Gourmet Gang, Inc. is a multi-location bistro style deli restaurant and catering business that has grown since 1991 to become one of the largest and most successful local food service operators in the Tidewater area. Through the leadership of its owner, Michella Guinan, Gourmet Gang has grown from a small door-to-door sandwich vendor to a four location restaurant and large catering business. Gourmet Gang also serves various airline operations flying out of Norfolk International Airport. Employment has grown from one employee in 1991 to fifty employees today.
Mia Guinan’s early interest in the restaurant industry led her to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Hospitality and Restaurant Administration from Florida State University. Following graduation, her first entrepreneurial enterprise venture began in 1986 when she conceptualized and co-founded Lettuce Souprise You, Inc. in Atlanta, GA. As Executive Vice President, she secured corporate financing and coordinated all aspects of design, development and construction, established all operating systems and programs and managed a team of 85 employees.
In 1991 Mia moved to Norfolk, Virginia where she developed a door-to-door sandwich vendor service. From the growth of interest in her sandwich business, Mia founded Gourmet Gang, Inc. Gourmet Gang, Inc. originally operated strictly as a food vendor service, but as demands for her products increased, Mia opened her first location. In 1996, she switched her business profile from food vendor to a pre-order delivery service and bistro style deli restaurant. As the popularity of the Gourmet Gang grew, and in order to more effectively serve her pre-order delivery service, she opened several satellite locations. In 2002, with the increase in her corporate catering division, Gourmet Gang, with the assistance of financing by Resource Bank, along with an SBA guarantee, moved her main kitchen facilities to a larger location that could serve her present and future needs. With the presence of the new location next to Norfolk International Airport, it was a logical next step to enter into the food service business for airlines operating from the airport.
Gourmet Gang’s commitment to unparalleled customer service, quality and value has been instrumental in its growth and success. Gourmet Gang has also given back to the community through assistance and contributions over the years. Some of the organizations it has assisted in 2004 include Jr. Achievement, Relay for Life, Virginia Ballet, Lynnhaven Business Association, Children of the Commonwealth Benevolent Fund, WHRO, Norfolk Rotary, EVMS Student Scholarship and Norfolk Botanical Gardens.
Mia is married to Neil Guinan, and they have two young daughters. Neil, a Lt. Commander with U.S. Navy Seal Team 8, is currently deployed overseas.
Kamran and Anna Karbassiyoon, owners of Sir Speedy Printing of Roanoke, discovered earlier this year that recent growth of their successful downtown business made the original building too small. They needed additional space to accommodate their new business document management services and equipment. According to Anna, “Sir Speedy approached a point where we had to relocate to a larger facility to accommodate the needs of our customers as well as own growth for the future.” A two-story, 12,000 square foot building at 22 West Church Avenue in Roanoke was purchased and the first floor was renovated for Sir Speedy Printing operation. The new facility opened in May 2004.
Anna was born in Italy. When she was 15 years old, her father was transferred to Santiago, Chile where they lived for seven years. In 1979 she came back to the United States to attend graduate school and received a masters’ degree in chemistry. It was in graduate school that she and Kamran met. Shortly after getting married they moved to Roanoke from Massachusetts where Kamran was working as a fiber optics engineer. Kamran’s new job at ITT brought them to the Roanoke Valley. While Kamran worked at ITT as a fiber optics engineer Anna commuted to Blacksburg and worked as an electroplating engineer.
Anna and Kamran always wanted to own their own business. After thorough research they opened Sir Speedy Printing of Roanoke in June 1995. According to Anna, “My husband and I have technology backgrounds, we specifically liked printing and copying business because it was a way to serve other businesses and still be involved with high technology. What makes this business fascinating is establishing business with our clients where they consider us as part of their entity and utilize our services.”
Throughout the life of their business Mr. and Mrs. Karbssiyoon have relied on the Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center for assistance. Prior to opening the business Anna attended several training seminars/workshops offered by the Small Business Development Center. This year, when they made the decision to move to the new location, they met with Roy Baldwin, director of the SBDC, for advice on the move. According to Anna, “The SBDC has been very instrumental in assisting us in making the right decisions and helping us to avoid costly mistakes.”
The new location makes it easier than ever for business customers to order printing, scanning, archiving, mailing, online ordering, and document management services, according to Kamran. The business also continues to offer its customers competitive pricing on full-service digital printing and copying, as well as free pickup and delivery.
The business opened nine years ago with two employees and now employs eight people. The Karbassiyoons feel the new location will enable them to achieve their sales goals for the next 10 years.
For long-term customers of Sir Speedy Printing of Roanoke, there hasn’t been a problem finding the new business location at 22 West Church Avenue. The new facility, three times the size of the previous location, is just a couple of doors up from the original building.
SBA’s 2004 Minority Small Business Person of the Year in the Richmond District, Mike McCarley, Enjoys Continued Success
Following 10 years service as a U.S. Naval Officer on various ships as well as the U.S. Naval Safety Center, and nearly 20 years working for a large government contractor, Mike McCarley started his own government contracting business in Prince William County, Virginia. ICI, LLC is an 8(a)/SDB, Veteran-Owned small business providing engineering and technical support to the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and other Federal Agencies. ICI’s staff serves clients nationally and internationally in the following areas: Professional Engineering Services, Environmental Services, Program Management, Base Operating Support Services (BOSS), Field Service Engineering, and Information Technology. ICI’s managers offer experience across a wide spectrum of defense and technical specialties, often exploring unique and innovative solutions.
In its early stages ICI, LLC, like all small businesses, struggled with initial capitalization. Mr. McCarley funded the business by mortgaging his home and using his life savings. Mr. McCarley also encountered difficulties in getting local financial institutions to take ICI seriously in order to secure lines of credit and loans. Only once ICI grew to $3.5 M in gross sales revenues were the banks willing to seriously consider the firm’s financing needs. With each hurdle encountered, Mike McCarley grew stronger and more motivated to succeed. Today ICI, LLC is a financially sound firm with a bright future in supporting the Federal Government.
ICI, LLC has received substantial support in the form of training from the Richmond Small Business Administration since their 8(a), SDB certification in early 2003.
The 8(a) Business Development Program is an essential instrument for helping socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society. SBA has helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs over the years to gain a foothold in government contracting. Participation is divided into two phases over nine years: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage.
Participants can receive sole-source contracts, up to a ceiling of $3 million for goods and services and $5 million for manufacturing. While SBA helps 8(a) firms build their competitive and institutional know-how, the agency also encourages them to participate in competitive acquisitions.
Since receiving their 8(a) certification, the firm has been awarded $58 million in contracts. In September 2004 Mike McCarley was named Minority Small Business Person of the Year by the SBA’s Richmond District. ICI also celebrated its 5-year anniversary in September 2004. The firm has grown from one employee to over 200 today. ICI support staff work in 13 states as well as Japan (Naval Station Yokosuka). The firm’s annual revenues exceed $18 million and 22 prime contracts (as well as multiple subcontracts).