Greenville, NC | Scott Griffin and Chikako Massey | www.practicon.com
WHAT THEY DO Founded in 1982, Practicon finds and develops innovative products for the dental industry. Their primary market is in private-practicing dentists across the United States and Canada, but they also have sales divisions for dental and hygiene schools, wholesaling their proprietary products to other dental product distributors, and government sales. Their latest 244-page catalog introduces more than 250 new products. Most are procured from other vendors, but Practicon’s research and development team is ramping up with 18-20 projects in development right now. Practicon currently employs 63 individuals, and for two years in a row, it has been named one of the Top 20 Small Businesses to Work For by Business North Carolina. UNDER THE CAPE Ann Page Griffin moved next door to a pediatric dentist, Dr. Jasper Lewis, Jr. and as the two chatted over the hedge, they imagined the combination of her education background and his pediatric dentistry. She started working with Jasper in 1980 and by 1982, her work had grown to the point that she needed to separate from the dental practice and incorporate. She needed tools and resources and found none on the market, so they began developing their own, which is how the first catalog was born. Scott Griffin graduated from Wake Forest and went on to receive his MBA from ECU in 1984. He worked for a company in Charlotte for one year before being faced with a choice. He had a job offer in Dallas, or he could come back to Greenville and help turn Practicon into a fully-fledged business. He took a chance and they jumped into business – an educator and a student fresh from grad school who had never really had a job. They did not know exactly what they were doing, but they did it well because 35 years later they are going strong and are well respected in the industry. GAINING A GOVERNMENT FOOTHOLD About three years ago, Scott hired Chikako Massey in New Business Development. Shortly thereafter, he handed her the challenge of doing business with the government with the instructions to figure out how to get it done. They had tried several times before to jump the hurdles involved with Government Procurement, but they did not have the resources to make much headway. Chikako’s persistent and diligent spirit was what they had been missing. 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. “All of our successful contracts from that client are a result of Ariana’s suggestion that I attend Marketplace.” Ariana also helped walk Chikako through registering for HUB Zone Certification and paired Practicon with an MBA student from the Kenan Institute. He provided all the legwork for working with the federal government internationally. Overall, Scott believes the government procurement aspect of the business has added about 5% growth, and that is in just two years. THE BUYER’S CLUB Another thing that Scott worked on with the SBTDC was the Buyer’s Club, essentially a loyalty program. They worked with an MBA team, which surveyed customers and came up with the components to make the program successful. Today it is known as Premier Customers and has 13,000 members, generating 80% of the revenue of their core customer base. “We were introduced to that team through the SBTDC, and it will have a major impact on our revenue for years to come.” TO THE RESCUE Practicon is a believer in using its success for good. For every sale of one of their SmileGoods toothbrushes, a portion of the sale goes to Cause Life, which establishes clean water wells in impoverished areas all over the world. To date, Practicon has provided the means to build thirteen wells in Guatemala, India, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Closer to home, the company has an annual push to contribute a minimum of 650 hours of community service. They met that goal before the year was half over. They are also working on 100% participation in at least one hour of community service, whether it is with Give Kids a Smile, an annual event that they contribute to; Meals on Wheels; or anything the employee is interested in. Scott himself is on the board of Third Street Educational Center and Eastern Carolina Vocational Center. He’s also set up a We Care Fund at work where employees can deduct from their payroll. If anyone has some sort of life struggle they can draw from the Fund. He even took all the employees to Disney World recently when they hit their goals.
When we need something, the SBTDC finds the people and resources to build a bridge so we can get where we want to go.
This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2018 Success Stories. View the entire publication here.
More Success Stories
The UNCW MBA teams and undergraduate interns work hard with Flow Sciences to produce great results. From viable industry analysis to tangible marketing programs, their deliverables have improved our company and increased the students’ future job prospects…Several UNCW alumni from both graduate and undergraduate programs are employed by FSI and work among its talented family-oriented atmosphere.
