When you find an untapped niche, a hobby can quickly grow into a profitable enterprise. That’s what owner Nicki Pierce learned when she created Hooked on Ornaments. The company sells Hallmark ornaments on the secondary market through its e-commerce site. Hooked on Ornaments specializes in discontinued, retired and collectible ornaments.
Ms. Pierce began her enterprise as a home-based business. However, due to her hard work, rapid growth ensued and she decided to move into a commercial space to accommodate her ever enlarging stock. As the company’s growth continued, Ms. Pierce purchased her own building. Hooked on Ornaments now occupies a 9,000 square foot building which includes an office, the warehouse and a shipping facility.
As a savvy e-commerce business owner, Ms. Pierce strives to keep up with market and technology changes.
“Always be looking for a better, more customer-friendly, and profitable way to do things,” said Ms. Pierce. This is especially important for an e-commerce business, as things change very quickly.”
It was the challenge of an ever-evolving market that led Ms. Pierce to the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at Johnson County Community College seeking the advice and counsel of the professional staff. She very much values the time she spends working with her KSBDC consultant, John Addessi.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the United States and its territories. SBDCs are hosted by leading universities and state economic development agencies, and funded in part through a partnership with SBA. SBDC consultants provide small business owners a variety of free business consulting and low-cost training services.
“It’s really important to have outside reviews and consultants to take a fresh and different look,” says Ms. Pierce. “John does that for me.”
Over time, the KSBDC has worked with Ms. Pierce on improving her website by providing her with valuable tips that assist getting Hooked on Ornaments to the top of organic search engine results, which is critical to any internet business.
“The SBDC advice very much lessened the huge expense of pay-per-click advertising that Hooked on Ornaments once endured,” says Ms. Pierce.
No matter how large her company grows, Nicki Pierce continues to follow the sound practice of doing business by the “old fashioned Golden Rule” -- providing quality merchandise, fast delivery and reasonable pricing.
“We treat our customers the way we want to be treated,” said Ms. Pierce.
Visit Hooked on Ornaments at www.hookedonhallmark.com.
P/Strada, is a woman veteran-owned business, which began operating in 2001, that specializes in structure and processes which assist organizations and individuals in achieving higher potential and greater success in their current environment. Teaching people and organizations to optimize their existing skill base - before they undertake organizational development processes such as training and personnel changes is P/Strada’s philosophy for success.
“Right now, especially in today’s difficult economy, we are teaching companies to embrace their current employees,” Patrice W. Manuel, owner and Executive Director of P/Strada explained. “Everything used to be about ROI, but it’s really about the value someone brings to the table. We teach companies how to maximize the people they have instead of just getting new people.”
Patrice Manuel is a retired military officer with over 20 years’ experience in project management and organizational development. Ms. Manuel is a certified Project Management Professional with the Project Management Institute, holds an undergraduate degree in Chemistry, a Master’s degree in Science Administration and is currently ABD for a Ph.D. in Organizational Management and Leadership Development.
Back in 2001, Ms. Manuel, a single mother at the time, started her business in her home, in a basement office by herself and with only a concept of the business she wanted to open. She faced many challenges as she started, including using her personal finances to fund her dream.
“It was difficult trying to balance the time requirements of starting a new business with the time needed to raise my child”, said Ms. Manuel. “As a single employee, I started networking and marketing my company. The lesson that I learned was if you have a dream, pursue it. The reality is it takes work and time to get your company off the ground.”
As opportunities presented themselves, Ms. Manuel has taken her company into many areas. Telecommunications is one of P/Strada’s newest specialties, providing design, implementation and testing services. P/Strada also provides acquisition management, from large-volume furniture purchases and other commodities as well as staff augmentation, primarily for various government agencies (i.e., Homeland Security, Army, GSA, etc.).
P/Strada is a recent graduate of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 8(a) Business Development program. Ms. Manuel credits much of her company’s success to the opportunities the 8(a) program afforded her. While a client in the 8(a) program, Ms. Manuel obtained 33 contracts, totaling over $17,000,000 in contract support.
“It is important to certify your business based on social economic status. It may be the determining factor in the selection process for winning a contract. And you have to be qualified and capable of performing,” said Ms. Manuel.
P/Strada and Ms. Manuel are always willing to help new business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. She routinely speaks to small business owners about both the benefits of SBA programs and services as well about starting and operating your own business. And she finds the time to help her fellow veterans by participating in the SBA Boot-to-Business program at military installations. She enjoys sharing her experiences and encouraging the dreams of veterans looking to join the business community as owners. She continues to professionally grow and to participate in outreach to the general business community as well. Ms. Manuel has recently co-written a book with two highly acclaimed professionals, Steve Ervin and William McVey, “Talking Like Leaders, Communication in the Workplace,” a book that is designed to help communication between management and employees.
Murphy Farm and Lawn – a John Deere dealership
Anderson, Mo…Darren and Debbie Murphy worked as employees of the John Deere Company for many years. After several transfers and moves they decided to open their own business. During this time, John Deere designated certain locations across the country where they wanted representation. Anderson, Missouri was located in one of those designated areas and Darren and Debbie took advantage of the opportunity.
Murphy Farm & Lawn, a John Deere dealership, opened their doors in April of 2006 after receiving a 504 loan from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA’s 504 loan program provides financing for major fixed assets such as equipment or real estate.
“I thought the SBA loan process was a daunting task until I looked through it and realized it wasn’t that bad. RMI was extremely helpful in working through the loan process. This loan afforded me the opportunity to open the business, otherwise it wouldn’t happen,” said Mr. Murphy. “I was just a working “Joe” and just didn’t have the money to open a business of this magnitude.”
Murphy Farm & Lawn started with six employees. Under Darren and Debbie’s management, the company currently has 16 employees.
“We started from ground zero to build this company,” said Mr. Murphy. We used the loan proceeds to purchase land and buy a building.”
Their current facility is a state-of-the-art John Deere dealership offering equipment, service and parts. Murphy Farm and Lawn also sells John Deere merchandise and toys. The dealership is located at 700 Highway 71 West Outer Road in Anderson, Missouri. Their parts department sells not only parts for John Deere equipment, but also for various other makes and models. In 2008 to expand their parts department, Murphy Farm & Lawn began selling and servicing STIHL equipment and products. Their service department will repair equipment in their shop as well as at the customer’s location.
Murphy Farm & Lawn continues to grow at a rate of 10% per year. They offer products and services to meet the diverse needs of their customers.
“Our biggest satisfaction is seeing our customers grow because of the products and services we have provided to their business,” stated Mr. Murphy.
Besides being active in their church, the Murphy Family supports the Shriners Children’s Hospital and their local school district and college by providing time, money and equipment.
“We give not to get our name out front but to give back and help the community,” said Mr. Murphy. “We are fortunate to have the money to share.”
Mr. Murphy offers this advice to new entrepreneurs, “There is no substitution for cash. We contribute our success during the economic downturn to being well capitalized and having great financing. Also, focus on your customers and always provide the best service.”