SBTDC 2015 Annual Report

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scott PAGE 8 dogs




SANESCO 14 Asheville + Cullowhee






Boone + Hickory Greensboro + Winston-Salem Charlotte










Durham + Chapel Hill








Fayetteville + Pembroke

Elizabeth City

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



Dear Fellow North Carolinians,

Clients routinely comment on the professionalism and expertise of our staff. PAGE 4

Our theme for this year’s SBTDC Annual Report is “Proven Expertise and Results for North Carolina’s Growing Companies”. This is well reflected in both our strategic approach to services and our commitment to continuous self-assessment and improvement. A decade ago, we thoroughly considered the question of what was the most impactful role 32From this we of the SBTDC inPAGE the small Carolina. 6 business development landscape of North PAGE concluded that our highest and best value was as expert business advisors providing in-depth counseling and guidance to existing businesses. Effectively serving existing businesses, particularly those with growth potential, has required a strong commitment to continuous enhancement of our professional skills and competencies. We addressed this through our requirement that all of our professionals maintain and enhance their counseling skills and technical competencies through continuing professional education. To accomplish this, we have remained committed to providing ongoing opportunities and financial support for staff professional development. Our approach has proven effective. Clients routinely comment on the professionalism and expertise of our staff. They also view our counselors as trusted advisors with a deep interest in their business and their success. Nothing says this better than a picture – in this case, a brief video from a client about their experience with the SBTDC. To hear from two co-founders of North State Aviation, visit We welcome your comments and inquiries about the SBTDC (

scott PAGE 8 4


CHAMPION OF SMALL BUSINESS in recognition of significant contributions to help small and mid-sized businesses in North Carolina




Chairman Emeritus | SBTDC Statewide Advisory Board Owner | Developing Business, Inc. Horace Stimson has been a member of the SBTDC’s Statewide Advisory Board for over 25 years. He served as Chairman of the Board for over 15 years and is now Chairman Emeritus. He is a long-time serial entrepreneur and private investor. His company, Developing Businesses, Inc., was the platform through which Horace invested in and mentored many new, potential growth companies over the years. Horace became an early and very active leader in the effort to stimulate enhanced levels of early stage private investment in North Carolina. His advocacy, leadership and tireless energy led to the creation of the Inception Micro Angel Fund Family of Funds (IMAF) with locations from the coast to the mountains. He also served as the private sector leader of the team that developed the SBTDC’s highly regarded “Becoming an Investor-Ready Entrepreneur” and “NC Angels: Investing Close to Home” seminars for entrepreneurs and angel investors respectively. As an Advisory Board Member and in his role as Chairman, Horace Stimson represents the very best of what’s expected and desired from an active advisor. His wise counsel, enthusiasm, and his ability to PAGE 36 engage others has proven to be invaluable. We are most grateful for the time and energy that Horace has committed to his SBTDC – we are remarkably better for it.


SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies





President The University of North Carolina

Chancellor NC State University

The SBTDC brings a level of expertise and commitment to service which has helped its clients achieve remarkable sales and employment growth. Its core professional staff of 75 is supplemented by the extensive involvement of graduate, professional and undergraduate students each year. These students are provided with practicum based learning experiences through their work on real world business problems. These learning opportunities help the students enhance their skills and job readiness while producing valuable work products for SBTDC business clients. I’m proud of the SBTDC’s accomplishments and congratulate them on another very successful year. They truly make a difference to businesses, communities and students across North Carolina.




The SBTDC is The University’s largest inter-institutional program with 16 offices hosted by our constituent institutions. This unique organizational form has enabled PAGE 5 the SBTDC to be part of and effectively engage the assets and resources of our campuses to better serve North Carolina’s small and medium-sized businesses.




I’m scott pleased to commend the outstanding record of performance of the SBTDC over the past PAGE 8 year. It is one of the most visible university assets in communities across the state; its services truly impact citizens in all 100 counties of North Carolina.



The SBTDC has provided another great year of valued service to North Carolina’s small8business community. It reached clients in all 100 counties, delivering business PAGE advisory services to 4,200 firms and training to over 12,500 individuals through offices at NC State University and the other constituent institutions of The University that host SBTDC offices. The SBTDC is a best-in-class example of the important commitment that the University makes to outreach, extension and engagement with the citizens of North Carolina. As reflected in the data and client profiles in this Annual Report, SBTDC business clients have achieved remarkable outcomes, including impressive sales increases, job growth, and capital formation. Also noteworthy and highly commendable was the national re-accreditation of the SBTDC this past year. This included a clear recognition of the quality and experience of the professional staff, its effective engagement of graduate and professional students in practicum based learning and its leadership team. Our congratulations to the SBTDC on both its level of service and its contributions to the North Carolina business community.





