J.C. Egnew saw a need and a great opportunity when he co-founded Outdoor Venture in 1972 in Stearns, Kentucky. Stearns, located in McCreary County, is one of the poorest counties in the United States. About 65% of the land in the county is owned by the United States Government, leaving very little property and land available to develop industrially or agriculturally or for the community to grow economically. As the founder of a startup company in a community with no manufacturing history, Egnew was successful in building a capable management team, using primarily local residents, and that management team was able to manufacture a new product, find and sell new customers and run the overall business activities.
J.C. Egnew, a former NASA rocket test engineer in the Apollo Program, currently serves as Chairman and President of Outdoor Venture Corporation. J.C. Egnew is responsible for the startup of 4 manufacturing facilities and the creation of more than 1,000 jobs in this area.
Outdoor Venture has used the SBA programs and services to help build a very successful business. Outdoor Venture grew from 25 employees by the end of its first year to over 180 employees today. The company received an SBA loan of $140,000 in 1976 to build a manufacturing facility; the loan was paid in full in 1996. The company is HUBZone certified and has had success bidding and winning HUBZone set-aside contracts as well as other unrestricted contracts.
Since 1972, Outdoor Venture, along with its subsidiaries, has manufactured and supplied a wide range of products, including tents, both commercial (family and recreational) and military, sleeping bags, and hunting products. The company was also one of the first suppliers of automotive air bags in the United States. That business was started in 1988 and sold in 1992.
Today, Outdoor Venture remains both a prime supplier and subcontractor of military tent systems, components and accessories for the United States Department of Defense. In addition to the company's extensive experience as a military tentage supplier, the company's management team successfully started an automotive air bag manufacturing business in 1988 and successfully grew it to a $25 million dollar business before selling the company in 1992. Outdoor Venture's air bag manufacturing business employed 175 persons and produced 25,000 air bags per week. Outdoor Venture's experience as an air bag manufacturer required high-speed precision cutting and sewing of high quality, zero-defect products.
Since 1984, Outdoor Venture delivered more than $260 million dollars worth of military tents on over 140 government contracts. They have received numerous awards for their innovative design changes resulting in thousands of dollars of savings to the United States military tent procurement program.
In May 2004, Outdoor Venture was awarded the Fiscal Year 2003 Contractor Outstanding Value Engineering Achievement Award from the Department of Defense / Defense Logistics Agency at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. for substantial savings in Value Engineering to the U.S. Government.
In addition to being a prime military tent supplier, Outdoor Venture "teams" with other Department of Defense suppliers to offer subcontract manufacturing services. Outdoor Venture's main headquarters is located in a new facility in Stearns, KY. The 55,000 square foot facility was completed in September 2009 and houses the majority of their administrative activities. They also have an 110,000 square foot facility in Pine Knot, Kentucky, only 6 miles from the Stearns facility. The majority of their manufacturing, warehousing and shipping is done from these two facilities. Also, Outdoor Venture has an affiliate company, Shelter-Pro, LLC which was founded in 1992. That company produces and sells Underbrush® hunting apparel to some of the country’s leading retail chains and sporting goods catalogs, such as Walmart, Academy Sports+Outdoors, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cabela’s.
In 2011, Outdoor Venture was recognized as an SBA 100 company. The SBA 100 program recognized 100 companies across that U.S. that had created at least 100 jobs. The company also was recognized as the SBA Kentucky Small Business of the Year. Mr. Egnew, leader of Outdoor Venture since its inception, also served as Director on the Board of the HUBZone Contractors National Council since its foundation about 10 years ago.
Outdoor Venture Corporation, a prime modular military tent manufacturer and supplier to the United States Department of Defense (DOD) since 1984, is an ISO Q9001-2008 Compliant, HUBZone Certified Small Business. Mr. Egnew stated that the firm continues to seek opportunities to leverage its management team’s skills and diverse experience as the low cost manufacturer in the U.S.
About nine years ago, Cathy Stafford had a vision for a new company, Ad-Venture Promotions. At that time, she was a single mother with a young son. She had recently gone through a divorce and was still battling stage 4 colon cancer. Despite these and other challenges, she started a new business in the laundry room of her home, with her son close by her side. She worked harder than she had ever done before, growing the home based business steadily and profitably, despite dealing with many challenging obstacles along the way.
