Living Solutions Construction, LLC

"They really helped us find a bank that was a good fit for us then coasted us through the process of approaching the bank and to give them exactly what they were looking for."

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Merrick Young always had entrepreneurial aspirations. In 2009, after seven years in the construction industry, he decided to take his chanceand start Living Solutions Construction, LLC, a construction and development company, during the height of a recession. Young's thinking was that if he could get his business up and running and acquire land at a discounted price he could be in a pretty position when the economic turnaround came. He bought a plot of land in Baker, La., and set out to turn it into affordable homes.

 

In the beginning, Young found numerous challenges stacked against him. He had lots of experience on the trade end but didn’t quite have the business and entrepreneurial skills that he’d need to get such an operation moving. He contacted the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southern University in Baton Rouge and found many resources to help get access to capital, government procurement opportunities and ways to grow his business.

 

 

  During hard economic times it is especially difficult for a contractor to obtain capital and Young’s entire operation hinged on getting loan approval. The LSBDC pointed him to Liberty Bank and helped him create a solid business plan that covered all indicators and parts they would be looking for. They helped prepare a thorough financial analysis and created a solid marketing plan by forming a strategic alliance with a top-producing realtor that would be able to help sell the homes.   “They really helped us find a bank that was a good fit for us then coasted us through the process of approaching the bank and to give them exactly what they were looking for,” said Young.   With the assistance of the LSBDC, Young eventually landed a $500,000 loan to cover the land and construction costs for the project. Living Solutions has since landed a contract with the City of Zachary and with the city of Opelousas where he is constructing 26 houses. He now has six full-time employees and expects to increase revenue in 2011 by $210,000. Through the LSBDC he was also able to tap into Baton Rouge’s business community to join business groups, attend seminars and network.   “The LSBDC really helped us get our foot in the door with the first project and they really helped me get my head around the business side of things,” said Young.

 

 

Contact us today to learn how the LSBDC can help you gain control of your finances

 

 

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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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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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Mama Reta’s Kitchen brings the soul to food in Lake Charles

“The LSBDC at MSU worked with me to develop a business plan so that I’d understand how to operate my restaurant profitably,” Durgan said. “I consider the LSBDC my ally and I would recommend that anyone planning a new business talk with them.”

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When you’re a great chef, it’s only right that you pursue your own restaurant. That’s what Reta Durgan did in Lake Charles. After working in the restaurant business, she decided she wanted her own and reached out to the LSBDC at McNeese State University where Center Director Donna Little helped carve out her dreams and make them a reality.

Now, Durgan is the owner and chef of Mama Reta’s Kitchen, LLC, located at 345 Broad St. in Lake Charles, bringing home cooking and soul food to southwest Louisiana.

The LSBDC at MSU helped Durgan write a business plan, develop three years of financial projections, develop a menu list and explained start-up inventory. After several years of directing Durgan to a successful position, including connecting her with LSBDC restaurant consultant Dianne Sclafani, she was finally ready to officially start her restaurant business.

The LSBDC at MSU helped her acquire $25,000 in capitalization and create eight jobs.

“The LSBDC at MSU worked with me to develop a business plan so that I’d understand how to operate my restaurant profitably,” Durgan said. “I consider the LSBDC my ally and I would recommend that anyone planning a new business talk with them.”

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Center for Pediatric Therapy

"All of this was new to us because we’ve never even taken a business class. We’re therapists, not business people. We needed help just getting these things in place"

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After almost ten years as a physical therapist, Thibodaux resident Michele Bower saw a growing need for therapy services for children in the area. With the closest pediatric-therapy clinics an hour away in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, services were virtually non-existent. When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the further loss of therapy services in South Louisiana inspired Michele to join forces with two other therapists and start her own clinic.   Founded in 2006, the Center for Pediatric Therapy is a place where physical, occupational and speech therapists help children learn how to walk, function and focus better in the world. It is the only pediatric-therapy clinic in Terrebonne Parish and treats children from newborns to age 21 with both group and one-on-one therapy that focuses on play and movement. Some of its patients face such ailments as autism, cerebral palsy and attention-deficit disorder.   Bower had always dreamed of opening such a center but lacked some of the knowledge of getting a business off the ground. She originally came across the LSBDC Business Continuity Center at Nicholls State University when she approached the South Louisiana Economic Council about a grant for marketing expenses. Immediately tapping into the newly discovered resource, she found expert advice, assistance and consultation on a variety of business matters.   “All of this was new to us because we’ve never even taken a business class. We’re therapists, not business people. We needed help just getting these things in place,” said Bower.   Bower utilized the center’s assistance for everything from determining what kind of computers they needed and how to build the right staff to creating the building components and getting the right permits in place. The LSBDC also helped Bower become certified under the Small & Emerging Business program (SEBD) provided by Louisiana Economic Development. The SEBD program helped send two of the co-owners to a manager’s clinic in California.   “They [co-owners] were able to learn better management skills, about hiring and firing, how to staff therapists, coding and all kinds of things we needed to know,” she said.   Partial SEBD funding was also received to develop marketing materials and redesign their website.   The Center for Pediatric Therapy recently turned to the LSBDC to investigate the feasibility of expansion to St. Charles Parish. The center was able to send a consultant to the area to gather information on demographics, insurance, Medicaid usage and locations.   “They gave us this wonderful binder with all the statistics we needed. If we do expand, we’re going to seek assistance with a new business plan. We’ve really taken advantage of many things they’ve had to offer,” said Bower.

 

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Mezzo Technologies

"They really gave us a lot of ideas and helped us with government funding sources. The ability to land the SBIR grants was a tremendous help. They were a cash cow that has helped sustain us over the years"

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Baton Rouge-based Mezzo Technologies makes thermal systems that use micro-manufacturing technology. Their main products include metal heat exchangers, regenerators, high heat flux cooling systems and microfin heat exchangers. Founded in 2000 by two students and a mechanical engineering professor Kevin Kelly, the company immediately tapped into the resources of the LSBDC at its inception.   In its early days, Mezzo faced the challenges that any company does when trying to bring a good idea to market: business strategy, funding, and marketing assistance.   While in its first few years of business Mezzo mainly focused on research and development. The LSBDC  was able to point the company towards additional funding sources and provided expert insight and guidance into the application process for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. These grants are set aside for small businesses to engage in research and development that has the potential for commercialization. SBIR programs are structured in three phases, the first of which awards up to $150,000 for six months of exploration of technology. For a player that is new to the game, the process of landing an SBIR grant can be a tedious one.   "They really gave us a lot of ideas and helped us with government funding sources. The ability to land the SBIR grants was a tremendous help. They were a cash cow that has helped sustain us over the years,” said Kelly.   By 2006 Mezzo morphed more from an R&D operation into a commercial enterprise that had viable products to take to market. Kelly left his teaching position at the university in 2007 and assumed the role of Mezzo's president full time.   At that time, the company switched to a new technology that allowed it to create lighter and smaller high performance heat exchangers. They eventually landed a contract with the Department of Defense to produce radiators for the HUMVEE and return fuel air coolers for the Joint Strike Fighter. In 2008, Andretti Green Racing started using Mezzo's radiators in the Indy 500.   “We're hoping to get more involved in F1 racing in the future. Over the next few years, we’re looking to attack more lucrative markets and for major revenue expansion and to increase our profitability,” said Kelly.

 

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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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Sew Elegant, LLC.

"After being a nurse for 35 years and having back surgery, my career was at the end of the world, but with the help of the LSBDC at Southern University, I was able to make my dreams come true by starting my own business"

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Lisa Formeller is the owner of Sew Elegant, LLC. a custom drapes, bedding, pillows, and dust ruffles business now based in Washington, Louisiana.  Prior to seeking assistance from the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southern University, she had been operating a sewing business on a part-time basis for 18-months without turning a profit. Formeller reached out to the LSBDC at Southern University for assistance with pricing, budgeting, and organizational skills. She also requested help with marketing, financial management and developing a business plan.

When Business Consultant Leighton Bryant learned of Formeller’s physical ailments, he informed her of the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS) grant program. LRS is a state program that assists persons with disabilities in their desire to achieve independence in their communities by providing career and entrepreneurial training and assistance.

With Bryant’s help, Formeller was able to develop her business plan, which included a three-year monthly cash flow projection and income statement, as well as a three-year annualized projection. With the well-developed business plan as well as a letter of recommendation submitted by Bryant, Formeller was awarded a $20,000 grant from LRS. This grant allowed Formeller to purchase much needed equipment, fabric, and supplies, as well as sewing machines, which allowed her to create another source of revenue by offering sewing lessons. A website was established to help in the promotion of her business.

“After being a nurse for 35 years and having back surgery, my career was at the end of the world, but with the help of the LSBDC at Southern University, I was able to make my dreams come true by starting my own business,” said Formeller. Since seeking assistance, Sew Elegant revenues have increased by $16,000 over the previous year.

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Noah’s Ark Child Care and Development Center

A day care center needed to demonstrate it is prepared to manage emergency situations while safeguarding its clients in the event they are forced to evacuate or seek shelter.

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With all the anxieties parents tend to feel as they drop their children off at day care, the last thing they should have to worry about is how their little ones might fare during an emergency. Noah's Ark Child Care and Development Center recently took that concern off the table, with help from the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese State University.

Noah's Ark cares for dozens of young clients daily, offering early childhood and summer programs for kids up to 12 years of age at its facility in Sulphur, Louisiana.

Chris Duplechin, who is director of Noah's Ark, initially met the counselors at LSBDC when she was assistant director at another day care center. She had worked with the small business consultants to help develop an emergency preparedness plan for that center, and she knew that Noah's Ark needed to take similar steps. 

Louisiana requires that day care centers demonstrate emergency readiness in order to receive state license to operate. But more importantly, the families of the children entrusted to Noah's Ark need to feel assured that the children are being looked after in a safe environment by staff who are prepared to handle unexpected events.

LSBDC consultant Donna Little says Duplechin's previous experience with emergency planning for a day care center was a plus in moving ahead with the plan for Noah's Ark. "It's often hard to convince a small business to spend the time it takes to put together a real plan because it interferes with their everyday operations," Little says.

Duplechin welcomed the chance to tap into LSBDC's expertise. She provided all the information needed to begin developing a handbook, including complete contact and other information about the day care center's staff, and a comprehensive database of the client children and their families. She says LSBDC staff produced drawings of the day care center and developed a plan for how everyone would evacuate or seek shelter in the event of a serious storm or other emergency event. 

"They helped me design the whole plan to evacuate," Duplechin says. "They did the drawings of the building, typed it up, put it in a book, and made a disk for me so that I could (open the document) and make changes as needed."

Duplechin says as a result of having the detailed plans in hand, the center can now hold drills so that staff can rehearse procedures they will follow to protect the children or evacuate before various potential emergencies, such as a tornado.

"Now we know what we need to have in our emergency kit, when to evacuate and exactly where we should go," she says.

The plan provides a measure of security that parents are glad to hear about when they bring their children to the center. In fact, each parent is asked to sign a letter saying that they have seen the emergency handbook and understand how it will be used. 

Duplechin says the help she received from the LSBDC is what made it possible. "If I had to do it all by myself, it would have taken a lot of time that I don't have," she says.

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit www.lsbdc.org or contact LSBDC at MSU at (337) 475-5529 or lsbdc.msu@lsbdc.org. The LSBDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Louisiana Department of Economic Development, and participating universities. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

 

 

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Elephant Quilt Productions

"About a year ago I decided it was time to start my own thing and help other people bring their creative ideas to life"

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Entrepreneurs often find inspiration in past employment experiences, and so it was with Jason Rhein, whose talent in recording music and other performances led him to launch a music and video production house called Elephant Quilt Productions LLC.

Rhein recently received national exposure when one of his videos landed a long-time client a show on the Food Network. Over the years s has produced videos for the family-owned Shed BBQ and Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.The sizzle reel, also know as a demo reel or a promo, created at Elephant Quilt grabbed the attention of Mandt Bros. Productions and the Food Network which landed the Orrison family their own TV series, The Shed! Throughout the summer, Rhein worked with the Food Network as Co-producer on the series which now airs on Food Network each Monday at 10pm/9c.

