Hernon Manufacturing, Jill McLaughlin, Business Consulting

Hernon Manufacturing

With the assistance of the Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (SBDC at UCF) and its no-cost Growth Acceleration services, Hernon Manufacturing, the innovator in adhesive and sealing technologies, continues to expand rapidly. The Company recently announced that it had won a large new order from a leading defense contractor and had entered into a new distribution agreement for Florida. Within the last three months, Hernon has received over one million dollars in contracts to deliver high speed application and inspection equipment to some of the world’s largest defense contractors. To facilitate this rapid growth, Hernon has also leased additional manufacturing space while it builds and expands into a 100,000 square-foot plant by year end 2013. The company credits the assistance of the SBDC at UCF’s Growth Acceleration Consultants for helping to make the company’s growth possible.

The SBDC at UCF’s Growth Acceleration services offers companies consulting assistance aimed at developing sustainable growth strategies in key business areas, including marketing and business development, cash flow management, strategic planning, market/industry research, as well as capital access. In the case of Hernon, the SBDC’s Growth Acceleration Consultants performed an in-depth business health assessment and, based upon it, identified ways to optimize cash flow and better position the company to take full advantage of its growth opportunities. They then worked closely with Hernon’s management team and assisted in implementing their recommendations.

“The SBDC at UCF’s Growth Acceleration services have been an important ingredient in putting Hernon’s expansion on the fast track,” said Harry Arnon, President of Hernon Manufacturing. “We had aggressive growth goals to begin with and, thanks to the help of the SBDC’s growth acceleration consultants, have met and surpassed them. We look forward to continuing that rapid expansion in 2012 with the help of the SBDC as we look to hire new employees, expand our manufacturing facilities and introduce new technologies.”

GTS Corporation

Global Trading & Sourcing Corporation

image (1)Global Trading & Sourcing Corporation (GTS) has “put the pedal to the metal” and is significantly accelerating its growth despite a balky economy. With assistance from the Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (SBDC at UCF) and its Growth Acceleration Services, the company is experiencing double-digit growth in its revenues. A specialized procurement services company located in Orlando, GTS delivers cost-effective original equipment manufacturer (OEM) solutions by shortening the supply chain and enhancing customer procurement performance.

In October 2011, GTS was in a period of expansion and sought out the assistance of the SBDC’s Growth Acceleration Services to assist them in achieving their full growth potential. The Growth Acceleration services are designed to provide in-depth professional business consulting at no cost to qualified emerging and growth businesses in Florida, delivering the tools, strategies and expertise businesses need to accelerate the growth and success of their business in today’s competitive market.

The SBDC Growth Acceleration consultant worked with GTS by performing a detailed business health assessment, including an in-depth financial analysis that identified strategies to enhance cash flow to support further growth. After receiving the health assessment from the Growth Acceleration Services consultant, Andrew Vandendriessche, President of GTS, said, “It was invaluable for me to get an outside and impartial opinion on what we are doing well and not so well. The SBDC’s recommendations are very practical and achievable and we will be focusing on implementing them as we move forward. Not only is  the content of the report very useful, but also our Growth Acceleration consultant’s opinions and analysis while discussing it helped put a lot of  things in perspective.”

GTS took quick action in implementing many of the recommendations provided by the SBDC Growth Acceleration consultant. Since the initial meeting with the SBDC, the Company’s sales force has increased 30% and it is on track to exceed sales targets for 2012. “The information and tools provided were instrumental in quantifying what we needed to do to achieve our growth goals.” said Vandendriessche.

The Florida SBDC’s no-cost Growth Acceleration services are available to companies throughout the state. To qualify for the services, the company must have growth as a goal, be in operation for at least three years, have annual revenues ranging from $500,000 to $10 million, and employ five or more workers. Florida SBDC Growth Acceleration consultants are available statewide to provide assistance to qualified emerging and growth business who are looking to advance. Specifically, the SBDC at UCF Growth Acceleration services consultants will provide high level consulting of 50 – 100 hours (fair market value of over $10,000) to help qualified SMEs develop sustainable growth strategies.

For more information about the SBDC’s Growth Acceleration services, contact SBDC at UCF Regional Director Eunice Choi at 407-420-4850 or echoi@bus.ucf.edu.

