Gwen and Billy Craig are the owners of Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring, Texas, near The Woodlands. With the help of a 504 program loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the RV Park opened in 2005 and is a beautiful 27 acre landscaped park offering 115 sites and fully furnished cottages.
Billy is no stranger to entrepreneurship. Prior to developing the RV resort, he was co-owner of a family A/C business for 29 years and a developer of a storage facility business. Both Gwen and Billy work at the resort and have eight employees. In 1998 they purchased an old timber site and while they researched and put together their business plans, they also waited for the construction of the Woodlands Waterway to be complete. Their location near The Woodlands allows them to offer their guests off-site attractions and activities at The Woodlands Mall, Market Street, which is lined with shops and diving venues, the Cynthia Mitchell Pavilion, a popular concert venue, and the Waterway providing water taxis service. Other nearby attractions include Old Town Spring, Splashtown Water Park and Lake Conroe.
Although the RV Park is conveniently located to many local attractions, guests never have to leave the resort to enjoy their stay. Rayford Crossing offers many on site amenities, including a heated swimming pool and spa, pet park and dog boardwalk, two playgrounds with shuffleboard courts and horseshoe pits, free wi-fi, walking trails, stocked ponds, clubhouse, exercise facilities, library, cable television and game room. The streets and RV sites are concrete for convenient access and all the sites have 30/50 amp service and full hookups. Rayford Crossing RV Resort has been awarded a perfect rating from Trailer Life (10/10/10) and Woodalls (5W/5W); organizations that rate private parks across the nation. In addition, they recently received the Texas Campground Medium Park of the Year Award.
Gwen and Billy designed the resort with their guests in mind, creating a family atmosphere. “We wanted to create a place where families can come together and bond,” said Gwen. Once a month during the summer, they offer themed weekends for their guests that includes an endless array of activities, crafts, music and other organized activities. During the winter months, they cater to the Winter Texans and the park is bustling with daily on-site activities for adults of all ages as well as off-site planned activities such as cruises and casino trips.
In 2008, they opened another RV park in Magnolia, Texas, Timber Ridge RV Village, offering a more rustic environment. With their busy schedules of owning two RV parks, they still make time to assist with local charities such as CASA (Court Appointed Child Advocates), American Heart Association, and Interfaith food pantry. Gwen is also a sitting member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of Campground Owners.
The Baker’s Dozen Kolaches and Donuts is owned and operated by Laura Auhing. With the help of her husband Rick, Laura opened the neighborhood donut shop at 23933 Nichols Sawmill Rd. Hockley, TX 77447, in February, 2008.
The stay-at-home mom turned entrepreneur stumbled on the donut industry by accident. In 2001, while looking for a temporary part time job to make a little vacation spending money, Laura noticed an advertisement of a donut shop opening in her neighborhood. She stopped by and applied and when asked what type of experience she had in the food industry, Laura admitted to no food or retail experience. She didn’t know how to bake, cook, or work the register, but was eager and willing to learn. Laura was hired and worked for six weeks, the only amount of time she was able to commit. She learned a lot about the business in the short time she worked there and was asked to come back to work when she returned from vacation. Laura initially agreed to return for only six more weeks but ended up staying on longer. Shortly after returning to work, she met the owner who took her on a journey of a lifetime. The owner continued to expand the business and took Laura with her to open new stores. Laura shadowed her and learned everything about opening new stores including licenses, permits, production, inventory, and operations. The six week agreement turned into six years. It was during this time that Laura met her husband Rick and they married in 2002.
In 2007 when her boss sold most of the stores and retired, Laura decided to open her own donut shop. Around the same time Rick’s company was moving out of town and he opted to retire and invest his savings into their new family business. Understanding the importance of a good business plan, they immediately got started and sought assistance from the Fort Bend Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Missouri City. Laura & Rick attended a workshop at the Fort Bend SBDC presented by SBA Business Development Specialist Sonia Maldonado. SBDC consultant Jesus Gomez and program coordinator Christine Collins helped Laura fine tune her business plan. “The SBA and SBDC were extremely helpful. Jesus, Christine and Sonia were very helpful and provided me with a lot of useful information,” said Laura. Equipped with the knowledge, skills, and a good business plan, Laura and Rick were ready for their next step, getting a bank loan. They were approved for an SBA community express program loan for $50,000 through Borrego Springs Bank.
“Starting and running a business is hard work. Allow a lot of time to prepare a good business plan and invest in a business that you know really well,” advised Rick. Both Rick and Laura are hands on business owners and are involved in the daily operations. With that comes a sacrifice of family time. Although their daughters Briana & Jovanna come out to help sometimes on the weekends, they haven’t taken a family vacation together since they’ve been open. Laura already has her goals set on a new venture. She wants to eventually own a shopping center so that she doesn’t have to work the long hours at the donut shop and have more time for family.
