Peoples Services Inc., a third party provider of transportation, warehouse management, packaging and distribution services, is celebrating its 100th year, tracing its roots to 1914 when it operated in Massillon, Ohio as a storage and furniture moving company. The company now has a presence in Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Michigan, and this family-owned company is thriving.
"There are three generations of hard work that have gone into making what Peoples Services is today, and our success is based on some of the core values that were established when my grandfather started Sibila Trucking,” Doug Sibila, the company's president and chief executive officer, states.
Growth and Stability through the Recession and Beyond with the SBA’s Help
In 2010 Peoples undertook a strategy which ultimately assisted it in growing through the recession into a position stronger than ever before. The SBA provided financing to fund the acquisition of Terminal Warehouse (a $2 million 504 loan) coordinated by CDC Stark Development Finance Corporation through the leadership of Senior Vice President Jeff Hasapis. Huntington Bank participated in the 504 project as the third party lender. The SBA’s involvement was critical at a time when financial markets were not making many real estate loans. Peoples soon benefited from a broader regional footprint by helping individual customers from multiple facilities with an array of services that included warehousing, packaging, transportation and distribution services. The company grew to operate 18 facilities within five states with over 430 employees. During the acquisition of Terminal Warehouse, that company’s retiring owner wanted to be sure the business would continue to grow using the team he had put together. Given that Peoples has historically valued and partnered with its employees – the company is partially employee owned – it was natural Peoples chose not to move the acquisitions, Terminal Warehouse’s senior management positions or reduce the number of its employees.
In addition, this year the company also acquired Central Warehouse Operations, Inc., once again making use of SBA’s 504 loan program. Now employing over 500, Peoples has expanded its ability to provide quality service to customers through six states. As a result of this direction, Peoples continues to pursue growth with customers for transportation and warehousing services, as well as value-added services including drumming, packaging, milling, tolling, inventory management, brokerage services and order fulfillment. The company continues to explore and leverage its purchasing power and company resources. This growth results in lower costs for the customer, all the while creating good jobs and contributing to the stability of the areas in which it operates.
Valuing Their Customers, Valuing Their Team
The Sibila family deeply believes that the strength of a company rests in those working for it. Because of this, the historical success of the company and the owners’ involvement in their community, the Sibila family was recognized with the 2012 Small Business Administration Region V's Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year Award. The Butland award is given to a family-owned and operated business which has been passed from one generation to the next and has at least a 15-year track record.
Once selected as the Cleveland winner, Peoples’ nomination package was sent to SBA’s Midwest region office where the company won the regional award over winners from the Columbus, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin districts. At the award ceremony SBA Cleveland District Director Gil Goldberg noted, “It is apparent that the Sibila family has made a huge difference in Canton and the surrounding community. We are proud to give this award to families like the Sibilas. They earned this honor for their service to other small and family-owned businesses, as well as their ability to weather the difficult economic times.”
“It means a lot to the family to get this recognition for our work to strengthen other family-owned businesses in the community,” stated Doug Sibila.
In 2006 Carolyn Cahlik and Tiffany Tutin co-founded Coast to Coast Equipment with just two employees – themselves. Having only $200 at the beginning, they operated the company out of their own home. Selling used high reach construction equipment (such as cranes, boom lifts and reach forklifts), the company began to capture a niche market in northeastern Ohio. However, the recession brought difficulties for most industries, and the construction business was especially hard-hit. By 2008, the entrepreneurs saw a disturbing drop in the market value of Coast to Coast’s inventory, while its bank ended its lending to middle-market companies.
Carolyn and Tiffany decided to stabilize the business by diversification, and founded Ohio High Reach LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary, which rents construction equipment. “To survive we tend to adapt and seize new opportunities,” noted Tiffany. “A local bank and the SBA saw the strength of our company and our vision.” The company developed a new banking relationship with Ohio Commerce Bank, and the company then used SBA programs to move toward greater viability. 2009 saw the company secure an SBA 7(a) loan to refinance its debt, and the same year Coast to Coast received an SBA Express line of credit for working capital. “Increased product offerings gave us the power to sell packages of equipment by the container load,” explained Carolyn. “Exports doubled from 2009, as we began serving customers in eighteen different countries.” By 2012, international customers in 32 countries in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa accounted for 38% of company sales.
The owners did not neglect the domestic side of their business and in 2010 Coast to Coast/Ohio High Reach was extended an SBA 7(a) term loan to purchase additional equipment for their rental business. “The SBA was there to help again,” points out Carolyn. During this time Carolyn and Tiffany were able to create eight new jobs in sales, shipping, inventory management, a new service department as well as an equipment operation and safety training program. Also, early in 2012, Carolyn and Tiffany utilized the SBA’s 504 program to purchase a 14,000 square-foot warehouse/office/yard in Valley View, near Cleveland, from which they currently operate. This purchase benefited the adjacent community because the real estate was converted from a vacant site to the home of a viable business.
