Stepping into the Driver’s Seat

Dock 5 | Duluth, MN

In 2014, Natalija Walbridge decided to follow her dream of working as a full-time artist. Going all in, Natalija started by converting her 900 sq ft home into a studio with screen printing equipment and two industrial sewing machines. Each Dock 5 bag is created from start to finish by Natalija and is infused with a passion for functional details and embellished with original art. Natalija connected with the Entrepreneur Fund right when she was getting started and has been able to step into the driver’s seat of her business with the support of EF financing and programming.  

What surprised you most about working with the Entrepreneur Fund?  

I was surprised to learn that EF works with all types of businesses. Small businesses that operate out of their home to large businesses with many staff. Because of their vast network they had already worked with many artists and understood unique challenges to art businesses.  

I was also surprised by the amount of expertise EF has on their team and also their connections to experts in different technical areas for businesses.  

How did an SBA Microloan help you grow your business?  

The SBA Microloan I received from the Entrepreneur Fund was life changing. It provided the working capital I needed to expand and increase production, and access to the EF Expert Network on marketing and QuickBooks.  The financial aspect of the loan gave the capital I needed to grow to the next level. The training for marketing and QuickBooks has become part of my daily processes and help me keep on top of everything.  

What was your experience with the technical assistance you received as part of the SBA Microloan program?  

I think of the saying, “Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day, teach someone to fish and you feed them for a lifetime”. I was able to work one-one-one with professional experts on my marketing strategy and in QuickBooks.  

For a business like mine that attends art fairs in different locations it means different sales tax for each location. They worked me not only for figure out sales taxes but taught me how to use QuickBooks to my advantage. It took months to learn, but it’s so empowering that I’m now in the driver’s seat making decisions and knowing where my money is coming and going. 

I also worked with someone on developing a marketing strategy unique to my business. We built a website that I now can update and manage without contracting out for help!  

What would your advice be to an aspiring entrepreneur or and entrepreneur looking to grow their business?  

Make connections and establish yourself in the community. You do not have to do it alone

Especially in the past year with so much uncertainty, now more than ever it’s been so wonderful to have a team of experts I can tap into at EF. They reached out to see what we needed to navigate the pandemic. I’m so grateful.  

See Dock 5’s feature to Making it Up North!