Robert Mock knows how to turn lemons into lemonade. He suddenly found himself out of work as the service manager for Palmer Motor Sales, a business that had been operation since 1912, making it the oldest Ford dealership. When the full impact of the recession hit Chelsea, a bedroom community of Ann Arbor in October of 2009, Palmer Motor Sales closed its doors due to poor auto sales.
What seemed like another closed business on Main Street, USA actually became a dream come true for Mock. He decided to buy the building and start his own company, and entered into an agreement with the owner of the building to lease the property. Thus began Palmer Auto Service, LLC. Mock knew the business would be successful because during difficult economic times, people are more likely to repair their existing vehicle rather than purchase a new one. The company is a car and light truck service center which offers maintenance and repair of both foreign and domestic vehicles. The shop is equipped with a fully computerized alignment rack that allows the staff to work more efficiently.
Mock was able to finance the purchase of the building, located in downtown Chelsea, with the help of Chelsea State Bank and the SBA 504 Loan Program. The Michigan Certified Development Corporation provided $346,000 under the SBA 504 Loan Program and Chelsea State Bank financed the remaining amount for a total of $975,000. Fifteen jobs were created and Robert Mock continues the legacy of the original Palmer Motor Sales.
Mothers play a vital role in the life of their children, but what is a mother to do when she can’t take away her own child’s pain and discomfort caused by wearing a back brace? For one Mid-Michigan mother, nothing short than developing an undergarment bodysuit for her child who was born with scoliosis!
In early 2008, Tina Beauvais’ then six-year old daughter was diagnosed with a 25 degree curvature of her spine from the effects of scoliosis and in just a few short months her daughter’s curve increased to 45 degrees and required the full-time use of a Spinecor brace. The brace was bulky, uncomfortable, and chaffed her daughter’s delicate skin. It also made it impossible for the young girl to go the restroom without assistance.
“I knew with my engineering/manufacturing background there must be something I can do for her and others who have to wear similar braces,” said Beauvais. Shortly after, she developed her first undergarment bodysuit for protect girls. When her son was diagnosed in 2009 with the same disease, she developed a male version of the bodysuit.
Beauvais began promoting her undergarment bodysuit online via her family blog – Scoliosis Family Adventures, while securing a provisional patent on the undergarment. Embraced in Comfort, LLC was born!
One of her first calls was to the SBA funded Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center where she began working one-on-one with their business consultants and attending training workshops. She also participated in their 9-week long business planning program – FastTrac® NewVenture™. “Working with the MI-SBTDC gave me the extra confidence I needed to overcome the hurdles of business planning and launching a business,” said Beauvais.
Beauvais has come a long way since she began making her undergarment bodysuits in the corner of a spare room in her family’s home. She now has an official home office with production space, hired employees, expanded her product line, served as a guest speaker at the Great Lakes Bay Region SBA Small Business Outreach Tour and, most recently, received notice that her patent on the structure of the bodysuits has been approved and published.
“It has been such an amazing journey working with Tina and watching a concept grow into a business that can serve others as well,” said Kris McArdle, MI-SBTDC Certified Business Consultant. “She is a great example of an entrepreneurial mother as she continues to find the best practices for improving her product line, educating others about scoliosis treatments, and managing her business.”
When Tony Carusso walked into a Camp Bow Wow franchise in 2007, he knew his life was about to change. The leasing company he worked for was closing and Tony was contemplating his next move. “When I saw happy dogs playing side by side, I just felt that I belonged in this business,” said Carusso. Only 29 when he started, Carusso says, “It was the best move of my life.”
Armed with a cash bonus, retirement funds, and the determination to succeed, Carusso went looking for a bank loan to help him purchase his own franchise. As the recession deepened and credit tightened in 2007, Carusso worried whether he’d be able to get a loan. But the self-proclaimed numbers geek put together a thorough business plan with financial projections that impressed the bank.
The company received an SBA 504 loan for $413,000 and an SBA guaranteed loan for $183,200. “The process was easy and the SBA did a great job,” said Carusso.
The Colorado-based franchise was the perfect match for Carusso, who is a strong proponent of the all-day play concept that sets the company apart. The opportunity to own Camp Bow Wow allows Carusso to combine his passion for dogs and good business sense. And it has given him the chance to work with dog shelters and animal adoption societies and give back to his community.
As he looks to expand his business, he reflects on where he’s been over the last five years. “I’ve met so many people because of this business. I’ve built relationships. This place has become like a family. Thanks to the SBA, I’m living my passion.”