Villages-News.com; FSBDC; Lake County; Villages; Sumter County

Villages-News.com

There is no one formula for building a successful business. Certainly not one that creates the #1 digital news website in The Villages®, America’s premier active adult retirement community located in central Florida and the fastest growing metropolitan statistical unit in the United States.

And Meta Marie Minton and Jeremiah Delgado, co-owners of Villages-News.com, will be the first to admit it. When she founded the news site back in 2013, she understood how hard it can be to start a business. “When we started, I knew how to do the news but I didn’t know how to run a business,” she says.

The Villages-News.com provides news coverage of government, crime, classifieds, and local events for The Villages®, Florida and surrounding communities. It is the only source that provides “Real News, Right Now” to the largest retirement community in the United States. Stories from Villages-News.com have been featured in local and national news syndicates, including CNN, NBC, CBS, USA Today, NY Post, and Huffington Post, among others.

Knowing what she didn’t know, it was then that Minton contacted the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida’s (FSBDC at UCF) Lake County satellite office, now in Mt. Dora.  “A huge number of small businesses fail in the first year. I knew we had a tough mountain to climb,” Minton continued. “But if you have some direction, and some guidance, then you can make it happen.”

The first thing she did was take an FSBDC seminar about how to start a business. Then she began writing a business plan. Finally she met with one of the local FSBDC consultants, Stan Austin, to develop a strategy for making her business come to life. “I went to the FSBDC to take advantage of the resources they offer,” says Minton. “It was one of the first things I did when I wanted to start a company and was probably one of the smartest.”

An early step was finding and collaborating with Jeremiah Delgado, her co-owner and business development director. “I’m an old newspaper person. He’s got this great understanding of digital marketing. With the help of the FSBDC, together we have made Villages-News.com the success it is today,” Minton states.

Helping start the business was only the beginning of the ongoing services the FSBDC has provided. “Our FSBDC consultant helps us point our arrow in the right direction. He’s that outside person who has the experience and know how,” Minton went on. “He challenges us every step of the way, telling us we’re good, but not good enough; that we can do more; that we can do better. He has lit a fire that has pushed us to succeed. It’s been incredibly valuable.”

“With the FSBDC, we went from being a small-time business to being the leader in our industry and our area,” says Delgado. “We have a dominant social media presence and successful business because of help from the FSBDC. Our consultant gave us the insight and motivation to go out and succeed. The FSBDC is probably one of the best resources you can find for a small business,” he concluded.

FSBDC; Across Borders Management Consulting; Lake County

Across Borders Management Consulting Group

Humility is not a quality always associated with entrepreneurs. Especially if theirs is an IT services and solutions company with a goal of delivering “Innovation through Strategic Thinking.” But when a self-effacing attitude is present, it can be an important part of a formula for long-term success.

Vijay Krishnan and Arathi Rajagopalan, husband and wife and co-founders of Across Borders Management Consulting Group, recognized early on their situation as they sought to grow their company. Then they allowed their clear-eyed assessment of the challenges they faced in building their business to guide them to seek assistance from the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF).

“We didn’t know what we didn’t know” is Arathi Rajagopalan’s frank take on the early days of Across Borders. “We were a growing company with limited resources. That’s why we came to the FSBDC there we found a wealth of knowledge and services tailor-made for a company like ours,” she states.

“Since starting with the FSBDC, we have used every service they have to offer because they fit so well into where we want to take our business and how we want to grow. And all at little or no cost to the company,” Vijay Krishnan added. “It has made a big difference for us. We were a $1 million revenue company when we started with them; today we are closing in on $5 million.”

Both Vijay and Arathi Krishnan credit the FSBDC as helping shape the company that Across Borders is today. Initially they sought and received assistance regarding their sales and business development efforts from their FSBDC consultant Stan Austin. That was followed by an in-depth business and financial analysis by the FSBDC’s Roger Greenwald as part of the FSBDC’s Growth Acceleration Services. With that as a starting point, Across Borders was able to develop their first three-year strategic plan.

Meanwhile, the company and cofounders became part of the FSBDC’s Advisory Board Council program, a next-level, business-support service matching them with experienced business professionals with a diverse range of skills who volunteer and work together on a “custom-fit” advisory board. Further on, Vijay Krishnan joined the FSBDC’s CEO XChange, an executive roundtable program offering a confidential setting for top executives to discuss vital business issues, opportunities and trends with a group of peers. Most recently, Across Borders worked with the FSBDC’s International Trade Services team and gained a ready-to-implement Export Marketing Plan.

