Ethel Taylor didn’t own a dog before she started the Doggie Washerette. “God gave me the vision to figure this all out,” Taylor said of her first stab at small business.
In the early spring of 2011 with the fully completed vision in her mind, Taylor got help from the DC Women’s Business Center, which is funded through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. At the Center, she navigated the startup path, learned to “trim the fat” from her business plan, and prepared solidly for her opening day through projections and strategic planning. Despite being a first-time entrepreneur during a recession, Taylor finished the 7-week course in August of 2011 and opened her business that same month.
“My experience with the DC Women’s Business Center has been extraordinary,” she said. “The support has been outstanding. The information has been enlightening. The encouragement has been far beyond anything I could have imagined, especially with the presence of the members who attended the grand opening of the business. The staff of the DCWBC has truly embraced the vision of the Center, and exemplified as much by their personal commitment in helping me walk through a very challenging process to attain my goals. The hands-on support has made a tremendous difference in my getting to this point.”
“I will be forever grateful to my Councilmember Muriel Bowser for introducing me the DCWBC,” said Taylor. The shop is located on Georgia Avenue in the northwest quadrant of Washington, DC, bordering Silver Spring, MD. Though she didn’t need outside financing due to her frugal saving, she recognized that her business would run smoother if she prepared accurate cash flow projections.
The Doggie Washerette features two self-serve dog wash machines, which Taylor said cost about $18,000 each. They have various settings for different size dogs, and a dryer that Taylor said simulates hanging one’s head out the window—a favorite pastime of most dog breeds. Customers have full use of the facility that includes grooming tables, clippers, cologne, and a single wash with shampoo and conditioner all for $20.
Her marketing efforts enabled her to attract a large crowd for her grand opening. People could now see how she visualized her business―a bright and clean space where pet owners could bathe and groom their dogs. Her pricing schedule ensures that even on slow days that her variable costs are covered, so her next challenge is more marketing, and she’s moving along quickly with a Facebook page where customers can post comments.
She has been featured in many local newspapers, and is receiving 95 percent positive feedback from her social media outlets. She is also forming partnerships with other entrepreneurs in her field, such as Tabitha’s Pet Taxi, a DC van service that is animal-friendly, and MamiBears Pet Care.
As the business grows and changes, so has Taylor. She now has her grooming license and is available to give your pet a haircut. Taylor credits her success so far to the DC Women’s Business Center and SBA. “Even after opening the business, they have remained available to assist me,” she said.
Raul “Danny” Vargas rose from an impoverished childhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn to become a distinguished leader and role model among the businesspeople of his community. Danny served seven years in the U.S. Air Force, including five years in Panama where he supervised airborne reconnaissance missions. After his discharge he returned to school and became the first member of his family to earn a college degree.
He put his degree to work for Raytheon Corporation, playing a key role in expanding their business in the areas of training, operations and intelligence analysis support to the federal government. He spent after six years at Global One, where as Director of Corporate and Carrier sales for the Americas Region (ranging from Canada to Chile) he generated over $140 million in revenue in 1999. After a stint at France Telecom, he went to work at AOL, ultimately serving as their VP for Latin America.
In 2004, while still working at AOL, Danny started his own business, VARCom Solutions. VARCom, a marketing, public relations and management consulting firm based in Herndon, Virginia, is a participant in the SBA Washington Metropolitan Area District’s 8(a) business development program. VARCom’s clients include government contractors, technology/telecom firms, financial institutions, consumer-focused companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.
Danny has proven his leadership in the community as well. He was appointed by the U.S. Congress as a Commissioner on the National Museum of the American Latino Commission and by the Virginia Governor to the Virginia Workforce Council, selected National Co-Chair of the HIMSS Latino initiative (advancing Health IT in the Hispanic community), served as Chairman of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce (the first Hispanic to chair a mainstream chamber in the history of Virginia), and presently serves on the board of directors of Northern Virginia Family Service (a 501(c)(3) focused on empowering families). He often speaks to students at local school assemblies on the importance and rewards of hard work and persistence.
In 2011, Danny Vargas was named SBA Minority Business Champion of the Year for the Washington Metrpolitan Area District and the 5-state SBA Region III. Soon after, VARCom formed Techworx, LLC, an SBA 8a-certfied joint venture between VARCom Solutions and Prototype Productions, Inc. In 2012, Techworx was awarded a $3.5 Million contract by US Army Armaments, Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. The contract will support the development of ARDEC’s next generation Picatinny Optical Detection System (PODS). PODS is a hand-held optical detection system that will enable the warfighter to locate and situate potential threats prior to engagement. The production of the PODS 2.1 prototype systems will improve on previous versions by reducing the size of the units and incorporating new technologies. Under the contract, TechWorx will review the technical data package and identify any issues related to manufacturability and usability. Techworx will also build and deliver five prototype units and 45 production units of the PODS 2.1 system.
Amy Frey’s international trade consulting business, ATC International, Inc., of Silver Spring, Md., began in 1991 with boomerangs. And her business has been booming ever since. Her dream of a career in international trade began as a child when her father would return from foreign trips with a gift of a doll dressed in native attire. But instead of dreaming of a doll house, Frey dreamed of a warehouse.
In college and graduate school Frey studied international business. After graduation, Frey was offered a job in Australia identifying companies to receive government grants and assistance for exporting.
As Frey was preparing to leave Australia in 1990, several companies impressed with her skills suggested she provide consulting services upon her return to the U.S.
That suggestion led Frey to start ATC International. The company began in a small bedroom with a fax machine. “The fax would ring in the middle of the night (which was the middle of the day in Australia) and I would lie awake wondering if I should get up and read it,” Frey said.
Although Frey had an educational background in business and professional experience in exporting, she knew that even the most successful entrepreneur needs assistance. In 2000, Frey turned to SBA’s resource partner SCORE—Counselors to America’s Small Business—for advice. Frey worked with Washington, D.C., chapter counselor Ann Dobbs, a former partner with a supermarket chain, who provided help with employee relations, legal issues, insurance and banking. “Being able to share my concerns and questions with Ann has been enormously valuable,” said Frey.
Frey’s success was recognized in 2004 when she was named the Exporter of the Year for the Washington metropolitan area by the U.S. Business Administration. Today, ATC offers U.S.-based warehousing and business management services that are designed specifically to make doing business in the U.S. easier domestically and internationally. ATC, which has warehouses on both the East and West Coast, distributes a wide variety of consumer products.