We are proud of our team of qualified counselors, innovative programs and the change we effect in the lives of North Carolina entrepreneurs, but none of it could be done without the support and collaboration of our partners. Thank you.

LYNN DOUTHETT District Director U.S. Small Business Administration The SBTDC is a highly valued resource partner of the US Small Business Administration (SBA)8 in North Carolina. Together we create opportunities for entrepreneurs to PAGE expand and grow their businesses.

For over 30 years, the SBTDC has played a key role in our State’s economic development by creating and retaining jobs, assisting in business expansion and development and strengthening relationships that support our communities. The SBTDC provides a broad range of business management counseling, educational programs, and high profile conferences as well as events aimed at serving a broad spectrum of NC businesses. Recognized nationally for their innovative programs and services, they are regularly consulted by the District Office and ASBDC for their expertise. In addition, their accomplishments are consistently recognized by SBA, as is the case with this year’s NC Small Business Exporter of the Year, ERD LTD., Inc. As a strategically focused organization, the SBTDC is committed to find new ways to support entrepreneurship and small businesses as our State’s economy changes, which is reflected by a deep commitment to their work, their clients and to make “Your Business. Better.” A special thank you and congratulations to the SBTDC staff for their exceptional accomplishments and successes in 2014-15!

UNC SYSTEM US small business administratioN NC Small Business center networK Defense Logistics AgencY NC Department of commercE US Export-Import Bank

PAGE 36 SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies





proven expertise and results for growing companies

The Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) is a business advisory service of The University of North Carolina System. Since 1984, the SBTDC has helped over 135,000 North Carolina entrepreneurs make their business better. The SBTDC’s statewide team provides personalized management counseling and education services designed to help small and mediumsized businesses: • Obtain quality business and market information • Evaluate and improve financial performance • Access new capital and markets • Improve management and employee performance

PAGE• 8 Make better decisions and achieve goals


SBTDC assessments, strategic performance retreats, and ongoing counseling help owners PAGE 35 and managers: • Assess and benchmark company performance and effectiveness • Develop and implement successful strategies, both short and long term • Identify priorities and action steps • Measure and monitor progress


SBTDC counselors and specialized market research staff help companies enhance their success in the marketplace by identifying: • Information on industry trends, customers, competitors and best business practices • New or expanded markets for existing products and services including exporting • Federal, state, and local government contracting opportunities • Commercialization options for new, innovative technologies


The SBTDC specializes in helping businesses: • Analyze revenue and costs, and understand financial data and reports • Prepare financial projections • Identify and access sources of capital, including traditional and SBA-backed loans, angel and venture capital, R&D funding, and export financing

PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT The SBTDC’s performance enhancement services help clients: • Link business strategies to workplace learning and accomplishments • Strengthen leadership and management skills • Refine internal processes to improve performance • Enhance communications and teamwork

Economic and Community Development

The SBTDC also provides research, planning facilitation, and strategy development to public and private sector organizations, leading to enhanced economic opportunities and an improved environment for small business and entrepreneurs in their respective communities.


SBTDC STATEWIDE OFFICES The SBTDC is administered by NC State University on behalf of The University of North Carolina System. We maintain 16 offices across the state which are each affiliated with one or more constituent institution campuses. Through the experience and skill of SBTDC staff across this statewide network of university-affiliated offices, we are able to reach and serve a diverse client base and quickly support their changing needs.

01 09

02 03 11




14 13



0405 06


5 West Hargett Street, Suite 600 Raleigh, NC 27601 • 919.715.7272 • •

01 Boone 02 WINSTON-SALEM 03 Greensboro Appalachian State University

Winston-Salem State University

North Carolina A&T State University University of North Carolina at Greensboro


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

05 DURHAM 06 Raleigh 07 Greenville 08 Elizabeth City North Carolina Central University

North Carolina State University

East Carolina University

Elizabeth City State University

09 Cullowhee 10 Asheville Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University University of North Carolina Asheville

11 Hickory 12 CHARLOTTE

Appalachian State University

13 Fayetteville 14 Pembroke 15 Wilmington Fayetteville State University

University of North Carolina at Pembroke

University of North Carolina at Wilmington

University of North Carolina at Charlotte SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies






and 19 minutes SBTDC clients create a new job



In 2014, clients created 20% more jobs than the previous year


AVERAGE NC BUSINESSES The SBTDC helps client companies increase revenue and create jobs at significantly greater rates that the average North Carolina business

