“It was just perfect,” says Terry Enos owner of Bicycle Alley. “The OKSBDC provided us with the tools, and three months later we had a business plan.” Enos had years of experience in the corporate world but wasn’t sure how to bring his ideas into focus. “Carlos asked all the right questions,” says Enos. “Carlos Amaya and the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center showed me the ropes and gave me the structure I needed to open my business.”
Terry had been interested in the world of bicycles for many years and had a head full of ideas about what the perfect bicycle shop in Oklahoma City should look like. He started researching and visiting other shops throughout the United States, talking to owners and customers to find out what made a good shop successful.
Enos discovered the OKSBDC would help him build a business plan that he could take to the bank. Under Amaya’s guidance, Terry put together a package that helped him secure the loan he needed to make his dream ready to roll.
Bicycle Alley opened in April of 2007. The shop boasts six employees and ample space for a specialized inventory that caters to even the most discriminating client. With specialty items you can’t find anywhere else in the area, they also offer on-site repair service.
As soon as Terry opened his doors, Carlos knew they had a winner. In a few short months, Terry has beaten every sales projection and was voted “Best New Business” by the Oklahoma Gazette.
“Terry’s extensive research and knowledge of the industry impressed me,” says Amaya. “He had the commitment and drive it takes to follow through.” The OKSBDC worked with Terry to develop a network and find mentors within the industry. “He realized you have to plan, plan, plan. It takes more than just opening the doors and expecting business to walk in. Terry was ready to do the work and do it right.”
“Carlos still checks on me. He is interested in my daily success stories and is always ready to help when I have a question. The OKSBDC showed me how to get from A to Z. The level of understanding they offered was invaluable. You won’t be alone. They can help a little or a lot.”
Success Story…TnT Quick Stop
Dustin Sheppard was no stranger to entrepreneurship when he decided to start a new venture in Roff, Oklahoma. Dustin had grown up watching his father run a family dairy farm. The purchase of one truck to help with hauling soon turned into more trucks, and that snowball eventually found the family out of the dairy business and running a successful trucking line.
Dustin was hooked and learned everything he could about the industry, finally ending up with his own string of trucks. As the business grew for Dustin and wife Christy, they realized they could streamline their business by providing the fuel for their own trucks.
As a graduate of East Central University in Ada, Dustin was aware of the business assistance offered to the community through the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center. When Dustin told his family he was interested in a starting a new venture, his mother suggested he get help from the OKSBDC located on the university campus.
“They were awesome. If it hadn’t been for Ann, we would still be doing paper work,” Sheppard said. “We recognized that the Sheppards could apply for a community express loan and we started the paperwork immediately,” said Ann Ritter, OKSBDC Business Advisor. “We helped them put together a business plan and cash flow projections to complete their loan package.”
The couple qualified for the SBA loan which gave them the working capital they needed to open the doors to T&T Quick Stop. “The kids now have a safe, clean place to eat. We’re really excited about the possibilities. We are putting in a smoke pit and hope to be serving B-B-Q soon,” said Sheppard. “Direct access to fuel for our growing truck line has boosted our profitability and given us the satisfaction of helping the community at the same time.”
“The OKSBDC team was a lifeline. They walked us through the process, helping with the strict licensing required for dispensing gas and serving food. I would highly recommend to anyone thinking about a new business -call the OKSBDC. They will help you get it done the right way.”
Success Story…AEA Environmental Services
After eight years in business Elijah Adoeye, owner of AEA Environmental Services, thought it was time to expand his market. He started looking into the possibilities of a federal program for minority contractors and soon discovered plenty of obstacles that included a complex application process and stiff competition.
When asked about the challenges of qualifying for 8 (a) certification through the Small Business Administration, Elijah chuckles, “It was not easy at all. The process is a challenge and we could not have done it without help from Oklahoma Small Business Development Center.”
