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.”

Success Story…MultiPrint

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.

Success Story…Hastings Steakhouse


In the spring of 2007, Scott and Stephanie Hastings took their first step toward the fulfillment of their vision and prayers. Scott had enjoyed a successful career as a Process Engineer for an automotive remanufacturing plant in Oklahoma City. And, Stephanie enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom, wife, and home schooling their four children. Life was very good, but soon to get much better.

After attending the Oklahoma Small Business financial seminar ‘How to Get Money for Your New Business’ in March, the couple began to work diligently on their business plan. Through several sessions with Larry Siebert, Business Advisor, the couple finalized their plan and took the first step in their journey.

The location was, as Stephanie described “Perfect!” But, their path was not an easy one…lots of opportunities to give-in and walk away. Even though their marketing plan, in depth menu research, and financial planning were extensive, it did not make up for what the bank wanted to see in equity. During this difficult period, the couple continued with their vision through their faith and began building relationships with the Oklahoma State University Extension, USDA and the Rural Development Office exploring every possible niche for their solutions.

In June of 2007 a major piece of the puzzle was finally put in place. An existing restaurant in Guthrie became available. Several revisions to their financial plan and a loan approval were the final ingredients that opened the doors to Hastings Steakhouse and a lasting relationship with the previous owner, the Executive Chef of Oklahoma State University.

The success of Scott and Stephanie’s vision has now gone beyond the steps of the beautiful Old English ambiance at Hastings Steakhouse. They are co-owners of a second established restaurant in Guthrie, Granny Had One.

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.