The SBTDC pointed the SBIR program out to us in a good bit of depth and connected me with some of the solicitations to look into and learn more about. At later stage, [the SBTDC] even reviewed one of our early grant proposals with a little more scientific content and gave us some feedback…
The ability to call on experts for help and guidance with planning and facing new challenges is invaluable and has helped me grow 3C strategically…We would not be here without SBIR.
DryCorp / DryCase
The SBTDC’s business counseling has made a huge difference in our success by providing us with the tools and confidence needed to survive in an international marketplace. Alex has helped us review many contracts with new international distributors to guarantee that we are entering into a successful business relationship overseas.
ImmunoReagents’ strategic alliances with the SBTDC and the connections with NC Department of Commerce, SBA, and NC State University have given me a sounding board when I have to make important decisions related to ImmunoReagents.
Alex anticipated my needs before I knew I needed them… The SBTDC has helped me take risks and compete with larger businesses with more confidence.
Miss Jenny’s Pickles
After Owen was contacted by a CBS 60 Minutes producer seeking a Triad export business for a show, he contacted Jenny. After receiving her permission, Owen submitted a company profile and Miss Jenny’s Pickles was selected. On October 28, 2012, the show aired nationally to a potential audience of 22 million households. That exposure has resulted in increased sales and more opportunities, including a contract for a reality show and the honor of introducing Vice President Joe Biden at EX-IM Bank’s 2013 Conference.
ERD LTD, Inc
Our international presence began the day our international business counselor called to let us know about the possibility of obtaining an NC Step grant to support travel to a trade show in Thailand. Since participating in the Thailand trade show, we’ve traveled to Hong Kong, Beijing and South America with support from grants that SBTDC helped procure. This is the perfect example of how the SBTDC counselors are constantly thinking of ways to use the resources at their fingertips to help the small businesses in their community grow and thrive.
H&H Farm Machinery
H&H has grown significantly with doubled revenue growth and the addition of 10 new employees to make a total of 18…. We’re ready to continue expanding but we’re working with the SBTDC on planning that growth to make sure it is controlled growth.
The SBIR grant assistance is the most valuable thing the SBTDC has provided. Receiving the SBIR funding is what allowed us to move forward and we’ve actually been able to win three grants, although we had to turn one down. They have provided much needed advice on business development and we have also paired up with several student interns for marketing analysis.
Carolina Management Team
The NC PTAC and SBTDC team have become my sounding boards and mentors as opportunities and challenges arise. They challenge us to dream bigger. I don’t know where CMT would be without the support of the SBTDC.
Roebuck Precision Machine
They reached out to PTAC early in the process to learn more about government contracting, registrations requirements and certifications. They also needed assistance with marketing their products and getting their information out to government buyers on military bases and other facilities. Their persistence and hard work paid off when in 2010 they were awarded their GSA schedule.
Transylvania Vocational Services
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.
Most recently, TVS has continued its success with dry bakery flour mixes for domestic food distribution programs. In November and December 2014, TVS won two contracts for dry mixes totaling more than $3.7 million.
Although Workforce has a presence on the U.S. Coast Guard Base in Elizabeth City, they had the desire to expand their services to various military bases in North Carolina. A project manager for Workforce Resources attended an industry day event in Philadelphia, PA. This is when Workforce Resources discovered the PTAC program.
JB Media Group
Probably the biggest impact on the business I’ve seen as a result of working with the SBTDC is the funding for the new office. With the help of my counselor I was able to borrow $201,000 and open up $35,000 in new credit lines. The new space is a much better fit and will allow for future growth.
I had the customers and knew the industry, but the SBTDC was able to help me come up with and implement new strategies for success.
The SBTDC has made us a stronger company by providing better intelligence, counseling, and resources. In a lot ways, it has been like a board of directors or an extension of our organization and team, which is how I’m modeling my own company to be a resource to our own clients.
I have taken advice from the SBTDC counselors at every major decision point through the last couple of year and my business has benefited greatly from the sound advice and research provided by the SBTDC.
Getting a loan seemed simple enough, but without my business counselor’s knowledge of the system I never would have received the funding to purchase Converters Unlimited.
