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Success Stories

STEPping into International Success


A chance encounter in 2013 sparked the beginning of what would become Velour Imports, experts in supplying craft beer, wine, cider, and spirits to Latin America and the Caribbean. While working at the Houston Food Bank in logistics and transportation, Founder & CEO Brooke Sinclair met a volunteer who had a friend looking to import wine from their vineyard in Argentina.  Brooke was skeptical at first but knew with her skillset this could be an opportunity to make something big.  With the aid of Business Research Assistance from the University of Houston Small Business Development Center and one-on-one business counseling she came to find out that the real market of opportunity was the other way around- exporting.  And specifically, the tourism demand for craft beer at luxury resorts and hotels in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

To get the business off the ground and with little capital to invest, Brooke knew she needed... Read More

Who Needs a Pool Boy?


Situation: Childhood friends Justin Morehead and Zac Nicklas felt that owning their own business would put them in control of their fate, and that working hard and smart to build a successful business would enable them to be in control.  This attitude led them to the Galveston County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in 2010.  The SBDC helped guide them through different business ideas, provided essential training, and linked them to a variety of different business events. 

Solution: The effort paid off.  Coaching by the SBDC resulted in the creation of The Pool Boys in January 2011. Justin and Zac had worked in the pool and spa industry and observed that there was a wide range of quality being provided in a mostly unregulated industry, and that a business focused on providing top notch customer service and high-quality work would separate them from the competition. 

During their journey they have offered a range of... Read More

Viona Zhong

Founder & CEO

Lush Banners

Richmond, TX


Situation:  Lush Banners was founded in Sydney, Australia in 2009.  Founder & CEO Viona Zhong had spent several years working as a marketing professional and attending trade shows worldwide.  While attending these trade shows she recognized an opportunity to start her own ecommerce business offering custom displays at a higher quality and affordable price.  In 2009, she launched a website selling retractable banners and flags and in the first 6 months was surprised to see that all the big orders were coming from the United States.  Encouraged by large demand, Viona made the decision to move operations to Texas.  But there was one major issue, Viona had never been to the United States and had no idea how to operate a business in the United States.          


Solution:  Viona explains, ‘I encountered tremendous difficulties never having been in the U.S. before and the legal... Read More

Compassion & Technology- A Winning Combination


Dr. Faheem Inayatali began to shape his ideas of owning a private practice while pursuing his doctorate degree from the University of Houston College of Optometry.  During medical training and rotations, he began to explore different niches as well as develop the designs and philosophies he uses in his practice today. 

With the help of Wallis Bank and a SBA 7(a) loan, Dr. Faheem was able to turn his vision into a reality by utilizing loan funds to purchase medical equipment and build-out a 5,000 square foot facility to open the Eye Center of Houston in July 2015.  Although the business is located on a major bus stop and only minutes from Memorial Hermann Hospital, the largest non-profit healthcare system in Texas, Dr. Faheem would face challenges that came with operating a practice in a low-income area.  Dr. Faheem states, “there were a lot of interesting challenges I didn’t see coming into this, it is very... Read More