SBA April Events May Help You Purchase an “Open for Business” Sign
The “Aha!” moment.
It’s that instant of inspiration that leads one to entrepreneurship.
For some, it’s a milestone birthday, loss of employment or becoming an empty nester. For others, it’s an urge to fulfill a creative, professional or philosophical void.
For me, it was the chance to become a positive change agent when I opened a small environmental consulting firm that specialized in chemical and biological agents. I wore many hats during my tenure, but I was able to live the American dream of small business ownership.
John Tubridy experienced his “Aha!” moment 10 years ago, when he found himself facing his fiftieth birthday and yet another corporate reorganization and relocation.
He told me his past with the insurance company where he once was gainfully employed helped shape his future as an encore entrepreneur.
“Ever since I was in college, I always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur,” Tubridy explained. “During my corporate tenure, we helped other companies transition terminated employees to new careers. I noticed many people, my age, leaving, starting their own business and doing more in life.”
When he turned 50, Tubridy realized that he, too, wanted more.
“I had a burning desire to fulfill my dreams and do something that would build equity for me and my family,” he said.
Tubridy did his homework opting to open a firm that mirrored his passion.
“I had worked with FranNet, a franchise consulting firm, and was intrigued with how the organization helps pair entrepreneurs with franchise options,” he stated. “When they [FranNet] had a territory open in Western Pennsylvania, I knew the timing and the business was right for me.”
For the past 10 years, Tubridy has crisscrossed throughout the region carrying out FranNet’s mission. He also lectures at conferences and has been on numerous local television shows.
“Small business ownership isn’t always about the money,” he firmly stated. “It’s also about freedom and prestige. Whether you are opening a franchise or turning your passion into a business, you have to do some research – understand the industry, yourself and what you want out of life.”
Tubridy told me his biggest client base is the 40-to-60-year-olds.
According to recent data from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, individuals in the 55-64 age group represent the highest rate of entrepreneurship in today’s economy.
Tubridy said business ownership often is too risky for a 30-something, while individuals over 40 have acquired equity.
This April, the SBA and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) are joining forces to showcase Encore Entrepreneurship. We’re offering both online webinars and community events designed to offer technical assistance to help individuals, regardless of age, open the doors to small business ownership.
Tubridy admitted he was wise to wait 30 years before embarking on entrepreneurship citing a lack of equity, confidence and skills.
He’s right. Encore entrepreneurs I have met and counseled not only possess the above, but they also have a strong work ethic, managerial experience and a lifetime of networking contacts.
“Even though I waited, it [small business ownership] was still scary,” Tubridy said. “But, once I made my decision, I became jazzed up.”
Carl Knoblock is the Western Pennsylvania SBA district director. You can email him at email@example.com
Local Doctor thrives after prescribing entry into small business ownership
It’s not uncommon for doctors to have several office locations, but few can claim they offer medical services in multiple states.
Dr. Jyothi Gella does just that, boasting a Johnstown-based internal medicine practice coupled with a health care staffing solutions business, dubbed Gella LLC. The company’s main client is Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in neighboring Virginia.
Ironically, Gella herself diagnosed the need to venture into small business ownership.
“I came here in 1995 do complete my residency and stayed to open my practice,” she explained to me. “I became involved in the community and saw an opportunity for women. In 2005, I decided to open my own business.”
Her firm, which started out with a mere three employees, now employs 25 -- all of whom are emergency and labor/delivery room clerks and administrative clerks.
“They all are contract employees and the majority work full-time,” Gella stated. “The staffing is a good fit for me because, as a medical doctor, I can understand the hospital’s needs.”
This March we celebrate Women’s History Month, honoring the accomplishments of women in all walks of life. In fact, there are 74.8 million women in the workforce and 41.6 percent work in management – like Gella.
Like most women entrepreneurs, Dr. Gella not only is passionate about her work, but is humble and willing to learn.
Gella explained that as a medical professional, she spends her days interacting with patients, keeping up-to-date on her skills and completing paperwork. She’s now transferred those talents to business ownership.
Like medical school, the task was daunting and time consuming.
Gella swapped anatomy classes for information sessions at Johnstown Area Regional Industries (JARI). Instead of discussing treatment options with patients, she learned to network. Encouraged by her peers, she entered the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) government contracting program. She admitted to learning more each year, most of it being on-call.
“When I opened my practice, I had to self-educate myself and become a computer technologist,” she explained. “I also had to learn about processing time sheets and balancing the books.”
