From their kitchen to your table, catering to eat-in, 21 ShortStop is serving up southern cooking with a spice of business acumen. One patron says “I really like this place, southern cooking at its best! Nice portions, good selection, flavorful and affordable...yum!” Before the lights go on in the kitchen Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Johnson understand firsthand what it means to have a business plan that they follow just like a recipe.
Mr. Arthur Johnson came to The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Savannah for help with opening 21 ShortStop, a restaurant in Pt. Wentworth, Georgia offering “Southern Cooking with a Touch of Soul”. Mr. Johnson already owned some land on Highway 21 between Savannah and Rincon that he believed would be an excellent location for his restaurant. He needed help developing a business plan and acquiring funding so he could build and open the restaurant on his land. His wife Sandra had extensive experience and would run the restaurant with the assistance of other family members.
The SBDC is a center for the delivery of joint government, academic and private sector services for the benefit of small business and the national welfare. It is committed to the development and productivity of business and the economy in specific geographical regions. “The Savannah SBDC takes great pride in assisting and enhancing the small business sphere, one entrepreneur at a time,” said Kyle Hensel, Area Director.
Consultants at the Savannah SBDC worked with Mr. Johnson to help him determine what it would take to make his dream a reality and to help him overcome obstacles to preparing the site for the construction of the restaurant. “It has been a pleasure working with the Johnson’s in making their dream a reality,” said Connie Edwards, SBDC Consultant. “They both have a big appetite for learning the ropes and leaving no stone unturned to ensure they are business savvy,” said Edwards. Mr. Johnson received advice concerning the start-up process and recordkeeping issues. The SBDC, an expert in following the formula to business success, time and time again, worked with him extensively to help him complete a loan proposal with startup costs and financial projections to present to potential lenders.
Like most entrepreneurs, the Johnson’s needed capital to realize their dreams and implement their business plan. The Johnson’s successfully obtained a SBA 504 loan through the Coastal Area District Development Authority (CADDA) and participating bank BB&T. The SBA 504 loan program can be used to purchase commercial real estate, as well as major machinery and equipment. 21 Shortstop was built and opened in August 2010. “21 Short Stop is an excellent example of how a small business can leverage a number of SBA programs to satisfy their need for hands on technical assistance, mentoring from an experienced entrepreneur and financing to launch the project,” said Terri Denison, District Director, U.S. Small Business Administration.
As the business has grown, the Johnson’s have continued to use the services of the Savannah SBDC, including developing and implementing effective marketing methods and expanding catering services. SBDC consultants also introduced Mr. Johnson to a SCORE counselor with extensive experience in public relations who worked with Mr. Johnson to improve his marketing efforts.
Mr. Johnson again returned to the SBDC to receive assistance with expanding the business to include a mobile food truck through which Mr. Johnson now provides food services at the Port of Savannah. He is currently working on obtaining a second mobile food truck to serve businesses in West Chatham County.
With the assistance of the SBA and The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), success came quickly for Jeffrey Manley and Jusak Bernhard, so fast it made their TailsSpin. They began with developing their business plan, acquiring funding, and opening TailsSpin, a retail pet supply business, in the Historic District of Savannah, Georgia on October 5th, 2007.
Since then, TailsSpin has built a loyal customer base, offering customers quality natural pet foods, a wide selection of pet accessories, and top-notch customer service. The business has grown rapidly, with sales through November 2012 totaling more than 5 times sales in 2008, the business’s first full year. The business now has 24 employees. TailsSpin’s growth led first to a larger location in Midtown Savannah. Then the company expanded by opening a second 3,000 square foot store in Pooler, Georgia in September of 2011. In 2012, TailsSpin was named Macon Mogul in Gateway Macon’s initiative to bring innovative businesses to Macon, Georgia’s downtown. The Macon store opened its doors on November 10, 2012 bringing TailsSpin’s retail space to three stores with a combined 8,000 square feet.
TailsSpin has received local, national and international awards including: Savannah Small Business Chamber 2009 New & Emerging Business; First City Network 2010 Business of the Year; Connect Savannah Best Pet Boutique & Best Pet Supply Store for 2009, 2010, 2011, & 2012; U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2011 Blue Ribbon Small Business; Savannah Small Business Chamber 2011 Small Business of the Year; Savannah Magazine 2012 Best Pet Supply Store; Gateway Macon’s 2012 Macon Mogul Challenge Winner; and Pet Product News International 2012 Outstanding General Pet Store.
TailsSpin thrives by supporting the surrounding communities, which consist of pet rescue agencies, pet welfare organizations, schools, and other non-profit national and local organizations. Through various events and promotions, such as the their Savannah PAWrade, Pet Care and Adoption Fair, Savannah Pet Care Directory and Adoption Packages, TailsSpin averages well over $100,000 in donations to local elementary schools and animal rescue agencies.
