Posted January 27, 2009 - The Post-Crescent Appleton

Business startups face big challenges in struggling economy
Experts: More work required for new ventures

APPLETON — Appleton's new business openings declined 10 percent in 2008, but the city is far from alone in northeastern Wisconsin.

So say the numbers from the state Department of Financial Institutions, which registers new corporations, cooperatives, limited liability corporations and limited liability partnerships.

His firm has noticed the decline, said Kent Nelson, head of QuickStart, Menasha, a company that helps small-business people start, purchase, manage and maintain their enterprises.

"We've noticed the same things, especially the last three or four months," he said. "Things have really slowed as far as startups. It's about 40 percent of our business."

Is it a good time to launch a new venture? Despite the strong headwinds presented by the protracted economic downturn and rickety credit markets, Nelson thinks so. Just in the past 10 days his company has noticed a spurt of new business activity, he said.

But loan seekers need to bring more to the table than ever.

"What you need in this economy to get a business loan is a very good business plan. You need to be even more prepared," he said "You need a little more money down. You need a little bit better credit. And you need to be a little bit more put together than maybe you would've a year ago."

He said the Small Business Administration has launched a loan program geared toward small community banks.

David Lindenstruth, who opened a HuHot Mongolian Grill franchise at 3456 W. College Ave. in 2006, is a success story reflecting an intense amount of work. He also operates a HuHot in Green Bay and is expanding to Madison. He is a graduate of the E-Seed program at the Fox Valley Technical College, one way through the Venture Center at FVTC for individuals to hammer out a detailed business plan. He also assists those exiting business through the school's Pro-Seed program.

"We're doing well," he said. "You need to start a business because you really want to start a business. You have to have the energy to focus on it."

He said he plowed an extensive amount of research into the restaurant franchise opportunity before opening and moving on from his previous career in the electronics industry with Plexus Corp. of Neenah.

"Even after we found what we thought was the right business, we spent months of business planning to ensure it was the right opportunity. I focused on franchises and I think that helped in general. We knew we had a proven concept, and that certainly shortened the time to open."

Pete Bach: 920-993-1000, ext. 430, or