Laura & Rick recall how hard they worked the first year. In addition to the grand opening, Hurricane Ike also made 2008 a very memorable year for them. In September when the media warned the locals of Hurricane Ike, Rick and Laura heeded all the warnings and prepared for the storm. They purchased a generator and double ordered everything for the store. On the day the hurricane came onto the Texas shore, they doubled their production and moved into the store. Many people in the area lost power overnight and the next morning people were knocking on their doors at 5am. They made donuts round the clock and stayed at the store for two weeks. They were tired and exhausted but continued to stay open to help their community. Their hard work paid off when their sales exceeded their projections in the first year. These two business savvy owners buy everything in cash and when the recession hit they were able to adjust without much difficulty.
In early 2011, Rick and Laura were ready to start a second location and once again sought the help of the Ft. Bend County SBDC. In August 2011, Rick and Laura opened their second location in Magnolia, Texas with another SBA loan through Members Choice Credit Union.
For more information on The Baker’s Dozen, visit one of their locations at 23933 Nichols Sawmill Rd. in Hockley, Texas or at 30326 Nicholls Sawmill Rd., Ste. 101 in Magnolia, Texas. You can also find them on Facebook under Baker’s Dozen. More information about the SBA and SBDC’s programs and service can be found at www.sba.gov and www.sbdc.uh.edu.
Aundrea Williams Young is the owner and founder of Competitive Choice, Inc. Started in 2003 as a one-woman company, Competitive Choice started as a specialty industrial chemical and safety solutions company. Today they are a diversified minority woman-owned company with divisions in general construction and specialty chemicals. Young’s energy, organizational skills and forward thinking approach to all projects makes Competitive Choice the perfect outlet for her training, talent and business acumen. Young has a communications degree from Texas Southern University with a minor in construction management.
Young worked for many years in the same industry as a local sales rep for a large corporation. When the company filed bankruptcy, she decided to start her own business. Young’s existing customers followed and supported her which eased the transition of becoming a business owner. Competitive Choice sells industrial maintenance chemicals such as degreasers, solvents, HVAC plumbing, and drain openers to various industries including construction, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical. In 2008 after much demand from her customers, Young formed the general construction division. Her business began taking off so she added five more employees. Some of her customers include Exxon Mobil, the City of Houston, school districts, and universities. Competitive Choice holds certifications from the SBA, State of Texas HUB, HMBC, City of Houston, Port of Houston Authority and WBEA.
Due to the decline in the economy, she downsized to three employees and had to rely on credit cards after running the company debt free for 5 years. “My customers are not buying as much. They’re buying only what they need and not stocking up,” said Young. In September 2009, she got a big break with her first 8(a) contract with NASA. Young had applied and was approved for SBA’s 8(a) program two years earlier. The 8(a) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged firms, helping entrepreneurs to compete in the Federal contracting arena and to take advantage of greater subcontracting opportunities available from large firms as the result of public/private partnerships. This nine-year program includes counseling and training, as well as potential Federal procurement opportunities. “The contract came at the perfect time,” said Young. This contract was funded under the 2009 Recovery Act. The Recovery Act requires agencies to provide maximum opportunities for small businesses to compete for contracts. SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives worked with federal agencies to ensure that small businesses get their fair share of the prime and subcontracting opportunities from the Recovery funds.
Despite the economic conditions, Young’s perseverance and hard work is paying off. Competitive Choice was chosen in October, 2010 by Harris County Hospital District to assist in Work Order Maintenance Projects and in February, 2011, they and Joint Venture partner, Gen-Tech was one of 5 awardees chosen by NASA to share in an award under a $49 million solicitation to perform general construction and repair work for minor projects at NASA facilities in Houston and in New Mexico. The 8(a) multiple award indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts will cover construction, modification and repair work including architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, civil, structural, roofing, partial building renovations, building demolition and environmental support. The work will be performed at Johnson Space Center, Ellington Field and the Sonny Carter Training Facility in Houston and the White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M. The firm fixed-price contract has a base period of five years with no options.
In March 2011, the Federal Detention Center selected Competitive Choice to upgrade their HVAC system. They are also assisting in on-going work order maintenance projects at the VA Hospital in Houston.
In addition to the SBA 8a program, Young also received assistance from SBA’s local resource partners, SCORE and the SBDC. Both SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) offer consultation and training to new and existing small businesses. She advises anyone starting a business to have a business plan, stay focus and on course, and make sure to have a savings. Young was born and raised in Houston, Texas and is currently pursuing her Executive MBA from University of Houston. She is a member of Wheeler Avenue Church and is involved with the Fort Bend Junior League, a non-profit to assist women.