ConTech Construstion, Advisory Board Council, SBDC, Jill Kaufman

Rock Solid: Concrete Contractor Stronger than Ever with Help from the SBDC at UCF’s Advisory Board Council

In classic entrepreneurial style, Alan Haughey and his wife Joan started ConTech Construction in 1993 in the living room of their Orlando home.  At its founding, the firm was a general contractor and concrete contractor that employed a staff of three.   Today, ConTech has offices in Winter Garden, employs a full time staff of 62, and Alan and Joan are joined in the business by their son Jeff.

ConTech’s success has come about in large part as a result of the solid reputation for integrity, collaboration and high performance that the Haugheys have built for the company.  In fact, ConTech’s name is so esteemed in the industry that 92% of the firm’s work comes from repeat business and direct referrals.  Alan Haughey’s more than 35 years in the concrete industry has enabled him to establish many long term relationships with clients and industry-leading firms.  That, combined with the firm’s strong financial standing and bonding capacity of over $10 million, has enabled them to take on larger jobs.

ConTech’s projects can be seen all over the region including Winter Garden City Hall, Uptown UCF, SunTrust Plaza and an eight-inch thick ice floor at Amway Arena.   The firm has poured over 160,000 cubic yards of concrete ranging from theme park rides at Disney World to a nuclear power plant and boasts a 99.998% rate of accuracy.

ConTech has won many accolades for their work.  Their $6.5 million restoration of the Royal Floridian Resort in Ormond Beach earned them 2011 Project of the Year by the International Concrete Repair Institute.   The firm has also received the Eagle Award from the Associated Builders and Contractors for excellence in construction of the Winter Garden City Hall.

Alan Haughey believes that “innovation and modifying your business to keep up with ever-changing realities” are keys to ConTech’s success.  Joan and Alan took action on this belief when they sought the assistance of the Small Business Development Center at UCF’s Advisory Board Council (ABC) in 2007.  “For me, joining the Advisory Board Council was our first major step in the process of working on the business rather than in it,” said Alan.  “We were so overwhelmed with the day-to-day operations that it was very difficult to focus on the strategic business changes that we needed to make to survive in a changing economy.  That’s why we sought out help from an advisory board at the SBDC.”

Jill Kaufman, the ABC program manager, worked with ConTech and hand-picked a board of volunteer advisors for the firm comprised of professionals in the fields of finance, business development, human resources, succession planning and law who were willing to donate their time and energy to working on the board.  According to Haughey, “The people who were on the advisory board were absolutely expert in their fields and they encouraged us to look at everything we do rather than just operations.”

The business graduated from the ABC program at the end of 2008, and Haughey points to three topics that were focused on with the board as crucial contributors to the company’s ongoing success: the need to diversify the client base, succession planning and development of a marketing plan.   When ConTech experienced the impact of the recession and downturn in the construction market, they were prepared to make changes which enabled the firm to rebound.

“What we did was take the seeds that were planted from the board and we started making continual changes in the company based on insights we gleaned from those folks,” commented Haughey.   Some of the changes that grew out of the work with their advisory board include a rebranding effort, new lines of business and a new business focus.

Today, ConTech specializes in concrete restoration with a greater focus on hospitality industry projects and has rebranded itself as ConTech Restoration.   Existing structure renovation projects include condos, timeshares and parking structures. The company has also expanded their scope of work and now offers commercial painting and waterproofing.  From 2009 to 2011 ConTech added 49 jobs and realized a 63% increase in revenue.

Haughey encourages other business owners to also take proactive steps for their business.  “I would absolutely recommend the SBDC at UCF’s Advisory Board Council to other businesses,” remarked Haughey.  “An advisory board helps a business owner fast track changes in his business because the board members have ‘been there and done that’ and their advice allows the business owner to learn from their years of experience.”

Founded with the purpose of strengthening Central Florida’s economy, the Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida conceived and developed the Advisory Board Council in 2003 to help small businesses reach the next level.    Funded by Orange County Government since the program’s inception to facilitate sustainable revenue and job growth, the Advisory Board Council provides established businesses with no-cost advisory boards comprised of area professionals who volunteer their expertise.

