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.”
Jeannette King is a veteran - she is also a West Virginian, a single mother, and a small business owner. In 2007, King took the unique skills, drive, and passion that she developed while serving in the Navy to open her own small business, Strategic Resolution Experts, Inc. (SRE).
SRE, located in Martinsburg West Virginia, is a technology and management consulting firm that helps customers implement business processes and tools to find efficiencies. King utilizes a large toolbox to achieve success in small business.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is one of the vital tools that King depends upon. SRE is a certified small disadvantaged 8(a) business. The SBA 8(a) small business development program is a nine-year platform created to assist eligible socially and economically disadvantaged individuals in developing and growing their businesses.
King entered the program in 2010 and has received contracts from Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Safety Administration, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Department of Treasury, and the Internal Revenue Service with the help of the certification. King states that the 8(a) certification is a great tool to have, however it is not a magic bullet. “You still have to be out in the community developing relationships – you still have to market and do business development,” she states.
In addition to the 8(a) certification, King obtained a loan with an SBA guarantee. As a veteran, King qualifies for the SBA Patriot Express loan guarantee program. The Patriot Express program is offered by SBA lenders to increase turnaround time on loan approvals. The loan can be used for most business purposes including start-up, expansion, equipment purchases, inventory, business occupied real-estate purchases and as how King intends to use it – working capital.
While King has not yet used the line of credit, it gives her peace of mind to bid on large contracts and feel confident that she can fund payroll until she gets paid by the government. “It’s just another tool in my toolbox,” states King. “It shows that financially I can handle the large contracts that I am bidding on.”
“My experience working with the West Virginia District Office of the SBA has been has been very positive, most importantly the employees are dedicated to helping small businesses in West Virginia succeed.”
Due to the success that King has accomplished with her business, she is now able to give back to all of those communities that she belongs to. As a West Virginian she is proud that half of her staff lives in West Virginia and that she is making a positive impact to the economic development of the state. As a mother, King dedicates her time and money to promoting education at local, national, and international educational institutions. And, as a Veteran King supports many organizations for Veteran, with the most prominent being Final Salute, Inc. organization which provides transitional housing for homeless female veterans and their children.
The SBA knows that veterans, like King, are essential to the success of the small business community. U.S. military veterans own nearly one in 10 of all businesses nationwide, they generate $1.2 trillion dollars in receipts, and employ nearly 5.8 million people.
If you are a veteran and would like to learn more about services offered by the SBA, visit www.sba.gov/content/veterans.