In addition, TailsSpin offers four Low-Cost Vaccine Clinics per month for Students, Seniors, Military, and Low-Income individuals at all three retail locations. These clinics are held in conjunction with local veterinarians and the local Humane Society and offer vaccines and micro-chipping. Annually, TailsSpin helps over 2,500 people and their pets. In 2011, TailsSpin was front and center in establishing Savannah’s first city-run dog park.
The economy has been a major challenge for TailsSpin. Jusak and Jeff have met this challenge head-on by focusing on outstanding customer service and the affordability of food for their customers. They have worked to find foods with optimal nutrition and the best pricing in order to provide customers with the best possible foods for their money. They also support and work with local manufacturers and companies to improve the local economy. They believe that with collaboration and cooperation, they can build a strong community network of locals supporting locals, which will ultimately be beneficial for the community at large.
In 2013, TailsSpin started home delivery and e-commerce services, and will expand its product line. The company is also exploring manufacturing its own lines of treats, toys, and pet accessories by working with local artists and entrepreneurs. TailsSpin is developing new events, such as the Woof Woof 5K in November 2013 to support Pet Cancer Awareness. Jusak and Jeff plan to continue TailsSpin’s growth by expanding into new markets and having five locations by 2015.
Georgia Small Business Person of the Year 2013
Heartsong -- Singing for those without a voice.
President Obama’s 2013 Small Business Week Proclamation states that America’s progress has been driven by pioneers who think big, take risks, and work hard. He also notes that when their businesses take off, they fuel an engine of economic growth and job creation that moves America forward. Loretta Emmons of Heartsong Spay Neuter Clinic, Augusta GA, the Georgia Small Business Person of the Year (2nd Runner-up), epitomizes the pioneers President Obama describes.
The culmination of the Emmons’ “thinking big” was the creation of Heartsong Spay Neuter Clinic in 2006. Loretta has long been an animal advocate, dedicated to rescuing and caring for animals, so establishing a low cost high quality spay neuter clinic was no surprise to those who knew her.
As a result of thinking big and until late 2011, due to limited space and staff, Heartsong operated with a waiting list. To meet demand, in 2011 Loretta and Erik Emmons purchased a 4,960 square foot space, formerly operated as a childcare center. The purchase and move to Heartsong’s new location was made possible with an equity investment by the Emmons, assistance from the SBA, Augusta Small Business Development Center, Queensborough Bank and CSRA Business Lending. It is worth noting that, while many small businesses struggled financially during the economic downturn, Heartsong maintained its fiscal health. During which time, the Emmons’ completed building renovations, converted the former childcare center into its new spay neuter clinic and moved to its new space in November 2011. The new space is located on an Augusta, GA major thoroughfare (I-20 and Belair Road), allowing Heartsong to expand services and products.
Heartsong’s new facility not only increased square footage, but business capacity and vision. From a robust pet adoption center to cutting edge surgical suites, to a vibrant retail space, positive revenue growth is a direct result.
The Emmons’ business model has thrived in good and bad economies, and provides an economical, viable and preferred option for the area’s many 501(c)3 rescue and adoption organizations. Georgia law requires that all pets adopted from 501(c)3 organizations be spayed or neutered, but due to reliance on donations, many rescue/adoption organizations have limited funds. Providing organizations a low cost spay/neuter option enables the rescue agencies to serve and save more animals.
Over the years, Loretta’s knowledge of animals, compassion for their well-being and work on their behalf has established her as an animal expert and advocate. It is not uncommon for organizations, such as local news stations, to seek Loretta’s consult to serve as a spokesperson on behalf of animal safety and health issues. Local animal rescue organizations and the public immediately embraced Heartsong and news of the clinic grew quickly, largely through word of mouth. More than 2,200 surgeries were performed in Heartsong’s first year of operation.
Heartsong’s services and products include:
Keeping operational costs under control and operating on margins that are profitable, yet do not “gouge” customers, separates Heartsong from the competition, resulting in a loyal customer base.
An example of the low cost alternative Heartsong provides would be the cost for spaying a female dog. On average, the cost at a traditional clinic can range between $185 to $500, compared to between $65 and $75 at Heartsong. In addition, the existence of a low cost spay/neuter clinic, such as Heartsong, makes spay/neuter affordable for pet owners and more likely they will have their pets sterilized, which reduces pet overpopulation.
Heartsong’s successes have not been without challenges. At times, issues such as staffing, limited space and access to capital had to be addressed. While Loretta has been able to hire capable, compassionate contract staff, the amount of time they could dedicate to Heartsong was limited and restricted surgery hours. As a result, Loretta chose to use a combination of salaried employees, as well as “relief/contract” staff. These changes have included addition of a full time veterinarian, versus contract veterinarian, and created a more stable staffing situation, as well as increased the number of surgery days and reduced wait times.