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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.”
Oscar Wong, President
Highland Brewing Co., Asheville NC
Oscar Wong, President of Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC has been named the 2012 North Carolina Small Business Person of the Year. After selling his engineering business and retiring to the North Carolina Mountains, he opened the first brewery in the Asheville, NC area in 1994. Highland Brewing Company now employs 34 people. Wong recently built a new state of the art production facility and tasting room. With the help of an SBA 504 loan of $813,000, from Avista Business Development Corporation, Oscar was able to get needed equipment including giant stainless steel tanks. Combined with a loan from BB&T, the finance package total was $1.9 million.
Wong grew up in a family business in Jamaica. His parents emigrated from China and started a mom and pop grocery store.
With his engineering background, he recognized that commercial dairy tanks would be excellent for the fermentation and storage of his ales. These could be acquired cheaply and re-designed for beer production.
Wong started the brewery with three employees in 4,000 sq. ft. of leased space in the basement of a tavern. Highland then could produce up to 6,500 barrels of beer per year. At that time, the beer was sold in kegs only. The basement had no room for a bottling line.
In their current location, they now can brew over 35,000 barrels annually. Highland offers ten varieties of Ales, Porters, Stouts, Lager and Wheat beers which are sold in seven Southeastern states.
Oscar is exploring new markets for his product. His plans have evolved to offering beer as a component of other products made by small local independent manufacturers. These include mustards, ice cream and shampoo.
Wong has had a tremendous impact on the region. Eight other local breweries have opened in the area. This led to Asheville’s being recognized in 2011 as “Beer City USA” by the National Beer Examiner for the third year in a row. Competing cities for this honor include Milwaukee, San Diego and Portland.
In 2011, The Asheville Chamber of Commerce awarded him the William A.V. Cecil Tourism Leadership Award.
This award recognizes a leader in the hospitality industry who has helped guide the tourism industry for Western North Carolina. The Cecil award named after the owner of the Biltmore Estate and Winery, the largest privately owned residence in the U.S. that brings a million visitors a year to Asheville.
Oscar routinely gives back to his community. He supports organizations like the local ARC (previously the Association of Retarded Citizens and the Manna Food Bank. Oscar is also active in the Rotary Club and the Asheville Chamber of Commerce.
Highland offers tours of the brewery complete with a tasting for a donation to the food bank or a contribution of non-perishable food as the price of admission. Highland provides a venue for several non-profit fundraisers and also actively supports the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Trout Unlimited and more. Oscar and his wife Anna have two daughters.
Leonard USA is creating jobs in rural Surry County where unemployment was as high as 13% in recent years. The firm builds portable storage units and trailers at its plants in Mount Airy. These and truck accessories are sold from 51 factory outlets in and around North Carolina. Leonard was approved for it's second $1,000,000 SBA Loan through Surrey Bank & Trust in December 2011.
The recent economic downturn hit Leonard Buildings hard. In 2009, sales in their retail locations were down 30%. President David O’Neal knew the company had to revisit how it does business and figure out how to cut costs. Marketing Director TJ Glover was looking for solutions and learned about the North Carolina Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC). The SBTDC is a free counseling service funded by SBA and the University of North Carolina.
TJ contacted the SBTDC Winston-Salem Office, and worked with Director Blair and counselor Bion Schulken. SBTDC helped the Leonard management team assess the company’s strategic needs. Counselors started them on a course to increase sales through effective use of the internet and selling to state and federal government agencies.
The SBTDC advised the firm about a North Carolina Workforce Development Board matching grant to provide technical training for management skills. This grant enabled the firm to initiate a Rent to Own business model and expand product lines which greatly increased sales. This enabled them to hire 57 additional employees, a 22% increase. Leonard now employs 310.
“The business expertise provided by the SBTDC has been invaluable,” said O’Neal. “They assisted in clarifying our goals and developing action plans to execute.”
As a result of this assistance Leonard doubled its building sales from 2009 to 2010. In 2011, the firm saw a 50% increase the new Rent-To-Own program. Leonard also established a government sales strategy with a full-time person assigned to manage this program.
In need of additional capital to implement their new strategy, they obtained their first $1,000,000 SBA Guaranteed Loan from Surrey Bank & Trust in January 2011. This loan enabled them to support and expand the Rent to Own Program.