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Hick’s Classic Concrete continues to pave the way to success….
Jim Hicks started his concrete business back in 1984. After being in business for some 28 years, Jim made his first visit to the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) last year.
Jim’s wife, Becky, had seen an article about the KU-KSBDC in the local newspaper. They thought the time might be right for a fresh perspective on their business. “We were looking for some help with financial management and cash flow analysis,” said Jim.
Any organization that has the staying power of Hicks’ Classic Concrete has to be adaptable. The concrete industry was impacted significantly by the economic shock and recession of 2008-2009. As a result, Jim had to look for new avenues to keep his crews working. Rather than partnering almost exclusively with builders on construction sites, Hicks’ Classic Concrete started taking on more and more municipal road projects. This new business strategy caused a significant change in the timing of accounts receivable.
The KSBDC worked with Jim to establish key metrics to judge the health and profitability of his business. Jim also discovered the benefits of receiving timely information from his bookkeeping and accounting team.
“Our KSBDC consultant is always prompt and prepared to discuss our business. He has taken the time to learn about our business, considers input and utilizes current data in providing pertinent advice. He has been great to work with and I look forward to our meetings,” says Jim.
But this was not just an exercise in perspective for Jim. He has committed to collecting and analyzing key information in his business and using it to make daily decisions. Hopefully this commitment will lead to another thirty years of success!
Women History Month Spotlight: Achieve Beautiful Skin Looks Marvelous Thanks To Women's Business Center Program
The U.S. Small Business Administration South Florida District’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne is an integral business resource for inspiring women entrepreneurs and helping women-owned small businesses grow and create jobs. Just ask Jeanne Whitman, owner of Melbourne’s “Achieve Beautiful Skin”.
Whitman, who opened “Achieve Beautiful Skin” just a few years ago, is one of many south Florida, woman-owned businesses who credit greater success through programs offered at WBC. Her success is why this year’s theme for Women History Month, “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment,” is representative of women-owned small business success in south Florida.
“I always had a dream of opening my own beauty spa,” said Jeanne. “My sister Carol was a beauty queen and I was a cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins cheerleader for three years. I wanted to help other women develop and keep a positive self-image.”
Whitman was a stay-at-home mom and raised two children. Active in charity events and volunteering, she has sponsored the “Decorate Your Bra” for the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer awareness campaign for the past four years. After donating more than 1800 hours of volunteer time, she won Broward County School District Volunteer of the Year honors. Small business ownership was a destined calling.
“Ironically, I launched my business on April Fools Day two years ago. I had a vision to provide an affordable, professional skin care treatment for my customers,” recalled Jeanne. “Comparing the Brevard County market, I thought I could deliver a service with greater value but also combine it with personalized service and comfort.”
With professional certifications as a certified medical aesthetician, laser specialist and electrologist, Whitman opened her medical spa business. She offered her clients a full-range of skin treatments including laser treatments, SmartPeel medical microdermabrasion, Dermawave ultrasonic skin rejuvenation, chemical peels, facial massages and much more.
“I did pretty well my first year. I had a steady-stream of customers because of word-of-mouth recommendations. I think my clients loved their experience here and I tried to make my customers see me as their personal ‘image consultant’.”
Though business started off well, Whitman wasn’t satisfied and sought other ways to grow.
“I learned about the WBC at FIT and went there to seek some advice. I found a business mentor through the IGNITE mentoring program and learned to see my business from a different perspective. My eyes were opened to challenges I hadn’t seen and IGNITE helped me come up with a plan.”
According to Whitman, her goals were to increase her visibility in the community and attract new clients. She also was looking to generate larger revenues by making sure her services were priced correctly, enhancing her personal management style and refining a business marketing plan.
“I started my business with some challenges. My business had no storefront, no doctor on site, and no laser for treatments because I lacked capital. I also needed to do a better job networking to build a customer base and new business partnerships.”
Because of what she learned through WBC’s IGNITE mentoring program, she relocated “Achieve Beautiful Skin” to new more accessible location in a doctor’s office. After conducting a cost comparison, she adjusted prices to remain competitive and eliminated some of her discount offers. She also added new service packages, and improved her managerial skills. Because of the improvements, Achieve Beautiful Skin was nominated as the WBC 2013 Business Champion of the Year Award, Emerging Business category in its second year.
“Because of the assistance I received at WBC and through the IGNITE mentoring program, I’m feeling more confident than ever. I have a 7-year growth plan with an exit strategy if I should ever decide to do something else. “
But for now “Achieve Beautiful Skin” is growing and reflects the vision that Whitman imagined long before she went into business.
Jeanne Whitman is a great example of a how a woman can turn passion for helping other women into a successful business, with a little extra help from her local WBC at FIT.
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.