SBDC Delivers Success to Business

Edna Hall-Whitehead

Scott Whitehead

Faith Funeral Home, Inc. has served families in Havana and surrounding communities for the past 19 years. Owners Edna and Scott Whitehead have been working with their business consultants at the Florida Small Business Development Center at FAMU (FSBDC at FAMU) to find ways to expand and better accommodate families in their time of need.

Edna said that although her husband developed an interest in becoming a Funeral Director at the 13, he did not pursue the career until later in life. When the company he was working for relocated, Scott had the opportunity to pursue a career he felt passionate about. He became an associate with a funeral home in Bainbridge and began his education in Mortuary Science at Gupton-Jones College in Atlanta.

Scott worked hard to complete his degree program, driving back and forth from his home in Bainbridge to Atlanta three days a week and returning to work the night shift at the funeral home. Edna said she remembers telling Scott she wouldn’t marry him until after he received his degree as a means to encourage him. Once he completed his degree program, Edna said they got to work building their funeral home from the ground up.

“We began with a 3500-square-foot building. We didn’t have a chapel until three years later,” Edna said. “When built a chapel, we made it nondenominational. It supplies the needs of every group no matter what their belief is, no matter what their culture is. We serve every family.”

After a time, Edna sold her flower shop and came to work at Faith Funeral Home full time. She participated in the Jim Moran Institutes Entrepreneur Program and has received professional and educational training in the funeral industry, earning her Pre-Need Funeral License. While at the Jim Moran Institute, she met Keith Bowers, Regional Director of the FSBDC at FAMU.

When the couple first came to the FSBDC at FAMU, their funeral home was already doing well. The financial analysis performed by the FSBDC at FAMU confirmed this fact and gave them detailed information about their business’s financial health. In addition to that confirmation,  they benefitted from the marketing and sales expertise their Business Consultant, Emery Parker, provided. This advice resulted in them moving in a positive direction for Pre-Need advertising and possibly adding another component to the firm.

“I’ve read the report many times, and every one of the funeral homes that we were compared to, none of them started the way we did,” Edna said. “We started at zero. We founded this with no help. We are a first-generation funeral home with a first-generation funeral director. Others in Tallahassee have either been purchased, inherited, or a part of a large corporation or had family members supporting them financially and educating them. There is no one like us in our industry or service area.”

Despite having overall success with their business, they did face several challenges getting to where they are now. These obstacles include educating the community that they exist, developing a relationship and trust with the community, and overcoming the last stronghold on tradition. The FSBDC at FAMU was able to offer some insight and help establish connections in the communities they serve.

 With help from the FSBDC at FAMU, Edna and Scott produced a TV commercial for their business, the only funeral home in the area to have one. The FSBDC at FAMU also provided a detailed report on their business, showing them where and how they can improve and their goals for growing and expanding the business. Edna says they have reached every goal and dream and hopes the FSBDC at FAMU will help them continue to find ways to serve families in the community.

“We don’t have a playbook on how individuals grieve and, every individual has something that is truly is important to them and, we hope that we never miss that step and complete that and give them what they need to make the worst day of their life a little better,” Edna said. “We can only do so much to prepare for whichever service that family chooses but the nucleus of that family that is left. They need guidance in navigating living without them. We want those memories to be good, we want it to be special, and we want it to be about them.”

What sets Faith Funeral Home and Crematory stand out from other businesses is the staff’s outgoing personality and willingness to explore different ideas and opportunities that will add to the quality of their services. The owners are dedicated to reinvesting in their business for growth and success to continue working with their clients to provide the best care.

 “The value, the overview, the tools, and their willingness to assist me and my business cannot be measured,” Hall-Whitehead said. “Their expert advice, encouragement, and desire to see my business become what my vision is, is something you owe yourselves as a business owner to seek out. You will find that working with the FSBDC at FAMU.”


Jabaree Allen

In the early stages of the development of his company, Business Automation Pros, Jabaree Allen was determined to bring his services to all different types of businesses in Tallahassee and help them transition to a paperless system.

 A friend of Allen introduced him to Keith Bowers, Regional Director of the Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida A&M University (FSBDC at FAMU), who gave him a piece of advice that was instrumental in the overall success of his business. Bowers told him, “In trying to serve everybody, he may not reach anybody.”

 “A dear friend of mine, Darryl Jones, Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Vitality, introduced me to Keith and said that the FSBDC at FAMU would be a great resource,” Allen said. “From day one, Keith was very open to helping me out in any way he could. From there, the relationship grew. He asked me what he could do to help, and I put all the things I knew I was having a tough time with on the table. He did what he could and introduced me to people who could solve those problems.”

 Allen did have prior knowledge of navigating the technology industry, having graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Entrepreneurship and afterward working for a company that focused on the same software that Business Automation Pros now uses, but for local municipalities instead of healthcare. He picked up on this software rather quickly and was able to use it to create a company of his own.

