As an avid art collector and world traveler, Melanie Coleman dedicated many of her travels to finding unique, artisan-made creations. While visiting Alaska with her daughter, Melanie decided to act on her lifelong dream of creating a gallery space in the Kansas City area which showcases the talent of artists who are committed to the purity of their craft. In 2011, Melanie opened TallulahBelle’s LLC, a gallery of wearable art and other fine crafts which feature approximately 75 artists.
With more than 25 years of corporate finance experience, Melanie understood the importance of preparation. She wrote a detailed business plan for TallulahBelle’s, and she engaged the services of the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at the Johnson County Community College to evaluate the feasibility of her gallery concept.
“The KSBDC offers real-world, practical business advice. Their knowledge and expertise helped me reach informed decisions. The KSBDC helped propel my business forward,” said Ms. Coleman.
The SBDCs are partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and provide a vast array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. SBDCs provide services through professional business advisors such as: development of business plans; manufacturing assistance; financial packaging and lending assistance; exporting and importing support; disaster recovery assistance; procurement and contracting aid; market research services; aid to 8(a) firms in all stages; and healthcare information.
Melanie met with KSBDC consultant, Elisa Waldman, on a regular basis to review financial projections and brainstorm site selection. Although Melanie had a clear vision of the gallery space and its purpose, Melanie relied on the KSBDC to challenge her assumptions, suggest additional resources, and provide candid feedback.
“TallulahBelle’s provides a differentiated customer experience which is as unique as the art we showcase. At Tallulahbelle’s, exceptional customer service is combined with passion and purpose to create a memorable customer experience,” said Ms. Coleman.
After almost two years in business, TallulahBelle’s mission has expanded to include not only support of independent artists but also enhancement of the Kansas City community through art. Melanie was honored as the 2013 Woman of the Year by the American Women’s Business Association.
Melanie explains that “our vision for TallulahBelle’s is to tell the story of each artist, so that when you make a purchase, you’ve acquired much more than a piece of art, you’ve been touched and inspired by someone’s life and passion.”
Creating this connection has allowed TallulahBelle’s to fulfill Melanie’s lifelong dream of providing local access to extraordinary works of art.
TallulahBelle’s is located at 5255 W. 116th Place, Leawood, Kansas 66211.
In 1983, at the age of 17, Gary Walker enlisted into the United States Air Force (USAF). During his time in the Air Force he held a number of duty positions in the areas of security and law enforcement to include work on a multi-national drug taskforce. He was a superior Airman, earning distinction and recognition with such awards as “Security Police NCO of the Quarter,” “Wing NCO of the Quarter,” 17th Air Force Leadership School Distinguished Honor Graduate,” and “Security Policeman of the Year.” His service commendations include the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, and the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, along with numerous training ribbons and Letters of Appreciation and Commendation. He was well on his way to being a “King of Blue” in the Air Force. Unfortunately he was injured in the line of duty and was medically retired from the Air Force in 1990.
In 1992 Gary and his wife Trish opened their business and named it Magic Touch Cleaning. He was a hands-on owner and soon he began to feel the negative effects of some of the harsh cleaning chemicals they were using in their business. This caused him to think about the need for using safer products for people and the environment.
“I started looking at the business and started thinking about what are we doing for people, how are we taking care of them,” said Mr. Walker.
He then decided to “go green” and set about using products that were both people and environmentally friendly. He began to build his reputation as the “King of Green.”
After enjoying success and steady growth from their hard work, Mr. Walker decided to take advantage of one of the benefits he earned through his service to our Nation and was the recipient of a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Patriot Express Loan. Patriot Express Loans are designed for veteran-owned businesses just like Magic Touch Cleaning. He used the loan proceeds to consolidate his debt, improve his cash flow, and purchase equipment that enabled him to successfully take on several large projects. His resulting success yielded the creation of more than 100 jobs in the Kansas City area.
“The Patriot Express Loan Program made a world of difference in moving on several large contracts,” said Mr. Walker.
The success of Magic Touch Cleaning enabled Mr. Walker to expand and broaden his “green impact.” He founded Bullseye International, Inc., a facilities supply company that is “on target with all your facility and janitorial supply needs.” Bullseye International, Inc. is an industry leader when it comes to process innovation and quality assurance; and, they offer a full line of 100% green certified recycled paper towels, toilet paper, hand soaps and bio-renewable cleaning products, as well as biodegradable plate ware, table ware and drinking cups. In total, Bullseye International, Inc. carries over 60,000 items, everything needed for offices from toilet paper to toner. The list of accounts truly is international as they have over 350 customers worldwide. And because of their “green” efforts, in 2010, Bullseye International Inc. was one of only 46 small businesses in the United States to be selected by the General Services Administration (GSA) to participate in the Federal Supplier Greenhouse Gases Emissions Inventory Pilot Program. Because of his companies’ success and his “green efforts,” Mr. Walker was selected as the 2011 SBA State of Missouri Small Business Person of the Year.
The Walkers are not content just to lead in business; they are dedicated to leading in the community as well. They have received numerous accolades and awards for bettering our community. For the last seven years, Magic Touch Cleaning has sponsored two great humanitarian community events – the Hope House Thanksgiving Food Drive and the Hope House Toy Drive. In addition to providing much needed financial support for the residents and staff of the Hope House, Gary, Trish, and the rest of the Magic Touch Cleaning team are also committed to cleaning and greening the Hope House itself, ensuring that the residents and staff can live and work in a healthy, “green” environment.
Through hard work and excellence, which he demonstrated while serving our Nation in the USAF, and with a little help from the Small Business Administration, this patriotic veteran has realized great success and has truly earned the title “The King of Green.”
Michael Hudson, the owner of Heartland Fabrication & Machine, Inc., refers to his business as a “job shop” specializing in machining, fabrication and the distribution of production supplies. His Native American-owned firm has clients from coast to coast, building everything from components for manufacturers to precision metal parts to finished products. Located in a 26,000 square foot facility in the Kansas City suburb of Raytown, Missouri, he now employs 17 people, but this level of success was not always the case.
When Mr. Hudson purchased Heartland in 1997, he acquired a two-person business operating in a 1,200 square foot facility with only two customers. Along the way he encountered many obstacles and hardships; in 2003, when the price of steel spiked and many manufacturers had to absorb the full impact, Heartland came very close to going out of business.
“We were able to get a SBA loan, which helped us to remain open,” said Hudson. ”SBA’s guarantee allowed the banks to be more aggressive in funding a loan for Heartland.”
Realizing there are many facets to owning and operating a business, Hudson knew he needed to not only an SBA loan, but other services the SBA offers as well. He took the steps to certify Heartland Fabrication & Machine, Inc. in the SBA’s 8(a) business development program. The 8(a) program provides managerial and technical assistance to participating firms and access to government contracting opportunities. While in the program, Heartland has received several federal contracts.
“These contracts saved my company. Not only were they instrumental in turning the company around, they also helped us build relationships that resulted in other contracts,” said Hudson.
So where does the “job shop with a heart” come from? Hudson located his expanded facility in an industrial area in Raytown, determined to create jobs in a distressed community.
“Seeing one of my manufactured products in use is always a reward; however, the biggest reward comes from watching your long-term employees become financially able to buy their own home. It is just a wonderful feeling to know that my company helped someone get a piece of the American dream,” he proudly says.
He believes that Heartland is fortunate to have remained a viable business after surviving the recent economic downturn and is confident his business will continue to grow. He advises up-and-coming entrepreneurs to learn about available resources and never to be afraid to ask for help. He notes that using SBA programs and services is a smart way to enhance chances for success. He says, “Go SBA!”