SEATTLE – Jennifer Shelton was named the 2011 Washington State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Star Performer Thursday at the Small Business Administration gala at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle.
 

Stories from Shelton’s
appreciative clients:
 
* Bob and Lauren Bullock visited Shelton in 2009 about a year after founding Haystack Needle Winery. The Bullocks – who blend, age and bottle their wines from grapes grown and crushed by others – were shipping about 500 cases per year. By the following year they were up to 2,400 cases. This year, Bob Bullock said, they are on pace to ship 10,000 cases.
 
“It all started with her pointing us in the right direction,” Bob Bullock said. When the business was just getting started, he said, Shelton was able to give them an accurate picture of where they stood and what they needed to do next.
 
* Molly Trimble, publisher of New Age Retailer and owner of Continuity Publishing, had used the services of SBDC advisors years ago, but thought of them again when the recession hit.
 
Trimble had been in publishing for nearly 17 years, but Shelton helped her see a new way forward for her Bellingham-based business.
 
“Jennifer’s a fountain of good ideas and practical solutions,” Trimble said. “I always walk out of our meetings energized with a list of things to do, and I think, ‘Great, I know where I’m headed.’ ”
 
* Vicky Savage, who owns North Fork Brewing on Mt. Baker Highway in Deming with her husband, Sandy, said Shelton was particularly adept at helping them clarify where they wanted to go with their business and create a plan to get there.
 
“I came in expecting a bunch of numbers,” she said. “What I got was someone who was genuinely interested in our business.”
The SBDC is a cooperative effort of Washington State University, other educational institutions, economic development organizations and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
 
Shelton, director of the SBDC service center at Western Washington University in Bellingham, has been a certified business advisor since 2003. She will be recognized in September at the national conference for the Association of Small Business Development Centers in San Diego as Washington’s Star Performer.
 
“We are delighted with what Jennifer and her clients have been able to accomplish, even in these challenging economic times,” said Brett Rogers, state director of the SBDC. “We know that small businesses are the economic engine that are going to push Washington’s economy forward,” he said, “and Jennifer and her clients are a great example of how that will happen.”
 
In 2010, Shelton’s clients estimate that her advice was directly responsible for adding $1.1 million to the regional economy, saving 21 jobs and adding 35 new jobs. During that same period, she consulted with more than 100 small business owners, worked with more than half on an ongoing basis and helped four new businesses get started.
 
Brian Burton, dean of the College of Business and Economics at WWU, said Shelton’s people skills combined with a strong business background, including first-hand experience as a small business owner, are reasons for her success.
 
“She brings solid conceptual understanding and both personal and professional experience to each client engagement,” he said. “She believes strongly in small business, so she’s always ready to be an advocate. Clients pick up on all those things, and that’s why they’re so happy with her.” (See client stories at right)
 
Shelton said she is always looking for ways to improve her skills and assist her clients. About five years ago, she decided to pursue certification to become a life coach specifically to help her business clients, she said. She also holds certifications in sales and marketing.
 
Shelton started working at the SBDC in Bellingham in 2002 while earning her MBA at WWU. In 2003 she became a certified business advisor and opened a new SBDC center at Highland Community College in Des Moines. From 2005 to 2010, she was director of the SBDC center in Everett, located at Edmonds Community Center. In January 2010 she returned to Bellingham.
 
With 24 small business development centers located across the state, the SBDC provides one-to-one confidential business advising, demand-driven training and market research to both new and established small business owners at no cost to the client. In 2010, business advisors with the Washington SBDC network were responsible for $47.1 million in capital formation and assisted more than 2,500 small business owners.
 
To find the SBDC center nearest you, go to http://www.wsbdc.org.