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Dry Cleaner's Prom Dress Bank Helps those in Need

Jodi and Dan Bittick purchased One Hour Martinizing in Medford in 1998. The operation does dry cleaning, repairs, alterations, preservation and laundry. Both Jodi and Dan worked for big business in Utah and wanted to own their own business. Dry-cleaning was a natural choice since Jodi's grandfather and her father owned and operated a dry cleaning business. Jodi and her siblings often helped with the family business.

In the four years as owners of the Medford store, the Bitticks had increased their market and wanted to expand by purchasing a new, larger capacity washer and dryer. The owners couldn't get a bank loan, because the loan request was too small. Roger Harding of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Grants Pass, and their instructor in the Rogue Community College Small Business Management Program, referred them to Dennis Davis, the Loan Fund Manager at Southern Oregon Women’s Access to Credit (SOWAC) Business Training and Lending in Medford, Oregon.
"Dennis Davis was very helpful... we really enjoyed working with him," said the Bitticks. Davis assisted them to update their Business Plan and worked with them to get approval for the loan. After they were funded for the equipment, Davis encouraged them to take part in the SOWAC Marketing Roundtable program with Kimberly Ward. For six months, they met with other entrepreneurs, exchanged ideas and worked out a Marketing Plan with one-on-one instruction.
The key to the new plan was to increase their customer base and maximize their new larger capacity washer and dryer. They chose to offer coupons to existing customers for a discount on dry cleaning larger items. The business is thriving. When they first opened in 1998, only Dan and Jodi worked full time. Now in 2003 they employ three full time people, plus themselves, a total of five full time and two part time. Yearly gross sales have more than tripled.
When asked about obstacles they had overcome, Jodi laughed, "There are obstacles every day! Either equipment or management issues keep us busy." Their business strength, Jodi thought, was their exceptional customer service.
They have recently made a unique addition to their business and contribution to the community with the "Prom Dress Bank." Jodi went to the school counselors and shared ideas about how to let students know about the stock of prom gowns that students could own by exchanging a can of food for the Food Bank. This stock of prom gowns, to be ready for distribution in March, is open to any student who is, for whatever reason, not able to afford a dress. Jodi felt that health issues, family issues, low income, etc. all qualified students to receive one of these dresses. Jodi initiated this project to give something back to the community that has helped their dry cleaning business thrive.