“Across Borders has done everything right,” remarked Stan Austin. “They are the perfect FSBDC client. They listen. They get involved. They make decisions. They implement. It’s no wonder they have been an Orlando Business Journal  ‘Fast 50’ growth company two years running.”

“The FSBDC has become a critically important strategic partner for Across Borders,” states Vijay Krishnan. “They have worked with us every step of the way. Their services are at the top-most professional level. And their only focus is on helping us grow to the next level. That is the best kind of partnership possible. We’re very happy and thankful for the FSBDC.”

FSBDC, ASBDC, Midstate Caulking, Osceola County

Midstate Caulking & Construction Services LLC

Managing a small- to medium-sized business is all about challenges: some big, some small, some harrowing, some pleasing. But whatever size or shape they come in, they are still challenges and must be met or consequences will ensue.

Midstate Caulking & Construction Services LLC, and its founders and principals Brenda and Leon Clement, faced a major challenge in 2014. Fortunately, it was the good kind. The company they had started in their garage – really – was exploding and growing faster than they could finance.

Midstate provides caulking, waterproofing, fire stopping, stucco, and deck coating services for commercial buildings in Central Florida and across the state. Their construction contractor customers find that work quality, scheduling and safety are as important to the company as they are to its clients. Midstate understands the need for timely project completion, working with other trades, shift work, and accomplishing zero (0) punch list. It’s a formula that has meant exceptional growth and success for the company.

“We expected to be small and stay small,” says Brenda Clement. “But this is a niche market that started growing faster than we could ever have expected. As a small business with low overhead, we came out of the ’08 recession in good shape. When the economy started to grow again, demand for our services did too.”

And that’s where the challenge for Midstate arose. “In construction, you pay your people and expenses before you get paid. When you are growing fast, it can be tough to manage that float,” Clement continued. “We needed to know where to go to get more money to finance our growth.” That’s when she turned to the Kissimmee office of the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) and it’s Area Manager, consultant Rafael Martinez-Pratts.

Clement and her bookkeeper met with Pratt-Martinez to develop a financing plan. Together, they identified Midstate’s financing options, who might provide the needed funds, what information they would want and what kind of questions would need to be answered by the company. In the end, Clement was ready and fully prepared when she approached the bank she had selected for financing, and was successful in getting the funding that Midstate needed to pay for its continued growth.

“I recommend the FSBDC to any business owner,” concluded Clement. “If you have questions or need information, ask the FSBDC. If they don’t have the answer, they’ll lead you to someone who does.”

“Rafael and the FSBDC have let us know we are not alone in this. They care. They let you know you are supported. They have worked to build a relationship with us and have been a great resource for our company,” says Clement. “Along with helping us deal with our financing needs, their seminars and workshops have been very valuable. We’ve been able to learn new things and network with other, local business owners. We’ve gotten assistance with human resources issues and recruiting. I don’t see us outgrowing the need for them in any way, shape or form.”

My Nona's Garden; Chuck Wheeler; Amber Harmon

My Nona’s Garden

Finding the work-life balance you seek inevitably means making choices. Sometimes there are hard choices and sometimes not so hard choices.

For Amber Harmon, the founder and owner of My Nona’s Garden, her choices weren’t so hard. Yes, she gave up a lucrative career. But it required extensive travel and time away from the young family she and her husband were building. Instead, she gained the life she wanted with her young children and the opportunity to follow her passion: gardening.

The challenge she faced was how to make a living pursuing that passion. And so it was, with the help of the Florida SBDC at UCF, that Harmon’s company was born. My Nona’s Garden is in the business of selling and servicing 2 x 8 foot low-maintenance, elevated cedar vegetable box gardens for both business and residential customers. The company makes a fresh, organic, non-GMO vegetable garden possible and its goal is simple: “to bring health into our communities, one garden at a time.”

“My Nona’s Garden is my first time as a business owner. I was going out on my own and didn’t know where to start. That’s why I turned to the Florida SBDC at UCF for help,” Harmon says. “They offered seminars that set me on the right path from the beginning. I learned the basics, received the templates and resources I needed, and was able to get my business plan in order.”

“Then I took advantage of the FSBDC’s unlimited, no-cost consulting services,” Harmon continued. “My FSBDC consultant Chuck Wheeler gave me the guidance I needed. I got in depth assistance on my business plan. He helped me test and validate my ideas about my business concept and my product and services. He enabled me to strengthen my financial projections. And he provided me with ideas and resources to manage important business functions, like obtaining insurance and finding the employees I needed. Chuck was there for me every step of the way.”

