Seven years ago, Alice Van Allen, a seamstress in Camden, decided to start her own alterations store in Sumter, where she lived and where she already had several clients. Alice had done her small business research; now she needed to make sure her own small business would be a success.
On a day off from her job, she met with SCORE counselor Irwin Praeger, retired Chief Executive Officer for Drapery Contracting Corp. of Sumter. Irwin is one of three counselors in the Sumter branch of the Midlands SCORE chapter.
Alice and Irwin were a good match because of their shared background in textiles. Not only was Irwin able to help Alice with her business plan and with setting up her business, he was also able to help her with selecting the best machinery and tools because of his own experience with textiles. Irwin said that the Sumter Chamber of Commerce, where the Sumter SCORE branch is based, was also very helpful.
Now Alice recommends SCORE counseling to anyone interested in starting their own small businesses. She even recommended SCORE to her daughter when she decided to start her own photography business.
Irwin continues to discuss business with Alice even now that her alterations shop, the Added Touch, is well-established.
“As soon as I saw things taking shape, I did not lose sight of Alice,” Irwin says. “We work together and discuss machinery and textiles to improve her business.
“I will continue to be in touch with Alice to help her continue her work.”
Despite the housing market woes that hit the state last summer and have since generated daily headlines, Tony Thompson’s business Remodeling Services Unlimited, which serves primarily residential clientele, has maintained consistent sales. In fact, he anticipates that sales will pick up. That ability to roll with the punches, or the downturns, is what has made Remodeling Services a small business success story since its beginnings as a property management and maintenance firm started by Tony’s father in 1977.
Tony, who had always enjoyed carpentry and building, began working for his father after high school. After a brief stint in college, he realized that he was already making good money – more than his friends would likely make after graduation – and decided to return to his father’s business. In 1986, his father retired and he took control of the business narrowing its focus to remodeling services.
In 2004, Remodeling Services Unlimited received an SBA-guaranteed loan from Capital One. The company had grown to the point where Tony couldn’t manage as effectively. He used the capital to hire more management and office employees so that he could focus on the sales aspect of the business. Previously, he had been traveling back and forth between on site work and the office, resulting in a drop in sales. With the addition of a project manager for the field and additional office employees, sales increased 11 percent per year after 2004. Remodeling Services Unlimited currently has five full-time employees, including Tony.
Tony has more than a talent for the service side of business, he also has a keen business sense and an understanding of market trends.
“People’s biggest investment is their homes,” he says. And in the current housing market, Remodeling Services Unlimited can help protect that investment, providing repairs to maintain the value of the home and remodeling services to increase the value. With the downturn, remodeling jobs tend to be small cosmetic affairs rather than major renovations, but those jobs are now more important than ever in the current market.
Homeowners know this, and they’ve continued to rely on Remodeling Services Unlimited.
And so it’s business as usual at Remodeling Services Unlimited, just as it has been for the past 30 years and through two recessions. Right now, business is looking good.
Construction is a historically male-dominated industry. Drive by a construction site and you expect to see men in hard-hats, not only out in the field, but also directing the action. That obviously doesn’t matter much to Betty Spells Price, founder and Chief Executive Officer of CARBRA Construction.
Price entered the construction industry while employed at the U.S. Postal Service, where she became Facility Activation Coordinator for the Columbia Processing & Distribution Center. She also worked with her brother’s construction company.
“I became fascinated and eager to learn as much as I could,” said Price. Price resigned from the Post Office to begin working full time in construction. In January 2004, she founded CARBRA Construction with herself as the only employee; CARBRA now has five employees.
CARBRA Construction performs both residential and commercial construction, including renovations and additions. Its clients include Richland County School District One and the Columbia Housing Authority.
“Being an entrepreneur is not an easy task,” Price said. “It takes having passion, commitment and a don’t-give-up attitude.”
Obviously, these are characteristics that Price has in abundance. They are also characteristics that have helped her become a trailblazer for women. She has a lot to show for it, too, including her company’s recent contract with Fort Jackson.
That contract came about through both Price’s determination and through the cooperation of the SBA South Carolina District Office and the HUBZone office in Washington, D.C. Initially, Price had applied for HUBZone status for CARBRA Construction. When she learned that Fort Jackson was offering a large contract to a HUBZone firm, she immediately contacted the SBA South Carolina District Office to check on the status of her application. In turn, the South Carolina District Office contacted the HUBZone office in Washington. The HUBZone office in Washington was able to complete CARBRA Construction’s HUBZone application process one day before the end of the federal fiscal year. The following day, CARBRA Construction was awarded the Fort Jackson contract.
And back to that whole question of a woman in a male-dominated industry. “Women have the capacity to do just about anything men can do,” Price said. “I hope my work as a general contractor will inspire young ladies and women to consider becoming entrepreneurs in the construction industry.