Small Business Person of the Year
Former golf pro turned entrepreneur Scott Soesbee took a recommendation from a friend and turned it into a business venture, FlameOff Coatings Inc. The initial idea was to solve the problems many homeowners face each year -- a dryer that erupts in flames if the duct is filled with lint. In 2013 dryers caused 14,600 fires, 20 deaths, and $86.8 million in property damage in the United States alone. FlameOFF offers fully tested fire retardant and fire resistance intumescent paint products designed to provide a high-level of fire protection at a reasonable cost and without harmful solvents and toxic ingredients. The paint has undergone extensive testing and has been accredited by the International Accreditation Service (IAS) fire testing laboratories and is a member of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and International Code Council (ICC).
Hard work and perseverance coupled with perfecting this technology, garnered Soesbee being named the 2015 Georgia Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), nominated by the University of West Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Carrollton, Georgia.
“The best advice I would give fellow entrepreneurs is two-fold,” said Soesbee. “First, be honest in business and what you need the SBA to do for you. As business owners, we never like to admit we failed or we aren't in 100 percent control of everything. Go to your local SBA or SBDC and tell them about your business and what you need help with. You can grow your business if you take realistic steps in achieving your dream. Second, the road has not been easy and it has taken a while to achieve success but you have to keep going no matter what happens. I have had many set-backs but I have stayed the course to keep the long term goal in focus. I feel if I can be successful in business, anyone can. I had zero experience in business when I started my company. I learned from my mistakes and will continue to make mistakes in the future, and I will learn from them as well.”
Soesbee knew he could not go it alone and sought the advice and counsel from his local SBDC business consultant/advisor Mr. Todd Anduze, Area Director. When asked to describe his involvement and the value of the input of the SBA and SBDC he said: “The value has been great. It's great advice, and it's free. The biggest value has been for me to be able to ask questions and get quality answers on things I know nothing about in business. Many times, I will ask Todd, ‘What do most people do when they have this type of situation?’ I get the answer and then think about how to apply it in my business.”
FlameOff’s mission is to provide homeowners, contractors, green building professionals, and distributors with strong, effective products that are environmentally friendly while providing the most cost effective solutions in the intumescent paint industry. This was no easy feat. Looking back, Soesbee understood the benefits of what the SBA had to offer and realized that the SBA is there to help and give good direction and guidance. “Ask questions and get advice,” he said. “Don't go into a meeting looking for easy money or a bank loan. Get the SBA to help you achieve in areas you are not good at. For example, I was having no luck with hiring good people. With the help of the SBDC we developed a questionnaire, and I was able to hire quality people to the team and the sales have grown in that region.”
Soesbee continued research and development for the commercial industry and designed a commercial grade intumescent coating to meet the commercial market and new construction needs that were currently being overlooked. Since 2006 FlameOFF Coatings has helped more than 5,000 projects achieve fire safety, many of them being historic renovations. The company has supported local and national fire inspector programs to help further educate about the safety characteristics of its product.
The SBA and SBDC have helped FlameOFF to expand to new markets and distribution channels on a national scale. This expansion, along with the launch of a new website in 2013, increased sales by 10 percent and allowed for seven additional employees. Looking ahead the company is now concentrating on developing a global presence.