LORETTO, PA – Cambria County Commissioners will declare April 25 as Jonathan Miller Day honoring the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Western Pennsylvania Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Miller, a small business owner who needed to pinch pennies for both his enterprise and education expenses, fine-tuned some computer typefaces that enabled him to not only save on internal printing costs but also to create a new business that he dubbed Dimples.
With minimal finances for education, Miller and his mother worked for years as home inspectors often logging 15-hour days snapping photos of homes for insurance agencies and financial institutions. “We did that through my college years and about two years ago realized that finances were tight and every penny counted, Miller recalled. “We couldn’t reduce paper costs, but we could stretch our ink.”
Miller, now a Saint Francis University adjunct professor in the math and business departments, explained that creative savings became the catalyst for his company.
“I fiddled with computer fonts and how printers produce text on paper,” he said. “When certain light and dark spaces are placed within a font, the printed text retains legibility while consuming less toner.”
The end result is a perforation – or dimple – in the text that preserves the outline of each letter which appears whole to the human eye. According to Miller’s research, when text is read the eye sees mostly each letter’s outline. His Dimples process squeezes out a third or more toner savings per letter.
But for Miller, who holds dual undergraduate degrees in both chemistry and mathematics and a master’s degree in business administration, the process wasn’t as simple as it sounded.
“In the beginning, my mom and I spent hours each day building fonts,” he said “Since I didn’t know computer programming, we did everything by hand until I could teach myself.”
His programming worked and, today, Dimples’ automated process creates a strong black outline with a fainter interior. To date, Dimples has 3,000 individual users who have access to 11 fonts.
“For a small fee users purchase our software and download the Dimples program. To print, you just use the Dimples print command, he explained. “We can even Dimple proprietary corporate fonts. There is much more we are developing for the future of Dimples.”
Dimples has received grant funding from Johnson and Johnson, Walmart and Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) to market the unique cost-saving program to the region.
For Miller, working on computers enabled him to harness his imagination and creativity while collecting accolades along the way – even from the software giant Google.
“As a teen I used the internet to look at visual items, such as animation and two-and-three- dimensional drawings,” he stated. Years later, Miller utilized that information to create three-dimensional models of buildings at Saint Francis University. He then competed against many universities, faring better than a team from Harvard University. This motivated him to co-found the architectural modeling service PopArchitexture.com and to become a certified Google 3D Developer.
While attending Saint Francis University, he lent his talents to the Center of Excellence for Remote and Medically Under-Served Areas. “The projects were engaging and covered fields from telehealth and distance learning to emergency first response and defense,” he explained. “We used off-the-shelf technology in creative ways to help people.”
According to Western Pennsylvania SBA District Director Carl Knoblock, Miller was able to visualize a solution to a business printing problem and spin off a completely different company that compliments his background. “His unique software not only will enable consumers to save money, but, also will make for a greener environment, Knoblock said. “He truly exemplifies the cutting edge of entrepreneurial talent abound in Western Pennsylvania.”
Miller added that being named as the region’s Young Entrepreneur finally is sinking in. “It’s a humbling, and hopefully inspirational, honor.”
Local American Indian Businesswoman Partners with Western Pa. Small Business Administration to Secure Contracts, Jobs
Local American Indian businesswoman partners with Western Pa. Small Business Administration to secure contracts, jobs
SHELOCTA, PA – Early in her construction career, Darcia North Wind found herself tied off on a bridge, jackhammer in hand, she confessed to being envious of the project manager. Fast-forward two decades, and North Wind now not only hires project managers, but owns her own contracting firm.
Yet the 54-year-old president and owner of Northwind Engineering, LLC., still can be found, shovel in hand, working side-by-side with the construction crew she now employs.
She founded Northwind Engineering, LLC., in 2001, combining years of field experience as a firefighter and traffic control supervisor with corporate familiarity honing her skills at four large businesses. “Firefighting and laboring was hard,” she explained. Perhaps even harder was for North Wind to break the glass ceiling as both a female business owner and Native American. North Wind is an Enrolled Tribal Member of the Chippewa Cree Indian Tribe with roots in Montana.
“Growing up as an American Indian presented its disadvantages,” she maintained. “Early in my career, I worked out of the union hall as a laborer. Sometimes I was the only woman on the crew, which at times, was not always with a welcome reception.” Yet, her experience coupled with help from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) enabled North Wind to grow her company from a two-person startup to a firm that employs 52 persons with satellite offices in Missouri and Wyoming.
