In 1978, the Nohr family started a pattern shop.
A photo from 1984 shows Don Nohr and his son Jim working, smiles beaming.
But after years of running the family business, the time came for Don to transition the business to Jim. Last year, the Nohrs needed to figure out logistical hurdles to complete the purchase.
To ease the transition, Jim worked with Kevin Kaufman, director of the UW-Whitewater Small Business Development Center, which receives some funding through the Small Business Administration.
“Our mission is to help businesses start, help them grow, then basically help them tackle any kinds of issues or problems that they have,” Kaufman said.
Today, the business is known as Nohr LLC and is one of several local businesses using the center’s services.
However, Kaufman thinks many more businesses could benefit.
Kaufman and other officials presented recent data and information to the UW System Board of Regents on Thursday. Kaufman, who is based in Whitewater, covers Rock, Walworth, Jefferson and Dodge counties.
According to the UW System, UW-W’s center has led to $13.8 million in capital investment, 63 jobs created and retained, and 13 new businesses.
Kaufman also helped the Nohrs move from a conventional pattern shop to a value-added pattern shop, Jim said.
Whenever Jim had questions outside his expertise, he asked Kaufman, who has a network of business contacts. Jim also praised Kaufman’s response time in solving problems.
“I would say it’s a very good experience,” he said.
Kaufman does not think enough businesses use the services.
That could be partly because people don’t think their businesses qualify. Kaufman said the center works with businesses that are under the Small Business Administration’s size limits, which in some cases can be up to 500 employees and $40 million or $50 million in revenue.
“We feel like we’re a great story never told or a story not told enough,” he said. “We provide no-cost consulting, and these are your federal tax dollars at work.”
Small-business development centers started about 40 years ago, he said.
Kaufman has been working at UW-W for three years, but he is also an alum who graduated “a bazillion years ago” (in the mid-1980s). He then worked as a commercial banker for 14 years.
He said he’s able to help those thinking of starting a business. He mentioned one Rock County electrical contractor who has been working for someone but wanted to go out on his own.
Kaufman said the contractor is good at his job but is asking questions about such topics as incorporation, bookkeeping and hiring.
“I want you (my clients) to make new and exciting mistakes, not the same and old ones that everybody makes,” he said.
The center is also there for anyone looking to expand a business or solve a problem.
“My favorite clients are clients that know where they are, they know where they wanna get to, but they need some help getting there,” he said. “Or clients that know where they are and don’t like it.
“Either one of those works really well for us.”