Photo credit Ashley Lodato, Methow Valley News

SBDC advising helps create win-win-win for three owners in sale of two businesses

WINTHROP, Wash.— It was a recipe for disaster. At least according to those who believe the adage you should never do business with family or friends

In 2018, when Lindsay Evans learned that her brother wanted to sell East 20 Pizza, his restaurant in Winthrop, she was immediately interested. The only problem was that she first needed to sell her business in Chelan, the Lake Chelan Artisan Bakery.

When her long-time employee and friend, Catalina Jimenez, said she wanted to buy the bakery, Evans thought, “Oh my gosh, this is almost too good to be true.”

Here’s another adage: if you think it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

But this story has a happy ending, at least in part because both Evans and Jimenez utilized the services of the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Evans worked with Lew Blakeney, the SBDC advisor at The Economic Alliance in Omak, whom she first started working with 2012 when she opened the bakery. Jimenez sought the assistance of SBDC advisor Jim Fletcher in Wenatchee; when Fletcher retired in mid-2018, she kept moving forward with the assistance of SBDC advisor Sarah Truglio, who is based in Yakima.

“I did see some moments where if people didn’t want the best for each other, as well as a fair deal for themselves, it could have fallen apart,” Evans said. “But in the end, everything turned out great.”

Jimenez, Evans’ former employee and now fellow business owner, agrees. “It was perfect,” she said. “It was perfect for her and it was perfect for me.”

East 20 Pizza – Left to Right: Ryan Clement, Lindsay Evans, Luke Evans – Photo credit Ashley Lodato

Ryan Clement, who founded East 20 Pizza in 2007, said it was almost weird how well the serial transactions worked out. “It worked out oddly well,” he said. “I’m so happy Lindsay was able to step into what I started.”

East 20 Pizza and the newly minted Catalina’s Bakery are both thriving today, to the delight of their owners, but also the communities where they are located. East 20 Pizza employs 15 to 20 people and Catalina’s Bakery employs five to nine people, depending on the season. Both contribute to the local economy while giving locals and tourist alike welcoming places to gather.

Successful small business sales are the exception, not the rule. According to Project Equity, only 20 percent of small businesses that are listed for sale ever sell.

From past experience, Evans knew that she could count on Blakeney to give her confidential, objective, data-driven guidance as they worked through the sale of one business and the acquisition of another.

SBDC advising is completely confidential—meaning Truglio kept Jimenez’s information and their conversations confidential and Blakeney did the same for Evans. But, Evans said, the process itself was transparent, meaning the sellers shared financial data and other spreadsheets with the buyers so everyone had access to the same information.

When issues arose, which was sure to happen, SBDC advising kept them on track by ensuring that each party understood the process, asked the important questions and focused on what mattered, Evans said.

Buying her brother’s business was both a big step and the next step, Evans said. It’s a bigger operation which is exciting, but it’s also just minutes from her home. Although Evans grew up in Chelan, she and her husband, Lucas Evans, have lived in Winthrop since 2001 and her husband owns a construction company there, Methow Valley Builders. The hour-long commute from Winthrop to Chelan was taking a toll.

Evans buying the business actually brought the family even closer together, her brother said. “Now she has more time to spend with the family,” he said.

Evans said her entrepreneurial initiative was sparked by watching both her husband and her brother.

“I wasn’t intimated,” she said. “I was looking for someone to guide me through the steps.”

Which is exactly what Blakeney did. “He listens and then he gives constructive ideas and advice,” Evans said. “If I have any questions or concerns, he’s accessible, responsive and on top of it.”

From the beginning, Evans said, she was determined to find out everything she needed to know about running a small business, from health and safety codes to licensing and permits to taxes and payroll.

“Once it was my business and my responsibility, it became really important to me to do a crash course in those things I did not know about,” she said, and Blakeney was the perfect resource to help her do that. If he didn’t have the information she needed, he knew where to find it.

Owning your own business is a tremendous amount of work and worry, Evans said, but the rewards are pretty great, too.

“It’s a great feeling to know you are at the helm of the ship,” Evans said. “It’s just such a great feeling.” And if she needs any help with navigation, Blakeney is a phone call away.

For more about East 20 Pizza, go to east20pizza.com

For more about the Washington SBDC, go to wsbdc.org