Roxobel, NC | Danielle Baker | www.bakerspeanuts.com
I’m trying to wear all these different hats and figure it out on my own, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel if there’s someone who can step up and help
WHAT THEY DO They are a specialty peanut processing company. Raw peanuts from 75-acres of the family farm come in and candies and peanut-snacks go out to wholesale and retail customers. They invest in quality peanuts from the beginning and they keep tabs from planting all the way through harvesting, the grading process, and the shelving process in order to ensure they are starting with the best. They are currently processing 3,000 to 4,000 peanuts a week that are transformed into products like the Carolina Cajun Peanut, the simple Lightly Salted Blister Fried Peanut, and, new last year, is a Sea Salt Caramel Bark and a Dark Chocolate Bark. You can find Bakers’ Peanuts in Harris-Teeter, Lowe’s Foods, Publix, and Kroger as well as specialty shops across North Carolina.
UNDER THE CAPE Danielle married into the Baker family and quickly took up the farmer lifestyle, keeping books for the Baker Family Farm. As their children got older, Danielle toyed with the idea of taking a crop they were already growing, adding value to it ,and selling it straight to the consumer. In 2006, she started selling a few things to see how viable the business was, and it continued to grow until 2013 when she finally took on Bakers’ Southern Traditions full-time. Danielle is passionate about sharing agriculture with the world. “We’re constantly asked about peanuts growing on trees, and if you’re not connected to it then you really don’t know.” She loves helping people make those connections.
PLANT THE SEED AND WATCH IT GROW When Danielle first started out, they were processing about 4,000 pounds of peanuts a year and now they are doing that every week. Her first customers were people she met at shows and festivals before eventually getting some permanent spots on shelves at specialty shops across the state. Two years ago, Danielle also picked up a distributor and can be found in more than 550 grocery stores across the state, but she is careful not to loose touch with her smaller retail shops. Her growth continues to climb as new retailers are requesting her peanuts, and sales are up about ten to fifteen percent year-over-year.
GETTING TECHNICAL As a small business owner without much background in manufacturing, Danielle has worn all the hats, even when some of them did not quite fit. She has since taken a step back to prioritize where her focus should be, hired people to help and is taking advantage of resources like the SBTDC. Her counselor has taken on a support role by helping with operations and technology issues. Jaime conducted a technology assessment of their space and presented them with a flow chart detailing how their technology is currently working, what they need from their computer systems and how to get there. He provided a wiring diagram, suggested necessary materials and provided a list of potential contractors. “Jaime helped us tremendously with our IT issues. He came in, explained how to resolve them and got us going in the right direction, and that’s been incredible because there is nothing more frustrating than trying to make your computer work.” She is now working with her counselors to set financial goals for the future and developing human resource strategies.
SEEING THE FUTURE Although Danielle and her team could be selling more, they simply cannot meet demand because of space constraints. She is also ready to move several of her team from part-time to full-time, but her cook staff has to stop work so chocolate in the candy will set properly. As a result of a collaborative effort between The Support Center and the SBTDC, she has received a $224,000 loan from the Support Center as well as a $100,000 building re-use grant. However, as a result of complications and delays, they have been waiting for their move-in date for nearly a year. Danielle is hesitant to give a likely date now, but her fingers are crossed it will not be much longer.
THE HERO QUOTIENT When Danielle realized that she was ready to move to a new facility and started scanning real estate for potential new locations, she knew that her business model was not keeping her in Roxobel, a town in Bertie County with a population of 227. She could go to Raleigh or Charlotte and still buy her peanuts from the family farm. But she felt that the town and its people had been good to her and she hopes that she can do something positive for the people in her area in return. “I feel like that would be a little of me being able to give back, “she says. And so she stays and currently employs ten people from her community.
This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2018 Success Stories. View the entire publication here.
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PTAC assistance dates back to 2003, and has included early-stage assistance with locating target agencies and relevant contract opportunities, advice on strategies for marketing and outreach to potential agency customers, and more.
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The SBTDC is a fountain of never-ending information. If they don’t have the answers ready, they will tell you exactly where to look to find the answers you need. I have learned more, truly, in my 30-60 minute sessions about small business and strategies than in all my years of just breathing.
Sanesco International, Inc
The SBTDC is a great program with a fantastic vision for helping small businesses succeed. We have a wonderful relationship with our mentor and advisory. She always keeps us in mind and regularly informs us about opportunities or partnerships that could positively impact and grow our business.