10 2014-2015 ANNUAL REPORT | SBTDC

Since 1984, the SBTDC has provided more than 1 million hours of counseling to over 135,000 clients

Client satisfaction is up. 90% of clients who participated in our survey rated SBTDC services as









Last year, clients obtained over $84 million in capital, including: $21 million in SBA loans $21 million in SBIR/STTR awards $15 million in Export financing




In 2014, the SBTDC provided over 55,000 hours of counseling to over 5,000 clients

$19.85 For every SBTDC dollar spent, $19.85 of new capital is obtained by SBTDC Client Companies.

Over $150 million in contracts from federal, state & local agencies and prime contractors in 2014


contributed over 27,000 counseling hours to SBTDC clients in 2014. The SBTDC continues to be an important source of real world experience for business, law, and other graduate and undergraduate students

SBTDC Provides a Strong Return on Investment according to the national Economic Impact Assessment Studies of the ASBDC’s Chrisman Report from 1996-2013

Counseling provided to clients consistently generates $3.67 in new tax revenues for every $1.00 invested in the SBTDC program


International Business Development

In the 31-year history of the North Carolina SBTDC, the International Business Development (IBD) program is relatively young. In 2010, the SBTDC had the opportunity to launch a new program and felt strongly that the small and mid-sized businesses in North Carolina could benefit from access to experts in the international market.

“The SBTDC has helped me take risks and compete with larger businesses with more confidence.” – Freddy Cannady, Vesocclude Medical

By 2012 the IBD program joined the North American Small Business International Trade Educators (NASBITE) and the entire IBD team attained their Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) credentials. Later that same year the SBTDC achieved NASBITE CGBP Accredited Program designation which is an endorsement that proves competency in all four domains of knowledge required by the Certified Global Business Professional credential. The principles of staying client-focused, working together as a team, and striving for results paid off with SBA’s recognition of Dr. Ann Black, owner and CEO of ImmunoReagents, Inc. as the North Carolina Exporter of the Year. We were equally pleased to learn that Freddy Canady, founder and President of Vesocclude Medical received the SBA’s award in 2014, followed by our client Glen Flaherty, owner and President of ERD, Ltd in 2015— all SBTDC clients. Most recently, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) conferred its City/State Partner of the Year Award upon the SBTDC at its Annual Conference in Washington, DC. The SBTDC has been Ex-Im Bank’s City/ State Partner in North Carolina since 1997. It represents nearly two decades of productive collaboration that makes a significant difference in terms of job creation and economic impact for North Carolina. Our partnership with ExIm works well because we share a passion for small business development—it’s vital to our economy.

helped clients obtain

Export-Import Bank’s 2015

capital formation through export-related success



helped clients create or retain

869 JOBS

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies


WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Moonlight Communications


Former SBTDC clients Jan Johnson & Pat Wright of Moonlight Communications produced a documentary called “The Defiant One” that was recently selected as the “Audience Award Winner” at the Asheville Cinema Festival. Since SBTDC business counselor Larry Loucks helped them 21 years ago, they’ve gone on to be a very successful video production company, purchased two old buildings in downtown Fayetteville and turned them into event spaces (Rainbow Room & Skyview), written and directed a documentary film (“The Defiant One”), and are working on two more films. Plus their new project, GroundSwell Pictures, aims to teach video production to kids.

It was 2002 when Jessie Williams opened Edge of Urge in Wilmington and by 2007 she was growing dramatically. She came to the SBTDC for help with managing growth and for marketing resources. By 2011, she was ready to start outsourcing some of her pieces and the SBTDC was able to help streamline her internal workings, create a production and design space and outsource some production. Sales increased by 37%. Now Edge of Urge has a second location in Raleigh, and she was recently featured in the News and Observer. Jessie is also giving back and has started a program for designers and artists interested in business called the Mama Bear Project.

12 2014-2015 ANNUAL REPORT | SBTDC



Ann Black, Ph.D. has worked with the SBTDC since she founded ImmunoReagents in 2005. Since then, she has grown from 17 to over 2,000 products, has 11 employees and has a global distribution including Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Japan and Spain. Most recently, they were one of 45 American companies and organizations which received the President’s “E” Award for Excellence in Exports. The award is for companies and organizations that make a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports. “Partnering with the IBD Program has afforded small businesses, such as ImmunoReagents to have a clear voice on the economic world stage.”

