Speech 4 Kidz | Wilmington, NC
Amy Howard www.speech4kidz.comQ: What’s your story? I have always been passionate about communication, and making sure people have the ability to communicate, which is why I went into Speech Pathology 20 years ago. Pediatrics drew me in about 10 years ago while working at the Department of Defense as a speech therapist. I became particularly close with a mother whose child I was providing therapy for. Her son had a doctor’s appointment with a developmental pediatrician and she asked that I come with her. At that appointment, he was diagnosed with autism. I knew right then that I had to help this woman find a way through and open a line of communication with her son. Not too long after that, I started Speech 4 Kidz in Jacksonville, NC – that was 2004. Since then, I’ve opened offices in Wilmington and Fayetteville. Q: Describe your company: We help kids and families learn how to communicate. Educating the families and caretakers is an important part of that so they can continue working even when they aren’t in our office. I am also working on a software program which streamlines the insurance, invoicing and state regulations for speech and language pathologists. Q: How has the SBTDC helped? I first met with my business counselor, Janis Mueller in 2010 for information about marketing for the software program. Together we looked at market research, which provided significant insight into what the consumer wants. From that, I have been able to refine the software and start testing with a small audience. When I decided to open a second office in Wilmington, Janis was ready to help me look at available options for managing the office and clients already established in Jacksonville. The additional staff meant improving Human Resources and management skills and Janis was able to work with us on that. Between my husband’s financial skills and the Strategy and Growth Services offered by the SBTDC, the business plan is now much stronger. And, when I have a new idea for marketing or anything else, I can understand the financial projections and see if it will benefit the company so I can make better decisions. Through the SBTDC, we have also teamed with MBA students from UNC Wilmington for 18 months. The students are analyzing competitors to see where Speech 4 Kidz is positioned in the market. At the end, they will provide a Growth and Profit report including a presentation and 40-page paper. 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. Q: What impact have you seen on the business? In the past four years, we have added the Fayetteville office, hiring one full time and two part time employees. That office was almost immediately profitable. The Jacksonville office has doubled their revenue and has grown into a larger space. Across the three offices, we have doubled our employees. The software should also be launched in the near future and we’re looking forward to that.
Story originally featured in the SBTDC’s 2013-2014 Annual Report.
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East Coast Umbrella
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Mind Your Business
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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.
Baker’s Southern Traditions
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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.”
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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.