  Before achiving national exposure Rhein, graduate of the University of New Orleans film department worked as a producer on such programs as National Public Radio's "American Routes" music series, and a concert tour and Disney video series by children's musical comedy group Imagination Movers.   "About a year ago I decided it was time to start my own thing and help other people bring their creative ideas to life," Rhein says.    But having made that decision, Rhein faced what many creative people come up against as they seek to become entrepreneurs: He lacked business planning and management experience.   Recognizing that he "didn't know the first thing about the business side of things," Rhein sought the help of Louisiana Small Business Development Center. One of the first people he met was Carmen Sunda, director of the LSBDC Greater New Orleans Region.   Rhein says Sunda took him "under her wing," teaching him about business basics ranging from startup financing options to forecasting expenses and managing cash flow. "Carmen helped me learn to think about how money goes in and out, and what it takes to have a successful business model," he says.   He also tapped into the expertise of LSBDC consultant Albert Overman, who helped Rhein draw up a lease agreement for office-studio space, create other legal documents and develop a business strategy.   Eventually, Rhein got to know LSBDC consultant Christian Galvin, who helped him develop a user-friendly business website that quickly shows potential clients how Elephant Quilt Productions can help them put their best image forward.   "Jason had always been on the production side of the business, so dealing with customers was new to him," Galvin says. "We helped him understand how he needed to position himself, what he needed to know about proposals, pricing and billing, and the customer experience."   In an unusually helpful move, the counselors engaged Rhein to produce a series of informational videos about the Louisiana SBDC. "Through that process, he had the opportunity to understand how to interact with customers and also how to manage his own work process," Galvin says.   The videos not only became useful tools for the LSBDC, but also reside on Rhein's website – elephantquilt.com – providing prospective clients with examples of what Elephant Quilt Productions can do.   Rhein, who is running his business largely as a one-person shop, says he has to scramble to cover all his bases. Though he has three part-time interns, he finds that  such basics as billing, accounting and tax records take him away from his creative pursuits. That has prompted him to search for time-saving business software that makes documentation of cash flow and other records simpler.     "The SBDC gave me enough guidance on some of those things to help me find solutions that don't take a lot of my time but still maintain accurate records for tax purposes," he says.   Rhein has become comfortable with the early-growth stage of his business, but says he likely will seek further help from the LSBDC. "I'd like to get another level of advice from them on how to build on what I've started," he says. "They've been a great resource to have in my corner.   Galvin notes that Rhein's work on the startup has brought him another benefit that didn't necessarily show up in his original business plan.    "Jason has a family and wanted to spend more time with them," Galvin says. "His new company allows him to take his child to work."  
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Jambalaya girl cookin’ up success

"I’ve always wanted to represent a company that promotes New Orleans culture, and it’s surreal to fulfill this role in my own company. I am grateful for the staff at LSBDC. I would not be where I am today without them."

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After Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, Kristen Preau and her father started a tailgating fundraiser to raise money for the city's rebuilding efforts. After the pair traveled around the country selling their homemade Jambalaya, Kristen and her dad raised over $100,000 for the University of New Orleans Hurricane relief. With that success in mind, Preau decided to start her own business and packaged the jambalaya recipe into a rice mix.

Preau came to the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region (LSBDC GNOBR) in 2010 initially to gather assistance with her business plan in order to qualify for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. With her dad’s business, ADGAS Outdoor Cooking Products, in a flux Preau wanted to boost it and start her own.

ADGAS Outdoor Cooking Products was able to restructure the existing business and reposition itself for growth, as well as launch a new business - Cook Me Somethin’ Mister, and a new line of products.

The LSBDC assisted Preau in starting Cook Me Somethin’ Mister in 2010, and later assisted her in obtaining loans to grow the business, assistance developing her website, assistance in developing and implementing her growth strategy, and assistance with international market distribution, marketing and sales, and additional entrepreneurial training.

Preau worked with LSBDC expert and food industry consultant Dianne Sclafani to turn her business into a growing food brand, known now on a national level.

“I’ve always wanted to represent a company that promotes New Orleans culture, and it’s surreal to fulfill this role in my own company,” Preau said, owner of Cook Me Somethin’ Mister. “I am grateful for the staff at LSBDC. I would not be where I am today without them.”

Through the assistance of the LSBDC, Preau took advantage of a Louisiana Economic Development State Trade and Export Promotions (STEP) grant program in 2012.

“The LSBDC provided a wealth of guidance and resources for restructuring a 30-year-old business,” Preau said. “They helped us craft a clear plan for the growth of two new product lines and the development of a new business. We took advantage of the group classes, one-on-one counseling and the website marketing program.”

She has been named a Top 100 Small Businesses Blue Ribbon Award, by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Top Woman Owned Business, by the Louisiana SBA; and Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Role Model of the Year by WBEC South. “Kristen Preau is a true champion for women owned businesses. She is all in,” Sclafani said.

Preau started her business with a $50,000 SBA Loan, invested all of her savings, cashed in her retirement, borrowed money from the bank and family, factored invoices and even put her 2002 Honda Civic up as collateral. Her SBA Loan is now paid in full and she has successfully built the foundation of her business and has reached the turning point for growth.

In 2013, the LSBDC assisted Preau in obtaining a line of credit of $50,000 and refinancing an existing loan. In 2013 she also secured distribution in Sam’s, resulting in an initial $184,000 order. As a result of her hard work and the assistance provided by the LSBDC GNOR, Preau won second place and $10,000 in the 2013 Capital One Greaux GNO business growth competition, co-sponsored by LSBDC.

After four years in business, she has almost doubled her revenue each year. Kristen will also graduate from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program in February and will even be an ideal candidate for another round of SBA financing with her new growth plan to increase jobs, revenue and distribution.

“Kristen is not only an ambassador for women owned businesses, but she also embodies the spirit of Louisiana as the ‘Jambalaya Girl’ bringing her southern charm and family recipes to customers across the world,” Sclafani said.

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Monte Farms breed success

“My experience with the LSBDC has been great. I could not have made it this far without them,” Hobdy said. “I tell everyone I know about them.”

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Winnfield, Louisiana isn’t the biggest or most well known city in the state, but that doesn’t mean it can’t produce greatness. In 2014 Winnfield native Le’Montio Hobdy opened Monte Farms, a heritage breed, pasture-raised pork and pastured poultry farm. After consulting with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) at ULM, Hobdy found he could produce success.

With the help of the LSBDC at ULM, before opening the business in late 2014 Hobdy was able to determine critical problems, develop financial models and cost models, and develop a production cycle.

“The biggest thing was the production cycle that they helped me organize so I could have a consistent supply to my customers,” Hobdy said.

Hobdy successfully developed a market for heritage breed hogs and raised poultry products. Monte Farms uses rare breeds of pigs that originate from England to produce a superlative pork product. All of its pigs and chickens are raised on open pastures and they have 24-hour access to fresh grass. The company’s promise for success garnered Hobdy with the LSBDC at ULM Rising Star Award presented in May 2015. Hobdy has quickly experienced vast success as he supplies to some of Louisiana’s top-ranked eateries, including Monroe’s, Cotton; as well as restaurants owned by the world-renowned restaurateur Dickie Brennan of New Orleans.

“We were able to really get Le’Montio going in the right direction as far as cost projection, growth projection and website development,” LSBDC Project Director Barry Parker said. “His business is very unique and non-traditional, but Le’Montio is a very sharp guy and we have a really good relationship.”

The LSBDC didn’t just limit Hobdy to ULM’s center, the Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region also chipped in to make sure Monte Farms would produce great success, along with the great meat.

Hobdy received consultation from Dianne Sclafani, Business Consultant who is a Restaurant and Food Specialist at the Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region Center. Sclafani was able to help Hobdy strategize to find more clients Monte Farms could distribute to.

“My experience with the LSBDC has been great. I could not have made it this far without them,” Hobdy said. “I tell everyone I know about them.”

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LSBDC at ULL makes a splash with the Pond Doctor

“The LSBDC at ULL was very helpful in making my dream become a reality,” Bertrand said. “I had the op­portunity to discuss strategy and develop a business plan to secure my loan. In addition, the center functions as a resource that I can always access as a business owner.”

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When you see a demand and create the only supply, your business is set for success. With the help of the LSBDC at ULL, David Bertrand has started his business, the Pond Doctor, and is moving in the right direction.

Pond Doctor is a service-type business offering the re­moval of weeds found in ponds, bayous, fisheries and streams. The services provided by Pond Doctor using an amphibious vehicle are not currently offered in Louisiana or adjacent surrounding states.

Talk about a unique start-up right?

“The LSBDC at ULL was very helpful in making my dream become a reality,” Bertrand said. “I had the op­portunity to discuss strategy and develop a business plan to secure my loan. In addition, the center functions as a resource that I can always access as a business owner.”

The LSBDC helped Bertrand develop his business plan, financial models and price structuring, and marketing. Bertrand was able to receive $240,000 in capital, start his business and has been successfully moving towards strong business growth.

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North Cypress Fitness hulks up facility with help

“We came to LSBDC in the early stages of planning our first fitness center,” Ross said, President and CEO. “The advice and direction we received was a huge help to us years ago, so we have worked with them many times over the years.”

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When you’re passionate about bringing families together in a healthy environment, it’s important to make sure your environment is large enough. That’s what Olaf Ross had in mind for his business North Cypress Fitness, located at 1606 S Magnolia St. in Hammond.

Since the beginning, Ross utilized the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University (LSBDC at SLU). So when it came to growing his business, he knew who to talk to. Ross and the LSBDC at SLU discussed a variety of projects, including an expansion to add 31,000 square feet to the facility.

“We came to LSBDC in the early stages of planning our first fitness center,” Ross said, President and CEO. “The advice and direction we received was a huge help to us years ago, so we have worked with them many times over the years.”

The additional 31,000 square feet helped create over 40 new jobs, and North Cypress Fitness has experienced exponential growth since its start in 2001, and “we continue striving to provide quality jobs and stimulate growth in the Hammond area.”

The LSBDC at SLU helped Ross secure $3 million in capital to develop the business expansion. Over the course of North Cypress, the LSBDC at SLU has helped Ross with business startup assistance, business and financial modeling, sales and marketing assistance, financing assistance and prep, and business continuity planning.

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Healthy Image LLC

"We didn't know what kind of challenges we faced. We never started out with an office and employees so when we got to that point, we needed help"

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While Kristy Armand was director of marketing at Memorial Hospital in Lake Charles, LA, she heard through the grapevine that a large company was looking for a marketing agency. She called up two close friends, they brainstormed for a name, designed a logo and before long landed the client. Within a couple of months they had a few more clients and their entrepreneurial experiment turned into a full-fledged business.

"We just never knew it would grow the way it did. In the beginning I kept my full time job and we worked on it at night," said Armand.

Healthy Image, LLC, is now a full service marketing and advertising firm with more than 100 clients. One by one, the partners quit their day jobs over the years until they were all on board as full-time employees in 2008. Grown from spare bedrooms in their homes, Health Image LLC didn't understand many of the regular needs of a business until they experienced growth.

"We didn't know what kind of challenges we faced. We never started out with an office and employees so when we got to that point, we needed help," said Healthy Image partner Kristy Armand.

Armand eventually consulted with Donna Little at the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese State. Little provided financial analysis and helped the company learn how to interpret their balance sheets and profit and loss statements. She also helped with basic business duties that Healthy Image had skipped over because they were one-man operations founded in a home.

"We never knew about occupancy licenses, employees, workers’ compensation. Because we started the business without a physical location, we skipped many of those steps," said Armand.

In the course of a short period of time, Healthy Image has gone from a few healthcare marketing clients to dozens of clients in multiple industries. In 2003, the company also started Thrive, a health-related publication. Over the years it had grown from 10 pages in newsprint to its current 80 full color glossy pages with a spine. As the magazine has grown, so to has the need to effectively manage and operate two distinct companies.

Armand said they worked with Little to learn how to make the magazine more profitable and how to avoid making common mistakes. Through the help of their bookkeeper, they found ways to trim costs and increase productivity by restructuring commission schedules for advertising representatives. Armand said they also needed to learn how to carefully balance time and capital between the breadwinning Healthy Image marketing firm and the growing magazine.