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Owen helped with renewing our EXIM credit insurance policy, which has supported us for more than $2M in sales. Because our work is so specialized, marketing and finding international partners is extremely difficult, but Owen has been the most beneficial in finding programs and people that are a fit for what we do.
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Now that we’re started, it is getting even easier. We have reps in the Middle East region and with the STEP Grant to help pay for the booth and samples, our reps will be on site to handle the tradeshow. Work with the SBTDC. They held our hands through the process, and we never would have gone to those other countries without their help. Work with the SBTDC, and you’ll find out just how easy exporting can be.
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Game Theory Group
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Mind Your Business
Mind Your Business has accomplished impressive results in government sales, including award of a GSA schedule contract for background screening and EEO services, certification as an 8a firm by the Small Business Administration, recognition for owner Karen Caruso as the NC Small Business Person of the Year in 2011, and countless contract awards across a broad range of Federal, state and local agencies. The business has steadily grown their government sales to an all-time high in 2015, with no sign of slowing down.
KAG1 is a small, minority, service-disabled veteran business in the wholesale distribution of electronic parts and headed up by Keith Anderson. Keith met with the Charlotte PTAC and was provided counseling on pursuing government contracting opportunities at each level of government: local, state and federal. Counseling included how to effectively reach out to small business counselors at federal agencies and also a discussion of government socio economic preference programs. The company was successful in obtaining the NC HUB certification and also contacting the regional GSA OSDBU where contacts were subsequently made with potential primes.
Keith Anderson notes, “I just want to take a moment to say I am truly grateful for your commitment and dedication to helping small businesses like KAG1, Incorporated. We found ourselves in need of your support and you came through for us. With your help, I was able to meet with a GSA building manager for this region to talk about federal subcontracting and he was very helpful. In addition, thanks to you my company is now HUB-certified.” Learn more about KAGI at www.kag1inc.net.
Expert Education and Training
Expert Education and Training, LLC (EET) was founded by Shawn Livingston in 2012 with the mission of providing professional program management, administrative, financial and support services to the federal government and commercial clients. As an Army Veteran, Shawn had extensive military experience draw upon when starting his business and saw some early success as a subcontractor to other small businesses and primes.
In 2015, Shawn’s sister Jackie decided to join his business to help move it to the next level. Recognizing the value of certifications, Jackie contacted the NC PTAC for assistance with the VA’s Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business verification. Jackie, Shawn, and their PTAC counselor had several meetings to review their application prior to submission. Their PTAC counselor also helped them address requests for explanation and additional documentation as their application was being reviewed. The team was ultimately successful and EET received SDVOSB verification in November of 2015. Since receiving the verification, Jackie and Shawn have continued to work with their PTAC counselor on finding opportunities, and have engaged with SBTDC general business counselors for marketing assistance. Congratulations to EET! For more information about EET, visit www.xpertedu.com.
Locklear, Locklear & Jacobs
The client has been very receptive to PTAC assistance, and has spent the time and effort necessary to effectively market their services in the government contracting arena. In 2015 their efforts have been rewarded with a sales increase of over 51% compared to 2014. Though the government contracting performed in 2015 has been largely local and State subcontracting business, the government contracting segment of their business now accounts for 58% of their yearly gross sales.
SIMPLY VIRTUAL is a certified minority and woman-owned small business that provides an array of professional consulting, training and project management services. Located in Charlotte, NC, the company has applied professional and imaginative best practice solutions to a myriad of business problems for nearly 20 years.
Nikita Devereaux, CEO of SIMPLY VIRTUAL, targeted the government contracting market to expand the company’s client base. Devereaux worked with the Charlotte PTAC office to connect and build relationships with prime contractors, review national labor rates to ensure competitive pricing for clients and to receive guidance on structuring and submitting proposals. Devereaux noted, as a result of that assistance, the company received an award and was placed on an approved listing of Professional Services Consultants firms for the City of Durham in North Carolina.
Creative Management Staffing Services
Creative Management Staffing Services is a small staff augmentation and recruiting firm. Started in 2013 by veteran Craig Gorham, the company was created with the mission to support disabled veterans and other service veterans transitioning or retiring from the military. By providing variety of staffing services, Creative Management Staffing Services matches specifically skilled veteran and non-veteran workers with clients in a wide range of industries.
Craig first contacted his PTAC for assistance with navigating the government marketplace. With his mission of assisting veterans in finding employment, Craig felt that government agencies and prime contractors would good potential markets. After working with his PTAC counselor on basic registrations, Craig began to search for opportunities within his niche. As the business grew through relationships with prime contractors such as SAS Institute, Craig recognized that he was ready to pursue 8(a) certification. His counselors helped him prepare his application, respond to inquiries, and understand the certification process.
