Small Business Success Stories

Barry and Pamela Johnson

Johnson-8.14

In August 2013, Barry and Pamela Johnson began their relationship with the Small Business Center at Forsyth Tech. They participated in our seminars during their quest to embark upon a new business venture.  They continued to participate in seminars and engage in business counseling.  They have now started their business and meet with a business counselor on a monthly basis.

The Johnsons decided to start their own business because they wanted freedom over their time, independence, and the pride of being small business owners.  They firmly believe that small business owners are the backbone of our country.   They bought into the franchise of Zippy Shell which is a mobile self-storage and moving business.  They chose Zippy Shell because its model provided a well-laid plan to be successful in business. The business is asset-based and the start-up phase did not require other employees. Also, there is no perishable stock, and they liked the idea of providing a needed service to the community.

The Johnsons three biggest challenges have been and still are capital, marketing, and unresponsive vendors.  Daily expenses quickly eat up their revenues during the startup phase.  We will continue to work with the Johnsons regarding revenue generation and cost management.  Finding the right marketing strategy has been a significant challenge also. Surprisingly, they have had a big challenge with unresponsive vendors.  We will continue to work with the Johnsons regarding marketing strategy.  Unfortunately, other small businesses have proven to be in no hurry to provide the Johnsons with their services.  We will continue to work with the Johnsons regarding vendor management.

The Johnsons three biggest accomplishments are as follows:

  1. Getting everything in place to start this venture.
  2. Being asked to be a part of the media tour of Forsyth Tech at Innovation Quarter.
  3. Stepping out of their comfort zone and acquiring new skills.

I asked them what two things they would do differently.  Their response was that they would have started taking the seminars at the Small Business Center sooner.  They feel that they missed some seminars that could have helped during the startup stage.  They also would have acquired more capital before starting.

Piedmont Zippy Shell has several customers and numerous inquiries each week.  Their marketing efforts have created a buzz here in the Piedmont Triad.  I am very pleased that we will continue to partner with the Johnsons as they experience even more success.

Krishauna Hines-Gaither and Julian Gaither

Gaither's

Julian Gaither’s church in Clemmons supports an orphanage in Kenya. Every two years, he travels there on a mission trip. When he returns, he brings back beautiful jewelry from a local market for his wife, Krishauna.

Their friends loved the jewelry, Julian says. “People made a big deal about it,” he recalls. “So we thought, well, maybe we could make a business out of this. It would be a way of giving something back to the community.”

The next step: Julian and Krishauna (a Forsyth Tech alumna and Spanish instructor at Salem College) contacted the Small Business Center. “I met there with a counselor, Dick Vann, initially, and I took a few of the small business courses. The people were really helpful and encouraging,” Julian remembers. “It made a tremendous difference; it gave me the confidence to go ahead and pursue it and see what I could do.”

Once he made that decision, Julian contacted people at the orphanage, sent some money over and asked his friends there to buy some jewelry at the local market. He and Krishauna rented a kiosk at the Marketplace Mall on Peters Creek Parkway and the business took off.

“The jewelry is from the Masai people,” Julian notes. “They have an open market there every Friday; that’s where I would go to get gifts to bring back home.”

As the business grew, it also branched out. “Now we also have things from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, China and India,” Julian says. Although the business is for profit, he sends back a portion of his profits to the orphanage in Kenya.

The business celebrated its first anniversary on April 15. February was a particularly good month; “We had a lot of shoppers because it was Black History Month. It was great. We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from the community.”

Imani African Jewelry and Accessories is located in the center aisle kiosk at Marketplace Mall, 2101 Peters Creek Parkway in Winston-Salem, and is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with
extended holiday and summer hours.

Ken Craven

Ken Craven

When Ken Craven was laid off in September 2009, he did his best to find a job doing what he had been doing for years: video production. But after sending out about 500 resumes and getting only a few interviews (and no job offers), Ken decided a change was in order. “I had a few of my previous clients call me that were interested in having me do video production and my first reaction was, ‘Absolutely not. I’m never going to do that again,’” Ken recalls. Instead, he developed an idea for a wholesale import company, and went to the Forsyth Tech Small Business Center to get some advice on how to set up the business. There he met with Richard Vann who, after talking to Ken, steered him in a different direction – backwards.

“He really helped re-direct me back into what my real profession was,” Ken says. “He thought since clients were seeking me out that I should re-think the video business. So I gathered my equipment and started free-lancing, and the freelancing has developed into me starting my own business.” The guidance and support he’s received at the Small Business Center, Ken says, has been vital in many ways. “They helped me out with direction and also just understanding what needs to be done as in filling out the paperwork, understanding the process, the little things, the basic things so many people don’t understand. The average person who’s never owned their own business has no idea the amount of paperwork and red tape that goes on to get a business started.”

Now, with his freelance business growing, Ken isn’t interested in finding a fulltime job working for someone else. Instead, he prefers to grow his own business. “It’s rapidly going from freelance producer to small business owner,” he says, and credits the Small Business Center with helping make that happen. “They played a pretty big roll.”