The obstacles she incurred did not get in the way of her vision. She eventually moved the business outside the home and later purchased an office building where the business now resides. An SBA Express loan helped provide her with additional capital necessary for any rapidly-growing business and enabled her to add employees.
Today, Cathy Stafford operates her promotional products business with that same passion and vision. The company now has 15 employees, and her son has grown up in a thriving entrepreneurial environment as the business has grown. Cathy stated, “My greatest strength is the integrity of my team. That is why we are so successful.”
Ms. Stafford describes the business as, “anything with your name on it.” The products that her company provides for marketing purposes range from traditional to non-traditional items, including water bottles, brownies, and cellular ring-tone cards. In fact, the website has 10 major categories of products, including food gifts, bags, headwear, writing instruments, drinkware, desk and office accessories, awards and trophies, calendars, sporting goods and magnets.
During all of this time, Cathy Stafford continued to honor her commitments to church, community and her son. Ms. Stafford recently served as President of the Central Kentucky Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Also, the business is certified by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Along with other achievements, Ms. Stafford was recognized as the 2012 SBA Kentucky Women in Business Champion of the Year for her service and inspiration to other women business owners. Additionally, she serves on the certification review board for WBENC, is a board member of Grace to Ukraine, a ministry to serve orphans, trustee for Crossings Camp and just completed a three-year term as a Trustee on the Endowment Board for Rotary.
In April 2012, the Women’s Business Center of Kentucky held the first women business owners roundtable in Lexington, KY. Ms. Stafford was the featured speaker. In the speech to the attendees of the WBC event, Cathy discussed her challenges in starting and growing her business. She described her life over the past decade and how she rose above so many obstacles to become successful.
Despite the hectic schedule and constant businesses interactions, she felt a sense of isolation, but she stated that “lots of networking helped.” She also said, “I’ve seen things change in the last nine years, and that’s exciting. My personal experience has been good, but the road has been bumpy. I’ve never taken my eyes off the goals, and it’s now paying off.” Her stories about those challenges as a female business owner left many in the audience in tears, and they truly admire her focus, determination and dedication.
As president and CEO of T.E.M. Group, Inc., Tom Masterson has over 30 years of experience in all phases of the electrical industry. T.E.M. is an electric contracting company providing service in engineering, supply and electrical service maintenance of industrial, commercial and institutional facilities. Tom started T.E.M. in 1999 and worked out of his living room with operating capital from his personal savings. The company won its first major contract with UPS in Louisville for $300,000. Opportunities and revenue began to climb, and in two years, four employees grew to 30.
As the business grew, Tom took advantage of a number of U.S. Small Business Administration programs, including 8(a) and HUBZone certifications, and counseling from the Small Business Development Center, and he secured an SBA guaranteed loan. While SBA does not make direct loans to small businesses, the agency does offer a number of financial assistance programs for small businesses that have been specifically designed to meet key financing needs, including debt financing, surety bonds, and equity financing. SBA also works to ensure that federal government contracting opportunities are available to small businesses. The HUBZone and 8(a) certification programs are part of this effort.
T.E.M. was the first 8(a) certified and HUBZone certified business to serve as a subcontractor for the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky. The company quickly earned the respect of the project construction management team by being capable and responsive. Tom and his company exceeded the expectations on the job site and set the standard for future opportunities for small disadvantaged businesses.
Tom took advantage of the management counseling offered by the Kentucky Small Business Development Center network and eventually became a guest speaker for some of their programs. The Kentucky SBDC program is partially funded by a cooperative with SBA. The SBDCs are focused on providing long-term counseling to clients to help them grow successful businesses.
Tom was named the SBA 2009 Kentucky Small Business Person of the Year. While addressing state Small Business Person of the Year award winners during Small Business Week, President Obama mentioned Tom by name in his speech. TEM has 50 employees now and recently moved to a larger location in Louisville. The company also has an office in Lexington, KY and is a graduate of the 8(a) program.