The ABC has found an extremely cost effective model to tap into community resources for the benefit of small businesses.  The program’s $100,000 annual budget is modest compared to the economic impact achieved by its participating companies.  The program has formed over 150 advisory boards for Orange County businesses, which have achieved $72.4 million sales increase, 1,968 jobs created and retained, $15 million in capital formation and $62.3 million in government contracts obtained.

The Kimball Companies

The Kimball Companies

0- 204The Kimball Companies is a twenty-first century business phenomenon: it has built growth and profitability around the simple, but often neglected, principle that America needs strong families for the country to thrive and prosper. With assistance from the Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (SBDC at UCF), over the past three years the company has seen revenues grow to more than $10 million while helping thousands of children and families strengthen their confidence and relationships.

Comprised of four businesses, its core business A+ Tutor U, as well as Family Table Time, School House to Your House and FAMILYing.com, The Kimball Companies (formerly Learning Centers of Central Florida, LLC), reflects CEO Neal Kimball’s passion to improve family life by teaching students struggling in school; building strong connections among teachers, parents and students; helping families communicate; and uniting families with new technologies.
Mr. Kimball has combined his passion for strengthening the family with a keen business mind to create a company that is making a meaningful positive difference for families. He has used his command of marketing and sales gained from more than 20 years in corporate America to build entrepreneurial businesses that appeal to and serve the needs of students and parents, teachers and school administrators. In doing so, over the past three years The Kimball Companies have experienced a 336% increase in staff to 96 employees and a 25.4% increase in revenues for its core business, A+ Tutor U, while serving more than 7,000 students, families and schools across Florida and in Washington, D.C.
The success being enjoyed today by The Kimball Companies has been hard earned. It is a classic small business development story of a passionate entrepreneur having an idea and then through his courage and determination creating a new business, new jobs and a new solution, in this case for struggling students and families of all sorts.
Coming from the corporate world, and starting his business from scratch, Mr. Kimball sought out and benefited from training and consulting from Certified Business Consultants at the Florida SBDC at UCF. He created his original business plan with the help of the SBDC, and then benefited from ongoing counseling about managing his finances and marketing. The Kimball Companies participated in the SBDC at UCF’s Small Business Institute, a student management consulting program offered in conjunction with the College of Business Administration at UCF.
More recently, he has been an active participant in the SBDC at UCF’s CEO XChange program, a senior executive roundtable program where progressive chief executives discuss vital issues, opportunities, trends, and best practices in a confidential, peer-to-peer counseling setting. “The SBDC at UCF has been an invaluable resource to me every step of the way,” said Mr. Kimball. “From the beginning, their CBAs have been there for me with sound guidance and a thoughtful perspective, as well as useful tools and support. And today I am benefiting from the ideas and counseling I get from my peer CEO’s in the CEO XChange program offered by the SBDC at UCF. Small businesses in Central Florida are really missing out if they don’t take advantage of the amazing assistance available from the SBDC at UCF.”
And Mr. Kimball is not through with the SBDC at UCF. He is currently participating in the SBDC’s Growth Acceleration Services program in which companies receive 50 – 100 hours of high-level consulting aimed at helping them develop sustainable growth strategies, whether by increasing revenues, streamlining operations or improving financial management.
The success of The Kimball Companies and its CEO Neal Kimball has not gone unnoticed. He and his company were nominated and awarded the distinguished 2012 Entrepreneurial Success Award by the Small Business Administration for the SBA’s North Florida District, State of Florida and Southeast Region. This award recognizes small businesses that have grown to be large businesses (as defined by SBA size standards) with the assistance of the SBA and on the strength of the company’s growth, financial performance, innovation, response to adversity and community contributions.
Maple Street, Mike Crofts, Roger Greenwald, FSBDC

Maple Street: Aligning Industry Experience and Technology Creates a Solution

Michael Crofts, founder and President, aligned extensive industry experience and technology to create a solution, providing outsourced vendor management, contract negotiation and regulatory compliance oversight for financial institutions. Maple Street, Inc. is relieving these institutions from these important, albeit, tedious and labor intensive activities while ensuring compliance and saving customers money.

Leveraging his experience as a lawyer in the financial sector, Crofts developed a proprietary document management software system that enhances the company’s differentiation in this “quality-of-performance” competitive environment.