"They helped us take a look at where the expenses were going. With running two businesses, there were a lot of things going back and forth that we were not paying attention to. We've reduced expenses and increased profit because of their guidance," said Armand.

Contact us today to learn how the LSBDC can help you gain control of your finances

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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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Peek-a-Boo Ultrasound

With assistance from the LSBDC Business Continuity Center at Nicholls State University Holly Ledger was able to start and expand the only 4D Ultrasound business in the Bayou Region.

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Peek-A-Boo Ultrasound is the first of its kind in the Bayou Region to offer expectant mothers the new 4D ultrasound imaging option. The downtown Thibodaux location opened in July 2011, offering a full range of services in both ultrasound imaging and gender determination. Previously, the 4D imaging service had not been available in Assumption, Lafourche, or Terrebonne parish. “New Mothers had to drive over 80 miles to either Lafayette or Baton Rouge to receive this service,” says owner Holly Ledger. Ledger, an ultrasound technician, saw an opportunity to service this demand. A fairly new mother herself, Leger recognized the demand in a challenging market and took a risk in opening up the business. “When an expectant mother has the opportunity to see what their newborn looks like,” Leger explains, “money is no object.”   3D/4D ultrasound imaging is an optional service not covered by insurance policies. Ledger’s forecast that new moms would pay out of pocket was on-target, even with the economic downturn. On the first day of opening, Leger had three customer walk-ins before she’d even installed a sign out front. Appointments filled up Leger’s schedule quickly, and by the end of the first month, a mere 24 days, Peek-A-Boo Ultrasound had already generated its first profit, a success which most new businesses take a year or more to achieve.    To get Peek-a-Boo Ultrasound off the ground, LSBDC Business Continuity Center at Nicholls State University helped Ledger develop a business plan and offered guidance and support throughout the startup of her business. After the business opened, Leger later applied to a local bank for funding to acquire a newer ultrasound machine for $20,000. After the local bank denied her because the business was “too new”, Leger visited with LSBDC again and received financial guidance, loan packaging assistance, and ultimately $20,000 for the new equipment. “I am thankful for the LSBDC,” Leger says. “Not only did they package a successful loan, but they found me one of the lowest rates I’ve ever heard of. And all for absolutely free.” Leger adds, “Their assistance has been integral in the starting and growing of my business.”  

 

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Health-e Habits for Living

The Louisiana Small Business Development Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette helped Jill Hurley plan, build, brand and grow her business Health-e Habits for Living.

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Diets have come and gone over the decades but the solution for weight loss that has always stood the test of time has been healthy eating and exercise. In twenty years as an occupational therapist, Jill Hurley learned that obese patients could best be cared for by a 360-degree approach that encouraged entire lifestyle changes.

 

In 2008, Hurley put that belief into action and founded Healthe Habits for Living, a unique organization that helps clients eat better, exercise more, lose weight and improve the quality of their life. Focusing on the mental challenges behind making the changes, they also incorporate intense behavioral therapy.

 

“After I started losing weight and saw what a challenge it was, I realized I could help others. There are a lot of mental challenges and we have strategies to help lose weight and keep it off,” she said.

 

Hurley put her idea into action through help from the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. With virtually no business experience, Hurley wanted to find consultants that could help her handle the administrative tasks of getting the business up and running so, she could focus on her job as a clinician. Hurley worked with the center for six months and then worked on start-up tasks and research for two years before opening her doors.

 

The center assisted by helping with everything from writing a business plan and web site design to branding and a developing company identity package. They also helped Hurley fine tune her marketing plan to target and lure the right clientele once she opened her doors. Having never worked in the business world before, Hurley also found human resource issues a challenge and she worked with a center consultant to put together policies and procedures to make sure that everything was in accordance with labor laws and standards.

 

Healthe Habits opened its doors with approximately 20 patients per month and has now grown to serve a volume of more than double that. Healthe Habits also offers classes in everything from Pilates and Zumba to Belly Dancing and Taekwondo. They also offer Camp Healthe, a 16-week program where participants meet once a week to inspire and encourage their lifestyle changes in dieting, exercise and positive thought. Hurley still consults with the center on occasion to help manage the company’s growth.

 

“We now talk about how to grow the business, business strategy and sometimes legal issues or advice, or where to go for certain things. They’ve been a great help,” she said.

 

Contact us today to learn how the LSBDC can help grow your business!

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Pat Roy Crane Enterprise, LLC.

With LSBDC assistance, Pat Roy secured $103,000 in financing and more than doubled his sales.

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Pat Roy first visited the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southern University in August 2007 when he made the decision to take his 20 plus years of crane operating experience and use it to make money for himself. He was interested in starting a crane business that would primarily target companies that use cranes when cutting down trees. Although Roy has years of experience as a Crane Operator, he needed help starting his new business venture. He requested help with the start-up process and with completing his business plan so that he could secure financing. 

Business Consultant Leighton Bryant, provided Roy with information on his financing options, as well as assistance with structuring his business. As a result, Roy secured his initial loan in December 2007, which allowed him to purchase a 30-ton crane and open his business. 

Two years later, after the successful launch of his business, Roy returned to the LSBDC seeking financial assistance.  Bryant helped him with financial projections and packaging an SBA Go Loan.  Again, Roy obtained financing including both a traditional loan and SBA loan. Over the last three years, Roy has received funding totaling $103,000 and has more than doubled his sales.

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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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Hernandez Consulting, LLC

A growing management firm that specializes in government contracts needed to be better prepared for possible business interruptions and ready to implement a business continuity plan in the event the owner should suddenly be absent.

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In the tough world of business startups, a company that withstands the trials and challenges of its early years may seem to have it made. But as businessman Alex Hernandez can attest, even the owner of a thriving company can occasionally overlook key needs.

For Hernandez, the owner of project management firm Hernandez Consulting LLC, the wakeup call came courtesy of his bonding company. As the entity that provides performance guarantees for work that Hernandez Consulting does on large government contracts, the bonding firm a few years ago became worried  about what would happen if Hernandez suddenly weren't around.

"I own the vast majority of my business and I'm intimately involved in its daily operations," he says. "My bonding company was concerned about what would happen to my company if something happened to me."

Hernandez says his bankers voiced similar concerns. His firm had grown quickly, thanks in part to a range of federal benefits accorded to veterans and owners of companies that operate in "historically underutilized"  business zones. (Hernandez is a former U.S. Marine who qualifies as a "service-disabled veteran.") 

The firm also qualified to receive training, business counseling and other support under Section 8 (a) of the Small Business Act.

Armed with that support, Hernandez launched his firm soon after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. His company's first experiences with big storms came later, via hurricanes Gustav and Ike. 

While those storms did not damage his company – in fact, they generated new project management work for it – they also raised questions about whether his business was equipped to withstand a potential interruption. "I really didn't have any concrete plan in place for what would happen if a hurricane put my business out of operation, or if I was overseas and couldn't return, or if I died," he says.

Hernandez sought help from the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Greater New Orleans Region, where he met counselor Jerre Madere. "He was referred to us by the SBA to see about getting a continuity plan and a succession plan," Madere says. "They wanted to see something in writing."

Madere guided Hernandez on how to approach emergency preparedness and business continuity planning, providing him with resources, plan templates and advice on how he could integrate other aspects of his personal and business planning into the new continuity and succession documents.

"He did exactly what we asked him to do," Madere says. Hernandez developed the new plans with SBDC assistance, using templates federally approved for such purposes. "He also addressed things like the order of succession and transfer of responsibilities so that people in the company are trained and ready to do what they need to do if something happens," Madere says.

In addition, LSBDC GNOR referred Hernandez to a program offered through Louisiana Economic Development. Known as the Economic Gardening Program, the initiative offers small businesses access to intense, customized research from the Edward Lowe Foundation.

"They came in and over a three-month period showed me where we might be able to grow our business and maybe diversify into the commercial sector and different sectors within the construction industry," Hernandez says.

That diversification could become more important as his business nears the point where it will no longer qualify for some of the federal designations that helped it grow through the early years. "When that happens to some companies, they go bankrupt," Hernandez says. "I don't want that to happen to us."

Madere says that like many LSBDC clients, Hernandez was pleased that the center's assistance is available free of charge. "The SBDC will work with anyone, from entrepreneurs and startups to existing businesses," she says, noting that persons who qualify under such programs as the SBA's Section 8 (a) can receive  even more intensive hands-on assistance. 

Hernandez says the help he has received has been invaluable.

"Without a succession plan and a business continuity plan, our bonding company at some point probably would have said, 'We're not going to give you any more bonding,' " he says. "Instead, they now can pull our plans out of their filing cabinet and know exactly what to expect" if something should interrupt the company's operation.

His bankers feel more secure as well, and have extended the company a line of credit that Hernandez could not get before the plans were in place.

All of that has enabled him to look deeper into his company's strategies for future growth. "Now we're doing some long-term business planning," he says. "We had our first official strategic planning session this year."

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit www.lsbdc.org or contact LSBDC GNOR at (504) 831-3730 or lsbdc.gnor@lsbdc.org. The LSBDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Louisiana Department of Economic Development, and participating universities. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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101 Mobility Gulf Coast

101 Mobility Gulf Coast Empowers the Mobility-Impaired in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, & Gulfport.

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101 Mobility, a nationwide, full service sales, service and installation provider of mobility products, recently opened a new location in Covington, LA. 101 Mobility Gulf Coast provides mobility solutions to homeowners and businesses across Southeast Louisiana and beyond, including Greater New Orleans, Baton Rouge and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

After working more than 25 years at Johnson and Johnson, Cathy and her husband Chris, a Navy Veteran, decided to take a chance and start their own business. The Hunters researched several franchising opportunities and determined that Mobility 101 was the right fit.

Since neither of them had experience as business owners, the Hunters reached out to the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University for help. Immediately, they found expert advice and consultation on a variety of business matters. 

By conducting a feasibility study, the LSBDC was able to provide the Hunters much-needed insight about the viability of opening a mobility business along the Gulf Coast. Business Consultant Ginger Cangelosi, prepared comprehensive financial projections and helped fine-tune the business plan. “Ginger and Bill [Center Director] were quite helpful in validating our sales and profit projections. They were knowledgeable and provided the insight we needed to make our decision.” 

The Hunters look forward to continuing to build on the momentum that 101 Mobility has established as one of the fastest growing and most comprehensive mobility products and solutions organizations in the nation. 101 Mobility Gulf Coast will focus on helping clients age-in-place by selling, installing, and servicing ramps, stair lifts, automobile lifts, patient lifts, vertical lifts, barrier-free baths and offering complete home modifications to incorporate total accessibility solutions.

101 Mobility is the franchising world’s first full-service sales, service, and installation provider of a complete line of mobility and accessibility products and equipment. By working with patients to identify which home health care devices best suit each individual’s needs, 101 Mobility Gulf Coast provides an alternative to group homes and rehabilitation centers by allowing patients to live self-sufficiently in their homes.

Since opening in March, 101 Mobility Gulf Coast has created two jobs and exceeded sales projections.

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Monte Farms breeds success

“My experience with the LSBDC has been great. I could not have made it this far without them,” Hobdy said. “I tell everyone I know about them.”

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Winnfield, Louisiana isn’t the biggest or most well known city in the state, but that doesn’t mean it can’t produce greatness. In 2014 Winnfield native Le’Montio Hobdy opened Monte Farms, a heritage breed, pasture-raised pork and pastured poultry farm. After consulting with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) at ULM, Hobdy found he could produce success.

With the help of the LSBDC at ULM, before opening the business in late 2014 Hobdy was able to determine critical problems, develop financial models and cost models, and develop a production cycle.

“The biggest thing was the production cycle that they helped me organize so I could have a consistent supply to my customers,” Hobdy said.

Hobdy successfully developed a market for heritage breed hogs and raised poultry products. Monte Farms uses rare breeds of pigs that originate from England to produce a superlative pork product. All of its pigs and chickens are raised on open pastures and they have 24-hour access to fresh grass. The company’s promise for success garnered Hobdy with the LSBDC at ULM Rising Star Award presented in May 2015. Hobdy has quickly experienced vast success as he supplies to some of Louisiana’s top-ranked eateries, including Monroe’s, Cotton; as well as restaurants owned by the world-renowned restaurateur Dickie Brennan of New Orleans.

