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Still Cooking Up a Great Company

Situation:

  • Oscarware, Inc. is a family-owned manufacturing business, founded in 1989 by the wife and husband team of Debra and Reg Dudley.
  • Sensing the anything-can-be-grilled trend, they invented a new product they called “grill topper,” making it possible to cook a variety of meals on an outdoor grill.
  • The original grill topper product transformed the traditional backyard barbeque menu from hamburgers and hotdogs to fish, vegetables and pizza as grillers became more creative.
  • In 2001, three major national accounts filed for bankruptcy, creating a severe cash crunch.
  • Two years later, Debra’s husband of twenty-four years had two strokes. In 2005, Reg passed away suddenly from a heart attack.
  • Reg had manufacturing technical knowledge as well as how the equipment and machines worked. Now Debra had to quickly learn the manufacturing side of the business.
  • Insufficient cash flow made alternative sources of financing a premium cost, resulting in difficulties in sustaining and growing the business.
  • Determined and scared, she spent tireless hours stabilizing the business and creating opportunities to grow the business. 

Solution: How the SBA helped:

  • Debra had to find working capital. She contacted the area Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and SBA resource partner, which provides business consulting at no cost.
  • The SBDC has offered Debra extensive counseling, including marketing, product placement, financial forecasting and product development through an affiliated engineering school.
  • She and her SBDC consultant developed a strong business plan that enabled the company to obtain several commercial bank loans and two SBA 7(a) loans.

Successful Impact/Outcome:

  • The loans allowed the company to stabilize and grow the business while creating more manufacturing jobs in rural Bonnieville, KY.
  • In 2007, a major chain store placed an order for grill toppers in 10,000 of its store shelves. Since then, Oscarware has obtained national contracts with big box and grocery stores, home improvement and agriculture outlets, drugstore chains, camping stores and more.  
  • In 2015 alone, sales grew 50%, improving cash flow and liquidity. Net worth has doubled.
  • With assistance from the SBA STEP exporting program, the company now exports product to numerous other countries around the world.
  • Debra and her team continue to develop new topper products, now offering a complete line of both disposable and gourmet porcelain coated steel toppers, woks and griddles in the U.S. 
  • Oscarware has created a rich history of product innovation and provided employment opportunities to the citizens of Bonnieville and the surrounding area.
  • The two SBA loans are now paid in full, and Oscarware has grown to 30 employees.
  • Because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Debra stated that despite a seasonal business that forced her to temporarily lay off employees in the past, she has no longer had to do that.   
  • Debra Dudley was selected as SBA Kentucky Small Business Person of the Year. She competed nationally for the award and finished as SBA National First Runner Up that year.
  • Throughout the years, Oscarware has received numerous other state, regional and national awards.   
  • Debra Dudley shares the company’s prosperity with the community, including generous donations that support education and civic causes for those who are less fortunate. She also donates her time to many area nonprofits.

With the help of the SBA and SBDC, Debra Dudley and Jeff Dudley, Vice President and son, guided the company from financial crisis into healthy, profitable growth. Unfortunately, Jeff passed away unexpectedly. Daughter Kelly Dudley Busick joined the company and has assumed the VP role.    

Company Name: 
Oscarware Inc.
Location: 
Bonnieville, KY 42713 (Hart County)