Success

Florida Autism 1

The Florida Autism Center (FAC) was founded in Central Florida in 2005 and relocated its headquarters to Tallahassee in 2011. FAC began working with the FSBDC at Florida A&M University (FAMU) in June of 2012. The company at that time had two locations in Central Florida and one in Tallahassee with a reported sales level of approximately $780,000. The company came to the FSBDC looking to strategically expand its operations while improving its operating efficiencies. Since that time, with the guidance and support of the FSBDC at FAMU, the company has achieved exceptional growth in sales, in profits, and in the number of employees it employs. FAC now has four locations and a 2014 sales level of nearly 3 million dollars. Continue reading

Dr. Martine Charles is the American Dream in action.  She is a true example of how hard work and determination can pay off.  Allied Health & Rehabilitation is now fully operational at 842 E. Park Avenue in Tallahassee (http://www.callallied.com/).  Dr. Charles not only specializes in excellent chiropractic care for accident related injuries, but also wellness chiropractic care.  Being a savvy business woman and technically able; she also has diversified her business by preforming pre-employment physicals and drug screening.  Along the way to opening her own clinic, she found helpful guidance from her SBDC Certified Business Analyst, Christine Urban. 

Dr. Charles was born on the Island of Haiti and came to the United States at the age of fourteen. She and her parents settled in the east section of Brooklyn, New York. They instilled in her the values of hard work and determination. She excelled in school despite language and cultural barriers, but suffered many setbacks. Determined to overcome adversities, she eventually fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a practicing chiropractic doctor.  She then worked in several clinics in Florida and became well known for excellent patient care.  She was able to learn the ups and downs of the business, one of the best ways to prepare yourself for owning your own business.  When the time was right, after some encouragement, she was ready to fly on her own.    

Although Dr. Charles is exceptionally skilled with her technical ability to treat patients, she realized she needed some help around proper business management.  Christine Urban of the FAMU SBDC not only provided her with sound business advice but gave her the last little push she needed in validating her readiness to go off on her own.  Dr. Charles has taken advantage of the no cost one to one appointments as well as workshops and networking opportunities.  As well as learning new skills in business administration, through events at the SBDC Dr. Charles has connected and inspired other entrepreneurs.

Dr. Charles says the best thing about owning her own practice is being able to implement steps to make her vision a reality.  Due to her efforts she has been awarded the 2013 Startup Business of the Year during Small Business Week which is sponsored by the FAMU Small Business Development Center in partnership with the Leon County Minority Women and Small Business Enterprise Division and the City of Tallahassee Minority Business Enterprise Office.  

July 1, 2013 will mark the second anniversary of Bruner’s Computers at its permanent location. After humble beginnings at the flea market, Mary and Bill Bruner have formed a husband and wife team and built a business that supports them from the ground up. Mary started out fixing computers at a corner location at the Tallahassee Flea Market. Due to demand and need for better place to do repairs, as well as unpredictable rainstorms, Mary decided to move to a permanent location at 5113 Capital Circle (http://www.bruners-computers.com/). This location has been great for providing better space, security, and opening hours, but has been challenging due to road construction. Mary relies on excellent customer service and referral business to get people through the door. Bruner’s Computers specializes in helping people who feel completely overwhelmed by the rush of technology in our modern world. She is patient and explains to customers what went wrong and how not to do go down the same path. She aims to help customers maintain their computers so they will not have to buy a new one. Mary stays up to date by constantly reading and shopping around for the best deals. She has several computers for sale at her location, and is clearing a place for more inventory.

During the past year, Mary has been attending virtually every training class that the Small Business Development Center offers from marketing, accounting, networking, and social media. She has taken advantage of one to one consulting and on site reviews offered by the Center and her lead counselor Christine S. Urban. Mary says that the classes help her “stay in gear” and moving forward with the business improving its marketing efforts. She has recently embarked on a new social media campaign. One of the most valuable and unexpected outcomes that came from SBDC interaction is the connection to other entrepreneurs. Not only can they help each other when facing the same challenges, but Mary has gone on to do business with some of them. She also finds out about programs and services that are available to advance her business. Over the last year she has seen a 37% increase in sales, and continues to grow with further fine tuning and the help of the Small Business Development Center.