“We were able to really get Le’Montio going in the right direction as far as cost projection, growth projection and website development,” LSBDC Project Director Barry Parker said. “His business is very unique and non-traditional, but Le’Montio is a very sharp guy and we have a really good relationship.”

The LSBDC didn’t just limit Hobdy to ULM’s center, the Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region also chipped in to make sure Monte Farms would produce great success, along with the great meat.

Hobdy received consultation from Dianne Sclafani, Business Consultant who is a Restaurant and Food Specialist at the Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region Center. Sclafani was able to help Hobdy strategize to find more clients Monte Farms could distribute to.

“My experience with the LSBDC has been great. I could not have made it this far without them,” Hobdy said. “I tell everyone I know about them."

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LSBDC at ULM puts a nice touch on Parker Collision

“The LSBDC was extremely helpful and they did a fantastic job helping us get our business up and running,” the Parkers said.

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Brandon Parker grew up in the auto repair industry and knew someday he’d be a leader in the business. He stuck with his raising and what he knew, eventually became a member of the Board of Collision Association and proved to not only be a leader but an expert. He was just missing one thing – his own company.

With several expert certificates under his name and a strong clientele, he and his wife Emily decided it was time to start their own paint and body shop.

The Parker couple went to a local bank and it was there that they were recommended to meet with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at University of Louisiana at Monroe (LSBDC at ULM).

The Parkers went to the LSBDC at ULM where Center Director Virendra Chhikara helped with their business plan, market research, strategic organization and other areas of the business that eventually helped launch Parker Collision Center, located at 3331 Sterlington Road in Monroe.

The LSBDC at ULM helped the Parkers utilize about $238,000 in capital to start the business and create 5 new jobs.

“The LSBDC was extremely helpful and they did a fantastic job helping us get our business up and running,” the Parkers said.

Brandon Parker said his only goal is to fix cars to the best of his ability and to simply look after the customer, and he backs that statement with professional certifications such as; Sherwin Williams Color Adjustment and Blending, I-CAR Platinum High Level of Individual Technical Training, Vale National Automotive Estimatics 3000, I-CAR certificate of Advanced training, and Estimating Solutions for Profit.

“He [Brandon] knew what he wanted to do and had the talent, he just didn’t know how to get started,” Chhikara said.

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ProForce, LLC

"It really helped to have a third party to look over our shoulder, give us feedback and help move things along. As a small business owner it's not always easy to do on your own"

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Founded in 2003, ProForce, LLC is a Gulf Coast leader in storm response cleanup programs for utility companies. Since its founding, the company has responded to five hurricanes, six tornadoes and two ice storms. ProForce's reputation and sales have grown over the years, but owner Mike Tilly said they eventually had to expand beyond their niche to grow their business.   "Storms don't happen every day, so we needed help with creating a strategy to market our services and expand our market," said Tilly.   Tilly approached the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University in 2010. LSBDC Sales Consultant Scott Uffman offered to help design a sales and marketing plan to target new markets. They started by carefully selecting smaller companies that needed niche services and identified a list of thirty candidates that fit the bill.   With the assistance of the LSBDC, ProForce then went through the list and created a custom marketing package for each company. Tilly would call the companies then tailor his pitch to demonstrate exactly how they could meet that prospective client's needs. For some that was construction site preparation, for others it was first responder management of downed transformers. Each part of the plan called for perfect customization of pitches and proposals that were geared to a particular company.   "We just started making contact and went through the milestones of face-to-face meetings, documentation for the bids, putting in a bid and then winning the contract," said Tilly.   By honing the list and focusing on just the right companies, ProForce was able to enter a less competitive market that increased the success rate on bids. Instead of bidding on jobs against ten to fifteen competitors, they were now bidding on more projects where they were only one of two or three.   The plan worked and over the course of two months ProForce was able to land 5 new clients that eventually brought in an additional $1.2 million in revenue. The company has since added ten new jobs, five of which Tilly believes are permanent. He said that while many small businesses have great marketing ideas, owners often struggle to implement them because they are so bogged down with other tasks. The LSBDC took that hassle out of the equation.   "It really helped to have a third party to look over our shoulder, give us feedback and help move things along. As a small business owner it's not always easy to do on your own," he said.

 

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Eagle Capital Management

Eagle Capital Management, a Metairie-based financial services company, was able to strengthen and improve their business continuity plan with the help of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at University of Louisiana Lafayette.

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When Hurricane Katrina struck southeastern Louisiana in 2005, it was a wake up call for many small businesses. Thousands of business owners had to temporarily relocate their operations to Baton Rouge and Lafayette for weeks, even months. Some closed their doors with Katrina and never reopened, others never went back to New Orleans. Those who weathered the disaster learned that a business continuity plan was essential to their recovery.   Metairie-based Eagle Capital Management, with over $180 Million in assets under management, survived Katrina's fury, but Executive Vice President Ken Ross eventually saw need for improvement. Sometimes a continuity plan needs to be put to the test before vulnerabilities can be discovered. Until Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleans businesses were used to evacuating for a few days then returning home. Few were prepared to be shut out of their city for a month or more.   "You're always looking to make things better. You always planned on being back in a few days but it wasn't that way in Katrina. There were some glitches we wanted to work out," said Ross.   Ross contacted the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at UL Lafayette in 2009 and enlisted the services of Business Continuity Consultant Glen Curole. They worked together to identify areas where the continuity plan could be improved and went over insurance information, relocation contingencies and how to get the business back up and running in the event of a disaster. They also reviewed many risks the business faced from hurricanes and floods to technology failures and national disasters. For each one of those events, they identified ideal solutions and contingencies.   Because Eagle Capital Management's most important asset is its client and market information, one of the most important elements was checking double redundancy to protect data and be able to access it in the event of a disaster.  A contingency was also set up to secure temporary office space in Lafayette to allow for a seamless transition should another disaster arise.   "One major problem we had was that our cell phones didn't work. The problem surfaced when the local phone company lost several central offices due to flooding. As a result, the database containing information to allow incoming cell phone calls to be completed was also lost. With assistance from LSBDC Business Continuity Consultant Curole, Eagle Capital Management developed a new strategy to ensure continued communication and operations of their firm. The revised plan now includes securing cell phones with area codes outside of New Orleans. That way, even though the local cell phone database is lost Eagle Capital will still be able to receive incoming calls if towers are operational because the database needed to complete the call will reside in a different city.   One of the most important things about the new business continuity plan is that it has been codified and put in writing. Curole said it is critical to document plans so they can be shared with employees and provide a solid roadmap to recovery.   "The purpose of business continuity planning is to increase the odds that your company will survive a disaster. We help small businesses thoroughly prepare for the risks and help them plan accordingly. Your clients and employees are counting on you," said Curole.

 

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Go Green With Goats LLC

The LSBDC at Northwestern State University used market and industry data to help Jennifer Robinette start a goat landscaping business.

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In February 2011, Jennifer Robinette sought the assistance of the LSBDC at Northwestern State University in Alexandria, LA, for assistance with starting a goat landscaping business. Goat landscaping is an environmentally friendly solution to clear weeds, tall grass, bushes, etc.   LSBDC at NSU Consultant Lee McCallister, worked with Robinette to conduct industry and market research, which involved benchmarking similar businesses across the country. The research revealed that goat landscaping could be a profitable venture for Robinette. McCallister used the results from the study to prepare multiple cash flow analyses.   With the market and industry research in hand, Robinette forged ahead. Robinette decided to make a commitment to turn her idea into a business and started Going Green With Goats. Four months after the initial meeting with the McCallister, Robinette and her herd of 45 goats turned a profit on their first landscaping project.   "The assistance provided by the LSBDC at Northwestern State University gave me the confidence I needed to start our business," said Robinette.   Robinette is currently working with the LSBDC at NSU to market her services and build her brand.

 

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Bait House Seafood

"When the oil spill happened, we didn’t know if our business would survive. But with the help of the LSBDC, we were able to restructure our business, which has helped us mitigate our losses and increase sales."

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Samantha Sevin, owner of Bait House Seafood in Chauvin, LA, is dedicated to making her customers happy.  Bait House, in business since 1998, is a family-run operation maintained by Sevin, her husband O'Neal, daughter Stacy, and son Ryan.  In April 2010, as a result of the Oil Spill, Bait House found themselves running the only live bait shop in the area.  This resulted in lines outside the store every morning before fishing time.  It was such a crowd that Sevin had to put up a fence to keep people from spilling into the establishment.  While the customers stood in line, she would walk among them making conversation.  She had many requests for small retail items such as breakfast items, fountain drinks, sandwiches, etc. In hopes of pleasing her customers, would make nightly trips to Wal-Mart just to get the items that they were requesting. In over a month, Sevin turned the Bait House into a retail store.   When Mohanad Mohammed, Business Consultant for the LSBDC Business Continuity Center at Nicholls State University, arrived for a site visit to help Sevin with her claim for damages from the Oil Spill, he found that she needed some guidance in stepping into a formal retail business role. With a continued focus on customer satisfaction, Mohammed encouraged Sevin to work with wholesalers in New Orleans to provide the requested goods and services requested by her new customers.   The business has evolved into a showcase example of business continuity.  Bait House Seafood has experienced many disasters and interruptions including hurricanes and oil spills.  While enduring so many calamities, the family established itself as a business that can weather any disaster both natural and man-made.   “When the oil spill happened, we didn’t know if our business would survive. But with the help of the LSBDC, we were able to restructure our business, which has helped us mitigate our losses and increase sales.”

 

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Pender Industrial

Pender Industrial is a manufacturer's representative and industrial equipment distributor based in Monroe, La. Founded by a husband and wife team in 2004, the company has grown to over $3.6 million in sales.

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When a husband has extensive industrial sales experience and the wife has marketing and business experience, it can be tempting to start their own business when they see the opportunity. That is exactly what happened in 2004 when John and Renee Pender founded Pender Industrial.

Based in Monroe, La., Pender Industrial is a manufacturer's representative and distributor for instrumentation valves and parts for chemical plants, energy plants and paper mills. Pender services clients in Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Alabama.

When Renee Pender and her husband started thinking about forming a business in 2003, Renee went straight to her alma mater for help. She consulted with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at the University of Louisiana Monroe to begin working on a brief business plan and feasibility study to determine if starting the business would be the right move. They had a foot in the industry and the sales skills to go with it but they had to crunch numbers to see if it was right for them.

"They really helped with the numbers. At the time, we didn't know how much we'd have to borrow and we fine-tuned the business and marketing plan to see if it was even feasible," said Pender.

They started the business in their home and kept inventory in a small shop but things grew quickly. Within a couple of years they moved into a 4,300-square-foot warehouse and now have seven employees including herself and her husband. Pender said they have always gone back to the center for advice when considering adding more staff. They run a cost/benefit analysis to find out how much the new employee will have to sell to break even and how they need to price salary and commission.

So far things have gone well. Pender had a $700,000 sale within six months of opening their doors and in 2010, they had $3.6 million in sales. Pender said they are also exploring the opportunity of branding their own product line of valves.

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Hope Therapy Center

With help from the LSBDC at McNeese State University, Kim Anderson and Sonya Brooks secured $100,000 in capital to jumpstart their business.

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Kim Anderson and Sonya Brooks had a shared vision to open a therapy clinic that provided customized treatment plans with evidence-based approaches from licensed therapists. 

Anderson, former Director of Rehab for Physical Therapy Specialists of Baton Rouge, and Brooks, a Clinical Supervisor for Language Pathology, reached out to the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese State University for assistance with starting their business. 

Without prior business experience, Anderson and Brooks needed guidance on all aspects of the startup process, which included determining whether or not their business would be feasible. Business Consultant Kyle Ardoin assisted the soon to be entrepreneurs with identifying revenue streams and developing financial projections and a financial model which were used to determined the feasibility of what would become Hope Therapy Center. With LSBDC, Anderson and Brooks also obtained $100,000 in capitalization to jumpstart their business. Ardoin also helped structure their business and develop an operational agreement.

