CATMEDIA, headquartered in Tucker, Georgia, is blazing a trail of success. Approaching $20 million in revenue, it has been named in the Top Ten of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2015 Pacesetter Awards for Atlanta’s 100 fastest-growing private companies, as well as named as one of the top 100 fastest growing companies [top five woman owned businesses] in America by Inc. Magazine. Founded in 1997, CATMEDIA is a full-service communications company that specializes in creative services, program management, training, and human resource management. The company is thankful to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for their continued success.
Catherine Downey, CATMEDIA’s CEO, recently reflected on her and the company’s journey with the SBA. “I feel like a poster child for the SBA as I have participated in many federal government programs and services that have helped grow my business,” said Downey. Having a creative and operational background in the television industry, Downey, quickly identified shortfalls in her skills set, and sought counsel from one of SBA’s resource partners, SCORE.
SCORE is a nonprofit association of thousands of volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors, advisors and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners. “SCORE is a valuable resource to help navigate the SBA process. I originally met with SCORE to gain a better understanding of sales and the sales process. It was through this interaction that I learned about the GSA schedule that opened the doors to government contracting. This later led to my involvement with the 8(a) government contracting program,” said Downey. “If there is one thing I have realized in business it is that the on-going processes of learning and growth go hand in hand.” Either she or a team member visits the SBA on a quarterly basis to remain engaged and plugged into the vast network of resources. “Each class or meeting has been a building block for my growth and the growth of the company, said Downey.”
Next Downey enrolled in the Fast Track Program at the Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and multiple programs in between. “I relied heavily on the SBDC, and was very fortunate to be introduced to [SBDC Consultant] Mr. Lloyd Atkins. Lloyd guided me through the 8(a) process, and has assisted me in the development and implementation of strategic planning. I am extraordinarily grateful to the SBA, and everything I have learned that has allowed me to build the business, and to create a sustainable infrastructure.” said Downey. “I poke my head into every open window available for training and development that I can, and each time I walk away with some nugget that has taken me to another level.”
The SBA Emerging Leaders program was another window of opportunity that came at the perfect time. Downey was in the process of evaluating her own professional skillsets to determine if she possessed the ability to lead a $25 million enterprise. Emerging Leaders is a federal training initiative that specifically focuses on executives of businesses poised for growth in historically challenged communities. The initiative provides these executives with the organizational framework, resource network, and motivation required to build sustainable businesses and promote the economic development within urban communities. Downey believes that spending time in the Emerging Leader program and its CEO mentoring groups made her better equipped to be the person to lead her company. She later went on to graduate from Emerging Leaders as the Valedictorian, and is often sought after to speak with potential candidates about the program. “The course was excellent and designed with me in mind. Russ Young, the Emerging Leaders instructor, was not only knowledgeable, but also passionate about our classroom and boardroom success,” said Downey. “The immediate practical skills that I was able to take from the classroom to boardroom in real-time were in the areas of human resources activities and financials. ‘I don’t know what I don’t know’ and keeping that at the top of my mind creates an openness and curiosity about learning.”
To round out the “poster child” image of utilizing the SBA programs and services, CATMEDIA recently took advantage of the agencies 504 loan program. The initial advice to borrowers from SBA Lender Relation Specialists is to seek financing options within your current financial institution first. Darren Davis, Senior Vice President and SBA Team Manager at Fidelity Bank said, “with CATMEDIA being a deposit customer of Fidelity Bank, we were very familiar with her business and appreciated her confidence in us to provide her the best financing solution through the SBA 504 loan program. When she approached us with her financing needs, she had outgrown her office space and was experiencing tremendous growth. With the combination of a first mortgage from Fidelity Bank and a SBA 504 loan, she was able to purchase an adjacent building to not only provide ample space for her growth, but also showcase the services and products she offers. The 90 percent loan-to-cost financing allowed her to include renovation and equipment costs, so she could save her working capital to support her growth.”
Today Downey is confidant and poised to lead CATMEDIA in achieving its goal of $50 million in revenue over the next three years. Some entrepreneurs chose to ride the wave; CATMEDIA, with the help of the SBA, is in the business of building a bigger wave to ride.