Headquartered in Longwood, FL and serving customers nationally, Maple Street has tripled in size in the past two years {2010/2011}; sales, employees, and customers. Sales in 2011 exceeded $1.4 million, employment has grown 23 full time associates and the company is now providing vendor management services to more than 60 customers nationwide. Double digit growth is anticipated again in 2012.

Entrepreneurial leadership, vision, innovation, adaptation to industry trends and technology development has enabled Maple Street, Inc. to demonstrate a sustainable competitive advantage. Maple Street was named as one of fifty “Florida Companies to Watch” for 2012 by the Florida Economic Gardening Institute at the University of Central Florida

 “We are fortunate to have a growing business, but the challenges that come with growth are sometimes enormous. Having terrific advice and counsel has been tremendous for our business. The advice and counsel we received from the SBDC at UCF’s Growth Acceleration Consultant, Roger Greenwald, has been incredibly helpful and has helped us grow our business and create new jobs. It’s great to have someone who is genuinely committed to our success available to speak and trade ideas with”.


MotorSports ConneXtions

If you think high gas prices, environmental impacts, cautious consumer spending and old friends separated by nearly 6000 miles are business obstacles, then you should talk to Lisa Knowles, CEO of MotorSports ConneXtions, a new importer-distributor of motor scooters in Clermont, Florida.

“We weren’t sure how we were going to sell the product as it seemed difficult, so I discussed our options with [the SBDC at UCF].”

Lisa Knowles
MotorSports ConneXtions

“I’ve had this friend in Hawaii for the past 20 years,” says Knowles, “and we discussed many times about going into business but the timing just wasn’t right.” That all changed in July 2008, when Lisa, her husband Russ, and their friend Joe in Hawaii, pooled their limited resources to put a deposit on a ship container full of motor scooters – some 44 bikes in total. That’s when Knowles contacted the SBDC at UCF’s Gene Romagna, area manager for Lake & Sumter Counties. “She was one determined professional”, Romagna recalls, “and she wanted to ‘do it right’ from the start.” Knowles immediately started in on a business plan and what the proper legal structure would be for the company. “We weren’t sure how we were going to sell the product as it seemed difficult, so I discussed our options with Gene. With his (Romagna’s) help, getting his input and his direction to various web sites to research as to what was best for us, we settled on being a distributor.” They filed with the State for a distributorship in late November, the scooter shipment arrived Thanksgiving weekend.

Determined to make it work, Knowles continued to work with customs brokers and trucking companies to successfully get the products to their rented storage facility. There were also other necessary items to complete including working with state offices for a distributor license, drumming up potential dealers, creating contracts and advertising pieces, and getting a harder than expected “MCO” (manufacturer certificate of origin) document. By early February 2009, MotorSports ConneXtions received their approved license to distribute motor vehicles in the State of Florida and have six dealers with more on the way.

“Gene was always there by phone and email to help lead us in the directions we needed to go, including working with the state and the folks in Tallahassee,” says Knowles. “You just knew this was going to work from the start,” says Romagna. “Success was the only option for her positive attitude and hard work.” MotorSports ConneXtions recently co-opted with a dealer to run a TV commercial that will be airing in the greater Lake County area over the next few weeks. Additionally, Knowles is looking to bring on another manufacturer with 3 more scooters styles along with after-market parts. So, keep your eyes and ears open when driving in central Florida. You just may catch Lisa Knowles “scootering” to one of her dealers.

FSBDC, UCF, Business Consulting

Express Stucco & Wall Services, Inc.

Diversifying business through contracting opportunities. Expresso Stucco & Wall Service is a family owned business established in 2003. The company specializes in stucco, EIFS, concrete sidewalks and slabs.

“Today I am very proud as I drive by the many different jobs we have completed and the SBDC helped us achieve this.”

Wilson Wright, Owner
Express Stucco & Wall Services, Inc.

