By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. Small Business Administration has selected a Hi-Line business as the top minority-owned small business in the state this year. The business will be considered for a regional and possibly a national award.
Silver Wolf Enterprises of Chinook, owned by John and Pattie Gilbert, is the 2004 state winner.
John Gilbert, a member of the Little Shell Tribe, said he hopes to have even more success in one of the catetories the SBA looks at when it picks a winner - revenue growth.
Silver Wolf Enterprises is a certified dealer in a variety of products, including Whirlpool appliances, Eureka vacuums and Bunn coffee makers, and is a commodities broker that connects food suppliers with school lunch programs that need their products. Silver Wolf grossed about $5 million last year; he is hoping for $6.5 million to $7 million this year.
"That's a lot for a little town like Chinook, especially when compared with $150,000," Gilbert said.
That was about what the Gilberts grossed when they started selling Montana Durastill water coolers, purifiers and bottled water in 1990, a product line they continue to market.
Robert Much of the Montana SBA office in Helena said Silver Wolf Enterprises is a good success story for SBA.
"They're doing very well," he said.
Gilbert said he and his wife employ their son, Shawn Gilbert, and Tawna Richmond, who is the office supervisor. He is advertising to hire another employee right now, he added.
The Gilberts created Silver Wolf Enterprises shortly after joining Montana Durastill, thinking a business name that didn't have "Montana" in it might help them market products outside the state, John Gilbert said.
They have been adding to their product line ever since, he added.
"We are really very, very diversified," he said.
Silver Wolf Enterprises participates in an SBA program for minority-owned businesses that helps them compete for government contracts. Silver Wolf enrolled in 1996, and will graduate from the program in 2007.
The largest part of the company's business is supplying U.S.-grown food to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for school lunch programs.
"We bid product to the USDA by the semiload," he said.
Silver Wolf recently started selling products through the U.S. General Services Administration. Gilbert described the administration as a superstore for government agencies.
That business is picking up, he added. Silver Wolf is beginning to expand outside the United States.
It recently sold Eureka vacuum cleaners to be used in the Libby Superfund cleanup site, and took an order from the U.S. military for water fountains to be used in Okinawa, Japan.
Its products will be used in U.S. embassies in Bangladesh, Indonesia and elsewhere.
"We have dealt worldwide," Gilbert said.
Silver Wolf's main business is being a commodities broker, connecting people who have products to buyers who want them, Gilbert said.
"We have suppliers and vendors throughout the United States," he added.
He teamed up with a graduate of the SBA minority program, Barrios Distributing in San Diego, to build his business. Gilbert said that has significantly expanded his list of suppliers and vendors.
Representatives of the Montana SBA office will be in Chinook on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. to present the award to the Gilberts.
The state winners will be recognized in Washington, D.C., later this month.
Much said the state winners will be considered for regional awards. The regional winners will then be considered for a national awards.
Last year's Montana winner, a janitorial service from Bozeman named Maintenance Patrol, received the regional award.
Three years ago, Hardrives Asphalt Co. Inc. from Billings was the national winner.
On the Net: Silver Wolf Enterprises: www.silverwolfenterprises.com