, Edwardsville, just minutes away from the SIUE campus. Mary shared these words of encouragement with the SBDC, "I would rather fail at my idea, than to not have tried at all".

Contact Olive Oils & More:

1063 South State Route 157, #6

Edwardsville, IL 62025


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P & G Medical Billing Consultants

P & G Medical Billing Consultants, LLC is a medical billing consulting firm dedicated to helping medical practices become more efficient and save money by outsourcing their medical billing services to an expert reimbursement service. With the assistance of IL Small Business Development Center at SIUE, P & G has opened its first site on April 1st, 2009 in East St. Louis, IL, by having three employees. Through patient dignity and respect, P & G Medical Billing Consultants, LLC provides the following services:

  • Electronic and paper claim for medical claims filing
  • Complete patient record setup
  • Patient statement cycle billing
  • Claims posting
  • Patient record keeping
  • Accounts receivable
  • Collection services
  • Complete practice reporting analysis
  • Office management

Office Hours: Monday - Thursday 8:00AM to 8:00PM
Friday - Saturday 8:00AM to 12:00PM

Contact P & G Medical Billing Consultants at:

P.O. Box 921, O'Fallon, IL 62269

First Illinois Bank
327 Missouri Avenue
Suite 408
East St Louis, IL 62201

Bus: 618-545-9696
Bus: 618-874-8030
Toll Free: 1-866-235-5695

Fax: 618-589-1468

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Citizens Advocate Media

Our East St. Louis Office client, Mr. Matthias Hawkins, initiated his business, Citizens Advocate, in August of 2008. Mr. Hawkins made around $60,000 of investment to finance his business, which is a sole proprietorship.

The first issue of "Citizen Advocate News" newspaper was published on December 5th, 2008. The mission of Citizen Advocate is to provide a weekly source of credible, timely and accurate reports of municipal meetings, investigations, information and public policy research. Target readers are the homeowners, property owners, business owners and the taxpayer in the IL townships of Canteen, Centreville and East St. Louis. With the assistance of IL SBDC, Mr. Matthias Hawkins developed a sound business plan for Citizen Advocate and IL SBDC staff assisted him with marketing research for his business. The first complimentary issue can be reviewed by clicking the link below:

Citizen Advocate Staff:

Matt Hawkins, Publisher/Managing Editor -

Hermon Betts, VP of Marketing -

Karteena Frye, Administrator -

Raenita Wallace, Editor -

Joe Marsala, Asst. Editor -

Jaye Hines, Reporter -

Contact with Citizen Advocate:

The Citizen Advocate
327 Missouri Avenue
Suite 304
East St. Louis, IL 62201
Phone: 618-271-9945
Fax: 618-274-9952

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Midgett's Multitask Management Services

Our East St. Louis Office client, Mr. James T. Midgett, started his small business, Midgett's Multitask Management Services, in June of 2008. Midgett's Multitask Management Service provides expertise in administrative and office support for those requiring such services. The services provided by MMMS allow businesses to devote more time to growing or expanding. MMMS provides cost effective virtual assistance and administrative support to fit client's budget and schedule whenever they need it.

Services Provided

• Executive Services

• Document Preparation & Information Management

• Online Services

• Desktop Publishing

Contact with MMMS:

Belleville, IL 62221

Phone: 618 416-0731

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