Editor’s Note: Nebraska Rural Living showcases rural entrepreneurs and the businesses they create. We started featuring entrepreneurs in 2005 after we read a quote by James Clifton, president of Gallup Corporation, who said, “What will make Nebraska a great state is to recognize and appreciate great entrepreneurs and inventors the same way it recognizes and appreciates great quarterbacks. Right now, it’s not even close.”
Following Dr. Clifton’s advice, we have featured 93 entrepreneurs in rural Nebraska, and as we look back, we notice that our rural entrepreneurs are not only staying in business, they also are growing their businesses. In future editions of the Nebraska Rural Living e-magazine, we will follow up with the entrepreneurs we interviewed and photographed five to 10 years ago. We want to know how they are growing their business, their successes and their obstacles. We like imagining the entrepreneurs thriving and blooming like sunflowers on a Nebraska prairie in August, and we at Nebraska Rural Living grow and bloom with them.
We welcome our reader’s suggestions on specific Rural Success stories we should check back with, to find out what is working for them (or not), and future plans. Send your suggestions to bsayers@Nebraskaruralliving.com
Our first retrospective will be Guardian Angels Life Services, Inc. (GALS) based in Kenesaw, Nebraska. We first published the Guardian Angels story in 2011. This month we reach out to Shelley Wieland, the entrepreneur and chief executive officer, to ask what is new at GALS.
Fast Facts on GALS
2002 – GALS, Inc. started with two employees and nine clients
2011 – It had grown to nine employees serving 556 clients
2014 – Needing a larger work space, GALS moved to a former bank building in downtown Kenesaw
2015 – Workforce has grown to 11 employees serving 704 clients
2015 – GALS built a new website
Shelly Wieland learned about financial management services — guardianship, representative payee, conservatorship, and power of attorney — while employed with the Department of Health and Human Services in Lincoln, Nebraska. She worked with people who, due to various disabilities, needed a third party to handle their finances and assure that their rent, food, medical and other necessities were paid.
In 2002, Shelly Wieland and her friend and partner Kristy Kennedy started Guardian Angel Life Services, Inc. in Kenesaw, a town of 800 in south central Nebraska.
“I knew financial management services were needed in Nebraska, and we could supply them in Kenesaw,” Wieland said. “I contacted the Social Security Administration and Health and Human Services Administration to see if these agencies would refer their clients if we started an agency in rural Nebraska.” Their response was affirmative, and Guardian Angels Life Services, Inc. was born.
National recognition for quality services
“We responded to a need, and the need continues to grow,” Wieland said. “We do no advertising. Our client base increases because agency providers have learned that we provide a high-quality service at a reasonable cost. The company is bonded and audited quarterly and achieved national recognition for providing quality financial services and financial guidance to a vulnerable population.”
The company outgrew several office spaces, and in August 2014, the bank in Kenesaw built a new building and donated the old one to the village. The village leases the south side to Guardian Angels, and Wieland said, “It is a wonderful space!”
Technology makes it possible
“In everything we do, we use technology,” Wieland said. “The computer, internet and telephone are indispensable and are like my hands and feet.” Recently, a Kenesaw High School graduate, Devon Gamble, returned from college with a degree in internet technology. He was seeking a career in designing business systems that incorporated internet software for business. While searching for employment, he designed a new website for GALS, Inc. www.guardianangel.biz
“Still to this day I wake up and feel happy to go to work and provide financial management services to our vulnerable clients,” Wieland said, reflecting back on 13 years of work and accomplishment. “Our work is challenging because we deal with people’s money. Our clients are living on a tight budget, and it is difficult to talk with people about their money when many are managing their lives on $703/month, and that includes paying their bills and allowing for a few fun activities.”
Wieland and her colleagues measure success by counting the many clients who are no longer homeless, have reconnected with their family, reestablished themselves in their community and are now a part of their community due to the services provided by GALS.
“The GALS, Inc. staff are skillful communicators, and they communicate with clarity and respect no matter the situation,” Wieland said. “We work well together, learn from each other and support our clients and our team.
“Clients often feel worried, sometimes desperate and angry due to their circumstances,” she said. “Every client is experiencing problems with handling their finances, and they often want to use their limited dollars for alcohol, drugs, and entertainment. They ask for cash, and we send a food voucher for $15, and they are not happy.”
GALS thrives, and because of recommendations and national recognition, its services are in demand. Wieland and staff place personal service and quality above increasing numbers of clients.
“We are asked to take on more clients, and more clients mean hiring additional staff,” Wieland said. “We feel hesitant to increase the client numbers at this time because the quality of our service is rated highly, and we don’t want to overload the staff. At this time we feel satisfied with the size of GALS, Inc. and are considering expanding, although not in the immediate future.”