May 25, 2015

Missouri siblings named National Small Business Persons of the Year

Siblings from a rural northwest Missouri town have been named nation’s top small business persons of the year.

Sarah Galbraith and Alan Doan accepting their award as National Small Business Persons of the Year. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Galbraith)

Sarah Galbraith and Alan Doan accepting their award as National Small Business Persons of the Year. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Galbraith)

The U.S. Small Business Administration has honored a brother and sister from Hamilton for a quilting business that ships up to 5,000 orders a day to customers around the world.  Alan Doan and Sarah Galbraith started Missouri Star Quilt Company, a retail store with a thriving ecommerce business that employs 184 people.  Last year, the SBA loaned the company money for a 42,500-square-foot warehouse to maintain its shipping operations.

Galbraith and her brother were invited to Washington D.C. by the SBA after the company was nominated for the award.

“It took me kind of by surprise at how emotional that was and it felt really good to be honored in that way and to be among people that really understood what it takes to get there,” said Galbraith.

“It was cool to hear Hamilton, Missouri mentioned in the circle of big winners and stuff, I’m from a farming town in northwest Missouri, you just don’t expect that to happen,” said Doan.

The brother-sister duo opened the business after the 2008 market crash cost their parents most of their retirement savings and threatened to take their house.  Doan said the idea for the company came when his mother took up quilting and she was willing to wait up to a year for a long arm quilter to finish one of her quilts.  Doan called his sister and they decided to take out a loan to buy the quilting machine and small building to house it in.

“I called my sister Sarah and said let’s just do this, everybody talks about starting a business, they all think about it, like I feel like we’re pretty smart people, we can figure this out, let’s just do this, let’s just do this business,” said Doan.

Jenny Doan, Sarah Galbraith, and Alan Doan (Photo Courtesy of Sarah Galbraith)

Jenny Doan, Sarah Galbraith, and Alan Doan (Photo Courtesy of Sarah Galbraith)

“We didn’t have a lot of money to put into it, everything that we put into it was our own, we didn’t want to get a big loan cause we didn’t really know how far we were going to go with it,” said Galbraith.

Doan said the brick-and-mortar business in Hamilton was the end of their foresight, but sales began to explode when their mom started to put instructional videos about quilting on YouTube.

“It’s no great idea I had or Sarah had, it was the fact that mom ended up being really good at teaching these tutorials,” said Doan.  “People just love her, they love learning from her, they love watching her screw something up and fix it, mom is just the most real teacher you’ll ever get.”

Jenny Doan’s how-to quilting videos have drawn millions of views.  Galbraith said online sales make up 90 to 95 percent of the business, but quilters from throughout the country come to visit the store.

“Because they have that relationship with us online, they know mom there, they trust her there because she’s their teacher, they’re wanting to come and see us, there not just ordering from warehouse, they’re ordering from us,” said Galbraith.

“In my view, we’re a technology company, I see a lot of the advantages that we have as oppose to maybe other shops out there as our technical advantage in terms of what we’re able to build and offer on the website,” said Doan.

The siblings’ parents now travel so that Jenny may speak and teach at quilting events around the world.

“They go to Australia and Alaska, the big cities in Chicago and New York, it’s fun to watch them as this older couple just finally living their dream,” said Doan.

Galbraith said her parents’ quality of life has improved, but her siblings handle most the pressures that come with running a business.

“She gets to do what she loves and what she loves to do is sew and talk,” said Galbraith.  “Dad, he works hard, he’s pretty much mom’s right hand man.”

Missouri could face Canadian sanctions over labeling program

Economic sanctions could target Missouri, as well as the other 49 states, if the U.S. doesn’t lift the requirement that meat be labeled according to the country it came from.

Missouri pork is one of the products Canada intends to target with tariffs if given permission by the WTO, and if the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling Program isn't repealed.  (photo courtesy; the University of Missouri College of Agriculture)

Missouri pork is one of the products Canada intends to target with tariffs if given permission by the WTO, and if the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling Program isn’t repealed. (photo courtesy; the University of Missouri College of Agriculture)

The World Trade Organization has for the fourth time ruled against the United States’ Country of Origin Labeling program (COOL), saying it discriminates against Mexican and Canadian livestock. The United States is out of appeals, and now Canadian General Consul Roy Norton says Canada is preparing to ask the Organization for permission to enact tariffs on its imports from the U.S.

“It’s not Canada’s objective or desire to retaliate against any product coming from the United States – Missouri, or any other state – to Canada. We love Missouri products,” said Norton. “But we feel that, having one four times in the court of law and nothing having happened so far on this, we have no choice but to signal a willingness to retaliate. When the WTO tells us, probably by September, what the dollar value of our losses has been, we will then have the final authority, as it were, to retaliate, if the United States hasn’t acted in the interim.”

Canada has identified about $60-million dollars’ worth of Missouri products it imports that could face tariffs. Top targets are cereals, which represent $25-million in exports a year; iron or steel grinding balls, the export of which are valued at $14-million; and baked goods including bread and cakes, worth $13-million.

Mexico’s market for Missouri goods is more than twice as large as Canada’s, and it’s also considering tariffs.