Featured in last year’s annual report, ERD had seen high double-digit revenue growth and was hiring four new employees. In just three years, they had doubled their customer base to 5,000 customers including 26 of the Fortune 500 companies, and expanded from 5 countries to more than 65 countries. This year, Glenn Flaherty and Tom Robinson of ERD were named 2015 SBA North Carolina Small Business Exporters of the Year. Tom Robinson was also recently appointed as an Advisory Board member for the SBTDC.

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



The SBTDC is a great program with a fantastic vision for helping small businesses succeed.


Asheville | Hector Romero |

TELL US ABOUT SANESCO HEALTH For over a decade, Sanesco has specialized in integrative and functional medicine, employing philosophies from both allopathic and alternative medicine to identify the underlying causes of symptoms and conditions related to neurotransmitter and hormone imbalances. Imbalances of the HPA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) Axis can result in the manifestation of a wide array of chronic symptoms and conditions, such as anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, depression, metabolic syndrome, addictions, and weight gain. At Sanesco, we arm licensed healthcare practitioners with the tools to assess and correct neurotransmitter and hormone imbalances, ultimately improving patient lives through a more personalized, patient-centered approach to healthcare. We have developed a non-invasive laboratory panel to test patients’ neurotransmitter levels through a single urine sample, and our extensive knowledge and expertise is used in training clinicians to interpret these values for clinical application. Our laboratory reports include much more than lab numbers and graphs – we develop a personalized report for each patient, including recommendations for nutritional therapy formulas.





In the early 70s, I was working in pharmaceuticals, and one of my five boys was diagnosed with ADHD. I wanted a solution beyond just treating the symptoms. I focused my research and energy to explore available options, but it wasn’t until 17 years later that I met a German scientist who developed the first-ever urinary marker for Serotonin. Until then, neurotransmitters were only measured through cerebral spinal fluid. I knew that this test could have vast clinical applications and it would be revolutionary in furthering the knowledge and understanding of the HPA axis. It was at this time that the clinical model of assessing and addressing neurotransmitters was developed, and I took it to the professional market with my business partner. After two successful years, I decided to separate from the initial partnership and Sanesco was born.

The SBTDC is a great program with a fantastic vision for helping small businesses succeed. We have a wonderful relationship with our mentor and advisor, Annice Brown. She always keeps us in mind and regularly informs us about opportunities or partnerships that could positively impact and grow our business. Annice has connected us with local healthcare professionals, key opinion leaders in integrative healthcare, and the Self-Help Credit Union. She has been a critical advocate for Sanesco.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ENTREPRENEURS FACING THEIR OWN CHALLENGES? Surround yourself with the best people and be passionate about what you do. If you only care about money, you will run away from challenges. If you have the passion and the right people, you will find a solution.

HAVE YOU SEEN A DIFFERENCE IN THE SUCCESS OF YOUR BUSINESS? We cannot attribute an exact figure or number to show how working with the SBTDC has impacted our growth, aside from saying, “the experience has been priceless.” In addition to pairing us with key partners, Annice has played a role in problem-solving, strategic planning, marketing, consulting, and more. She opened the door to work with student interns at Western Carolina University, who have provided our team with insights related to marketing plans, SBIR grants, and insurance reimbursement forecasting. We’ve also worked with the PTAC Program to learn more


about government procurement, and we are currently exploring opportunities to work with the VA to help veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The International Business Development Program referred us to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, U.S. Commercial Service, North Carolina Economic Development Partnership, and Export-Import Bank; all of which have been instrumental to develop and grow our export initiatives. With their assistance, we have secured Step Grant funding to translate our website, gained valuable information at the DISCOVER event and Export 201 educational roadshows, received market research reports, and introductions to meet potential partners in Canada. We also completed a Website Review and Assessment facilitated by the SBTDC to improve search engine optimization, and monitor website analytics and performance.

HOW MUCH GROWTH HAVE YOU SEEN? This year, we will have a 10% growth in employees in order to support our growing business. We’ve hired five people already, and we plan to hire about six more over the next 12 months. In the first quarter, sales are up by 15% compared to last year, and we’ve expanded into two new countries.

WHAT’S NEXT? While we still remain focused on gaining market share domestically, growing internationally is next. We’ve started working with a distributor from New Zealand and Australia and continue to learn about exporting, gaining firsthand experience as that distributorship grows. It is important to keep the integrity, the branding, and the vision of Sanesco consistent, while trusting our name to someone else. We’re finding ways to achieve this by locating the right partners and training their team to represent us in their country. Now we’re looking into India, and we don’t plan to stop there.

