U.S. Navy Veteran Paddles His Way to Entrepreneurial Success
When it comes to kayaking, Michael Pornovets is a source that transcends the subculture that has become a staple to American recreation. To speak to him is to quickly discover a passion that dates back for several years and eventually spawned into an idea one year before his retirement from the U.S. Navy. That idea soon became a quest for information and that information ultimately led to the business he owns today.
Turning his idea into something that afforded him a means to make a living while doing what he loved required the sage advice frequently found at the Gulf Coast Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
“I first came to the GC SBDC shortly before transitioning from the NAVY. I wanted to find out how to start my kayak business correctly”. His mentors included the likes of several longstanding business counselors along the Gulf Coast. They included Stephen Whitt, Director of the Innovation Center, Mitch McDowell who serves as the director for the Gulf Coast SBDC and Gulf Coast SBDC counselor Connie Whitt. Each of these business professionals provided valuable insight into Michael’s venture. “Stephen Whitt was my initial contact and assisted me with the components of my business plan, business structure, and the marketing components for my business. He was very instrumental in helping me secure my initial lease space and once the business had outgrown that space, he once again assisted me in obtaining a great lease for my new location,” said Pornovets.
“Mitch McDowell reviewed my business plan and financial projections. He assisted me with the application materials for the Patriot Express Loan that I used to capitalize the opening of my business. Connie Whitt was instrumental in assisting me with information on business startup information. Stephen, Mitch and Connie continued to listen and give guidance and make recommendations for my rapid growth and expansion.”
With the approval of a $50,000 SBA Patriot Express loan through The First Bank, Michael was able to establish his initial inventories and hire the first employees for his company. The dynamics of this particular loan program are that it is designed for veterans and members of the military community wanting to establish or expand a small business. Michael recently expanded “Everything Kayak” to a larger 10,000 square foot facility and is in the process of purchasing the location after having leased the space for 9 months. Everything Kayak is now the 10th largest specialty retail kayak store in the United States.
“The SBDC has provided great mentorship during my many business decisions over the last 3 years. I look forward to their continued assistance and consider them a valuable resource,” said Pornovets.
Pornovets is currently exploring new markets for his company so as to diversify the company’s product lines. The business has expanded to a regional level and sparked kayak enthusiasts in multiple states. His future plans are to open a second location in Florida with the hopes of gaining substantial market share.
Michael routinely gives back to the community. He supports organizations like Pink Heart, Wounded Warrior, and educational and faith based initiatives through his business.
For information regarding SBA’s loan programs and services, call the Mississippi District Office at 601-965-4378, the Gulfport Branch Office at 228-863-4449 or visit the Mississippi SBA web site at www.sba.gov/ms.