Since the opening of Hope Therapy Center, the staff, treatment center, and specialized therapy programs have been expanded. “Opening our own clinic allowed us to hand-pick those therapists who share our vision and ethics,” said Brooks. “And our goal is to continually challenge each other to try new and innovative approaches to treatment.”

Today Hope Therapy Center is a successful business with annual sales exceeding $500,000.

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SMS Distributions

A new website and sales training helped Superior Marketing Solutions double its sale in 2010 and are on pace to double sales again in 2011.

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In 2009, after 20 years in sales and management, Randy Bowers opened SMS Distributions his wife, Henrietta. The company has quickly built a reputation in two major areas: (1) providing exceptional customer service 24/7, and (2) merging green technology with common sense solutions. SMS supplies a vast array of products, from baby wipes to bulldozers and to places as diverse as medical offices and prisons. 

The Bowers sold many of their personal possessions and got by with little sleep and little money in order to jumpstart their business. They also visited the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at LSU Shreveport, which helped with website development through Louisiana Economic Development’s Small & Emerging Business program, a move that Henrietta claims, “has been critical in the growth [SMS] has experienced.”  In addition, the Bowers took advantage of sales training taught by Jerry Frentress at the LSBDC. According to their son, Chase Bowers, this training has been crucial to the business’ success: “Sending our sales people to Jerry Frentress’ class was absolutely one of the best investments that our company has made in our salespeople.” 

Today, the company’s brightly wrapped SUV can be spotted both day and night, delivering office supplies, commercial laundry systems, janitorial supplies, and specialty chemicals throughout Shreveport-Bossier City.

SMS’s attention to customer service has helped the company’s sales double in 2010, and sales are on track to double again in 2011. SMS was named one of the Top 5 Small Businesses of the Year by the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce in 2011 and was nominated for the Better Business Bureau Torch Award.

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UTILIWORKS Consulting, LLC

"The resources available at the center have been extremely valuable to our organization. The relationships we have formed with the staff have provided us guidance and expanded opportunities."

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UTILIWORKS Consulting is a professional services company that helps utility clients assess, design, procure, and deploy advanced metering systems. Formed in 2005 by Dale Pennington, the business and technology solution architect for the company, and Todd Barlow, the VP of Operations, UTILIWORKS has packaged their collective expertise in a unique process called “The UTILIWORKS Advantage.”  

Consultants from the LSBDC worked with UTILIWORKS in their business and financial planning efforts. Todd Barlow says, “The resources available at the center have been extremely valuable to our organization. The relationships we have formed with the staff have provided us guidance and expanded opportunities.”

UTILIWORKS has recently signed multi-year contracts for the City of Topeka, KS, the City of Ruston, LA, and Long Island Power Authority. UWC has completed successful projects for more than 20 clients and currently has a work-in-progress backlog to support the next 24 months of operations. They also plan to hire an additional 20-30 people over the next three years. 

UTILIWORKS clients have received national recognition for the following:

DOE ARRA SGIG grant for the following clients: the City of Ruston, LA and the Town of Danvers, MA Smart Grid Project of the Year: City of Ruston, LA (2010), City of San Marcos, TX (2010) AMI Project of the Year: City of San Marcos, TX (2009) 
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LSBDC at ULL makes a splash with the Pond Doctor

“The LSBDC at ULL was very helpful in making my dream become a reality,” Bertrand said. “I had the op­portunity to discuss strategy and develop a business plan to secure my loan. In addition, the center functions as a resource that I can always access as a business owner.”

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When you see a demand and create the only supply, your business is set for success. With the help of the LSBDC at ULL, David Bertrand has started his business, the Pond Doctor, and is moving in the right direction.

Pond Doctor is a service-type business offering the re­moval of weeds found in ponds, bayous, fisheries and streams. The services provided by Pond Doctor using an amphibious vehicle are not currently offered in Louisiana or adjacent surrounding states.

Talk about a unique start-up right?

“The LSBDC at ULL was very helpful in making my dream become a reality,” Bertrand said. “I had the op­portunity to discuss strategy and develop a business plan to secure my loan. In addition, the center functions as a resource that I can always access as a business owner.”

The LSBDC helped Bertrand develop his business plan, financial models and price structuring, and marketing. Bertrand was able to receive $240,000 in capital, start his business and has been successfully moving towards strong business growth.

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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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Ron’s Cajun Boudin

LSBDC at University of Louisiana Monroe helped ULM Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Washington realize his dream of owning a specialty meat retail store.

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Since he was a child, Ronnie C. Washington always knew he wanted to own his own business. While attending the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM), he started taking various business classes to learn about entrepreneurship. Years later, Washington sought the LSBDC at University of Louisiana Monroe to help make his dream of owning a specialty meat store a reality.   The LSBDC at ULM helped Washington streamline his business idea and develop a plan of action to get his business off the ground. With assistance from the center, Washington also participated in the Microenterprise Development Program offered by Louisiana Economic Development. During this three-month business development course, he received entrepreneurial training, financial literacy, and other specialized training to increase his business knowledge and to help ensure his business venture would be a success. “Through the workshops I learned the importance of research, preparation, and financial planning,” said Washington.    Over the years Washington saved money and in 2000 began trying out various recipes for what would become known as Ron’s Cajun Boudin. Once he perfected his recipe, Washington hit the streets and in 2006, he sold his first links.    Four years later, Washington opened his retail location at 1502 South Second Street in Monroe, LA, using his personal savings. Today, Ron’s Cajun Boudin generates sufficient income to cover his operating expenses and is returning a profit. He has expanded his product line to eight different boudin flavors (Chicken, Cajun, Crawfish, Beef, Shrimp, Turkey, Sweet Italian, and Jalapeño Cajun), seafood gumbo, as well as stuffed Cornish hens and stuffed pork chops. Washington, a 2007 ULM Football Hall of Fame inductee, sells his products locally and ships all over the United States.    “Dr. Dunn taught me the importance of location (‘location, location, location’), and the importance of adequate preparation and research,” said Washington. “Most businesses fail because of poor preparation, and I did not want that to happen to me.”

 

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Power Pro Performance

"They really guided me through the process of starting a business. I always knew I wanted to go into business for myself but I just didn’t know where to start"

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Originally founded as Power Pro 4x4 in 2009, Power Pro Performance is a truck service and ATV repair company based in Natchitoches.

President Ryan French started Power Pro with an original vision to create an ATV service and parts business. He tapped into the resources of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Northwestern State University and used market research to find the best location and model for his operation. In early 2010, he opened his business with a showroom for parts and accessories and a shop for repair. French said he always had mechanical skill and entrepreneurial aspirations, but never knew how to get a business off the ground.

“They really guided me through the process of starting a business. I always knew I wanted to go into business for myself but I just didn’t know where to start,” he said.

Things started off well and through reviewing his profit and loss statements with the LSBDC, French discovered that ATV repair grew to constitute 75% of his revenues. The problem was that the ATV business wasn’t very steady. With a limited and hard-to-find market of private ATV owners, he had to wait for customers to come to him.

When work started to slow down, French used local networking to find a couple of jobs doing service work on semi-trailer trucks. Soon after landing his first corporate customer, a natural gas company that was working on the Haynesville shale project, he discovered that he could offer companies a more cost-effective solution by bringing his repair services out into the field.

As those side jobs increased, French started to rethink his business model, services and market. Whereas ATV owners were hard to target and work was hard to find, tractor trailers were everywhere and they could be accessed through trucking companies. He turned back to the LSBDC who provided him with an informal market analysis and list of companies working on the project.

“We just found a bigger market for it and endless jobs. With ATVs, you’re just waiting for someone to bring you work. It was never a problem finding work with trucks,” said French.

French never wanted to give up ATVs for good, but he would have to dramatically shift his business focus towards trucks if he wanted to thrive. In September 2010, French changed the name of his company from Power Pro 4x4 to Power Pro Performance. It offers mechanics around the clock for on-site repairs and has four roadside trucks and five employees. French said the company now has annual sales of more than $350,000 per year and is also expanding into other services such as welding and industrial power washing.

“We now have our hands in quite a few things. We’ve just changed our business to go where the opportunities are,” said French.

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Center for Chiropractic and Rehabilitation

"As physicians, we spent eight years being educated in the clinical sciences, not in business or finance. We had a concept of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go as a business, but the steps that must be taken to get there require expert counsel..."

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The Center for Chiropractic and Rehabilitation relocated and expanded its operations in the spring of 2010. Specializing in chiropractic, medical massage therapy, spinal decompression traction, and spinal rehabilitation, the Center offers non-medicinal, non-surgical treatment for spinal or other musculoskeletal conditions. Owner, Dr. Donald R. Thigpen, graduated cum laude from McNeese State University in 2000 and was valedictorian of his class at Texas Chiropractic College. His experience includes anatomy lab instructor and rotations in neurosurgery and rheumatology. He is also a nationally certified and licensed massage therapist. Joining Dr. Thigpen is Scott DeRouen, DC. and Damon Cormier, DC. These three doctors provide a combined 40 years of highly qualified experience in their respective fields.

Before expanding his business venture, Thigpen sought the resources of the LSBDC at McNeese State University. LSBDC at McNeese State University helped Thigpen develop a 36-month financial projection and identifying revenue streams, which combined to create a financial model, which was used to secure a $685,000 commercial loan. The loan helped purchase a building that now houses the Center. Business Consultant Ardoin also helped with the organizational structure and operating agreement.

“As physicians, we spent eight years being educated in the clinical sciences, not in business or finance. We had a concept of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go as a business, but the steps that must be taken to get there require expert counsel,” said Thigpen.  “Our consultations opened our eyes to what initial expenses we would be facing, how to involve our accountant and attorney in the process, and how to avoid common pitfalls faced by first-time business owners.”

Since seeking LSBDC assistance, sales have increased by 5% and 3 jobs were created.

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Patton Industrial Services, LLC

Developing a new website and installing QuickBooks Point of Sales Software helped Patton Industrial better manage inventory and increase sales by 30%.

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Patton  Industrial Services, owned by Karen and Travis Lawrence, custom blends detergents for use in the railroad, oilfield and trucking industries. Purchased as an existing business, Patton Industrial was renamed and opened in February 2007. The company sells and services Alkota hot/cold industrial pressure washers and operates a small welding and fabrication facility.

After attending several workshops at the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at LSU Shreveport, Karen Lawrence received marketing and promotional assistance. They also became certified in Louisiana Economic Development’s Small and Emerging Business Development program where she received website development assistance. Karen Lawrence reflects that, “Our website project has brought Patton Industrial to another level to keep up with the business world today. Thanks to the LSBDC, we were able to increase sales by 30%."

The LSBDC at LSU Shreveport was then able to use the SEBD program to help the company with setup and training on Quickbook’s Point of Sale to more accurately track inventory. That project was complete in December 2010, and Lawrence states that, “Adding software to better manage inventory could not have come at a better time in the growth of Patton Industrial. With continued growth in sales, Patton can better serve our community and offer positions for employment.”

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AGL Architecture and Interior Design

"When you're a small firm you can't afford to have an in-house financial officer everyday. The LSBDC gave us access to someone that has the business knowledge to guide us"

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Founded in 2003, AGL Architecture and Interior Design is an award-winning design firm based in Metairie. AGL originally focused on the niche of High Rise Tenant Build-Out services for Class "A" office buildings in New Orleans, but when the economy started to sink in 2009, owner and president Brian Anderson said they had to look for new options.

"We realized that we had to branch out and move on to other areas because when the economy slows down, so too does the need for office renovation. We had to do more than interior architecture," he said.

In 2010, Anderson approached consultant Christian Galvin at the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Greater New Orleans Region to find new markets.  Through him they discovered the Small Entrepreneurship (SE) Program (also known as the Hudson Initiative) which opened the doors to new contracts. They were also able to secure a $3,750 grant from Louisiana Economic Development that helped cover the cost of 3D modeling training with Google Sketchup. That new skill allowed AGL to present 3D renderings to clients instead of boring one-dimensional drawings.

The biggest benefit was that Galvin helped AGL forecast future sales and opportunities to analyze the prospect of hiring new employees. Anderson said the firm's constant pattern of finding work then doing the job would have to give way to more steady marketing. They discovered that adding the right kind of support personnel would give AGL the ability to take on bigger jobs.

