D.J.’s Diner located in Fairmont, WV, a family-owned restaurant specializing in classic American style food, is a classic example of how hard work can lead to success. It is also a good illustration of how the road to success is not without its ups and downs.
D.J.’s is owned and operated by the Rundle family, Donnie and Suzanne, along with their sons, D.J. and Erik. They work together to make the diner a unique experience for anyone who stops in. Donnie makes the sauces and specialties, including meatballs. Suzanne makes the desserts and D.J. handles the day-to-day management of the restaurant. Erik pitches in wherever needed.
“When we first opened in 1998, we worked at least 18 hours a day,” said D.J. “I personally worked over 100 straight days and a number of times brought a change of clothes with me.”
The Rundles came up with the concept of a 1950s and 60s style diner after years of research and community involvement. Donnie is a member of a local car club which holds “Cruise-ins,” a gathering where vintage car owners and enthusiasts meet to socialize and “show off” their cars.
“I was surprised at the number of people of all ages and walks of life interested in classic cars,” said D.J. “We noticed the “Cruise-ins” needed something extra, a place to get something to eat or drink and a place to sit and relax. The product is what you see today, D.J.’s Diner.”
They had a great location situated in a rapidly developing area of the state and near Interstate 79 already secured. To get the project rolling, they needed a little capital. Armed with a business plan, put together with the assistance from the local Small Business Development Center and Business Information Center, and the determination to make a success of their idea, the Rundles approached a local lending institution for funding. What resulted was a U.S. Small Business Administration 7(a) guaranty loan.
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. The 7(a) loan program, one of many program offered by SBA, is provided through lending institutions, called participants.
7(a) loans are only available on a guaranty basis, meaning they are provided by the participants who structure their own loans by SBA’s requirements and who apply for and receive a guaranty from SBA on a portion of the loan.
“We planned on constructing a facility from the ground up and were just about ready to start when we received a call from my Uncle in Maryland,” D.J. recalls. “He happened to drive by a 1950s style diner and thought it might be what we needed.”
His uncle was right. The diner was a custom pre-fabricated sectional building constructed by StarLight Diners which was trucked to their location and put together with two large cranes. It was definitely faster than building a facility.
“We had a huge grand opening featuring waiters and waitresses dressed in period clothing with several guest waiters from the community, including a few from SBA,” adds D.J. “Business was going great for a while, but once the novelty wore off business soon began to slow.”
But persistence, determination and the old American adage of hard work soon paid off for the Rundles. “We learned a lot about financing and how to run a business those first few years,” D.J. said. “When business began to slow and things weren’t looking good, we approached the local SCORE chapter and asked for assistance. The advice and guidance they provided made all the difference in the world.”
Business has picked up and the Rundles are enjoying a little success. “It’s like one huge family,” he said. “We have some customers we see sometimes three times a day since we offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus; and especially at our Friday night cruise-ins.”
When asked to provide some advice to those thinking about starting a business or just starting out, he doesn’t hesitate to inject, “Make sure you cover the bases before starting and learn all the aspects of running a business if you want to succeed, D.J. advised. “Put together a good management team and find good honest employees. And most importantly, if you need help somewhere along the line, swallow your pride and ask for it. SCORE and the SBDC counselors have a lot of knowledge and can provide a lot of assistance.”
SCORE and SBDC’s 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.
For information on the SBA and the resources available to help small businesses, contact the West Virginia District Office at 800-767-8052 ext 8, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit them on the web at www.sba.gov/wv.
Little did Dallas Boyers realize when he opened a feed and farm supply store in the Marion county area in 1952 that it would evolve into one of the largest John Deere dealerships in West Virginia whose products can be found all over the world.
Middletown Tractor Sales is now operated by Dallas’ son and grandson, Jim and Adam Boyers, who make an excellent father and son team of small business owners. What Jim has taken and grown from his father Dallas, Adam has taken and grown to greater heights.
Dallas started the business in Mannington and sold farm equipment in addition to farm supplies and feed. In 1954 the business sold its first John Deere tractor and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. In 1971 the business expanded into a larger facility and was run by Dallas and his oldest son, Gary. Jim came into the business in 1978 and started managing the Fairmont branch in 1983. Throughout its long history the business has always been very “family” oriented. Elaine, Dallas’ wife, helped in the accounts receivable and clerical areas for almost fifty years. Jim’s wife Betty does the accounts payable, while Zach Marsh, Jim’s son-in-law, helps with special project needs. Even Jim’s daughter Adrianne, a teacher, has helped in the busy season.
Jim and Adam were recently recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as West Virginia’s Entrepreneurial Success and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2004 at their annual Small Business Week awards ceremony. The awards are part of the annual recognition SBA bestows upon small business owners and champions.
“I was really surprised when I was named SBA’s Young Entrepreneur,” said Adam. “I’m not one that looks for awards and recognition, but it’s nice when it comes your way. It was a very proud moment in my life.”
Entrepreneurship seems to be bred into the Boyers. Both Jim and Adam attended college with other careers in mind. Jim graduated from West Virginia University’s School of Pharmacy and became dissatisfied with being a full-time pharmacist.
“I really wasn’t able to fully apply what I’d learned in college and felt I should get back in the family business,” said Jim. “I’d grown up sweeping floors and waiting on customers for dad and worked at the store all through high school. I just felt more satisfied working for myself, although I still continue to work as a part-time pharmacist.”
Jim also co-owns Fairmont Specialty Services, Ravenswood Specialty Services, and Specialty Warehousing as well as being partners with Adam in Boyers’ Enterprises, a commercial real estate firm. In addition, Jim is very proud to be a director on a local bank board, First Exchange Bank, as well as an owner and operator of Paradise Valley Farm with his wife Betty.