One of Elijah’s employees told him about the OKSBDC located on the campus of Rose State College in Midwest City. Mike Cure talked with Elijah about his goals for AEA, “We suggested he apply for 8(a) and Hubzone certifications. Elijah was not familiar with the process, and we recommended he work with Marvin Fisher at the OKSBDC.”
“Mr. Fisher helped me tremendously through the cumbersome application process. We achieved certification, but i was surprised at how long the process took. They have stuck with me through it all. We are different from most cleaning companies. We not only offer janitorial options, we deal with hazardous waste,” says Elijah.
After 20 years as a microbiologist in the medical field Elijah said “I was always looking for an opportunity to work on my own, and the cleaning service seemed like a great opportunity to utilize my background and training.” AEA is now certified to work government contracts in the area of hazardous and non-hazardous waste management. The company also performs waste removal, disposal, commercial cleaning, final construction cleaning, Phase 1 environmental inspection, mold sampling and remediation and lead-base paint abatement.
“Within two months, I got a call from Mrs. Woodfork about a federal contract she thought would be perfect. We submitted a bid and won because of our environmental background. Ms. Woodfork and Mr. Cure worked together to help put the bid together, and we won the contract. Cure also recommended we get certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. That was successful and we are looking forward to bidding on other government jobs through the Department of Transportation. Although the process has been challenging, the expertise of the counselors has been invaluable. They are constantly reviewing our operation and our position in the market to make sure we are getting the greatest advantage.” — Elijah Adeoye
Success Story…Davis Welding, LLC
In 2007, Scott Davis needed a way to haul large round bales of hay without investing in a large tractor or putting a hay spike in the back of his truck. Using his 25 years of welding skills and experience, Davis went to work and built the “Stick Wagon” hay hauler. “I came up with it out of necessity,” says Davis. The Stick Wagon is uniquely designed to be used with an ATV such as a 4-Wheeler or a John Deere Gator, small garden tractor, or other small motorized vehicle that normally could not be used to move large round bales of hay. The Stick Wagon can also be pulled with the traditional farm truck or tractor. The key to the functionality of the Stick Wagon is balance. It has been engineered to carry the weight of the hay bale on the wagon itself with minimum weight being transferred to the vehicle pulling the Stick Wagon. With the fold back tongue, the Stick Wagon can also be used as a hay feeder.
Realizing that he had a one of a kind hay hauler, Davis took his idea to the OSU Inventor’s Assistance Service where they ran a patent search and found that he had a clear, distinctive idea. The OSU Inventor’s Assistance Service provided funds for a patent lawyer to do the provisional patent on the Stick Wagon. The Davis’ were then referred to the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center for assistance in expanding their custom welding business into a manufacturing firm.
“The OKSBDC has helped us with licensing and the selection of a business structure to ensure the Stick Wagon has a successful future. The OKSBDC has been with us every step of the way,” says Scott Davis.
Davis contacted Melinda Craige in the Oklahoma SBDC and explained the concept of the Stick Wagon. Melinda then referred Davis to Bill Gregory in the OKSBDC for assistance with copyright and patent issues. Bill suggested that Davis file a Visual Arts, Technical Drawing Copyright on the idea so that he would have protection on how the Stick Wagon was made and prepared a draft of the copyright. Davis had been invited to bring his invention, the Stick Wagon, to the Farm Show in Tulsa. Because Davis needed to have his idea protected before introducing the Stick Wagon to the public, Bill worked quickly to prepare the copyright. Melinda then worked with the Davis’ to prepare a business plan, structure Davis Welding as an LLC, to obtain a sales tax permit and a manufacturing permit.
“The key to the success of Davis Welding LLC has been Scott and Kasey’s commitment to the development of the business. The Davis’ have received assistance from non-profit organizations, family, and friends and have made the most of every opportunity presented to them,” says Melinda Craige.
Success Story…North Central Construction
Gary and Micki Rogers juggled project deadlines, overdue receivables and equipment maintenance issues for eight years. Like many small business owners, the couple knew first hand that the struggles and challenges can be hugely overwhelming. Upon reading an article in a local newspaper, the owners were led to Susan Urbach and the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center.
