Common Sense Office Furniture, Hospitality, Education, Office, Medical, Small business, FSBDC, Orlando, Orange County, Florida

Common Sense Office Furniture

Craig Caswell and the company he founded and has built into a Central Florida success story – Common Sense Office Furniture — exemplify the best of what it means to be an entrepreneur and small business owner. And this is a special time for Caswell as he celebrates Common Sense’s 20th Anniversary in business.

Success as a small business like that deserves special recognition. And so it is that the Florida SBDC at UCF (FSBDC at UCF) has chosen Caswell and Common Sense Office Furniture as its SBDC Day Company of the Year.  Wednesday March 21, 2018 is the second annual SBDC Day, a national movement to help raise awareness about the service offerings and impact of America’s SBDCs –- the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) largest business assistance program.

Common Sense Office Furniture

Owner of Common Sense Office Furniture Craig Caswell with FSBDC Consultant Hal Thayer (L-R)

“For entrepreneurs considering working with the Florida SBDC, I’d say ‘do it faster than I did,” Caswell remarked. “The sooner you can get in and learn the lessons that the FSBDC can teach you, from their services and programs, their consulting and in their classrooms, the sooner you’ll be on firm footing. Their assistance can make a huge difference.”

Like many small business founders, Caswell started his business on his own and grew it on the strength of his determination and skills. But as the business became larger, new, unfamiliar challenges arose. “Fifteen years ago, the business was growing but I was faced with a whole new set of business requirements and needs that I was unfamiliar with, issues like worker’s compensation, warehousing, delivery vehicle investments,” Caswell says. “Help from the FSBDC was the logical solution. They gave me the answers I needed.”

“Once I started working with the FSBDC, my eyes were opened and I understood that for me to continue to grow this business, I couldn’t do it alone, that there were lots of things to consider, to plan for, to prepare for. The Florida SBDC helped me with that, and with recognizing how important it is to share the glory with the people who helped you make it happen because you certainly didn’t do it alone” Caswell went on. “It’s why we have profit sharing and a 401(k) matching program for our employees, because they are the ones who make it happen every day.”

Caswell will tell you that he “took advantage of virtually every service at the FSBDC I could,” starting with its Advisory Board Council program. The Advisory Board Council is a next-level, business support service, assisting established Central Florida businesses by matching them with experienced professionals with a diverse range of skills who work together on a “custom-fit” advisory board.

“My Advisory Board was invaluable,” Caswell states. “The volunteers on my Board were amazing. The FSBDC did a great job matching their background and skills with my company’s needs. Their assistance and insights changed my business.”

A second Florida SBDC service Caswell says has been beneficial is the FSBDC’s CEO XChange, an executive roundtable program that offers a confidential setting for top executives to discuss vital business issues, opportunities and trends with a group of peers. “The CEO XChange has been great,” Caswell claims. “You think you are out there alone, that your problems are uniquely yours. Then you sit down with other business owners at the CEO XChange who have had the same issues and you get ideas, solutions and support. It’s a confidence builder.”

When callers reach out to the company, the response is apt: “Thank you for using Common Sense. How can we help you?” And using common sense is what their clients have been doing. From being located in a modest warehouse, Common Sense Office Furniture has grown into a fabulous showroom downtown. From a handful of employees 20 years ago, the company has grown to more than 20. And from revenues in the thousands, Common Sense has become a multi-million dollar enterprise.

“It’s great knowing that the Florida SBDC at UCF is there to help. I’m pleased to be part of SBDC Day and to be the FSBDC at UCF’s SBDC Day Company of the Year. It’s too bad that the services of the FSBDC aren’t better known. Like me and my company, a lot of businesses could benefit from working with them” Caswell concluded.

SeaDek, Hyperform, Jill McLaughlin, Jason Gardner, Serenity Gardner

Hyperform Inc.

Hyperform Inc is an All-American success story. What started out as a maker of products for the surfing industry like surfboard fins and traction pads has transformed itself into a hugely successful manufacturer supplying, as its primary business, the marine industry with innovative, functional, and aesthetically pleasing PE/EVA non-skid decking products.