                Consultants Statement  on Client

Consultant helped Mary realize the importance of proper bookkeeping procedures and documentation. Consultant gave suggestions for how to raise the level of professionalism in her business to instill customer confidence and suggested marketing tactics such as keeping customer database and Facebook campaigns.

TwinkleToes Shoe Boutique opened its doors in Tallahassee, Florida, November 2006 after I retired from the State of Florida.

TwinkleToes managed very well, although personal funds were used to stock the business, not knowing there were resources available for small businesses. We managed to survive through 2008-09 when newspapers were released that stated we were in a recession. Everyone closed their wallets and began to purchase just what was needed. We fell behind and things just got worst by the day. We made it until 2010 when my lease ended and I closed the business for one year to undergo hand surgery and try to recuperate from the losses. I continued to work via internet and home-based. Just could not bounce back enough to regain most of the loss.

Some customers apprised me of FAMU Small Business Development Center and I contacted Mr. Keith Bowers. We met several times, worked on a Business Plan and I thought I was ready for the application to be processed. Unfortunately, there were a few personal obstacles that kept me from applying at that time. I never gave up the dream that someday TwinkleToes would be fully stocked, expanded and in a store again.

My husband and I utilized personal funds again after an opportunity arose to move into Governor’s Square Mall. Moving in underfunded, we gave it our all-in-all. Finally, the time came to restock merchandise, and we were unable to fully stock the store. I tried private funding sources, although, no one wanted to give me an opportunity. Everyone said the business wouldn’t survive in this economy. I knew better, I knew what God had instilled within me and i was going to pursue it. I could not give up on the dream!

After seeing Mr. Bowers in the Governor’s Square Mall, I knew this was an opportunity to seek funding for the business. Mr. Bowers came in and talked with me about the condition of my business. I explained to him the problems I faced in obtaining working capital. He reviewed my financial statements and told me that he felt that the SBDC could help.

In February 2012, I was referred to K-WAM Financial Solutions to get the funding process started. They were able to assist and referred me to a lender that immediately processed my application and issued me step-by-step instructions what was needed to get approval for funding.

The process was stress-free and today TwinkleToes is funded, fully stocked with two part-time jobs created and on the road to a successful, prosperous business. Many thanks to FAMU Small Business Development Center for their assistance in helping small businesses like TwinkelToes to succeed.

I will always be grateful  to my two sons and husband, who have always believed that TwinkleToes is a gift from God and have kept encouraged, even in our most difficult situations.

I am living my dream and my destiny fulfilled, thanks God and FAMU Small Business Development Center for caring!

          Client Statement about SBDC:

I would recommend any business owner or anyone thinking about starting a business to apply for funding through SBDC at FAMU. They are people that care about your success and will recommend the right funding process for your business. Apply, even if it is for working capital, It’s available and SBDC at FAMU will do everything to help you in all your business needs.

          Business Analyst Statement on Client:

I assisted Mrs. Rollins in preparing projections and identifying marketing resources and developing a marketing strategy. I stressed the importance of preparation and patience involved in obtaining financing. I was inspired by her determination and faith in her ability to get her business back on track.

In 2012, Progress Energy Florida, Inc. began planning construction for a new operation center in Madison, Florida. The utility’s Real Estate and Sourcing personnel approached the Supplier Diversity & Business Development business unit and asked for recommendations on local. minority, small business contractors in North Florida that might be interested in bidding on the project. April Harley, Supplier Diversity Coordinator, sought and received a recommendation from the local Florida A&M University Small Business Development Center – Pinnacle Construction Support Group, Inc., a minority owned construction management firm based in Tallahassee, Florida, with offices in Orlando and Coral Gables.

