Robin Anderson

Mason City Chamber of Commerce

Mason City, IA

AO: Tell me about your business and how long have you been the CEO?

RA: I just celebrated my 19th anniversary. It’s been a wonderful time for us to do what we do because we advocate on behalf of businesses, we connect businesses to resources, and we have never been busier working on behalf of our members than we have over the past several months. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

RA: It’s the 80/20 rule, 80% of our members employ 25 or fewer team members. We also represent a lot of larger players.

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

RA: It had a huge financial impact on our business. Although we are a nonprofit, we are classified by the IRS as 501(c)(6), which was not eligible for the payroll protection program. As a boss, my concern was for our members and showing our value to our members, but also making sure that our staff were safe. 

AO: What one or two actions have you had to take that has made a difference for your business?

RA: We called every one of our 650 members during the third week of March to do a welfare check, to make sure that they would know that we’re a resource to them. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs and business owners learn from your experience?

RA: Personally, I felt paralyzed at first. It took a while for us to believe this was really happening. I think in the future it’s going to be easier to take these kinds of things seriously. We actually had a pandemic plan, but when I first gathered the team and said, “When you go home tonight, be prepared as if you’re not coming back,” and they were like, “We’re having the Ag Breakfast next week, right?” It’s hard as a leader to not seem like an alarmist, because that can cause panic too. In the future, I’m trying to be more calm, more reassuring. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you?

RA: I am really proud of our community and the way we’ve pulled together. 

How To Reach Us:

Robin Anderson

Mason City Chamber of Commerce

641-423-5724

masoncityia.com

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Michelle Bailey

Poppy Quilt ‘n Sew

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your business and how long you’ve been in business.

MB: The business itself has been here 15 plus years, in Georgetown at different locations, and I have owned it for about two and a half years. We cater to the community of sewists and cultures, project makers, embroiderers, because we do some embroidery as far as selling machines and things that they can use in their embroidery making, threads and that kind of stuff.  We quilt for the general public and we have thousands of bolts of fabric for them to choose from, and thread and notions that they need to complete their projects. We are also an affiliate of Too Cool T-shirt Quilts, so we take the non-quilters and their boxes of t-shirts and turn them into quilts for them. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

MB: My best customer would be the nearly retired or retired, because they’ve got more time. But of course, we’re always trying to get the younger crowd in here and COVID has thrown everything off of it. We try to do small summer programs for kids to get them involved in sewing. We’re doing some classes now, but they’re very small numbers. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had in your business?

MB: It’s been hard and the hours that I’m having to work to keep everything going is ridiculous, but the community support and the outpouring of love, we were able to do curbside even when we were shut down so that they could get the fabric to make the masks. The amount of volunteerism that we saw with our customers and making the effort to make the masks touches your heart. There has been some positive come out of it and what I keep trying to focus on is that what my store provides is not necessarily a necessity to stay alive, but it is a necessity in the fact that we’ve all got to wear those masks and we’ve got the fabrics and template to make the masks and the elastic and all of that. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference in your business?

MB: We definitely had to change the way we do business. We offer curbside. My online has greatly increased because we’ve cleaned up our website and made it more user-friendly, more searchable. We still ship and we do a low flat rate on that and ship here locally. We’ve done a couple of door drops when they’re close, but I don’t have a staff to be able to do that, it’s easier to ship and they get it the next day. 

AO: Have you had any type of pivot session or an updated three-year strategic planning session?

MB: I’m working with a consultant that is helping me with all aspects, from inventory to where to spend dollars and where to save dollars. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

MB: The biggest mistake I have made is buying too much fabric for the selves. But I feel like if I had not done that, I would not have increased the customer base as I have. So now we’re looking at fine tuning that and that’s why I’m working with a consultant and trying to order the right stuff at the right time in the right place. 

AO: Today, what is most inspiring to you?

MB: To see the finished products that our customers do. When they bring in what they’re working on or what they’ve finished and that just inspires me to keep going and keep finding more things for them to do. 

How To Reach Us:

Michelle Bailey

Poppy Quilt ‘n Sew

(512) 863-6108

poppyquiltnsew.com

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Norma Beissner

Angel Springs Event Center

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

NB: We opened in 2004. We wanted a location so we could do special events, primarily weddings is what we focus on. We’re located on 10 acres and there are two ranches that total 1,600 acres around us, so it’s pretty secluded. It’s about 2 miles from 29, Ronald Reagan, and 183 [in Georgetown, TX], so it’s pretty convenient. We can do up to 200 guests in our ballroom. We have a beautiful meadow that looks to the west, lots of big trees. The building is made out of aged limestone and looks like it’s been there for 200 years because it’s weathered down and has a big veranda on the back of the building. We have dressing rooms for the bride and her gals and a groom’s dressing room. We do have cabins onsite as well. We do a 10-hour block of time, only one event a day, so it’s a very leisurely day for them. We also give them an hour and a half for rehearsal the day before. We provide linens, we have a beautiful array of premium linens in eight different colors. We do all the setup and teardown of the chairs and tables. They can bring in their own vendors. We do have a list of preferred vendors, but we are always open to other people [that are] licensed and insured to bring in food. 

AO: Who is your best customer, other than weddings?

NB: We’ve had memorials. Some of the schools have done workshops here. But, for the most part it is weddings. We’ve done a few sports banquets for the schools and things of that nature. Weddings are probably 90% of our events. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

NB: Our events basically have just moved further out. We worked really closely with our clients because we had about three months where we literally couldn’t do any events. That was March, April, and May, so prime wedding season here in Texas. We just held their hands through it and said we are going to move the date, and some of them took a while before they decided to move their date. We had maybe a couple that didn’t move their dates and ended up doing something else, and we were able to give them a full refund and everything. But for the most part, everyone was happy because they still wanted to get married. A lot of people just lowered their number of people mainly because there were some stipulations on us by the State. In many cases, the families found that there were relatives not willing to travel, so it worked out in both directions. Instead of having 200 or 150 [guests], a lot of them were right at 100 and that worked perfectly with the guidelines that the CDC had set in place. Just really communicating with our clients and doing whatever we needed to do to make them comfortable. Obviously, we’re following the CDC guidelines. We have a beautiful outdoor area, so a lot of times people choose not to wear a mask, but we have the room to be social distancing for them, whether it be inside or outside. During those three months we did a lot of renovations, revamping, painting, and got a lot of projects [done] in that window of time when we couldn’t do anything. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

NB: One thing that we blindly bought into is the marketing. When we started marketing, literally the next day we started getting calls. But marketing is such an evolving thing that it changes. Social media has really changed the way people market. Some of the marketing tools we stayed with probably longer than we should have and weren’t getting the return for our investment. [It] was costly because we’re still not getting the ton of leads we used to get, but we had three-year contracts with some of these marketing entities. That probably was the one thing that we could have shortened [and] say we’re only going to sign a one-year contract at a time. [Also] being on top of looking at your analytical tools because the people that are selling you that marketing, sometimes they are not familiar with your type of business at all, they think marketing is marketing and it’s not. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

NB: Integrity and connecting with people is important. Trying to find a solution. I like to help people and I want to give value to those people [and] at the same time I want them to see that I’m giving them equal value back. It’s not always about what’s the best, cheapest deal out there. And we follow reviews, not only our own but we look at other reviews because we learn from other’s mistakes. We just try to do a better and better job each time. 

How To Reach Us:

Norma Beissner

Angel Springs Event Center

angelspringsevents.com

(866) 771-1500

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Ronnie Bleeker

Scenic Realty Inc

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your business. 

RB: We’re located in Georgetown, TX. Have agents in Georgetown [and] Austin. Sell investment properties, farm and ranch, residential. 

AO: How long have you been in business?

RB: About 10 years. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

RB: Investors probably would be on [my] side. Now on the other agents, it would be single-family homeowners, the normal, typical residential sales and marketing. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

RB: Using technology is driving people to technology, which makes my job smoother. That’s the positive. Negative would be struggling tenants, dealing with selling investment properties. So, you got struggling tenants and struggling owner’s lack of rent. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference?

RB: I’m so swamped I don’t know if I’ve changed anything. 

AO: Have you ever had a pivot strategy session in your business?

RB: No, went into it with one goal in mind and stuck with it through the whole thing. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

RB: I think the biggest mistake I personally have made is getting so busy in the day-to-day routine that I don’t get enough follow-up from my past clients. You get so swamped in today and tomorrow that you forget what happened yesterday. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

RB: Seeing people’s confidence during COVID to still be able to go out and invest and believe that our economy will survive and thrive. I think that’s kind of the one big one for me is seeing people still motivated. 

How To Reach Us:

Ronnie Bleeker

Scenic Realty Inc

512-563-4628 

scenicrealtytx.com

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Shane Boring

SDB Creative Group

Cedar Park, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

SB: We are classified as an advertising agency, and what that really means for our clients is they’re outsourcing the marketing department and we’ll come in and do a full marketing needs analysis. Most of our clients do not have a concrete advertising budget that’s working well, so we help them establish that and more importantly establish sales goals for the year. What differentiates us from some of our peers is we tell our clients, “This is how you’re going to measure the marketing and advertising. If the needle on sales isn’t moving to the right, it’s not working.” We need to have that so they can also see our value. Then, we plan, execute, create, [and] buy everything for them, so it’s all pretty much under one roof. Whether they’re needing a website, video, or need some graphic design for the sales department [or] they want to run a campaign on Hulu, or they want to do something with the Round Rock Express. When those thousands of salespeople call our clients, all they have to say is, “Hey, we work with SDB Creative Group, here’s their number,” and we take all that information and filter it out to see if it fits within the campaign. The main product we have is time. We give our clients their time back so that they can work on their business; on the important parts. Then we handle all the marketing for them. We’ll meet with them weekly, bi-weekly, or at minimum monthly, just to see what’s happening in real time [and] compare our data with what’s going on and see if we need to add anything new or make any adjustments. 

AO: How long have you been in business, and do you have partners?

