Young entrepreneur Masroor Fatany started Sears Garage Solutions of Houston in 2009 at the age of 22. Sears Garage Solutions is a Sears franchise that provides repair and installation services and offers a full line of garage doors, accessories, and entry doors.
Masroor’s exposure to entrepreneurship came at the early age of 10 when he frequently accompanied his father on service calls in his air conditioning business. He later worked in another family business in retail packaging and shipping. While attending college he and his father launched Unlimited Calling, Inc. selling pre-paid Cricket wireless products. They expanded the business and now have 6 locations.
After graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s in accounting and a Master’s in Finance, Masroor worked as an Assurance and Advisory Associate at Ernst and Young. In less than a year, he realized he wanted to be a full time entrepreneur and began his search for a business idea. His search took him to Sears where he was chosen among 30+ applicants. He started the business with the help of a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Masroor also utilized the services of the University of Houston Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a resource partner of the SBA, that provides assistance to small businesses. Always looking for ways to improve and grow his business, he took advantage of all the services the SBDC offered, including research in their library, training classes, counseling, procurement and technical assistance, and the Professional Services Network of providers.
Upon completion of the Sears franchise training, Masroor hired one technician and committed himself to learn every aspect of the business. He launched an aggressive on-line marketing plan, and implemented an innovative customer service and scheduling system. His business covers 4 territories in Houston with a recent addition in San Antonio, where he turned the struggling location around increasing sales to over 500% in less than a year. Masroor hired an additional 6 technicians to accommodate his rapid growth rate and after his first full year in operation, was recognized by Sears Home Services Garage Solutions as the fastest growing franchise in 2010 and the 4th largest franchise (out of 45 Sears franchises) in the network. He was distinguished as the youngest owner to run the fastest growing franchise across the entire Sears franchise network covering carpet cleaning, garage solutions and home services.
Today, Masroor’s business continues to grow and expand with a new location, a staff of 20 employees, and a new product line. They now offer a vast selection of customizable storm, patio, and front entry doors.
Masroor continues to develop his mentoring skills and keeps active in business organizations. He is a member of the Advisory Board for Sears’ franchises and is a member of the Greater Houston Partnership-Business Leadership Council, Texas State CPAs and Private Equity and Venture Group. He was the 2012 SBA Houston District Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Sears Garage Solutions of Houston is located at 10122 Long Point Rd, Ste. A, Houston, TX 77043. For more information, visit their website at http://www.searsoverheaddoorhouston.com. For information about SBA and the UH SBDC’s programs and services, visit http://www.sba.gov and http://www.sbdc.uh.edu.
Texas Swim Academy, owned by Bruce and Kathleen McMordie, is an aquatic safety academy located in Katy, Texas. Texas Swim Academy started as a home-based business in 2004 and has expanded to a new 7,800 square foot facility with the help of the SBA and its resource partners.
The business idea came when Kathleen was looking for an infant aquatics survival program for her daughter. Having worked at a hospital as a registered nurse with near drowning patients, Kathleen wanted her children to learn water survival skills. Three of her older children were successful with a similar program when they lived in Austin, but after moving to Houston, finding an instructor in the area who taught this program proved unsuccessful. When she couldn’t find an instructor in town, she expanded her search and found an instructor from Dallas who was willing to travel to the Houston area to give lessons. To make the instructor’s trip to Houston worthwhile, Kathleen invited other children to take lessons.
When Kathleen’s daughter was of kindergarten age, she decided to train and become a certified instructor of the same program. In 2004, she started teaching the infant aquatic survival program at her home pool. The business took off and they eventually outgrew their home pool, limiting the number of lessons they can offer. With a passion to continue providing lifesaving skills to as many young children as possible, Bruce and Kathleen decided it was time to expand.
In 2009, Bruce and Kathleen heard about the Service Corps of Retired Executives’ (SCORE) workshops offered at the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce. They attended several workshops including “Write a Winning Business Plan” and “How to Start a Business.” They also received assistance from the University of Houston Ft. Bend County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Katy, Texas. The workshops combined with private counseling through SCORE and the SBDC helped Bruce and Kathleen prepare for the expansion.
