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Learn About Resources For Starting A Business & Business Growth With Blake

Blake Willson meeting with business clients

In his role as a Royal Credit Union Business Banker, Blake Willson has helped hundreds of small businesses get the resources and advice they need to succeed. “Behind every business is a person with a unique story and unique vision,” says Blake. “I love learning their stories, discussing their goals, and offering advice and resources to help them turn their business ideas into reality.” Blake has conversations with people at all stages of business – from entrepreneurs with an idea to long-time business owners looking for ways to grow.

This article shares some of Blake’s favorite local resources for getting business advice you can trust. Blake explains, “Royal Credit Union is focused on having local business bankers available in the communities we serve, so over the years I’ve built a network of connections to local Chippewa Valley organizations. I also work closely with our business bankers in the Minnesota metro and St. Croix Valley regions, and I can help connect people with local resources there too.”

Wisconsin Small Business Development Center

The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center, also known as the SBDC, provides a statewide network of expert business consultants and services. “The SBDC is my favorite place to send people who are still at the idea stage. I refer two or three people there every week!” says Blake. “Not many people realize that they have free access to SBDC experts who can help build a business plan or even just determine if an idea is feasible.”

The SBDC is part of the Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship in the University of Wisconsin System and funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration, so entrepreneurs can take advantage of expert advice at no cost. Blake says, “What I like most about the SBDC is that they are very realistic in their projections. They can help you build a business plan, estimate business projections, and provide you with honest feedback.”

SBDC resources can also help potential business owners consider the bigger picture of running a business before they begin their business startup journey. “Are your skills and life situation right for starting and managing a business? How will you choose between the needs of the business and the needs of your family? These are the kinds of questions the SBDC asks to get people thinking beyond just the financial aspects of business,” explains Blake.

Blake also refers established businesses to the SBDC. He says, “Once that small business idea takes off and things are up and running, the potential for bigger risks and rewards is there in the form of business growth. Business owners may find themselves facing decisions where the stakes are higher than they realized – and that’s when getting that consultation with the SBDC is incredibly valuable.” From expanding a business to managing growth and succession planning, SBDC resources are available to assist.

Minnesota SCORE

SCORE is a national organization with local chapters that offer free mentoring, workshops, and resources for planning, starting, managing, growing, and transitioning businesses. Minnesota is home to several SCORE chapters, including the Twin Cities SCORE chapter, that offer tools and resources for almost any business need. “SCORE in the Twin Cities metro offers awesome support for businesses in that area,” says Blake. “Our metro business bankers have heard and seen great things from people who have used SCORE resources.”

SCORE is able to provide no-cost resources because it is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration and much of its expert advice is provided during mentoring sessions with dozens of volunteer partners. The mentors at SCORE are passionate about helping others in business, especially traditionally underserved communities like women and people of color. “SCORE is very much an organization that has similar values to Royal Credit Union,” Blake shares. “We love referring people who have questions to groups like this because we know they’re in good hands.”

Other Local Resources

Besides the SBDC and SCORE, there are many other local business resources available. Wisconsin businesses can take advantage of the Regional Business Fund, the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission, Momentum West Wisconsin, and the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center. Minnesota businesses can explore the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Business & Economic Development Resources. Visit Royal’s Business Startup & Growth page for a list of links to these resources.

“These are organizations that serve businesses in specific areas – they offer a support network and may also have financial tools available for qualifying businesses,” explains Blake. Because they’re created to boost economic development in a region or help businesses with specific financial needs, they may offer more specialized assistance or limited resources. “I can help direct you to these groups if I think they’re appropriate for you,” says Blake. “This usually happens after we have a conversation about your specific business idea and needs.”

Royal Knows Business Banking

Blake and Royal Credit Union’s business banking team have an impressive level of business financial expertise, too. From business loan questions to setting up your business’s first operating accounts at Royal, Blake is available to help every step of the way. “We’re definitely the experts when it comes to business banking,” Blake confirms. “Royal business bankers can give advice about many aspects of business financing and accounts. It’s other topics like tax questions, business structure questions, and business insurance that we like to have people talk to an attorney, tax advisor, or other source. That way we know the business owner got the details they need to understand their options and make an informed decision.”

Royal also offers business owners the convenience of an online application for business loans and accounts. “Once you’ve decided on what accounts or funding you need, it’s really easy to use those online applications and walk through everything at your own pace. And you can always consult with a business banker like me if you have questions,” explains Blake.

Blake also emphasizes that no business question is too trivial to ask. “As you can imagine, I’ve had all kinds of conversations with people at every stage of entrepreneurship. We’re committed to helping people succeed and being completely transparent with them. If I can’t help with a question, I probably know of a resource with answers,” he says. “Even if that means Royal isn’t getting your business today, maybe we can help in the future – we’re focused on the long term and doing what’s truly best for you as a business owner.” It’s this commitment to openness, honesty, and long-term relationships that sets business banking at Royal apart.

Want to learn more about starting or growing a business? Check out the following resources:

Have more questions for Blake? Reach out to Blake directly or find a business banker near you.

Member Story: Taking a Business Idea and Growing it

Flowering Lawn, Inc owner Anthony Nied in front of his truck


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