SBA programs aid veterans with business pivots during pandemic

SBA Programs Aid Veterans With Business Pivots During Pandemic

Lee Goldberg Blog

The owners of a Massachusetts-based business used “telltale signs” from the 2008 market crash to adjust 2020 operations as the pandemic unfolded.

Navy veteran Stewart Junge and his wife, Deanna, own Landmark Finish — a family-operated business that creates residential custom cabinetry, laminate countertops, retail fixtures and more. When the market crashed more than a decade ago, the Junges said they experienced a “period of struggle” that led them to pivot their business from high-end residential cabinetry to commercial work. So, when the pandemic struck earlier this year, Stewart says he knew early on that they would need to adapt immediately.

“It was very quick for me because the shop was empty, we had a number of jobs in queue that I had to finish myself, the employees were gone and I had a lot of time for soul searching and reflecting back to 2008. I didn’t want to be in the 2008 situation again. I was looking around the shop to brainstorm, what can I do with what I have to get out of this situation,” Stewart said.

And the realization that things were changing again was not easy. The couple’s business was flourishing, which included plans to expand operations.

“We were in the process of really doing a lot of business development, we were about to graduate from the VETRN Streetwise MBA program, and we had this grand plan of making a showroom in our building — so we have about a 2,200 square foot area that we were renovating. The idea was to not only make it a showroom for our cabinetry, but we were going to make it a local design center where contractors and interior designers north of Boston could come and use it as a resource center for their own clients and use it as a meeting space,” Deanna said. “Fortunately, I would say, we were not strangers to seeing some of the telltale signs that work was going to dry up, or change, and that we had to switch gears in order to not only survive, but really thrive this time.”

Resources from six months of training through the Streetwise MBA program put the Junges at an advantage when the time came to figure out next steps. The free tuition program includes information on strategic business planning, business cash flow, financial management and understanding market segment.

The husband-and-wife duo both said leaning on a network of other entrepreneurs, and mentors, is among the most helpful tools that has helped them.

“Try and connect with other people. One of the more powerful things that we’ve had was the connections, the sharing experiences, and realizing we’re not the only fish in the swamp,” Stewart said.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) helps connect entrepreneurs, like the Junges, with a network of volunteer, expert business mentors through SCORE — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship, according to its website. Click here to locate a local mentor: find-mentor.