Lori Edgmand, owner
211 N. Perkins, Suite 24
Stillwater, OK 74075
Lori Edgmand, owner of Nature’s Supply in Stillwater, Okla., is celebrating her eighth anniversary of providing fresh organic foods to customers six days a week. Since the company’s beginning, employees and sales have more than doubled creating the necessity to increase retail space which was completed two years ago when the store expanded into a vacant suite next to their current location. After the expansion she soon began working on the next phase of her business plan, to install a commercial kitchen. It took over a year but The Eatery opened several months ago. The Eatery currently offers gluten free as well as dairy free soups and salads. Sandwiches will be added soon. Stephanie Simpson, Edgmand's daughter created the recipes used in the kitchen including a non-dairy soft serve ice cream, which has been a big hit with customers. Edgmand started the business because local residents needed to drive about an hour away to find organic or allergen-free foods.
Edgmand could relate to the need because she was one of the people driving out of town for certain items. As the business grew, Edgmand hired Clay Barrett to manage the store. Additional retail space was soon needed and that’s when she visited with SBA MicroLender Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma, Inc (REI). REI assisted Nature’s Supply with an SBA Microloan to purchase furniture, fixtures, inventory, and advertising. The SBA Microloan program offers financing up to $50,000 for businesses that need a little help for the basics. Nature's Supply soon relocated to its current location in Rosewood Hills Shopping Center.
Since that time, Edgmand has also become involved with REI’s Oklahoma City Women’s Business Center (WBC) taking advantage of the training and networking opportunities provided by the WBC. She is also a member of the WBC’s Peer Group, a small gathering of women entrepreneurs learning from one another and sharing common concerns. “REI and the Women’s Business Center have been a wonderful resource for me,” Edgmand said.
“I would strongly encourage women business owners to get involved, to take advantage of all that’s available to them through this great organization and get on with their dream!” Edgmand said. Because of her involvement with these and other organizations and support groups, Edgmand has been able to survive the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
“While there are always the 'typical' retail business obstacles such as funding, increasing customer base, product availability, distributor issues, etc., I believe the biggest obstacle for most small businesses is yourself - your preconceived thoughts and ideas, limited views of the how’s, why’s, when’s and where’s of business,” Edgmand said. “A small business should be looked at as an ever changing, ever growing entity. It’s human nature to stay with the familiar which can keep us from encouraging that change and growth. To help encourage that change and growth it is imperative to get involved with other business groups, such as Peer Advisory groups or Mastermind groups. These groups keep you thinking creatively and openly about your business.”
Nature's Supply stocks a large selection of gluten-free and allergen-free items, as well as many organic items such as dairy, bread, bulk grains, seeds, dried fruit and more. Edgmand believes in buying Oklahoma produced products and carries Oklahoma raised chicken, eggs, and Certified Organic beef from John's Farm. Locally made goat milk bath soap, lotion and laundry soap is also a popular item for those who have skin conditions.
Edgmand’s advice to others wanting to start a business: “Be prepared for long hours, many people underestimate the amount of time and energy it takes to run a small business, but it's worth it. Seek out other business owners, listen to their experiences, and learn from theirs and your own experiences. I did not have retail experience so I read as many books and articles as I could. I also participated in a tax workshop through the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Another valuable learning tool was touring other (non competitive) health food stores, in state and out of state, asking the owners detailed questions about their experiences.”
One look at the store and web site, www.natures-supply.com and it is evident that those long hours have paid off. Edgmand said what makes it all worthwhile for her is the satisfaction of her customers.
“The greatest benefit to me personally is our customers,” she said. “Getting to know them and helping them find what they are looking for motivates me to do the parts of the job that are less appealing, and to withstand the pressures and responsibilities of business ownership.”
REI is a statewide economic development firm with offices in five Oklahoma locations: Durant, Alva, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton. Visit www.ruralenterprises.com for more information.
When Gerald Williams retired early from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), he couldn’t sit still very long. After four years of working on his land out in the country and enjoying the grandkids, he decided to create a “part-time” job for himself running a home-based business to provide support services to the federal government. Today, his company, Interim Solutions for Government (ISG), has grown from two employees and $50,000 in revenues to 190 employees with more than $13 million in revenues. He says he owes his success, in part, to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
A U.S. Army service-disabled veteran, Gerald worked for 20 years at FAA and retired at the age of 50 as the manager of the Operational Support Division at the FAA Academy. “I knew training backwards and forwards,” he said. “When I started my business I wasn’t looking for a big contract, just something small.”
Although Gerald knew what he wanted to do, he wasn’t prepared to do it. When he received his first contract offer in 2002, he did not have the financing in place, nor the employee pool to begin the job. He honed his skills in business development and secured capital through an SBA guaranteed contract line of credit financed through BancFirst.
In 2004, ISG was awarded a contract with the FBI to provide investigative analysis and consulting services while performing adjudication of background investigations on individuals who need a “Top Secret” security clearance. Gerald hired a retired FBI agent to perform the work, and the company received financing through a BancFirst-funded $50,000 SBA-guaranteed contract line of credit. The money was used to finance the direct labor and material costs associated with performing the contract. This contract continued to grow during 2005-2006 and Gerald brought on more retired FBI agents.
In 2006, the company received their first contract with FAA to provide training in Ft. Worth, TX and Albuquerque, NM. The ISG employee base rose to 25 and as the business grew, the working capital (payroll) needs of the company grew as well. BancFirst funded a $750,000 contract line to service the new contracts received. Everything seemed pretty stable for ISG until December 2007.
