Oklahoma Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year
Success Story…2010 Oklahoma Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year
Upon his retirement from the Armed Forces in 2002, Joseph Diaz decided to open his own business using the skills he developed during his military career. He founded AA Computer Services and the business grew quickly. In 2008 he sought the assistance of the Small Business Development Center in Lawton who helped him develop a business plan and qualify for an SBA Patriot Express Loan. However, because of the strength of his application, he was approved for a commercial loan.
Born in New York City, Joe attributes his success to the counseling and training he received from service organizations including the Lawton Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He has taken his small business through several expansions and takes pride in hiring the men and women who fight for our country and freedom – veterans, military family members and National Guard soldiers. As a member of the Lawton Chamber of Commerce & Industry Military Affairs Committee, Joe is involved in promoting business opportunities for veterans at the Ft. Sill Military Post and around the community. He is also an advocate for veteran issues as a member of the Comanche County Veterans Council, US Army Warrant Officers Association, Oklahoma National Guard Association, Military Sojourners and the Fort Sill Retiree Council.
Success Story…2010 Oklahoma Minority Small Business Champion of the Year
A dream came true in 2001 when Pamela Huddleston-Bickford founded Cherokee Data Solutions (CDS) in Claremore, Okla. She began the company on a shoestring to provide computer accessories, printer supplies and data storage products. Today, CDS has customers in nearly every state across the nation, certifications in most “best of breed” technology solutions, and a product offering of over 700,000 items. Her company can support next day delivery to nearly any location in North America with over 118 distribution warehouses from coast to coast. The company has seen growth of over 2000% since 2001 based on very simple values such as knowing what it is that you do, and then keeping your word to do what you said you would do, no excuses.
From the very beginning, Pamela positioned her woman-owned, Native American, SBA 8(a) certified business to boost Indian communities by providing jobs in rural Oklahoma, and to be an advocate and mentor to other minority small businesses. CDS supports minority entrepreneurship by promoting a culture within her company of helping others achieve success. Pamela said her greatest reward is to see another person’s dream take shape and ultimately for them to reach within and change their life, and the lives of others.
Her life mission for her business is in duplicating her successful model in a turn-key solution to support economic development and job creation into remote and impoverished reservations in Indian Country throughout the United States. This dream, Global Native Supply, will bring hope to reservation communities that face unemployment that has historically topped 80%. The project tackles social issues unique to Indian Country as it addresses a non-gaming economic solution for self sufficiency and self determination.
Pamela’s greatest mentor and champion in her life was her Mom, Leona Belle Wisdom Huddleston, who taught her to always bring others along with you, and how to walk the walk, with integrity and grace. This core commitment has brought recognition and numerous awards to Cherokee Data Solutions, including the 2009 US Department of Commerce Technology Firm of the Year, the OMSDC Company of the Year, and The Cherokee Nation Business of the Year.
Success Story…2010 Oklahoma Women in Business Champion of the Year
In 1989 Darcie Harris founded EWF International to help women grow their business by providing peer advisory groups, coaching and consulting in Oklahoma City. In 2005, Darcie was able to expand the concept to Tulsa and Denver with a new group beginning in Norman in 2010. As a business consultant, mentor, coach, and advocate for female business owners and executives, Darcie has helped countless women realize their professional dreams. She finds fulfillment of her own dreams by encouraging women to think big, pursue their passions and achieve their personal best.
Darcie has trained and worked with women business owners who continue to excel. The average increase in revenue for women entrepreneurs who participate in the advisory group forums is almost $278,500 and 93 percent of members report they have a better understanding of their company’s strategic indicators.
Recently Darcie shared her passion for female entrepreneurship by volunteering with the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW). In 2009 Darcie traveled to Rwanda as part of the IEEW team and presented a leadership training program to Rwandan female entrepreneurs, then visited each of the student’s businesses. In 2009 Darcie mentored a woman from Afghanistan who desired to become a business consultant to other women and she is currently mentoring another Afghani woman.
Success Story…The Caring Company
Lynette Morris was not interested in living the “American dream” of owning her own business when she was approved for a $455,000 loan guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Instead, she was interested in saving jobs, creating jobs and continuing to provide care to the clients she had grown to love. Morris used the money to purchase The Caring Company, a home health care business in rural Oklahoma.
By purchasing the 15-year-old company, where Morris had worked for over a year, she and her husband, Walt, were able to save nine jobs and create another nine positions. They were also able to continue providing skilled nursing, physical therapy, speech therapy, personal care and some mental health and social services to more than 70 clients located in 15 northwestern Oklahoma counties.
Close to 95 percent of The Caring Company’s patients are elderly and because they live in rural areas, they can feel isolated and lonely, Morris said.
