Teaching Books.net - A Success Story from Madison, WI
TeachingBooks.net, located in Madison, WI, is an internet-based resource that makes global connections between authors and teachers a reality. It can be found at www.TeachingBooks.net. Nick Glass, founder of TeachingBooks.net, started the business because he wanted to share his experience of how seeing and hearing an author changes a relationship with the book for both the student and educator. In April 2000, the idea for TeachingBooks.net took form. Their debut was at the American Library Association convention in San Francisco in June 2001. TeachingBooks was launched on the internet September 1, 2001 and began selling licenses in November 2003. Nick has seven employees that help him run TeachingBooks.
TeachingBooks was founded on the premise that educators find enjoyment and professional value in seeing and hearing authors talk about their work. Nick had hosted many author presentations in his previous work—bringing authors to bookstores, schools, libraries, and conferences—and had arranged live author programs for educators over a distance-learning video network. Each author interaction with educators inspired new insights for teaching and sharing books with children.
TeachingBooks.net’s mission is to generate enthusiasm for books and reading by bringing authors, illustrators, and engaging resources about books for children and teens to every school, library, and home. TeachingBooks.net’s database of tens of thousands of reliable links—professionally vetted and authoritative—makes it intuitive to bring books to life for everyone across the K-12 educational landscape.
A sampling of what subscribers to this virtual encyclopedia of children’s literature resources can access are:
- Movies of authors being interviewed in their studios
- Authors introducing and reading their books
- Stimulating book discussion and activity guides
Recordings of authors and illustrators saying their names
…and much more!
When Nick quit his job to devote his energies to TeachingBooks.net, he knew he had to learn about business. He took a business fundamentals class at the SBDC and upon completion of the class, got counseling from SBDC and was encouraged to create a business plan. Nick’s business plan ended up in a thick binder with tabs that organize pages into all the categories of a classic business plan and has a prominent place on a shelf in his office. Nick continues with SBDC counseling as he pursues his dream. Recently, he revisited the plan and drafted a 30-page snapshot of where the business is and what he would like to see happen in the next few years.
Nick raised private financing to support his venture. His business plan has a comprehensive market research section. Revenue sources are primarily subscriptions from schools, universities, and public libraries. Currently more than 26,000 schools have licenses to TeachingBooks.net, offering instructional support to the books read by students, teachers, and families.
As Nick’s business develops and issues become more complex, he still recalls some advice he got from a man he met on a bus, “Watch your dollars and be as creative as you can early-on, because the day will come when you are not as creative as you are now.” Nick says he is in business because, “I have something I want to accomplish. This is my strength; this is what I want to do. I want this job.”
Mandli Communications, Inc. was founded by Raymond and Tracie Mandli in 1983 and is located in Madison, Wisconsin. Mandli Communications is an industry leader in the design and development of highly specialized digital imaging, data collection equipment, and operational methodologies for various Departments of Transportation throughout the world
Mandli has always been a company willing to take on a good challenge. From their earliest work, producing interactive optical disc training videos, to the current suit of state-of-the-art tools and technologies, they have continuously raised the bar in the industries they participate in. Today, a majority of their projects are based around the efficient collection and reduction of highway infrastructure data to help in the maintenance of roads and the support assets like signs, guardrails, and bridges. The tools they have developed to accomplish this task include high definition digital cameras that create photologs of the roadways, custom software to analyze and present the data, advanced pavement scanning systems, and a collection of laser measuring products including LiDAR that can gather 3D data at over 1 million points per second.
The company’s long history of success can be explained by its ability to innovate. In 2009, Mandli took a huge step towards bringing a new generation of innovative technologies to the market by acquiring the assets needed to begin a crucial research and development cycle. With the help of a $1 million SBA loan, Mandli was able to make a considerable investment in new technology that resulted in a significant increase in revenues and profitability.