Today, Carolyn sells equipment, as well as develops and implements strategy. She also manages the day-to-day operations of Coast to Coast and manages banking and other strategic relationships. Tiffany is the sales arm of the company, having responsibility almost exclusively on equipment sales. She is also the key equipment purchaser, and is astute at analyzing market trends for competitive advantage. Believing in the value of “giving back” to their community, Carolyn and Tiffany are involved in their local neighborhood in Tremont. Coast to Coast/Ohio High Reach is on-track to meet its goal of continued global growth of equipment sales. Through November 30, 2012 both entities’ sales exceeded $14 million. Combined revenues have grown 34% annually, on average, over the past 4 years. For that same period, the average combined net operating income has grown 56% annually. Carolyn and Tiffany recently reflected on their success and the help the company has received from the SBA. “Where we are today is just the beginning,” stated Carolyn.
The founders were honored as the 2013 Northern Ohio Small Business Persons of the Year.
H20 + Exporting Ingenuity + the SBA Export Express Program = the Right Chemistry for Small Business Success
In 1996, John Wong, a Cleveland, Ohio based biologist and chemical engineer, founded TLC Products to answer the need for live, non-toxic, environmentally beneficial bacterial products for water purification. In partnership with Richelle Bell, co-owner, the company has grown from total sales of $100,000 to 2012 sales of $860,000. Now with ten employees, TLC sells world-wide, with the support of the SBA Export Express Program.
From its inception until 2007, TLC Products was similar to its competitors and offered an expansive product line, using specialty products to treat specific water quality issues. The company served garden centers, pet stores and hardware stores. Throughout this period, TLC Products showed steady, manageable growth, while leasing a five-thousand square foot facility in Westlake, Ohio.
However, as the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 hit, TLC’s primary outlets were seeking to reduce inventory, carrying costs, and improve their cash flows. As a result, many of these stores stopped ordering specialty products from industry manufacturers. TLC suffered along with the rest of the world during this time. Despite these conditions, TLC Products maintained and even grew its revenue due to product line repositioning devised by John Wong. This crash product development effort successfully combined the specialty products into single, multi-purpose products. These new flagship products combined the features of the 2007 original products into one superior formulation: StartSmart Complete (for aquariums), PondPerfect (for ponds), and Septic Medic (for septic tanks). To complement the product development, John Wong and Richelle Bell conducted an aggressive marketing program which explained to buyers the advantages of reduced shelf space requirement, higher SKU turnover, and easier customer decision making afforded by the products. Because of this campaign, TLC Products was able to actually increase the number of stores in the U.S. carrying its products from approximately 600 in 2008 to over 1,500 in 2010.
However, the R&D costs of reformulation, packaging design and production of the reformulated products, and the costs of spreading the “All In One” marketing message put a severe strain on TLC finances. Also, John Wong and Richelle Bell hoped to increase TLC’s international marketing scope, and wanted to export to select foreign countries, which had additional costs. To assist with the cash flow requirements needed to launch TLC’s new products both domestically and internationally, John Wong and Richelle Bell turned to the SBA and the Ohio Department of Development (now the Ohio Development Services Agency - ODSA), and secured SBA Export Express Program working capital loans from Lorain National Bank of $75,000 and $150,000. The program allowed TLC to manage its growth and successfully and dramatically expand its domestic and international markets.
The National Export Initiative was announced by President Obama in January of 2010, with a goal of doubling exports in five years. SBA Administrator Mills is a Member of the President’s Export Council and has placed a priority on helping small business exporters. Providing increased access to export working capital is a key component of the National Export Initiative. The SBA Export Express program provides participating lenders with an enhanced 90% guaranty on loans and lines of credit made to small business exporters. The bank is able to use its own forms and receive an approval from SBA within 24 hours. 70% of all companies that export have less than 20 employees.
In addition to the SBA Export Express program, TLC took advantage of Ohio Development Services Agency research to identify and prequalify possible distributors of its product in Europe. This program has assisted TLC in penetrating the EU market, where TLC is now making strong inroads, especially in the UK. TLC products has grown over 35% a year since 2009. In November, 2011, TLC purchased a new facility near the Cleveland Hopkins Airport, where it has room for its expanded activities and ample room for growth for the foreseeable future. TLC has added two full time employees recently, and plans to hire two more full time people in 2013. TLC “All In One” products are now sold in over 2000 domestic outlets, and are exported to an expanding list of countries including Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia, India, China, Mexico, and Japan.