Neal St. Anthony
See more of the story

SBA lending rises in Minnesota

Minnesota small businesses have raised $682 million in operating and asset-based loans from SBA-affiliated private lenders in fiscal 2019, up 11% from 2018, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The number of conventional loans declined about 3% to 1,711, while the number of “microloans” through nonprofit community lenders increased slightly to 179 during the year that ended Sept. 30.

In Minnesota, one of the Big 10 states of SBA lenders, the SBA guaranteed 1,890 loans compared with 1,946 in 2018.

The higher dollar volume owes to more so-called SBA-504 loans; long-term, fixed-interest financing for commercial buildings and equipment that rose by 17% to $188 million, as the value of assets also increased in a good economy.

“One of our top goals in Minnesota. … is to get more capital into the hands of entrepreneurs to assist with growth and expansion,” said Minnesota SBA District Director Nancy Libersky. “In support of SBA’s partnership with the [U.S. Department of Agriculture], we made a concerted effort to get capital to small businesses in the state’s rural areas as well.”

The SBA continues to increase its participation with several nonprofit microloan financiers who make small loans to emerging concerns.

Libersky has said SBA loans perform at least as well as conventional loans because lenders and the SBA scrutinize borrowers. The SBA guarantees usually allow a banker to offer a longer term and lower rate.

Libersky is retiring this year after 10 years running the Minnesota district and 30 years with the SBA.

Neal St. Anthony


CPA Bonnie Russ recognized as trailblazer

Bonnie Russ, a University of Minnesota-trained accountant, was a single parent with a young daughter when she borrowed against her house in 1989, to join with the other founders of public-accounting firm Mahoney, Ulbrich, Christiansen.

She was one of 10 women this month named to the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame by the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).

“I wanted more control over who I worked alongside, and who my clients would be and how I would serve them,” Mahoney said in a statement. “And I needed flexibility in my schedule so I could be the parent that I wanted to be and participate in my daughter’s activities. It was exciting to have the dream of building something that would eventually provide me a comfortable income and retirement.

“I am most proud of our culture. Our employees are engaged in their work, and they do a lot of volunteering. We have also been recognized for advancement of women in accounting.”

Mary Nutting, president of NAWBO Minnesota, said: “In addition to the trailblazing women who are acknowledged for their significant roles in Minnesota history, we are honoring women business owners who have arrived and whose ongoing contributions are continuing to inspire others to blaze their own trails. What they’re doing paints an incredible picture of what’s possible for all of us.”

For more information, go to

Neal St. Anthony


Love Your Melon debuts TV ad campaign

Minneapolis-based knit hat maker Love Your Melon has launched its first national television campaign this week.

With the help of local advertising agency Marketing Architects, Love Your Melon is airing 30-second TV commercials touting its popular beanies as well as its mission to end childhood cancer.

“When is the last time a hat warmed your head and warmed your heart,” the ad spot begins.

Love Your Melon donates 50% of its profits to support nonprofit partners in the fight against pediatric cancer and to help create therapeutic experiences and fund programming initiatives for children with cancer and their families.

Two University of St. Thomas students founded Love Your Melon in 2012. The company has donated $6.2 million-plus and more than 175,000 beanies to children with cancer. Melon’s brand awareness has grown locally; with an inaugural retail store last year in the North Loop.

“Our goal is to continue to share our mission with new audiences,” said Zachary Quinn, Melon’s president and co-founder, in a statement. “We are excited to see the impact this national TV ads campaign can make.”

The spot has a holiday shopping focus.

“They have done really a good job with word of mouth and social media and that’s gotten them very far, but they are looking to continue to expand their message and that’s the reason for national TV,” said Marketing Architects’ CEO Chuck Hengel.

“I rarely get exposed to, even though I work with so many different clients, a story that’s this strong,” he said.

Nicole Norfleet