Seeking to expand his business in 2008, owner Wilson Wright was referred by the Kissimmee Chamber of Commerce to the SBDC. In May 2008, Mr. Wright met with an SBDC certified business analyst to receive assistance in accessing new markets. The SBDC counseled and provided a number of recommendations to increase Wright’s business. While working with the SBDC, Mr. Wright began to seek opportunities in working with the local government. Many of his existing clients expressed interest in doing business with him and required that he become certified as a Minority Business Enterprise. The staff of the SBDC assisted Mr. Wright with the certification process with the City of Orlando and Orange County.

By October 2008, he was certified by both entities and more importantly began using his certification as a marketing tool which ended up being a value added benefit to several of his clients. “The SBDC was instrumental in helping us become certified to bid on contracts. From providing the application forms, to working with us to complete every phase, including numerous calls to answer our questions, the SBDC is the reason we can proudly say that we are now certified with both the City and the County.” Mr. Wright continues to utilize the services of the SBDC.

FSBDC, UCF, Business Consulting

TJs Seafood Shack

Brothers Tim and Mike Shepardson, and their sister, Mary Strickland, launched their Oviedo franchise, My Girlfriend’s Kitchen, during 2006 with expectations of being profitable within one year of opening. Nationally, the meal preparation business had received wide appeal across affluent, two-income households; and the franchisor seemed to be a logical fit for the three family members.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! You guys (SBDC at SCC) truly know small business and are just the best!”

TJs Seafood Shack

In early 2008, managing partner, Tim, approached the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Seminole Community College in Oviedo seeking to gain clearer understanding as to why the venture was not hitting its revenue projections. Certified Business Analyst, Robert Goetz, met with Tim and reviewed key performance indicators for the year and half old business. It was determined that while the local demographic profile tightly matched the recommended franchise model, population density was inadequate for creating and sustaining such a venture. Perhaps a larger city, but relocating the business was not a viable option for the family.

Working closely with SBDC, Tim and Mary set out to remake and reposition their business to appeal to a wider audience. They began researching the local market, specifically with keen focus on identifying an eatery with underserved market potential. It was soon determined that there was no casual, low cost seafood eatery in the Oviedo – Winter Springs area. After several planning meetings with the SBDC, the owners decided that they would shut down My Girlfriend’s Kitchen for several months while remodeling and installing new kitchen equipment and fixtures. Additional owner investment of $90,000 was secured. Good landlord communication bought them several months rent free during this critical “no revenue” rebuilding phase. SBDC further advised the owners on the value of a low cost / high return marketing program. TJ’s Seafood Shack opened for business in November 2008. The eatery is currently profitable with a vastly improved financial position. Eight, at risk, jobs were retained and three new ones added.

FSBDC, UCF, Business Consulting

Holy Land Stone Company, LLC

In April of 1996 for the first time, Jim Martin’s career led him to Israel. As he approached the City of Jerusalem, he was inspired by what he described “as the most beautiful site he had ever seen.” Traveling throughout the city and countryside, the beauty of the Jerusalem Stone and the connection he felt between the stone and his faith made a lasting impression. When Jim’s business required he return to Israel, he searched for a souvenir of the Jerusalem Stone. Unable to find one, Jim researched the possible channels for importing Jerusalem Stone and established contact with the owner of a quarry who shipped samples of the stone to the Martin home. Over the kitchen island, Jim, Penny and Jim’s brother Mike began brainstorming product ideas.

“This relationship with the SBDC has continued throughout the years and has proven to be a significant resource. In addition to the direction gained through SBDC sponsored training events, the networking opportunities available to small business.”

Penny Martin
Holy Land Stone Company, LLC

In December of 1997 Jim and Penny Martin, Mike Martin, Howard and Sue Rothman, John and Mary Bonenberger founded Holy Land Stone Company, LLC. Penny took on the role of managing partner. The first product was a chiseled cube of the stone with a bronze insert embedded in it that read “Millennium 2000–Prepare the Way of the Lord”. From there Jim, Penny and Mike designed crosses, scripture stones, menorahs, plaques…gifts for all faiths. In April 1998, HLSC moved from the garage to a one room office and single manufacturing bay. In 2000, a laser engraver was purchased to enhance the stones with inspirational quotes and scriptures. The company continued to expand over the years to 4 full-time and 3 part-time employees at its current 3000 square foot leased facility.

