Is entrepreneurship a career path you’d like to pursue?
While running your own business allows you to do the work you enjoy most, it’s also important to realize that it requires a solid foundation of general business practices, especially when it comes to the management of time and money.
According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), less than 50 percent of all new businesses last more than two years, with 95 percent of these failures attributed to the owner’s lack of business experience and expertise.
Owning your own business is much more than a job. Along with time, talent and energy, pursuing your dream requires financial resources. Beyond startup costs, a small business often requires further investment in order to grow and change with the times. From acquiring new equipment to increasing inventory, expanding a small business can also entail moving to a new location or opening another division. Beyond that, cash flow must be managed with a watchful eye so even unforeseen events can be handled proactively.
Earlier this month, the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center (ISBDC) hosted the 22nd Annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards. Among the outstanding business community members that made up this year’s class of “E-Day” award recipients, Leon Dombrowski of Accucraft Imaging and Merge was recognized for “Entrepreneurial Success,” while Kelly Jackson and Jennifer Cowger of North Star Services LLC were honored with the “Emerging Business of the Year” award.
Ironically, Dombrowski started his business in 1988 with a concept that technology quickly made obsolete.
“The printing process has evolved and changed over the years. We started out as a pre-press operation - making final film for printing plates. It wasn’t long before film completely went away,” he said. “Change is always happening. When it comes to change you can fight it, you can accept it or you can embrace it. Personally, I love when things are changing, looking ahead and trying to stay one step ahead of the game.”
Today, Accucraft Imaging provides digital and conventional offset printing services including large format printing that includes indoor and outdoor banners, posters and trade show displays plus complete mailing services. In addition, about 10 years ago, Dombrowski created Snapquik Interchangeable Signage based on a conversation with a local bank’s marketing director who was looking for a way to communicate with customers in the drive-through lane.
“Today you’ll find Snapquik signs at a good number of our local banks,” he added. “More than 9,000 banks and credit unions across all 50 states and around the globe have installed them.”
Dombrowski’s latest idea, “The Merge Project,” brought three longtime friends and business associates together with him under one roof.
“Gina Altieri and Seda Turan Yahne of Design Studio 303 and Tim Simic of Green Light Creative and I are all in the same industry. We’re independent companies that work interdependently,” he explained. “We knew what we wanted to do and where we wanted to do it; we just needed someone to help us put all the pieces together. That’s when a friend of mine put me in touch with Dan Duncan who specializes in that at Peoples Bank. I’ve been working with Dan for three years now. I truly appreciate his diligence and the ease of working with him.”
“They had a great spot on Hohman Avenue in Hammond, and we were able to coordinate our efforts with the Regional Development Corporation and the Hammond Development Corporation to make their vision a reality,” Peoples Bank Vice President and Business Banker Dan Duncan said. “Along with moving locations, Accucraft was also in need of some equipment upgrades, we also provided the funding for that new equipment.”
“We needed solutions, and he immediately got to work on them and delivered everything we needed him to do,” Dombrowski added. “We keep in touch on a regular basis now, and since moving into the new building in October 2011, we’ve added our mailing capabilities, and he financed the purchase of that equipment as well.”
Like Dombrowski, business partners Jackson and Cowger found themselves in need of some financial support.
“We originally worked for a social service agency that delivered a standard of service below what we felt was acceptable,” Jackson said. “Basically, they told us, ‘if you think you can do better, then do it yourself. We took the challenge and started North Star Services in my basement with a single file cabinet drawer and a dry erase board almost six years ago. We provide court-ordered services for abused and neglected children as well as at-risk families.”
It wasn’t long before North Star Services outgrew Jackson’s basement, and they made the move to an official office space in Dyer. Then, they opened a second location in Merrillville to provide a neutral setting for supervised visitation in a location that’s convenient for their clients. Over time, they outgrew both of these original locations and were fortunate enough to relocate into larger spaces in the same buildings.
“When we got started we had absolutely no experience with business banking. My partner personally banked at Peoples, and she was really happy with them so we set up our business account with them,” Jackson said. “As we’ve grown and changed, they’ve been there for us. Our business has grown mostly from word of mouth – doing what’s right, what’s in the best interest of our clients and doing it correctly. That’s what makes us successful, and that’s what Peoples does for us. Everything is very simple; they do what needs to be done to make us successful.”
“North Star Services went through a very quick growth period, reaching more clientele in need of their services,” Duncan added. “In the midst of all this, the Department of Child Services notified them that they would not be receiving payments from the state for a period of six months. We worked with them to establish a line of credit that would facilitate their working capital needs so they could continue to pay their bills in good standing until their receivables were up to date.”
“We honestly had no idea how we were going to make it six months without payments from the state. I had already taken a second mortgage out on my house to start the business so that wasn’t an option,” Jackson recalled. “Just as Peoples helped us set up other things like direct deposit with our contractors – their web group is awesome - we were able to work through this as well.”
Like Accucraft Imaging/Merge and North Star Services LLC, there are millions of successful small business operating in the US – and there’s always room for one more. You can get the conversation started by contacting a Business Banker at Peoples Bank today.