Making a Bad 'Location, Location, Location' Work

These readers are all determined to overcome a common challenge: location. Here are their stories on how they are beating the obstacles presented by where they’ve rooted their companies.

S.A. Shutter MillInternational Falls, Minn.

In a city known to many as the “Icebox of the Nation”, Shannon Arnold says she has started the business of her dreams. The entrepreneur runs her custom window shutter business from International Falls, Minn., where Arnold says she endures winters that can last nine months.

According to an e-mail Arnold sent to, it can be a tough environment for an entrepreneur.

“There are some long term ‘mom & pop’ small businesses that have stood the test of time for decades, but most, unfortunately, come and go.”

But Arnold has had a hard time ignoring her desire to open and run her own business.

“I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and attempted a few different start ups,” she writes, “but then went back to college and from there ended up in the mortgage business during the first refi boom. I hated it.” By that time, Arnold had already started envisioning her current business, but it would be years before she left the corporate world to focus on developing her idea.

Today, Arnold considers S.A. Shutter Mill a success. She says she has discovered a niche market and uses the Internet to draw business from places outside of her hometown. Her advice to others: “Utilize the talents and hobbies or items that they love, make them different, keep it simple, keep it manageable, don’t try to be the next Donald Trump, and many unemployed or unhappily employed people could find themselves in charge once again of their futures.”

First CourtCenter, N.D.

According to John Dietrich, location has been an obstacle for First Court, which he describes as a “rural North Dakota based jury research firm.” As the director of business development explains in his e-mail to, “Bigger cities sometimes view rural North Dakota as ‘behind the times’ or ‘out in the sticks’ and this can negatively impact First Court.” He adds, “Recruiting employees to live and work here can be difficult...if not impossible.”

Determined to succeed, Dietrich says the company has used technology to expand its reach, developing an interactive courtroom that allows clients to view mock trails from anywhere. Dietrich also says the company can equip jurors with touch-screen laptops that enable them to provide real-time, raw feedback to trial attorneys.

“We now have clients in NYC, Miami, Seattle, Minneapolis, Arkansas, Denver, and all over the USA,” Dietrich writes. “Without the drive to succeed and technology to allow us to compete...we would never make it.”

The Grande DallesColumbia Valley AVA, Oregon

A place that is described on its Web site as having “bright sky and wind from April through October,” but often cold, icy and snowy winters, is where entrepreneurs Scott Elder and Stephanie LaMonica have planted their small family vineyard. As the site further states, “It’s clear the vines do not love it here; it’s more like an acceptance. But oh, the grapes they grow.”

According to an e-mail sent to, the couple has faced many roadblocks as they’ve built their vineyard on Oregon lands that have never grown grapes. They have “fought birds, which ate ¼ of the crop, and a range fire.”

But the e-mail also suggests that the small wine label is making a name for itself: “They finally have their first vintage of wine; a product that is individual and they reached a mini-milestone when their wines were showcased at the James Beard House on March 3.”

Are you, or do you know, a well-established mom-and-pop and/or thriving startup that started out at the bottom of the barrel? How did they dig out and climb up? FOX Business wants to hear from you about your from-roadblock-to-success stories, and those of your entrepreneurial heroes. They are the little engines that could and today keep chugging and pushing our economy back on better footing, and for that they deserve the spotlight. Send us details at about those in your neighborhood or city, and we’ll feature some in upcoming articles in the FOX Small Business Center special series, "Determined."