 “When I graduated and learned about the technology, I found it interesting, and I have a degree in Entrepreneurship from Florida State, so I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart,” Allen said. “I decided to leave that company, and Business Automation Pros was born.”

 At the onset of COVID 19, Jabaree noticed healthcare facilities needed his services since they could no longer have people crowd waiting rooms to fill out paperwork. With its newfound niche, Business Automation Pros was able to grow tremendously over the last few years. According to Allen, the projected growth for the tech industry is $23 billion over the next three years.

 Now in the seventh year of his business, Allen said that during his time at school, he didn’t have many mentors that looked like him and hoped that with his success, he could open the door for those coming behind him and inspire more young black men to pursue careers in technology. He said growing up; he did not receive much support when he showed interest in technology and had to make the conscious decision to overcome stereotypes surrounding black men in tech and have the confidence to stand out and choose his path.

 “It is super important for me to mentor and be a leader in this space,” Allen said. “To teach young men in the community that we have this avenue. The goal is to pull young men in through internships and mentors, teach them about the technology world and show them this is how you do this type of business, and this is what the research looks like.”

 Although initially, Jabaree did not have many mentors who could relate to him, he says he finds motivation in talking with his business consultant at the FSBDC at FAMU. He understands the importance of not giving up and inspiring others who may come into the industry after him.

“Keith has always been awesome,” Allen said. “He’s been accommodating with more than just the business side. He’s been motivational and like a mentor, telling me, ‘Jabaree, you can’t give up. There will be challenges, and you are the first Black man starting a tech business like this, don’t give up.’ That’s the most important piece of support that he gave me.”

 What sets Business Automation Pros apart from similar companies is Allen’s humility in the business. He said a big issue in the technology industry is that companies will sell you a product but won’t teach you how to use it. Allen, however, brings face-to-face, hands-on learning when working with each client.

“That’s a big problem I see in the technology industry is we’ll buy technology and invest in it, but we won’t invest in learning how to use it, or the people who sold it to us aren’t willing to teach us how to use it,” Allen said. “That’s the big difference between my company compared to others.”

Allen takes pride in creating strong bonds with his clients and taking the time to understand their needs. In helping them transition to a paperless data entry system, Allen is creating more efficient and safer work environments for healthcare facilities that have been greatly affected by the COVID 19 pandemic.

 Pairing the resources and guidance offered by the FSBDC at FAMU with his education at FSU and prior knowledge about the software used at Business Automation Pros, he has been able to grow his presence within the local healthcare industry. From learning to build a great business model to utilizing the variety of marketing resources available, the FSBDC at FAMU was pivotal in his business surviving the first few years.

 “God led me to this, and that is the most important thing! That helped me to pray about it, and God was giving me a vision,” Allen said. “That’s why I was able to come to the FSBDC and meet Keith Bowers and a few of the people at the FSBDC who helped me put things together that I was having challenges with.”

Kanut Khosla

Kanut Khosla was ready to fulfill his lifelong desire of being an entrepreneur but was looking for affirmation that he was making sound decisions supported by data.  He found all the support he needed and more when he discovered the Florida Small Business Development Center at FAMU (FSBDC at FAMU).

Khosla had enjoyed a 23-year career at the state of Florida where he gained experience with contract and project management, while also managing multiple work units. Khosla also served in the United States Army Reserve, working in the military postal service. He felt his background would help him be successful in business but wasn’t sure how to get started.

He took an early retirement and gave himself three months to figure out what kind of business he wanted.  His plan was to explore the communities between Tallahassee and Jacksonville hoping to find a business that was successful but under-represented in Tallahassee.  He soon developed an interest in the shipping industry and looked at popular franchises such as the UPS Store and the FedEx Office. There were also several independent shipping stores which Khosla found more appealing because he could offer the strengths of UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL all in one store.

He then found an existing store for sale that had already developed a good customer base.  Since this was cheaper to purchase than a new franchise, Khosla wanted to proceed with acquisition but did not feel comfortable relying solely on the business broker and seller.  That’s where the FSBDC at FAMU came in.

“I met with Keith Bowers and Aundra’ McGlockton, and I’ll tell you, I don’t think I would have been able to purchase the business without them,” Khosla said. “The shipping business looked like it was going to be decent around here, so that was a plus.  Then Aundra’ looked at the numbers and said it looked like a good purchase and helped me determine its value.  Everything that I could have asked for, had I been able to hire a giant staff of people, I got at no cost to me through the FSBDC at FAMU.”

After he bought the business, Kanut experienced the “now what” moment that many business owners experience and the FSBDC at FAMU came through for him again, sending him three MBA candidates to help with social media outreach and marketing efforts.  He went from worrying that he would run a 14-year-old business into the ground in record time to experiencing growth each of the first three years.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of U.S. small businesses fail within the first year.  By the end of their fifth year, roughly 50% have faltered.  After ten years, only around a third of businesses have survived.