Adam entered college with thoughts of a medical career. “I actually started out wanting to be a doctor, but switched career choices after my freshman year,” said Adam. “I was doing alright, but like in dad’s case, it just didn’t feel right.” Adam decided to pursue business instead and graduated from WVU with a degree in business and finance. His business acumen has been instrumental in enhancing the growth of Middletown Tractor every year since he came on board.
Although blessed with a successful business, the Boyers’ have utilized the services of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center and the SBA to strengthen and develop the company even further.
Middletown Tractor Sales received business counseling, attended SBDC-hosted workshops and seminars, and utilized the Small Business Work Force Program to provide training to employees. Adam has even taught a few youth entrepreneurship workshops for the Fairmont Regional SBDC.
The company also received assistance from SBA’s procurement counseling services, which helped expand the business into government contracting.
“The procurement assistance we received from SBA was excellent and enabled us to better understand what government contracting is all about,” said Adam. “As a result of that assistance, our products can be found anyplace the Department of Defense is located in the world.”
Jim keeps an article clipped from a local newspaper about a West Virginian in South Korea who walked by a John Deere tractor with the Middletown Tractor Sales sticker on it. “You never know where you’ll see our tractors,” stated Jim.
Equipment from Middletown Tractor Sales can be seen just about every time a person drives down the interstate. They have contracts to supply mowers and tractors to the West Virginia Department of Highways and State Parks.
“Being a small business owner isn’t a piece of cake,” Adam is quick to point out. “It’s a lot of hard work and extremely long hours,” he adds. “Being the grandson of the founder and son of the owner doesn’t make it a cake walk, but I haven’t regretted it yet.”
“I’ve learned a lot from my father by just observing the way he works with customers and respects people in general,” said Adam. “He demonstrates an excellent work ethic and truly leads by example. I’m confident from what I’ve learned from him over the years, I’ll be more than ready to take over the reins of the business when it comes time for him to retire.”
Adam is preparing to move the business to the fourth generation of Boyers by bringing his infant son, Blake, into the office. Looks like John Deere’s slogan “Nothing Runs Like a Deere” can be passed along to the Boyers family.
For additional information about the programs and services offered by the SBA and their resource partners, contact the West Virginia District Office at 1-800-767-8052 ext. 8 or by email at email@example.com, or visit our web site at www.sba.gov/wv
Jon Hammock believes that in order to create a successful high-technology business whose focus is on government contracts, you don’t have to be located within the D.C. beltway. If fact, you don’t even have to leave the state of West Virginia.
Hammock is President of KeyLogic Systems, Inc., a highly-recognized Information Technology company that provides innovative knowledge management solutions to several government agencies, ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Department of Defense
KeyLogic was created by Hammock and Cary Landis, two native West Virginians who left the state after graduating from West Virginia University to pursue high-tech jobs. Both returned to the state in the mid-1990s to work for a high-tech company in Fairmont.
With the creation of the Interstate 79 high-tech corridor over the past decade, they both realized there was the potential to develop their dream of starting a high technology company.
“This is a great state with great people and a promising future,” says Hammock. “We have top notch talent with an exceptional work ethic--all combined in a great location that offers an active lifestyle that many urban professionals do not have,” agrees Landis.
Since its launch in West Virginia in 1999, KeyLogic has grown from 2 employees to over 50 today, with expected growth to 75 by the end of the year. “We’re excited about the growth we’ve had thus far, but we’re even more optimistic about the future,” says Hammock
One of the programs created by KeyLogic for the EPA, the Budget Automated System (BAS), was the cornerstone in helping them receive recognition as one of only seven finalists for the 2002 President’s Award for Quality in the area of budget and performance integration.
The President’s Award for Quality is intended to support the President’s Management Agenda and the Executive Branch Management Scorecard. The award is presented to organizations that have shown exemplary performance in several categories.
In presenting the award, President George W. Bush stated, “This award recognizes the best management practices in government. The EPA has met high standards and, as a result, has earned the respect of the White House and our country.”
One can be certain that KeyLogic won’t rest on its laurels. They have developed what is believed to be the largest ever government Microsoft SQL Server database in existence for the Army, containing over 60 Terabytes of information.
They have been recently awarded a General Services Administration HUBZone information technology government wide acquisition contract (GWAC), the first GWAC dedicated to information technology companies certified in the Small Business Administration’s HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) program.
"This contract allows the government to easily access highly qualified HUBZone companies; it will be the turning point for the HUBZone program," according to Landis.
The HUBZone program was designed to stimulate economic development and create jobs in urban and rural communities by providing federal contracting preferences to small businesses.
KeyLogic’s Morgantown headquarters is located in a HUBZone. The firm is a very staunch supporter of the program. In fact, Landis serves on the national HUBZone Contractors National Council and KeyLogic maintains the council’s web site.
KeyLogic also works closely with Microsoft, serving as their go-to partner for business intelligence in the government arena. They have been chosen to speak on Knowledge Management alongside Microsoft at e-Government conferences and were featured on a CD sponsored by Microsoft for providing information on Business Intelligence to the federal government.
One fact that makes Hammock extremely proud is that KeyLogic has never had a one-time customer. All their customers have provided repeat business.
"We strive very hard to provide the best possible services to our customers and exceed their expectations. I think the best indication of KeyLogic’s commitment to quality is the fact that our customers turn to us time after time"
For more information on the HUBZone program or additional programs and services available from the SBA, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and the Woman’s Business Center, contact the West Virginia District Office at 1-800-767-8052 ext. 8, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website at www.sba.gov/wv. All SBA programs are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.