Mandli Communication’s has taken these innovations and applied them to projects around the country. One example would be the use of LiDAR to take a complex and dangerous survey project and turn it into something quite simple and safe to accomplish. The Orange Crush, a freeway interchange in the city of Orange, California, has one of the highest occupancy rates for cars and trucks in the nation The State of California was researching the ability to add an additional “high occupancy vehicle” lane to this interchange and needed to know the exact measurements of the current roadway to determine if the existing structures were wide enough to add the lane. With technology developed by Mandli, a full scan of the interchange was collected and a complete set of data was delivered the following day with all the measurements needed by the state. Without this technology, crews would have had to measure the roadway manually which could have taken weeks, been less accurate and had potential safety issues for both the collection team and the driving public.
Another Use of the LiDAR was in the creation of a commercial for Major League Baseball to advertise the 2010 All Star Game in Anaheim CA. Mandli was asked to provide a digital solid model of Angel Stadium by scanning it with one of their mobile LiDAR collection vehicles that just happen to be a short distance away while working for the Nevada DOT. The crew dove to Anaheim and spent about an hour scanning the stadium. The digital data was sent back to Madison and 30 hours later the 3D model was finished and ready for delivery. They process used by Mandli saved the company making the commercial more than 3 weeks of work if they had to create the stadium model from scratch.
Mandli Communications assisted the New York Port Authority at the LaGuardia Airport when they needed to inspect the condition of the runways as part of their regular maintenance program. The airport’s typical method of inspection is to shut down a runway during daylight hours and have crews walk and drive the runways to make visual inspections. Using the Mandli pavement scanning technology, they were able to complete the scan in hours during the nighttime slowdown period saving the Port Authority time and money, avoiding the disrupting air traffic and providing accurate and usable data while significantly reducing safety risks.
In the 28 years that Mandli Communications has been in business, the tools and technology that they have used has changed dramatically. For a technology company to remain relevant, it has to have continuous research and development so they can adapt to that change. Mandli has responded by being first to market with robust, well thought out solutions such as the first all digital photolog image collection system, integration of mobile GPS into the collection of all data streams, development of new pavement scanning technologies, and the incorporation of laser technology to determine accurate bridge clearances. Mandli has proven it can develop, deploy and deliver results from its technologies. The next product coming to market is a new sign retroflectivity collection system that will meet the Federal Highways mandate that goes into affect beginning in 2012. Mandli has developed the technology to meet that need and will deploy that technology before the end of this year.
Raymond and Tracie Mandli have tried to stay actively involved in their surrounding community. Over the years, they have participated by sitting on committees that have developed school policy, planned budgets, generated fundraising and worked to get a referendum passed to build a new school. They have also committed time and resources to the meals on wheels program, the local fire department and the school to work program that mentors high school kids. The program employs high school students in real world applications of skills they are learning in high school and beyond. The students start while they are still in high school and Mandli Communications hires the students to work with the programming and IT personnel within their operations. Many students continue to work with Mandli Communications through their college studies and several of the program participants are still employed with the company.
Mandli Communications, Inc. has shown resilience, growth and evolved with new technologies. They have transformed from an operation of two employees to a high tech company of more than 85 employees. Revenues, profitability, asset size and other metrics have reflected positive trends over the last three years. Mandli’s success is attributed to the vision, expertise, and business savvy of owners Raymond and Tracie Mandli. They have become an industry leader, innovator and example to others. Mandli Communications, Inc. was named Wisconsin's SBA 2011 Runner-Up Small Business Person of the Year because of their entrepreneurial spirit and fortitude. SBA is proud to have been of assistance to Mandli Communications, Inc., and looks forward to watching them grow and continue to succeed.
MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc., located in Janesville, WI has been a family-owned business for over 80 years and is presently the largest pheasant producer in North America. MacFarlane Pheasants produce pheasant products, both ready to cook or already smoked, as well as birds that are sold as day old chicks or as fully-grown adults. MacFarlane is the industry leader in day old game birds, mature game birds, and dressed pheasants. MacFarlane’s customer base is made up of hunting preserves, other game farms to high-end white tablecloth restaurants. Their pheasants were served at the inauguration dinner for President Obama.
