Anne Schmiege developed her expertise as a trial lawyer over a fourteen-year career with the firm of Doar, Drill & Skow, where she was named a partner in 2010. She specialized in two areas: Family Law and Workers’ Compensation. A single mother of two, Anne commuted from her home in St. Paul, Minnesota to the firm’s office in New Richmond, Wisconsin.
What prompted Anne to spin off her own legal practice? “I wanted to put my own stamp on how I presented the brand,” she said. Anne envisioned a solo office that was inviting and calming for people experiencing a divorce or a work injury. “When clients walk in the door, I want them to be greeted by people who know them, know about their case,” she said.
Business planning on a tight timeframe
When Anne decided to open her own business, she opted for a tight timeframe: just six months to launch. Her first hurdle was finding financing to remodel the location she’d chosen, a former hair salon.
Royal Credit Union agreed to provide a mortgage for purchasing the building and recommended Anne talk to Wisconsin’s West Central Regional Business Fund about financing the needed renovations. The Fund referred Anne to the Small Business Development Center at UW–River Falls for help with their application process. Anne quickly became involved in business planning with SBDC consultant Katherine Fossler. “Anne had thought her business through already, but not what was obvious to a business consultant—the business plan and the financial projections,” Katherine said.
Anne and Katherine collaborated using the LivePlan platform and phone calls, because of Anne’s busy schedule: she worked on the plan nights and weekends while working full-time. “It was a tough time,” Anne recalled. “I was already an established attorney, I had clients coming with me; I had been self-employed; I’d shown I could generate income. It didn’t occur to me that I would have to prepare an actual business plan in order to get financing. There was so much involved in starting my own business that I never anticipated.”
Katherine provided much-needed moral support. “I gave her positive feedback—entrepreneurs don’t get that. It can be lonely,” Katherine said. “I know Anne put her kids to bed and worked on that plan for hours. I was the one telling her to hang in there.”
Anne received a total of $60,000 in loans from the Regional Business Fund. Plus, she received a $2000 façade grant from the city of New Richmond. (Both Schmiege Law and Anne’s previous employer are located in New Richmond’s historic downtown.) “I doubt if I would have gotten the financing, especially so quickly, without the SBDC,” Anne admitted.
Accomplishments with the SBDC at UW-River Falls:
- Business plan
- Financial projections
- Sounding board
Schmiege Law: Growing Through Relationships
Since opening in July 2017, the majority of Anne’s clients have come by referral from local attorneys including her former partners, her clients, and local business associates. She serves several counties in northwestern Wisconsin including St. Croix, Polk, Barron and neighboring counties. A legal assistant and file clerk from her previous firm came to work for Schmiege Law. Anne has since added another office assistant. Her focus now, as her practice grows, is on maintaining relationships with her clients and local referral network. “I was impressed that Anne left her prior firm on such good terms,” Katherine recalled. “It speaks to why she’s doing so well in her business, and will continue to do extremely well.”