Craig was ultimately successful in his pursuits and obtained 8(a) certification in early 2016. He continues to work with his PTAC counselor for guidance on how to make the most of certification program. Since becoming certified, Craig has continued to explore numerous subcontracting and prime contracting opportunities, while continuing to grow his commercial business. Even with his growth, Craig continues to remain focused on helping veterans find employment and is an active member of the NC Veteran’s Business Association. For more information on CMSS, please visit their website at cmsstaffing.org.
Valet Dry Cleaning and Laundry Service
Valet Dry Cleaning and Laundry Service, Inc. is a minority-owned SDVOSB company based in Fayetteville, NC. Actively in business since November 2012, they provide pickup and delivery dry cleaning services, and have been a client of the SBTDC and NC PTAC since October 2012.
Over the last four years, SBTDC Business Counselors and his PTAC Counselor have routinely met with the client to assist him his company’s capabilities to achieve his goal of making government contracting a significant part of his company’s revenue stream. With each opportunity the client has pursued, he has been very receptive to the assistance given to him by the PTAC counselor, and continues to improve his operations and personal capabilities.
Created in 2015, Trans-Utility Services (TUS) is an industry leader in transformer oil processing. The company’s equipment capabilities enable them to do degasification, vacuum filling, thermal cleaning, retrofilling, and hot oil dryouts.
Jim Scandrol, VP of Sales Operations, contacted his local PTAC Counselor for assistance as the firm expanded into the government market. Through the collaboration between Jim and his PTAC counselor, Trans-Utility Services has obtained their first work on a government facility in the form of a subcontract with a large prime to be performed in 2017. This is an exciting step into a new market.
Joyce & Associates Construction
PTAC has provided Joyce & Associates with Contract Solicitation interpretation services and assistance with regulations that have been incorporated into their contracts by reference or full text. Joyce and Associates overall outlook on the future of Federal Government Construction Contracting is good.
SBTDC and PTAC assistance has included helping Prometheus define their labor categories and rates for government bidding, providing advice on teaming arrangements and bidding practices, facilitating a strategic planning process to streamline the company’s internal operations and management practices, and matching the client with a Western Carolina University student team that conducted a situation analysis for a new product the company was considering bringing to market. Prometheus has built a strong track record of success in the Federal marketplace.
DD Consulting and Management
DD Consulting and Management is a certified minority-owned business that provides an array solutions and services for data storage management, backup and long term archiving of healthcare data and surveillance data. The company targeted the government contracting market to expand and diversify its client base.
The company worked with the Charlotte PTAC to connect and build relationships with state and municipal government agencies and to receive guidance on structuring and submitting proposals. David Batie, Managing Partner of DD Consulting and Management, noted that as a result of that assistance, the company received an award with the police department of Riverdale, GA. The award provided a solution to the police department that saved them significant costs by consolidating police body cameras, patrol in-car cameras and interrogation room videos into one system.
David noted, “My partners and I feel the input from the Charlotte PTAC kept us on track and helped to void those mistakes that can derail a small business from getting started in the local, state and federal market.”
The SBTDC takes the fear away. Now I look at my financials and I understand them. Similar to my kayaking analogy, I can now hit my roll and plot my downriver course with confidence. I’m by no means a pro, and I still have a lot of questions. But I’m in there every month, and I know where I’m going to be at the end of the year. We’ve already hit our projections for the end of 2016; our gross revenues are up 20%. And we’ve just added two new employees.
Barringer Moving and Storage
When we found the right building, our first call was to our SBTDC counselor, Byron. He was a tremendous help. He educated us on what the bankers needed and asked us all the questions that the bankers would ask. The banks loved it. They didn’t have to ask the questions, because we had the packet ready and we looked like a professional company. Honestly, without that assistance, no banker would have even looked at us to find out our story, and we never would have gotten this building.
I met John and Chris at the start of the SBIR grant process and they helped fine tune my proposals. The first round, we received a very favorable review with the suggestion to try again. We did and we were funded… Without those grants, I don’t know where we would be today. They’ve been great to work with and they’re nice people too. John is always coming up with ideas for the next step.
You don’t know what you don’t know. As a small company, it’s easy to grow organically and never step back and question how you’re doing. Are you doing the best you can? Do you know where your weaknesses are? What are you doing about them? That’s one area where the SBTDC has really helped us…What a great service. Honestly, we likely would have lost a lot of revenue and a lot of momentum had we not started really evaluating where we are.
