Success Stories


LSBDC aids in bringing physical therapy to DeSoto Parish

“I would not have had a business plan if I didn’t talk to them,” James said. “The LSBDC taught me things I would have never thought about, such as to how to enter into contracts and sign on behalf of my business.”

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Doug James had an idea to open a physical therapy office in the Stonewall area in DeSoto Parish. At the time, there were no physical therapy clinics within 15 miles of Stonewall, so Stonewall residents would have to travel to either Shreveport or Mansfield to receive treatment.

James wanted to bring something local but needed somebody to point him in the right direction on how to start a business. After contacting the U.S. Small Business Administration, James was referred to the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) at Northwestern State University, College of Nursing in Shreveport to get the help needed for starting a business.

The LSBDC assisted in many areas including start-up assistance and guidance, reviewing his business plan, developing cash flow projections, preparing his business occupational license, reviewing the lease agreement, and understanding the other various licenses/permits he would need to operate in Stonewall and DeSoto Parish.

With LSBDC’s help, he was able to fully develop his business plan, open DeSoto Physical Therapy in Stonewall, and secure $30,000 in capital for his business.

“I would not have had a business plan if I didn’t talk to them,” James said. “The LSBDC taught me things I would have never thought about, such as to how to enter into contracts and sign on behalf of my business.”

DeSoto Physical Therapy provides residents of the Stonewall community and surrounding areas occupational and speech therapy services, with future plans of assisting children with developmental delays.

Since opening, Doug has created one full-time job, but plans on hiring more employees in the future.

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Healthy Chef Meals

Jennifer Gieseke turned her passion for healthy food into a full-fledged business with the help of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at LSU Shreveport.

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Jennifer Gieseke always had a passion for cooking, but with active children and husband, Ken Gieseke, often away on business trips, she found it hard to find time to prepare meals in advance. Once a month, she would prepare 30 meals, freezing them until the family was ready to eat. “After a busy day, it was such a relief to know that dinner was prepared and all I needed to do was heat it up and make a salad,” said Gieseke.

It was this approach to cooking that led Gieseke to becoming a personal chef and eventually starting Healthy Chef Meals. As the first personal chef in the Shreveport/Bossier area, she found pleasure in helping other families take the stress out of cooking family dinner.

But it was in 2010, when she joined her then 16-year-old daughter in adopting  avegan diet that her vegetarian journey began, starting with eliminating all meat. “The health benefit statistics I read were truly amazing to me and I soon removed all animal products from my diet. Since starting this journey my weight has stabilized, my energy level has increased and I feel great,” said Gieseke.

After more than a year as a vegetarian, Gieseke decided to turn her new lifestyle into a full-fledged business. She contacted the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at LSU Shreveport to help get her new business off the ground. “The group was extremely helpful in providing me with start-up information regarding financing and compliance with local state and federal tax codes and laws,” said Gieseke.

The LSBDC helped Gieseke develop a business plan, prepare cash flow projections and conduct market research. She obtained a $50,000 commercial loan, as well as invested $50,000 of her own money to jumpstart Healthy Chef Meals, an all natural meal delivery service specializing in organic and cholesterol free meals. The service delivers a week’s worth of food in nine 24-ounce containers. Meals are also available for pickup at the Healthy Chef headquarters in downtown Shreveport.

Healthy Chef provides a wide selection of heart healthy, gluten free meals like Blackened Vegetable Gumbo over Basmati Rice, Tahini Millet Loaf with Cashew Gravy and even desserts such as Louisiana Blueberry Peach Cobbler.

While getting the business up and running was Gieseke’s initial concern, she returned to the LSBDC for help with operational and marketing assistance. The center helped, Gieseke get certified in the Small and Emerging Business Development program, provided by Louisiana Economic Development. Through this program, Gieseke received partial funding to get training on Quickbooks and is now running her business more efficiently. I found the workshops invaluable as well as budgeting the spreadsheets,” said Geiseke. The LSBDC also helped with marketing and streamlining the ordering process. “

Since opening in July, Gieseke has created 8 jobs.

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The Kracked Kernal

With the help of the LSBDC at NSU, Ron Beaudoin was able to transform a once struggling candy shop into a thriving sweet treat shop.

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Rod Beaudin has always loved Natchitoches for its historic district, charm, and the excitement of a bustling downtown atmosphere. He worked for large companies in the past, but the prospect of always working for someone else had long since lost its appeal. It came as no surprise to those who knew him best that he would jump on an opportunity to buy a business located on Front Street in the historic district.   Beaudin purchased a well-known, but struggling business, Les Saisons, known locally as the “candy store.” It was perfect for him. “I wanted to own a family friendly business,” he recalls. “What better than a candy store.”   Beaudin lacked formal as well as practical business experience, so he turned to the LSBDC at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches for assistance. LSBDC consultants helped him develop a marketing plan and product mix strategy that would attract new customers. The consultants also worked with Beaudin to develop a supply chain plan and a new store layout.   After a year of planning, Les Saisons was officially re-named Kracked Kernel in February 2010, and the changes began immediately. Beaudin quickly realized that while candy and other treats are a great way to get people in the door, such products alone could not support the business. In addition to his confectionary collection of chocolate truffles, saltwater taffy, gourmet popcorn, and Blue Bell ice cream, he added specialized gifts and a deli to serve the lunchtime crowd. While the products generate sales, it’s the people Beaudin likes most. “Come share a story,” Beaudin encourages his customers.   Due to the 60-mile commute from Pineville to Natchitoches, Beaudin decided to relocate the Kracked Kernal to Alexandria. The new candy store opened July 15.   Today, under Beaudin’s leadership and ownership, business for the Kracked Kernel has significantly increased, and the LSBDC has been there every step of the way providing guidance and support. Beaudin commented on his experience saying, “The LSBDC has been a great hand to hold.”

