Once in a while, even Susan Eastman Walton has to stop and pinch herself.
Her specially designed RecoFit Compression Gear is selling faster than ever at independent running and fitness stores across the country. She just signed a contract to supply the U.S. Military Endurance Sports program, a nonprofit that supports endurance sports education and activities for current, retired and veteran members of the U.S. Uniformed Services. And it's no longer uncommon for a fitness company halfway around the world to contact Susan.
The significance of moments like these is not lost on her. Being a small business owner presents many challenges, but Susan’s path to success has included more hurdles than most.
A longtime runner, cyclist and cross-country skier looking to solve shin splints and other nagging injuries, Susan turned to her husband, Hugh. He worked for a sportswear manufacturer and knew how to help her develop a compression sock unlike any on the market. From the basement of her home in Boulder, Colorado, Susan launched RecoFit in 2009 and quickly established it as an up-and-coming manufacturer and wholesaler of high-quality compression gear. Then life delivered a one-two combination she didn’t see coming.
In 2012, Hugh suffered a massive stroke that required heart surgery and a year of rehabilitation. Just as Susan was able to turn her attention back to her small business, the Boulder area experienced a historic flood in 2013 – 18 inches of rain in three days. Susan’s basement filled to the ceiling with water, which destroyed much of her office and equipment. Then it sparked a small electrical fire.
Susan stood in the driveway with tears in her eyes, surrounded by flashing lights and emergency personnel. She was overwhelmed and needed help fast. She didn't have the resources to fill orders, and given the recent turn of events, RecoFit’s financials lacked the consistency most traditional lenders required.
That’s when Community Reinvestment Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides small business loans to struggling entrepreneurs, stepped in to help. CRF provided Susan with the resources to begin filling orders again, build inventory, further develop the RecoFit product line and market the brand. It was the second chance she needed to put the business back on the map.
It’s National Small Business Week, and in celebration of that, Sam’s Club and the Sam’s Club Giving Program are doing something to help organizations such as CRF do even more. Through our Small Business Economic Mobility initiative, we’ve made a five-year investment in small business growth through increased access to capital and borrower education. The first round of grants were announced this week and will award $13.6 million to eight organizations, including CRF, to assist underserved U.S. small businesses, including women, minorities and veterans.
By offering a helping hand to small businesses, we hope to empower even more entrepreneurs like Susan to get back on track toward their dreams.