According to Gella, her paper-pushing background helped propel her success in government contracting.
“I’m disciplined on paperwork and process my contracts in a timely manner and check for contracting opportunities frequently,” she said.
But like most small business owners, Gella faced an uphill battle.
“The first two years I was in the 8(a) program, nothing happened,” she said. “I went to meetings and listened but I was shy.”
Much like a patient, Dr. Gella recovered, becoming more outgoing and learning how to market her business.
“I tell people who I am, what I can do, that I am punctual and interested,” she proudly stated. “At the October contracting meeting, I found a business to team with that very day.”
Gella even offered a diagnosis for those wishing to become their own boss.
“Find what you really want to do,” she offered. “Initially it [small business ownership] is hard work, but, once you find the right networking organizations it will become easier.”
I have to agree. Gella’s advice is just what the doctor ordered.
Carl Knoblock is the Western Pennsylvania SBA district director. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
MOUNT PLEASANT, PA – Not many people would compare their dentist to an artist, but that’s exactly how Beatriz De La Roche, DMD views herself and the profession.
“Dentists must have good motor skills,” she explained. “And they actually are sculpting when they fix a tooth…it’s really quite an artistic field.”
De La Roche took her passion for art a step further when she elected to transform her practice, Tender Care Pediatric Dentistry, into a work of art – pleasing her young clients and their parents.
Not only were her patients impressed, but, so was the staff at Insical Edge Magazine. Last year, Dr. De La Roche’s office was profiled in the magazine for its design as the Best Pediatric Practice; she was nominated by her suppliers and fellow dentists.
“Wow – fun! The décor really caters to pediatric patients,” stated the editorial staff.
Dr. De La Roche, who stated she spent five years planning for the office, personally sketched every themed room. “I’ve been painting and drawing since I’ve been allowed to draw,” she said. “I concentrate on pastels and wildlife and have had my artwork on display and for sale at galleries in Barcelona.”
She turned to a Canadian firm to transfer her colorful creations to the walls and ceilings of each examination room and added a surprising touch: three-dimensional artwork jutting out leaving her clientele mesmerized.
A colorful three-dimensional purple dinosaur carrying eggs protrudes from the mural in the dinosaur-themed room. An adjoining beach-themed room boasts large foamy waves projecting out of the walls complete with fish and a swimmer. A total of six examination rooms, toothbrush station and the sinking ship lobby are housed in a facility where more than 12 professionals tend to the dental needs of their young clientele.
“When I was seven-years-old, my mother took me to the dentist and he hurt me,” Dr. De La Roche explained. “I vowed that when I grew up, I would become a kid’s dentist so they wouldn’t have to go through what I experienced.”
According to De La Roche, psychologists state that a bad dental experience as a child can actually last a lifetime. So, she designed her practice to please her patients.
“In a clinical environment, children become instantly afraid,” she explained. “I wanted to give my patients what they like – dinosaurs, the beach, and bears and the three-dimensional effect helps make the designs more exciting.”
De La Roche, a native of Columbia, came to the United States at the age of 23 and received her degree in dentistry from the University of Pittsburgh. She then attended the University of Puerto Rico, further honing her craft to include specialties in both pediatric dentistry and maxillofacial surgery.
She began her practice by renting out space from local dentists starting with one day a week. She added more days and more patients and finally started her practice utilizing a $2,000 tax return to help her obtain a business loan to purchase equipment for about $100,000.
“It was a big step and a lot of money considering I didn’t know how things would turn out,” added. “But, I put a lot of thought into this practice.”
It turns out there were no cavities in her plan, as today, De la Roche and her team see 70 patients each day for basic exams coupled with another 30 that receive ongoing treatment.
According to Jayne Huston, director of Seton Hill University E-Magnify, the Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Center, these days De La Roche can be found lending her expertise to fellow entrepreneurs.
“She participates in our Women President’s Organization (WPO) peer-to-peer roundtable with multi-million dollar women-led companies,” Huston said. “It’s a chance for women entrepreneurs to share their business concerns in a confidential setting. She [Dr. De La Roche] was able to transform a modest tax return into a thriving pediatric dental practice and now she is affording others the opportunity to learn from her experiences.”
In addition, Dr. De La Roche currently is participating in E-Magnify’s ATHENAPowerLink Program that has provided her with a professional advisory panel during the past year to further assist in growing her business.http://www.e-magnify.com