SBA provides WV Company the "Opportunity" in Popular Saying "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity"
Diane Lewis epitomizes the popular saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” and she credits the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for providing her the “opportunity” to succeed. Over the past decade Lewis has utilized the programs and resources offered by the SBA, including participation in the 8(a) Business Development program.
Lewis started Action Facilities Management in the basement of her home in 2001 as a sole proprietor, and incorporated the business in 2003. Initially the business was a two person operation, Lewis in the lead and her son Donald Hill, who was 17 at the time, as the secretary. The company received assistance from the SBA in developing a business plan and Lewis began taking advantage of educational workshops on government contracting. However, Lewis had greater plans of involvement with the SBA in mind; she was familiar with the SBA 8(a) Business Development program and knew it was the right direction for her business.
The 8(a) Business Development program is a nine-year program created to assist eligible socially and economically disadvantaged individuals in developing and growing their businesses. Through the program businesses receive assistance including counseling, training, and match-making opportunities with federal buyers.
A company must be in business for two years before they can enter the program; Lewis used this time wisely and fiercely prepared the business for entry into the program. AFM worked security sub-contracting jobs and used the income to purchase marketing materials and conduct outreach to government agencies. “This initial preparation and marketing to agencies really helped me stand out. I went back to them after entering the 8(a) program and already had my foot in the door,” stated Lewis.
Luck was right around the corner as Lewis was about to earn the opportunity she dreamed of. Lewis successfully completed the application and began the journey into the 8(a) Business Development program. During her nine years in the program Lewis took advantage of every resource that was offered. She attended match-making events and received one-on-one counseling that helped mold her company into what it is today. Lewis won contracts reserved for 8(a) companies with federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Army Core of Engineers, Library of Congress, West Virginia High Technology Consortium and many others.
“If I could give small businesses one piece of advice, it would be to utilize the resources available through the West Virginia District Office of the SBA,” Lewis states. “They are there to help you, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Recently graduating the 8(a) Business Development program, AFM is thriving. Lewis now employees approximately 300 employees (almost half from West Virginia), has tripled revenue over the past three fiscal years, and provides services to over 20 clients in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Hill also received a promotion; he is now the chief operating officer and runs the company’s Washington D.C. location. Diane praises her hard working staff stating, “I give credit to my staff and employees that represent Action Facilities Management at the various federal facilities every day. They do their job with pride and in turn it allows us to grow the company.”
“Diane has worked very hard to get to where she is,” stated Judy McCauley, West Virginia district director of the SBA. “I am so happy that the 8(a) program gave her the opportunity to be so successful.”
Lewis is also the winner of the 2013 SBA West Virginia Small Business Person of the Year award. She received recognition in May during the Teaming to Win Conference.
McCauley concludes, saying “We are the lucky ones to have Diane represent the great state of West Virginia as the 2013 Small Business Person of the Year.”
Shocking but true statistics: 20 percent of all small businesses survive the first year, 30 percent survive the second year, and half survive the first five years1. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides programs and services to assist small businesses that are just getting started and help keep guide them in the right direction.
MOVID Studios, in Parkersburg, West Virginia is one company that successfully completed their first year of business and credits the SBA for helping them getting over the first-year hump.
Jon Defibaugh, a former commercial producer for the local television station with 11 years of experience, decided to open his own multimedia company in June 2011. Defibaugh struggled the first six months, as many new businesses do, but was able to sign several contracts to keep him busy through 2012. However, there was a problem; he had one camera, one computer and a car that was falling apart. Defibaugh was one misfortune away from being out of business. That’s when he met with his local bank to secure the funding needed to purchase backup resources.
To his surprise, he heard from multiple banks that the business was “just too young” and regardless of how nice of a guy he was and how good of a plan he had, they wouldn’t even consider giving him a loan until his company was 12 to 24 months old and was profitable beyond being able to cover the bills. Defibaugh was faced with not being able to obtain a traditional loan and also unable to secure a line of credit due to not having enough equity or income to justify the amount he needed. His luck began to change when one loan specialist recommended he speak to Tim James from First Microloan of West Virginia, a SBA designated lender. With counseling from the West Virginia University Parkersburg Small Business Development Center (SBDC), partially funded through SBA, Defibuagh was able to perfect his business plan and secure a loan through the microloan program.
“I am never a proponent of debt, but managed debt is better than zero cash flow because you can’t survive. If you borrow $20,000 over four years, and pay $500 a month – that is manageable for me,” states Defibaugh. “I don’t think I would have been able to find another way to keep my business open, I would’ve had to scale down that first year and either end up failing or growth would have been so slow that I still wouldn’t have been eligible for a traditional loan or line of credit because I wouldn’t be able to show the numbers.”
Because of the assistance Defibaugh received from SBA, he was able to purchase additional equipment, expand office space, and take on regional clientele. MOVID Studios is reclaiming the technology and video industry in Parkersburg and allowing local companies to get high quality services that had recently been outsourced to other states.
For more information on programs and services offered by the SBA, visit www.sba.gov.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “Choose a job you love, and you'll never work a day in your life.” Chad Clark and Mark Binegar are proving this adage true with the assistance of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Clark and Binegar dreamed of owning their own cosmetology school for over a decade. Clark would handle admissions and marketing and Binegar, a trained cosmetologist with over 25 years of experience, would oversee education. Together, they put their heart and soul into developing a curriculum, creating a business plan, and designing a school they were proud to represent. After a few setbacks, the team was ready to make the dream a reality; however they stumbled upon a roadblock that jeopardized all of their hard work.
Clark visited multiple banks looking for a loan to fund the start-up company. Each bank led to the same response – “loan denied.” That is, until Clark was connected with Tim James from the First Microloan of West Virginia, a designated lender for the SBA. Through assistance from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), partially funded through the SBA, Clark was able to perfect his business plan and secure a loan through the microloan program.
“I don’t take ‘no’ very well and was getting frustrated,” Binegar stated. Luckily with help from James and the SBDC, Artisan School of Cosmetology was born. Binegar credits the SBA assistance they received saying, “If it weren’t for you guys, we wouldn’t be here.”
The school is doing well, they currently have ten students enrolled and two have completed the program. With the success, they are seeing next semester’s enrollment numbers have increased significantly and there are plans to bring on an additional instructor. Long term, the team has plans to open six to ten more schools in the next five years.
Not only are Clark and Binegar living their entrepreneurship dream, but they are helping mold the future of young blooming entrepreneurs. Students learn basic cosmetology technics but also how to own and operate their own salon. “Knowing how to build your clientele and run your own salon is very important for our students, especially now with the increased cost of booth rentals,” said Binegar.
For more information on programs and services offered by the SBA, visit www.sba.gov.