I was searching online and stumbled upon the SBTDC’s website, and I got really excited reading through the services available. The website is fantastic with resources for finding funding options and starting a business. I was able to download an outline for a business plan, which felt kind of like cheating because I just had to fill in my own information. Then, I met with Pieter Swanepoel and Whitney Hildebran. They sat down and walked me through my financials and marketing strategies to get this going. Since Pieter is a very successful businessman himself, he gives insightful feedback when I need someone to bounce my ideas off of.
Stay Online Corp
There is a lot to know for exporting. There are a lot of questions, and a lot of discomfort. That’s where organizations like the SBTDC have helped a lot. We’re constantly asking,”What do we do? How do we go about it? What certifications are required by the countries on our products?” Our counselors have the answers. They took a company that was clueless about interacting outside the US and helped pave the way to our comfort zone.
The location of each site has been very strategic. Before we open any office, we call Johnnie at the SBTDC and he gives me demographic information about the community. We really take advantage of his expertise, which allows us to pinpoint areas that best fit our business model. Today we have 17 offices from the coast to the mountains and currently serve more than 100,000 kids each year from 64 counties in NC. We have 152 employees and will add at least 25 or 30 this year.
Our counselor, Janis Mueller, helped us find the right bank, figure out my financials, and put together our presentation to get an SBA loan. We still work with Janis regularly; in fact, I called just yesterday with some concerns. She was able to bring in an expert in the field that I had questions about while I was still on the phone with her. It was that quick. I think it’s unique that I can call her spur of the moment and get that kind of response. It has been very valuable to us and I would say we probably wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t reached out to the SBTDC. I talk about Janis like she’s magic but she is kind of magic.
Our annual revenue has grown a minimum of 10%. In the last year we have placed 35 to 40 employees with federal contracts that we received with the help of the SBTDC and we placed approximately 2000 employees throughout the Southeast. We have a total of three federal contracts, one of which is expanding and those probably generate three-quarters of a million annually.
Outer Banks Craft Distilling
We thought we had a pretty good idea of what we were doing, then we met these awesome guys and realized how far away we really were. They prepared us for talking to the banks. It’s tough for start ups and they knew what red flags to look for so we were prepared…. The SBTDC sat with us through the meetings and helped us figure out why they were hesitant and what we could change. We’ve never done this before, so it’s awesome to be able to call someone who has answers at the drop of a hat.
Helen Robinson Design
Helen is candid about the initial difficulty of breaking into government contracting and the complexity of contract jargon. “Some of the language is so dreadful and difficult to parse – without the help of the local PTAC counselor, I would never even have pursued government contracting.”
US Foam and Etch
PTAC has worked with US Foam and Etch for several years now and has recently assisted with facilitating introductions to other GSA providers that could benefit from their services. PTAC has been very encouraging as well as proactive in the efforts to assist the client. PTAC brought an opportunity to client that has proven invaluable, a business valuation thru the MBA program at Wake Forest University.
Baker’s Southern Traditions
When Danielle first started out, they were processing about 4,000 pounds of peanuts a year and now they are doing that every week. Her first customers were people she met at shows and festivals before eventually getting some permanent spots on shelves at specialty shops across the state. Two years ago, Danielle also picked up a distributor and can be found in more than 550 grocery stores across the state, but she is careful not to loose touch with her smaller retail shops.
Scott has worked with the SBTDC for nearly 30 years and introduced Chikako to SBTDC business counselor, Ariana Billingsley. Ariana sat down with Chikako at the initial stage and gave her a crash course in government business which was a crucial launching point for Chikako to really move forward into government contracting. Chikako attended the SBTDC-PTAC event Marketplace in Durham, making an important contact, which led to a signed contract.
Green Clean Auto Spa
John sat down with his SBTDC counselor to crunch some numbers. He was ready to build a brand new facility, but his counselor pushed instead for a retrofit. John eventually purchased a building from the city of Charlotte and describes putting it together like blocks of Legos. He expanded the existing building from 53 feet to 81 feet, saving tens of thousands of dollars. “I didn’t want to hear it when Robin said I needed to find an existing site, but it was smart. If I had been stubborn and built something new, I wouldn’t be here.
His counselors introduced him to EXIM Bank and the credit insurance that they offer before walking him through the application process. Now, Thilo is able to give customers 30-day terms, allowing the product to reach the customer before they are required to pay, or with 60-day credit terms they have a chance to sell the product before paying Versatrim. This flexibility can be the difference between making a sale and watching your potential customer walk away.
