They’ve taken their dreams and turned them into passions that have gone far beyond their original plans.
As innovators in their endeavors, Nicole Centeno, owner of Kenosha’s K9 Kibble and Joanne Freitag, co-owner of Parrish & Freitag, a financial services firm in Salem Lakes, are the 2019 Service Corps of Retired Executives/Wisconsin Small Business Administration award winners.
Centeno and Freitag will be honored Friday at an awards breakfast in Waukesha.
Both have worked closely with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. and were nominated by Heathur Lux, regional project director of the Southeast office.
Lux commended both for their tireless work and participation in WWBIC programs.
“We’re truly ecstatic that both have won statewide awards,” she said.
The awards ceremony is a part of National Small Business Week, May 5-11, which promotes and honors small-business entrepreneurs.
Both winners said they are adult lifetime learners who wanted to launch businesses that would allow them to expand their careers and serve the community.
Each has made a person commitment to continue providing something new and innovative to their businesses.
Centeno is being honored as Emerging Small Business Person. Freitag is being honored as Financial Services Champion.
A career switch
Centeno, a lifelong resident of Kenosha, wanted a career change after working in banking, customer service health benefits administration.
She returned to school, graduating from Gateway Technical College with a degree in marketing.
As a dog owner, she wanted to provide healthy, nutritious food for pets. That led to the opening of K9 Kibble, with her husband Joseph, on Memorial Day weekend 2013 in downtown Kenosha.
After three years in operation, K9 Kibble doubled its square footage to the adjacent storefront at 5535 Sixth Ave. The expansion, she noted, “allowed the store to decompress to add more pet nutrition options.”
Two years ago, K9 Kibble added a do-it-yourself pet wash, allowing “families to connect with their pets and keep them clean during groomings.”
In December, the Centenos purchased the building at 5919 Sheridan Road, where they now operate out of larger quarters with five associate team members.
Making house calls
Just as doctors from a long ago era once made house calls. Freitag fashions herself in the same mold.
As an accountant who serves small businesses, usually those with fewer than 50 employees, she likes to make office calls.
Since Parrish & Freitag was established in 1993, the company has grown its network of clients by making friends and offering a reassuring hand to business owners who are too small or lack the resources to handle tax accounting and financial services.
Freitag, who is vice president and managing partner of Parrish & Freitag, said she enjoys the experience. Her professional background includes working at Case-IH and Outdoor Marine Corp.
The visits, she said, “gives them the feeling that we are walking along beside them.”
They also allow her to consult and teach, which works well with her other job as an adjunct professor with Carthage College.
She said she views her work as community service and part of her divine mission.
“I’m living out my walk in faith,” Freitag explained.
“Our business is built around a personal relationship,” she said. “We’re working for people who have a dream.”
Office calls allow her to get a feel for the company and its mission and often reveal more about a company than its owner would mention.
She also has a number of nonprofit agencies that rely on her services.
The company helps with compliance issues, tax planning and related services, but does not conduct audits.
“When someone walks in the door and asks something we don’t know, we’re not afraid to say, ‘we have to research this,’” she said.