“Paying attention to their psychological and social needs is just as important as making sure they are not running a fever and their heart is beating right. We provide staff that can do housekeeping, run errands, and just take the time to sit and listen to clients’ stories when they talk about their experiences with raising children, surviving the Depression or working in the church. Our patients are just so grateful for the short amount of time we spend with them. We like to make sure the whole person is healthy.”
When the opportunity to buy the business came up, Morris visited with a Business Advisor at the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center (OKSBDC). Their adviser helped Morris and her husband, Walt, develop a business plan and complete financial projections.
Once the package was complete and presented to the bank, the couple found out the deal was even sweeter. Because of temporary changes implemented by the SBA due to the Recovery Act, the couple qualified for a 90-percent guarantee on the loan and saved more than $9,000 in loan fees.
“The whole process seemed very easy,” said Morris. “We used the money to not only purchase the business, but to acquire the hardware and software to bring us up-to-date technologically.”
Morris owned a retail business in the early ‘80s and said she never wanted to be in business for herself again. “It drove me crazy,” she said. However, today, Morris said being in business is better than expected. “We live and operate our business by the motto, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ My husband and I feel this is a fool-proof philosophy.”
Morris said there are two main ingredients to small business success – “Clients who like our work and staff who like to come to work. It’s a team approach to serve a client. It’s not a totem pole situation. We encourage any employee who has a problem or idea to make things better to talk to us, whatever it is. We want everyone to feel like they are a part of this organization, that their opinions are valued and that their concerns are valid. We also want to be sure that as soon as the clients’ needs have been met, the staff [members] are able to go home and spend time with their families. We could have thousands of patients but if we don’t have staff that is capable and content, we won’t have a business very long.”
Success Story…White Dog Hill Restaurant
When Nelson King spotted the abused and vandalized 1925 Clinton Country Club building, he saw potential. He didn’t know exactly what he would make of it at first, but he wanted to preserve the history of the area. King purchased the building in 2000 and today it’s open for business as the While Dog Hill Restaurant and has resumed its position as a central part of the community.
Located at 22901 Route 66 North, in Clinton, Oklahoma, which is now a frontage road of Interstate 40, the old Country Club had a colorful history and most importantly a magnificent view. Although the scenic view from the old country club was remarkable, King knew the view inside the structure, even though it had potential, could not be realized without a significant financial investment as well as many hours of hard work.
King began working with a Business Advisor at the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center (OKSBDC). He discussed converting the extremely neglected two-storied structure built of native red sandstone into a high-scale restaurant. The adviser helped King develop a business plan that included an estimate of capital needs as well as both income and expense pro-forma projections for 36 months. In addition, this complete business plan included break-even analysis and profit margin projections. King was approved for a $175,000 7(a) loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Forming a team with the Oklahoma District SBA Office, a local bank in Weatherford, the OKSBDC, the Rural Electric Cooperative, and the Department of Environmental Quality, King was ready to begin construction and renovation.
King completed all of the carpentry work himself, including replacement of windows and facings, replacing the flooring for the upper level, and adding support beams. King did utilize local electricians, heat and air personnel, plumbers and roofers to complete the project. Just weeks before the restaurant was due to open, King lost the new roof during a bad storm, and then had to delay the opening to have a second roof added to the structure with the addition of $30,000 in personal capital funds. Since that time, King hand-selected or constructed all furnishings and decor for this unique bistro to accentuate the exclusive characteristics of the old country club.
King uncovered original landscaping by noticing that bulbs came up in a star formation, which is now a part of the herb gardens that contribute to the unique cuisine of the White Dog Hill Restaurant. In addition, King also constructed walkways and patios around his unique eatery.
“None of this would have happened without the support of the OKSBDC and the state SBA staff,” said King. “My adviser has always been there mentoring, sympathizing, encouraging – whatever was needed at the time. Without him, White Dog Hill would still be a pipe dream and a pile of rock!”
Although the economy has taken a dip, King said, “I don’t think we have been affected by the economy. We have not seen any decline in sales figures. I attribute that almost exclusively to word-of-mouth advertising. We are drawing customers as far as Norman, Oklahoma City, Edmond and Altus. It’s particularly gratifying when the Greater Oklahoma City customers justify the drive because of our level of service, quality of food and atmosphere aren’t available anywhere in their area.”
Others who are thinking about going into business should continue to persevere, advises King.
“It can take years, but just stick with it. You have to be self-motivating. If you really believe in it, you’ll stick it out. Surround yourself with people who trust your vision. If it’s the right thing, it will pay you back. And the payback is not always financial. It’s the pat on the back and the reward you get from people in the community who take a real personal interest in what you’re doing. They are proud we are here.”
