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Stephen T. Forrest
Sandra F. Forrest
Shane R. Gebauer
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
Moravian Falls NC
SBA-sponsored counseling helps North Carolina Bee Farm generate more “Buzz”
In the pristine mountains in Wilkes County, North Carolina, Steve and Sandy Forrest turned a passion into a business - Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.
The company has grown from a two person operation in 1977 to over 70 employees today. They currently carry an inventory of over 1,000 supply items for the beekeeping enthusiast. Hives, tools, medications, jars, and protective clothing are just a few of their many products. From its operational sites in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm distributes products to both national and international markets. Sales for 2013 are projected to be 81% higher than 2007 figures. A new production facility opened in North Wilkesboro in 2013. Brushy Mountain has taken advantage of SBA-sponsored counseling which contributed to some of the bee farm’s “buzz.”
Over the past two and half years, North Carolina’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) has supported the efforts of Steve, Sandy and general manager Shane Gebauer. This relationship has produced extraordinary results. Sales, margins, productivity and employment numbers have all improved since collaborating with the SBTDC. Steve needed help with a specific problem: assistance in evaluating the warehousing systems needed to reduce the time from order to delivery. SBTDC’s support has since expanded to financial analysis, strategic organization analysis, tactical and strategic planning, import/export training, and web analysis. The business model jointly developed and now in place has strengthened Brush Mountain Bee Farm’s confidence and financial resources.
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm has also turned to state agencies for technical and financial guidance. Recently they reached out to NC State School of Textiles for aid in developing a better beekeeper’s suit. The School of Textiles provided them with a non-woven fabric solution. Not only does the solution provide performance and cost benefits, it will allow Brush Mountain Bee Farm to modify their supply chain. They will now be able to source both fabric and fabrication in the State of North Carolina instead of overseas. Through training and planning, the company is positioned to grown its international base.
Using other partners such as the NC Department of Labor, EPA, and the NC Industrial Extension have helped them be better employers, provide a safer work environment, plan for the future, increase profits and hire more people. Sales have doubled since adding general manager Shane in 2007. They’ve increased their web presence and opened a branch in Pennsylvania in 2009. All this assistance and effort has led to the expansion to a new 31,000 facility to house future growth, new product development and hiring more employees.
Some people start a business for financial gain, others to engage in an activity they enjoy. Leah Brown's business was born out of a tragedy, the death of a loved one.
At the age of 25, Leah was commuting to Manhattan, working twelve hour days for a Fortune 500 company. She was happy to be a part of the fast-paced New York life style back in the mid-eighties. Some days, rather than make the long return trip to New Jersey, she would stay at her uncle's apartment in the city. Leah was very close to her uncle. To Leah, he was a friend, a confidant, a parent. She was absolutely devastated when he lost his life to AIDS. After years of pain, she decided to turn her misery into a successful business enterprise. She wanted to make sure that treatments could be made available as soon as possible to save uncles and aunts all over the world.
In 2004, ATEN (A10) Solutions, Inc. was born. Brown's mission was to support research and healthcare delivery. A10 helps its clients get investigational drugs to market faster and safer by managing critical clinical trials. These trials contribute to FDA approval of these drugs and treatments. This support takes many forms. It can be one employee monitoring the progress of the trial, or providing a dozen to collect data from patients. While combating HIV was the driver of the firm, the firm also focuses on other diseases that greatly affect the African American community.
Brown sought SBA help to grow A10 and help her achieve her goals. She took advantage of SBA sponsored counseling through the North Carolina Small Business & Technology Development Center and the SBA Women's Business Center of North Carolina in Durham.
In 2009, A10 was accepted into SBA's 8(a) Business Development Program. The 9-year development program offers incentives to help socially and economically disadvantaged firms increase opportunities with federal prime and sub contracts with the U.S. government. Prior to entering SBA's 8(a) program, A10 employed 78 and had sales over $5 million. The firm as grown to almost 200 employees with $11.3 million in revenues.
"The SBA served as our compass as we hiked our way through the federal government maze," said Brown.
You might say that it was Guadalupe Chavarria’s destiny to own his own salon. He has been immersed in the hair styling industry as long as he can remember. Growing up in Austin, Texas, he’s wanted to work in a salon since the age of seven. As he grew, his parents began teaching him classic hair design and barber techniques.
Guadalupe knew success depended on training and study. At 19, he began a series of apprenticeships under some of the world's most esteemed stylists and mentors, working with various stylists throughout California, Chicago, and New York before returning to Texas.
Today, Guadalupe's long list of credentials reaches from Texas to New York, and Los Angeles to Paris. He is recognized nationally as a trainer and style director, and has studied and taught under the most admired schools of hair design. Guadalupe has been featured multiple times by national salon magazines, mainstream media and the foreign press.
His teachers not only taught him hair care skills, but showed him finer aspects of the craft: the art of listening and conversation, making an appointment an “experience” for a customer.
In 2001, he opened Studio Chavarria in Asheville, NC. Guadalupe and his staff pamper their clients with one-on-one hair cutting, styling, coloring and more.
He credits his success to hard work and a $175,000 SBA-guaranteed loan from Self-Help Credit Union. The loan enabled him to move to his current location and hire additional staff, which now totals seven.
“Self-Help and Jane Haley made the loan application process quite easy,” said Mr. Chavarria. “I was impressed with the customer service. As a business owner, I know how important it is to keep your customers happy.”