Before Benny came on board, the SBTDC helped Dignify write a business plan and SBIR/STTR grant application, landing them $150,000. Benny says, “We really appreciate the support of the SBTDC and think it’s a great organization for early-stage technology companies that just need someone to show them the path to getting the company off the ground and funded through these SBIR/STTR opportunities.”
She came across an ad for the SBTDC in Business North Carolina magazine and gave the number a call, which started her relationship with counselors Robin and Nick. “It can be so lonely as a business owner when you have to make hard decisions. They are my objective sounding board. They don’t have any skin in the game, so it has been really helpful getting their support and feedback to help me make decisions.”
Goat Lady Dairy
By 2015, they had made it. The business was profitable enough to put the dairy up for sale. There was interest from many prospective buyers, but eventually, they chose to sell to long-time employees Bobby and Carrie Routh Bradds in May, 2017. Now Steve is technically retired, though he is still invested through owner financing and helps with sales and marketing. Steve says he cannot overemphasize the role that Andy and the SBTDC played in getting to this point. “I think we would have had just to stop and then all those jobs and everything we built would have been lost. It was crucial to our success.”
Lakeside Project Solutions
“For me, internships were about getting a little bit of work done for the business, but it was more of a community service project.” Then she became involved with the SBTDC’s internship programs and her whole philosophy changed. One of LPS’ first interns created a 12-month marketing program including all of the content created, addresses loaded and ready to launch. “It was good enough to use without editing. Suddenly I realized we could be more effective and profitable with the SBTDC interns.”
Alfredo Ristorante Italiano
If they were going to award him $200,000, they were going to need some substantiated information to warrant that kind of money. They suggested reaching out to the SBTDC, so he did. Alfredo’s counselor Ron said, “Let’s shave this thing down and give a little more detail to it.” And that’s what they did. Ron sat with Alfredo several times, asked the necessary questions to pinpoint what was needed and then provided the details including market research that placed Alfredo’s Ristorante within the context of industry averages. “It was critical to my success and that grant, no doubt.”
ASI has already grown to 40 employees since working with the SBTDC, a 33% increase. Revenues are up 15%, and in the machinist division, they are up 50%. They added the new metal bonded wheel in January, and they are now in 26 countries.
Being the SBTDC Project Officer has been the highlight of my SBA career. Your leadership enabled the NC SBTDC to be innovative, creative, forward thinking, and a model for other SBDCs.
Thank you for forging a family out of a diverse and far-flung group of individuals that are the SBTDC. That was no easy feat.
Over time, our professional achievements may fade away a little bit. However, when you touch people’s hearts like you did my family’s, those memories stay forever.
Your insistence on finding smart people, providing them continuous opportunities to learn and grow and enough rope to take intelligent risks created the culture that produced many SBTDC successes.
But… why are you leaving now that you have finally figured out how to Zoom? I will miss seeing you daily, hearing your funny stories and seeing if you and Byron are wearing matching outfits.
Your remarkable career has had an amazing impact on this state and I definitely feel honored to get to know you.
You have been a teacher, leader, professional moral and character compass, as well as friend and coach in all areas of my life.
The SBTDC is also the best managed and most innovative unit I’ve worked with (and has the most engaged leadership). I was my happiest at the SBTDC. Thank you.
I owe a great deal of gratitude to Scott and his team for bringing in a young (at the time!), boisterous, and engaged economic developer and giving him a seat at the table.
Thanks to Scott for a few really good laughs and for many years of really good service to our organization.
There is a reason why I jokingly referred to you as ‘your Czarness.’ You have set the standard of excellence for SBDCs for the entire nation.
I know firsthand about your impatience, drive, and sense of vision. Those qualities are regrettably scarce in state government, but you never let up. You created a resource that has helped thousands of small businesses. It is your legacy, and one to be proud of.
It has been an honor to work for you, alongside you, and in support of you. You mean the world to me and to the SBTDC.
Scott and the SBTDC have been invaluable partners in supporting the creation, retention, and growth of small businesses in the state.
Selfishly, we will surely miss your presence, insight, and leadership. You have built an incredible organization and legacy!
To the best boss I ever had, congrats on a well-deserved retirement!
We have accomplished many things that most would not have even attempted, but for the SBTDC … just another day!
Thank you for being who you are. I always will be grateful that our paths overlapped. When in doubt, I will always ask myself, ‘What would Scott do’ (knowing that the answer might involve Scotch and/or wine).
Scott has been an effective and reliable champion of the state’s small business community for decades. His accessible brand of leadership won’t be easy to replace.
It is hard to imagine the SBTDC without you, but the team you built will strive to carry on your legacy while you enjoy your well-deserved retirement!