After struggling through the first years of business and basically learning by doing” as she describes it, Penny Martin heard about the SBDC in Melbourne. In 2002 she began meeting with SBDC Director and Certified Business Analyst Vicky Peake who provided expert guidance with regard to marketing/sales and financial capital needs.” As Penny explains, “this relationship with the SBDC and Vicky has continued throughout the years and has proven to be a significant resource. In addition to the direction gained through SBDC sponsored training events, the networking opportunities available to small businesses…are invaluable.”

In October, 2008 Holy Land Stone Company purchased a water jet cutting system which provides increased production efficiency. Holy Land Stone Company markets to retail stores, hospital gift shops, funeral homes and cemeteries, long term care facilities, Hospice organizaitons, QVC, churches and online stores.

As Managing Partner, Penny Martin’s diverse artistic and accounting background have led Holy Land Stone from a start up to the development and design of up to 600 products. Penny attributes the company’s success to a unique, inspiring product line, belief in the vision, old fashioned hard work, perseverance, the support of her husband and extended family and the “talented Holy Land Stone team who works together and truly cares about and shares in the mission of giving glory to God through the work we do and products we offer.”

Penny Martin’s spirituality and passion shine in each piece of authentic Jerusalem Stone that is handcrafted in her Melbourne facility. An SBDC client since 2003, Penny has inspired and supported countless customers, colleagues, friends and SBDC clients with her determination to bring the feeling of peace through her more than 600 standard products and her custom pieces for domestic and international organizations. Penny’s interpersonal warmth and concern for people she encounters have been most welcome at our Women’s Expo’s, Women’s conferences, business planning, disaster planning, marketing, government contracting and funding roundtables. Penny is a receptive and eager counseling client and acts swiftly upon recommendations. Holy Land Stone Company currently employs 6 dedicated workers who share the dream to distribute the “precious stones” and their symbolism for years to come. In these challenging economic times, Penny diligently seeks opportunities to expand.

amaZulu, SBDC, Lake County

amaZulu, Inc.

Finding “paradise” amid the Recession.

Born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa, when Claire Evans decided to pursue her dreams by opening a company in Clermont, FL, in 2002, the name “ama Zulu” seemed only “natural”. With a brilliant and contagious smile Claire will tell you it is a Zulu dialect that means “people of heaven”. Under that name she developed a natural architectural company that would introduce and develop new innovations and sustain higher service standards in the industry by supplying of natural and faux materials such as thatch, bamboo, reeds, etc., and the innovative installation specialists to go with it all.

“Gene helped me get through all of the fluff and get back to the basics.”

Claire Evans
amaZulu, Inc.

When Claire Evans contacted local SBDC counselor, Gene Romagna CBA, it was May of 2008. “I remember the three key things about meeting Ms. Evans”, recalls Gene. “She energetic, organized and faced a big supplier problem.” At the time amaZulu, Inc, had five employees and a successful track record of becoming a key supplier for such notable companies as Disney, Sea World, and Outback Steak House. But as Claire will explain, “the industry was ready for more environmentally safe and longer lasting fire proof synthetic materials, but getting the quality is becoming almost impossible.”

It was trying to sort through that business development process and how to create business agreements that caused her to call Gene at the Clermont SBDC. Working together over the course of the next year, Claire gained the clarity needed to face various obstacles and several attempted solutions to getting a quality product on a reliable basis. Finally, by the summer she was ready to take her plan – which now included working with a manufacturer in Canada – to seek financing. “We needed a half million dollars, but just couldn’t get a bank (she had been to 3) to take us seriously.” Looking at the plans and the financials, Gene suggested that she approach a local lender who he knew to be supportive of small businesses like amaZulu, Inc. The introduction to BankFIRST (the regional office is an active member of the SBDC’s Small Business Resource Network in Central Florida) was just what was needed. “Gene helped me get through all of the fluff and get back to the basics”, says Claire. “It was her dogged persistence and belief in her directions that won out in the end” Gene will say; “she deserves the $500K loan for sure.” It is fitting that at the bottom of every email from Claire is this Thomas Edison quote “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time”. So the next time you enjoy a little bit of “paradise” at an exotic attractions like a theme park, zoo, aquarium, spa, restaurant, resort, camping facilities, retreat or even high end real estate, you just may be experiencing some of amaZulu’s unique creations.