Sponsored Content: Whatever your path to entrepreneurship, bring your banker along

Pam Keiner and Megan Hile followed different paths to entrepreneurship, but both Madison-area business owners have found value in developing a close relationship with their banker.

 When Pam Keiner took a temporary leave from her job as a computer network engineer to help a local roofing company set up estimating software and a new computer network, she had no intention of buying the business 20 years later. 

“I didn’t really see myself here in the beginning, but it worked out that way,” Keiner says. 

Setting up the estimating software gave Keiner an insider’s view of the whole business, and she was intrigued. When the estimating gig was up, she stuck around. 

“I enjoyed that it was a male-dominated trade,” she says. “I kind of wanted to make a mark for women at that point, and it was challenging, but enjoyable at the same time.”

Keiner worked her way through every position in the company, and prepared to make an offer to buy the business. But she found that the process of buying a business is full of obstacles. 

“The biggest obstacle I found is getting the financing from either a bank, or a grant, or wherever,” she says. “And while you’re doing that, you’re learning about all the parts and pieces involved in financing, and agreements with the owner. You have to trust the bankers you’re talking to and the info you’re getting.”

Keiner says she developed a great relationship with Oak Bank, which helped her navigate the purchasing process. By working closely with them throughout the purchase, she was able to line up financing that gave her the freedom to run her business without being burdened by paperwork. 

“I love Oak Bank because they personally help you if you have questions, or direct you to the right people, which makes running your business more efficient and effective without wasting time,” Keiner says. “I kind of feel important — and I assume they treat everyone the same way.”

Megan Hile, owner of Madison Chocolate Co., sells chocolates in San Francisco. 

Megan Hile considers herself an entrepreneur at heart because she is happiest when she is creating. When she started Madison Chocolate Co. in 2012, she self-financed it along with help from a few small investors. Since she was operating out of a commercial kitchen, she didn’t need a lot of startup funds. 

But that changed when she decided to open a brick-and-mortar location at the corner of Monroe Street and Glenway Street in Madison.  

“I found this space in 2016, and started working with Jim McNulty at Oak Bank, and we got the business plan and financials in order,” she says. 

In her seven years in business, Hile has developed resilience and an ability to quickly respond to events that are outside of her control. 

For example, the day before signing the lease for her new space, an investor dropped out. She says Oak Bank helped her reevaluate her financing options to move forward quickly. 

“It’s not all roses in business,” Hile says. “There’s a lot of thorns, and I’ve had to learn to get used to that and not take it personally.”

Less than a year after she opened on Glenway Street, the Monroe Street construction project began, dramatically reducing the amount of traffic that would pass her business. Again, Oak Bank proved to be a great partner in providing financial flexibility during a challenging time. 

“We opened up a line of credit last year in the midst of the construction, and it was really helpful,” she says. “I think one of the reasons we survived was the extremely dedicated neighborhood clientele. They were invested in keeping us going.”

Both women emphasized the importance of developing a close relationship with your financial specialists — whether that’s your banker, accountant, or both — to help you make decisions confidently. 

“Oak Bank has helped us out tremendously in making good business decisions when we had an external force affecting our business,” Hile says. 

Oak Bank has been deeply rooted in the Fitchburg and Madison community for over 19 years, meeting the financial needs of homeowners and businesses by offering top-notch service, quick answers and unique solutions, all while supporting over 100 local nonprofits each year. Working with Oak Bank, you’ll create a relationship with a financial expert who takes the time to get to know you and your unique situation. We know there’s no “one-size-fits all” solution.  We work hard to craft tailored innovative solutions. You can’t be the best, if you’re only the same! Visit oakbankonline.com to learn more.