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ActionCOACH WilCo – Andy O’Brien is proud to present his seventh “Business Owners Speak Out” interview series. This is a collection of short interviews and education from business owners with amazing insights into today’s challenges.

MasterCOACH Andy O’Brien (AO) virtually sits down with business owners to learn how they are working through COVID-19 and their current challenges and successes. Check out their inspiring stories for tips on how to cope with and successfully recover from this pandemic as well as ideas on how to avoid making common mistakes.

Dre Raindle, RoyalCanna LLC

AO: Tell me about your business.

DR: It’s a cannabis-based business, CBD in particular, providing high quality and cost-efficient CBD products and services to our customers. Started in April 2019. I saw an opportunity to get into a growing business. Alternative medicine, a lot of people are looking for that now. A lot of people don’t like going to pharmacies, they’re always looking for alternatives.

AO: Who is your best customer?

DR: Best customers have been people who have trouble sleeping or dealing with anxiety or pain management. A lot of people like our products that help them sleep at night or get rid of some of the pain that they’re having.

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

DR: At the beginning, with the shut down, the government shut all of us CBD businesses down. They were saying we weren’t essential, but a lot of people were needing, like this is their alternative to medicine. People couldn’t get what they needed. At the beginning, that was really the biggest impact for us. But, on a positive note, more people were ordering online because that’s mainly what I am, an online business and I have a delivery service. So it had a positive impact too.

AO: We just talked about one action that you’ve taken, what would be another action that you took to make a difference?

DR: The delivery service, getting it to them without them having to wait and just having to be more safe around people, keep our distance [and] masks.

AO: Have you had a pivot strategy session before?

DR: I have not.

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

DR: I made a lot of mistakes. You learn from them as you go.

AO: What one sticks out as a life learning lesson?

DR: Maybe pricing. Just me trying to be not overpriced and not underprice myself and just going with the market. There are really a lot of businesses out there, their prices are way up and some are low. I’m trying to be in that middle of not cheating yourself, basically, putting a value on your product that you know is good.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

DR: Really, my son. Being able to have this opportunity to build generational wealth for my family and him. Then ultimately being able to give back to my community and help other entrepreneurs and other young kids learn their way up, know that there’s other ways to make money and to make a living.

OFFER: Get a 10% discount off your entire order using code “ROYAL” at checkout.

How to Reach Us:

Dre Raindle

RoyalCanna LLC

512-677-7335

[email protected]


 

Jeremy May, Mayday Tower LLC 

AO: Tell me about your business.

JM: We do cellphone and radio towers, mainly lighting and modifications and stacking. So, we build the structures and we just maintain the structures. I don’t do the carrier end of it. We got into business, I was working for a large tower company and just saw a need, so we went ahead and filled that need. We saw a gap in the industry, so we just capitalized on it.

AO: How long have you been in business?

JM: We started the business January 1, 2018.

AO: Who is your best customer?

JM: Well there’s three large tower companies, we work for two of them, American Tower and SBA, those are our target customers.

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

JM: Traveling. We travel everywhere. Right now I’m in Kingsville, tomorrow I’ll be in Louisiana, this weekend I was in New Mexico. We do a lot of traveling, we put 80 thousand miles a year on the trucks, and there’s no hotels. So we ended up having to buy campers so we can continue operating because we couldn’t be in the general public, we can’t afford to get our guys sick. We travel together at all times, our guys are together at least five, six days a week. We had to keep ourselves pretty clean so having sleeping arrangements and having places to stay that we know are clean is the hard part. We invested money and bought two campers. It was either that or we quit working for a couple of months until they start opening hotels back up.

AO: You just talked about you as a company, in order to continue to do business, bought campers for a safe sleeping environment for your team. Is there anything else that you had to do in your business that allowed you to be successful?

JM: We had to write-up a, luckily our HR lady was quick on it, she wrote a whole COVID handbook for us. One of our customers, American Tower, told us that we have to have weekly calls with them and explain what we’re doing to combat COVID-19. So, we told them about the campers and we made sure that the guys had hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks and whatever had to happen. We had to have a talk with our guys. We had to make guidelines with them for the weekends, we can’t dictate what they do in their time off, but we had to ask them to just not get in crowded areas. They want to go out and party on the weekends and we just couldn’t do it. We told them that we’re a small business right now, we have 10 or 11 people working with us, and if one of them gets it, it will take down the whole business for a period of time. So, we just had to make some guidelines and ask everybody to abide. Luckily, the guys all stuck to it, a couple of them have been tested, and everybody’s come out clean, so we’ve been really lucky about not having any issues with that.

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

JM: We’re still kind of a fresh business and we consulted with our CPA that has really taken care of us very well. When it first started out, we talked to her and we decided that we’re gonna sack away cash, we’re going to sack it away for a rainy-day type thing. So everything that came in that we made for the past two months, we sacked away. Kept ourselves afloat during that period of time because it was a little bit slow. It allowed us to keep everybody employed throughout the entire time. We didn’t make much profit, we just kept even. I think we ought to be pretty happy about that because instead of losing cash we just maintained everything and didn’t have any issues.

