Missouri Siblings Named 2015 Small Business Persons of the Year

"Our small businesses represent what is best about our nation - the idea that with determination and responsibility, anyone can build a better life for themselves and their loved ones."
-- President Barack Obama, 2015 National Small Business Week proclamation

The past five days, National Small Business Week celebrations in communities across the country carried the slogan: "Dream Big, Start Small."

Meet Alan Doan and his sister, Sarah Galbraith Doan, the walking embodiment of this motto.

Like many towns in rural America, employment is scarce in Hamilton, Missouri. Following the market crash in 2008, when their father lost his retirement savings, Alan and Sarah started Missouri Star Quilt Company to help recover their parent's retirement savings.

In 2008, they took out an SBA loan to buy a quilting machine and a small building to house it. Looking for increased income, the two recognized the quilting talents of Sarah and her mother, Jenny. They decided to do what they knew, and to propel their business through online marketing. They produced quilting tutorials on a YouTube, which became a big hit. Jenny's passion for her longtime hobby shined through the camera as she taught quilting. Soon, the channel had a worldwide following of 220,000 subscribers.

After only seven years in business, Missouri Star Quilt Company now employs 180 people. That's important in a small community. It's also important to our country, where they are strengthening our nation's economy and reducing our trade deficit by exporting their products to Great Britain, Russia, India, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, France and many others. They are keeping the postal service busy and people flowing into their community to shop.

The SBA, through our counseling and lending resource partners, helped Missouri Star Quilt Company realize their potential by funding a 45,000 square foot storefront in 2013 with the SBA 504 Lending Program. That storefront now houses the largest inventory of pre-cut quilt piece goods in the world.

And the company has attracted so many visitors, including international guests, that this rural town full of vacant buildings has been transformed into a popular tourist destination with its own bed and breakfast, a winery outlet, other sprouting retail stores, and free Saturday movies in the park. Five thousand tourists a month now come to Hamilton.

Here is what Alan and Sarah told the SBA about their motivation and how they became successful:

"We kept seeing people we knew try to start a business, but they would burn out too early and give up. We thought if we could give it a go, others might be able to see success and then follow along. The 'how' is really all in the team. We had a family that supported us wholeheartedly, worked for free when we needed them to, and were loyal and creative for very little money down. We built a leadership team of the smartest people we know and have continued to lean on great mentors to lift and build us."

Today, Missouri Star Quilt Company is the largest employer in Caldwell County, and they bring in more than $17.7 million in sales. For starting small, dreaming big, exporting globally, reviving a proud rural town, and putting Missourians back to work, Alan Doan and Sarah Galbraith Doan are SBA's 2015 National Small Business of the Year. Congratulations.

Read the stories of all of the SBA's 2015 State Small Business Persons of the Year and other SBA national winners at