Small Business Success Story: From Being Laid Off to Starting a Brand New Company

Kansas City District Office  - May 2019

u s small business administration

Small Business Success Story: From Being Laid Off to Starting a Brand New Company


Blue Springs, MO based Midwest Comfort Homes (MCH) LLC is in the insurance restoration business. The beginning ideas of MCH came from the founder and CEO Travis Thonen’s personal tragedy leading his burning desire to make a difference in an industry that is “saturated with corrupt companies seeking the bottom line and not a customer's best interest, the repair of their "heart" (home or business)”. After a potential customer has a tragic loss such as a flood, sewage backup, sump pump failure, hail damaged roof or even worse a fire, they are in a place of extreme vulnerability. This is when the sharks of the industry sneak in and take advantage of the customer. Midwest Comfort Home's approach to the industry is to educate and create a bond with their customers so that they can see the clear difference between MCH and other restoration companies. MCH also sets itself aside from the competition by negotiating on the clients' behalf and not their insurance companies. MCH teams of former adjusters work vigorously to make certain every detail of their clients' home or business is put back to its original condition, no matter how many hours it takes. This in itself is unheard of in the industry and is yet another clear reason that with a little compassion and shared vulnerability MCH sets itself apart from the sea of unscrupulous companies.

Midwest Comfort Homes has been through many ups and downs over the last eight years in business. In late 2009 Mr. Thonen was laid off from a local union in Kansas City and with a new son and home. It was important that he not simply follow the trend and collect unemployment. In February of 2010 Midwest Comfort Homes was born. During this time, The Great Recession was still in full swing and entering into a business during the largest recorded recession since 1929 was not an easily done task. Simply setting itself apart by caring for its soon to be customers would not be enough. Mr. Thonen had to step out and strive for success over all others. Meeting with industry leaders at the time, work came easily as the team at Midwest Comfort Homes had the craftsmanship. The first large obstacle came after the first year in business when at the time the largest single client signed with Midwest Comfort Homes for a remodeling project. After almost one year under construction the project came to its completion, Mr. Thonen soon found out that the owners had decided that they could not afford the home any longer and they had moved to let the home foreclose. MCH’s first large "lesson was learned", one must have a solid contract and scope of work with every customer no matter what size the project is. Slowly pulling itself up by the boot straps MCH came upon its next challenge during its growth over the next few years. In July of 2015 Mr. Thonen and his wife decided it was time for her to step out of her 10 years career in logistics and run operations for Midwest Comfort Homes. After about 6 months setting up processes the second large "lesson was learned". Mr. Thonen should stick to what he was good at and work on the business and not in it.

Mr. Thonen received a great deal of counseling help from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Kansas City District Office and its resource partners, namely Missouri Small Business Development Center (MO SBDC) to address his challenges in business.  Being selected for Scale Up and other Kaufman programs have opened doors to SBA classes and staff that Mr. Thonen would have never had access to before.  The peer to peer relationships in the classes as well as the continuing coaching is a life saver monthly.  One of Mr. Thonen’s most grateful moments came after his graduation in Scale Up when one of the vendors during the class evaluated one end of his business and helped him see that one side of his company was dragging down the expansion on another.  After a great deal of work with the SBA team, Mr. Thonen closed half of the company and focused solely on insurance restoration. “Now with 330% in growth (from 2017 to 2018), I owe a lot of my growth to the team at the SBA” says Mr. Thonen.

With the growth last year and continued coaching, MCH was able to open its doors as a mitigation company in January of 2019.  MCH now possess the equipment and team to corner both sides of the restoration market, while being able to provide their normal customer hands on dedication that no other restoration company can provide.  With a great deal of work these next few years with the SBA, MCH plans to franchise as well.