SB: On December 13th we’ll turn 15. I started this business in a small executive suite, all by myself, and I talked my wife into coming to work for me part-time. We’ve had to reinvent our business through this pandemic because there’s always new things happening with technology and marketing. So, even though the business is 15 years old, we kind of have a new look on what we’re having to offer every 2, 3, 4 years. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

SB: Our best customer is going to be providing a service, whether that’s a professional service like financial services, elected medical, legal, or something for your home like plumbing, heating and air conditioning, [or] roofing. Those are the types of clients that we really focus our efforts on. We don’t get into retail, for example. Our strength is in clients that are selling a service [and] they’re typically established. We’ve also worked with some fairly new companies, which can be exciting if they’re willing to invest in marketing. So, our clients are service-related, they’re willing to invest in marketing, they know that they can’t effectively do it on their own, and they want to trust somebody. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

SB: The opportunity to significantly streamline and optimize our entire operation. We have offices in Midland and Austin, people all over, and around April we were having quite a bit of success with people working from home and actually felt like our productivity nearly doubled with not having the little office distractions. We’ve really been able to take a look at everything, where all the dollars are going, looking at our office space to see if we want to keep a suite or if we want to have people working from home, [and] looking at all of our systems [and if] they’re working. We’ve been able to do that more his year just because we’ve had more time. Most businesses are our clients and they’ve really been focused on doing everything they can to keep their entire staff not only employed but feeling valued and productive, so they haven’t needed us quite as much. Everything we do is on an annual plan, so there’s not much thinking that has to happen once it’s put into play. So, we’ve had a lot of time to look internally and make some good adjustments moving into 2021.  

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference?

SB: Financially, we reduced our office space by about half. So we’ve cut the overhead there by half, which is nice. Also, it hasn’t launched yet, but I know it’s going to be good because a lot more people are starting a business or thinking about it, we’ve been working hard on a new educational program for new businesses and it’s just what you need to know and how to do it. It’s not how to make a complex video or website. We’re giving them the very basics or at the very least the ‘don’t do the wrong thing,’ because [if] you spend money the wrong way as a new business it can be painful and sometimes fatal. We just want to help people out and get them in the right direction where they can be successful. 

AO: What mistakes have you made, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

SB: Well, mistake number one was not firing fast enough. What I’ve learned is whenever you have that question about somebody [such as if] they [are] still valuable to the team or they’re just not pulling their weight anymore [and] you just know something [isn’t] right, it’s time to let them go. The first time I fired somebody, I made the decision to fire them and then it took me a full six months to finally do it. It was six months of wasted salary, wasted time, [and] I had to redo [the work] they were doing. Next mistake, that’s related to this, is hiring too soon; hiring before you have a full workload. For us, we have people who may be managing programs for 10 clients, and in anticipation of growth and wanting to keep everything running smoothly, I used to hire people when we’d only be able to give them four clients to manage instead of a full workload. All that did was program them to not do a full workload. So, by the time we got to load them up with more, it just didn’t work out. Next [mistake], we have taken on some clients that we shouldn’t have, where we knew that their personality [or] their style really wasn’t a good fit for us, but we saw the money there. Probably cost us more over the long haul [with] just the time and having to deal with them and trying to keep them happy, when we knew in the beginning it was gonna be challenging and probably should’ve just passed on it. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

SB: There are several things. Number one is my sons work for me now in the family business and they are in the process of learning it where they can eventually take it over. And, I did not have to ask them to come work for me, they wanted to come, and they don’t understand how much that means to me and how excited I am about them being a part of the business and getting that extra time with them. Number two, it’s very inspiring for our clients' businesses to be doing very well throughout this entire year and that they’ve continued to trust us to help them. Lastly, that more and more people are going to be going into business for themselves and there are a lot of great ideas for businesses out there and some really good people. So, it’s just inspiring to see somebody take that risk for the American dream.

OFFER: Receive up to $2,500 in creative credit with a one-year marketing campaign agreement. Also, visit thinkabetterthought.com to download a FREE workbook that accompanies Shane Duke Boring’s book, “Think a Better Thought.”

How To Reach Us:

Shane Boring

SDB Creative Group

(512) 596-0267

www.hiresdb.com

thinkabetterthought.com

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Britt Bouffard

Bouffard Transfer & Storage

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

BB: I’m with Bouffard Transfer & Storage. Bought my dad out in 1992 and I’ve been working for the company since I was 12. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

BB: Of course, people who are moving their residence. We also do some commercial work, but primarily residential. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

BB: The number one thing is, in March when all this started, I had two major commercial accounts and they both backed out within three days. One of them backed out two days before we were supposed to get started. That’s money that’s unrecoupable. 

AO: What one or two actions did you have to take to make a difference?

BB: Well, we got the PPP loan, that helped. We’ve only lost one employee through all of this, however, it’s challenging for me and them. People are afraid right now, so our numbers have been down for the last three months and I don’t expect any different this month. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other business owners learn from your experience?

BB: There’s learning every day. I tried to learn from my grandfather and my father the best I could. Every day is a new challenge. I can’t think of any major changes that I’ve made. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

BB: Well, money. Trying to get through another setback, seems like there’s one after the other, and just trying to pull through another one.

OFFER: In-Home FREE Estimates. 

How To Reach Us:

Britt Bouffard

Bouffard Transfer & Storage

512-869-1569

bouffardtransfer.net

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Bridget Brandt

Leander Chamber of Commerce

Leander, TX 

AO: Tell me about your business. 

BB: Our business is to help other businesses. We do that through networking. We do that through events. We meet businesses where they are and help them with the things they need. Some need help with getting open, some need help with planning, permitting, some need help growing. We make it our job to help them achieve that.  

AO: How long has the Leander Chamber been organized? 

BB: Since 1947. I have been here for a little over seven years.  

AO: Who is your target audience, who are you serving the most? 

BB: It is broad. We’ve got a large group of small businesses that we help, but we provide even more assistance to large businesses. For small businesses you see more like a consulting relationship and with our large businesses you see more of a corporate relationship.  

AO: What is the greatest impact COVID-19 had on your business? 

BB: It taught people to [use] Zoom. I think when this is over and we can get back to normal, it is going to be an incredible convenience tool. The way we operate is we pull people together to help us make good decisions for the community and for our programming. That is sometimes hard, when we’re asking CEOs, executives, and business owners to step away for an hour to come and help us make a five-minute decision. So, I am very excited because they all now know how to [use] Zoom. The other thing is the ability to manage cash flow. We have helped a lot of small businesses figure out cash flow during this.  

AO: What one action have you taken to make the biggest difference in your business? 

BB: We took it upon ourselves when this started to reach out to every single one of our members. The feedback we got from them was incredible and it helped us design a program and procedures that would help us be able to move people through the transition that has been COVID-19.  

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

BB: One of the things we learned along the way is watching what we post and say and do. We saw a thing happening in one of the [other] Chambers and we were like, “Oh, this is a great idea. Let’s do this.” I mentioned it to one of the board members, she said, “I just don’t know how that’s going to be perceived right now.” Another Chamber that we know did proceed and they got a lot of negative feedback from it. So, I learned you don’t know how people are going to take different things and just being conscious about what you say and what you do, making sure your intentions are set for every single thing that you’re doing. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today? 

BB: I think it is just love. I have seen people go out of the way to love on their neighbors, love on their friends, support their small businesses, and we have been in a position to see people step up and embrace everything around them. 

How To Reach Us: 

Bridget Brandt 

Leander Chamber of Commerce

512-259-1907

leandercc.org

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Theresa Brown

3-D Realty Group

Austin, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

TB: My business name is 3-D Realty Group at Coldwell Banker Realty. I have been in real estate for about 15 years. I’ve been in [the] commercial construction side of the business for about 32 years. I started doing real estate back when my kids were sophomores [in] high school and that college bill was looming. So, I decided to start doing it part time and I just got so busy and so good at it that I quit my full-time job and did this. I’ve owned my own brokerage for about six years. But it got to the point where the overhead and keeping up with the tools and all of that was just more time consuming and I wasn’t getting out selling and meeting people as much, and the part I love about real estate is the interaction with the consumer. So, I took my team over to Coldwell Banker and [that] actually worked out really well because most of the Coldwell Banker offices here in the Austin area do not have commercial teams. My team is the only commercial team in the northwest office, and they feed leads from two or three of the other offices because they don’t have commercial agents either. So, I get a good portion of the commercial that comes through. I have seven agents underneath me on my team. I have been, on the philanthropic side, with the Austin Board of Realtors for quite a few years. Started out as a Housing Committee Member and then moved up to the Board of Directors for the Austin Board of Realtors Foundation and then moved into Vice Chair and then into the Chair Position. I love giving back. I love working with my clients and the referral source. I’ve been very fortunate that 98% of my business is off of referrals and always has been. [I also do] farm/ranch lots, project development, commercial build outs, tenant improvement, and auction sales/tax sales. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business? 

TB: Early on, the impact was quite substantial. I had a lot in the pipeline and then everything just came to a screeching halt. I had two or three deals finish out, but the other six or eight dropped. We’ve been very fortunate in the sense of the shift from people buying in town [to moving] out to the outskirts. Since that’s a lot of my stomping grounds as well, and especially like these developments I’ve been doing, it really hasn’t hurt me too much. I have to say, the last four months of this year, if everything goes through like I intend, I may actually do more in the last four months of this year that I did all of last year. I feel bad for a lot of agents that ended up and are still not getting a whole lot of business. I’ve been very fortunate that I have some very strong pipelines and very strong referral sources. I think my team hasn’t been hit quite as hard as a lot of folks. Honestly, as a realtor, that’s why I diversify. That’s why I’m not in a niche market. One of the things my mentor told me very early on, and it’s the only thing I didn’t listen to her on, was [to] find a niche market and get really good at that. I never listened to that because I like the complexity of a lot of different things. And, the more complex, the harder it is, the more somebody tells me ‘no,’ that you can’t do something or build something, the more I’m going to dig in and figure out a way to get it done. 

AO: What have you had to do differently to make a difference? It sounds like you were prepping long ago, not knowing COVID was coming. You did the diversification and like you said it’s not always about what’s going on today, but it’s what you can do to help them yesterday, last month, or last year. 