PE/EVA (Polyethylene/Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate) is a closed-cell blended foam material that is soft yet durable, and SeaDek has developed a unique formula that is resistant to UV rays and the harsh conditions of the marine environment. Hyperform utilizes PE/EVA as decking (and a variety of other applications) in its SeaDek Marine Products line, its SwimDek aquatic surfaces line for the pool and spa market, and coming soon, the EndeavourDek line for automotive, off road, and multiple other applications. All are alternatives to fiberglass molded-in non-skid, painted-on textures, and other traction products currently available.

Hyperform Inc.

(L-R) Jason and Serenity Gardner with FSBDC Consultant Jill McLaughlin

Hyperform benefits from a strong group of seven principal owners and a dedicated workforce. At the helm guiding the company through its dramatic growth and playing key roles among the principals are President Kurt Wilson, Chief Operating Officer Serenity Gardner, Vice President of Marketing Jason Gardner, and Vice President of Sales Chuck Yates. In 2015, the principals of SeaDek extended ownership to over eighty full-time employees through the implementation of an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). It’s that team that’s making success happen at the company, say the Gardners.

As unprecedented consumer acceptance throughout the United States placed the company on the forefront of the marine decking industry, word spread overseas. “There was definite demand in the international marketplace,” Serenity Gardner recalls. “We decided we wanted assistance from an outside organization rather than taking a reactionary approach and working with whichever customer came to us.”

Hyperform turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) and its International Trade Services consultant Jill McLaughlin for assistance. The company applied for and was accepted into the FSBDC’s Export Marketing Plan service. Provided in partnership with Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commercial Service, the program is focused on assisting qualified new-to-export manufacturers and service providers with overseas growth strategies through the development of customized Export Marketing Plans. These customized Export Marketing Plans provide comprehensive industry and market analyses, with target market recommendations and country specific market entry strategies.

“Thanks to the Export Marketing Plan,” Serenity Gardner remarked, “we didn’t take a shotgun approach. We looked at markets one-by-one and decided which areas we wanted to target and which ones we didn’t. It allowed us to go into new markets with a good plan and a strong understanding of what we would be dealing with.”

“Working with the FSBDC couldn’t have been easier,” continued Jason Gardner. “Communication was great. It was a positive experience across the board.”

“It’s interesting to look back now at the decisions we made with the help of the report and see that we were really pretty successful,” Serenity Gardner concluded. “Even with taking a measured approach, in just the past year and a half our export revenues have climbed from 1 – 2 % to over 10% now. We’ve gone from being in one country to more than 15 today. If you’re contemplating selling internationally, you absolutely want to use the FSBDC and get an Export Marketing Plan. It’s a really valuable resource.”

JDI, TK Lamb, FSBDC at UCF, PTAC, Government Contracting

JDI, LLC

The Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) provides a broad range of services: expert, no-cost business consulting; training and seminars; access to extensive market research resources; and specialized services, for example how to do business with the government.

Behind all of these services, however, the FSBDC often plays a role that turns out to be critical to the long-term success of entrepreneurs and small business owners: that of being a mentor and partner. Building upon their experience and expertise, FSBDC consultants understand the challenges their clients face and have the answers clients need to make their businesses grow.

K. Lamb, the founder and principal of JDI, LLC, found a partner and mentor when he came to the FSBDC. Actually he found several of them. JDI is a consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations analyze and optimize their operations, and become high performance companies. It is not in the business of business start-ups however.

“I came to the FSBDC because I needed someone who knew more than I did about starting a business, and then managing and growing a start-up business” Lamb says. “I started with FSBDC consultant Pauline Davis, who helped me develop my business plan and understand my financial standing. Then I worked with FSBDC’s Government Contracting Services through its Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) to understand the government market, what I should be doing, what I could be doing.”

“We small business owners go through a lot, a lot of pain points and challenges. What we need most is someone to talk to, to talk through the problems, experts who understand small business. Steven South, my current FSBDC consultant, brings a wealth of information and experience to my situation. He’s gone beyond being just a resource to being a partner and a mentor,” Lamb states.

