West Business Development Center is host to the Mendocino Small Business Development Center. We are talking with some of our SBDC clients to see what they’ve been up to and how their businesses are faring one year after the pandemic began. Our latest chat is with Joel Soinila in Ukiah.
WC: Hi there Joel. Tell our readers who you are and what your business is.
JS: Hi, nice to meet you! I’m Joel Soinila. I own and operate Veikko Properties LLC. We are a full service property management business that includes real estate buying and selling, property management, and handyman services.
WC: What made you choose this particular line of work?
JS: Housing! I have a huge passion for all kinds of housing and development in general. My goal is to eventually develop real estate. I’d like to be involved in shaping this community and how it’s being developed over the next couple of decades. I think we’ll see a drastic increase in population and lots of housing being developed and I want to be a part of that. I want to build quality homes for people, the kind of homes that I would live in.
WC: What do love about owning your own business?
JS: I love that I get to make my own schedule and that it’s a seven day per week job if I want it to be, not just 40 hours. When I started this business, I made it a point to be open seven days a week from 7AM to 7PM. I’m the one answering the phone as this is a service-first business. For me, it’s all about getting back to the client as quickly as possible and making things happen in a timely manner.
WC: What are some of the challenges you face as a small business owner?
JS: The hardest part about being a small business owner, especially in a community like this, is that if you only do one thing, you’re not going to make it. You have to vertically integrate your business to understand your biggest needs, otherwise overhead will crush you. So having access to capital as a new business is essential. Funding, that’s the hardest part of trying to grow a business.
WC: How has Mendocino SBDC helped you with your business?
JS: I first started working with them about three years ago when I was trying to figure out how I was actually going to open the business. At the time it seemed like the biggest hill in the world but now I look back and it’s like it was a molehill as there are so many more things I need in order to grow. West helped me navigate through it.
WC: Did you work with an advisor?
JS: Yes, I needed information about whether to start my business as an LLC or as a sole proprietorship and my advisor really helped me with those types of pivotal points. I also got advice on how to get lending and funds meant for small businesses from the the government.
They also helped me form my LLC. I thought I had to pay someone to do that for me but they helped me navigate the paperwork and I did it for one-tenth of the cost if I’d actually hired someone. That seems like a small thing but it was a huge moment for me with help of the Mendocino SBDC.
WC: Any other areas they’ve helped you?
JS: Creating a business plan. It’s one thing to have it in your head and think you know what to do, it’s another to put it down on paper. They really helped me get my business plan ready which is what I’ll need to access future funding.
WC: What would you tell someone who’s considering opening a business in Mendocino County?
JS: If you think you’re going to open a business within a few weeks, you’re wrong. It’s a slow process. The Mendocino SBDC helps slow you down, which makes you focus and work at a pace that allows you to understand what you’re doing instead of just turning paperwork in blindly. There’s so much paperwork with the state government and local business licenses The SBDC keeps you task-oriented to tackle things one at a time with a checklist to get everything done.
WC: When you talk to your advisor do they charge you a fee?
JS: No, they don’t charge for their services. And businesses like mine provide data to the SBDC so they can use that to gather more funds for our community.
WC: What is a Business Innovation and Resiliency Grant?
JS: I am a recipient of the Business Innovation and Resiliency Grant. I looked at it as a way to gain an asset as well as create a new revenue stream so my business could survive during Covid. I bought a 6′ x 12′ dump trailer that has essentially led to 50% of my income over the last five to six months. The grant helped fund about 60% of the cost of the trailer.
WC: What do you love about the trailer?
JS: I can do anything with it! Load it up, take stuff to the dump, move and transport things. I’m not a “hire for haul” so it allows me to offer a lower cost service to people who need things hauled away to the dump.
WC: Where do you see your business in ten years?
JS: I see my business as expanding to have 20 to 30 employees. I’ll definitely turn to the Mendocino SBDC as I grow. But what I’d really like to do is give funding back and help other small businesses continue to grow their dream into something bigger like I was able to do.
We left Joel as he was working with his new bandsaw turning old lumber into new pieces to use on his clients’ projects.
And that’s a wrap!