TB: That’s exactly right. A lot of people don’t know what they want or what they’re going to need. What I have had come out of the woodworks here in the last four months is I have had a lot more clients, that have always just been residential clients, reach out and say, “Look, because of COVID I want to diversify my portfolio and start investing in real estate,” because of [the] stock market or their job security. They want to be able to have income coming in regardless. I’d have to say probably 20-30% of my clientele have reached out in the last several months. A couple of them we’ve already [gotten] some rental houses and a few more we’re converting in other ways. That I see [along] with people wanting to get out of the metropolitan city and get into more [of] the outskirts. People have found during COVID and self-quarantining, [that] they still need an outlet for their kids and themselves. So, being out on a couple of acres or being in an area that have ponds, walking trails, and you can self-distance, those are things that I’m seeing a lot more importance with my clientele more than anything else. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

TB: My biggest mistake that I’ve made early on, and I just started remedying this a few years ago, was not keeping in contact with my clientele consistently; at least three or four touches a year. That was my biggest mistake on my client retention. I always have good client retention and referrals. However, I started making myself, and my goal is once a quarter, send something tangible to my entire client list, whether it’s a handwritten letter or like during COVID I did packs of seeds and virtual hugs and forget-me-nots and things like that, just to maintain my presence and my awareness in front of them. By doing that, my referrals have [been] probably 30-40% more than what I was doing before. I think that’s one of the key things that I was never taught to do early on. And, that’s one of the things with Coldwell Banker that they really emphasize; making sure you’re constantly in front of your clients. By me making the shift [and] taking my team to Coldwell Banker and having their powerful presence along with their tools, [that] has made a big impact for my life [and] my clientele. As far as the other part of that question: to learn from other people’s mistakes. Again, just not going into the niche market. A lot of agents, even in our office, because they don’t do anything besides residential sales, they’ve had to get on unemployment. So, it’s just trying to learn from other people’s mistakes and not doing them yourself. And, if you do, remedy it very quickly. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

TB: On a personal note, my grandchildren. Because of the way the kids have been affected with COVID and the sports eliminations and the isolation and having to have their worlds altered. And, they’re little and they don’t understand why they have to wear a mask everywhere, “Why don’t I get to play with my friends?”, and different things of that nature. So, I’m learning from them on how positive they’ve been. Just teaches me and my team [that] we just have to roll with the punches. So, we alter how we show; we do virtual showings. [Also] we have FaceTime. Thankfully, with the technology we can still complete our jobs safely. My grandkids, just the way they’ve stepped up and dealt with it, I wish a lot of adults would follow that positive approach. 

How To Reach Us:

Theresa Brown

3-D Realty Group

3d-realtygroup.net

512-554-4429

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Bubba Bryan

Exodus Jeeps

New Braunfels, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

BB: We retail Jeep parts and build Jeeps for customers. 

AO: How long have you been in business?

BB: Three and a half years. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

BB: Off-road enthusiast. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

BB: Greatest impact has forced people to realize, because of COVID-19, a lot of what they would normally be doing and their day-to-day life, going out to eat, going to movies and stuff like that, isn’t available to them anymore. So, they’re going outdoors, going camping, going boating. We’ve tripled our business since the beginning of COVID because people are spending that money on their Jeeps. They’re going out and buying Jeeps, they’re fixing them up. COVID has actually had a very positive effect on our business. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken as a business owner to make a difference?

BB: Nothing really. It was accidental stuff that we were already doing, social media marketing, YouTube, it’s the second largest search engine. So they’re coming across all these ideas on what to do since they can’t go do their normal routines. Through that, not only was it giving them ideas on what to do, but what place to shop, us. 

AO: Have you had a pivot or business strategy session in your business before?

BB: No.

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs or business owners learn from your experience?

BB: Misplaced marketing. Hiring too fast. Holding too much inventory. Marketing doesn't work the same way for other people. For some people it works well to buy Facebook ads, in our case it doesn’t because we’re so specific. So that’s why we have to go to places where people search for things like YouTube. The marketing strategy took a while to figure out. I don’t think that we made a huge mistake other than probably trying to buy a few Facebook ads here and there that just proved to be pointless. Inventory in the beginning, we weren’t holding as much in the coffers, then over biting on inventory was a big stressor. So, using third party distribution for our inventory versus holding that inventory ourselves. Holding inventory yourself, you’re supposed to pay property taxes on that as well. By using third party distribution, you’re not holding that inventory and giving up your own money, plus they ship it for you. There’s all kinds of ways that works to your advantage. It seems that we did a fair amount of research in the beginning to avoid doing that. I would say learning the marketing strategy was our biggest hurdle in the beginning, but it’s behind us. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

BB: I see the transition is people’s everyday life that they are going to be more outdoors-oriented and that gives me hope, it inspires me, makes me feel like we’re going to be a little bit safer because people are placing more value in getting out and doing stuff. 

OFFER: Mention this newsletter and receive special pricing.

How To Reach Us:

Bubba Bryan

Exodus Jeeps

830-629-0057 

exodusjeeps.com

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Shari Cahill

18 Carrot Bakery

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

SC: My business is an organic bakery. It’s all of my mother and grandmother’s, most of their recipes. I’ve been baking for over 50 years and it’s old school baking. We’ve been in business [since 2019]. I’ve always wanted to open a Bakery and life got in the way. After I retired, that’s when the opportunity became available on The Square, so I just went for it. I’m on Austin Avenue, two doors down from the museum and three doors down the other direction from Mesquite Outfitters. What we do that is different is we sell by the slice only, so you can come in and get a slice of chocolate cream pie or coconut cream pie. If you want to order a whole cake or pie or cheesecake, we ask for 48 hours and then you can get a whole one. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

SC: The wonderful citizens of Georgetown. When all of this pandemic started, they would come in and say, we love your bakery, we’re going to support small business, and they are awesome. Georgetown people are wonderful. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

SC: Well, it caused us to close down for a while. We were closed for a month. It was because everyone was so scared, no one would go out and so we had no business at all. So I had to close down. I mean, I couldn’t pay my employees. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference?

SC: We’ve actually added delivery service. A lot of people still wanted the comfort food, the sweets, so we added delivery service and we personally delivered it ourselves. That helped us a lot. We got a lot of orders over the phone, where people wouldn’t have to have any contact, and then we would deliver it right to their front door. 

AO: Have you had a pivot strategy session before?

SC: No, I have not. I’ve never owned a business before. To be honest with you, I’m not a business person. I just love to bake. I was actually a teacher for 25 years. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

SC: I think you need to pay real close attention to the percentage of money you’re spending on payroll. And then seeing my products has been difficult for me. I don’t really want to charge that much, but then I see, well if I don’t charge that much, I’m not gonna be able to pay rent and I’m not going to be able to pay my employees. So, I’m learning how to cost out my product better. I learned by those mistakes of going, okay, why don’t I have any money? So, that was a big one for me, pricing product and then taking care of payroll correctly, paying attention to my payroll. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

SC: I think the most inspiring thing that has happened to me during the pandemic, seeing how people come together. You know, everyone was real concerned about the businesses on The Square, keeping The Square going because it’s such a wonderful place. Just people being very supportive of the small businesses and caring whether they went away or not. To hear people talk about, you know, I’m going to shop on The Square today, I’m spending my money on The Square today and all the businesses, that was inspiring to me. 

OFFER: Come in and grab a loyalty card and after ten stamps get a FREE piece of cake or pie of your choice. Also, enter our monthly drawing to win a FREE whole cake or pie. 

How To Reach Us:

Shari Cahill

18 Carrot Bakery

512-688-4199

18carrotbakery.com

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Tom Catlin

Keller Williams Realty

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me a little bit about you and your business. 

TC: I work at Keller Williams Realty in Georgetown and [this] August will be my six-year anniversary. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

TC: When it comes to selling a house, I’m going to interview you and my goal is to make sure that you’re motivated to get your house sold. If you’re somebody that says, “I want to just test the market,” it’s probably not a good match. Since my motivation is supposed to match your motivation and you’re testing the waters, well, what does that make me feel like I’m going to be doing? What I want to do is price your house competitively so that you can get the most money for the house. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

TC: We were determined by the governor to be [an] essential business and I think most agents, for whatever reason, went home and stayed home. I had the opportunity to stay in the market. The reality is, for some of us, the market has improved, and we’ve picked up market share and we maintain an understanding of how the market is fluctuating and what the impacts have been. 

AO: What are the one or two actions that you had to take to really make a difference in your business?

TC: Part of coming to the office is doing silly things. If you’re friends with me on Facebook and it happens to be your birthday, I’m not just sending you a message, I’m actually singing Happy Birthday to you. I become memorable. I stay involved, stay in front of people, communicate with people. People still need to get their houses sold, so there’s a need for us and they need somebody that is compassionate and fact-based. 

AO: Have you done any business strategy sessions or pivot sessions in your business?

TC: Immediately when COVID [hit] there’s a morning call and there are daily training videos that were not there prior, all centering around pivot. One of the things that I’m doing is reaching out to friends, family, former clients. When it comes down to it with a former client, you’re somebody I’m going to stay in touch with. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

TC: I’ve suggested tactics to get a house sold that did not sit well with some people and other people just love it. If you price your house right, you’re going to sell the house. That makes sense. The mistake I made is I just didn’t explain that. Learning what to say, and I think the big thing is learning to listen. When I make my clients look good and feel right or look good and they are right, we all win. My business is driven by referrals and if I can’t get a referral from somebody, then I must not have done my job well. 

AO: Tell me what is most inspiring to you today with everything going on. 

TC: Life continues. There’s still jobs to be had, there’s still people buying, there’s still people selling. Know what the threats are, whether it’s economic or otherwise, and make decisions that are wise based on that. 

How To Reach Us: 

Tom Catlin

Keller Williams Realty

512-592-2929

tomcat.kw.com

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Terry Chartier

Trinity Health Systems

Mason City, IA

AO: Tell us about your business.

TC: I’m the global Chief Information Officer for Mercy Medical Center in Mason City, a member of Trinity Health, responsible for leveraging technology to improve operations and delivery of patient care. We have strategies from a corporate, regional, and local level that we work with in order to support clinical care delivery.

AO: How long have you been with Trinity Health Systems?

TC: 21 years. 

AO: Who is their target audience?

TC: Their major customer is a managed life either under Medicare or Medicaid. It’s the community and individuals who are covered by these major insurance products. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

TC: It disrupted care delivery. It exacerbated some of the social determinants of health. People are deferring their health care because they’re afraid to go into a hospital or they’re out of work, so they don’t have money to buy the medications. We’re concerned about the health of the population because there’s a bunch of them that are at risk and this is going to create significant burdens and challenges on health care in the next year. 

AO: What major changes have you taken to make a difference?

TC: Telemedicine, video encounters with individuals, being able to rapidly deploy technology and understand the value to the organization. Innovation and people banding together and being creative in terms of service delivery to our patients. 

