Kelly Meyers always had a knack for building and fixing things. In 1998, he started working part-time for his father, owner of Hays Fire and Rescue Sales & Service, by helping him in the shop.
When he heard that his father was interested in selling the business in 2009, he and his wife DeAnn purchased the business to keep it in the family.
Hays Fire and Rescue Sales & Service, LLC., has been building fire apparatus and equipment for fire and rescue departments since 1974. “We build pumper trucks, aerials, brush trucks, and rescue squad vehicles for cities and towns throughout Kansas”, said Kelly.
Within a year of running the business, Kelly knew the business had outgrown its facility and he needed a bigger building to accommodate the manufacturing process. That's when Kelly contacted Ron Newman, at the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at Fort Hays State University, for guidance.
“The team at KSBDC provided good information and helped me refine my business plan so I could approach a bank for a loan to finance the land purchase and building construction,” said Kelly. During the planning process, Kelly found an available lot just outside of Hays that could accommodate the building. “Since we don’t have a lot of walk-in business, the location of the new property wasn’t the primary factor”, said Kelly.
The new facility was designed to make the manufacturing process more efficient. Kelly believes the new building allows his crew to manufacture the vehicles in half the time it took at the original facility. Each fire or rescue vehicle is built to the specifications of the buyer, so they seldom build two alike.
As the business has grown, Kelly is thinking of hiring more employees in the shop. They started with four shop employees and two salespeople, and now he may hire a few more. “My employees take a lot of pride in the work they do”, said Kelly. He considers his employees as the company’s number one asset.
Kelly and DeAnn Meyers appreciate the Hays community, and have supported their local high schools. Hays Fire and Rescue Sales & Service contributes materials to the shop classes. They have also had college students intern at the shop.
When asked if he had any advice for a business owner thinking of expanding their business, Kelly highly recommended they reach out to the KSBDC for assistance. Kelly said, “Ask a lot of questions and get ahead of the ball before making important decisions.”
Marie Kessler started her quilting business, Kessler Kreations, out of her home in 2004. "People would bring me their quilting projects, the top and back, and I would sew them together with the batting in between using my machine," said Marie. Marie’s home was in a rural area, so people would get lost trying to find her house. Kessler Kreations needed to be in a place that people could easily find. So, in 2005 she rented about 600 square feet of storefront space from a friend who owned a gift shop in Hillsboro. The fixed hours and location in town helped grow her customer base. She worked the business part time until 2007. The increase in the workload allowed her to quit her full time job and devote all her time to her growing business. In 2010, she needed more space and moved into a 1,500 square foot location. Within 10 months, she was outgrowing the space. The local fabric shop owner was retiring and selling her business. Marie wanted to acquire their fabric inventory and displays. “The closest fabric shops were 25 miles away in Newton and McPherson, so the decision was an easy one”, said Marie.
In 2011, she contacted Clint Seibel, Director of Hillsboro Development Corporation, who helped create a business plan and put her in contact with the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at Emporia State University and Butler Community College KSBDC. Clint Siebel was also aware of a larger building that was available in Hillsboro. He told Marie about an old furniture store that occupied three store fronts in the same building. The previous owner had cut through the interior walls to create 10,000 square feet of space, which provided enough room for Kessler Kreations to occupy 6,000 square feet, and rent out the rest.
The team at KSBDC helped Marie solidify her financial projections and create a new marketing plan. They even provided a QuickBooks advisor to help keep her records in order.
“I had no clue what paperwork the bank would need to approve a loan, and the people at the KSBDC and the South Central Kansas Economic Development District (SCKED) helped by walking me through the loan paperwork process,” said Marie. With their assistance, Marie’s dream of expanding to the new location came true when the loan was secured to purchase and remodel the property. On August 20, 2011, the doors opened for business!
Kessler Kreations rented the excess space in the shop to a full service flower shop and to various consignment vendors that offered a variety of products that were complementary to their quilts and supplies. “We have vendors who sell antiques, collectibles, jewelry, used books, and one who makes pot holders and aprons,” explained Marie.
As the quilting hobby has grown in popularity, so has Kessler Kreations. In July 2013, Marie purchased a new computerized quilting machine to help her keep-up with demand. The addition of the new machine increases Kessler’s output to two quilts per day. Doubling the output of her manual quilting machine. Her increased business has also allowed her to hire a new full-time and one part-time employee.
Marie’s advice to other start-up business owners is “to reach out and contact the KSBDC office in your area. They offer the advice and assistance to help you take your business to the next level!”
As early as age of 14, Steve Heiden dreamed of starting his own gaming business. In 2012, he put his ideas on paper and placed third in the annual Shocker Business Plan Competition at Wichita State University. When he and his partners, Terrence Abbott and Adam Haselwood, consolidated the funds from investors and their personal finances, they still needed more to fill the gap. Steve decided an SBA-guaranteed loan was the best option available, so with the help of his banker, a loan was obtained, and his dream became a reality.
BattleStations Gaming, Inc. is a pay-to-play facility where customers or “gamers” can play more games than they could ever hope to buy, on equipment superior to most home set-ups. Gamers can walk-in and compete against their friends or anyone else at the store interested in playing . BattleStations offers snacks, drinks, and birthday party packages too. Customers can try a new game before buying it, trade-in used games, or buy game software and equipment. They are quick to meet their customers’ needs and value the ability to try new things with the business.
Since opening in July of 2012, the business has attracted over 2,400 customers…enough to move ahead with adding a west-side location. BattleStations created 9 new jobs in Wichita and plan to add another 5-8 employees once the new store is up and running.
These entrepreneurs have found success in a niche market catering to gamers by responding to customer feedback and taking care of their team members. BattleStations has also found a way to give back to the community by hosting ‘lock-in’ events to raise money for local charities. In less than one year of opening its doors, the business has donated 3% of its revenues to local causes. CEO, Steve Heiden, personally benefitted from one charitable event when he met his now fiancé!
Steve says the SBA guaranteed loan is what filled the funding gap to start the business. He had established investors early on, but still needing financing. With the help of an experienced lender and the SBA, all the financing needed to open the doors were realized.
BattleStations is located near Central and Greenwich at 11330 East Central in Wichita. Their new location is on track to open in July of this year on the West Side at 21st Street and Ridge Road.