Zuzick trying to help small businesses and investors connect

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm

Christopher Zuzick wants to help connect small businesses in Wisconsin with investors who can help those firms grow. Last year, Zuzick, 39, started his own firm, Spire LLC, out of his Sussex home and is the company’s only employee. Zuzick helps business owners sell their companies and helps others acquire companies.
In addition, Spire recently launched a small business private equity venture to serve as a conduit between investors and small businesses.
"If you’re a $3 million company and you want to find $125,000 to $250,000 worth of equity, there’s not a lot of places to get that," Zuzick said. "Make the assumption for a second that you don’t want to get another bank loan. You want to find a capital infusion and you’re willing to give up some share of ownership in the company. The traditional private equity firms in the Milwaukee area are not focusing their efforts on those smaller companies, they’re going after the companies that have revenues of $10 million and higher."
In many cases, small businesses seeking additional capital are also seeking business advice, Zuzick said, which some investors can provide.
"Not only do they need money, but in some cases they need help making that money work," he said. "They need help with investors who are not only willing to invest their money but are also willing to invest their time as an advisor or as a consultant. I think this is a way that not only can the investor invest in the company, but they can also play a major role in really helping the company evolve and change and get a better return on their investment."
So, far Zuzick said Spire has not completed any small business private equity venture deals.
"I’ve talked to one company about three months ago that was looking for about $125,000 to $250,000 worth of equity and they needed help in the marketing and sales side of things," he said. "They wanted somebody to come in, invest in the company and play an active role in the marketing and sales of the company. I’ve actually presented different people to this company and we’re still working on things trying to find the right fit between what this client wants and what the investors are looking for."
The small business private equity venture from Spire is focused on helping established companies grow and expand, as opposed to helping new companies get started.
"We’re dealing with mature companies or soon-to-be mature companies that need to take it to the next level," Zuzick said. "What pains me is seeing a company with $3 million in sales some place in Waukesha with 25 employees with so much potential and the owner is like, ‘I don’t know what to do. I can’t get money from my bank. I know I’m limited in the things I can do with my company. I can’t take it to the next level.’"
Spire is working on several merger and acquisition deals and brokered the sale of the former Grenadiers restaurant to restauranteur Johnny Vassallo, who has opened Moceans at that location, 747 N. Broadway in downtown Milwaukee.
"I’ll probably close two more deals this year yet," Zuzick said. "And, I have two clients who are looking at acquisitions and I’m selling four companies right now, so I have six deals going on right now."
Zuzick declined to disclose information about the deals he is working on.
Zuzick worked for Milwaukee-based Phoenix Products Company Inc. for 12 years. He worked in several different capacities for the exterior lighting manufacturer, including business development, marketing and forming strategic alliances.
Then in 1999, Zuzick became the vice president of Anderson/Roethle, Inc., a Milwaukee-based boutique merger and acquisitions firm. After working there for about 1-1/2 years, he worked for about three years as a principal in the mergers and acquisitions department with Vrakas/Blum S.C., a Brookfield-based accounting firm.
Zuzick said he can provide his clients with connections to numerous potential investors and advisors he has established relationships with during his career.
"Doing M&A for several years, I’ve built up a network of people that I know, accountants, bankers, attorneys, investors, private equity firms in Wisconsin, in the Midwest, in the United States," he said. "In order for you to be successful, you have to utilize your network. I get probably a phone call a week from somebody who’s looking to buy a businesses. I am constantly active talking to people, talking to potential investors, talking to potential advisors. Every type of deal I get is all from referals. I don’t do a lot of marketing. I don’t have advertisements. It’s all referral based."
In some cases, the investors who participate in a small business private equity venture may be candidates to purchase the firms they have invested in when the business owner wants to sell the company.
"If it happens that way, great," Zuzick said. "If I can establish a value relationship, that’s great. That’s definitely a positive outcome."
Zuzick said his experience in manufacturing also is an asset when trying to assist those types of businesses.
"I think it helps to be able to understand a little bit of what some of these guys are going through," he said. "I mean, I’m able to walk through a manufacturing plant and understand the difficulties of growing a company, dealing with employees, environmental issues, taxes. You name it, I’ve done it."
Location: N57 W24664 Nighthawk Ct., Sussex
owner: Christopher Zuzick
web page: www.spirellc.net
December 10, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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