Early on, the FSBDC recommended that JDI, LLC become verified as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) to enhance its opportunities in the government contracting market. At first, Lamb was hesitant. “I had this irrational belief that everything is difficult with the government, that I’m too small to get over the hurdle and win contracts,” Lamb recalls.

“Well, I got over the hurdle thanks to help from the FSBDC. I got approved,” he continued. “And then everyone said it would be years before I won my first contract. Well, they were wrong. I actually won my first contract in just over a year. And, now, two years later my firm had its first contract renewed and has won its second contract both worth over $1 million.”

“The changes in my business since I started with the FSBDC have been transformational,” concluded Lamb. “They provided the consultative advisory services that my business needed. Today it is a corner stone component to making sure I’m doing the right thing and covering my blind spots. I know I can rely on the FSBDC to help me and be there for me.”

Carmona Law, FSBDC, Omar Carmona

Carmona Law

Located in Winter Park, FL, Carmona Law is a full-service law firm with a second office in Kissimmee, and with affiliate offices in Tampa, Columbia and Puerto Rico. With six attorneys, the firm specializes in family law, immigration, business law, bankruptcy and issues that have to do with Puerto Rico law.

In September 2017, Carmona Law sustained economic damage due to Hurricane Irma. Omar Carmona, Partner of the law firm, turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for help securing a Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan.  When asked about the experience with the hurricane and the assistance received, he recalled:

What type of damage occurred?

Carmona Law

Omar Carmona, Partner of the law firm Carmona Law, with FSBDC at UCF Assistant Director Pauline Davis

Everything is done online in our offices. With the power out, we lost all our security cameras and all internet connections, which prevented us accessing services in the cloud. Our server is in California and with no internet we could not log in. Our employees needed to work from home and were not able to be as productive. And we could not see clients. Our revenues and ability to earn them were adversely effected.

And our building, its elevator and our offices all experienced water damage.

How helpful was the Emergency Bridge Loan?

The loan is going to mean that we have adequate working capital to finish the year with no problems. It gives us peace of mind that we will be fully operational and represent our clients effectively.

How helpful was the Florida SBDC at UCF?

It was a huge relief knowing that there was a place like the FSBDC where we could go to for help after the hurricane. The flow between my office and the FSBDC was really smooth and decision making was really quick so we’re really happy with the whole, entire process.

About the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network, and supported by Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term, interest-free working capital loan intended to help small businesses “bridge the gap” between the time of a declared disaster and when the business has secured long-term recovery resources, such as insurance proceeds or federal disaster assistance. Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program on Thursday, September 14 and the first loan was distributed the following Monday. Eligible businesses with two to 100 employees may apply for loans up to $50,000 for 90 or 180-day terms.

As a principal responder in the state’s Emergency Support Function for Business, Industry, and Economic Stabilization, the Florida SBDC Network supports disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation through its Business Continuation Services. As part of its service offering, Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.

BMDM

Located in Orlando, FL, BMDM is a direct marketing agency that helps their client companies reach the right individuals, specializing in personalized direct mail as well as online and offline contacts like display and Facebook advertisements. The company also implements data-driven digital marketing campaigns including data analysis/segmentation, customized print and return-on-investment reporting.

In September 2017, BMDM sustained economic damage due to Hurricane Irma. Chuck Barnett, CEO of the company, turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for help securing a Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan.  When asked about his experience with the hurricane and the assistance received, he recalled:

What type of damage occurred?

Our largest clients are automotive dealerships throughout the Southeast. Before the storm, none wanted to do marketing. During the storm, they were closed. Then after the hurricane, people were buying vehicles to re

BMDM

CEO of BMDM Chuck Barnett (L) with FSBDC at UCF Consultant Roger Greenwald (R)

place what was lost so my customers didn’t need to do any direct mail then either. The combination essentially shut down our business, it put a hit on our cash flow and we were without revenues for more than a month.