AO: What mistakes have you made, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

TC: You don’t have to have all the answers, but you have to be smart enough to consult with different people in order to not only gain support, but to drive the change that needs to be made. It’s not about injecting yourself into the solution but trying to call out to other people in order to pull in the right direction. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

TC: The ability to quickly gain feedback from the customers, put that into a process to evaluate products and then turn that product around for rapid deployment. 

How To Reach Us:

Terry Chartier

Trinity Health Systems

trinity-health.org

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John Cockle

The Bell Collection

Round Rock, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

JC: I’ve been doing this for 29 years. We make a niche market. We make sterling silver bell pendants and charms and each one of them has a meaning. I write a story card for every bell. We’ve been making them for about 29 years now and it’s been quite a ride. We started out with wholesale and had 1,300 stores all over the country selling the bells and then the recession hit [in] 2008 and because of the price of sterling silver or silver in general, we were forced to do retail instead of wholesale because there was no profit margin. We’ve been doing art shows and conferences and stuff like that since then and it’s going very well. I got started in making bells [when] we had a jewelry store here in Austin and went to Tucson, Arizona to the gem show to look for things to buy to resell and I saw a guy that made bells, but they were larger bells, and I got the idea of making a real small bell where ladies could wear it and the intent was when they would ring it would remind them of the good things in life. So, I made one bell, and this [was] a long time ago, and it became a big hit locally and we started making more bells. Somebody, to this day I haven’t a clue who it was, took a picture of it and put a blurb in a magazine out of Los Angeles and we had orders from all over the place. About three months after that we closed the store and we started just doing the bells. 29 years later, here we are still making the bells. 

AO: Who is your best customer? 

JC: Our best customer would definitely be women, probably [ages] 40 and up, who like uniqueness, something that’s meaningful [and] heirloom quality at a price point that’s fair. A lot of times they’re given as gifts because of the story cards, so gift givers [too]. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

JC: COVID-19 has forced us to not get in front of people, which was our bread and butter. In fact, March 12th I was in Dallas, Texas for a show. I was at the hotel to have my breakfast, went to the show, and boom, they cancelled it. We’ve done two shows since then, whereas otherwise we’d probably have 30 or 40 shows under our belt by now. We’re coming into the Christmas season and all of our shows have been cancelled. So the biggest impact, number one, has been we can’t get in front of people [and] 90% of our revenue came from that. And the other thing is we’ve had to furlough three employees, which breaks my heart. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference in your business?

JC: We were forced to do virtual shows. We’ve upped our game online [with] our website, we’ve totally revamped and went to a different platform, which has helped. We also have put the word out there that we’re manufacturers, so we actually manufacture for other jewelers [and] other artists all the way from California to Virginia. That’s the main thing that we’ve done. The online stuff doesn’t bring us up to the numbers we need, and we went from 13 employees to 6 employees [to] now there’s just three of us. 

AO: You’ve had to do virtual shows, has that brought the income in that you were looking for?

JC: It’s helped, but like I said it’s not nearly the numbers that we’re used to. Some of them we’ve made a little bit, some we’ve lost a little bit, and some we broke even. So the virtual shows, no, it’s not going to sustain us. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

JC: My main thing that I’ve learned over the years is you’ve got to know your numbers. You’ve got to know everything about your business: your costs, your revenue, your employees. You’ve got to take care of people. Know your numbers [and] know your customer, because if we don’t know our customer and their needs, we’re just making stuff for naught. The other thing is be able to adapt, be able to change what we’re doing [and] to tweak it to where we’re more focused on what is working, rather than focusing on what we may want to do but doesn’t work. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

JC: My inspiration since the beginning was to be able to make something that would make a difference in other people’s lives. My favorite part of what I do is what I make and the stories that I write for them, make people either smile or cry. I’ve been at my booth and my wife and I sit there and watch people [and] their eyes and it’s amazing all the different sentiment and emotion that gets drawn out and that’s what I thrive on. And making a difference, giving people a hug, or saying a prayer with them. 

OFFER: Use discount code “AC20” to get 10% off and also receive a free premium cleaning cloth.

How To Reach Us: 

John Cockle

The Bell Collection

collectbells.com

800-225-4210

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Bill Combes

No Time For Social

Round Rock, TX

AO: Tell me about your business. 

BC: We’re a digital marketing agency that primarily focuses on Facebook and Instagram advertising to drive business for other businesses. So, businesses will hire us because there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of how Facebook works.  

AO: How long have you been in business? 

BC: We’re six years and five months now.  

AO: Who is your best customer? 

BC: Our best customer is somebody that allows us a little bit of leeway to do the things that we need to do to make digital marketing successful. A customer that understands there is a level of difficulty involved with running properly formed Facebook marketing campaigns and one that allows us to be their advocate and make things happen for them.  

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 had on your business? 

BC: We did lose a good number of clients and we took a fairly decent hit on that. We’re starting this sort of climb back up now. But it’s allowed us a bit of breathing room to recalculate on a couple of things that we’re trying to implement. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to differentiate yourself? 

BC: We’re in the process right now of rebuilding our website and some of the things we’re going to put on our website, as far as case studies and content, is going to make an impact. That’s looking forward. Going back, we reached out to all of our clients to keep that line of communication open. It’s important for us to be in contact with our clients and guide them along the way to make sure they’re successful and we’re successful.  

AO: What was the response that you got from your clients? 

BC: In most cases it was very positive. For the clients, it was important for them to be able to move into more of a COVID-type posting process where they were explaining what is going on with their company. So, we immediately reacted to that.  

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience? 

BC: Some of the things we could have done as a business early on was develop our team members better. We had an LLC before we started our company, so when we transferred into No Time For Social, we essentially started the company with clients already. So, we’re bringing new team members on and we weren’t in the position to spend as much time with those team members. We’re taking advantage of not having as many clients right now [and] we’re in full on training mode. We’ve flipped the script from the mistakes we’ve made in the past of not having training processes in place to we’re getting training processes formally in place.  

AO: What is most inspiring to you today? 

BC: Having our family unit in place and being able to focus on family and making sure we’re putting the right measures in place for our kids. On the business side, being able to get results for our clients. When you can do that and there’s a smile on their face or an email that says thank you, that makes me want to do more for that client.  

OFFER: Complimentary consultation.  

How To Reach Us: 

Bill Combes 

No Time For Social

512-721-0333

notimeforsocial.com

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Gene Dietrich

Green Mountain Flower Company 

Austin, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

GD: We’re a CBD Hemp store. We’re regulated by the State and the Federal Government. We have several licenses that we have acquired through the state and the city. One of the things that we do is health and wellness. We’re not advocating that we’re medical [or] curing, but what you find is sometimes you can find something in your life that will better your life, and it’s a natural product. We sell 36 different types of products. Those products range from edibles to bioavailable, in other words you can ingest it by drinking it. We also have it in coffees and teas. It’s just CBD and CBD is a cannabinoid that has a multitude of different properties that are just unbelievable. Anytime that anybody wants to find out about CBD, please go online and you can find us at: greenmountainflowercompany.com. There’s a lot of case studies from the AMA and there’s also Mayo Clinic that put some stuff out. So, we’re here to stay and we’re going to be able to show more, educate more, and put it out there where you can have a situation and it can be really benefited by just introducing some of the CBD into your life. [We’re located] in Austin, Texas at 13450 Research Boulevard, Suite 100. 

AO: How long have you been in business?

GD: We started about five years ago. When we first started, we were probably the pioneers of this in our situation because there were some people doing it, very few and far between. Now after five years, what we found is that people are seeking it out, they’re finding out that not only is it something that was kind of obscure, but they’re finding that the people that knew about it were so far advanced into the healing of this that we felt like education is the best. So now you see it in your main chain stores, you’ll see it prominently in ads, on TV, sometimes radio, it has just really started to come of age. It’s been there for centuries and it’s just now really becoming something in the States. Europe has had it for a while but it kind of made it here in the ‘30’s when we were actually using hemp for all kinds of products, especially in the military, and now it’s making a big comeback. It’s not just products now, it’s the situation where you can take it to get some relaxation and some calmness. It’s not psychoactive in any way.

AO: Who is your best customer?

GD: It’s a multitude of people and it’s all ranges of age, of course we don’t do anything under 21 [years old]. Anybody that will usually come in here, about 62% are women. And women will come in for themselves, but most importantly, they’re buying for a man. So if it’s a boyfriend, a husband, a brother, they’re coming in and they’re the healers. They bring a lot of wellness to their family. They’re avid readers, most of them, and they kind of already got an idea of what they’re coming in looking for, which helps. We get people that are not too sure [and] we give them the guidance, we give them pamphlets, we sit down with them [for a consultation] and it’s a very comfortable setting. And, people that are coming in, I would say our peak is probably about 35 [years old]. Our oldest would be our pioneers in their 70’s and 80’s, and they’ve been around for a long time and they looked into this and said, “We knew about it way back when and we want to revisit this.” The other thing is we get a lot of people that come in from sports injuries [and] auto accidents and people will come in and they’re in pain. So that’s where we step it up and we get them into the topicals. Something like that is immediate relief. Within minutes, [when] people are having a sit down here in the lobby and we’ve applied it in one way or another, they just come up to the counter and go, “It’s been about five minutes and this is remarkable. I haven’t had this before.” They’re just so shocked, so surprised. I always say, “Get it on them or get it in them,” and it’s a convincer. It’s not really me, it’s the power of the plant. We always have this tagline we say, “Purity in Every Drop,” and it truly is. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

GD:  What we’ve seen is we’ve got it twofold. You see a lot of people that are in that situation where they need something in their lives because of whatever reason that adds to the COVID situation, it’s isolation [or] depression, they need something to uplift them and give them a mood that’s positive. You know, they’ve lost loved ones [and] they have to have all these precautions, PPE, [and] they get into a situation where they have family members at home, maybe three out of five are doing well, and they’re seeking out something to help their family. With that said, they’ll come in and explain to me, “We’re thinking that this would be best for ‘X,’” and we give them guidance. Then, what you notice is they say, “Do you mind if I take a sample myself?” “Absolutely, go right ahead.” They turn around and say, “You know, I could use this too.” So with COVID, sales have slowed, but people are finding us and coming back in and finding that drugs and alcohol is not the answer. They’re finding that this is going to be something that gives the whole family a great uplift and mental fortitude.

AO: What one or two actions did you take in order to make a difference?

