Force Multiplier: (Department of Defense definition) A capability that, when added to and employed by a combat force, significantly increases the combat potential of that force and thus enhances the probability of successful mission accomplishment; or (U.S. Small Business Administration definition) DreamHammer.
Located in Santa Monica, California, DreamHammer was cofounded in 2000 by CEO Nelson Paez - originally as a high-tech security services company. The SBA 8(a) software development firm used its 8(a) status along with a SBA $50K line-of-credit and $100K SBA loan through Wells Fargo to get started during the early stages of product development. DreamHammer also used the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program and SBA’s Capital Programs to pivot from the private sector to the public sector where they also reinvested their youthful profits into building a product that was badly needed by the U.S. military.
What DreamHammer ultimately created was a universal control system for unmanned vehicles called Ballista that increases a war fighter’s combat and non-combat potential while controlling unmanned vehicles. Through Ballista, DreamHammer is on its way to solving one of the U.S. military’s long-held problems of making their unmanned vehicles, typically unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), accessible to multiple users while also allowing them to be controlled by frontline personnel. DreamHammer has the attention of the U.S. military, so much so that they have a contract backlog of $70 million and in 2008 had annual revenues of $9.9 million.
“[Ballista] makes things simple and scaleable,” said Paez - by empowering a single operator to control multiple ground, sea and air vehicles while simultaneously utilizing additional command and control functions. “It now takes four or five people to operate one unmanned Global Hawk…that’s more than it takes to fly a manned aircraft. We need a simple, easy-to-use interface that focuses the operator’s energy on the mission, not the vehicle.”
With the unmanned vehicle industry expected to more than double from about $4.9 billion in 2010 to more than $11.5 billion in 2019 (estimate from the Teal Group) and with U.S. military a key driver within this industry - it’s no surprise that DreamHammer has established itself in this rapidly expanding market.
Fort, a workshop/furniture reseller and gallery, is a journey as much as a destination when looking to acquire or trade furniture. Jacqueline Sharp, owner and founder of Fort has crafted an eco-friendly business model that gives a new life and new home to striking and hand-crafted furniture pieces.
Sharp, who studied art/design at the University of Iowa, started Fort in February 2011 with the idea to lighten landfills while preserving some great pieces. “Many of our pieces are made from scrap and reclaimed materials in addition to well-curated vintage pieces,” said Sharp.
Sharp had the core of her business plan in place in 2010, unfortunately her business partner backed out causing her serious concerns. She researched and walked into the local Women’s Business Center. “Honestly, I would not have found the courage or strength to start Fort without the help of the WBC,” said Sharp. “I didn’t know where to start on a business plan or anything about projections.” The meeting introduced her to Marsel Watts the program director of the WBC hosted by Valley Economic Development Center. Sharp had found an ally in growing her business and taking it to the next level.
“Jacqueline was a very quick study when it came to learning about advanced marketing techniques, financing and the benefits of social media,” said Watts. “We’ve been working together now for 17 months and I’ve seen tremendous progress. Plus, Jacqueline has been approved for VEDC financing, so when she’s ready she’ll have her business plan as a guide as well as financing.”
Sharp’s unique and attentive business model has guided her to early success. “The concept is that you can build your own fort by surrounding yourself with pieces you love to come home to,” said Sharp. She looks for alluring pieces that unexpectedly fit together to produce an elevated effect. In addition to Fort website fortgoods.com, the showroom is open to the public by appointment. Fort also holds regular workshops in the showroom to help customers learn how make their own home furnishings.
“Incredible possibilities have opened up for my business,” said Sharp. “I started the business thinking if I could make ends meet doing what I love that I would be happy. The more I’m around other small business owners through the WBC, the more I realize that Fort’s potential doesn’t stop there.”
Who says that getting a MRI scan can’t be relaxing, almost spa like? When walking into Glenoaks Imaging Professionals medical facility in Glendale, California one gets the feeling he or she will be treated well. The smell of fragrant flowers and a hint of freshly brewed coffee fills the air. Patients are offered tea or coffee and sit in stylish chairs within the naturally-lit waiting room with floor-to-ceiling windows.
All three co-owners, a husband and wife team and their long-time friend, met in college and had the dream of starting a business in the community they grew up in. After college Ashley and Andre Shakhbandaryan and Rubik Khosrovyan worked for established companies and gained industry expertise. But in 2010, they struck out on their own and assembled a team of trusted family and friends to staff their office. “Andre and I dreamed of having our own place ever since we met,” said Ashley. “Our biggest priority is to help our community with quality healthcare and educate them as well. Every patient who walks through our doors is treated with the outmost respect regardless of what type of physical condition they are in and type of insurance they have."
Looking at the attentive pace of the facility, it’s hard to believe that the co-owners were turned down 19 times for a loan to help finance their start-up. In August, 2011, through perseverance in making their dream a reality and from some help by the U.S. Small Business Administration and Pacific Mercantile Bank their doors opened to the public for the first time. Since day one, Glenoaks Imaging Professionals has provided top-notch medical services such as MRI scans, bone-density test screening and ultrasound-based diagnostic medical imaging to its growing clientele. These scans are now standard tools and commonly performed procedures because they allow doctors to see diseases that, in the past, could only be found with more invasive procedures.
Rubik said, “Our imaging center defers from other imaging centers in the area with our professional staff, knowledge about the radiology profession, image quality and most importantly the rapid turn-around time for our reports.”
Utilizing a $200,000 SBA 7(a) loan from Pacific Mercantile Bank, Andre, Ashley and Rubik were able to purchase a MRI scanner, which among other uses is a powerful tool for detecting, diagnosing and treating cancer, and is vital to their medical imaging business. Suwanna Chan, senior vice president at Pacific Mercantile Bank was the lender who recognized Andre, Ashley and Rubik’s commitment to their dream. She also recognized they were a solid start-up and investment opportunity for her bank and the SBA loan program.
The owners also wanted to make their facility a teaching facility to give back to the community. The facility was recently accredited by California State University, Northridge and West Coast Ultrasound Institute to provide a learning environment and clinical instruction for student interns to gain on-the-job training with experienced technologists. Ashley said, “We are a teaching facility; both Andre and Rubik are clinical instructors who care about their students and profession.”
Andre said, “I think what will separate us from our competitors and even most of the hospital based imaging centers is the type of studies that we will be performing. We will be specializing in all sports imaging, MRI vascular studies and spectroscopy."