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Janet Sowell felt drawn to work with small children since she was 16 years old, and in August of 2004 she started making plans for her own pre-school. She began Giggles and Wiggles with just six employees, a small child learning center, and a background in Elementary Education. Janet had the idea that pre-school age children should be given an education, and not just a safe place to play. She also believed that a full-day pre-school Monday through Friday was not just something to make money, but a way to help children make learning connections. Janet explained, “The more connections a child can make before the age of five, the better, as we lose them each day thereafter.” Janet’s child learning center provides many options for parents of pre-school and school age children. For example, Giggles and Wiggles offers a full day pre-school that runs from 8:30am – 3:30pm, summer programs, and before/after school programs for school age children.
Starting the business did not come without its challenges. One of Janet’s first challenges was obtaining an education in Elementary and Early Childhood. It continues to be a process, but she meets this challenge by remaining committed to meeting her goals and the needs of the community. Giggles and Wiggles soon needed more space, and with the help of two SBA 7(a) loans, she was able to move to a larger facility. She also added four additional workers, employing a total of ten people. Another challenge she experienced was maintaining an adequate staff level, because all new staff must undergo a background check and a TB test which can take up to two to three weeks. Janet met this problem by asking a few of her parents to get the background check and TB test, and serve as substitute staff during transition times. Several parents were willing to do so, and this idea allowed her to have an adequate staff level in the event of staff illness or vacation days. She now is teaching 60 pre-school children and 40 school age children throughout the day.
Starting Giggles and Wiggles was not easy, but Janet said that when new business owners are willing to do their homework they are more likely to succeed. She emphasized that a well thought out business plan is one part of successful business planning. Janet also advised entrepreneurs to thoroughly examine the business that they want to start, and ask themselves if there really is a need for the products or services they plan to offer.
Janet is grateful to the SBA and First Interstate Bank for providing her with access to capital and helping her realize a childhood dream of opening a child learning center. A special thank you also goes out to all the fantastic parents of her Giggles and Wiggles children. Giggles and Wiggles is located in the Sunrise Shopping Center and can be reached at 307-266-1379.
Kevin and Barbara Held are the owners of Twilight on the Erie RV Resort along the Erie Canal in Macedon, New York. With the help of a 504 program loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE Rochester, the women-owned RV Resort will open its doors in June 2014. The new generation recreational resort has over 140 sites and will offer newer trends in camping such as the comforts of home, WIFI, cable television, camp store, snack bar with fire stone brick oven specialties, gunite swimming pool and much more.
No strangers to entrepreneurship, Kevin and Barbara owned and operated Reds Landscaping for 30 years and now have handed over the reins to their son, Tim. Both Kevin and Barbara will work at the resort and have 5 employees with plans to hire another 7 or 8 within the next three years.
What started as a dream had finally become a reality. With the help of SCORE mentors, Kevin and Barbara were guided through the foundational and developmental stages of formulating their business plan, learning new marketing techniques, sales operations and social media. SCORE mentors provide confidential business mentoring services, both in person and online. SCORE hosts seminars and workshops to help small business owners meet their goals and achieve success.
“We learned about SCORE through the SBA website and chose them because of their highly successful people who are mentoring business owners,” said Barbara. “They are extremely knowledgeable and the experience they provided was a tremendous resource, not to mention free.”
After finalizing their business plan, the adventurous duo approached several financial institutions to begin their project and the SBA, New York Business Development Center, Steuben Trust and Wayne County Economic Development Agency stepped up to the plate.
“Kevin and Barbara have been well established business owners for years,” said Pennie Smith, vice president NYBDC. “We looked at the loan as a way to keep two highly productive entrepreneurs in a viable business and as a way to allow growth in our local community of Macedon.”
The Small Business Administration's 504 Loan Program provides small companies in development areas with guarantees for loans for major fixed assets such as land and buildings for economic development. The purpose of 504 loans is to improve the economy of a locality or to assist businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, rural businesses, and other designated types of businesses. The 504 loans are set up to work with Certified Development Companies - nonprofit corporations set up for community development.
The loans have allowed Kevin and Barbara to begin excavation and construction of their 100 acre landscaped resort. Twilight on the Erie RV Resort is conveniently located along the Erie Canal. This location allows them to offer their guests off-site attractions and activities that include go-carting, miniature golf, and shopping. Along the canal side, the resort will host recreational activities such as ladder ball, horse shoes, sitting areas around the water or overlooking the canal. To add, the resort also offers hiking, nature, and biking trails.
Barbara has advice for other small business owners, “you must persevere through the obstacles because there is always a solution. Solving problems, researching the resources, and finding the right contacts will be worth it in the end.”
For more Information on The Twilight on the Erie RV Resort can be found at twilightrv.com. Information on SBA programs and services can be found by visiting the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/ny/buffalo.
1st American Systems and Services was ranked as 155th fastest growing company in the nation by Inc. CEO and President Alpa Shah credits the firm’s fast rise to its participation in U.S. Small Business Administration programs.
“The SBA’s 7j program is one of the best initiatives SBA has undertaken,” says Shah.
The firm is part of SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program , which helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. Section 7(j) refers to the language in the Small Business Act that authorizes SBA to enter into grants, cooperative agreements or contracts, with public or private organizations that can deliver management or technical assistance to eligible individuals and enterprises.
Alpa Shah, CEO and President
From its humble beginnings in 2009 with no government past performance, 1st American today has about 50 employees and successful past performance on more than 25 government contracts. 1st American’s clients include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Interior, National Guard, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and The Pentagon.
Part of 1st American’s success is due to its ability to be a trusted partner to each of its federal government clients. For example, 1st American has been continuously supporting the National Guard since its first small contract in 2009, and has grown to be one its preferred small business partners that they call upon to support multiple aspects of their mission. 1st American was also the only company that received seven of the eight contracts awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help with national standards relating to healthcare Information Exchange, Interoperability, e-Prescribing, Clinical Results Reporting, Quality Reporting, Data Architecture, and Bio-Surveillance. Since 2012, 1st American has supported the FAA Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) initiatives that will transform America’s air traffic control system, reduce traffic delays, increase capacity, and permit controllers to monitor and manage aircraft with greater safety margins. 1st American’s innovative solutions helped train over 15,000 FAA Air Traffic Controllers
The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce awarded 1st American its 2012 Most Innovative Company prize.
Shah credits her SBA Business Opportunity Specialist Lorraine Scott with helping 1st American grow more successful. “Scott sends ‘Tips of Day’ emails to all the business in her portfolio, which provide short but timely and useful information to the business owners,” says Shah. “The topics are varied and range from templates for Mentor-Protégé submissions, the importance of taking the time to write a good marketing plan and follow it, to sending a holiday card that is designed for ‘Your Business’ instead of store bought.” Shah says she reads all of Scott’s emails and benefits from the content, but the best part of the tips in the email format is that they can be read at any time when she is free, usually at 1 a.m. in the morning, after her proposals are sent, employees paid, or the latest fire addressed.
Overall, Shah contributes the success of the firm to being in the 8(a) program, but advises new firms to have realistic expectations before going through the certification process. “Getting an 8(a) certificate does not automatically convert into revenue generation. Hard work, innovation and performance, and always delivering what you promise to the client is the key to ultimate success in Government contracting. SBA and the 8(a) certificate is a valuable resource organizations can leverage to accelerate growth, only if every other ingredient is also present.”