Pheasants are not indigenous to the United States. The first pheasants were brought here from Great Britain in the late 1800’s and shipments of eggs continued to be brought here into the early 1900’s. By the 1920’s, pheasant populations were able to sustain hunting and there was a demand for pheasants for release and propagation. Kenneth MacFarlane (founder of MacFarlane Pheasants) went to New York and completed a game rearing school and, in 1928, Kenneth imported eggs from England. In 1929, he founded MacFarlane Pheasant Farm. Kenneth’s brother Donald joined him in running the pheasant farm in 1935. Tragedy struck in 1941 when Kenneth was killed in a hunting accident and Donald continued to operate the pheasant farm. In 1946, Donald contracted polio that resulted in him becoming a paraplegic; however, he continued to operate the pheasant farm.
During the 1960’s Donald expanded the breeding aspect of MacFarlane Pheasant Farm and began large-scale production of day-old pheasant chicks. Over 200,000 day-old pheasant chicks were produced annually and approximately 3,000 dressed birds. About 200 acres of corn and soybeans were raised yearly. During the 70’s, Donald’s health declined and farm sales began to decline. There was talk of the farm being sold and Donald persuaded his son, Bill, to return to Janesville and form MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. In the 1980’s, Bill traveled to China and was able to successfully import wild pheasants back to the United States. MacFarlane was the only pheasant farm in North America to be able to supply true wild pheasants to the game bird market. In 1981, Donald’s brother-in-law James Adamson, who had been coordinating day-to-day operations of the farm, retired. In 1985, Donald passed away. Bill MacFarlane was now in charge of the operation.
In the early 90’s, sales began to grow not only for the new products, but for existing products as well. During that period, interest was not only being generated through the US but also in places such as Canada, England, Ireland, and the Middle East. MacFarlane has successfully exported day old chicks and eggs to many different countries around the world including Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Tajikistan and dressed pheasants to Mexico. Although export of dressed pheasants has been limited to this point, one of MacFarlane’s initiatives is to increase its export sales in the coming years
MacFarlane has dealt with the actual process of exporting by having key personnel well trained in the different aspects of exporting the different products and working closely with brokerage and expediting companies that aid in the documentation required. Each different market requires not only specific product requirements but differs in pricing structure. Recently, the falling US dollar has aided exports to Europe, making MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. products very price competitive in local markets. This understanding has been critical to MacFarlane’s success. Pricing of their products has allowed the company to leverage difference in exchange rates between currencies to open up opportunities in other markets. Macfarlane is currently working with the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and is targeting future exports of dressed pheasants into the Caribbean.
Every two years, MacFarlane Pheasants conducts an international pheasant seminar. Attending this seminar are various game bird producers from the US and many countries around the world. During the last seminar in the spring of 2010, there were several attendees from England, Ireland and as far away as Israel. This unique opportunity allows domestic producers to network and learn from producers around the world and vice versa. During the three-day event, many contacts are made and the stage is set for future export business.
MacFarlane Pheasants has worked with the Small Business Development Center, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and are actively involved in working with academia and other industry. This progressive nature has allowed the company to develop market leading innovative products and services.
One of MacFarlane’s core values for their 35 full-time and 15-part-time employees is job satisfaction. To this end, MacFarlane constantly improves their wage and benefit package for employees to gage their marketability in the workplace. They hold regular company meetings to keep employees informed of company happenings and they encourage employees to participate in area organizations by donation of time and money.
MacFarlane’s mission statement is “Sustained profitability focused on integrity and accountability to our employees, customers, vendors, and neighbors with respect for their birds and the environment”. This mission statement has boded well for MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. through the years in making their business the success it is today.
MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. is SBA’s 2011 Exporter of the Year winner for Wisconsin. This was accomplished through their increased sales, profits and/or growth of employment because of exporting; creative overseas marketing strategies; effective solutions to export related problems; encouragement to other small businesses to export; introduction of unique trading companies and volunteer assistance to other small businesses entering the export market. Peek at MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. at http://www.pheasant.com/ and see what they are all about.