GD: We want people to come in and feel comfortable and safe. So, we’ll do curbside, wear masks, we have plenty of hand sanitizer on the counters, we have a UV light that we run 24/7 in the store, we constantly are changing filtration, [and] we’re wiping everything down three times a day. We’re going to try to cut the fear, cut the anxiety, and build your self-esteem. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

GD: One of the mistakes that we made is that we underestimated how beautiful this can be for our people. We thrive off of our community, we’re a locally owned store, this is not a corporate situation. Me and my wife are in retirement and we kind of laugh, “Is this really a retirement stage?” But we just love the fact that we’ve been able to do what we’ve done through the trying times that we’ve had with COVID. I think where our mistake was is that we look back and think we were falling into the ‘we need to hunker down,’ when we should have probably promoted a lot more and we could’ve helped a lot more. So, you learn from that past and say to yourself, “We got to get more social media. We got to get more interactive. We’ve got to get our online presence out there.” You can go online now, you don’t even have to come into the store. What’s unique is that we’ve got a full line of products and you can go online, fill your cart, and if you call it in before 2:30 [PM CST] and it will get shipped out the same day. We also do international sales. A lot of people are finding us on the internet and finding out that we can ship to them, if it’s legal in their country. We’re starting to get a nice, big footprint. So, lesson learned: we need to get more out there and let everybody know we got the best products that are available in the business, and we just need more people to know. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

GD: A returned, happy customer. It doesn’t get any better than that. It has really impacted my life in a positive way. We just feel like that is something that’s so beautiful. We’re making a difference, and when you make a difference, it’s all about the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing. 

OFFER: Find great discounts on our website: greenmountainflowercompany.com

How To Reach Us: 

Gene Dietrich

Green Mountain Flower Company

greenmountainflowercompany.com

(512)-923-7755

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Susan Dittmar

Inspiration Glass Studio

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

SD: My business is stained glass. I have retail, I sell supplies, I teach classes, which is the only thing I can’t really do too much now. I teach people how to do stained glass and then once they know how to do it, I teach other things they can do with stained glass. We do stained glass repair and we do custom design work and make custom door panels, window hangings, windows, etc. 

AO: How long have you been in business?

SD: I’ve been in business almost 17 years. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

SD: Mostly hobbyists that like to do stained glass, that would probably be my biggest customer. Then builders or renovators are probably my second. 

AO: What has been the biggest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

SD: The inability to hold classes because that’s where we introduce people to glass cutting, to a new hobby, to new ideas. That’s the biggest impact because we moved from a great big store where it can have 10 people and still have social distancing, to a much smaller business area and our maximum we can have is five. So, when we could only have 25% that would be one and a quarter students and some of the classes are 14-16 hours and it’s not worth my time. 

AO: What actions have you taken to make a difference during this time?

SD: Well, when we weren’t considered essential, we did all kinds of things to figure out how to still provide supplies and stuff to people. I started having to take pictures of glass and sending it to people saying, “Is this what you’re looking for?” and then having to have them actually put in orders and have a check or something ready, cash, to give me that I could take to the back door and they could pull in. That’s been probably the biggest action taken. We are doing classes for family members, like I did a mother, grandmother and daughter. I’ve done that for a couple of friends that are working together anyway. And we have masks. That’s how I’ve been trying to at least have some classes. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other business owners and entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

SD: Well, I’m actually living in the middle of a huge mistake right now and that’s I’ve changed my credit card company on the basis that I was going to have my own representative and it sounded really good and now I can’t get ahold of anybody. They’re charging me three times what they were supposed to. I’m going to have to go to an attorney and I hate doing that. Every time I have changed my credit card because It’s such a big drain on my income, I’ve been sorry. I would never sign up for anything without having several days to check the merchant account out. If they pressure you for an answer today, even if they send you everything in writing, don’t do it.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

SD: People that are trying to keep on with life and making the adjustment of wearing a mask. 

How To Reach Us:

Susan Dittmar

Inspiration Glass Studio

(512) 869-6630

inspirationglassstudio.com

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Melinda Ebert

That One Place Entertainment 

Nashville, Tennessee

AO: Tell me about your business. 

ME: We do live music production as well as organizing live concerts, events, festivals, conferences, anytime there’s a gathering of multiple people. We connect people and businesses through live interactive events.  

AO: How long have you been in business? 

ME: 12 years. 

AO: Who is your best customer? 

ME: It varies depending on which role I have. Music festivals and concerts, I work with the heavier music genres, so it’s 18 to 25-year-old males. When I do a festival it’s multiple genres, so it can be family-oriented or multiple audiences as far as age range.  

AO: If you look at your target audiences today, what do you think has been the gap for that? 

ME: Pre-COVID I would say my biggest gap was getting people to know that I’m out there and getting to know what I do. I also have a target audience [of] musicians themselves because I do consulting in the live performance production.  

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business? 

ME: Live music is pretty much nonexistent at the moment. Large groups of people gathering is a huge impact because that’s what we live for. So, finding an outlet to let people know that stuff is still going on, there’s still a connection happening without actually meeting in person. Here in Nashville we’re limited to groups of 25, so that’s not anything when you look at tens of thousands for festivals. I’m working on a way to figure out how to do more intimate gatherings, but it’s still not the same feel and atmosphere.  

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference? 

ME: I did a virtual conference and learned a lot from it. I learned that people’s attention spans are different online than they are in real life. I noticed that people don’t usually pay attention more than 30 to 45 minutes when it’s online. When it’s face-to-face, people can go for 8 to 12 hours without a problem.  

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience? 

ME: Trying to put together events before I have sponsorship, hoping that once that comes together the sponsorship would be there. It doesn’t work that way. You have to make them coexist.  

AO: What is most inspiring to you today? 

ME: How even though the situation tries to separate people there’s a fight to stay together, to stay in contact with one another and not to individualize.  

How To Reach Us:  

Melinda Ebert 

That One Place Entertainment

topentertainment.rocks

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Michael Edwards

Precision Bookkeeping, LLC

Austin, TX

AO: Tell us about your business.

ME: We’re a small boutique bookkeeping firm. We work on QuickBooks, both desktop and outlook. Our primary target audience is professional services with a top line revenue of a million dollars or more. I have a unique business model, I have a mixture of employees and contractors. The idea behind that is to be able to grow as business grows and have that scalability. 

AO: How many years have you been in business?

ME: Just over three years. 

AO: You mentioned your best customer is professional services, can you give us a list of what professional services mean to you?

ME: Doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, those are professional services that I target. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 in your business?

ME: There’s been a handful of clients who have slowed down, so my billing hours have decreased. There is another handful of clients that were affected dramatically and had to close down. For the ones that I had invoices outstanding I deferred some of their payments and worked with them to manage that while they’re going through these tough times. On my end, I have been quarantined and had to work out of my home. So, it has given me an opportunity to focus more on my business.

AO: What acts have you taken to make a difference?

ME: I do a lot of networking, so I need to be out and about meeting people and because everybody was staying in and very concerned with the virus, I started tailgate networking, getting people to meet with me in parking lots where we sat six feet away from each other and conducted a regular networking meeting. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

ME: My background is in leadership roles and operations and client services. I am not a bookkeeper. I started this business as an entrepreneur to run a bookkeeping business. I wish at the very beginning I would have gone through more online classes on accounting to really help myself understand bookkeeping more in depth. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

ME: The positive energy of business owners, the ones who recognize the troubles that this virus caused. There’s a lot of energy and people who are not looking in the rearview mirror and they’re looking forward and knowing that we can come out of this. 

How To Reach Us:

Michael Edwards

Precision Bookkeeping, LLC

(630) 240-2667

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Larry Fann

LD Affordable AC & Heating

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

LF: I am located in Georgetown, Texas. Have been in the business for over 33 years, but I didn’t have a contractor license till 10 years ago, so I worked as a subcontractor for big name companies. Then I was subcontracted out to do service and install for a bunch of other companies in this area. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

LF: Well, I have multiple customers right now. I’ve got a guy in Florence, Texas who owns about 10 properties. I have another lady from New York that was down here for a while when I hired on with her to do her air conditioning work, changed out several systems. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

LF: It has really slowed [stuff] down. I probably get maybe a call a day. 

AO: Since it’s been slow, what one or two activities have you had to take because of this?

LF: Well I am with Home Advisor right now. Word of mouth has gotten me a bunch of jobs. I did a service call last night from word of mouth. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

LF: Well early on, everybody does this, they hire on for these warranty companies. [One] ripped me off, I did manage to get a settlement, but they kept pouring it out to parts discrepancy, repairs and [stuff] like that. They didn’t want to pay for everything. What I’ve learned from my past is that the warranty companies [are bad] because I’ve had two different ones seem to finagle the paycheck a little bit. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

LF: That I have a bunch of jobs I’m gonna start this weekend. I have a company that I purchase stuff from, they extend me the credit on it until I get paid on it. 

How To Reach Us:

Larry Fann

LD Affordable AC & Heating

(512) 540-1968

homeadvisor.com/LDAffordableAir

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Stephanie Featherstone

State Farm

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell us about your business.

SF: Started my State Farm agency in 2008 in Georgetown, Texas. I started my agency [from] scratch, which means me, a telephone book, a cardboard box, knocking on doors. Here we are, 2020, still growing, still moving forward to grow the business, not just produce but make sure that we’re in a position of growth. I have a team of three always recruiting. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

SF: A household with multiple opportunities, they’re looking at their entire household and they’re seeing a need in every facet. The ideal client for us is those opportunities where we can have those simple conversations of what could impact their family’s lifestyle and we’ve mapped solutions to fit that beyond just the demand products. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

SF: The face-to-face. My number one strength is the ability to network and connect with people and so recognizing that’s been moved to virtual has had the largest impact. We can get done what needs to get done virtually, but it’s hard to replace that heart-to-heart. Looking a person in their eyes, reading their body language, those kinds of things are really impactful for me because now I’m able to know how to navigate that interaction. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken in your business to make a difference and how’s it working?

SF: We made a concerted effort to reach out to all of our clients who were 70 and older, just to let them know that we were thinking about them and that we were here for them. That was probably close to 120 people that we ended up making contact with and [it was] very well received. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs or business owners learn from your experiences?