"We bit the bullet and hired more people. That allowed me to get out of the office more and figure out more ways to market and grow the company," said Anderson.

AGL eventually added 3 new jobs and increased its sales volume by $150,000 annually. From interior design in high-rise buildings, the company has successfully moved into historic preservation and adaptive reuse and now has the capability to take on new types of work. AGL was also awarded two new ground-up construction projects in the past year. Anderson said having the ability to tap into expert assistance and guidance has opened up an entire new door for AGL.

"When you're a small firm you can't afford to have an in-house financial officer everyday. The LSBDC gave us access to someone that has the business knowledge to guide us," he said.

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Storm Guard of LA, LLC

Storm Guard formed a strong relationship with the LSBDC at UL Lafayette and deems the cooperation as an invaluable resource for providing guidance and support in making strategic business decisions.

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Both Marine Corps veterans who served together in Iraq, the Florida-based husband-and-wife team of James and Katrina Nowosielski had a dream of opening their own business. With strong family roots in Louisiana, the couple decided to move here following the hurricanes of 2005 and open a business providing storm protection products for property owners.   Working with the LSBDC at UL Lafayette even while still living in Florida, the Nowosielskis began to put together their vision of the company, its financial needs and market focus. Once the couple moved to the Lafayette area and continued their collaboration with the LSBDC at UL Lafayette, they executed their plan to establish and grow their new company.   With a Small Business Administration-guaranteed line of credit, the company started out of a home office with a workshop at a small family owned building. Subsequently, sales continue to increase and assure sustainability for this small business.   Storm Guard, LLC specializes in the sales, installation and manufacture of hurricane protective products including roll-down, accordion-style shutters and metal hurricane panels. The company currently employs 3 full-time and 2 part-time employees and, with the expansion of manufacturing into its own line of shutters and powder-coating applications, the company intends to hire additional employees, particuarly U.S. military veterans.   Storm Guard of LA is now an active member of the International Hurricane Protective Association, American Shutter Systems Association and the Acadian Home Builders Association.   The company has continued its relationship with the LSBDC at UL Lafayette and deems the cooperation as an invaluable resource for providing guidance and support in making strategic business decisions.   Additionally, James and Katrina credit the U.S. military for their strong work effort and the ability to get the job done. In addition to being military veterans, James and Katrina are young entrepreneurs that have returned to Louisiana to invest in their community. They look forward to great possibilities for the future in developing a sustainable business and producing quality job opportunities for the state of Louisiana.   The Nowosielski's long range goal is to become the manufacturing hub for the Western Gulf Coast Region.
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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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Dr. 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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SMS Distributions

A new website and sales training helped Superior Marketing Solutions double its sale in 2010 and are on pace to double sales again in 2011.

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In 2009, after 20 years in sales and management, Randy Bowers opened SMS Distributions his wife, Henrietta. The company has quickly built a reputation in two major areas: (1) providing exceptional customer service 24/7, and (2) merging green technology with common sense solutions. SMS supplies a vast array of products, from baby wipes to bulldozers and to places as diverse as medical offices and prisons. 

The Bowers sold many of their personal possessions and got by with little sleep and little money in order to jumpstart their business. They also visited the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at LSU Shreveport, which helped with website development through Louisiana Economic Development’s Small & Emerging Business program, a move that Henrietta claims, “has been critical in the growth [SMS] has experienced.”  In addition, the Bowers took advantage of sales training taught by Jerry Frentress at the LSBDC. According to their son, Chase Bowers, this training has been crucial to the business’ success: “Sending our sales people to Jerry Frentress’ class was absolutely one of the best investments that our company has made in our salespeople.” 

Today, the company’s brightly wrapped SUV can be spotted both day and night, delivering office supplies, commercial laundry systems, janitorial supplies, and specialty chemicals throughout Shreveport-Bossier City.

SMS’s attention to customer service has helped the company’s sales double in 2010, and sales are on track to double again in 2011. SMS was named one of the Top 5 Small Businesses of the Year by the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce in 2011 and was nominated for the Better Business Bureau Torch Award.

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Go Green With Goats LLC

The LSBDC at Northwestern State University used market and industry data to help Jennifer Robinette start a goat landscaping business.

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In February 2011, Jennifer Robinette sought the assistance of the LSBDC at Northwestern State University in Alexandria, LA, for assistance with starting a goat landscaping business. Goat landscaping is an environmentally friendly solution to clear weeds, tall grass, bushes, etc.   LSBDC at NSU Consultant Lee McCallister, worked with Robinette to conduct industry and market research, which involved benchmarking similar businesses across the country. The research revealed that goat landscaping could be a profitable venture for Robinette. McCallister used the results from the study to prepare multiple cash flow analyses.   With the market and industry research in hand, Robinette forged ahead. Robinette decided to make a commitment to turn her idea into a business and started Going Green With Goats. Four months after the initial meeting with the McCallister, Robinette and her herd of 45 goats turned a profit on their first landscaping project.   "The assistance provided by the LSBDC at Northwestern State University gave me the confidence I needed to start our business," said Robinette.   Robinette is currently working with the LSBDC at NSU to market her services and build her brand.

 

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Open Arms After Hours Child Enrichment Center, LLC

"The staff at the LSBDC at University of Louisiana Monroe assisted me with a business plan to assess the feasibility of the day care facility and put me in contact with a non-traditional lender who helped finance the construction."

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Chloris Faulkner purchased land in June 2007 in hopes that one day she could open a childcare center where families can access educational childcare that prepares children for success in school and life.   “After several years of planning, meetings, and set-backs, construction finally began in December 2009,” said Faulkner. The Faulkners held a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony on July 17, 2010 and began accepting children later that month.   The childcare center, located at 801 St. John Street in Monroe, LA, currently has seven employees. The childcare center operates from 6am to 12 noon Monday through Saturday with open enrollment.    “The staff at the LSBDC at University of Louisiana Monroe assisted me with a business plan to assess the feasibility of the day care facility, “ said Faulkner. “They also put me in contact with a non-traditional lender, Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, who helped finance the construction.”

 

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Limousine Livery

With help from the LSBDC Greater New Orleans Region, Aaron Dirks created a online airport transportation booking website to save its struggling luxury transportation business.

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Aaron Dirks, a native of Baton Rouge, owns and operates Limousine Livery in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite the recession, Aaron and his wife decided to expand their business so that they could create revenue and maintain their current employees. They saw a void in the aggregation of airport transportation in the New Orleans area and the U.S. as a whole. The couple sought to create a web-booking portal that provided consumers with a safe and reliable source of airport transportation.   Since creating a professional and interactive website was paramount, they initiated the help of LSBDC Greater New Orleans Region. Through the Louisiana Economic Development Small and Emerging Business Development Program (SEBD), LSBDC GNOR helped Dirks obain $10,000 in partial funding to create the website. Soon after, MyAirportTrip.com was born. According to Dirks, “LSBDC was critical and instrumental in establishing this business model. This effort has enabled us to save our limousine business as well as start an entirely new business that has the potential to create hundreds of new jobs in Louisiana.”   To date, MyAirportTrip.com sales are projected to increase by $500,000, and three new jobs have been created while retaining five.

 

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Wireless Zone

Lucas and Viola secured SBA financing to purchase and operate a Wireless Zone, the largest independent Verizon Wireless franchise in America.

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Wireless Zone, the largest independent Verizon Wireless franchise in America, has been around since the dawn of the cell phone age. Current product offerings include the latest cellular/wireless phones, GPS navigation, wireless accessories, Verizon FIOS High Speed Fiber Optic Network, wireless data devices, and pre-paid cellular services. 

Owners, Lucas and Viola Caruso came to LSBDC while exploring the possibility of purchasing an existing Wireless Zone. Lucas has been in the wireless industry for 32 years and has developed and built over 125 stores in several US markets.  The team at the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University assisted the Carusos with valuing the business and completing a business plan to submit for SBA financing. “The Center helped us to tailor our business plan specific to the needs of our company,” said Viola. “They helped us get the financing we needed to expand our business.” 

As a result, Wireless Zone secured SBA financing to support the current operation.  The Carusos are planning to expand by opening multiple stores in Southeast Louisiana.

Since the transfer of ownership, Wireless Zone has exceeded its projected goals and contributes this success to enhanced customer care, word of mouth marketing and sales culture adjustment.

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Advanced Audio Video Technology, LLC

"Consulting with the LSBDC at McNeese gave me the tools and perspective I needed to open Advanced Audio Video Technology as a full-time business. I have continued to talk with the LSBDC consultants as I’ve grown, getting check-ups along the way to improve my operations."

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Ethan Miller has always enjoyed working with audio and video equipment. He used to work for a local company in Lake Charles installing A/V technology and systems and even volunteered his skills for his church. Over time, word spread about his abilities and several other churches hired him to install and repair their sound systems in his spare time.

When Ethan decided to turn his part-time A/V business into a full-time business, he first met with a consultant at the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese State University. Because his wife and children depended upon him, Ethan wanted to ensure his future would be as secure as possible.

Together, Ethan and the consultant reviewed his financial statements and marketing plan. They worked toward determining what it would take to build the part-time income into a business that could support his family. In February of 2008, Ethan turned in his notice at his old job and became a full-time entrepreneur, opening Advanced Audio Video Technology as a home-based business.   

Within two years, Ethan has hired two employees to install equipment, added a part-time bookkeeper/clerk, and purchased a building to house his growing business. His sales for 2009 were more than double those for 2008. In addition to continued growth in 2010, he secured a $250,000 contract for work on a new church to be built in DeQuincy. Based on his reputation, integrity and work ethic, the church has given him a $200,000 deposit to start the project. With a new project underway, sales for 2010 are projected to reach $560,000.

Among his clientele there are dozens of area churches, several commercial accounts, and several schools – his company is a certified installer and service center of Promethean Boards, an interactive white board that is being used in many learning environments. Ethan recently received his general contractor’s license, and will soon take the test for an electrician’s license. Using assistance from the Small and Emerging Business Development program, provided by Louisiana Economic Development, Ethan received specialized A/V training in Ohio in September.  In the next few weeks, the business continuity consultant from the LSBDC at McNeese will work with Ethan to review insurance needs for his growing business.

Ethan has continued to meet with the LSBDC, taking advantage of the consulting services whenever he has needed help concerning different opportunities or problems along the way. “When I decided to leave the security of working for someone else, I realized that planning my company’s future was the key to success” said Ethan. “Consulting with the LSBDC at McNeese gave me the tools and perspective I needed to open Advanced Audio Video Technology as a full-time business. I have continued to talk with the LSBDC consultants as I’ve grown, getting check-ups along the way to improve my operations.”

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Mama Reta’s Kitchen brings the soul to food in Lake Charles

“The LSBDC at MSU worked with me to develop a business plan so that I’d understand how to operate my restaurant profitably,” Durgan said. “I consider the LSBDC my ally and I would recommend that anyone planning a new business talk with them.”

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When you’re a great chef, it’s only right that you pursue your own restaurant. That’s what Reta Durgan did in Lake Charles. After working in the restaurant business, she decided she wanted her own and reached out to the LSBDC at McNeese State University where Center Director Donna Little helped carve out her dreams and make them a reality.

Now, Durgan is the owner and chef of Mama Reta’s Kitchen, LLC, located at 345 Broad St. in Lake Charles, bringing home cooking and soul food to southwest Louisiana.

The LSBDC at MSU helped Durgan write a business plan, develop three years of financial projections, develop a menu list and explained start-up inventory. After several years of directing Durgan to a successful position, including connecting her with LSBDC restaurant consultant Dianne Sclafani, she was finally ready to officially start her restaurant business.

The LSBDC at MSU helped her acquire $25,000 in capitalization and create eight jobs.

“The LSBDC at MSU worked with me to develop a business plan so that I’d understand how to operate my restaurant profitably,” Durgan said. “I consider the LSBDC my ally and I would recommend that anyone planning a new business talk with them.”

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Patton Industrial Services, LLC

Developing a new website and installing QuickBooks Point of Sales Software helped Patton Industrial better manage inventory and increase sales by 30%.