During the year that Pinnacle awaited the opportunity to bid on the project, the company strengthened its value proposition, including safety, subcontractor management, technology and branding. Once the proposals were submitted and reviewed, Pinnacle was identified as the winning bidder based on technical expertise and commercial value offered. Pinnacle, however was not satisfied with simply accepting and performing the job. The principals of Pinnacle, Harold Knowles, Cory McFarlane and Spencer Shepard agreed with Progress Energy that it was important to utilize local subcontractors in the economically challenged area in North Florida to help complete the project.

Through coordination with Progress Energy’s Supplier Diversity, Community Relations and Corporate Communications, the company conducted a vendor fair in Madison, Florida on September 7, 2011 and provided information  to prospective trade professionals on registration for bids and then offered assistance to ensure that those who were interested in participating were given fair opportunity. As a result, local vendors from Leon, Taylor, Madison, Gadsden, Jefferson, Suwannee and Lowndes counties were awarded subcontracts for work such as surveying, site-work, electrical, flooring, fencing, concrete plumbing, sanitation and finishing, totaling approximately $500,000.

Through the application of innovative technology solutions the Pinnacle team was able to deliver cost savings and efficiencies, as promised at the start-up. To date, they have returned all cost savings to Progress Energy.

The Madison Operation Center building was completed on schedule and under their initial budget through the active engagement of local contractors and Pinnacle’s superior project management and oversight. Progress Energy and Pinnacle believe their efforts offered a boost to the local economy and built relationships for future participation by local businesses.

 

 

Dance has been my passion for over 20 years. I started dancing at the age of 3, and since I was a teenager I have wanted my own dance studio. I have been a teacher for almost 10 years, and after teaching in several studios, I decided that it was time for me to open my own business. I wanted to be a business owner because I wanted to share my creativity, vision and love of dance with others. So I took the plunge and opened Ni’Cole’s Performing Arts Center. Ni’Cole’s Performing Arts Center provides dance instruction to children ranging from walking age through adult. Specific classes offered include Mommy & Me, Pre-dance, Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip-Hop and Adult.

Although I was excited to be a business owner, I knew that I needed a plan. I thought of the Small Business Development Center and contacted Keith Bowers at the SBDC at FAMU. He helped me organize my business plan and look for funding resources. He challenged me with questions about my business structure and how would it operate. Keith assisted me in developing my pricing structure to ensure that it was competitive, realistic and adequate to sustain my operations. He helped me apply for my LLC. Also, he challenged me to conduct research that would help me develop a plan which would allow my business to succeed in the Tallahassee area. The research component was also an obstacle as well. There are several key elements that go into a business plan including the marketing strategies and feasibility plan. These two components combined require a lot of time and research.

The SBDC offered many training opportunities, and one of the trainings that I took advantage of was on social media. The class was centered on how to build your business around social media outlets such as your website, Facebook, Twitter and blogging. This information was beneficial because before the class, I did not see any real benefit to engaging in these outlets; however, after taking the class I realized how important social media is to building a business.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications with an emphasis in Broadcasting from Georgia Southern University. I also have a master’s degree in Non-Profit Management from the University of Central Florida. I have worked in public relations for non-profit organizations, and I also worked in grant writing. Working with non-profits is very important to me. I have been a volunteer since I was a teenager, and I believe that we owe it to our community to give back.

Although I have started a new business, I am still active in the Tallahassee community. I am on the executive board of Big Bend Pop Warner as the Cheer and Dance Commissioner. My volunteer experience has served as strength in business. The community resources and leaders that I have met have been some of my strongest supporters and allies. Community partnerships, however, are not the only tools that I have utilized. I have utilized strategies outlined in the business plan, such as Facebook, website, local newspaper and resources to spread the word about my business. I have utilized my broadcasting background to market my business via, newspaper, magazine, radio broadcasting, and other online marketing publications.