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

JM: When I first started business, I knew about the industry, I know all about the tower industry, I just didn’t know about the business aspect. I underestimated how much paperwork, not getting a CPA right away, not discussing the LLC with people, I just kind of jumped into it headfirst. Which is fine, it cost a lot of money, it worked out at the end of the day. I was unaware of the amount of paperwork, even in an industry that doesn’t seem like it takes that. It might sound pretty ‘no brainer’ to you guys, but I was hoping to go do work and then get paid and then go do work again. Instead, I was going to do work then write 20 pages on what work I did and report that to the CPA and the CPA was going to give that to somebody else and it was just back and forth. It was a big learning curve.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

JM: People are trying to get back out in the world. People are trying to deal with this scenario that we’re in right now. It’s good to see people getting back out there and businesses trying to get back open.

How to Reach Us:

Jeremy May

Mayday Tower LLC

[email protected]


Heather Parauka and John Baran – Workscape Designs LLC

AO: Tell me about your business.

HP: We’re a commercial interiors firm. We started out as a commercial office furniture dealership and since then, maybe five years ago, we started transitioning. In addition to offering furniture, we do interior design work, data cabling, room relocation, reconfigurations.

JB: Construction management, budget consultations, things like that.

HP: Anything a business would need to move into a commercial office space, we can assist them with or refer on. My background is in interior design. I went to school in Boston at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Right before I graduated, I met a woman up there that had an office furniture dealership. In my time working for her, I met John at a convention. I felt like we were very like-minded in our way that we approach our customers and the way we run our business. Long story short, she ended up relocating, kinda putting her business in a dormant state. So, I stayed in touch with John and called him up and said, can I work for you? And he said yes. We did that remotely, I was in Connecticut at the time, he was in Texas, and eventually I relocated down here and we ended up opening Workscape Designs in 2012.

AO: Who is your best customer?

JB: We’re customer agnostic, because all people need furniture. If you really want to talk in terms of office space…these smaller companies that have anywhere from 10 to 50 employees, they don’t really have an in-house facilities person or a vice president of real estate. We have all this knowledge because I’ve been doing this since 1983. So we started taking that over and offering those services and then we had customers that they just moved from this space to the new space and they don’t worry about a thing. It’s all done and they’re happy and that makes for better customer experience. That’s what our goal is, to bring them from their existing space to the new space, no bumps or bruises and also not getting blindsided by something they didn’t know.

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

HP: At first, since a lot of what we do is help folks move in their office space or renovate it or make it more efficient, them not being in [their office] is a huge detriment because there’s no need for us. We have some large accounts that we’ve worked with for 10 plus years and luckily they were still doing things, so that kept us moving forward. But any new business was pretty slow or none.

JB: March, everything impacted us and we had to become COVID experts. We started to put out marketing campaigns that revolved around that. Then all of a sudden something interesting happened. There were customers that had to move. We had a bunch of construction companies, we had smaller companies, they can’t afford not to stop doing business. Then we found some larger customers wanted to return people to the office by the end of the year, so they needed to increase the height of the panels. People need more barrier, more protection. We also had a few customers call us and they’re like, we have everybody out of the office right now so we’ll never have a better time to redo our office. Construction is not slowing down; construction is still happening. We have a lot of co-working spaces opening up across the country and we’re continually getting those opportunities.

AO: Is there any one action that you would say has made the biggest difference in your business?

JB: We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves and we basically said, this is it, it’s not about furniture anymore. It’s about getting people back in the office. We started learning everything we could about COVID. We started sending out emails, started marketing campaigns, and came up with a plan for people to return to the office in phase 1, phase 2, phase 3 and gave them strategies.

HP: I always say small business owners, like ourselves and a lot of our clients are smaller companies, we’re extremely resourceful and I think we’re very resilient as well. We did shut down for a month, but John was at it, all the PPP funds, the different aid and things that the government was providing, we went after it and he got the majority of it that helped us get everyone back in the office by May 1st.

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

HP: We certainly have with our sales staff. We’re seeing certain specific needs, as John was saying, the Stackers, the plexiglass screens, you’re seeing them everywhere.

JB: And varied costs. That became a real challenge for us because almost every manufacturer that we represent came up with some kind of COVID solution, but most of the prices were sky high, and we realized that we wouldn’t have any traction if we were going to have to charge these high prices.

HP: John talked to everyone he could and aligned us with a company that could do COVID testing. So, any of our large customers that have hundred plus people, they would go onsite, they would be in charge of testing, they would set up a policy for someone if they did test positive, follow up with them to make sure they’re okay, reach out to them later. So we kind of pivoted. It still was in relation to employees in an office space and getting people back to work, which is similar to what we do, but it became very consultative and more like COVID experts than anything furniture or interior related.

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

JB: The biggest thing you can do when you make a mistake is be twice as accountable for it as you think you should be. Because the problem with it is, you’ll never fix that mistake if you’re not 200% accountable. Even though there’s things that were not necessarily within your power or control, there were still things you could have done. So you learn that format and you set yourself up next time so that way it doesn’t happen again.

