Experienced employee grabs reins as owner with SBDC support

By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington Small Business Development Center

Carrie deKubber in Bob's Burgers and Brew EverettEVERETT, Wash. – Carrie deKubber has held just about every position at Bob’s Burgers and Brew over the past 20 years, but thanks to the Washington Small Business Development Center, she added a new title this year — owner.

“It really is terrifying and exciting at the same time,” said deKubber, who in December 2016 became the owner of the Bob’s Burgers and Brew in Everett.

Bob’s Burgers and Brew in Everett serves an extensive lunch and dinner menu, plus breakfast on Saturdays, brunch on Sundays, a dozen beers on tap and more beers and ciders in bottles. Located on Everett Mall Way, the restaurant includes a lounge area with large screens, a banquet room and an area for outdoor dining.

bob's burgers and brew logo

Advantages and benefits 

DeKubber said she enjoys the additional responsibilities that come with being an owner, particularly providing jobs and mentoring many of her 45 employees. Another benefit, she said, being able to support civic causes and impact on her community positively.

Multilocation experience

The first Bob’s Burgers and Brews opened in Lynden in 1982, and there are now 13 across the state. DeKubber, who started working at the Bob’s in Lynden when she was 18, has worked at seven different locations, including the location she now owns, tackling every job from hostess to general manager. She has trained corporate trainers and was part of the leadership team that opened the Yakima franchise. Still, she said, purchasing a restaurant was a whole new experience.

“I love to learn, but it was just overwhelming,” she said. “It felt like people were speaking another language.”

cj seitz SBDC Bellingham

Fortunately, someone told her about the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and she started meeting with CJ Seitz, director of the SBDC office at Western Washington University.

The Washington SBDC is a network of more than two dozen business advisors working in communities across the state to help small business owners or entrepreneurs start, grow or transition a business.

The statewide SBDC is hosted by Washington State University and receives major funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBDC receives additional funding from other institutions of economic development and higher education, including WWU, which enables it to provide confidential, one-on-one advising at no cost to small business owners, or aspiring owners such as deKubber. The SBDC office at WWU has three business advisors, including Seitz.

“Carrie has worked extremely hard to earn where she is today,” Seitz said. “Her work ethic and character made this project possible.”

Seitz, who earned an MBA from WWU, has nearly 20 years’ experience in executive planning, administration, financial strategy and marketing in both the nonprofit and private sectors. Prior to joining the SBDC, she was the director of the Northwest Area Employment Security Department (EDS) for Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan counties.

“I cannot say enough about how much I admire Carrie,” Seitz said. “Clients like her are the reason I love coming to work every day.”

“I don’t think I could have done it without her,” deKubber said of Seitz. DeKubber said she met regularly with Seitz, gaining invaluable insights and translations of unfamiliar business terms or jargon.

Loans and purchase

Carrie deKubber has prepared for her new role as owner of Bob's Burgers and Brew Everett through many years of experience.
Carrie deKubber, owner of Bob’s Burgers and Brew in Everett.

Even with all of her experience at Bob’s Burgers and Brew, deKubber said, she knew owning her own franchise would be a stretch. “It takes a lot of money to buy a franchise,” deKubber said, “and I don’t come from that.”

Still, when she sat down with Seitz to talk about her dream, she was encouraged and offered practical, step-by-step advice.

With Seitz’s help, deKubber was successful in her bid to obtain an SBA 504 loan through Northwest Business Development Association (NWBDA) and their lending partner Heritage Bank to purchase the building and land, as well as an SBA 7(a) loan from Heritage Bank for the purchase of the business.

“Carrie’s experience was beyond what we generally see in an applicant who is purchasing an existing business,” said Elizabeth Rusnak, senior vice president at NWBDA. “She has worked in all facets of the Bob’s Burgers and Brew company, as well as with other companies. Given her proven ability to own and operate a Bob’s Burgers and Brew franchise, she was an excellent candidate for the SBA programs.”

DeKubber said Seitz was instrumental in helping her understand the loan process and has continued to advise her on everything from understanding her break-even point to marketing budgets.

DeKubber said she wanted to own a Bob’s Burgers and Brew franchise because she knows the business inside-out. Bob Kildall, the founder of Bob’s Burgers and Brew “is like family,” she said, and recognized her potential early on. “Bob has always provided opportunities” she said, and when it came to ownership, he was completely hands off. “It was up to me to independently figure it out.  The SBDC was a crucial resource.”

Aaron, DeKubber’s husband and a mechanic at Washington Tractor, has also been extremely supportive. “This is a big risk,” she said, “and I appreciate that he trusts me.”
Most days she is at the restaurant 10-12 hours, she said, but she enjoys every minute of it. She always has worked hard for her employers, she said, but now it feels good to know that all her hard work is building a business she and Aaron own.

“I can’t believe I didn’t know about the SBDC before this,” deKubber said, “but now I tell everyone.”


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