Host CampusES:

Western Carolina University University of North Carolina at Asheville

Center Director Wendy Cagle

NATURAL, BIO-BASED PRODUCTS COMPANY GROWING Warhorse Solutions, a bio-based, natural products company founded by Tawana Weicker, had made great strides in acquiring local ingredients and strong research and feedback from their local community, but needed to build sales, branding and marketing locally in Western NC. They were also working to develop a Non GMO Project Verified line of animal cleaners using minimally processed ingredients. In addition, Warhorse is building a government contracting relationship with the NC Dept. of Agriculture because their value added Multi Purpose Cleaner uses reclaimed bio based material from the NC biofuel industry and works well to remove grease and grime from commercial vehicles and surfaces. This innovative product has received USDA BioPreferred Certification, with 90% ingredients sourced from renewable agriculture material. SBTDC business counselors assisted Warhorse with general business, international sales exploration, strategic planning, and government contracting. The SBTDC acquired a Western Carolina University professor to help with product pricing, and connected Warhorse to the NC Natural Products Association to help with networking and establishing key partners in their industry. With the SBTDC’s assistance, Warhorse has increased sales, improved operations, and is currently in negotiation with national, regional, and independent foods, pet, and equine retailers. Warhorse Solutions has made it their goal to grow responsibly and to build brand awareness with the future goal of hiring 3 to 5 employees to help manage growth, including positions in inside/outbound sales, office management, customer service and government contracting. Visit Warhorse Solutions at SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



The Bottom line is: if you have a business and don’t make wise financial decisions, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are, you won’t stay in business long. that’s why the SBTDC is so instrumental.


Granite Falls | Traci Whiteside | HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE CLUB CANINE? Club Canine is a multi-purpose pet care facility that offers lodging, grooming, training and all-natural pet foods and supplies. Our Doggy Day Camp provides a structured learning and socialization experience for the dogs. We strive to meet each dog’s social, physical and nutritional needs so they feel safe and loved.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO PET CARE? Our first dog was a corgi named Mindy and we did everything wrong with her. After failed attempts to raise an obedient dog, we hired a trainer. When I started learning about dog behavior and training, my respect for dogs deepened and I couldn’t get enough. The trainer thought I was a natural and offered me a job. I started training part-time while continuing a career in social work.

HOW DID YOU MAKE THE LEAP TO QUIT YOUR DAY JOB? Working as a hospice social worker was rewarding, but highly stressful. I eventually burned out and decided to take some time off, during which I researched the pet care industry. My first business was in-home pet sitting and I



did that for five years before selling to stay at home with my newborn. I eventually opened Club Canine and initially offered training and doggie day camp. In less than a year, I moved to a larger location and expanded our services to include grooming and lodging.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR? My strengths are in dogs and customer service; I hate numbers and percentages. I would rather do anything than deal with the books. But, in the beginning it is too easy to think you can do it all yourself. My advice is to spend the money and hire people who have the strengths you lack. The bottom line is: if you have a business and don’t make wise financial decisions, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are, you won’t stay in business long. That’s why the SBTDC is so instrumental to small businesses and startups. It’s free, so you don’t have to pay for those resources.

HOW HAS THE SBTDC HELPED? When I first met with the SBTDC, I was looking for help reviewing my business plan. I had done the research, made a decision and knew I needed a loan. My counselor gave me a non-biased and educated opinion along with

the information I needed to evaluate the loan options and make a wise decision. The SBTDC was instrumental in preparing me with our business plan, financial statements, income projections and all the paperwork I needed to apply for the loan successfully. If it weren’t for that visit, I never would have gotten the loan I did. They have been a lifesaver.

HOW MUCH GROWTH HAS YOUR BUSINESS EXPERIENCED OVER THE YEARS? We grew out of the space I started in within a year. My next facility was 5,000 sf of renovated space that we almost immediately grew out of. That was about seven years ago and my husband and I started talking about building our own facility, but we knew we couldn’t rush it. Last year everything finally fell into place and we were able to move into our beautiful, state-of-the-art, 12,000 sf facility, and we could already use more space. It isn’t really about the building though, people come here for the peace of mind we are able to give them and the customer service. I started with just two employees and now we currently have 14. We’ve seen our sales increase by 30% since moving into our new facility


WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED? Passion! If you find what you are passionate about, everything else comes naturally. I love educating dog owners and watching the quality of their dogs lives improve. Even well-meaning dog owners sometimes don’t understand what their dog’s needs are or what they are trying to say. We get to be their voice.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS STARTING IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY? Juggling customer satisfaction and doing what is right can be really tricky. For example, it can be hard telling the customer that their dog just isn’t a good candidate for day camp since many people take that personally. You need to have confidence and believe in what you know so you can do what is best, even if this means disappointing the customer or turning away business.

