Adrienne Morgan, a first generation born Hispanic American, was born with entrepreneurial blood. Her father, who came to the United States not knowing English and without a high school diploma, has owned and operated a successful paint contracting company for more than 30 years.
“I grew up listening to the struggles and heart-aches of owning a small business while sitting around the dinner table,” states Morgan. Those struggles didn’t deter Morgan from wanting to follow in her father’s footsteps and one day opening her own business.
Morgan received her environmental degree from Boston University and spent seven years working for the Nature Conservancy in Virginia. She and her husband were ready to move back to his hometown of Charles Town, West Virginia to raise their family in the wide-open spaces the land offered with close proximity to the District of Columbia. This move gave Morgan the opportunity she had dreamed of – to open her own business.
In 2004, Morgan and her husband started A-Zone Environmental Services, LLC providing environmental services in site investigation, environmental drilling, and remediation for site re-development services. Through guidance from the Small Business Development Center in Martinsburg, Morgan learned about the benefits of SBA’s 8(a) program. In 2010, Morgan received her acceptance letter into the program and began her journey of Government Contracting. Since its inception into the 8(a) program, A-Zone has experienced business growth in sales and revenue. Today, A-Zone offers environmental services in assessment and compliance, environmental remediation, field services and drilling.
The 8(a) Business Development program is a nine-year program established to assist eligible socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to develop and grow their businesses. Business development assistance includes one-on-one counseling, training workshops, match-making opportunities with federal buyers and other management and technical guidance. Morgan attended DyNet, an SBA matchmaking event, in 2011 and made contact with the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Morgan knew this was an agency that would be a good fit for her company.
After the DyNet Conference, Morgan continued to take advantage of the business development opportunities through the 8(a) program and grow her business. A year and a half after her first connection with the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Core of Engineers, Morgan reached out to Melissa Loder, SBA West Virginia District Office Business Development Specialist, to see if she could set up a capabilities presentation to the agency.
Loder scheduled the meeting giving A-Zone the opportunity to showcase the services they offer. A year later, the agency called Morgan notifying her of a bid coming up that would be a perfect match for her company. A-Zone was recently awarded the $1.9M contract that includes operating and maintaining the ground water treatment center at the former West Virginia Ordnance Works site in Point Pleasant, WV.
“I knew this meeting would be a goldmine of opportunity for both stakeholders,” stated Loder. “Adrienne was well prepared and the meeting was a great way for the agency to learn what the small business could bring to the table.”
Morgan credits Loder, “Melissa and the SBA have been wonderful in linking us to prospective government clients; it has really opened the door to current and potential procurement awards.”
These matchmaking events don’t always result in immediate gratification. Still, Morgan has nothing but praises for the program, “The SBA and the 8(a) program really help small business grow and provides them opportunities that they would never have had access to. With the knowledge learned from the SBA, the sky is the limit on how much you can grow your company.”
The West Virginia District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration is set to participate in the 2014 DyNet Conference, April 2, 2014 at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center in Fairmont. To learn more about the SBA and the 8(a) program visit www.sba.gov or contact Melissa Loder at (304)623-5631.
Upshur County’s Atlas Supply Company owner, KJ Woody, lives vacuum mogul James Dyson’s adage, “Business is constantly changing. Business is constantly evolving.” Woody, who has degrees in engineering and business, started his entrepreneurship career by owning a collision parts company.
The business grew quickly and was doing well, however through the work he was doing with collision parts, he saw a need in the chemical supply industry and was ready to evolve his company to meet that need. Woody knew this evolution would take capital to be successful. Having a good relationship with his local bank he didn’t anticipate any issues getting additional funds to evolve his business. He quickly found out that lending environment was changing. His company was viewed more as a start-up instead of an established business looking to evolve.
Woody reached out to Stephen Foster, the Executive Director of the Upshur County Development Authority for advice. Foster referred Woody to Robert Hinton with the Small Business Development Center, a resource partner of the SBA. Through counseling Woody received from the SBDC, he was connected with Tim James from First Microloan of West Virginia to discuss SBA’s microloan program.
James made the microloan process easy, taking time to walk Woody through everything and ensured that he understood it. However, Woody says the best part was… “I didn’t even have to leave my office. For a very busy small business there is value in that - I promise.”
James noted, “The microloan process requires a lot of information, but Woody was on top of it and had everything I asked for.”
Woody used the funds from the microloan as working capital and to increase his inventory. Receiving the loan allowed him to bring on another manufacturer, which is now used as the company’s primary supplier. The microloan also enabled the company to buy products in bulk and package the merchandise to the customer’s needs and requirements.
Now employing up to seven employees, Woody is evolving Atlas Supply Company once more to carry a full line of oil & gas products; although, he’ll continue the chemical supply operations. When asked if he would recommend the SBA microloan to others in similar situations, he says, “Absolutely! The programs and services being offered by the SBA are what keeps small businesses alive and operating.”
The mission of the SBA is to aid, counsel, assist and promote the interests of small businesses by providing financial, procurement and business development assistance and advocating on their behalf within the government. All SBA programs are extended to the public on a non-discriminatory basis. This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by SBA of any opinions, products or services of any private individual or entity.
How SBA Helped One Local Business Owner Turn His Passion into a Profession - Bridgeport Skate World open nearly 30 years
Gabrielle Bernstein, a motivational speaker, life coach, and author, states “Allow your passion to become your purpose, and it will one day become your profession.” The U.S. Small Business Administration has helped small business owners follow their passion for the last sixty years.
Walter Lanham, owner and operator of Bridgeport Skate World, credits the U.S. Small Business Administration for helping make his dream - his passion for skating - become his profession nearly 30 years ago.
Why did Lanham want to open a skating rink? It could be because some of his most precious memories include skating. His mom taught him how to skate in the basement of his childhood home by using the handle of an old broom, as a teenager he worked hard to have enough money to buy the skates he used for 28 years, he met his wife at a skate rink, and he drove his daughter to almost every skating rink in the Mid-Atlantic region to participate in dance skating and figure circle skating competitions. Bridgeport Skate World went on the market for sale in the early 80’s and Lanham knew it was time to finally make his dream of owning a skating rink become a reality.
Lanham was a skilled machinist and tool-maker by trade, but lacked a business background, which was a requirement by the bank to receive a loan. Lanham knew he could run a skating rink; he had been in more skating rinks than anyone he knew, and he understood how they operated. The bank advised Lanham he would need SBA to guarantee the loan if he was to have a chance of turning his passion into his profession.
“I knew my business partner, the Lord, would lead me in the right direction,” stated Lanham. “The process of getting my SBA loan approved took nine months – just like having a baby, and came with all the pains too – but with my partner by my side the whole time, it finally happened.”
Over the years, the process of getting an SBA guaranteed loan has been streamlined. For more information on SBA loan guarantee programs visit www.sba.gov or call the SBA West Virginia District Office at 304-623-5631.
Thirty years later, after receiving and paying off his SBA loan, Lanham continues to live his passion. “Recently, I was able to teach my granddaughter how to skate at just 9 months old at my skating rink,” states Lanham. “My business partner – the Lord, SBA, and hard work has turned my passion into my profession.”