With the business plan completed and details of the project ready, they applied for an SBA loan through Member’s Choice Credit Union. In November 2011, they were approved for an SBA 7(a) program loan to help fund the project. Three years of extensive research and planning finally paid off. Their new state of the art swim academy opened in September 2012 and includes a 30x60 ft. pool (four lanes) for group lessons and swim practice and five 12x12 ft. individual pools for private lessons. Texas Swim Academy offers year round indoor infant aquatics survival classes, parent-child classes, stroke development classes, water aerobics, and swim parties.
Bruce and Kathleen are proud to see their dreams come to fruition. They started their home-based business with one employee and now have a staff of 15. “The accomplishment of expanding from a home-based business to being able to employ people is rewarding,” said Bruce. “I enjoy teaching and working with my employees,” adds Kathleen. While Kathleen continues to teach, Bruce manages the business and already plans to expand the business to have an evening swim team and include competition swimming and host swim meets.
For more information about Texas Swim Academy, visit their location at 3514 Greenbusch Rd., Katy, Texas or visit their website at http://www.texasswimacademy.com. For information about SBA’s resource partners, SCORE and SBDC, visit their website at http://www.scorehouston.org and http://www.sbdc.uh.edu.
Dandy Candy, LLC was started in 2006 by friends and co-owners Goya Qualls and Gina Williams. Dandy Candy is a retail business specializing in printing full color images, photographs, logos and messages onto chocolate products.
The unique business started after Goya Qualls was laid off from the insurance industry where she worked for 24 years. With the ambition of starting her own business, she was reminded of her mother’s saying, “You should do what you love.” Jokingly, she answered herself, “I love chocolate.” What started off as a joke turned into a real business.
After much research, Qualls discovered the idea of selling personalized chocolates and pitched the idea to her friend Gina Williams, a retired disabled veteran who had recently moved from Louisiana to Houston after Hurricane Katrina. Gina was immediately on board. Leaving the chocolate making process to the experts, Qualls and Williams focused on creating graphics and designs to put on the chocolate. During their research, they learned about SCORE, a resource partner of the SBA, who helped them apply for an SBA loan. SCORE is a non-profit association of volunteers who offer free counseling to small business entrepreneurs. In September 2006, Qualls & Williams were approved for an SBA guaranteed loan.
Qualls and Williams continue to improve and grow their business and are still using SCORE’s services today. They recently participated in and graduated from SCORE & Capital One Bank’s “Getting Down To Business” program. This program was created to ensure that small business owners have access to information, resources, mentors and financing that can help them grow and succeed. The program also offers opportunities for qualified small businesses to grow by increasing business knowledge, networking with industry experts and lenders, and earning a match reward. Qualls & Williams won the business plan competition and received City Council and Congressional recognition.
These savvy business women know how to utilize the resources available. Qualls and Williams take their business very seriously, as evidenced by their state and national certifications and their commitment to continuing education. In May 2011, Williams traveled to San Antonio, Texas to attend the Veteran Women Inspiring the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) Conference and in August 2011, Williams graduated from The Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Disabled Veterans from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. Later that year in November, Qualls graduated from The Port of Houston's Small Business Development program and appeared on local FOX TV news in support of Small Business Saturday and in December, they were featured in the Houston Business Journal. They also took advantage of the services provided by the Houston Galveston Women’s Business Center, another resource partner of the SBA.
Dandy Candy didn’t always run so smoothly. They had a rough start in the beginning finding capital and losing inventory to Hurricane Ike; the decline in the economy made things worse. However, the available resources they’ve taken advantage of and applied to their business model have helped and they are looking forward to becoming an international provider of personalized chocolates while they continue to support charitable causes.
Qualls and Williams find joy in putting smiles on people’s faces and their goal is to work with non-profits to help raise money for charity. For more information on Dandy Candy, visit their website at http://www.dandycandyonline.com. More information about the SBA, SCORE, and WBC can be found at http://www.sba.gov and http://www.scorehouston.org, http://www.wbea-texas.org/wbc , respectively.