Launched in September 2016, My Nona’s Garden is off to a good start. The company had its first customer the day it opened its doors! Along with advertising and exhibiting in the Lake Nona area, she is partnering with a major local developer to promote its community gardens with a gardening workshop series. She is also working with the U.S. Veterans Administration Hospital to teach veterans about the rewards of gardening. Another workshop series is planned for a local retired-living community. And Harmon continues to serve local and metro-Orlando clients interested in purchasing the company’s raised gardens as well as having them serviced by My Nona’s Garden.

“I’m happy with the progress we are making,” concluded Harmon. “I would definitely highly recommend the Florida SBDC to anyone building a business. Whatever stage your business is at, the FSBDC can help. It covers all the bases and can answer all your questions. I’m looking forward to their assistance as I add structure to my business and start to manage its growth.”

For more information about My Nona’s Garden, please visit www.MyNonasGarden.com or www.facebook.com/MyNonasGarden.

VAMP, The Vocational Academy of Makeup and Prosethics, FSBDC, UCF

Vocational Academy of Makeup & Prosthetics (VAMP)

You have a passion. You have creativity and skills. And you have a vision of how others can become experts in your chosen craft in the RIGHT way – with in-depth training built upon a unique curriculum taught by industry professionals. With all of this in hand, what do you do next?

If you are Heather Fildes and Kimberly Spratt, you set to work to open a school teaching modern special effects and beauty professional makeup artistry. And you start in the right place: by writing a business plan.

It was there that Fildes and Spratt found themselves in 2015. With a clear view of the business they wanted to be in, a sharp definition of the kind of training they wanted to offer and a keen understanding of how their experience in special effects and beauty makeup could be used to turn makeup enthusiasts into professionals, writing their business plan was an exciting opportunity to articulate their ideas, and turn them into a blueprint for realizing their dreams and business success.

Producing the financial plan for the school presented challenges, however. With neither having a background in accounting or finance, Fildes and Spratt were in unfamiliar territory. That’s when they turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida and consultant Hunt Dawkins.

“We were OK until we got to the budgets and financials,” recalls founder and owner Kimberly Spratt. “We thought we had to take everything down to the penny and our progress stalled. So we turned to the FSBDC and thank goodness we did. We met with Hunt Dawkins at the FSBDC’s offices. He made the financials easier. He simplified it all. He guided us through the process.”

And very successfully it turns out. First, Fildes and Spratt completed their business plan, and at Dawkins’ urging, entered and became finalists in the Orlando 2015 Business Plan Competition of the National Association of Woman Business Owners (NAWBO). They used their plan as the basis of their successful application for school certification by the Florida Department of Education’s Commission for Independent Education. And it served as their road map for beginning their business: finding a location for the school with proper zoning, forecasting startup costs and working capital needs, designing the school’s construction buildout and building improvements and launching their marketing efforts.

Today, The Vocational Academy of Makeup & Prosthetics (VAMP) is off to a great start. It offers a special effects makeup laboratory and a beauty applications classroom that are both state-of-the art. A respected faculty of experienced professionals is in place and the school has graduated its first Modern Effects Makeup Artistry class; the next one is starting soon. And a Beauty Professional Makeup Artistry class is forming. The FSBDC is now working with them on their second stage marketing campaign.

“We would absolutely encourage everyone to work with the FSBDC,” commented founder and owner Heather Fildes. “Being a business owner takes so much more than we expected. I don’t know if we could have done what we’re doing now if we hadn’t had their help. The FSBDC is a great resource.”

First Response Disaster Team Building for the Future With Assistance from FSBDC at UCF

First Response Disaster Team

When you look up ‘serial entrepreneurs’ on the Internet, there’s no good reason that you wouldn’t come upon Anne-Marie and Ken Poulin. Over the course of their years together, this wife and husband team has started and sold multiple businesses, most recently launching First Response Disaster Team in 2010.

First Response is an emergency restoration company that is focused primarily on clean up and remediation of flood, mold, fire and smoke damage. Their mission: “We help people through difficult times.” Based in Edgewater, Florida, the business has grown to more than $2 million in annual revenues and employs more than 10 people. And the company is easy to recognize out in the field, what with their sharply dressed technicians, all sporting distinctive bright red bow ties.

