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Small Business Success Story - Imani Productions

After 12 years working as an army nurse, Khedijah Iman Vidal retired to life as a civilian in 1998. Her years in service gave her a basis in administration and discipline and provided her with a lifetime of adventures, both good and bad. During her military career she served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Operation Restore Hope in Mogadishu, Somalia.

After retiring, she settled in Atlanta, GA and returned to school at the Art Institute of Atlanta. There she pursued degrees in both video production and multimedia. Khedijah graduated with honors in 2001 at age 47 and earned several prestigious awards, including "Most Contributions to the Video Department" award and "Best of Show" for her portfolio. Her work is still featured in the student handbook and shown during the annual open house at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

After graduating, Khedijah continued with several note-worthy projects she begun while in school, including Tyler Perry's Play "Diary of a Mad Black Woman", Gospel Music Stellar Awards Show 2001, “Bonner Brother's Hair Show 2001”, “Helping Teens Succeed” national promotional video, and music videos with several independent record labels.

While in the midst of wrapping up those loose ends, life intervened in a way that set her off course for several years. In the winter of 2001, Khedijah moved to Richmond, VA to care for her sick mother.

Imani Productions was already in the formative stages while Khedijah was living in Atlanta. She had learned the technical skills and gathered an impressive list of professional contacts there, but she knew the business wasn’t developed enough to survive the move. She served a stint as Executive Producer Representative for one episode of Harriett Turnquest TV show "Citizen's Alert." She produced one more show from Richmond, via telephone and Internet conversations with her crew. Time and money were stretched to the breaking point.

Khedijah quickly found employment at YWCA working with her second love, children. For three years she worked as an after-school teacher. Her crowning achievement at the YWCA was the successful development and implementation of "Star Power", a program designed to help students improve their SOL scores. Since its inception, YWCA students involved maintained an 85% SOL passing rate.

In the winter of 2003, Khedijah and friend came to New Visions, New Ventures with plans to start a daycare center. It became evident that the partnership was on shaky ground and that plan fell through the cracks after six months of hard work.

Discouraged by the dissolution of the partnership, one of the business counselors encouraged Khedijah to think about what she really wanted to do, not what she thought, as a 50-year-old woman, she was expected to do. She admitted to having a video production degree and to her dream of entering the field as an entrepreneur. Revisiting the long dormant idea of beginning her own video production company, Khedijah realized her passion. She just needed the encouragement to dream it was possible.

Expecting to be paid what she’s worth in the market was a challenge for Khedijah. NVNV counselors gave her the confidence to project herself as a professional and to ask for appropriate compensation. While in the program, she has had opportunities to meet other women who are ready to set out on their own and has been introduced to business and networking opportunities such as the VBO fair.

After months of struggling with marketing, she began directing her business to the faith community by creating public access program highlighting church events. She is responsible for producing, shooting, editing and packaging these programs. She is currently working on an historical documentary series as well.

Most importantly to Khedijah, starting her own business has made her children see that dreams can be chased and caught.

Success_Story-Julie_Ann_Segal.JPG

Small Business Owner Receives Advice from SCORE, Expands for Growth

Julie Ann Segal lives her philosophy. “I believe that each person has the capacity to create a living or working environment that reflects their spirit and enhances health and wellbeing,” she says. Segal has built a successful business on her passion for design. She combines interior design and Feng Shui to help her clients achieve harmonious inviting spaces that are an expression of their own style.

Her company, Metropolitan Interiors, is based in a charming Victorian home on Loring Park in Minneapolis. The space not only works in a practical sense, but also is used as a showcase of products and crafts that highlight artists, cabinet builders, furniture manufacturers, and building materials. The house brims with an inviting array of colors and textures, as well as Segal’s positive energy.

Segal has been working as a professional designer for 20 years. In 2003, she became a State certified Feng Shui practitioner. Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese practice of placing objects with intention, into a space or environment to create harmony and balance within one’s life.

“Feng Shui enables me to combine my strong interior design skills with my spiritual side to help my clients create not only a beautiful interior, but fulfill their highest goals and ambitions,” Segal said.

She started Metropolitan Interiors in 1992. In 2005, Segal was ready to move to the new space on Loring Park. She contacted the Minneapolis chapter of SCORE (Counselors to America’s Small Business) for advice. The counselors at SCORE helped her plan her office move, complete a business plan, and answer accounting questions.

As a resource partner with the SBA, SCORE provides information vital to small business success. This includes counseling on financing options, business planning, marketing strategies, product development and more. Individual members and counseling teams with diverse business knowledge and experience provide one-on-one, confidential counseling at no cost to the business owner.

Metropolitan Interiors doubled its sales from 2005 to 2006. Segal intends to double her sales again in 2007. With solid design skills and ability to create positive energy flow, Segal is on course to make this dream a reality.
 

First Certified Dinner-Assembly Store in Suffolk County Growing by Dollars, not Pounds

It’s the end of a long day, you’ve been rus hing to make business deadlines or rushing to class or running the kids from one activity to another, or maybe all of the above, and now the question is – what’s for dinner? Entrepreneurs Karen Boyle and Donna Schukal, owners of Whats4Dinner, Inc., have the answer for Suffolk County residents.

Like most busy professionals, Boyle and Schukal considered time a rare commodity. Both worked in corporate positions– which excited neither of them– and they found managing their time outside of the office challenging. Their schedules typically did not allow time for meal planning, food shopping, and cooking and cleaning up every night. So in 2005 they began searching for a solution, which for them had to include healthier alternatives than fast food and or sometimes unhealthy restaurant meals. They finally devised the concept of providing individualized service to people with demanding schedules including a do- it-yourself, meal-preparation center that would be affordable, convenient and of fine-restaurant quality. 

Within a month Boyle and Schukal incorporated Whats4Dinner and continued working at their full-time corporate positions. In an effort to go full-bore with their new enterprise they sited and leased a commercial space just off the heavily trafficked Smithtown Bypass. Over the next year, with the help of an SBA-guaranteed $200,000 loan from Commerce Bank, they renovated the facility which included their “assembly-ready kitchen.” According to the owners, upon completion of health department standards in April 2007, Whats4Dinner became the first certified dinner-assembly store in Suffolk County.

Customers can order week’s worth of portion-controlled meals online or visit the store, where they are provided with various recipes and all the necessary items to prepare meals. They get nutritionally balanced, healthy food while saving on shopping, cookbook look-ups and clean up. Over 98 percent of their ingredients are purchased from local food suppliers and vendors, ensuring fresh and simple meals that can be served in a timely manner. A testament to the owners’ business philosophy that a person’s diet should be tailored to fit their lifestyle needs, sales grew by 85 percent over the first year and continue to grow each month. 

In addition to turning a profit, Boyle and Schukal regularly donate food and food-baskets to local Island charities including the Lt. Thomas Healy Foundation, Good Shepherd Hospice, Babylon Breast Cancer Fund, Doctors without Borders, the Stony Brook Pediatric Oncology and Helping Hands. They are supporters of the Smithtown Chamber of Commerce and are on the advisory boards for the Friends for Life Foundation and Suffolk Count y Women's Business Enterprise Coalition. They also participate in health and wellness fairs at local schools, and conduct healthy meal preparation demonstrations at social events. 

Hard work, careful planning and determination paid off for the duo. According to Boyle and Schukal, “We’ve been able to successfully reach our goals and help our community at the same time with the help of the SBA and business plan counseling from the Stony Brook Small Business Development Center.” 

For further information, visit www.whats4dinnerinc.com or stop by the kitchen located at 737 Smithtown Bypass. 

–by DeAnn Misilmeri