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.
Georgia Small Business Person of the Year 2013
CaraVita - Purpose Driven Organization
Beth Cayce, Georgia Small Business Person of the Year 2013, is the founder and CEO of CaraVita Home Care, a private duty homecare agency serving the Metro Atlanta area since 1998. Beth has spent a lifetime in service of those most in need, dedicating her professional career to seniors in the local community, and building sustainable programs for the less fortunate a world away.
CaraVita has provided in-home personal care services to over 16,000 seniors in the Metro Atlanta area for fifteen years. Offering a unique approach to care, CaraVita utilizes a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals to provide care to seniors in their homes. Cutting edge and innovative, CaraVita also offers a one of a kind Caregiver Academy for family members to learn the necessary homecare skills. The company recently launched the Virtual Dementia Tour®, an experiential “tour” that guides participants through daily life with the symptoms of dementia. The Caregiver Academy and training tours promote awareness and are provided to the community at no cost. Through all of these endeavors, the mission of CaraVita is to help seniors, wherever they are in the caregiving process, to remain as independent in their homes as long as possible.
Cayce’s approach is simple: Provide the very best in care for families and loved ones. To achieve the goal, CaraVita does things a bit differently. Rather than provide a one-time consultation for new clients, CaraVita builds comprehensive and ongoing care plans using a broadly experienced team of healthcare professionals, each with their own expertise to ensure that aging loved ones can age gracefully in place.
Beyond providing in-home care, Beth notes that “CaraVita is a community business; we help families stay together, moms and dads to remain at home, and children of aging loved ones to rest easy. We do everything we can to make our expertise available to the community, beyond providing care itself.” The company showcases the area’s only, state of the art, “smart house,” a home equipped with a breadth of technology and equipment that allows seniors to remain independent longer.
Back in 1998, CaraVita began with three full-time employees and ten independent contractors. In the interim, the company has converted contractors to employees and now has nearly 200 per diem and full-time employees.
“We’ve recently received a number of wonderful honors for our service to seniors, which is so great, because we are still essentially a small business,” said Cayce. “We rely on community, word of mouth, and reputation to keep our doors open, and provide the servant leadership that our clients need. The Georgia Small Business Person of the Year award has been a tremendous honor, and I’m grateful for the Small Business Administration’s dedication to companies like mine. The SBA is a wonderful resource for businesses, a place to connect with likeminded organizations and business leaders.”
CaraVita was licensed by the state of Georgia in 2012 to maintain an on-site Certified Nursing Assistant School for the training of professional nursing assistants. The school serves as a training facility for CaraVita’s staff, as well as other nursing assistants, in meeting their professional development requirements.
Like most small businesses, CaraVita was adversely impacted by the recent recession. Under Beth’s leadership, she decisively reduced management salaries but not those of the therapists, decided against rate increases, and implemented technological changes to improve efficiencies. The result was a leaner post-recession company poised for growth.
In addition to leading the way as a woman in business entrepreneur, Beth also understands what it means to serve. She is a firm believer in giving back to the local community where she has served as president and currently serving on the board of the Georgia Assisted Living Federation (Georgia-ALFA). In addition, she is the founder of “Care to Learn,” chairman of the Global Missions Committee at Roswell United Methodist Church, and provides services through CaraVita to Second Wind’s Dream Virtual Dementia program.
Beth is the chairman of Georgia-ALFA legislative and regulatory committee and as such was instrumental in helping to pass Georgia’s Aging in Place and Proxy Caregiver legislation, allowing certain health maintenance and medication administration functions to be provided by certified nursing assistants and reducing the cost of care to families.
There are few people in the world like Beth Cayce. She has built a leading homecare agency in the Atlanta area. Every day, scores of seniors rely to Beth and her team to provide the loving service that keeps them happy, healthy and at home. “Beth runs a purpose-driven organization, one that passionately sees to the needs of people who require in-home care. And she owns a profitable business where profits happen to take a back seat to purpose,” Ted Beveridge, Business Consultant, Georgia State University, Small Business Development Center.
Beth is more than a healthcare leader, more than a CEO, more than the mother of two. She is a global change agent; a leader whose lasting impact both at home and abroad touches the lives of a countless many.