Joe and Brenda Baginski are serial entrepreneurs. The Providence couple has operated five businesses over the past 20 years. The latest, Professional Ambulance, is a medical transportation firm headquartered in Providence.
The Baginskis launched their journey into entrepreneurship in 1990 when they purchased a small factory and opened a costume jewelry company. That firm eventually employed 50 people before the jewelry businesses evaporated in the United States and drifted offshore, mainly to Asia. The factory closed in 1998. That same year Joe and Brenda opened a check-cashing business in a small office at the front of the factory.
That check-cashing business once handled about $15 million annually. Those were the days before electronic transfers and the direct deposit of payroll and government payments. Joe believes that the check-cashing business will go away, much like the jewelry industry in America.
They have sold cell phones in a kiosk at a Providence mall. The major telecommunications companies moved into the mall and squeezed out the Baginskis by offering customers unbeatable contracts.
In 2005, they opened a mortgage business. They were successful until the bottom dropped out of the mortgage industry in 2009.
The Baginskis were looking for a business where their product or service wouldn’t be sent overseas or be crippled by a slumping economy. That is when their children, Jacquelyn and Mark stepped in to help. Both had college training in business and marketing and used the Internet to search for opportunities. They looked at the data and the potential for growth and settled on the medical transportation business. They then developed a business plan and the marketing concepts for the new company.
In 2009, they found a lender who gave them the financing they needed. The Baginskis injected $150,000 of their own money into the business and Independence Bank provided a $150,000 loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. They purchased two used ambulances and a wheelchair van to get started and the medical equipment required by state law for the ambulances.
As a start-up business, bringing the family members into the business was cost-effective. They saved significantly on payroll costs while they built their customer base.
Joe, Brenda and Mark enrolled in classes to become emergency medical technicians (EMTs), while Jacquelyn handled the office and marketing duties.
Business has increased. They purchased four more ambulances, a wheelchair van and now have 14 employees.
The Baginskis attribute Professional Ambulance’s success to superior customer service. Employees are treated like family and that is reflected in their attitude. EMTs are urged to treat everyone they transport as if it were a parent or grandparent.
Joe, Brenda and Mark also lead by example. They are on the ambulance runs and pay attention to the detail necessary to keep their business successful. It’s a 24/7, 365 days a year business.
For their demonstrated success in business over the past 20 years, the Joseph G.E. Knight SCORE Chapter is pleased to honor Joseph Baginski and the Professional Ambulance family with the Joe Knight Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.
From the industrial city of Medellin, in her native Columbia, Sandra McNamara came to America and the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center (SBDC) with the enthusiasm of an entrepreneur, and a desire to teach those who wanted to be one.
At RISBDC in Providence, as a marketing and training director, she would teach the fundamentals of small business to classrooms of multi-cultural students. Later, she counseled small business aspirants at the former Gibbs College in Cranston. Sandra, who recognized that American companies were rapidly expanding into the Latino market, eventually became an independent small business owner herself, opening CONTEXT Translations and Consulting in 2007.
Sandra promotes her skill as a bilingual journalist and marketing specialist to draw clients. She translates mainly for book publishers, website designers and marketing companies, from English to Spanish, or vice versa; she consults with small businesses in marketing and public relations.
For her contributions to those starting a small business, assisting many minority entrepreneurs in particular, and to the development of women in small business, Sandra, the president of CONTEXT Translations and Consulting, has been selected as the 2011 Rhode Island Small Business Champion of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Her bilingual ability, fluency in English and Spanish has its advantages. She teaches and consults in both languages, and is well-accomplished in higher education, too. McNamara holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and an advanced degree, a master’s in marketing and public relations, each earned while studying in Columbia. In the states she’s added business courses taken at Harvard University to her resume.
Perhaps the best part of her success is found in the classroom. She‘s an adept communicator, well- liked and admired by her students and clients, whether teaching or consulting – or counseling. The ultimate affirmation, they take the time to reconnect at some point or write her with their sentiments of appreciation.
Sandra also volunteers her time to hold individual, person-to-person sessions with potential and established business owners through the Center for Women and Enterprise (CWE) and the Rhode Island Small Business Center. For CWE, she facilitates three programs, in both Spanish and English: Marketing Workshops; Power Up!; and a 14-week class – Business Planning, Getting Started.
Not only does she teach small business owners how to write a bank ready business plan, but also guides them to apply marketing and public relations resources to achieve their business goals. In the process Sandra’s given direction to hundreds of women attending her classes who have started or expanded a small business.
She’s committed to helping the unemployed or under-employed and dedicates countless hours to the cause. McNamara regularly teaches bilingual seminars at CWE, about branding and marketing yourself, and doing the same during difficult economic times. She also conducts business workshops – bilingually – at the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
Serving her community, as busy as Sandra continues to be, she has begun a new chapter in her life with the recent birth of her first child, Kendra Susana McNamara.
For her outstanding commitment to volunteerism and the minority community, and conspicuous excellence operating a small business, Sandra McNamara of CONTEXT Translations and Consulting is recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as the 2011 Rhode Island and New England Minority Small Business Champion of the Year.