Melinda Nearhoof Floors the SBA
Annie’s Flooring & Commercial Services is Penna. Small Business Person of the Year
MEADVILLE, PA – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is rolling out the red carpet for Melinda Nearhoof. The owner of Annie’s Flooring and Commercial Services will be honored in Washington D.C, as the Pennsylvania Small Business Person of the Year and vie for the national title during the 60th annual celebration of National Small Business Week, April 30-May 6.
“Wow, I feel really honored and was surprised I was chosen,” Nearhoof said. “I come from a family of very hard-working people, and they are proud of me…that’s a big deal!”
Nearhoof began her quest at the local level, when she was chosen as the Western Pennsylvania District Office Small Business Person of the Year. The nomination package, compiled by the Gannon University Small Business Development Center (SBDC), was then forwarded to the regional SBA office in Philadelphia to compete with the Eastern Pennsylvania District winner to represent the state.
For 21 years, Nearhoof worked in other people’s homes and her own rental properties, learning on-the-job and alongside professionals she became skilled in hanging drywall and lay flooring which complimented her small cleaning and painting business. While honing her skill set, Nearhoof was given the opportunity to purchase a building and equipment from a recently shuttered business. “It took me awhile to say yes, but I’ve always wanted to have my own business,” she added. “I was motivated to start something from nothing, hire employees and help them support their families.”
With help from Gannon SBDC Senior Business Consultant Shane Foster, Nearhoof soon owned the closed business lock, stock and barrel. SBDCs are SBA and state-funded entities helping entrepreneurs with no-cost counseling and low-cost training classes for every phase of small business development. Since January, more than 318 entrepreneurs in the four-county area around Erie received assistance from the SBDC, creating five new business starts while creating 821 jobs.
“My bank was skeptical at first since the business had not shown recent success or profits,” she explained. “They sent me to the SBDC and Shane assisted me with a business plan which showcased my skills, client base, and potential financial projections. The lenders were impressed.”
SBA Western PA District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt is pleased the Gannon SBDC played a key role aiding Melinda. “Her can-do attitude and passion for others truly exemplifies the heart of small business owners across the country, and she’s providing good jobs to her growing employee base.”
Nearhoof first retooled the name of the business, changing the perspective to encompass her cleaning and maintenance skill set – a move she believes enabled her team to easily pivot and not only survive but thrive during the pandemic when her flooring showroom remained closed to the public. “Our motto was ‘yes, we can do that,” she said. “We had a small cleaning service back then, but when a large manufacturer asked us to replace their janitorial staff and a local government office asked us to bid on their contract, which we won, that sector took off.”
Nearhoof explained that during the pandemic her team sanitized buildings around the clock – cleaning all touchpoints within a facility. “Our job was to make people feel safe and comfortable in their essential workplaces,” she added. “I hired more employees and transitioned them to our growing commercial services division.” When the flooring division reopened, Nearhoof expanded that division too, updating her showroom while hiring sales and office staff.
Today’s 23-member team with a multi-disciplined mission is a far cry from Nearhoof’s grand-opening ceremony. After cutting the ribbon, Nearhoof quickly got to work as both owner and sole employee – often logging 70-hour work weeks and drawing clients from her small, home-improvement venture. “My husband and two teenage children helped when they could,” she added. “In about eight months, I was able to hire a laborer who learned the ropes working with me.”
Marketing on social media sites, establishing a website, and relying on word-of-mouth advertising has seen Nearhoof’s business skyrocket. She’s increased employment and sales by an incredible 2,300 percent and 332 percent, respectively. Employees and charitable organizations are benefitting too. She’s implemented medical, dental, optical and supplemental insurance programs, bonuses and soon will be implementing a 401 (k) plan for her team while providing flooring and funding to need-based groups both around the corner and around the world.
Nearhoof, who is looking forward to collecting her well-deserved accolades during Small Business Week, advises entrepreneurs to keep their priorities straight. “It’s hard work, and believe me, a support system is important for your sanity,” she explained.
About the U.S. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration helps power the American dream of business ownership. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow, expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.