SBA Officials Learn about Cutting Edge Microclimate Research created by a West Virginia Small Business
Did you know that the eighth longest cave in the United States, which is also the home to almost half of the world’s population of Virginia big-eared bats, is located in West Virginia? Located in Germany Valley, the cave is aptly named Hellhole. The only known entrance to the cave is a funnel-shaped pit opening on the lower slopes of the North Fork Mountain with a sign that reads “Make Peace with God.”
For nearly 10 years, Extreme Endeavors has performed microclimate research for a West Virginia company to monitor the cave and assure that nearby mining does not change the environment for hibernation. Every two years Extreme Endeavors enters Hellhole to replace environmental monitoring sensors.
This year the Owner and President of the company, Mike Masterman, invited SBA Regional Administrator Natalia Olson and District Director Judy McCauley, to accompany the Extreme Endeavors team while they changed a sensor in a nearby cave, called Schoolhouse Cave. While Hellhole is too dangerous for the adventurous duo, they enjoyed their exploratory excursion into the neighboring cave where they learned about the cutting edge technology that the small business was developing and was able to witness the processes of changing the sensors.
Masterman is no stranger to working with the SBA. In 2009, Extreme Endeavors secured an American Recovery Capital Loan and was able to re-organize their organization and add the ability to service private industries with research and development services. They also participated in Federal Acquisition Management training taught by the SBA and received assistance in becoming HUBZone certified. Masterman participated in a networking event where he credits the SBA for the key introduction to a chemical production company that Extreme Endeavors is in discussion with regarding remote automation and reordering of their products.
Olson and McCauley raved about their experience traveling into the cave. “I’m so pleased that Mike took us to Schoolhouse Cave and explained the cutting edge technology that he and his team are developing,” states Olson. “It’s empowering to see technology like this being developed right here in West Virginia,” states McCauley.
The sensors created by Extreme Endeavors are so precise that they can detect when people are in certain sections of the cave based on the changes in air flow and added heat source. The company is now developing an Environmental Monitoring System, which is software that will automate the cave monitoring system.
For information on how the SBA can you start, grow or succeed at business, visit www.sba.gov.
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.
“Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong,” John Denver sings of the solace found amongst the majestic mountains and whirling rivers of West Virginia. One of these hidden sanctuaries, a place many people consider home, is buried within 4,700 acres of green forested mountains in Hampshire County.
Capon Springs & Farms, a camp-like getaway is managed by the third generation of the Austin family and for more than 80 years has provided a home away from home for its circle of friends. “We create a home-like atmosphere where annually friends and family can immerse in traditions forgotten by many,” states Jonathan Bellingham, Marketing Manager and third generation family member.
The West Virginia District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration has been privileged to work with this small business, Capon Springs & Farms, for over 25 years through our resource partner, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center.
Capon’s first point of contact was with the SBDC in 1986, when they reached out for professional assistance in transitioning the business from the second to the third generation of the family. Capon did not have the funds at the time to bring in an expensive family-business transition consultant and found the coaching they received from Mark Malec, a Business Coach at the time, to be very valuable.
Malec continued the coaching until Capon was able to bring on a consultant. After working with the consultant, Capon reached back out to Malec who had relocated to Maryland but continued to help the family through a SWOT analysis and marketing plan.
In the early 1990’s Capon was ready to bring on a member of management who was not part of the family. This was a first for the small business. They contacted Malec who accepted the position and introduced a management model to the family during his one-year tenure.
“It was a great honor to work with and for a family with such steadfast traditions,” states Malec. “It was a great experience and I’m so pleased they have made their way back to the SBDC.”
The family went on continuing their traditions and serving their guests for the next fifteen years checking with the SBDC, and now Business Coach Christina Lundberg, on a need be basis. That brings us to 2012/2013. The business is now ready to transition from the third to the fourth generation during a time when the economy has seen better days and “family traditions” are not the highlight of vacation brochures. The family, once again needing guidance with the transition and marketing, reached out to their business advocate, Christina Lundberg with the SBDC.