Susan recognized that North Central Construction in Stillwater was a sound business but needed some direction. She first advised the partners to save money by consolidating their equipment loans. Susan then showed them how to apply for the right kind of loan saving the company $7,500 a month as a result of that initial advice.
At first Gary was skeptical, “I wasn’t sure how a person with absolutely no construction background could help us,” said Rogers. “I thought service was most important, but Susan’s guidance showed us how important it was to manage your business.”
“We make better decisions now,” said Gary.
“Through the years, the OKSBDC’s counseling has enabled us to add new employees, improve cash flow, develop effective accounting procedures, and devise better pricing and marketing strategies,” said Micki, “And we got all that great advice free of charge!”
A family run business, the husband and wife team have also brought in their daughter and son-in-law. The Rogers all agree – having an unbiased, objective advisor can be a real plus. “From time to time we need someone from outside to help. The answer can be right in front of you but so hard to see when you are managing every aspect of the business,” says Gary.
Urbach has watched North Central Construction grow over the last five years, more than doubling their revenue and adding seven new employees to a multi-million dollar business. Have the Rogers outgrown the OKSBDC? “Not a chance,” says Micki. “We expect to sit down with Susan from time to time – we appreciate her feedback.”
Susan counters, “Now it’s time to take the next step and start looking at the future. We want them to continue to be successful.”
After 24 years of friendship, Dean Martin and Tracy Johnson discovered they had a common goal – to become business owners. The pair met while Dean was a sales representative making the rounds at an area manufacturing plant where Tracy worked. “We had a strong friendship, trusted each other completely, and knew the time was right for a change,” says Dean Martin.
They had been searching for over a year when MultiPrint, a Tulsa-based print company with an outstanding reputation, came on the market. Dean developed a business plan, and the pair started shopping for financing. First, they went to the bank that was serving MultiPrint’s account, and were turned down. “Neither of us had a working knowledge of the print industry,” says Tracy. “We looked into SBA loans, and were told that we did not have the print industry experience they wanted to see,” adds Dean.
Dean and Tracy were determined not to get discouraged when they were referred to the staff at the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center. “We needed a bank that would think like we were thinking,” said Dean. John Blue, an OKSBDC Business Advisor, had knowledge of area banks that might consider the venture. “He set up an appointment with Oklahoma National Bank, and took us right to the bank. He was the guy that helped make it happen.”
With their own saving as equity, Dean and Tracy were approved for a $512,000 loan, and they purchased the business in May of 2004. “John saw us through the process and helped us get everything ready,” says Dean. “MultiPrint had a proven track record and outstanding employees which has made a big difference,” says Dean. “We’ve been able to meet all our projections and grow the business just the way we intended.” Plans for 2005 include new equipment that will improve their print capabilities. “We will be going digital this year. We specialize in book printing and digital is the way to go.” Future strategies include additional outside sales staff and an internet site.
“The biggest surprise was the 16 hour days. New business owners need to be prepared to work long and hard to succeed. Don’t give up and stay the course,” says Dean, “John comes by at least once a month to check on things and to remind us that the OKSBDC is always there to help.”
“Buying our own business has truly been very exciting. The OKSBDC was great. They helped us grow and nurture our dream,” says Tracy.
Success Story…Meek Machine & Manufacturing
With the confidence and exuberance of youth, Derrell Meek started his first business at age 24. Opening his doors and eager to conquer the world, Derrell quickly found there was far more to business ownership than he could have imagined. “I didn’t like the stress. I could produce the products, but I needed more experience in management and finance.”
For the next eleven years, Derrell worked as a manager for Surgical Specialties, Inc., an Ada manufacturer with national distribution. When they closed their doors in 2003, Derrell once again had a lifetime opportunity to acquire precision machine equipment and to be his own boss. Needing help and needing to act quickly, he turned to the Ada Jobs Foundation. They referred him to Ann Ritter and the staff at the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center.