How helpful was the Emergency Bridge Loan?

The loan is going help us payback some credit cards we ran up to cover expenses. And replace personal funds used to pay the mortgage, cover the payroll, pay off the loans we have. It will partially repair the damage from the short term loss of revenue.

How helpful was the Florida SBDC at UCF?

The FSBDC and our consultant were exceptional. They informed us of the program, helped us with the paperwork, and kept us informed all through the process. It was two weeks from start-to-finish. The whole experience was as painless as possible and a real relief given our situation.

About the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network, and supported by Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term, interest-free working capital loan intended to help small businesses “bridge the gap” between the time of a declared disaster and when the business has secured long-term recovery resources, such as insurance proceeds or federal disaster assistance. Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program on Thursday, September 14 and the first loan was distributed the following Monday. Eligible businesses with two to 100 employees may apply for loans up to $50,000 for 90 or 180-day terms.

As a principal responder in the state’s Emergency Support Function for Business, Industry, and Economic Stabilization, the Florida SBDC Network supports disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation through its Business Continuation Services. As part of its service offering, Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.

Jillian Rowe, Higher Learning Development Center, SBDC, Child Care

Higher Learning Development Center

Being an entrepreneur is not an easy road. Starting a business with limited resources and without a formal business education is an uphill climb. So when an individual, against all odds, starts a business from scratch and builds it into a successful, going concern, it is cause for celebration.

Jillian Rowe, founder and owner of Higher Learning Development Center, is deserving of such a celebration.  At full capacity with an enrollment of 66, Higher Learning Development Center provides quality care and education for children ages 6 months to 12 years in Winter Park, FL.

When she began her venture, Rowe had almost nothing except a vision and determination. “When I started out, I had no money. No clients. Not great credit. But I had a dream,” she says. “And I needed a small business loan to purchase a childcare facility. But when I went to the bank, the first requirement was to complete a business plan and do financial projections. Those things were all new to me. My first thought was the FSBDC.”

Higher Learning Development Center

Assistant Director Pauline Davis (L) with Owner of Higher Learning Development Center Jillian Rowe (R)

Rowe contacted the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) and one of its consultants, Pauline Davis, for its no-cost, unlimited consulting and mentoring. “I met with Ms. Pauline. She explained everything to me. But she wouldn’t do it for me, especially the projections,” Rowe says today. “She said to me: ‘I’m not going to do it for you. I’m going to teach you and that way you will always know how to do it for yourself.’ ”

Davis and Rowe set about to produce a business plan and the financial forecasts. “Those were challenging days,” Rowe says now. “The FSBDC was my only cheerleader and support system when I started out. They were always there. And that assistance has made the difference for me.”

“So far, I have been able to attract wonderful students and families, offer job opportunities in the community, grow my business to capacity and even buy my building,” Rowe says of her success in the past few years. “I didn’t have all of this when I started out. And look at me now.”

“As my business has grown, I never lost contact with Ms. Pauline and the FSBDC,” Rowe continued.  “Anytime I progressed or achieved a goal or had an obstacle, the first person I called was Pauline Davis. She has been awesome. She believed in me. She kept pushing me to go forward. She motivated me to keep going. Thanks to her coaching and mentoring me all the way, I can write a business plan. I can do forecasts. I can negotiate a deal.”

“The FSBDC is a great resource,” Rowe concluded. ”It’s a business education institute. My consultant is always there, always available and able to help me dissect a situation and show me the best way to go. Their guidance is awesome.”

Holly Bluff Marina, Judy Armstrong, FSBDC, UCF, Daytona State College

Holly Bluff Marina

Located in Deland, FL Holly Bluff Marina is a full-service marina on the St. John’s River offering house boat and pontoon boat rentals, as well as boat storage and service.

In September 2017, Holly Bluff Marina sustained extensive physical and financial damage due to Hurricane Irma. Judy Armstrong, owner of the company, turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for help securing a Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan.  When asked about her experience with the hurricane and the assistance received, he recalled:

What type of damage occurred?