During a tourism conference Lundberg went into “battle” mode for Capon and started introducing the family to her network of tourism contacts and got the ball rolling with a nomination of SBA Family-Owned Business of the Year.
“Capon Springs & Farms is a wonderful example of a multi-generational family business providing a great service for people to come and enjoy wild, wonderful West Virginia,” stated Lundberg. “They were perfect for the SBA award and I am so pleased the won the SBA Family-Owned Business of the year.”
Capon Springs & Farms won the 2013 award of Family-Owned Small Business of the Year and have been in awe of the recognition it has bestowed on them. Recently, during a hometown celebration, Congresswoman Capito toured the property and gave glowing remarks of what she saw.
“I really feel like we have hit the jackpot with the assistance we have received from the SBDC and SBA over the past 25 years,” states Bellingham.
“It was a pleasure spending time at Capon Springs & Farms with the third generation family members,” states Judy McCauley, SBA West Virginia District Director. “I am so pleased Chris nominated the company and brought them to my attention – they are why the SBA Family-Owned Small Business of the Year award was created.”
“Small businesses are the number one job creators,” stated SBA Regional Administrator Natalia Olson. “I am pleased that the 2013 Family-Owned Small Business of the year epitomizes this statistic and is the largest private employer in Hampshire County.”
Do you know of a small business that represents a piece of West Virginia’s heaven? If so, the SBA West Virginia District Office will begin 2014 Small Business Week nominations later this fall. Visit www.sba.gov/wv for updates and sign up for their newsletter to receive an alert when nominations are released.
Small businesses, new and established, can benefit from doing business with the federal government. Purchasing approximately $600 billion a year, the federal government buys goods and services ranging from space engines to janitorial work. The U.S. Small Business Administration works closely with federal agencies to ensure small businesses obtain their fair share of government contracts and subcontracts. In 2012, $128.5 million was awarded to West Virginia small businesses.
Judy Sheppard, President and CEO of Professional Services of America Inc., was in business for more than 15 years before she entered the government contracting realm. Sheppard’s Parkersburg office sits next to the Bureau of the Public Debt, and she couldn’t comprehend why she wasn’t able to do business with them. Sheppard spoke to the local small business specialist who directed her to the SBA to learn more about the Small Business Set-Aside Program. Through a congress mandated act, federal agencies are required to establish contracting goals, with at least 23 percent of all government contracts targeted to small firms.
Sheppard spent time researching the qualifications for becoming an 8(a) certified business. At first, she was overwhelmed and an application packet sat on the corner of her desk, and she would recall that, “Every day I would stare at the packet knowing I was losing money.”
This did not sit well with Sheppard; she was determined to complete the process. She started chiseling away at the application and upon completion she kissed it, knowing her life and her company were about to change forever.
PSA is now a woman-owned, Native American, HUBZone-certified, SBA 8(a), small disadvantaged business. They engage in a wide variety of services primarily focusing on human resource staffing and project management. This fall, after completing the allowed nine years in the program, the company will graduate. Sheppard looks forward to the challenge and is eager to help other companies learn the process. PSA currently works with 28 federal agencies and employs over 300 staff members.
“It’s never too late to get started doing business with the government,” Sheppard said. “I was in the corporate sector for more than 15 years before I branched out; I saw an opportunity and went for it.”
Sheppard credits the West Virginia District Office of the SBA stating, “When in doubt, reach out. When I first started the process – SBA, 8(a), GSA – it all sounded like a lot of alphabet soup to me. The team at the West Virginia District Office is wonderful and they really break everything down and make it understandable.”
The West Virginia District Office delivers SBA programs and services to small business throughout West Virginia from two locations, Clarksburg and Charleston. In 2012, SBA trained over 1,500 WV small businesses on how to do business with the federal government, including SBA certification programs.
Sheppard received the SBA 2011 Small Business Person of the Year and the 2006 Women in Business Champion award. For more information on doing business with the federal government, visit http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/contracting.