A.W. Brinkley Hardware
One of the most important ways the SBTDC has influenced the business was by helping us receive a workforce development grant. We’re using it to send two of our mechanics to specialized training for standby generators. We will be the only business in 75 miles licensed to work on these types of generators.
Speech 4 Kidz
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.
Sales are up by 15% compared to last year, and we’ve expanded into two new countries.
The bottom line is: if you have a business and don’t make wise financial decisions, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are, you won’t stay in business long. That’s why the SBTDC is so instrumental to small businesses and start-ups. It’s free so you don’t have to pay for those resources.
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.
The thing about the SBTDC is that I’m never actively looking for these opportunities, but my counselor comes to me and says, “what do you need now?” and offers these students, or interns, or a workshop, or whatever will help us at that moment. We’ve seen a 20% increase in sales and the addition of seven employees. The biggest benchmark, however, was getting to a point where Calibration Solutions was big enough and attractive enough to buy.
The SBTDC have been incredibly helpful in supporting our decision making process, in determining how we can optimize our procedures economically. They have reviewed our marketing, our accounting systems, recommended new approaches and highlighted areas for development.
We increased our revenues by over 550% in four months, we have tripled the number of direct labor employees and added three new engineers to our staff.
We were aware there was a communication issue, but we’ve been able to fully understand the deeper issues, we have a plan to improve, and assurance that those improvements would take hold. There isn’t a finish line for this sort of thing, but the improvements have been recognizable and have made an impact on the company. Since working with the SBTDC, we’ve had a 20% increase in employees, and our revenues are increasing as our changes begin taking effect.
East Coast Umbrella
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.
Applying for an SBA loan was a stressful process. My counselors have given me the support, the heads up, and the understanding for why things are done this way. They have been my backbone, a support group, someone to vent to and positive reinforcement. And the thing of it is, I didn’t have to pay for anything.
Now we just accomplished one of my biggest goals, which was to open up the option for a 401K plan for the employees. I am so excited about that.
Game Theory Group
Raising capital has to be the most influential way the SBTDC has helped. Our counselor literally took us through the projections for five years and helped us get the rest of our paperwork in shape. With those in hand we’ve been able to win some local grants, which our counselor brought to the table. He also introduced us to IMAF and they’ve been our largest investor.
First Flight Adventure Park
When we came to the SBTDC, we were so frustrated. We had tried everything, but they just looked at us and said, “We can help!” Our schedule was so tight and stressful. We didn’t even get our Occupancy Permit until Friday at 4:30 p.m. They were right, though, they were able to help. Our counselor was so supportive and flexible, even showing up at the construction sight to make sure things got signed. Without the SBTDC, we wouldn’t have found out about the Revolving Loan Fund, and we wouldn’t have been able to open at the critical moment.
Snider Fleet Solutions
The first contract I reviewed was 70 pages in length and almost made me think the business was not for us. After counseling with PTAC and much study Snider Fleet Solutions was able to start submitting bids. We won a 3-year contract in May 2012 and shipped our first order in December 2012.
As of this article, the client has secured four Task Orders on the contracts totaling $37,292.92 over a three-month period of performance. As these are five-year IDIQ’s, the client’s potential revenue for subcontracting during the life of the contracts could total almost $750,000 in federal government subcontracting revenue for his company. This will go a long way in “building” the financial track record performance section of his company’s capability statement in his NAICS.
Electric Motor Shop
Their PTAC counselor was able to make recommendations on formatting of files, details to include, and offered explanations for all of the certification requirements. Electric Motor Shop’s diligence did pay off, as the company became NC HUB certified in September.
National Wiper Alliance
Not surprisingly, the company also has an impressive track record selling its products to Federal agencies, including through GSA and to defense agencies. Past PTAC assistance has focused on registrations, how to locate opportunities, research on business development programs, navigating ordering and depot systems, and marketing the business to government customers.
Maintenance and Inspection Services, Inc.
PTAC has been extremely beneficial in providing expert assistance with identification of products and services customers may need that MIS provides, performing market research and assisting in interpreting requirements / regulations in preparing bids and proposals. The entire NC PTAC staff has been much appreciated by MIS for all the assistance and guidance.
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.