Helping Small Businesses Win

Two award-winning clients highlight the value of USF’s Small Business Development Center to businesses and entrepreneurs.

 

SBDC Assistant Director Yanina Rosario with SBDC 2013 Woman-Owned Business Person of the Year Lisa Kaiser Hickey, owner of Douglass Screen Printers; Daniel Scott, from USF St. Petersburg, winner of SBDC Advocate of the Year at both the South Florida district and state levels; Tammy Youst, named Financial Services Advocate of the Year from Achieva Credit Union; and  Rhonda and John Diaz, owner of Impact Industrial Supplies, he was chosen Minority-Owned Small Business Person of the Year.

By Barbara Melendez

USF News

 

TAMPA, Fla. (May 30, 2013) – When up-and-coming entrepreneurs enter the University of South Florida’s Small Business Development Center located at the Tampa Port Authority near downtown, they find a welcoming atmosphere and a bright and comfortable classroom.

There they meet others like themselves who are turning their ideas into businesses or kicking things up a notch with their established enterprises.

They also find the center’s Assistant Director Yanina Rosario and her staff ready to become allies – the kind who have useful information about all the steps along the way – from business planning, to marketing, to financing. The center focuses on training and consulting, in cooperation with the USF College of Business, with the goal of providing the tools and strategies for success.  

Two of the center’s clients recently received recognition from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the agency’s 2013 Small Business Week celebrations.

On May 2 the owner of Impact Industrial Supplies, John Diaz, received the 2013 Minority-Owned Small Business Person of the Year award and the owner of Douglass Screen Printers, Lisa Kaiser Hickey, was named 2013 Woman-Owned Small Business Person of the Year – both for the SBA South Florida District. Another one of the honorees, Daniel James Scott, has a USF Connection, and was named the State of Florida Small Business Advocate of the Year, times two.

More than an instructor during classes in the center’s “Start-Up” series and other specialized classes, Rosario, like her colleagues, can also be a coach, a cheerleader and best of all, a clear-eyed and practical realist. She knows a lot about the pitfalls and the possibilities when it comes to getting a business on its feet. She also knows the city, state and federal requirements to become certified as a woman, minority, veteran or disabled veteran-owned business to qualify for government contracts as well as the benefits. 

What does it take to be successful?  Experience and earning an MBA of her own have taught Rosario a great deal about this topic.

“A lot of it is based on what and how much you know, how much research you’ve done, how prepared you are and how open you are to feedback,” she said. “We also look at how your skills can be brought to bear in the development of a conscious plan. They need to be top-notch or business owners need to know how to hire the right people with the requisite skills.”

Timing plays a role as well. The right time to get help can be at any stage in the process of setting up a new business or before making plans for expansion.

“We have a number of services here and the training we do is geared to the various levels,” she said. “They’re all geared to support growth and success and ultimately the economic growth and success of Tampa Bay.”

The SBDC is funded in part by the SBA and is designated by the state as Florida’s principal provider of business assistance. Diaz and Hickey can attest to the difference the SBDC office has made in their businesses.

Diaz’s company has 16 employees and had sales of $6.4 million last year. 

“I value Ms. Rosario’s passion for what she does and believes in, she was proactive with my company in nominating us for our SBA Award,” he said. “It was her enthusiasm, energy and trust that made me believe we had a chance. She also volunteered to do all the heavy lifting in preparing the nomination and has always been willing to go above and beyond to help.”

He plans to continue using the center and SBA services, “definitely the financing side for expansion and acquisition opportunities,” he said. And he advises business owners like him to do likewise: “Do not try to reinvent the wheel, reach out to the SBDC for help and assistance.”

Douglass Screen Printers, which employs 45 people in Lakeland, with $4 million in sales in 2012, is a business Hickey took over from her father in 1996. She has now handed the reins to her daughter while she continues as board chair. During her tenure she worked with the SBDC thanks to SBA funding that made a State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant available to fund the development of an export marketing plan for her company.

“I applied through the SBDC and winning it meant that I got to work with Maria Yepes of the SBDC, who did the research and written document for my company's exporting plan,” Hickey said. “She is amazing. I know her from my earlier participation in the International Trade Certificate course which she manages. Few small businesses are engaged with or aware of the growth opportunities in exporting. I hope that the SBA will increase its efforts to help small businesses become successful exporters.”

What she learned is that, “The trick in our business is to maintain diverse product lines and markets so we can focus on where the growth is.”

She added, “I hope that my daughter Lane Hickey Wiggins, who has succeeded me as CEO, will continue to use the services of the center and the SBA.”

More than likely she will. Her daughter is now working towards her MBA at USF. And the woman who started out as Hickey’s executive assistant, Rossely Martinez has been named vice president of sales. What helped her prepare for her new position is having taken the center’s international trade certificate course.

Scott, the State of Florida Small Business Advocate of the Year – at both the South Florida district and state levels – serves as the associate director of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship & Innovation Alliance at USF St. Petersburg College of Business. He’s been touting the value of small businesses to the Tampa Bay economy for a long time.

I believe, after a decade's worth of participation, I was able to cohesively make an argument that my – and others, including the SBDC's – contributions to Tampa Bay's economic development have made a real, tangible impact,” Scott said. “For example, something as simple as working with the SBDC to create the state's first and only startup checklist, or helping develop the state's first seed-stage accelerator fund, Gazelle Lab, these help others succeed as well as point to a more progressive path for the rest of the community to build upon.”

Scott campaigns for the SBA and he’s also a client, working with Wayne Brass at the Pinellas SBDC.  Scott’s company,Alorum, has a new product coming out later this summer. It’s under wraps for now – Scott won’t reveal what it is – but Alorum served as the subject of a student project for the capstone course in the USFSP entrepreneurship program last fall. Putting his knowledge into practice makes his contributions all the more noteworthy, but he shares the credit.

“Having the SBA recognize the work that we are all doing to build a thriving entrepreneurial community here in Tampa Bay, both at the South Florida District level and the State of Florida level, is a huge pat on the back for all of the entrepreneurs who are bravely working together to make our goals a reality.”

Rosario finds it very satisfying to build relationships focused on small businesses and witnessing their development. 

“It is a rewarding experience to be part of the process that impacts small business growth,” she said. “We appreciate the opportunity to be part of the consulting team to our client’s businesses. Their contributions to our local, state and national economy are what keep the wheels of the economy turning and moving forward.”

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.