With the capital he needed and help from the Ada Industrial Development Corporation, Meek located a building site. Not willing to accept the bids he received for the building construction, Derrell’s entrepreneurial spirit went into overdrive, and he made the decision to do most of the work himself. Looking back, Derrell might have reconsidered, had he known how much harder he would have to work in the very near future.
With the many contracts he made while working with Surgical Specialties, Derrell had more contracts than he could fill. Within ten months, Meek found himself back at the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center and talking about expansion needs with Ann Ritter. By late November, he had installed more equipment and hired an employee with his second SBA loan. The OKSBDC, the Ada Jobs Foundation, the AIDC, the Pontotoc Technology Center and First National Bank and Trust of Ada helped Derrell ensure his success. “All the community resources worked together. We wouldn’t be here without them,” says Meek.
Meek’s future could not be brighter. He plans to branch out and is looking forward to developing an internet presence. From the very beginning, Derrell had the spirit, the drive and the enthusiasm to ensure he would succeed. With a little time, some valuable experience and expert help from area resources, Derrell can conquer the world.
Success Story…Gold Star Graphics, Inc.
Gold Star Graphics, Inc. started as a part time project for Pam Guffey when a friend from Dallas, who owned a successful graphics business, encouraged Pam to try the same in Oklahoma City. After just three months, Pam had more screen printing and embroidery orders than she could fill. Turning to her husband Stan for help, they became full-time entrepreneurs that fall of 1987.
In the life cycle of a business, one must consider every imaginable circumstance and plan for both success and failure. But how often does a business owner worry about a natural disaster? For Gold Star, it was a double disaster. Only sheer determination and commitment have kept the Guffey’s going after not one, but two tornadoes. The business was down for 10 days after being hit by the first storm in 1999. The second tornado struck Oklahoma City in 2003, totally destroying the Gold Star building and much of their equipment. “This business has been good to us,” says Pam. “We were determined to get back into production as soon as possible, and we needed help.”
Gold Star moved into temporary quarters and the Guffey’s went back to work. When starting to rebuild, the couple’s banker was less than helpful. A friend recommended the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center for help with loan packaging assistance. Tammy Allard, a loan specialist with over 15 years of experience, knew immediately she could help the award winning Gold Star secure an SBA loan to help rebuild.
Tammy helped the couple revise their business plan, put together the SBA paperwork, and negotiate the terms of their new loan. “Tammy was great. She kept me motivated through that difficult time,” says Pam.
The Guffeys are now in their new building and keep 17 employees busy. “Having great employees has given us the freedom we have always wanted.” The future is bright for Gold Star and several 2005 strategies include working with the OKSBDC to identify and develop new markets. These markets will include government contracts. “Tammy is walking us through the contracting maze, and we are excited about the future.”
Success Story…Cherokee Nation Businesses
Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) was incorporated in June 2004 and established a tribal corporation formed to diversify the interests of the Cherokee Nation into long-term sustainable businesses through acquisitions, joint ventures and expansions.
Marvin Fisher, Business Advisor with the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center, provided guidance to CNB through the daunting process of completing the Tribal 8(a) application. Fisher provided CNB with one-on-one assistance to help ensure that CNB could take advantage of all the services offered through the OKSBDC Network.
After the 8(a) application was complete, the OKSBDC provided opportunity for CNB to make valuable contacts with other 8(a) companies. In addition, the Langston OKSBDC provided assistance with marketing and offered information regarding the surety bond program, which can be a huge obstacle for most disadvantaged businesses.
With the assistance of the OKSBDC, CNB is strategically positioned for growth and achievement of goals. Self reliance is an important mission of the Cherokee Nation is accomplished by providing strong financial returns and jobs for Cherokees, either by employing them through the Cherokee Nation, or subcontracting out to other Cherokee businesses. CNB is committed to taking full advantage of the 8(a) certification and the OKSBDC is a great resource for companies new to government contracting and to the 8(a) arena.
