Marlis is an innovator and entrepreneur whose background is primarily in the retail sector. Her first foray into business was in 1985 with Giorgina’s Italian Kitchen, a startup pizzeria on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Always interested in technology, the business plan she submitted to Rainier National Bank was the first SBA small business loan submitted using computer software – Lotus 1,2,3 and Microsoft Word 1.0. Sold after 10 years, Marlis spent another decade opening and operating Emery’s Garden, a six-acre garden center in Lynnwood, Washington.
In January, 2007, Marlis purchased SBI Management Services, Inc. with partner Harriet Burger. She spent three years restructuring and modernizing the company – moving away from the traditional silo business model to a highly systemized platform infrastructure. Website, database management and financial fees to clients were stabilized and SBI’s client associations survived the recession and are flourishing today under stable costs and current social media and infrastructure technologies.
Marlis has tripled the company’s client base, grown revenues by $1,000,000, and the company continues to experience steady year-over-year growth (20-25% growth over the last four years). In 2014 SBI acquired a smaller competitor firm. In 2014 staff grew from 13 to 19, making it the largest company of its kind in Washington State. She has added senior talent with specific backgrounds as association Executive Directors and Board members in order to better provide executive and marketing expertise to SBI’s clients. When Marlis purchased the company in 2007, its clients were primarily local/regional nonprofits, but today SBI competes with national players in the health care, fundraising/development, sciences, education and business sectors. In fact, SBI has added four national accounts in the last two years – beating out several large national association management companies to secure large national contracts.
Marlis will focus more and more of her attention on development of new services and technologies for her clients – she was recently awarded a coveted and hard-to-get SBA loan to be used for capacity building. Staying ahead of her clients’ needs assures the maintenance of long-term relationships and healthy, sustainable nonprofit organizations. Marlis plans to continue growing the business, broadening services and building an even stronger staff for continued innovation in the nonprofit management industry.
Over the past three decades, Marlis has served on a variety of nonprofit boards in the following capacities:
- Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors, 1989-1995
- Seattle Women’s Ensemble, Board of Directors, 1990-1995
- Wintonia Housing Association, Board of Directors, 1990-1992
- 15th Avenue Merchants, President, 1988-1994
- Plant Amnesty, Board of Directors, 2004-2013
- NW Nursery Buyers Association, 1998-2006
- Washington Society of Association Executives, various committees, 2012-present
A little something extra
Marlis reads too many recipes, cooks too many meals, hangs out with her dog too much and loves nothing better than to walk Northwest trails with her dog and family.