 

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Railway Equipment Services Inc.

Railway Equipment Services, a leading provider of railroad services and equipment in Louisiana, obtained an SBA loan to expand the business. As a result, Eddie Stokes was able to increase annual sales by $400,000.

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A sign in Eddie Stokes’ office says “This is the Office of a Serious Railroader. Please Excuse the Occasional Daydreaming.”

After a few minutes with Stokes at Railway Equipment Services, his Oil City railroad company, he proves that he is indeed a serious railroader whose “daydreaming” has made his company a leading provider of railroad track maintenance services and surplus equipment in the United States.

For 10 years, Railway Equipment Services has had an exclusive contract to buy all used track maintenance equipment from Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the nation’s second largest railroad. That brings roughly 25 percent of the surplus track equipment in the United States into his shop. “The business employs 12 people with prospects for adding between four and six more over the next year or two,” Stokes said. 

After creating Railway Equipment Services in 1993, he recently expanded thanks to the help of Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Louisiana State University Shreveport business consultant Bob Boling, who helped package an SBA-guaranteed loan. “I couldn’t have done it without him [LSBDC Business Consultant]. It took him a week to do what took me six months to do [on a previous SBA loan],” said Stokes. 

Stokes first went to work after graduating from high school, inspecting track and making repairs for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Through the years, the larger railroads consolidated, leaving more short-line and industry railroads without maintenance departments. Stokes picked up extra jobs maintaining those tracks on weekends and vacations, and eventually he saw more business opportunities buying surplus equipment such as brush cutters and ballast tampers at auctions. 

In 1993, he found some property in Oil City near new oil field equipment businesses and opened a shop and yard. He got his first SBA loan in 1997, but raising capital has always been a challenge because most bankers didn’t understand his niche in the railroad business. Stokes’ banker at Citizens Bank & Trust in Vivian directed him to the LSBDC in 2009 as he was expanding his fleet leasing department, a growing need within the industry.

In addition to Burlington Northern, Stokes also buys & reconditions used equipment from other large railroads including Union Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Railway Equipment Services does business — either buying and selling equipment or providing track maintenance — with about 500 large, regional, and short-line operators and railroad construction companies in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Stokes has also expanded his trucking line to haul heavy railroad equipment.

Stokes’ SBA loan closed in early 2010 around the same time billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway completed the purchase of the Burlington Northern. Buffett sees a bright future for the railroad as the economy recovers and Stokes agrees. Railway Equipment Services is on track to increase sales by about $400,000 this year. And despite growth in trucking and air cargo, trains move the greatest percentage of the nation’s freight: 42 percent. “There’s no way you can replace all of the freight trains haul with trucks,” said Stokes.

 

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Tamales and More Restaurant

The LSBDC at NSU helped Glen Starks overcome numerous challenges and develop a three-phase project to open and expand Tamales and More Restaurant.

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Glen Starks is a true entrepreneur. He is driven by the challenge of creating a business from scratch, which best describes his efforts toward seeing his latest dream come true— a full-service restaurant in Many, LA. This isn’t Glen’s first time down the path of business management. He has prior experience in owning and operating one successful and one not-so-successful business. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, Starks brushed off the prior setback and forged ahead.   His biggest challenge has been convincing others to see his dream as he sees it. One bank agreed to finance the purchase of property, which held three rotting houses on it. But, the bank declined to fund Starks’ effort to clear the land and start the construction of his large full-service restaurant. However, he was able to secure financing from another bank to renovate two of the houses and turn them into revenue-producing rentals, but nothing toward his ultimate goal of opening a tamale restaurant.   Perplexed by the rebuttals from the banks, Starks turned to an “old friend,” who had assisted him years before in his successful launch of another restaurant— the LSBDC at Northwestern State University. Director Jim Kilcoyne worked with Starks to assess the situation. Eventually, a meeting with the second bank was instrumental in finding common ground that all parties were happy with. Instead of plunging into the capital-intensive large establishment, Kilcoyne suggested dividing the project into phases. However, the bank was still not convinced that Many, LA could support another food establishment.   To get a better understanding of the market, the LSBDC at NSU conducted a direct survey in Many as part of its market analysis. The results indicated demand existed for a small, lunch-only take-out stand. This led to Phase 1 of what would become a three-phase project, and the launch was more successful than anticipated. First-month sales soared past $25,000. Immediately, Starks wanted to plan for and begin moving on Phase 2 — a small sit-down establishment to meet the demand of those not wanting take-out orders. It would take more capital investment, including an extension on the client’s line of credit (LOC), but Starks was able to secure additional financing and so began Phase 2. This included both the sit-down restaurant and the ability to increase tamale production. The bank agreed to extend the LOC following a meeting with Director Jim Kilcoyne, who assured the lender the LSBDC would be actively involved in the endeavor.   A mere six months after contacting his “old friend,” Starks invited the LSBDC at NSU to share in the joy of the official grand opening of phase two. Annual sales are on pace to approach $500,000. Needless to say, during the celebration, Glen took Director Kilcoyne aside and asked about planning the third and final phase of the project. One cannot bridle that entrepreneurial spirit!

 

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Northwestern State University
175 Sam Sibley Drive, South Hall Suite 211
Natchitoches, LA 71497
Phone: 318-357-5611
Email: lsbdc.nwcr@lsbdc.org

By appointment only.

 

Parishes Served:
Avoyelles, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, DeSoto, Grant, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine, Vernon, Red River, Webster and Winn.







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The Louisiana Small Business Development Center Network, hosted by the University of Louisiana at Monroe, is an accredited member of the National Association of Small Business Development Centers and funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Louisiana Economic Development and participating universities. All SBA programs are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities and/or limited English proficiency will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance.
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