Cherokee CRC is another successful 8(a) venture with an emphasis in environmental solutions. Through Cherokee CRC is a new company, it brings more than 17 years of experience to the table through the involvement of minority owner and partner, Cheryl Cohenour, a Cherokee National tribal citizen. “This is a great opportunity for the Cherokee Nation to continue to diversify our business holdings,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “The Cherokee Nation has a centuries-old history of being a good steward of the environment so this new venture is a great fit for us as we continue to create jobs and improve the economy in northeastern Oklahoma.”
Success Story…BETT Enterprises
For the last five years, Gayla Williams has been proving that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to commercial painting.
Because of her reputation for quality work, Williams’ company, BETT Enterprises Inc., has grown from three to 21 employees, and gross revenue is expected to top more than $1 million this year. BETT provides a complete line of professional paint finishes for all types of commercial construction.
After working 10 years for a national paint company, Williams was offered the opportunity to serve as a project manager for a large paint contractor in Arkansas. Through this experience she learned all aspects of paint applications, building procedures and the bidding processes. When the owner of the company retired and closed up shop, Williams returned to Oklahoma and began researching her opportunities to start her own company in the Tulsa area.
Williams had developed many contacts among painting contractors, and she began to pick up small contracts from their overflow. Although work was slow, she began to build a strong foundation for a reputation of quality work. As work picked up, she began receiving requests from general contractors to bid their jobs.
However, growth proved to be an unexpected obstacle. As she began to grow, she realized she needed more capital to finance projects until payment for the work came in. That’s when she contacted the U.S. Small Business Administration for help.
“And, as they say, the rest is history,” Williams said. “Beginning my third year in business, it became evident that I needed some financial help and guidance,” Williams said. She met with John Blue, Director of the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center in Broken Arrow. “Through John’s tutelage and assistance with the loan application, I was able to take advantage of a growing market and a growing business. Since that initial contact with him and with SBA’s loan assistance, my business has grown 10 times over!” Williams said.
“John has since directed me and even walked me through specific certifications I need for my type of business. He continues to inform me of seminars and new programs as they become available. John encourages me to continue the ‘good work’ and he is always there to answer any of my questions. I don’t know what I would have done had I not met John,” she said. “He’s been a blessing and he’s fun to talk to.”
Blue said it was a pleasure to help Williams develop and expand her business. “It has been a pleasure to work with Gayla for the past two years. Her work ethics are second to none. I believe her woman-owned, commercial painting business could be a model for other small construction companies,” he said. “We are now working to position her company for the future, by obtaining various state and federal certifications, such as a woman-owned, SBA HUBZone, and bonding capacity. This will prepare her to compete in the government contracting arena, which will open up more opportunities for growth.”
Some people are still not used to seeing a woman in a hard hat at a construction site, Williams said. But her reputation for quality work has made it easier to get the respect of others in the field. “I’ve been blessed,” she said. “I’ve also been grateful for the family and friends around me who keep pushing me and telling me ‘You can do it!’”
A Midwest City native, Williams said she loves the freedom of being an entrepreneur. “One of my greatest benefits is the satisfaction I get from setting and achieving my own goals and watching this achievement turn into financial independence.”
Williams has this advice to others who are thinking about going into business: “Before any decision is made to start a new business, you should educate yourself in all aspects of operating the business you intend to become involved in. If at all possible, you should take a small business course which is offered by most local junior colleges. Past that, you should make a considered commitment to involve yourself 24/7 in the growth and management of your enterprise. More importantly,” Williams said, “believe in yourself and surround yourself with those who believe in you also.”
Williams keeps up with the changing construction market and is constantly looking for ways to expand her business. Right now her work has grown beyond the Tulsa area. She works jobs in Muskogee, McAlester, Tahlequah, Vinita, and Stillwater. She also has completed jobs in Arkansas and Missouri.
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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.