“Right at Christmas, we received notification we had just been awarded three contracts that would start Jan. 1 at 14 locations,” Gerald said. “It was a busy Christmas! But, this time we were prepared. We anticipated winning and we had the employees in place and the SBA line of credit was in place, and it worked!”
The three new contracts catapulted ISG into a growth spurt. The number of employees increased to near 100 and the company was approved for the SBA maximum loan amount of $2 million. Later in 2008 ISG was awarded another contract to provide the FAA with air traffic control instructors which increased their employee level to around 190 employees. This contract also brought ISG to a point where over half their workforce was now located in Oklahoma. “We had a real desire to increase our employee base in Oklahoma significantly and this contract helped us achieve that.” Gerald said.
While Gerald credits the SBA and BancFirst as partners in his success, he also believes there has been a divine hand that has opened doors and directed his path.
“We’ve been blessed with people and things occurring in our business that I can’t take credit for,” Gerald said. ISG operated practically rent free out of the Fred Jones Business Development Center (an Oklahoma certified Small Business Incubator) for almost five years. “I can see God’s hand moving in many areas of our company. I have to take the opportunity to give God the glory and praise.”
Also critical to the success of ISG has been the addition of two of Gerald’s former co-workers: Richard Rodine, an FAA retiree, who is now executive vice president, and Robert Igo, an FAA retiree, who now serves the company as the vice president of aviation support.“As you start to grow, you have to bring in quality people to help you manage your growth,” Gerald said. Marty Mulholland, another federal retiree (FBI) and Gerald’s first employee has become their vice president of investigative services.
About 86 percent of ISG’s workforce is composed of federal retirees, either military or civilian. “We’ve been blessed to be able to get a top caliber of people,” Gerald said. “Retirees know other retirees nationwide, so we are able to keep a good pool of employees. Federal retirees are such a wonderful resource for federal contracts, but you have to stay on top of things, because as a whole, retirees don’t want to work 40 hours a week,” Gerald laughed. “And, some retire again.”
ISG employs workers in Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and DC, and subcontractors in Utah and Arizona.
“It’s nice being your own boss,” Gerald said. “But the downside is you work yourself harder than you’d ever let anybody else work you. We try to run our business in a way that brings glory to God. I’ve not been perfect, but our goal is to maintain a level of integrity that makes everyone---employees, customers, and partners—have a high level of confidence in our company.”
Contact: Gerald Williams, Owner
Address: 2224 N.W. 50th St., Suite 293
Oklahoma City, OK 73112
A sketch of an ear-to-ear grinning Eskimo and his slobbering dog, Buffy is the nationally renowned trademark of a 35-year-old college town company whose sales now gross more than $18 million with about 550 employees, thanks in part to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without SBA,” said Stan Clark, owner of Eskimo Joe’s headquartered in Stillwater, Okla.
In July 1975, two months after college graduation, Clark and a childhood friend had an idea to open a bar in the ground floor of a two story building next to Oklahoma State University. Clark used his life savings of $1,200 to help finance the venture. A freshman art student used a magic marker to sketch the now famous company logo on a large art pad.
They had the logo transferred to some t-shirts and opened for business selling ice-cold 10 cent draws and playing red-hot music on a pieced-together stereo. By the end of the first week end, the t-shirts featuring the company logo were sold out. Joe's soon had a loyal following and quickly became known as "Stillwater's Jumpin' Little Juke Joint."
In the fall of 1983, Oklahoma legislation increased the drinking age from 18-21, dramatically impacting Eskimo Joe’s target market. The company expanded to add food to the mix and extend their hours of operations. “What at first seemed to be life-threatening proved to be the greatest change we could ever imagine,” said Clark. "I was thrilled to find out that more people eat everyday than drink everyday!" He said, guests loved the juicy burgers known as the "Joe's Special," scrumptious chicken sandwiches known as "Fowl Things TM", thick old-fashioned shakes, and Cheese Fries that were actually endorsed by President Bush in 1990.
As Joe's popularity grew, so did Joe's annual birthday bash. By the 18th anniversary, 65,000 fun-loving Joe's fans packed Elm Street in Stillwater to celebrate the weekend reunion.
After selling hundreds of thousands of t-shirts over the bar inside Eskimo Joe’s from 1975 to 1987, Clark opened a free standing retail store next to the bar in September, 1987. They began direct marketing Joe’s Clothes via catalogs and Joe's toothy grin was sent all over the world. In November 1988, a Tulsa World newspaper article reported that the company’s t-shirts were one of the most collectible in the USA, second only to Hard Rock Cafe.
In 1985, Clark received a $500,000 SBA loan. The loan was used to consolidate many smaller loans. “This loan was certainly significant at the time,” said Clark. “Without the SBA guarantee, we’d likely not secured the financing at all.”
Today Eskimo Joe’s employs roughly 550 people, owns and operates three full-service bar/restaurants—Eskimo Joe’s, Mexico Joe’s and Joseppi’s Italian Kitchen. Clark also owns three retail clothing stores, all selling the Eskimo Joe’s branded products, Eskimo Joe’s Promotional Products Group, a promotional products distributor servicing companies and institutions across the Southwest, a real estate company, and a management company that provides strategic direction, accounting, graphics design, marketing and public relations.
“Eskimo Joe’s is all about fun,” said Clark. “Our mission is to make people smile as big as Eskimo Joe himself, to treat people so well they can’t believe it! And every time they visit us, hopefully they’ll leave with a smile they can wear on one of our T-shirts. Thankfully, since 1975, millions and millions have done both.”
Contact: Stan Clark, Owner
Address: 501 W. Elm
Stillwater, OK 74074
Phone: 405-880-2668 (cell)