As Khosla and his family celebrate ten years in business, the couple credits much of their success to the FSBDC at FAMU, who they still turn to for guidance.  With their daughter now working alongside them, Khosla and his wife are happy that they have a business to leave to her once they retire.

“Ten years from now, we may not want to work anymore, and she’ll have years and years of experience here,” Khosla said.  “I would love to set her up to be self-employed so she can direct her own life.  We know where to get all the support we need for it now, so we can just send her to the SBDC.”

Elijah Rutland

When Elijah Rutland began customizing shoes, he never thought his hobby would lead to bigger opportunities such as designing his own “Beats by Dre” or having his art featured at the Superbowl.

From a young age Rutland loved creating art. In elementary school he recalls not being able to get the popular sneakers he wanted and instead drawing them and showing them to his friends and family. As a sophomore in high school, he saw someone paint on a pair of shoes for the first time and that pushed his passion for shoes and art to the next level.

“That was my way of having shoes without actually physically having them and then that continued to the tenth grade when I actually saw someone paint a pair of shoes for the first time and I thought that was the coolest thing,” Rutland said. “I went to Good Will to buy some shoes and to Walmart and bought some paint and started there and overtime it just evolved.”

Following the creation of his brand Fix My Sole, he decided that in addition to customizing sneakers, he also wanted to do commissioned illustrations and paintings, create his own apparel, and even sell a curated selection of vintage FAMU pieces.

Since he officially started Fix My Sole at the age of 15, Rutland had no prior work experience and was unsure if he would really be able to turn his hobby into a business. However, having two entrepreneur parents, they helped him learn how he can make his passion a career.

Rutland had to go through a lot of steppingstones to build his brand to where it is today. He remembers the first custom pair of sneakers he painted sold for only $35, at a loss. After making his first sale he realized the potential in painting shoes and how he could make it profitable.

“Overall, it feels good that people want to buy my work and that people are actually interested in it,” Rutland said. “I think when I started, that was something that I struggled with. I didn’t know whether people would be interested in the work that I did or my voice that I use through my art, but it definitely feels good. At times it can be overwhelming dealing with school and still trying to keep everything on the business side intact but it’s definitely a great feeling.”

Rutland came early to FAMU to begin practicing for the Marching 100 and one day he got a call from his dad saying he wanted to take him to the Florida Small Business Development Center at FAMU to speak with a business consultant. There he met with Emery Parker and discussed what stage he was at with his business and some of the struggles he was facing.

“I think Mrs. Emery was the first person I talked to, and you know my dad is a great salesman, so he was just explaining to her my business and everything I was doing at the time,” Rutland said. “I didn’t even have a website actually so that was the first thing I got from the SBDC. I just explained what I was looking for and wanted and either that same week or the next week we set up a meeting with a web developer and got started on everything to get the website going.”

Since then, Fix My Sole has experienced exponential growth and been recognized nationally and internationally in the art and entertainment industry. Elijah also had his art displayed at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game festivities as well as an exhibit at the 2020 Super Bowl LV Experience.

In addition to these accomplishments, Elijah has been featured in several media outlets such as Complex,,, Buzzfeed News, to name a few. He has also collaborated with celebrities and public figures including R&B singer, K. Michelle, Chance the Rapper, and social media influencer, Demetrious Harmon.

One of Rutland’s proudest moments was the opportunity to design the “2021 Black History Month Beats by Dre”. Rutland said he recalled clicking through Instagram stories one day and he happened to stop on American sports pundit and former professional football player Shannon Sharpe’s story where he was unboxing the headphones that he had designed.

Elijah attributes much of his success to the consulting services he received from the FSBDC at FAMU.

“I was very satisfied with the services I received from the SBDC, it was really the start of the professional side of my business,” Rutland said. “I would recommend them to other business owners because I think one of the best parts of the center is that they met me where I was at the time because before I had never had a consultation with a business development center like this or even with a web developer and everybody they brought in, all the staff and everybody I met, they’re really genuine and passionate with how they helped and it felt like they were personally invested in making sure I got the best service and the best help possible.”

Now preparing to graduate, Rutland has several options lined up to choose from. After interning with Warner Brothers and working with Netflix on the show, “Green Eggs and Ham”, he has charted a path to success and is looking for more opportunities to create art to be shared with the world.

Rutland encourages others who aren’t sure if they want to pursue their hobbies as a career to take the chance and to use the services the Florida SBDC at FAMU offers for small business owners at no cost.

“I would definitely recommend any FAMU students, the younger the better because you have more time, but I think a lot of people don’t know that these services are available,” Rutland said. “Especially now in our current generation people are aspiring to be entrepreneurs but this is a good way to set yourself apart with services that are readily available with the people that are here to help you and make those things happen.”