Center of success: From cosmetology to foam insulation, businesses getting help for 28 years

Saturday, March 17, 2007

By GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff Writer
Reprinted from
The Times and Democrat
Saturday, March 17, 2007

“Live your dreams.” The South Carolina State University Small Business Development Center has helped fulfill the dreams of hundreds of businessmen and women over the years by following through on its motto in strengthening what many consider to be the backbone of the American economy.

When it comes to establishing small businesses, there are many challenges the development center has made its own since formation in 1979.

The center’s 28-year history of success was recognized and celebrated Friday morning during an anniversary ceremony in Belcher Hall.

The center’s interim director, John Goodwin, said the 28-year anniversary celebration is an opportunity to highlight the work and importance of the much-too-often underappreciated SBDC.

“We want to hopefully let folks know there is technical help out there they can get,” Goodwin said. “I have found out that not enough people know that we existed. (Of those who) knew that we existed, less than half knew what we did.”

The center cites its mission as “developing, evaluating and disseminating programs that foster economic growth and development.”

Sponsored and funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the center serves small business persons in Orangeburg, Bamberg, Calhoun, Allendale, Barnwell, Colleton and Hampton counties.

One of the many businesses that have reaped the benefits of the SBDC is Platinum Shear School of Cosmetology on Russell Street.

Platinum Shear, which operates in the former BB&T building next to the Dairy O, opened its doors in March 2000 with a staff of four and immediately began training 13 students in July of the same year.

Denine Hammonds, founder and owner, credits the center for bringing her to where she is today.

“They were my foundation and you need that when you start a small business,” said Hammonds, who received about $180,000 in financial support from the SBA Prequalification Loan Program to help her start.

Hammonds particularly praised John Goodwin, SCSU Small Business Development Center consultant, for his willingness to work with her and his encouragement at the fledgling stages of the business.

“He helped open a lot of doors to me,” Hammonds said, explaining that Goodwin helped Hammonds through business accounting and financial practices. She said he also assisted her in business recruitment and promotion.

“They were the door I needed to get into this business,” Hammonds said of the SBDC. “Once I found this door, the other doors opened.”

Today, the school employs about four and graduates about 40 to 50 students a year.

Goodwin, who has worked at the center for nine years, says much has changed in the world of small business since his arrival, particularly in the technological sector.

“Technology has caused a greater efficiency but businesses have had to gear themselves to finance the new technology,” Goodwin said. “With that (new technology) it takes reserve capital to keep up with technology.”

Goodwin said keeping up with the blossoming technological boom has proven challenging for some businesses; in some cases it has put them out of business. This is the case despite the opportunity that businesses have to put depreciated funds back into the purchase of new equipment.

“Ninety percent of businesses don’t put those funds into reserve funds to replace old and outdated equipment,” Goodwin said.

Another small business benefiting from the SBDC was the North Road PST Foam Insulation Co. LLC.

Opened by Dr. Vivian S. Porter in September 2004, the company specializes in polyurethane spray foam for roofing and home insulation and Southern Seal Coating for all types of roofing including asphalt shingles, metal roofs, mobile homes, RVs and wood.

Before opening the new business, Porter had been retired from health care administration for 10 years. She was a program director of an Allied Health school, which she got accredited several times.

As with any new venture, Porter and her staff have faced challenges.

“When you are in business, you can use all the help you can get,” Porter said, adding that she does not know where she would be today without the assistance of the center and Goodwin in particular: “He is such a very nice person. He is never too busy to talk to you.”

Porter said Goodwin’s kindness is joined with his expertise in the business sector.

“He did my first business plan for me,” Porter said. “I have the business plan in place in case I need it. I am glad we have a small business development center here because it has given me insight on how to run a business, how to put a plan together and to see how I am progressing.”

To fulfill its mission, the center sponsors seminars to educate business professionals on business strategies.

Some of the free services provided by the center include:

  • free consulting
  • concentrated training
  • information resources
  • advertising
  • marketing strategy
  • business planning assistance/development
  • capital formation
  • procurement opportunities
  • financial management

A sampling of the clients the center has assisted in the past include Randolph Technology Inc., Sole Mate Inc., PST Inc. and Drive Safe Inc.

The center was established in 1979 as an administrative unit within the College of Business and Applied Professional Sciences.

Other centers in the state include those at Clemson, Winthrop and the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business. There are about 17 offices throughout the state.

The SCSU center is a part of a larger national network of small business development uniting private enterprise, government, higher education and local non-profit economic development organizations.

With about 1,000 centers across the nation, the SBDC network assists approximately 600,000 small businesses every year in face-to-face counseling and training, in addition to assisting hundreds of thousands more small businesses through fax-on-demand and e-mail.