Planting the Seeds of Growth Leads Lawton Company to Major Success

Image of Norris Graves

A large white board at Waste Solutions LLC in Lawton, Oklahoma is covered completely in scribbled notes, plans and ideas detailing the future of the company, founded in 2001. “At the end of a day, I sit here and write things on the board,” Norris Graves, who founded Waste Solutions in 2001, said.  “It’s not a lot of secrets; I just set things we are going to do. That’s my way of focusing.”  

While Graves keeps his detailed business plan on the computer, the whiteboard and the panoply of projects, those to-do lists and ideas might not have happened without resources provided by the SBA, including a 7(a) loan in the midst of the economic downturn.  “It was a bad time for lending, the credit crunch,” Graves said.  “Had it not been for the 7(a) loan, I would not have been able to sustain my growth. I would have just died without that capital infusion.”  More than simply growing, Graves sees his business as the logical continuation of a life that has been based on the legacy he inherited as the progeny of generations of farmers.  “I grew up on a farm.  My dad was a farmer; his dad was a farmer,” Graves said, “That was the way of life I learned.” 

“I farm in my mind right now.  I’m a farmer,” he said.  “I plant the seeds, grow the crops and harvest the yields.  It’s the same mentality.  I feel comfortable doing this.  Unlike with my past career, it was just day-in, day-out.”  As an entrepreneur following one successful career with another, Graves feels a sense of obligation to pay it forward in return for the assistance he received from SBA through the 8(a) program and Emerging Leaders.  

“Once I got 8(a) it opened up doors and if I didn’t use it to grow and add people it would have been abusing the process,” Graves said.   “The program is development, but not just self-development.  If this business is done when I’m done, I haven’t lived up to my obligation.”  

“As a business owner, I’m here in Lawton.  Before I was awarded contracts at Ft. Sill, those contractors were from other states,” he said. “All of that money left the region.  I can bring that money and those projects back here and develop talent at the same time.”  

More than money, Graves sees a chance to leave a lasting mark through the development of his employees.  “People that are working for me have the ability, if they have the desire, to one day run a contract like that, bid on a contract like that or be a partner on a contract like that,” he said.  “Without this company, they would not have that opportunity.”  

Waste Solutions LLC is a HUBZone certified company in addition to being in the 8(a) program.  Graves is a graduate of the SBA Emerging Leaders program and has an ongoing relationship with an SBA Lender in Lawton that has supported his company’s growth.  “I have utilized about everything SBA has to offer,” Graves said.  “That’s what makes me feel good -- when I know I’m contributing to Lawton.”

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.