We experienced extensive physical and financial damage. Trees down across the 9 acre property, including on top of the waste treatment plant. Our docks are still flooded and under 12 – 18 inches of water with uncertainty as to when they will become accessible again.

Physical damage and flooding has meant the marina has been closed since the hurricane, now more than 5 weeks, with no rental revenue whatsoever and only minor income from servicing boats.

How helpful was the Emergency Bridge Loan?

The Bridge Loan is allowing us to continue to pay our employees and not lay anyone off. It will also help our cash flow that was so harmed by our loss of business and revenues, as we had to rely on credit cards to cover more than $100,000 in bills since we were closed by the storm. The loan will help us repair our docks, utility boxes and the waste treatment facility, as well as remove the trees and debris on the property.

How helpful was the Florida SBDC at UCF?

The FSBDC was wonderful. And so helpful. They acted really quickly; we had our loan within a week. And that was such a relief. Now we have some light at the end of the tunnel.

About the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network, and supported by Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term, interest-free working capital loan intended to help small businesses “bridge the gap” between the time of a declared disaster and when the business has secured long-term recovery resources, such as insurance proceeds or federal disaster assistance. Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program on Thursday, September 14 and the first loan was distributed the following Monday. Eligible businesses with two to 100 employees may apply for loans up to $50,000 for 90 or 180-day terms.

As a principal responder in the state’s Emergency Support Function for Business, Industry, and Economic Stabilization, the Florida SBDC Network supports disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation through its Business Continuation Services. As part of its service offering, Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.

American Sign Language Services, ASL Services, SBDC, Hurricane Irma, Bridge Loan, Angela Roth

American Sign Language Services

American Sign Language Services

Owner of ASL Services Angela Roth (L) with FSBDC Consultant Jill McLaughlin (R)

Located in Kissimmee, FL American Sign Language, also known as ASL Services, is a global multilingual interpreting company. For over 20 years, ASL Services has been providing exceptional professional sign language and spoken language interpreting services for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and hearing communities. Clients include hospitals, courts, higher education institutions and theme parks/attractions, among others. Services include live onsite interpreting, video remote interpreting and telephone-to-video remote interpreting.

In September 2017, ASL Services sustained economic and operational damage due to Hurricane Irma. Angela Roth, owner of the company, turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for help securing a Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan.  When asked about her experience with the hurricane and the assistance received, he recalled:

What type of damage occurred?

Our interpreters were displaced, and our call centers in Puerto Rico and the headquarters in Kissimmee, Florida were knocked out by the storm. And our clients in Florida were shut down for days and days. Our cash flow was non-existent. We lost a tremendous amount of our revenues. It was like a big hole that had been shot through by a cannon. We were on the ropes for a good two weeks, and it’s only starting to pick up again now.

How helpful was the Emergency Bridge Loan?

The loan is going to replace the revenue we lost. Covering our payroll is critical. And we need additional resources to pay for our people who need transportation to assist in hard hit areas like Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and now California.

How helpful was the Florida SBDC at UCF?

Working with the FSBDC was awesome. They helped me when I started my business 20 years ago. And here they are again. I didn’t realize all of the services they offer now. It has been tremendous working with them. This is going to help so much.

About the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network, and supported by Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term, interest-free working capital loan intended to help small businesses “bridge the gap” between the time of a declared disaster and when the business has secured long-term recovery resources, such as insurance proceeds or federal disaster assistance. Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program on Thursday, September 14 and the first loan was distributed the following Monday. Eligible businesses with two to 100 employees may apply for loans up to $50,000 for 90 or 180-day terms.

As a principal responder in the state’s Emergency Support Function for Business, Industry, and Economic Stabilization, the Florida SBDC Network supports disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation through its Business Continuation Services. As part of its service offering, Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.

Daniel Calvalho, Brooklyn Coffee Shop, Hurricane Irma, FSBDC, SBA Loan, Bridge Loan

Brooklyn Coffee Shop

Located in Orlando, FL Brooklyn Coffee Shop is a coffee and scratch kitchen restaurant marrying the Seattle coffee culture with a relaxed New York bistro atmosphere. Shop features gourmet coffees and Brazilian food with an American twist such as fresh, simple comfort food like craft empanadas and other street food.