It is not the bow ties that set the Poulins and their company apart however. It is their entrepreneurial zeal to constantly look for better ways to run and grow their business. It was that drive to find new strategies to build their business that led the Poulins to the Florida SBDC at UCF and its Advisory Board Council (ABC) program.

The Advisory Board Council is a no-cost board of experts providing advice and counsel to help businesses grow.  Each board is custom designed and assembled by the FSBDC at UCF’s ABC program manager Jill Kaufman. The FSBDC acts as a matchmaker between established local businesses and area professionals who volunteer their expertise as members of an advisory board, with the volunteers selected to address the specific needs of the FSBDC client.

“Jill did such a great job for us,” Ken Poulin remarked. “She and FSBDC handpicked people who had lots of good information about what we are trying to do. They were small business owners like us, folks who had built businesses and sold them. We had an accountant, a banker and even a guy who had been in restoration – our business! – for forty years.”

“We met with our Advisory Board regularly over the course of about two years,” continued Anne-Marie Poulin. “We had a team that we could ask questions of and they’d give us answers. We’ll admit that sometimes those answers weren’t what we wanted to hear. However, they were the answers we needed to hear and therefore all the more valuable. Our ABC meetings created a really significant level of accountability for us that helped us grow our business.”

Working with their Advisory Board Council, the Poulins concentrated on strengthening the foundation of their business. They developed the policies, procedures, checklists and handbooks they needed to expand or “scale” their business, as they like to say. As a result, First Response was able to put processes in place that are driving revenue increases and earning them recognition as one of “Volusia’s Best” businesses.

“The ABC was an amazing experience for us,” concluded Ken Poulin. “We look back on the other businesses we’ve started and only wish we’d come to the FSBDC sooner. We’re just really happy to have them assisting us now.”

Magellan Solutions, Government Contracting, Florida SBDC

Magellan Solutions USA

Starting and growing a business is not an easy undertaking. It takes a vision, perseverance, and an over-sized work ethic. And that’s what Mark A. K. Dee, chief executive officer of Magellan Solutions USA, had when he launched his business in 2012. After a more than 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force, he had built a highly diversified business processing outsourcing and call center organization serving a wide variety of clients with information technology, healthcare and energy/utilities services.

Dee also took the opportunity to separate his company from the competition by working through the process and obtaining verification from the U.S. Veterans Administration as a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). It was with this credential in hand that he approached the Florida SBDC at UCF’s Government Contracting Specialist Patricia Simpson based at the FSBDC at Eastern Florida State College, a sub-center of the FSBDC at UCF.

Like any good entrepreneur, Dee was interested in finding new markets and growth for his company. He saw significant opportunity in bidding on and winning contracts with the government. And that’s where Simpson came in. As an expert on the FSBDC’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) team, she had the knowledge of the government market that Dee sought.

“My colleagues and I at Magellan Solutions USA are retired military. We used to be the buyers. Now we were undertaking to be the sellers,” Dee pointed out. “That’s definitely a different breed of cat. Although we had the background in dealing with the government, we needed the guidance of someone who was familiar with the system of today. That was Patricia Simpson and the FSBDC at UCF’s Government Contacting Services.”

Working with Simpson, Dee and his senior vice president for Business Research and Intelligence Mike Lopez began to hone in on government contract bidding strategies to leverage the company’s SDVOSB status. They began the process of obtaining certification from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program designed to help small socially and/or economically disadvantaged businesses compete in the federal marketplace. And Simpson introduced them to a treasure trove of market databases, search engines, and research tools to analyze the government contracting market and Magellan Solutions’ competitors.

“Working with the Florida SBDC has been nothing but a positive experience,” Says Dee. “It’s been a lot of work, but we have received so much guidance from Patricia and we have learned so much. Before we started working with her, we’d been taking a shotgun approach to the market and wasting so much time looking for needles in a haystack. Now we are focused, we have a strategy and have started winning the multi-million dollar contracts we are bidding on.”

“I would absolutely, 100% recommend the FSBDC,” Dee concluded. “It’s all about positioning your company to succeed in the government market. Doing it by yourself is a big mistake. The guidance and direction the FSBDC provides makes all the difference. It certainly has for Magellan Solutions USA.”

Nanospective; Roger Greenwald; Brenda Prenitzer

NanoSpective, Inc.

One of the greatest challenges a small business faces is transitioning from its startup phase to being an established, high-performing second stage company. It is not for the faint of heart. The changes in strategy, organization and culture are often profound. But the rewards can be dramatically positive for all of the key stakeholders: owners, employees and clients. Nanospective, Inc. certainly found that to be the case when it made the transition to its second stage of growth with assistance from the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF).

