Northland Outfitters

Northland Outfitters

Learning Every Day, Loving Every Minute

October 2011

When you ask a lot of entrepreneurs what their secret to success is, they always seem to say the same thing – do what you love.  Entrepreneur and recent small business owner Leon Genre followed that advice.  When the economic downturn forced Leon into an early retirement in 2009, he decided to purchase a small resort and outdoor adventure business in Germfask in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Now, Leon gets to do what he loves and is running his own small business.

The path to entrepreneurship was not an easy one for Leon.  After working in the building industry for most of his life and for the government for the past 21 years, the idea of operating his own small business was completely foreign to him.  Nonetheless, after months of research and many late night discussions with his family, Leon decided to move forward with his idea to purchase a small business.  He started looking for existing businesses that he might be able to buy.  However, most of the businesses that were for sale were too big; he had never run a business before and didn’t want to get in over his head.  After some lengthy searching and negotiating with several possible businesses, Leon found the perfect business right on the Manistique river…Northland Outfitters.  Northland Outfitters is a small resort business that offers canoeing, kayaking, bike and cross country ski equipment rentals, lodging, camping and other activities to outdoor adventurers.

Northland_outfitters-300x200Leon knew immediately that he would need financing to buy the business.  He approached PSB Bank with a loan proposal, but the bank was hesitant to loan him the money.  “They were unsure because I had never owned a business before,” recalled Leon.  The bank suggested that Leon contact the MI-SBTDC who could assist him with his business plan as well as other areas of the business.  Leon contacted Lance Wolfe, a small business consultant with the MI-SBTDC Upper Peninsula regional office.  Together, they worked on how Leon could prepare his information for presentation to the bank.

“Lance was great,” said Leon.  “He was instrumental in helping me with my business plan and financials.  I was used to working with departmental budgets, but he really helped me get a good understanding of small business accounting and financials.  If it weren’t for Lance’s help, I don’t think I would have gotten things off the ground.”

In addition, Lance told Leon about the SBA’s CDC/504 loan program, which is designed to help people like Leon acquire assets or expand existing businesses. The CDC works with the SBA and private sector lenders to provide financing to small businesses, which accomplishes the goal of community economic development.  Leon contacted the local office of the Michigan Certified Development Corporation (MCDC), and after working with the MCDC and some discussion with the bank, Leon applied for financing for the loan and was approved.

“It was great having someone local in the U.P.  Lance was able to give me the names of surveyors, environmental engineers, and other contacts that provided services that where required prior to the closing of the loan,” explained Leon.

“The service was wonderful.  It really was a great experience.  If I had to do it again, I would do it the same way,” noted Leon.  After closing on the loan in May, Leon has enjoyed his first season operating his new business.  The business currently employs three full-time and six part-time seasonal employees.  As the season winds down, Leon is already looking to future goals.  “I would like to upgrade some of the equipment as well as look at doing some more advertising as money becomes available.  We have a lot of maintenance in this business, and new equipment would help reduce that expense.”

After his first full season at Northland Outfitters, the first time business owner does have some advice for other first time business owners.  “Be patient.  It’s all about learning.  It’s a good day if you learn something new,” explains Leon.

For more information visit:  www.northoutfitters.com or call Leon and his staff at 1-800-808-3FUN or 1-906-586-9801.