Deciding to be a business owner can be a rewarding yet challenging experience. Some of the rewards are being your own boss, creating a work schedule that can be beneficial to you and your family, and pursuing the dream. Some of the challenges include making sure the business is sustainable in a stagnate market. Additionally, it is challenging to get funding for a new business because many banks are not willing to take a chance on a new business with no financial history.

My advice to anyone thinking of starting a business is to do your homework, implement a strategy, and adapt to the market. There are many tough days but the key is to maintain a positive attitude and visualize where you want your business to be in the marketplace, being a self-motivator, communicator and networking are also key ingredients to keeping your spirits up during the rough times. Opening Ni’Cole’s Performing Arts Center has been a life-long dream and I am so happy that I am able to live my dream each day.

Johnston’s Meat Market is a retail meat market, restaurant, and custom processing and slaughtering plant located in Monticello, Florida.  The business has been in continuous operation for 86 years since its doors opened in 1926.  Currently, Johnston’s largest market is retail consumers in its physical store, as well as online customers. They have a large customer following that is loyal to the family sausage recipe and other smoked meats.  Johnston’s also has a large turkey fund-raising service that drives many new customers to its store.

The owner, Hal Bennett, has a vision to expand his operations into a full-service, USDA-approved slaughtering facility.  There are no full-service facilities within 160 miles of the proposed plant.   By obtaining USDA certification, the wholesale market would become available on a national scale.  Through his intimate knowledge of the business and direct feedback from the market,  Bennett has determined there is a high demand for this type of  facility in the area.

Bennett is working with the FSBDC at Florida A &M University to accelerate the growth of his business. The lead consultant, Jonathon Wiggins, and FSBDC Regional Director Keith Bowers have assisted Bennett with obtaining funding for the expansion, submitting  a 504 loan application to Florida First Capital Finance Corporation. The next step for Wiggins and Bowers is to conduct an in-depth business health assessment of Johnston’s Meat Market.

“I was introduced to Jonathon Wiggins and Keith Bowers by our Executive Director Julie Conley (Jefferson County Economic Development Council) in Monticello,” said Bennett. “I never thought that someone would listen to my story about our 86 year old business. They listened to everything I had to say and had an open mind to what I am trying to do with our business. Also, they listened to my financial needs in this economic down time. It is a really good feeling having someone from the SBDC help me along with this process.”

Upon completion of the expansion, Johnston’s Meat Market expects to create eight full-time and two part-time jobs, and revenue is projected to increase 50-percent the first year and 100-percent  by year two. Bennett says he is looking forward to developing the relationship with the SBDC as he believes he can achieve his goals with their assistance.

Fitness Proaction

Jan Verhagen has over twenty-five years of experience in the health and fitness industry and is certified with the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America for Primary Group Instruction and Personal Fitness Training.  Also, as a Workshop and Certification Specialist, she trains other members of the industry in these skill areas.

Prior to personal training, Jan worked in various health care areas ranging from hospital in-patient acute care right through out- patient rehabilitation.  From these experiences, she saw many instances where poor choices resulted in increasing instances of disease.  This resulted in her focus on prevention or as she would say “Self Care over Health Care.”

Fitness Proaction offers comprehensive fitness assessments and plans that encompass all aspects of wellness, including cardio, resistance, flexibility, and nutrition.  Instruction is provided one-on-one with each client assigned an appointed time.

When Jan came to the SBDC in June of 2009, it was with the intention of purchasing a franchise in the fitness area.  After attending several business workshops, she became convinced that rather than using a business model developed by someone else, she could start the business as she wanted it.  Her SBDC counselor, Chris Workman, worked with her to understand what would be needed and develop a plan that resulted in the business opening on December 23, 2009.  Chris attended the grand opening and has continued to provide business counseling services during her first year.  At her recently celebrated first anniversary, Jan proudly noted that she was profitable in her initial year. That is an accomplishment for any new business but is especially noteworthy during a poor economy.