Success Story…Southern Maid Donuts
The Lawton satellite of the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Small Business Development Center (OKSBDC) is committed to the economic development of southwest Oklahoma, hence improving the quality of life of its citizens. This mission focuses not only on the large employers but also on the smaller entrepreneurial ventures that provide services important to rural Oklahoma, thus positioning the region for future economic growth. This illustration highlights the resolve of a family to bring just such a business to Elgin, Oklahoma and realizing the American dream.
Tim Turney contacted the Lawton branch of the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center in December 2005 after discovering the OKSBDC website while conducting research on business resources. At that time, Tim and his wife, Maria, were living in Heath, Texas, and wanted to relocate to Oklahoma. Originally from the Elgin area, they wanted to “come home” to raise their children where they could be near their large extended family. They were not certain of what kind of business they wanted to start but were inclined toward either a pizzeria or donut shop. Tim and Maria had previously owned a small takeout pizza place in Texas and found that experience both enjoyable and rewarding. In addition to their restaurant knowledge, Maria is a former teacher and Tim has more than 12 years’ experience managing technicians and working on printers and fax machines.
After the initial telephone call, an OKSBDC adviser sent Tim a packet of helpful information including the Business Plan Guide and Business Basics. Following up, she scheduled an office appointment with Tim later in the month when he was going to be in Oklahoma visiting relatives. During this initial counseling session, she gave Tim an overview of how OKSBDC could help in the development of the business plan, identify sources of funding and offer training after the business was opened. Our adviser’s extensive knowledge of the business community enabled her to explain the growth potential of the Elgin area due to the results of the Base Realignment and Closing process, which increased the missions at Fort Sill, resulting in a population growth of approximately 10,000 people over the next five years. Another significant factor was the development plans for a new Comanche County Industrial Park just southwest of Elgin, which will house the assembly plant for the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon as well as other occupants.
After examining the needs of the community, Tim discovered the closest donut shop was located 12 miles away. Further research revealed the availability of a franchise with Southern Maid Donuts. Started in 1937, Southern Maid is still operated by the founder’s children and is known for creating a mixture of flours that makes the donuts melt in your mouth. Tim quickly identified an ideal location in a new strip mall that offered him the opportunity to take advantage of the morning commuter traffic flow to Fort Sill and Lawton.
Since Tim was still living in Texas, he and his adviser were able to use e-mail and the telephone in addition to office visits to fine-tune his draft business plan to a point where it would be an effective tool for the bank to determine if they wanted to fund this venture. During this process, it became apparent that the Business Loan Express Community Express Loan would be ideally suited to this project. After a thorough financial analysis, it was determined that in addition to the $5,000 owner investment, $50,000 would be the loan amount needed to successfully launch this business. OKSBDC worked to get Southern Maid listed as an SBA-approved franchise and then sent the completed packet to BLX for approval. The adviser was more than pleased to be able to contact Tim with the positive news that he was going to be able to realize his dream.
Soon, the building space was being transformed and the equipment and supplies were ordered. Tim and Maria were able to open their Southern Maid Donut Shop in June 2006.
Already in growth mode, Tim and Maria have expanded their menu to include sausage rolls and have added two employees. Gratified to see an Oklahoma family business succeed and prosper, OKSBDC continues to follow up with Tim and Maria to develop additional marketing strategies that will enable their business to continue to thrive well into the future.
Success Story…Pa Pa Jim’s Outdoor Furniture
In July of 2009 Jim Collins decided that he should turn his hobby of building outdoor lawn furniture into a business. Jim has refined his woodworking skills over the years and is now a true craftsman in his profession building Adirondack chairs and other pieces of outdoor lawn furniture. Early in the morning you will find Jim in his woodworking shop planing the rough sawn cypress lumber as he prepares to build the next set of chairs.
Jim and Donna Collins discovered the OKSBDC while attending the Oklahoma Tax Commission new business workshop. After the workshop they had many questions ranging from “How do we structure and register the business?” to “How do we market the business?”. Melinda Craige of the Southeastern Small Business Development Center worked with the Collins to obtain their manufacturing permit and set up their merchant services to accept debit and credit cards.
Jim manufactures Adirondack chairs with a separate foot piece which together make a lounge chair. A small table compliments the Adirondack chairs. In addition to the traditional Adirondack chair, Jim builds another chair with a bottle shaped back. Jim uses cypress wood purchased in Northeast Texas to build his furniture. Jim chose the cypress wood for the outdoor furniture because of its water resistance, durability, and strength knowing the final product would bring many hours of comfort and pleasure to his customer.
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Durant, OK 74701
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Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact Cindy Ruminer via email or call 580-745-2877 for assistance.