WHAT’S NEXT? We want to add an outdoor water park to enhance a pet’s stay with us as well as to offer a safe place for people to exercise their dogs. So often we see people who think their dogs are having fun at dog parks when they’re actually being bullied. We want this to be a place that’s fun but also a means to educate people.

Host CampusES:

Appalachian State University

Center Director Byron Hicks

school app developer obtains $500K to expand business When Cook Consulting of Hickory contacted the SBTDC, it was shifting focus from being a school software service provider to app development. Two of their main products are an app to handle field trip scheduling and an app to manage volunteers. To develop and sell these products, the company needed additional capital. The SBTDC helped Cook Consulting develop a pitch and presentation to lure potential private investors. Through this process and with SBTDC guidance, the client realized debt capital was better suited to their needs. The SBTDC assisted with development of projections and assumptions that helped them obtain a $500,000 line of credit. The SBTDC also paired Cook Consulting with an ASU MBA student team that helped them understand trends with teachers entering the workforce through a new marketing approach, engage students in the College of Education, and create a survey completed by school students. The new products have launched, and two additional sales people have been hired. Cook Consulting has entered markets in three states including North Carolina, and sales are expected to double by the end of 2016. Visit Cook Consulting at

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



Owen helped with renewing our Exim credit insurance policy, which has supported us for more than $2M in export sales.


Winston-Salem | Tom Crafton | PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR BUSINESS Thermcraft is an international manufacturer of niche, high-quality thermal processing equipment. We specialize in custom designed furnaces, heaters, ovens and kilns for a variety of industries including aerospace, semiconductor, universities, military and pharmaceutical. We also have an Express Line of standard, quick-ship furnaces, ovens and control systems to meet the needs of our customers.

HOW DID THERMCRAFT GET STARTED? In 1971, my father discovered the custom furnace industry from a company he was leasing space from near Pittsburgh, Pa. He was intrigued and decided to invest. After a couple of years, he made the decision to move home to Winston-Salem with two active investors to start Thermcraft. For the first six months of the company’s life, he and my mother were the only employees. They worked out of a 5000 square foot space on the second floor of a building. This meant my father had to be even more inventive with his furnace designs because the finished products had to be compact and transformable in order to fit into the building’s service elevator! Seven years later, he was able to buy-out the two investors and take complete control of Thermcraft. That year we also built a



30,000 square foot, state-of-the-art building. Over thirty years later, we’ve expanded to over 75,000 square feet and are constantly adding to and improving our space and capabilities. One of our largest markets was for the manufacture of semi-conductors for the computer industry, which was a predominantly U.S. industry then. It has since moved overseas. With that transition, we’ve moved into the International market along with it.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER ENTREPRENEURS? Take care of what you have. It’s easier to keep your customer than to get a new one.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE GETTING INTO THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA? In 1991, we received funding through the state to send our promotional materials to Taiwan where a representative was to find partners for us. The problem, however, was that Thermcraft is such a unique, niche industry that our state reps couldn’t answer questions or speak intelligently about what we do. So, that first international program wasn’t very effective for us.

The next year, we ourselves traveled to China and spent three weeks with the NC Department of Commerce North Eastern Delegation. We had meetings all over China with three native Chinese people interpreting for us. We felt like royalty! That trip was really what we needed in order to move into the international market. After that trip, we continued exporting on a limited scale until 2011 when I saw an article in the Triad Business Journal about the SBTDC’s new International Business Development (IBD) program. We met with our counselor, Owen George, and since then we’ve worked to develop an effective strategy for targeting key export markets. We’ve received two State Trade and Export Promotion grants that supported international trade show participation. Today, we’re exporting throughout Europe, to China, India, Taiwan, Dubai, Brazil and numerous other markets.

HOW HAS THE SBTDC BEEN ABLE TO HELP? We were already aware of the Export-Import (EXIM) Bank from state programs, but Owen helped with renewing our EXIM Credit Insurance Policy, which has supported us for more than $2 million in export sales. EXIM Bank is an institution that I can really support. It allows you to trust that you will get paid and not get stiffed. For a lot of


companies, that one hit could close their doors. The government is really pushing exporting for small and mid-sized businesses, and this institution gives us the financial security to make the leap. The SBTDC also brought us an MBA student from Winston Salam State University to execute a marketing study for us. The project targeted the international sales networks and websites of our key global competitors. We were able to translate that information into the design of our new website, which we launched just recently. We’ve retained almost 70 manufacturing jobs in Winston Salem, and we’ve strengthened our position in a highly competitive marketplace.