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Patton  Industrial Services, owned by Karen and Travis Lawrence, custom blends detergents for use in the railroad, oilfield and trucking industries. Purchased as an existing business, Patton Industrial was renamed and opened in February 2007. The company sells and services Alkota hot/cold industrial pressure washers and operates a small welding and fabrication facility.

After attending several workshops at the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at LSU Shreveport, Karen Lawrence received marketing and promotional assistance. They also became certified in Louisiana Economic Development’s Small and Emerging Business Development program where she received website development assistance. Karen Lawrence reflects that, “Our website project has brought Patton Industrial to another level to keep up with the business world today. Thanks to the LSBDC, we were able to increase sales by 30%."

The LSBDC at LSU Shreveport was then able to use the SEBD program to help the company with setup and training on Quickbook’s Point of Sale to more accurately track inventory. That project was complete in December 2010, and Lawrence states that, “Adding software to better manage inventory could not have come at a better time in the growth of Patton Industrial. With continued growth in sales, Patton can better serve our community and offer positions for employment.”

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Power Pro Performance

"They really guided me through the process of starting a business. I always knew I wanted to go into business for myself but I just didn’t know where to start"

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Originally founded as Power Pro 4x4 in 2009, Power Pro Performance is a truck service and ATV repair company based in Natchitoches.

President Ryan French started Power Pro with an original vision to create an ATV service and parts business. He tapped into the resources of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Northwestern State University and used market research to find the best location and model for his operation. In early 2010, he opened his business with a showroom for parts and accessories and a shop for repair. French said he always had mechanical skill and entrepreneurial aspirations, but never knew how to get a business off the ground.

“They really guided me through the process of starting a business. I always knew I wanted to go into business for myself but I just didn’t know where to start,” he said.

Things started off well and through reviewing his profit and loss statements with the LSBDC, French discovered that ATV repair grew to constitute 75% of his revenues. The problem was that the ATV business wasn’t very steady. With a limited and hard-to-find market of private ATV owners, he had to wait for customers to come to him.

When work started to slow down, French used local networking to find a couple of jobs doing service work on semi-trailer trucks. Soon after landing his first corporate customer, a natural gas company that was working on the Haynesville shale project, he discovered that he could offer companies a more cost-effective solution by bringing his repair services out into the field.

As those side jobs increased, French started to rethink his business model, services and market. Whereas ATV owners were hard to target and work was hard to find, tractor trailers were everywhere and they could be accessed through trucking companies. He turned back to the LSBDC who provided him with an informal market analysis and list of companies working on the project.

“We just found a bigger market for it and endless jobs. With ATVs, you’re just waiting for someone to bring you work. It was never a problem finding work with trucks,” said French.

French never wanted to give up ATVs for good, but he would have to dramatically shift his business focus towards trucks if he wanted to thrive. In September 2010, French changed the name of his company from Power Pro 4x4 to Power Pro Performance. It offers mechanics around the clock for on-site repairs and has four roadside trucks and five employees. French said the company now has annual sales of more than $350,000 per year and is also expanding into other services such as welding and industrial power washing.

“We now have our hands in quite a few things. We’ve just changed our business to go where the opportunities are,” said French.

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Zuka Baby

"I am grateful to have the support in starting and growing my business. The Louisiana Small Business Development Center has given me the opportunity of a lifetime and expanded my reach profoundly"

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Zuka Baby is a natural parenting boutique specializing in cloth diapers, baby clothes, breastfeeding, organic layettes, and natural toys. Zuka Baby offers a variety of free classes and support groups such as The Milk Party, which is conducted on the first Wednesday of each month for breastfeeding mothers.   Erin Reho Pelias started the business when she was twenty-nine with an eleven-month-old daughter. They started small, inside of a lingerie shop that specialized in nursing bras and hosted monthly La Leche League meetings. A few months later, she found her own location and opened the only retail location specializing in cloth diapers in Louisiana.   LSBDC Greater New Orleans Region helped Pelias become certified in Small & Emerging Business Development Program. Through the program, provided by Louisiana Economic Development, she received $4,400 in partial funding to redesign her new website, which incorporated a point of sale system and an e-commerce solution. Pelias previously used a simple template website without any way of tracking inventory or profits. She did not have the money or know-how to get her website to the next level, so she attended the “Reinvention through Innovation” class at the LSBDC GNOR center in Metairie.   Today, Pelias uses an iPad around the store to improve the user experience and gift registration. To improve her rankings and online customer engagement, she utilizes a marketing campaign focusing on social media and blogging. Technology allows her to connect in-store inventory with her website inventory. Now Pelias can monitor all her sales progress and order tracking in a more efficient manner. “I am grateful to have the support in starting and growing my business,” said Pelias. “The Louisiana Small Business Development Center has given me the opportunity of a lifetime and expanded my reach profoundly.”

 

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Wood Marine

"We needed help with our business plan and industry information. Assistance from the LSBDC was very helpful in the planning and development of each stage of our business"

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Jodi and Jody Wood started to explore the market potential for a recreational boat sales and service business in the Ruston area about a year ago. Jodi, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and eight years of sales experience. His wife, Jody, has a bachelor’s degree in interior design and eight years of business experience. Together, they began researching the possibility of starting their own business of selling and repairing boats.   The Woods visited the LSBDC at University of Louisiana Monroe to discuss their idea and get assistance with a business plan. Virendra Chhikara, LSBDC Business Consultant, helped the Woods with financial projections and a market analysis. With a business plan in hand, the couple started Wood Marine in Ruston on January 17, 2011.   Wood Marine supplies a full line of LOWE boats and accessories, and services all makes and models of boats. Since inception, sales receipts for the business have matched the couple’s projections. The Woods see growth potential in their area and plan to use this as an opportunity to increase sales and capture a greater portion of the market they serve.   “We needed help with our business plan and industry information. It [assistance from the LSBDC at ULM] was very helpful in the planning and development of each stage of our business,” said Jody Wood.

 

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One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning

SBA financing helped Thomas and Gail Livaudais purchase an existing heating and air conditioning business and expand its services.

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With over 30 years of experience in the home services industry, Thomas Livaudais and his wife Gail began to explore the possibility of purchasing the One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning franchise in Covington, LA. The Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University assisted the Livaudaises with completing a business plan to submit for bank financing.  They also discussed ways to save on overhead costs and to expand into other markets.  Extensive market research was prepared and presented to the client for inclusion in the business plan.

Following the purchase, the Livaudaises soon secured financing for their expansion into solar energy.  As a marker to their success, Thomas was recently highlighted as a local expert in a cover story for Northshore Conifer where he discussed the benefits of investing in solar energy. 

With LSBDC assistance the Livaudaises secured a $65,000 SBA loan and sales have soared to more than $600,000 per year. 

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Amazing Deals

"With the help of the LSBDC, I have a strong foundation for success"

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Dan Ewing has more than 30 years of experience working in the automobile business. Along the way, he has managed national marketing campaigns for various automobile retailers including, “limited time offers” that moved dozens of units during a four-day event.

After years of being away from his hometown, Ewing returned to Southwest Louisiana due to health problems. Although Ewing’s career at the national level ended, he saw it as an opportunity to step into business ownership.  He learned of an opportunity for start-up funding through Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS) and began planning for his own used car lot. LRS is a state program that assists persons with disabilities in their desire to achieve independence in their communities by providing career and entrepreneurial training and assistance. 

Ewing visited the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese State University and met with Donna Little, Center Director, and began developing his business plan. To ensure the financial stability of the business, the LSBDC helped calculate start-up and operating expenses, and generate sales projections. He spent hours working on a business plan, deciding his target audience, and researching marketing materials. 

Choosing the ideal location would prove to be key to the success of his business. Ewing ultimately found what he considered prime real estate for his used car business at 912 Gertsner Memorial Dr. in Lake Charles, LA.

"With the help of the LSBDC, I have a strong foundation for success," said Ewing. In May 2011, his plan was approved for a $20,000 LRS grant to jumpstart his used car business. As part of the grant agreement, Ewing invested $11,000 of his own money to fund the business. One month later, Ewing proudly opened his used car lot, Amazing Deals.  

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LSBDC GNOBR takes K&K Marine Insulation to next level

“From beginning to end LSBDC GNOBR has played a major role in guiding and providing us with information to complete a professional business plan,” Cindy Felton said. “We are now capable of hiring more employees and don’t have to fear turning away work due to lack of force or storage.”

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David and Cindy Felton, owners of K&K Marine Insulation in Larose, had been running their business successfully for 12 years.

However, it was time to grow and expand the business.

The couple approached the LSBDC Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region (GNOBR) in need of loan packaging to obtain funds to expand the business. The LSBDC GNOBR helped the couple understand the loan process and lender expectations, and worked with the couple to improve and modify the existing business plan and create financial projections. A few weeks after submitting to the lender, the couple was informed that the loan had been approved.

“From beginning to end LSBDC GNOBR has played a major role in guiding and providing us with information to complete a professional business plan,” Cindy Felton said. “We are now capable of hiring more employees and don’t have to fear turning away work due to lack of force or storage.”

The funding has given K&K Marine Insulation the opportunity to build a fabrication shop large enough to store and stock more. In addition, the funding of $226,000 allowed the business to create two additional full time jobs and increase sales.

Currently, the business is able to operate more efficiently by providing a faster turn around time. The owners can now purchase their stock materials in bulk, therefore lowering costs and increasing sales.

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Theadora A. Estis Real Estate & Business Services

"The one-on-one assistance I received from the LSBDC at ULM was tailored to meet the needs of my business. They helped me develop a through business plan complete with financial projections all at no cost"

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Theadora Estis contacted the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at University of Louisiana Monroe with a dream of starting a new and unique business to “umbrella” a variety of business services. She wanted to develop the idea of combining real estate brokerage services, notary services, and grant writing workshops into one business. These combined services are based on her 20 plus years of experience in real estate, over five years in grant writing, and her experience as a notary.    Virendra Chhikara, LSBDC Business Consultant, assisted Estis with a business plan and financial projections for this new venture. With the business plan and financial projections in hand, Estis was able to secure a bank loan to start her real estate and business services venture. Estis also received a grant from the Economic Development Program to partially fund her startup.   Theadora A. Estis Real Estate & Business Services, located on 1612 Garrett Rd. in Monroe, LA, currently has five employees. Together, they are an experienced team of real estate brokers eager to build the community one client at a time.   Estis commented on her experience saying, “The one-on-one assistance I received from the LSBDC at ULM was tailored to meet the needs of my business. They helped me develop a through business plan complete with financial projections all at no cost.”

 

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HARRELL Termite & Pest Control

Tyrone Harrell obtained a $25,000 unsecured Micro Loan to start his termite and pest control business.

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Tyrone Harrell is a native New Orleanian and an Army Veteran.  During the past 16 years working in the termite and pest control business, Harrell started at the bottom working his way up to a managerial position in the national organization.  In 2010 he decided to open his own termite and pest control business.

Needing direction and advice on how to start the business, Harrell contacted the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Greater New Orleans Region for assistance with completing a business plan and the necessary financial projections in order to secure a business loan. 

Business Consultant Allen Villarrubia helped Harrell secure a $25,000 unsecured micro loan through ASI Federal Credit Union to jumpstart his business. Harrell opened for business in October 2010, and now has a promising and growing business.  He aims to provide quality and affordable termite and pest control services to residential and commercial customers in the Greater New Orleans area. “Allen’s  [LSBDC Business Consultant] knowledge of the business made it easy to work with the LSBDC,” said Harrell.  

Harrell has received awards and recognition from Purdue University Center for Urban & Industrial Pest Management & Technology course, Texas A & M University Correspondence Course in Termite Biology, and AIB International Food Processing Sanitation/Hygiene Correspondence Course.

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Continental Kennel Club

"The LSBDC helped us develop a marketing strategy that led to the turnaround of our business"

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Continental Kennel Club (CKC) is an international business that was established in January of 1991. It provides registration/pedigree services for breeders, literature and training products for new dog owners, and educational products for students.  CKC also provides several other specialized services, which include a Canine Care and Training Program, Breeder Rewards Program, and Mushing Sponsorship.  The Livingston Parish based company contacted the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University for assistance with marketing because of declining revenues. 

