It began as a one-truck operation during the height of the Great Depression. Edward J. Kane, an insurance salesman with a family to support, was faced with dwindling sales. In 1930, he traded his car for a used truck and provided local hauling to the valley regions of Northeast Pennsylvania. Thus began Kane Freight Lines.
In 2001 Lance and Angela Ulen, owners of Hooper Memorial Home, wanted to move their nearly century-old, family-owned business. They found a new location, but knew the financing process would be a challenge. The Ulen’s turned to the programs and services provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to prepare a business plan, secure a loan and expand their business.
The story of Hooper Memorial Home begins with Walter J. Hooper, Sr. In the early 1900s he began his funeral care career and founded Hooper Memorial Home on Forster Street. His wife Alice, his strongest supporter, was one of the Harrisburg’s first African-American teachers. Hooper’s daughter, Millicent Price Hooper, was interested in a music career and attended Temple University.
After her father’s untimely death, Millicent decided to take over the family business and attended embalming school. In 1941, she became the youngest person to pass the State Board of Funeral Directors Examination and the first woman to obtain a funeral director’s license in Dauphin County. Millicent was assisted in the family business by her brother Walter J. Hooper, Jr. and her uncle George Hooper.
To continue the family tradition at Hooper Memorial Home, Lance Ulen (Millicent’s son), entered the business in 1976. Lance’s compassionate nature and softer side have proven to be valuable assets in the funeral business. His wife, Angela Ulen is also involved with the business. She has an accounting background and in 1995 obtained a degree in Mortuary Science.
The Ulens turned to the Kutztown Small Business Development Center (SBDC), where they took courses and revised their business plan. Partially funded by the SBA, the SBDC’s are a network of university-based centers that provide free management, consulting and technical assistance to small business owners in a variety of areas. “We found that working with the SBA and SBDC was so encouraging.” said Angela.
The Ulens then used their new business plan to secure a commercial real estate loan under the SBA’s 504 Certified Development Company Program. Susquehanna Economic Development Association-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) and Legacy Bank participated in the Ulen’s 504 loan. They worked with Thomas Rall of SEDA-COG who was instrumental in guiding the Ulens through the loan process. The SBA’s 504 Loan Program provides growing businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings.
Thanks to the SBA, the Ulens have been able to continue the family business. Sales have increased they are able to provide a greater range of services. The new location, at 3532 Walnut Street, includes seating capacity for more than 200 and parking to accommodate more than 100 cars. They also have added a casket selection room, conference room, flower display room and a children’s play area. Angela Ulen said “When people ask us how we managed it all, we refer them to the SBA.”
Craig T. Williams takes pride in knowing that he has built a successful business in the construction industry. As the President of Pride Enterprises, Inc. (PEI), a Norristown-based general contractor and construction management company, Craig ensures that projects undertaken by his firm are quality-driven. PEI is a minority-owned business that performs new construction, renovation and retrofit projects throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey.
Craig began his career in construction over 15 years ago as a roofer at Independence Hall. His ground-up knowledge and experience led to him establishing PEI and overseeing all operations including construction, personnel, marketing, finance, and the daily administration. Craig earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Syracuse University and immediately entered the construction work force.
Since its inception in 1996, PEI has engaged in many community projects including renovations to churches, the Philadelphia Zoo, the YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and the Pocono Environmental Education Center. The company’s most recent community-enhancing project is the beautification of the Schuylkill River Park Trail which connects Center City with Kelly and West River Drives. PEI is extending the trail to Locust Street while improving the ability to commute between Center City and West Philadelphia by bicycle.
In 2001, PEI became certified by the SBA through the 8(a) Business Development Program. At the time, PEI had only one employee and close to $200,000 in revenues. Today, PEI employs 35 workers, supervises 28 construction projects and revenues exceed $12 million annually.
The 8(a) program is an essential instrument for helping socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society.
Small businesses are often at a disadvantage when trying to win federal contracts. That’s why the SBA has programs, such as 8(a), to help overcome the barriers. Working closely with federal agencies and the nation’s leading large contractors, the SBA works to ensure that small businesses obtain a fair share of government contracts and subcontracts. Since its inception 1953, the SBA has helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs gain a foothold in government contracting.
While the SBA helps 8(a) firms build their competitive and institutional know-how, the agency also encourages them to participate in competitive acquisitions. PEI is currently performing 8(a) projects for the United States Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the General Service Administration.
PEI is also an SBA certified "Historically Underutilized Business Zone" (HUBZone) business. The HUBZone Empowerment Contracting Program is designed to stimulate economic development and create jobs in urban and rural communities by providing federal contracting preferences to small businesses. These preferences go to small businesses that obtain HUBZone certification by being located in a HUBZone designated area or employing staff who live in such an area.
Craig was recognized as the 2005 SBA Minority Small Business Person of the Year award for the Philadelphia District and Region III (Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia). Craig won these prestigious awards for operating a successful minority-owned small business in the competitive construction industry.
SBA’s Region III Administrator Stephanie Watkins said “Mr. Williams epitomizes the true entrepreneurial spirit that exists throughout our country. We are proud to recognize him as a successful minority-owned business.”
PEI has developed its industry expertise through experience in the field and continues to incorporate state-of-the-art computer software, project management, administrative technology, and customer service as the keys to continued success. “Part of what has enabled us to be successful is that we strive to be a competitive customer service oriented, quality-driven company that happens to be African-American,” said Williams.