In September 2017, Brooklyn Coffee Shop sustained economic and operational damage due to Hurricane Irma. Daniel Carvalho, owner of the company, turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for help securing a Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan.  When asked about her experience with the hurricane and the assistance received, he recalled:

What type of damage occurred?

Outdoor fans and seating area damaged. Being closed for six days meant no reve

Brooklyn Coffee Shop

Brooklyn Coffee Shop Owner Daniel Calvalho with FSBDC at UCF Assistant Director Pauline Davis

nues while our overhead and payroll continued. The power outage caused over $6,000 in losses due to food spoilage.

And this is the slow time for restaurants so it has taken time to get business back to where it was. We were having a good year; now it is like starting from scratch. Recovering that lost revenue is going to be a challenge.

How helpful was the Emergency Bridge Loan?

The bridge loan is going to be amazing. I have the payroll, the rent, power bill all coming due. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I prayed with my wife for help from somewhere. And the FSBDC called and said the loan was approved. It was crazy. Amazing. So now I believe in miracles.

How helpful was the Florida SBDC at UCF?

The FSBDC was fast. Professional. Very good. I have just good things to say.

About the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network, and supported by Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term, interest-free working capital loan intended to help small businesses “bridge the gap” between the time of a declared disaster and when the business has secured long-term recovery resources, such as insurance proceeds or federal disaster assistance. Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program on Thursday, September 14 and the first loan was distributed the following Monday. Eligible businesses with two to 100 employees may apply for loans up to $50,000 for 90 or 180-day terms.

As a principal responder in the state’s Emergency Support Function for Business, Industry, and Economic Stabilization, the Florida SBDC Network supports disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation through its Business Continuation Services. As part of its service offering, Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.

Three Volcanoes Farm, Emergency Bridge Loan, Hurricane Irma, SBA Loan, FSBDC, Pauline Davis, Karen Owens, Wally Owens

Three Volcanoes Farm

Three Volcanoes Farm

Wally and Karen Owens with FSBDC at UCF Assistant Director Pauline Davis

Located in Tavares, FL Three Volcanoes Farm is a wholesale plant nursery that supplies large quantities of landscape materials to commercial landscapers, currently growing 80 varieties of woody ornamentals, tropicals, liriopes, ornamental grasses, daylilies and groundcovers on 112 acres of nursery in Florida and 60 acres in Costa Rica. In September 2017, Three Volcanoes Farm sustained economic and operational damage due to Hurricane Irma. Karen Owen, owner of the company, turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for help securing a Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan.  When asked about her experience with the hurricane and the assistance received, she recalled:

What type of damage occurred?

Plant and structural damage, especially to the glass greenhouses. Mores significant however was the business interruption. We’re still not fully operational today, a full month since the hurricane. It’s starting to come back, but we have lost at least a $250,000 inf sales. Our customers are working on clean up, not planting. And our customers are across the Southeast, with one of the biggest hit by Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

How helpful was the Emergency Bridge Loan?

This is going to mean that we won’t have to lay off any of our more than 50 employees. Cash flow has been hit hard and the same for working capital. This gets us past that and back into doing business.

How helpful was the Florida SBDC at UCF?

Working with the FSBDC was great. They were amazing. The process was extremely fast; not more than a week and a half. And really simple. For a government outfit, it was amazing.

About the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network, and supported by Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term, interest-free working capital loan intended to help small businesses “bridge the gap” between the time of a declared disaster and when the business has secured long-term recovery resources, such as insurance proceeds or federal disaster assistance. Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program on Thursday, September 14 and the first loan was distributed the following Monday. Eligible businesses with two to 100 employees may apply for loans up to $50,000 for 90 or 180-day terms.

As a principal responder in the state’s Emergency Support Function for Business, Industry, and Economic Stabilization, the Florida SBDC Network supports disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation through its Business Continuation Services. As part of its service offering, Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.