After scribbling a list of her abilities and the names of potential clients on a napkin in a local restaurant, Kathleen DuBois decided to start her own marketing firm but needed a little help to get it started. That’s when she turned to the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WVSBDC) for the technical assistance to make her dream a reality.
Directed by Conley Salyer since 2001, the WVSBDC, partially funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA), comprises 12 satellite offices on the campuses of community and technical colleges throughout West Virginia and two located at Region One Workforce Investment Boards in Beckley and Summersville. The SBA is a federal government agency which helps maintain and strengthen the nation’s economy by aiding, counseling, assisting and protecting the interests of small businesses. SBDC’s and SCORE, “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” are valuable SBA resource partners who provide counseling services and management assistance, free of charge in most instances, to current and prospective small business owners.
Kevin Twohig, the state’s small business ombudsman at the SBDC, and the other small business development counselors throughout West Virginia assist small businesses every day. Whether it’s helping business owners through licensing procedures or writing business plans, the counselors work diligently to put the right people in business and keep them there. “Ninety-four percent of our clients’ businesses that were started in 2002 were still in business two years later. We help people to determine whether they should go into business,” says Salyer.
Conducting workshops on business structuring and licensing procedures, WVSBDC counselors also provide business advice on marketing, cash flow and pricing.
DuBois is one of Twohig’s success stories, starting her marketing firm, DaisySeed Communications, Inc. located in Charleston, three years ago. After the first year in business, DuBois found her lifeline at the WVSBDC while watching a local television show. “I saw people from the SBDC being interviewed and it seemed as if they were speaking directly to me. I called them up and scheduled an appointment,” she explained. Although DuBois had over 10 years experience in marketing and fundraising, she still needed Twohig’s small business experience. “Kevin was like a savior to me. He helped to validate my path,” she said. “He was a wealth of information and helped me to refine our business plan.”
With Twohig’s assistance, Dubois has created a second consulting firm, Progressity Development Solutions, which provides fundraising consulting services to nonprofit organizations and academic institutions. She became a certified fundraising executive in June 2003 and her nonprofit client roster includes West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Leadership West Virginia, ABLE Families, West Virginia Public Broadcasting and Roane General Hospital Foundation.
DaisySeed Communications recently received an honorable mention award from the U.S. Department of Justice for a campaign they developed to reduce and prevent gun violence, entitled, “Hard Time for Gun Crime.”
Although DuBois seems to have overcome the struggles that many new businesses face, she says, “By surrounding myself with a core group of business experts, I can ensure top quality service to both DaisySeed and Progressity clients. That’s where a person like Kevin helps me.”
Working out of the Charleston Enterprise Center, DuBois was able to employ a full-time administrative assistant and plans to expand her consulting staff in the near future. To celebrate her business success, she receives a visit from the florist once a month. “I always said that once I knew my business was secure, I would have daisies delivered to our office once a month and that’s what we do.”
For more information on the SBA and the resources available to assist small business, contact the West Virginia District Office at 800-767-8052 ext. 8 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit them on the web at www.sba.gov/wv.
After spending 15 years as an accountant and later a financial consultant, Jamie Dickenson awoke one morning divinely inspired. “Your kids and money are your most precious assets,” she observes. “How can you spend more time planning your vacation than your kids’ future? Determining what college to attend is one of the biggest decisions in life.” In that moment, her business was born.
Now known as The Collegiate Advisor of West Virginia, Dickenson turns high school seniors into college freshmen. With hundreds of students placed in colleges throughout the country, Dickenson is in high demand as a motivational speaker and is the only full member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association from West Virginia.
In her spare time she works with the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office, teaches cardio kickboxing and volunteers for several community organizations.
In the early days, however, Dickenson struggled to make ends meet. After attending a Small Business Workshop hosted by the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Dickenson sought one-on-one advice from one of the Center’s business analysts, Anne Lane. Dickenson gratefully recalls Anne saying, “Work smarter, not harder.”
On Anne’s advice, Dickenson restructured her fees and slashed her advertising budget. A year later and she had doubled the number of clients and increased net profits by 12 percent.
The SBDC is partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the State of West Virginia Development Office. The SBA is a federal government agency that helps maintain and strengthen the nation’s economy by aiding, counseling, assisting and protecting the interests of small business and by helping families and businesses recover from national disasters. SBDCs and SCORE, “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” are valuable SBA resource partners who provide counseling services and management assistance, free of charge in most instances, to current and prospective small business owners.
One of Dickenson’s primary goals is to involve children and their parents in preparing for college as soon as possible. For Dickenson, the 8th grade is the optimum time to begin. “Kids have to understand the ramification of what they’re doing early and take ownership of their grades,” she earnestly explains. “With so much scholarship money at stake, kids that make bad grades are shooting themselves in the foot. Starting to talk about going to college in the 10th or 11th grade is just too late.”