“When I started my company, I didn’t have a whole lot of resources,” she explained. “I was able to get financing because the SBA underwrote my loan to purchase equipment for our livelihood. North Wind also utilized the SBA’s Surety Bond Guarantee program to provide her with the bonding necessary to compete for jobs. A few years later, North Wind again turned to the SBA – this time for their federal contracting programs.
“My father held many plaques from the SBA’s SCORE (America’s Counselors to Small Business) program in Montana where he served as a volunteer mentor who helped other small businesses,” North Wind stated. “I went to the SBA website to try to better my company.” It was on the website that North Wind said she learned about the SBA’s 8 (a) program. The purpose of the program is to promote equal access for socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to participate in the business sector of the nation’s economy. Individuals must make a nine-year commitment, during which time they receive business development assistance, access to government opportunities and technical support.
North Wind turned to the Western Penna. (Pittsburgh) District office for assistance. She attended their 8(a) information sessions and began the paperwork process with assistance from Barbara Fisher, deputy district director. In 2006, North Wind formally entered the SBA’s 8(a) program.
“When a business enters our 8(a) program we teach them marketing techniques, because they are the best salesperson for their company,” said Fisher. “We can’t guarantee government work, but, instead we show them how to enter the government market – it’s then up to them to market their product or service.”
Fisher said she and Business Development Specialist Marisa Fentzel became liaisons between North Wind and the federal agencies, whose contracts she was pursuing, to explain the purpose of the 8(a) program and its value and benefits. The SBA partnership paid off. To date, Northwind LLC., has secured 25 prime contracts including a new four-year project to remodel the Bradford Ranger Station and reconstruct the forest road at Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir.
November is Native American Heritage Month with Nov. 27 designated as Native American Heritage Day. For more information on Darcia North Wind or the SBA’s many programs, please contact the SBA Western Pennsylvania District Office at 412-395-6560.
The U.S. Small Business Administration – helping small businesses start, grow and succeed.
Before the doctors, nurses and patients arrive at the new Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville, Mary Coffey makes sure the hospital is ready to open its doors. Coffey isn’t a local building inspector, she is president of All-Purpose Cleaning Services, Inc., an industrial cleaning corporation which was awarded the final construction cleanup contract for the hospital. “I clean everything up before they (the tenants) move in,” the Crafton resident said.
While cleaning up might not be considered glamorous, Coffey literally has been cleaning up Pittsburgh for the past 30 years and parlayed a job as a nanny into a million-dollar business. Not bad for a woman who dropped out of Langley High School at 17. “I got pregnant and couldn’t finish school with my classmates,” she stated. “A year later, I was married and two years later I had baby number two.”
In 1978 Mary and her twin sister Martha opened the Mary and Martha Cleaning Service. They did it with $35, a sweeper and a few cleaning supplies. Two years later, she formed her own company – All-Purpose Cleaning Services, Inc. “I was always interested in business, as a child I sold candy apples,” she explained. “I wanted bigger and better things for myself and the excitement of owning a big business.”
Along the way, Mary had some assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Pittsburgh District Office. She entered the Agency’s 8(a) program in 1985.The purpose of the 8(a) program is to promote equal access for socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to participate in the business sector of the nation’s economy. Individuals must make a nine-year commitment, during which time they receive business development assistance, access to government opportunities and technical support.
Coffey said the SBA helped her to better market her company. She began attending seminars and networking at marketing events. “When a business enters our 8(a) program we teach them marketing techniques, because they are the best salesperson for their company,” said Barbara Fisher, deputy district director of the Pittsburgh District SBA.. “We can’t guarantee government work, but, instead we show them how to enter the government market – it’s then up to them to market their product or service.”
“For the first four years, I really didn’t go out and sell myself,” Coffey explained. “Finally, I got my first big contract cleaning the federal courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh.” Other contracts soon followed, including the Pittsburgh International Airport and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Today, Coffey serves as president and estimator of All-Purpose Cleaning Services, Inc., and Multi-Purpose Cleaning and oversees a staff of more than 80 people.
Donning a suit, hardhat and boots, Coffey goes on site visits to bid on contracts. “I’m always the only woman there,” she said laughing. “In fact, I once took an excavating class and the men were saying ‘why is she here, she’s a cleaning lady’…But, of all of those men there, I’m the only one still in business.”
Note: For more information on the SBA’s programs, please contact the SBA Western Pennsylvania District Office at 412-395-6560.
The U.S. Small Business Administration – helping small businesses start, grow and succeed.