Nanospective likes to say is delivers “Big Solutions to Small Problems” because it provides advanced materials characterization analytical services and consultation to clients around the world using advanced imaging and spectroscopic instruments to determine what atoms are present in a material and how they are arranged. Those two relationships determine every physical property about a material: is it brittle, will it bend, does it conduct electricity, can it be seen through, for example. It is this kind of information associated with molecular science that the experts at Nanospective provide to their clients, primarily related to quality control and intellectual property protection.

The company was founded by four UCF PhDs in 2003, with initial assistance from the UCF Business Incubator and the Florida SBDC at UCF. Based upon what they had studied in school and then used in corporate America, they innovated with a heavy emphasis on client service. The company grew to be a profitable business but, like most startups, hit a wall where growth was harder and harder to come by. It was then that Nanospective turned again to the FSBDC at UCF and its consultant Roger Greenwald.

“We started working with the FSBDC again and with Roger because we wanted to change from being a lifestyle business and put ourselves in position to understand how to really move forward and grow,” says Brenda Prenitzer, President and CEO of Nanospective. “At the time, we had four, then three, owner-employees leading by democracy, each with different visions for the future. We had evolved into three different companies each working from home. We had reached a plateau.”

At no cost to the company, Greenwald and the FSBDC team were brought in to help Nanospective make the transition to being a second stage growth company. They assisted by helping to develop a strategic growth plan, providing financial analysis, giving marketing and business development direction and offering guidance on organizational structure and development.

“Our experience with the FSBDC has been fabulous,” Prenitzer says. “Roger Greenwald has been immensely helpful to us. While it wasn’t easy and required extremely delicate navigation, we have transitioned successfully to a single-owner company with a unified vision and strong corporate culture. We are fortunate that the two other owners chose to remain to do what they love: be great scientists. We have developed a Nanospective ‘Way’ focused on both our clients’ and our employees’ success. And we have achieved superior business results, delivering an average of 25% revenue growth year over year and adding 9 new employees to meet the needs of our clients, she concluded.”

FSBDC; SSC; Summer Solutions; Keith Lornez; Amy Kirkland

Summer Solutions Inc. Growing With Assistance from the Florida SBDC at Seminole State College

FSBDC’s Advisory Board Council Program Called Invaluable

February 15, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Hal Thayer, Communications Director, FSBDC at UCF, 407.420.4850 or hthayer@ucf.edu

Orlando, FL – The entrepreneurial life has its challenges. They are only multiplied when you relocate yourself and your business from Pennsylvania to Lake Mary, FL. But that’s exactly what Keith Lorenz, founder and owner of Summer Solutions Inc., did in 2013.  While searching for local assistance and learning the local business landscape, he found the support and assistance he needed to make a success of his move at the Florida SBDC at Seminole State College (FSBDC at SSC), a sub-center of the FSBDC at UCF, through its Advisory Board Council (ABC) program.

Summer Solutions is in the business of solving the problems that swimmers have with chlorine: the hair discoloration, the dry skin conditions, the deterioration of their swim suits to name a few. Summer Solutions offers a full line of products – shampoos, soap, swimwear care products – specifically designed to address the deleterious effects of chlorinated swimming pool water.

Lorenz started the company in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and made it a small success. Now he was ready to devote his full time to making the company a big success and answer some big questions: is this a real business I can grow? How can I scale it up? Where can I find the people I need to help me succeed?

It was then that he did some research and found the Florida SBDC. “I looked at all the different services offered by the FSBDC and saw the Advisory Board Council as the program that could really help me,” Lorenz says. “‘Wow,’ I said. ‘This is exactly what I need. Right here in Seminole County.’” He contacted Amy Kirkland, a consultant and the manager of the FSBDC at SSC, to apply.

In the Advisory Board Council program, the FSBDC constructs a no-cost board of experts that meets over an 18 month period providing advice and council to help businesses grow. The FSBDC acts as a matchmaker between established local businesses and area professionals who volunteer their expertise as members of an advisory board, with the Board customized and the volunteers selected to address the specific needs of the FSBDC client.

“My Advisory Board was invaluable. I was working on my own and needed advisors to bounce ideas off, to discuss issues with,” says Lorenz. “I wanted the accountability that would come from putting my plans in front a group of experts. And that’s what I got, and more, from my Board. They provided a forum that helped me make better decisions that helped my company grow.”