CKC, like many businesses, has faced challenges with financial debt, legal issues, and technology over the years.  CKC has strived to overcome these challenges through hard work and by providing quality service.  “The LSBDC helped us develop a marketing strategy that led to the turnaround of our business,” said Michael Roy. In addition to a digital sales strategy, LSBDC at SLU assisted CKC with a revised business plan and helped them obtain tax credits offered by Louisiana Economic Development.

Through hard work and assistance from the LSBDC at SLU, the dedicated staff of Continental Kennel Club has positioned the company to compete with top registries in the nation. 

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North Cypress Fitness hulks up facility

“We came to LSBDC in the early stages of planning our first fitness center,” Ross said, President and CEO. “The advice and direction we received was a huge help to us years ago, so we have worked with them many times over the years.”

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When you’re passionate about bringing families together in a healthy environment, it’s important to make sure your environment is large enough. That’s what Olaf Ross had in mind for his business North Cypress Fitness, located at 1606 S Magnolia St. in Hammond.

Since the beginning, Ross utilized the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University (LSBDC at SLU). So when it came to growing his business, he knew who to talk to. Ross and the LSBDC at SLU discussed a variety of projects, including an expansion to add 31,000 square feet to the facility.

“We came to LSBDC in the early stages of planning our first fitness center,” Ross said, President and CEO. “The advice and direction we received was a huge help to us years ago, so we have worked with them many times over the years.”

The additional 31,000 square feet helped create over 40 new jobs, and North Cypress Fitness has experienced exponential growth since its start in 2001, and “we continue striving to provide quality jobs and stimulate growth in the Hammond area.”

The LSBDC at SLU helped Ross secure $3 million in capital to develop the business expansion. Over the course of North Cypress, the LSBDC at SLU has helped Ross with business startup assistance, business and financial modeling, sales and marketing assistance, financing assistance and prep, and business continuity planning.

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Rayville Family Clinic

LSBDC assistance helped the Sylvestris achieve their life-long dream of owning and operating a family clinic and create 19 jobs in Northeast Louisiana.

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On March 29, 2010, Terri and Joe Sylvestri achieved their life-long dream when they opened Rayville Family Clinic. The Sylvestris always wanted to start a medical clinic where they could provide better quality healthcare at a low cost to the people of Northeast Louisiana. Terri, a nurse practioner, has over twenty-one years experience in nursing. Her husband, Joe, has twenty-two years of experience in other related healthcare fields. The couple decided to combine their experience in medicine and set out to find ways to open a health clinic.   Recognizing their lack of business expertise, the couple contacted the LSBDC at University of Louisiana at Monroe for assistance with a business plan to start their health clinic. The Sylvestris had already acquired a facility but needed financing to furnish the building and purchase necessary supplies and equipment. They went to the center with a dream of owning and operating a medical clinic and needed help to convert that dream into a reality. They wanted to offer healthcare to clients of all ages. The clinic currently provides services to Medicare, Medicaid, commercial insurance and private pay clients. The clinic also offers KidMed and vaccines for children.   The LSBDC at UL Monroe helped the Sylvestris write a business plan, developed a budget, and complete an SBA loan application. The center also helped them complete a three-year financial projection for the business. With LSBDC assistance, the Sylvestris were able to secure an SBA 7(a) loan and create 19 jobs in Northeast Louisiana.  

 

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Conversations, LLC

"LSBDC provided invaluable guidance, resources, and advice to help me take things to the next level. I also received guidance on hiring and human resources management. I now offer more well-rounded services"

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Conversations is a full-service social media strategy company, specializing in what’s most important when marketing your brand online: conversations.  Conversations offers assistance to clients new to social media, packages to improve existing social media presence, and active management of all social media tools.

Two years ago Megan Hargroder moved to New Orleans from Lafayette and found her place as a social media strategist and blog producer.  She started the business in 2010 when she noticed a niche was not being addressed.  She became passionate about helping people excel using social media tools.  

Hargroder struggled, not knowing where to start and how to become organized.  LSBDC Greater New Orleans Region helped her connect with resources for business planning, accounting, licensing, management, and human resources training.  The LSBDC also introduced her to other small business owners that would benefit from her services. “LSBDC provided invaluable guidance, resources, and advice to help me take things to the next level.  I also received guidance on hiring and human resources management. I now offer more well-rounded services,” said Hargroder.

Today, Hargroder is well known in the social media stratosphere, and has been invited to speak to journalism students in New York City on new media and how she began her own business.  

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LSBDC at SLU helps Ponchatoula get Chaleureux!

“I was more confident in moving forward after our meetings, and I had a better grip on our market,” Robert said, and added that the LSBDC at SLU assisted with a building lease review as well.

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Chaleureux is a French term for cozy, warm or soft. So when you take that and place it in the hands of an entrepreneur you’re able to create a welcoming business atmosphere. That’s what Casey Robert did.

With the help of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University (LSBDC at SLU), Robert was able to open doors for her business Chaleureux, an interior design and framing store, located at 120 West Pine Street in Ponchatoula.

Robert initially came to the LSBDC at SLU for someone to review her business plans, but she walked away with more.

LSBDC at SLU Business Consultant Brandy Boudreaux was able to help guide Robert with management assistance, sales and financial projections, and marketing and sales advice; allowing Chaleureux to open its doors in October 2015 and create three jobs.

Robert said she went to the LSBDC at SLU to make sure her business plan was viable, and to make sure she was on the right track.

“I was more confident in moving forward after our meetings, and I had a better grip on our market,” Robert said, and added that the LSBDC at SLU assisted with a building lease review as well.

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Verius Property Group finds success with LSBDC GNOBR

“The LSBDC was able to provide us with the resources, mentorship and access to systems that helped us find funding,” Meridith said. “They helped us from a strategic standpoint and financial modeling that helped us grow our business in the right direction.”

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Andre Lewis and Michael Merideth started Verius Property Group in December of 2010 as a real estate development company specializing in multi-family residential properties and residential/commercial luxury properties. Knowing what they wanted to do, they needed help making sure they took the right route to be successful at it.

So, they came to the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region (LSBDC GNOBR) location in the spring of 2014, when they participated in Capital One’s Getting Down to Business program. During this program, Lewis and Merideth won second place in the business plan competition and third place in the business pitch competition. From there, Verius Property Group was set for success.

Since graduating from Getting Down to Business, Verius Property Group competed in the Bayou Classic Business Plan competition in 2014, where they placed in the top six for business plans in the Greater New Orleans Region.

Lewis and Merideth continued working with the LSBDC GNOBR and received helped with earning contracting certifications, marketing and branding and other business needs.

“The LSBDC was able to provide us with the resources, mentorship and access to systems that helped us find funding,” Meridith said. “They helped us from a strategic standpoint and financial modeling that helped us grow our business in the right direction.”

In total, the LSBDC GNOBR helped Verius Property Group create three full-time jobs and create 20 direct contract jobs, secure over $4 million in capital, secured $3.5 million in additional assets with $13 million in projects for 2016.

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Sno-La Snowball Lounge

"The LSBDC helped me calculate the feasibility of our project, and helped us find the fastest loans to get our business opened as soon as possible"

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Sno-La Snowball Lounge is an indoor snowball establishment offering the only cheesecake stuffed snowball in Greater New Orleans.  Kerry Crossley, owner and manager, designed it with a coffee shop feel with couches, games, and free wireless Internet.  He wants people to stay and hang out while they eat their snowball.  The facilities also provide a great outlet for birthday parties. 

Crossley’s lifelong dream was to work for himself.  So after working four years for AT&T, he decided that this was the best time in his life to start his own business.  However, Kerry was having a difficult time finding a way to finance the business. 

The LSBDC Greater New Orleans Region helped him apply for the proper licensing to start the snowball lounge and develop financial projections to secure a loan.  With LSBDC assistance, Crossley obtained a $19,000 loan and line of credit.  “Allen [LSBDC Business Consultant] helped me calculate the feasibility of our project, and helped us find the fastest loans to get our business opened as soon as possible,” said Crossley.

Since opening in August 2011, Kerry says, “business has been good.  But we are the only snowball stand that is opened year around; so now I need to focus on changing people’s perception that snowballs are not only available in the summer time.”

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LSBDC at SLU helps Ponchatoula get Chaleureux!

“I was more confident in moving forward after our meetings, and I had a better grip on our market,” Robert said, and added that the LSBDC at SLU assisted with a building lease review as well.

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Chaleureux is a French term for cozy, warm or soft. So when you take that and place it in the hands of an entrepreneur you’re able to create a welcoming business atmosphere. That’s what Casey Robert did.

With the help of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University (LSBDC at SLU), Robert was able to open doors for her business Chaleureux, an interior design and framing store, located at 120 West Pine Street in Ponchatoula.

Robert initially came to the LSBDC at SLU for someone to review her business plans, but she walked away with more.

LSBDC at SLU Business Consultant Brandy Boudreaux was able to help guide Robert with management assistance, sales and financial projections, and marketing and sales advice; allowing Chaleureux to open its doors in October 2015 and create three jobs.

Robert said she went to the LSBDC at SLU to make sure her business plan was viable, and to make sure she was on the right track.

“I was more confident in moving forward after our meetings, and I had a better grip on our market,” Robert said, and added that the LSBDC at SLU assisted with a building lease review as well.

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LSBDC at ULM puts a nice touch on Parker Collision

“The LSBDC was extremely helpful and they did a fantastic job helping us get our business up and running,” the Parkers said.

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Brandon Parker grew up in the auto repair industry and knew someday he’d be a leader in the business. He stuck with his raising and what he knew, eventually became a member of the Board of Collision Association and proved to not only be a leader but an expert. He was just missing one thing – his own company.

With several expert certificates under his name and a strong clientele, he and his wife Emily decided it was time to start their own paint and body shop.

The Parker couple went to a local bank and it was there that they were recommended to meet with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at University of Louisiana at Monroe (LSBDC at ULM).

The Parkers went to the LSBDC at ULM where Center Director Virendra Chhikara helped with their business plan, market research, strategic organization and other areas of the business that eventually helped launch Parker Collision Center, located at 3331 Sterlington Road in Monroe.

The LSBDC at ULM helped the Parkers utilize about $238,000 in capital to start the business and create 5 new jobs.

“The LSBDC was extremely helpful and they did a fantastic job helping us get our business up and running,” the Parkers said.

Brandon Parker said his only goal is to fix cars to the best of his ability and to simply look after the customer, and he backs that statement with professional certifications such as; Sherwin Williams Color Adjustment and Blending, I-CAR Platinum High Level of Individual Technical Training, Vale National Automotive Estimatics 3000, I-CAR certificate of Advanced training, and Estimating Solutions for Profit.

“He [Brandon] knew what he wanted to do and had the talent, he just didn’t know how to get started,” Chhikara said.

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Verius Property Group finds success with LSBDC GNOBR

“The LSBDC was able to provide us with the resources, mentorship and access to systems that helped us find funding,” Meridith said. “They helped us from a strategic standpoint and financial modeling that helped us grow our business in the right direction.”

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Andre Lewis and Michael Merideth started Verius Property Group in December of 2010 as a real estate development company specializing in multi-family residential properties and residential/commercial luxury properties. Knowing what they wanted to do, they needed help making sure they took the right route to be successful at it.

So, they came to the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region (LSBDC GNOBR) location in the spring of 2014, when they participated in Capital One’s Getting Down to Business program. During this program, Lewis and Merideth won second place in the business plan competition and third place in the business pitch competition. From there, Verius Property Group was set for success.

Since graduating from Getting Down to Business, Verius Property Group competed in the Bayou Classic Business Plan competition in 2014, where they placed in the top six for business plans in the Greater New Orleans Region.

Lewis and Merideth continued working with the LSBDC GNOBR and received helped with earning contracting certifications, marketing and branding and other business needs.

“The LSBDC was able to provide us with the resources, mentorship and access to systems that helped us find funding,” Meridith said. “They helped us from a strategic standpoint and financial modeling that helped us grow our business in the right direction.”

In total, the LSBDC GNOBR helped Verius Property Group create three full-time jobs and create 20 direct contract jobs, secure over $4 million in capital, secured $3.5 million in additional assets with $13 million in projects for 2016.

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The Louisiana Small Business Development Center Network, hosted by Louisiana Delta Community College, is a 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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