SF: When I first started, I didn’t trust my gut and I looked toward those that have done it before and use their logic to help determine what my plan is going to look like. I let that overshadow what I thought my gut was telling me to do. My mind is telling me I should do it like this guy over here did it because he’s still successful, when really that wasn’t a good fit for me. I think it shuts down your ability to try to be innovative. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

SF: The opportunity for learning, listening and compassion. 

OFFER: Complimentary virtual conversations. 

How To Reach Us:

Stephanie Featherstone

State Farm

512-868-8000

stephaniefeatherstone.com

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Michael Fiala

Internet Marketing and Creative

Clear Lake, IA

AO: Tell us about your business.

MF: In 2005 I started Internet Marketing and Creative as a copywriter and a direct response copywriter. Then branched out into web development, search engine optimization, video, and anything to do with salesmanship.

AO: How many years have you been doing this?

MF: 15 now. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

MF: My best customers have always ended up having a marketing budget. I target small to medium-sized businesses. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

MF: Those clients that we had planned in January to do 10s of thousands of dollars worth of work on their websites and pay-per-click campaigns, all of them went up and it’s gone. They’re going to have to get reopened and get the income coming in to afford to do the project we were going to do in the first place. My larger clients never stopped because they’ve got the budget. 

AO: Have you done any type of a business strategy session? 

MF: When I first started this business, I took some courses from John Ford, Michael Masterson, and Direct Response, and then got some coaching from Chris Marlo. It got me headed in the right direction and thinking about the way I should pursue this and how to define your niche. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from this experience? 

MF: Not marketing myself enough in the beginning. It’s hard when you’re first starting out, because you don’t know anything about marketing. It’s a learning process. You have to define your niche to find your target and then figure out the best ways to help them. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

MF: The fact that all these people who have been locked up for two months are clamoring at the bit to get out there and work. These people want to get their businesses up and running again and that’s extremely inspiring to me. 

OFFER: 10% off your first project plus a free consultation. 

How To Reach Us:

Michael Fiala

Internet Marketing and Creative

(641) 420-9847

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Ty Gipson

Minuteman Press and

Waterboy Graphics

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your businesses.

TG: Minuteman Press is local, we do all the printing and signage around the Round Rock/Georgetown area. Waterboy Graphics has about 30 employees and it’s a national deal that we do school and athletic facilities branding. Under Armour is one of our customers that when they do a sponsored event, we go out to wherever it is and wrap the walls, locker rooms, and the facilities for branding. When schools want all the school spirit in their locker rooms or in their schools, we go in and do that. 

AO: With Minuteman Press, how did you get started in that?

TG: We’ve been in business since 2006. My wife and I both left our corporate jobs and wanted to take a leap of faith and do our own thing. My background came from the printing and graphics area. I did some work with Disney in the marketing and got to see some of the print back in the day, and print has always been an interest to me. So, that kind of led us to looking at some of those print opportunities and sure enough we decided in ‘06 to open up Minuteman Press in Georgetown. Minuteman Press is a national franchise and they kept telling us Austin would be a great location and we said Georgetown is where we want to be. They really pushed us to do Austin. Now, we’re one of the bigger Minuteman Presses in the country, so they bring people to [Georgetown] to look at it which is really cool because I always remind the CEO that he didn’t want me in Georgetown. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

TG: At Minuteman Press, we’re looking for the general print, signs, any type of business that can be a one-stop shop. We want to be their sign needs, print needs, everything from business cards to large signage. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your businesses?

TG: Minuteman Press has been a bit more challenging, because local businesses have been affected, once they’re affected it obviously comes down to us. We were lucky during this time to be flexible. As we kept talking at our team meetings, we got to find other ways to win. We started cutting a lot of the acrylic shields that you see all over town for Williamson County and Travis County. We were able to find some different things, find a way to win in that area, to be able to offset some of the print that we’re not able to do. We were lucky not to have to lay anyone off, very proud of that. The Waterboy side has been extremely lucky because we had so much work in our pipeline and we were coming into the busiest time of the year, which is summer, that we were able to stay busy all the way through. Then as summer started coming back in, we started, not like we usually do, picking back up. So, it really helped us eliminate some of our pipeline that we had. Schools weren’t going, but we were able to get in to do installs that we already had in the pipeline. We had 100+ installs to do when this hit, around the country, so it kept us busy for a couple of months to at least get us caught up in the design department [and] in the install department. After a few weeks we started seeing new orders come in, new POs coming in. Waterboy is kind of getting back into stride now, looking at doing the same quantities that we did last year.  

AO: Have you had a pivot strategy session in your businesses?

TG: We do. I have a gentleman that’s kind of my mentor to some degree, an executive from the past, and we sit down and talk and then we sit with our teams, from our sales department to our graphics department, and we talk about strategies. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

TG: Just trying to jump too fast, and I think we’ve all done that. I’m a “now” person, I try to jump too fast, and I think mistakes I’ve made throughout our business has been trying to implement processes and things faster than I should’ve. It’s something I work on now and I think it’s a mistake I’ve made several times. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

TG: I’m always inspired by our team. Everyday they amaze me because sometimes my head is where we’re going and not where we’re at and our team is always there. 

OFFER: Mention this newsletter and receive 50% off Banners.  

How To Reach Us:

Ty Gipson

Minuteman Press

mmptx.com

512-931-2211

Waterboy Graphics

waterboygraphics.com

512-688-5656

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Dr. Heather Hamilton

Amazing Relief Chiropractic

Round Rock, TX

AO: Tell me about your business. 

HH: I’m a chiropractor and I got in the business because I wanted to be in the medical field, but I didn’t really know what field I wanted to be in. My mom was going to a chiropractor and I was very inspired by the [body] charts on the wall. She gave me the idea to get into it and once I got into it, I really liked it because it’s all-natural healing. 

AO: How long have you been in business?

HH: I’ve been in business since ‘05. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

HH: Young professionals.  

AO: Where are you located? 

HH: I’m located in Round Rock, right off of Sam Bass Rd, just about a mile and a half over from [I.H.] 35. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

HH: The stress of having to get all of the PPE supplies. That has been, I think, the most stressful part about it. And then, people being afraid to come in and the numbers were down for so long. Not knowing, is my business going to survive this? Is it going to bounce back? Not knowing what the future will hold. 

AO: What one or two actions did you take that have made a difference? 

HH: For one, I’ve made sure that I’ve read all the CDC guidelines and I got with the Board of Chiropractic to make sure I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. And then, doing a trial of how to clean and making sure we follow those guidelines and knowing in our hearts that we are literally doing everything we can and doing more than I’ve seen other businesses do. Like, we clean the sheets that people sit on, or just doing extra stuff to make sure people feel very comfortable so that I know in my heart that they wouldn’t have gotten [COVID] from our place of business. We literally are doing every little thing. Also, I wear gloves when I adjust, and that’s not a requirement, but I do that anyway because I want to make sure everyone feels good and everyone feels comfortable. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

HH: I think I’ve made mistakes [by] seeing what other people do and assuming that they may know more than me and they are smarter than me and just following what they were doing and that didn’t work for me. I had to really dig deep. I lost a lot of money that way. Or trusting the wrong people and getting burned with a lot of money that way. I had to really dig deep and really know what my values are and not just assume that because I like somebody else that’s in business, that what they’re doing is right for me because it’s not like that. You have to go with what your core values are. As a Christian, I have to be very careful to follow the Lord’s ways or else it’s not going to work for me [and] it doesn't fit well with my spirit. I have to be true to myself or I can’t do it, no matter what. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

HH: I’ve learned that life is too short to live in a spirit of fear, and a lot of people are fearful. I’m grateful that I learned that it’s not worth just stopping your life out of fear. Just keep going and don’t give up. Adapt [to the] changes and don’t dwell on it. 

OFFER: Receive 10% off your first visit. 

How To Reach Us: 

Dr. Heather Hamilton

Amazing Relief Chiropractic 

Drheatherhamilton.com

512-341-0028

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Paula Hanus

Larch Pine Inn

Clear Lake, IA

AO: Talk to us about your business.

PH: We’re a bed and breakfast. The house itself has been in the industry for over 30 years. We’re the third Bed and Breakfast owners. We’ve been affected by the coronavirus in that our last reservation happened March 6th. May 6th, we started to get our reservations again. So, it allowed us time to remodel. We were excited about that because that was hard to get to when your inn is full, so we took advantage of the time. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference through COVID-19?

PH: We did apply for some of the grants. We did get some money from the state of Iowa, which we’re very grateful for. It’s helping us get through and stay afloat. In December we started having afternoon teas on Sundays and they were very well received by the public so we’re doing those in the month of June just to see if there’s interest. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

PH: Not doing the room that we had held off doing right away when we opened up. Every weekend last year in the summer we were full, so had we had that room open, we would have been able to have more revenue coming in. 

AO: What is most inspiring for you today?

PH: I get inspired by Clear Lake itself, the community, and the spirit of volunteerism. We had two women come down from Minneapolis and reserve our crow’s nest for four nights because they were getting away from the mess that they were dealing with. It makes me feel good that they could move here for a few days and find a little peace and comfort. 

How To Reach Us:

Paula Hanus

Larch Pine Inn

641-357-0345

larchpineinn.com

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Nicole Harris

Hydrate Texas

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

NH: Hydrate has been a store in Georgetown for over 30 years. It started out as a water and ice store called H2O To Go. New ownership and evolution has brought it to become more of a smoothie, juice bar, and sandwich shop. We have local kombucha on tap. We try to feature local products.

AO: Your target market or your best customer, who would that be?

NH: We like to serve all of our Georgetown community. Somebody who’s looking for something healthier and better. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

NH: People stopped coming in for a while. The fear sent in and people didn’t leave their house. They didn’t come into my store. That’s what hit us the hardest. 

AO: What are the one or two actions you have taken to make a difference and how is it working? 

NH: We stayed open as much as possible to serve the community. I did have to cut back my hours and my labor. I was very open with all of my team members about why we needed to do that and how long this was going to have to go on. Then people started coming back and we reopened. We already had online ordering and delivery service available, I didn’t have to add anything. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

NH: I didn’t order things early enough. I didn’t take it seriously enough early on. I didn’t realize how it was to affect the product delivery chain and that’s why I have empty shelves.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

NH: My community. Last year I was shut down for seven weeks because of the gas leak and my community rallied around us and I knew from the very beginning of all this that it was going to happen again. So, I’m very inspired by the Georgetown community. 