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

HP: I think one thing that, you know because John and I are partners for a good while, I leaned on him for certain things and he leaned on me for other things so the tasks that he was responsible for, I didn’t really educate myself on or even care to really be involved in because I knew he had it covered. One thing recently that I’ve learned as an owner is learn the things you don’t want to do the most. We talked to a lot of business owners, so several people they don’t like to do accounting, they don’t understand taxes, they don’t want to deal with software, they just want to be the one that goes out, gets the sale and brings it in. Instead of just continuing to do the thing that you’re good at, pivot and spend some time doing the thing that you don’t want to learn, the thing you don’t understand because that’s the one that’s going to catch you off guard and bite you in the butt.

AO: What has been most inspiring to you today?

HP: When COVID first came out here in the States, I thought it was inspiring to see all the people that took action. Communities that helped with the food banks. People setting up services to help the elderly.

JB: Our employees. They came to us and said, whatever we need to do you let us know and we’ll do it.

HP: It’s almost good COVID happened because I think we all took a second to realize what’s important. Our communities are important. Our friendships and our employees and people you interact with on a day-to-day basis. I just saw a great call to action.

OFFER: FREE Budget Consultation and 5% off your first project.

How to Reach Us:

Heather Parauka

[email protected]

John Baran

[email protected]

Workscape Designs LLC

737-802-3130


Shari Cahill, 18 Carrot Bakery

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

[email protected]


Kristen Parker, Mid-Tex Auto Sales Inc

AO: Tell me about your business.

KP: We have been in business a little over 15 years. We’re in the used car business and we specialize in bank finance and in-house second chance lending. We started by buying cars off the [Austin] American-Statesman and flipping them in our driveway and finding that there was profit in selling them looking better than we bought them. So, that’s kind of how that started. We are located in Austin, but we’re the last exit off 35 before Round Rock, so most people think we’re in Round Rock. My husband and I, Blake Parker, we started and fully run Mid-Tex.

AO: Who is your best customer?

KP: I would tell you that we serve our community and from the experience that we had prior to never being in the car business and me as a woman-run business basically, you know, there’s a lot of misrepresentation in the car business. I feel like we represent the honest car dealer that is not scared to tell people the good, the bad, and the ugly. We just really started with serving friends and family and it just kind of has gone from there. We’re very proud of our Google review. We tell people if you want to know what kind of business we run, just take a look. We have stories after stories for years on end of just doing the right thing for our customers. So, I would say the Austin local area and everything from the first-time car buyer to the poor credit to cash customers. We do it all really.

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

KP: We had to let go of some of our longtime team members just out of the uncertainty of what all this was going to do for our business. We always like to be available on first call, first ring, and we have to manage a lot more just the two of us, so not feeling like we are able to go above and beyond for the customer as easily when we had five people working for us. That has been our biggest challenge. That and just wanting to stay open. You know, the face masks and dressing the cars with plastic and bleach and sprays, that part has been slightly overwhelming, but we just keep doing what we’re told to do. Making appointments for customers and trying to continue to serve our customers, especially the ones that we carry the loans for.

AO: What would you say has been your number one action that you’ve taken to make a difference?

KP: I feel like we’ve tried to put more an appointment only type structure in place and making each customer, because we have the social distancing, reaching out and making sure people know that we are a safe place to do business and that we are going to make them as comfortable as possible and that they can come out to our dealership and know that they’re going to be the only one in the office and that the car is going to be cleaned down before they take it on a test drive.

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

KP: We have a capital lender that we’ve used for probably 12 years, 13 years, that have financed our business and our in-house finance. So we do strategy with them.

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

KP: I mean, we’ve almost gone out of business the second year in business, the eighth year in business, some was our own doing and the other was 2008 when the world collapsed previously. Slow and steady is more of our strategy and obviously you have to do a lot of business in order to make a lot of profit. We’ve always felt more as long as we’re improving, as long as we’re growing. We’re not comparing ourselves to the guy next door that’s been in business ten years longer. The best advice we were ever given was by Benny Boyd, one of my husband’s best friends, he owns car dealerships as well and he said it takes seven years to turn a profit in any business. We were in business maybe six months. It was the truest thing he ever said. It was about seven years to really get the kinks out.

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

KP: Honestly for us and being in a small business and losing some of our team members, mechanics, we’ve really leaned on other small businesses in our field. Mechanic shops, body shops, radio companies, interior people that we’ve used and that we know are also struggling. We reached out to them to do all the work for us and it’s keeping each other in business, like supporting your neighbor knowing they’re in the same boat. That’s actually been one of the best things that has happened because we get the best of the best service of all these different shops and we’re all in this together. We’re just taking a step forward and everybody is staying afloat so far. That feels good to support people that we’ve known for years.

OFFER: FREE two-year maintenance plan with your purchase.

How To Reach Us:

Kristen Parker

Mid-Tex Auto Sales Inc

512-341-2886

[email protected]


MasterCOACH Andy O’Brien wants to interview you! If you would like your business to be featured in one of our upcoming “Business Owners Speak Out” newsletter series, please contact Kari at [email protected] to schedule your phone interview.


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