“My board saved me from taking some unnecessary risks and convinced me to invest in my marketing and sales efforts. They helped me analyze and redefine my target markets. We reassessed my website and they assisted me in finding the resources to improve it dramatically. They persuaded me that a dedicated sales person would have much more success than me doing it myself,“ Lorenz continued. “And the results speak for themselves: we now have a better focus on our markets, and our sales are up nicely.

— FSBDC —

About the FSBDC at UCF

With its main office in the National Entrepreneur Center located at the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando, the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) is part of the UCF Office of Research & Commercialization and the Florida SBDC Network (FSBDC Network). THE FSBDC at UCF provides business seminars and no-cost, one-on-one business consultation to emerging and established businesses. The FSBDC at UCF serves an eight-county area that includes Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter, and Volusia counties and maintains 10 service centers across Central Florida.

In 2015, the FSBDC at UCF served almost 7,000 entrepreneurs in Central Florida through consulting and training, resulting in more than 7,300 jobs created, retained or saved; $990 million in sales growth; $74.4 million in capital formation; $101.7 million in government contract awards; and 111 new businesses started.

About the FSBDC Network

The FSBDC at UCF is a member of the Florida SBDC Network, a statewide service network funded in part through cooperative agreements with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Defense Logistics Agency, State of Florida and other private and public partners. The Florida SBDC Network is hosted by the University of West Florida and is nationally accredited by the Association of SBDCs. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

For over 35 years, the FSBDC Network has nourished a statewide partnership between higher education and economic development organizations, dedicated to providing emerging and established business owners with management and technical assistance, enabling overall growth and increased profitability for the businesses and economic prosperity for the state. The FSBDC Network is a statewide service system of 41 centers with 60 outreach locations, including the FSBDC at UCF.

In 2015, the Florida SBDCs served almost 45,500 entrepreneurs and small business owners through consulting and training, resulting in 217,849 jobs created, retained or saved; $29.3 billion in sales growth; $947.4 million in capital accessed; $2.1 billion in government contract awards; and 3,857 new businesses started.

FSBDC at UCF | 3201 E. Colonial Drive | Orlando, FL 32801 | p 407.420.4850 | f 407.420.4862
sbdc@ucf.edu | www.sbdcorlando.com

Alex Aviles; Pauline Davis; Dealer Service Alternative;

Dealer Service Alternative

Dealer Service Alternative is a European car owner’s dream come true. It services, repairs and maintains all makes and models of vehicles but specializes in European cars, especially Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Owner Alex Aviles prides himself in offering his clients and their vehicles a dealership-level experience at fair prices. Aviles motto is “dealer quality service at friendly prices.”

When he founded and launched Dealer Service Alternative, Aviles’ had a lot of ideas about the direction he wanted to take his company. But before he started investing his money, he wanted to make sure he was on the right path. That’s when a friend suggested he visit the Florida SBDC at UCF for a no-cost consultation with one of their expert consultants.

“When I started my company, I knew I could be a top technician and manager. But there were a lot of business matters I was not trained in at the dealership where I came from. Issues like licensing, procurement and leases were all unfamiliar to me,” remarked Aviles.

It was at the FSBDC that Aviles met Pauline Davis, a consultant specializing in finance and business accounting. “I went in with the original idea that I would buy an existing business. But Pauline Davis showed me a different approach, one that wouldn’t require so much funding. So I purchased some equipment, got some leads and partnered with another company to share space in our building,” Aviles says.

“The FSBDC helped me to figure out all the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of business that I had no idea about,” continued Aviles. Working with Davis and other FSBDC consultants, Dealer Service Alternative moved to a better location, upgraded their website and implemented an internet marketing campaign that was tailored to Aviles’ needs and his budget.

“Between implementing my online marketing campaign in stages, my wife joining the company to manage the finances and the help I received from the FSBDC, we have pretty much doubled the size of our business in the past year,” Aviles noted. “Now we’ve outgrown our space and I’m looking forward to expanding into a new location with all the convenience and comfort of a dealership, only not so fancy or expensive for my customers. I want a showplace that is a reflection of how well we treat our clients’ babies, err, vehicles,” concluded Aviles with a smile.

“My experience with the FSBDC at UCF has been nothing but great,” Aviles says. “They’ve always had answers to my questions, and if they didn’t, they found the answer. It’s an amazing set of resources they have over there – all under one roof. They are like a business encyclopedia…the business Google. I say ‘Thank You’ for all you’ve done, Ms. Davis and FSBDC.”