How To Reach Us: 

Nicole Harris

Hydrate Texas

512-863-9812

hydratetexas.com

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Carlos Hernandez

Arthur Murray GTX

Georgetown, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

CH: We are enhancing people’s lives through dancing and the dancing is partnership, social dancing. 

AO: How long have you been in business?

CH: This July will be four years for us in Georgetown, but I’ve been with the company since ‘97. 

AO: Who is your target audience?

CH: Our demographic is so broad, but it’s really anyone who wants to learn how to dance. There’s people that are getting ready for their wedding. There’s parents of people who are getting married. There’s empty nesters, retirees, divorcees, widowers run[ning] the gamut. Most of our demographic is going to be older adults. 

AO: What has been your greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

CH: We were shut down for nine weeks and it’s still ongoing. The biggest impact is trying to maintain social distancing with what we do. We’re hands on, trying to get people to understand how to move together or we’re switching partners when we were doing classes and parties. Whereas now, we’ve eliminated that [and] we’re only doing private lessons. We can’t maintain the six feet to truly teach them. 

AO: What are the one or two actions you had to take that’s making a big difference in your business model today?

CH: We are now officially wearing scrubs, we wear masks and we give the students the option if they would like to, they can. We’ve invested in some equipment to better offer virtual lessons in the future as well as virtual group classes which will be starting up pretty soon. 

AO: Have you or your business ever done a pivot strategy session or a business strategy session with anybody? 

CH: As soon as this all happened, we were meeting weekly to strategize as a company. It’s such a niche and demographics of where you are. Some thrive with the virtual, especially the Bay Area, and then some schools like us, where some of our demographic is a little older, didn’t work out as well. The zoom and all that was just too small and they’re hearing might not be well, which is why we’ve invested in better production equipment for future reference. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way and how can other entrepreneurs, business owners like yourself, learn from your experience?

CH: I think our biggest mistake was trying to understand what would work. We tried different avenues keeping in contact with our student body and [it] was more difficult than we thought it was going to be. A lot of it came down to the technological side of it. People didn’t understand how the zoom worked or how to access some of those things. Before [COVID-19], we’d probably have some kind of instruction saying the steps you need to take to make sure you can get in contact with us. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

CH: Being locked down and not being able to see people [has] been such a refresher for us to be open. They were chomping at the bit just to get on the dance floor and listen to some music and mentally escape. 

OFFER: First lesson free. 

How To Reach Us: 

Carlos Hernandez

Arthur Murray GTX

512-763-8773

arthurmurraygtx.dance

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Jay Hoffman

Eagle Office Products and Printing

Round Rock, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

JH: The name of the company is Eagle Office Products and Printing. The company has been around since 1988. I took over in 2012. I have a long history in retail and when I left retail, I went into the IT business and then into the printing business and the office supply business and the copier business. I kept mentally going back to the office supply business because it doesn’t limit me to any one sector or one avenue of helping the customer. So, in this business, there’s really no limit to what I can do to help business owners and small businesses to get what they need and work efficiently. 

AO: Are you still in the copier business or did you move on just to office supplies?

JH: We do sell some small desktop copiers and some printers that are multifunction. But, as far as the large office copiers, we’ll pass that along to a referral partner. And truly, with the way the technology is right now, there’s really not a whole lot of people that still need these large business copiers. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

JH: Somebody with a brick and mortar presence; large numbers of people in the same place. We service a gamut of industries: manufacturing, financial, insurance, medical, and a little bit of government. Our best customers have between 200 and 500 employees and a brick and mortar facility or several. 

AO: Where are you located at?

JH: We have an office and a small warehouse, in central Round Rock. We service mostly Williamson and Travis County; little bit of Bell County. We can support anybody in the continental United States, but we’re relationship-based and it’s hard to have a relationship like that. So, we do have some customers that are based here, have presence here, that have satellite offices that we will take care of. But, somebody from Phoenix, for instance, called me and said, “We want to do business with you.” Well, we can’t have a relationship like that. Generally, a relationship like that is based on price and we’re never going to win that game and we can’t provide a true service to those people. So, we don’t seek business from around the Country. We’re looking to take care of our own local peeps. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

JH: Our hearts go out to those families suffering from the virus, whether it’s medically or financially or emotionally. There’s really three issues that we’ve addressed. First of all, it’s forced many of our customers to use technology and work remotely. That puts a strain on us, because we’re making more deliveries to people’s homes as they’re spread out versus delivering to an office. We’re accommodating them, it’s just much less efficient for us. We also have some customers, as a result of the quarantine and forced closures, that have closed permanently. The second thing is that we have supply chain issues. Aside from the obvious PPE supplies, there are many other items that were and are still in short supply or much more expensive. For instance, anything acrylic has doubled in price because they’re making shields. Because the workforce has moved home, there are shortages in webcams, computers, headsets, microphones, and small printers. And, part of the issue is that all of these things are made in China, which further complicates the supply chain. Lastly, we're a relationship-based customer company and we can’t go out and see our customers like we had been. We can’t do office site surveys and we can’t make in-person sales calls. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference?

JH: One of the main things is to keep things as normal as possible. I have not reduced our business hours. I have not reduced the payroll hours or laid anybody off. And, we’ve stayed as close to the norm as possible to help keep my team attitude good. That shows in how we continue to interact with our customers and the stability has really helped a lot. Second, we have not dictated a COVID policy to our customers. For a while, everybody’s emails filled up with statements about what companies are doing to deal with COVID. We never did that and we won’t do that. We have allowed each customer to tell us what they’re comfortable with and how we can accommodate them and they’re much more comfortable with us with that as we adjust to their level of COVID response. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

JH: I’ve learned that I can’t do everything myself. And, you’ve got to hire early, even though you may not think you can afford people. If I had hired five or six people eight years ago when I bought the business, I would be in a much different place than I am now. People think, “I need to hire salespeople for revenue before I can hire administrators or support people,” and it’s backwards. You get yourself in a problem. If you increase sales, you can’t support them. Also, you have to leverage yourself through others. The most difficult aspect of this is to find dedicated, hardworking people and get them to share the vision. Another big thing that I have found is using business coaches and mentors is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength and willingness to learn and improve. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

JH: The resilience of people. I’m really happy to see my friends, neighbors and customers learning the facts about COVID, exercising their innate freedom and getting back to work or church, regardless of the political aspects of COVID. They’re resisting and they’re going back and taking control. 

OFFER: A FREE onsite survey up to two hours, for businesses in our service area that are not home-based, to audit workflow areas, workplace safety and purchasing habits. No obligation to buy anything. (A $500 Value)

How To Reach Us:

Jay Hoffman

Eagle Office Products and Printing

512-388-1188

eagleofficeproducts.com

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Tiesa Hollaway

Hill Country Community Ministries 

Leander, TX

AO: Tell me about your business. 

TH: Hill Country Community Ministries is a local food pantry, clothes/closet, and resource center. We serve primarily Western Williamson and Northwest Travis County. Our primary functions provide food, the basic needs, but we also provide free clothing and have a mobile food pantry called Fresh Food For All. We’ve got seven locations and five drop locations. Our target areas are typically high-need and underserved. We’ve been around for 38 years.  

AO: Who is your best customer? 

TH: We serve our seniors and disabled that are on fixed incomes. Those are our sustaining clients. A lot of people that we serve are those that have either lost a job, lost a spouse, or maybe had a trip to the emergency room. So, they’re what they call A.L.I.C.E. - Asset Limited Income Constrained Employee. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business? 

TH: The amount of people we serve. We have a food pantry that people would come and get groceries. With our tiny infrastructure it was very difficult to keep that social distancing. So we went to a mobile distribution. We have refrigerated trucks that went out into the community and we can distribute food that way. We went from serving 1,400 families in February to over 3,000 families in April.  

AO: Are you seeing needs still continuing to grow right now? 

TH: They are decreasing a bit. Stimulus checks came and people are going back to work. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs or business owners learn from your experience? 

TH: When I first started, I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Alan Graham, he started Mobile Loaves & Fishes and Community First! Village in South Austin. One of the things I ask him is, “What has made you so successful?” And his word was, “Just say yes.” My mistakes in the past have been not making decisions because of fear and I missed opportunities. He’s a wise person and because of that I’ve said yes to so many things that have worked at this organization. [Also] I felt like I needed to do everything, and you can’t be all things to all people.  

AO: What is most inspiring to you today? 

TH: The people that serve. When COVID hit, we lost 85 to 90% of our workforce, the volunteers that met that high-risk category. All of a sudden, we have all these new volunteers coming in to serve the community. The people that have really invested in the community is inspiring.  

How To Reach Us: 

Tiesa Hollaway 

Hill Country Community Ministries  

512-259-0360 

hccm.org

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Bretton Holmes

Holmes World Media Inc. 

Austin, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

BH: I’m based in Austin. I own a one-man show, a media relations company. I specialize in representing medical healthcare, Med Device, [and] biotech companies to help them get coverage. So if you’re like Stryker, Medtronic, or somebody like that, you want to try to get press coverage about the device that you created, manufactured, etc. Then what I do is I take that and reach out to the media on a local, national, and sometimes international level and try to get them to do a story on it. 

AO: How long have you been in business?

BH: Since 2000; 20 years I’ve been doing this. 

AO: You said the medical device community, is that your target market or are there other markets that you fit into?

BH: The test for me is, can I tell a story with it? Prior to this, my background [is] I got a Master’s in playwriting from USC and that was sort of how I ended up in PR. I was married at the time and my wife said, “You gotta get a job, you can’t just write plays all day.” I answered an ad in the L.A. Times for a writer position and I went in and interviewed. That turned out to be a PR firm. That sort of was my foray into it. My very first client was Dr. Harry Glassman, who was the guy who did Cary Grant’s nose job. He's been in Beverly Hills for a long time, and was really well known and for some reason, at the time, decided to work with my boss. I worked with a lot of fairly well-known plastic surgeons over the years. Then I moved back to Texas from L.A. and opened my own company and went at it from [a different] standpoint. When I was with that company in L.A., they were more concerned with the turnover, because they could do six months engagements and just do a lot of them and didn't really have to provide any results. So my take was, I need to do it from a standpoint of trying to keep clients on longer and really service them in a way that they get what it is that they're paying for. The industry has changed dramatically from when I started, but the basic model is the same. You have to take a story, write it up in a way the reporter will be able to use it effectively, and then you have to talk to them about it.

