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Success Stories

Pictured: Gerald Neal

Gerald Neal learned in the Navy from the Corps of Engineers about construction. He holds a degree in computer engineering, but his partiality for construction overrode entering the computer field.

Neal is the owner of Neal’s Construction, LLC. Neal has two core values for business. Those core values are perseverance and staying the course. Neal is an 8(a) government contractor who has been in the program for eight years. He is slated to graduate next year from the program.

“If it were not for the 8(a) program my business would not be where it is,” said Neal. “The program helped me with understanding the federal contracting system in addition to contracting opportunities.

The 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program for small disadvantaged businesses. The 8(a) program offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are majority owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Participants are in the program... Read More

Pic(l-r): Thomas "Marty" Fort, Jr  and Jay Matheson

Two Columbia area musicians have been playing music for years and realized they should partner to expand their businesses. Thomas “Marty” Fort, Jr., owns Columbia Arts Academy, LLC, and Jay Matheson owns the Jam Room Recording Studio. The two musicians decided to partner and form Fort Matheson Holdings.  

            One of the reasons for partnering was for Fort and Matheson to purchase the building where they both had operated their business for years. Columbia Arts Academy provides music lessons in Columbia and Lexington. Jam Room Recording Studio is a studio and CD duplication for artists. 

            Matheson Holdings received a 504 loan from First Community Bank under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s lending program in 2015. They realized by combining forces this would give them freedom to deliver services with speed and agility, Fort and Matheson expressed appreciation to the Small Business Development Center and First Community Bank for application... Read More

Pictured: Vicki Wyatt, Owner

     Vickie Wyatt, President of J.I.T. Manufacturing, began her journey as a business owner in 1992 alongside her husband, Reggie. Together the couple created J.I.T. Manufacturing in a small 2800 square foot metal fabrication facility with only four employees and just one customer. J.I.T. still has the very first customer and they are still a substantial part of today’s business, a true testament to an effective business plan and leadership.

     As a graduate of Clemson University plus 30 years of business experience, Mrs. Wyatt has always strived to continually grow and move her woman-owned business forward into new markets. She has pushed the team to become a metal fabrication company that customers could trust.  Vickie and Reggie feel a strong commitment to providing high standards and moral values for their employees; continual improvement in lean practices, quality customer service, safety and strategic planning that has enabled J.I.T to have a strong foundation in the... Read More

Pictured: Evangelina Hemphill

          While working as an engineer in logistics and transportation at UPS, Evangelina Hemphill knew one day she wanted to own her own       business.  During a conversation with a small business owner, Hemphill discovered the shortage of certified asphalt inspectors and roadway services in the construction industry. In October of 2015, Evangelina Hemphill decided to take a leap of faith and start her own business, Hemphill Engineering Group LLC. 

            HEG is an inspection and consulting firm specializing in roadway construction inspection services. In 2015, Hemphill reached out to the U.S. Small Business Administration for counseling assistance to pursue her dream of owning a business.

            “The SBA answered several of my questions and assisted with maneuvering through the startup process,” said Hemphill.

            Hemphill still receives counseling from the SBA and the Small Business Development Center since her initial business launch. The... Read More