Dickenson helps the student pick the school that is right for them based on a variety of factors. She spends 15-20% of her time touring colleges and universities. She also painstakingly guides the student and his/her parents through the often bewildering maze of the financial aid application process. “You can get $50-200,000 in scholarship money by properly preparing for college entrance exams,” she states. “You can’t begin to have that kind of return in the stock market.”
Dickenson said she feels blessed to be doing something she loves, and something that has such a monumental impact on the lives of others. “My idea of success,” she smiles, “is not how much you have in the bank, but rather, whether you’re happy when you hit the alarm clock in the morning.”
For more information on the SBA and the resources available to assist small business, contact the West Virginia District Office at 800-767-8052 ext. 8, by email at email@example.com, or visit them on the web at www.sba.gov/wv.
Larry and Margaret Brown, owners of Weston Transfer Inc. and Jack’s Septic Inc. located in Weston, West Virginia, have been in business since 1979. Margaret is president of Jack’s Septic Inc. and Larry is the president of Weston Transfer Inc.
The couple doesn’t sit around waiting for things happen. They are movers and shakers getting the job done through running their own businesses, joining local business organizations, and encouraging others to get involved in community activities.
Both companies are centered on waste disposal. Weston Transfer is a garbage collection service and Jack’s Septic is a waste management company providing portable toilets and solid waste disposal.
Margaret said, “Our businesses are just like a baby. There are a lot of sleepless nights worrying about the equipment failures, portable potties freezing up, or a wind storm turning over a customer’s portable toilet. It’s a lot of hard work but you do what you have to do even if it’s staying up all night taking care of customers.”
The Browns previously owned and operated L & M Market, a local grocery store in Weston. They wanted to develop another business and spent many hours thinking about what niche was lacking in the area. They were looking to operate a business that would allow them to work together. They considered the basic needs of the community compiling an essential list consisting of insurance, dry cleaners, and shoe repairs. Dead last on the list was garbage collection.
“We felt the garbage business would offer the best opportunity to work as a team,” said Margaret. “Getting there wasn’t without its ups and downs. There was a lot to learn about state and federal regulations regarding the septic business.”
And, as any entrepreneur can relate, they needed funding to get the business going. The Brown’s had an excellent relationship with the Citizens Bank of Weston and decided to approach them for funding. “If it weren’t for Citizens Bank and the SBA providing a 7(a) loan guarantee, we would not be where we are today,” stated Margaret.
The 7(a) Program is SBA’s primary lending program. It provides loan guaranties for small businesses unable to secure financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. The program operates through private-sector lenders who provide loans which are, in turn, guaranteed by the SBA. A maximum loan amount of $2 million has been established for 7(a) loans. However, the maximum dollar amount of the SBA guaranty is generally $1.5 million.
Little did the Brown’s realize that their “garbage” business would provide excellent opportunities for expansion into other markets. By doing a little “homework,” they were able to successfully obtain contracts from both the state and federal government. “We’ve gotten contracts with Glenville State College as well as the Federal Prison in Glenville,” said Margaret. “We also have a recyclable route in several counties.”
It’s not unusual to see Margaret in jeans and engineer boots working the trucks right along with the employees. Margaret laughed and said, “The recycling business sounds like the business is booming with the crashing of tin cans rolling off the truck at the processing plant.”
Margaret wanted to be creative and change the “image” of the waste collection industry. Her idea was to put signs on the trucks to make them moving billboards. That way the trucks could deliver messages on topics as drugs, littering and the value of education. Their “rolling advertising” efforts gained the attention of some powerful people. First lady Nancy Regan wrote the Browns a letter commending them for their efforts.
The Browns are also quick to give their employees credit for making the business a success. “They are hard working and dedicated employees,” adds Margaret. “We started with three employees and now have nine full time and seven part time.” Margaret believes the employee track record speaks for its self. “One employee has over 21 years service, one has 20 years and three have 10 years of service.”
The two Lewis County residents have also taken an active leadership role in the community. They received the highest honors bestowed by the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce to a business owner in 1988 when they received the top yearly award as “Lewis Countain of the Year.” The Brown’s are no strangers to volunteering and giving back to the county and community. All one has to do is walk through their offices to see the many awards, certificates, letters of appreciation for outstanding service and contributions that have been awarded to them as a “team.”
“The SBA loan guarantee we received through Citizens Bank in 1982 really help put us on the road to become a successful business,” said Margaret. “The bank and SBA believed in us and demonstrated that belief through the loan guarantee. They were willing to take a chance on us then and I feel we’ve held up our end of the bargain.”
The husband and wife team believe that their involvement with the local Chamber of Commerce and their intent to do business in West Virginia has helped them decide to take the leadership in their community and mitigate the business risks. “We want to chart our own destiny rather than having someone else do it for us,” concluded Margaret.
For more information on the SBA and the resources available to help small businesses, contact the West Virginia District Office at 800-767-8051 ext. 8, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit them on the web at www.sba.gov/wv.