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

BH: It’s weird because in a way it actually helps. It’s always a tough gig to get new clients, especially here in Texas there’s kind of a learning curve, and a lot of the businesses that I deal with PR isn’t part of their marketing strategy. So I have to educate them as I’m prospecting them to help them understand how what I do can help their social media stuff because they think that’s where they’re getting most of their patients. As an impact, I’ve been able to traverse some clients that may not have a specialization in epidemiology or virus experts and have those MDs comment on general framework stories around COVID. You may have a plastic surgeon who just wants to talk about breast augmentations and I said, “Look, you’re gonna have to talk about what’s hot right now. You’ve got a MD and these people are gonna remember you once all this passes and then you’re going to be able to do the kinds of stories that you want to do.” I don’t know that it’s made it more difficult to get clients, but I would say that it slowed a bit. 

AO: What one or two actions have you had to take that have made the greatest impact on your business?

BH: With me, it’s a numbers game. It’s always about making more phone calls, [that’s] primary. Then secondary [is] just being able to leverage [and] make lemonade out of lemons. You have to use what tools you have available to help a client that may not be necessarily in that pipeline of, like I said, epidemiology [and] being able to convince them that this is still getting your name out there. Everybody I work with has their own vision of how they’re perceived and it’s helping them get to a place of understanding that they may not be 100% right. I kind of work on both sides. I have to help the press with what they need and I have to help the client with what they need and meshing those two together sometimes was probably the cornerstone of what I had to do more of with COVID. There was a point, I would say three months into COVID, where I would send somebody a press release that was COVID related and the reporter would be like, “I don't want to hear any more about COVID,” and I would be, “Look, I get it I don't either, but we have to. This is where we are.” It took the press longer to come around to the idea that they were gonna be doing COVID for a while. The clients were ready to pivot. I felt like they were like, “Yeah, I’ll do whatever I have to do.”

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

BH: Part of what I do is I have to keep my client’s information secure, I’m sort of like a lawyer in that regard where they trust me with their info and I have to disseminate that in a way that’s not going to undermine that privilege. There’s a trust component to it. Not everybody that I’ve worked with has been up front about either where their technology was or they had some skeletons in the closet that they didn’t want to tell me about. I always come out and say, “I need you to tell me everything,” because I don’t want to send a press release to a reporter and have a reporter go, “Oh, that guy.” If you’re up front with me then I can manage that, but if I don’t know and I get hit by a train it’s going to be a lot more difficult. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

BH: Tenacity. Not giving up even if you think it’s bleak in the moment, it’s going to change. 

How To Reach Us:

Bretton Holmes

Holmes World Media Inc. 

holmesworldmedia.com

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Laura Hoy

Rala Concepts LLC

Cedar Park, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

LH: We are wholesale fine paper and large format media distributors. We work with print shops, sign companies, government agencies, anybody that has to do a lot of printing. We don’t do printing ourselves; we supply the fine paper or the commercial commodity paper and also large format medias like banners and window perfs and things like that. We’re pretty specialized; it’s business to business. We have been in business for about 10 years now. 

AO: How did you get into this business?

LH: Many years ago, I guess you could say really from the time I was growing up, I’ve just always been fascinated by printing. We traveled a lot when I was growing up and I remember so many times we’d go to antique places or museums and the things that fascinated me the most were the printing abilities at the time. Push forward years after that, I grew up, got married, I had a print shop in Alabama for about 14 years. I learned so much from that, but always said that if I ever had the opportunity, I wanted to be on the end of the business that I have now, which is actually supplying media and paper to printers and sign makers and the opportunity opened up for it after I came here to Austin, so I took advantage of it and loved it. Another thing too, I am a woman-owned business and I’m in an industry that’s pretty much a male-dominated industry. So, there’s not many women that are in my position in this particular industry. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

LH: The one I’m talking to at the moment, they’re always my best customer. It’s really difficult to say. We do a tremendous amount of wide format, which means that people who are in marketing and want to have signs made or have their logo reflected to get out in front of people, the people that actually make this, we sell to them. We also work with a lot of state and government agencies, supplying their print needs. And, a lot of that is really specialized fine papers. We do some commodity papers like bond paper, copy paper for machines and so forth, envelopes and all that. Mostly, we do specialty type paper. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business? 

LH: I would say two things, mainly financially and emotionally. When COVID really hit and the stay-at-home order came, it just pretty much shut down everything. Everything stopped. When everything stops, that means money is not coming in, but your expenses still keep going. So, we’ve been hit really hard by COVID-19. Emotionally, you’re in doubt and wondering, okay, where are we going from here? But I think over the months that we’ve had to contemplate all of this, and with some of the adjustments and things, we’ve taken a long look at. I think attitude is probably one of the biggest things, you just make up your mind, you’re not going to let this thing beat you. You’re going to keep going no matter what. 

AO: What one or two actions have you taken to make a difference?

LH: Well, one thing, we took a good long look at our company. We’ve streamlined a lot of the ways that we’ve done things, whether it’s our expenses or scheduling or whatever fluff that we really didn’t need at the time. We’ve always kind of taken for granted before, but one of the biggest things that I think will have the biggest impact on us is that we’ve taken a look and looked at different options of new ways to contact customers, to attract customers. We’ve always worked on the premise of one-on-one. You know, we build relationships and I know a lot of businesses say that, but I mean this is very true. And, it’s really proved true to us for this COVID-19 because our customers called to check on us. I really appreciate that. And, they weren’t exactly able to order anything because nothing was going on, but we have taken a very long, strong look and taken steps to actually market ourselves in a different way. With social distancing, sometimes these one-on-one cold-calling operations are not the best idea. You still have to get your name out there and help people with what they’re needing. And so, we’ve signed with a company that will actually help us with our marketing. 

AO: Have you had a business strategy session?

LH: Yes, I would say so. Pretty much every day is a strategy session. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

LH: Well, I most definitely will say, I’ve made mistakes. I tend to be a very trusting person and things are not always as they seem on the surface. One thing I have learned to do is to be more aware and do a little bit more research on whoever I’m dealing with as far as suppliers or people in the financial world, just anything that affects us deeply. It was something I didn’t do before because I kind of took everything at face value, and it was okay. I mean, you get bit sometimes, but then sometimes you really get bit. It’s like my mother used to say, “If you make a mistake, there’s no need to have or make a mistake if you don’t learn something.” And so, I did. So, I make it a point of doing more in-depth research and making sure of who I’m dealing with. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

LH: Seeing and talking to the people of Texas, to see the heart and soul of these people, of our customers. I can’t tell you how many times, you know, through all these months that you’re concerned, because that’s just normal. You worry, “Am I doing the right thing?” But then when you see people that you’ve worked with, that you’ve known for years, they were actually concerned about you and they put forth that effort. That just to me is very inspiring. I have been watching on the internet and on TV, on the news broadcast, people who have done like I’m doing. You come up with new ways, the old ways may not work, but you can keep doing what you’re doing, you just have to be open-minded and adjust. We live in difficult times and changing times, so we adjust and change with it. 

How To Reach Us:

Laura Hoy

Rala Concepts LLC

512-466-6664

ralaconcepts.com

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David and Clare Hulama

Bluebonnet Beer Company

Round Rock, TX

AO: Tell me about your business.

DH: Our main product is craft beer. We try to keep it at a real high quality and keep all of our stuff true to style. The beers we do make, if we say it’s a German pilsner, it’s going to taste exactly like what you’d expect a German pilsner to taste like. And that goes for all the beers that we make. This December will be our sixth year. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

DH: Our best customers are the folks that come to the Taproom and are actually members of our Mug Club. We have a program at the brewery, it’s an annual membership and the folks who joined that are our most avid supporters [that] come out week after week, buying beer and also bringing friends. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

DH: It wasn’t something that COVID did, it [had] much more to do with the government’s reaction to the pandemic. The biggest impact was that we had to shut down and put down our Taproom. Not only did we have to do that, but also all the other bars and restaurants were shut down, which effectively killed our business because we sold kegs to the bars and restaurants in the area and we sell pints to customers that come into our Taproom. Well, we weren’t able to do either of those. So, we lost basically all of our streams of revenue. That was rough and we just came out of it like a month ago. In the meantime, we did have to kind of scramble and change our product offering. One of the things we did is we started selling some locally made hand sanitizer. We partnered with a local distillery who was producing it and we resold it [and] that helped keep us afloat. The other really big thing was we had to focus heavily on our beer to-go offering. Breweries were not able to sell beer to-go in Texas until September of last year. So that was a huge blessing because now we’re able to sell cans of beer to-go and have customers bring their growlers in and we could fill [them] and sell that to-go. Basically, for six months, how we survived was selling hand sanitizer as well as beer to-go. 

AO: Have you had a business strategy session?

DH: No we really haven’t. We’ve been just taking it all in stride and just trying to adapt and overcome. Any strategy sessions were made up of just me and Clare.

CH: Head down, move forward.

DH: Here’s the problem of the day, let’s solve it. 

AO: What mistakes have you made along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

DH: We’ve had a lot of mistakes along the way. Probably the biggest one that happened very early on when we started the brewery had to do with reporting to the various governmental agencies. At the time, we just got our liquor license, we still weren’t open, [and] we were still a good six months from actually being open so we weren’t producing anything [or] selling anything, but we did have our license. What I learned is that even if you’re not producing anything, you still have to submit all of the reports to the TABC and the State Comptroller and all the various governing bodies [and] let them know that you’re not producing. I was just under the assumption that if we’re not selling anything, we don’t have to report anything. So, we got slapped with a hefty fine before we even opened our doors. Luckily, we were able to get that waived and kind of do a fresh start, but we learned real quick that reporting mattered whether you’re selling a truckload of stuff or nothing at all. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you and Clare today?

DH: The thing that really got both of us [was] we didn’t know how much support we would get from the little community that we’ve built here at the brewery. A lot of the folks that came out and bought beer weren’t actually Mug Club members, but they like what we’re doing out here and they wanted to support us. So, they would come out and buy beer to-go, gift certificates, [or] t-shirts. Whether it was every day, once a week, or every other week, we still saw a lot of the same faces and that was really encouraging and inspiring. 

OFFER: Receive $5 off your purchase of four of our core 32oz Crowlers. 

How To Reach Us: 

David and Clare Hulama

Bluebonnet Beer Company 

bluebonnetbeerco.com

(512) 774-4258

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