Legislation is moving in Washington to eliminate the labeling program. This week it cleared the House Agriculture Committee. Three members of Missouri’s Congressional Delegation; Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R, MO-4) and Congressmen Sam Graves (R, MO-6) and Billy Long (R, MO-7), are sponsors of that bill.

Hartzler, after voting in favor of the bill with a majority of the committee’s members, issued a statement in which she called COOL a “troublesome” law.

“I have heard many times from the producers and livestock owners in Missouri of the negative effects of this provision,” wrote Hartzler. “The truth is the COOL program amounts to nothing more than a government mandated marketing program that does not provide any real value to producers or consumers.”

Supporters of COOL say the U.S. has a right to implement the labeling program and say Canada and other countries’ opposition is based on American consumers’ preference for U.S. products. They argue the WTO shouldn’t be allowed to decide U.S. food policy.

COOL backers also say labeling is a food safety issue, noting that a cow recently tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a degenerative neurological disease in cattle. It is the first such case in Canada since 2011. Norton argues COOL has nothing to do with food safety.

“The argument is made, but without any factual basis,” he told Missourinet.

 

Missouri House Speaker: too early to tell if legislature could overturn ‘right to work’ veto

When a “right to work” bill cleared the state House and Senate, neither chamber gave it enough votes to overturn a veto.

Representative Todd Richardson (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Governor Jay Nixon (D) says he will veto that bill, but House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) says it’s too early to be thinking about whether supporters in the legislature can muster the votes to overturn him.

“We’ll talk with our members and see if there’s a will to override and obviously see if there is not a will to override,” said Richardson. “Any override of the governor’s veto, even with the majorities that [legislative Republicans in Missouri] enjoy right now is extraordinarily difficult, and ‘right-to-work’ will be no exception.”

Richardson supports “right-to-work,” which would bar making the paying of union dues a requirement of employment. Backers say more businesses would bring jobs to Missouri with that policy in place.

Opponents say it would allow non-union members to be “freeloaders,” enjoying the benefits of union membership without paying for it.

Missouri Governor confirms he will veto ‘right to work’

The bill called “right to work” by its supporters and “right to work for free” by opponents was the cause of much of the drama in the final week of the Missouri legislative session, and now Governor Jay Nixon confirms he won’t hesitate to use his veto pen on it.

Governor Jay Nixon

Governor Jay Nixon

Senate Republicans forced a vote on the legislation and in response Democrats blocked debate the rest of the week.  The bill would prevent workers from having to pay union dues as a requirement for employment.  It also included a provision that would make any violation of it a misdemeanor, and make a violator subject to unlimited civil penalties.

“The bill to make Missouri a so-called ‘Right-to-Work’ state would stifle our economic growth, weaken the middle class – and even subject Missouri employers to criminal and unlimited civil liability,” said Nixon.

“It’s clear that attacking workers and threatening businesses is the wrong economic development strategy for our state and it’s not what Missourians sent us here to do.”

The Governor says he’ll expend energy drumming up opposition to a possible override.

If backers of the bill don’t find more “yay” votes than it got in passing out of the House and Senate, they won’t have enough to overturn the Governor’s veto.

 

 

 

 

 

Missouri reaches settlement with Sprint and Verizon over ‘cramming’

A national settlement has been reached with Sprint and Verizon Wireless, and Missourians may be eligible for a refund.

Mobile cramming is the practice of charging mobile customers for unauthroized add-on services, such as premium text messaging (PSMS) for celebrity news, horoscopes, trivia, and sports scores.

“Cramming” is the practice of charging mobile customers for unauthroized add-on services, such as premium text messaging (PSMS) for celebrity news, horoscopes, trivia, and sports scores.

Missouri, along with the other 49 states and the District of Columbia, reached a settlement with the two communications companies over allegations of cramming – the practice of charging mobile customers for services they didn’t ask for, like premium text messaging (PSMS) for celebrity news, horoscopes, trivia, and sports scores.  The two companies have been accused of placing unauthorized charges from third-party services on customers’ mobile telephone bills.  More than $438-thousand will come to Missouri out of the $158-million total settlement.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division Spokesman Joe Bindeutel said mobile cramming has been a big problem over the last several years.  Bindeutel said similar settlements were reached with AT&T and T-Mobile in 2014.

“We now have all four of the major telephone carriers under a court ordered resolution addressing this practice of cramming,” said Bindeutel.  “It was a very aggressive marketing practice by these carriers, they took responsibility for it, and they’re going to pay back consumers across the country for charges that were illicitly put on their mobile phone bills.”

Bindeutel recommends consumers read phone bills carefully and regularly.  Bindeutel said it’s important to understand what commitments consumers are signing up for before clicking yes.

“People were signed up for these services and they never knew it, and they had a heck of time trying to get the charges off the bills or the services stopped,” said Bindeutel.  “Consumers were put in a position to fight very hard to stop them, and that’s not the way commerce should be.”

Bindeutel said it’s a fairly easy process for victims to claim a refund.

“You do have to fill out a claim form, but we urge Missourians to do that, so that they can get their money back,” said Bindutel.  “We did get some penalties in the case, but the biggest resources that were acquired are going to go to restitution to see that consumers are not financially harmed by this practice.”

Consumers can submit claims, find information about refund eligibility, learn how to obtain a refund, and request a free account summary that details PSMS purchases on their accounts by clicking the links below.

Sprint

Verizon Wireless