When Kerry Bertram, CEO of Stride Incorporated, was told they were going to lose their current building because the county was going to use it for a new courthouse, she was given a year to move her entire production facility to another location. At first glance, you may think a year is enough time to move a company, sure it’s annoying but it’s doable. The real problem that Bertram faced was finding a very specific type of facility that would not only house their production of office supplies, but one that was also accessible to a bus line. Because the majority of her workforce comprised of adults with developmental delays, most of them relied on public transportation to get around. They searched numerous possibilities for a new building throughout the year, but nothing was even remotely adequate for their specific needs and time was beginning to run out.
Inspired by her third child who was born with hydrocephalus and passed away before his eighth birthday, Barbara Brennan (Bertram’s mother) had dedicated her life to “working for, and with, people who have disabilities.” She managed Stride since its inception in 1982, and later purchased the company in 1988, however, Stride was never intended to specifically be a woman owned business. Three months after Brennan and her husband signed the agreement to purchase the business, her husband passed away. This unfortunate circumstance also occurred before enough financing was secured to pay for their new business venture, and Bertram’s mother soon found herself in a very difficult situation. She went to numerous banks seeking loans, however, the banks turned her away while stating that they wanted to speak to her husband. It took weeks of persistence and determination until she could secure a loan and Stride Incorporated became even a larger part of her life.
Beyond making quality office supplies, a positive and supportive company culture is one of Strides’ largest accomplishments and ongoing goals. In fact, the name Stride was “chosen because their products were made by some very special employees, people with [special needs], who had a job and were earning a paycheck. They’ve made great strides in their personal development!” Since its inception, and continuing to this day, Stride has made it a large part of its mission to employ adults with varying special needs as their primary workforce. This in turn helps their workers gain professional experience while supporting them in their daily lives. Some employees have been with the company for over 35 years. This impressive employee loyalty is because Stride strives to keep its doors open to their employees, support their team, and consider them all to be family.
Bertram took over the role of CEO from her mother nine years ago and was quite familiar with the numerous financial struggles Stride has faced in its past as well as current issues with remaining competitive in the market place. But finding a new location for Stride to operate out of was the largest challenge to date. It had come down to the final 30 days and still they had not found a location and any viable option was quickly fading away. A dark reality was beginning to set in and the future of Stride was looking grim.
That is when the father of one of Stride’s employees stepped in and saved the company. He purchased a suitable building for Stride to operate out of and one that was close to a bus line. It was a building that Stride couldn’t afford through a typical lending option, however, because of their company/family culture they were able to pay back their angel lender slowly. Stride Incorporated’s company culture has created a unique environment where the company supports its employees and in turn their employees (and their families by extension) support the company; an example of true symbiosis, or better yet, family.
There are numerous alternative or nontraditional routes to funding and investing money for emerging businesses that are often unknown to the greater business community. Leading Retirement Solutions is proud to bring you these unique stories of prosperous business ventures that find success despite the financial obstacles laid before them.