HAS THE SBTDC MADE A DIFFERENCE? Although we didn’t have a primary need when we first contacted the SBTDC, it is a free service. We figured we would just see where the relationship leads - the more connections and more interactions, the better. You have to use any tool in the toolbox, which is why we’re working with other state and federal trade agencies as well. Because our work is so specialized, marketing and finding international partners is extremely difficult, but Owen has been the most beneficial in finding programs and people that are a fit for what we do. Our relationship with the SBTDC is a good one. Owen is proactive - not just reactive, and he’s forthcoming. We might only meet once a year, but it is an actual beneficial conversation that we can use to create results.

Host CampusES:

NC A&T State University UNC Greensboro Winston-Salem State University

Center Director Bob Weston

Laid-off employee starts company and expands Founded by Kimberlee Price in 2008 just as the recession began, Safe-T-Works, Inc. (STW) provides services of drug detection, workplace protection, employee screening, DOT compliance, and training services to over 100 school systems, government entities, and major private global companies. Kim was recruited as VP of Operations for a small drug and alcohol testing and background screening provider. As a single mother, she could spend more time with her son. Months later the business closed. Kim knew she eventually wanted to own her own business. Within a month, with an SBTDC counselor’s guidance, hiring some of the experienced employees who also lost their jobs, Kim started her business, retaining many former clients. STW is an outstanding example of a startup that has grown through the recession. Starting with 4 employees and less than 100 government and private entities, it has experienced 10-20% sales growth in the first 5 years, almost 40% in 2014, and expects to grow over 30% in 2015. STW expanded by opening an office in Elizabeth City, NC with the assistance of the SBTDC. Visit Safe-T-Works at

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



The thing about the SBTDC is that I’m never actively looking for these opportunities, but my counselor comes to me and says “What do you need now?” and offers these students, or interns, or a workshop, or whatever will help us at that moment.


Cornelius | Robert Ray |

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE CALIBRATION SOLUTIONS? This is a Calibration and Testing Laboratory. Every day you touch something that has been calibrated—thermometers, pills that have had their medicine weighed or counted, the torque on a bolt in your car, etc. The equipment used to check those measurements must be tested to ensure that they are giving accurate readings. Calibration Solutions calibrates the equipment that is used for testing by comparing it to a known standard. Here’s a very simple example: someone sends us a scale. We have a weight that we know for a fact is exactly one lb. So, we put our one lb weight on the scale and make sure that it is reading exactly one lb. If not, we document the reading and make adjustments to bring the equipment back in to manufacturers tolerances. The equipment is generally much more complicated and we are looking for accuracy way to the right of the decimal place, and we do this for electrical, temperature, pressure, mechanical, dimensional, force, light, acceleration, and vibration.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO CALIBRATION? In 1983, I joined the Air Force and worked for Precision



Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) for four years. When I got out, there weren’t a lot of jobs in the industry, so I pursued another interest. Around 2000, I knew I wanted to start my own business, so it made sense to fall back on a trade I knew.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE My biggest challenge has been growth rates – physical size, adding employees and financial growth. Our space has been much too small for too long but banks didn’t want anything to do with us. The SBTDC helped us find this whole other world of help available with small business loans.

down to two concise choices – expand here or stay the same size and open another facility in Raleigh. I ended up going with a third option, which was selling the company, but their research was valuable. I also took advantage of the SBTDC’s Strategy and Growth Services Program in a day-long, one-on-one, customized workshop. At the end, we knew what we stood for and had a mission statement which we evolved into a marketing and website strategy. The thing about the SBTDC is that I’m never actively looking for these opportunities, but my counselor comes to me and says “What do you need now?” and offers these students, or interns, or a workshop, or whatever will help us at that moment.



The SBTDC is like having this extra support staff. A lot of times when I’ve had an idea, I call just to talk it out with someone who is not an employee or my spouse. They listen objectively and have valuable feedback.

We’ve seen a 20% increase in sales and the addition of seven employees. The biggest benchmark, however, was getting to a point where Calibration Solutions was big enough and attractive enough to buy. I sold the company in September 2014 and my biggest regret is not reaching out to the SBTDC during that time. I was working with a

My counselor matched me with a team of MBA students who researched options to expand. They narrowed it


legal, taxes and finance team all while trying to run a business and not let on what was happening. I did call my counselor the day after it happened. She knew before most of my friends and family.

WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED? Every day is new and unique and that fascinates me. We’re constantly getting in new equipment and learning about a completely new industry or process. Even with something like a resistance measure that we test 20 times a day, there is satisfaction knowing that we’re enabling their goals.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE GIVEN YOURSELF WHEN JUST STARTING OUT? Join industry associations. They’re essential for networking, knowing what is going on in the industry, and it is also how we met the company that eventually bought Calibration Solutions. My other advice is not to give up. Continue to pursue your goals and the good days will outweigh the bad.

Host CampusES: UNC Charlotte

Center Director George McAllister

WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE? Right now I’m happy with our position with Trescal. They bought us because they like what we’re doing and so we’re just continuing to operate as before.

SOFtware developer gains go-to market research and knowledge Application To Go is a technology company that helps digital enterprises develop high quality software products in a fraction of the time and cost of conventional approaches. Rahul Mohan and co-founder Sid Savant created a technology platform designed to automate the majority of the software product lifecycle. After acquiring their first customer on their own, they were ready to define a marketing strategy to further validate customer segments, turning to SBTDC for help. Rahul received this early counseling from SBTDC and recently called on SBTDC for help to investigate possible opportunities in the public sector. Application To Go has grown the team to ten people, acquiring meaningful customers in the Financial Services industry and Software Product companies. With SBTDC’s early help, they are well positioned for growth. Visit Application To Go at

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



We increased our revenues by over 550% in four months, we have tripled the number of direct labor employees, and added three engineers to our staff.


Chapel Hill | Doug Shipman |

WHAT’S YOUR STARTUP STORY? I read an article in a magazine that outlined the troubled relationship between Union Carbide and their client, General Motors. Put simply, the chemicals giant failed in their contractual guarantee to continuously ensure the supply of cryogenic gas, used for welding in automotive production. With manufacture halted, Union Carbide lost the contract to their chief competitor. Realizing the labor-intensive, inefficient method used to determine the supply of gas, I knew I could develop a custom component that could monitor usage and predict when the company would require another delivery. I developed the product, coded the software in my basement, and personally called the big players. The rest, as they say, is history. This year Shipman Technologies celebrates 30 years in the industry.

WHAT DOES SHIPMAN TECHNOLOGIES DO? We solve manufacturing problems, permanently. Within the walls of our 20,000 square foot facility, we have developed an unrivaled breadth of capabilities, becoming the go-to company for some of the biggest (and most demanding) players in the medical instrument, agribusiness and industrial equipment markets. Our clients



don’t care that we have die cutting, injection molders, CAD-CAM seats, CNC equipment, a sheet metal shop, a materials lab. Our clients care about their manufacturing issue. They want to know how we can solve their problem, and take the solution into production. They want to know how we can do this better, faster, cheaper than any other company in the USA or offshore.

WHAT SETS YOU APART FROM OTHER MANUFACTURERS? Reduced costs and extraordinary quality through easily scalable, automated work cells. As experts in advanced robotic assembly, our focus on automation reduces the labor component to provide quality control, cost reduction, and greater flexibility. We deliver automated solutions - designing a work cell that requires minimum labor yet produce perfect quality. Through advanced robotic assembly, we reduce the human component so that we can reduce labor costs and human error. The quickest way to improve a manufacturing process or develop a concept is to have all of the capabilities and talent in-house. Full vertical integration enables us to provide our clients with rapid prototyping, moving

from concept to market quickly. We have the capability to develop a concept through mechanical drawing to functional prototype to finished product or work cell without outsourcing any part of the process.

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO NORTH CAROLINA? The heavy concentration of colleges gives our company depth in terms of engineering and lab capabilities. We have ready access to a huge talent pool, engineers who are pushing the boundaries of coding, robotics, materials development and testing; engineers who defy you to bring them a manufacturing process that cannot be improved.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR OTHER ENTREPRENEURS? As a process design and manufacturing provider, I cannot speak specifically to businesses in the service or retail sectors. Nonetheless, I’m confident they would benefit greatly by availing themselves of the multitude of support programs that the SBTDC, SBA, and SCORE provide. If I’ve learned anything over the past thirty plus years in business, it’s that I still have much to learn.


HOW HAS THE SBTDC BEEN ABLE TO HELP YOUR COMPANY GROW? We have availed ourselves of as many of the programs offered by the SBTDC that might be beneficial, from human resources analysis through to business development planning. They have been incredibly helpful in supporting our decision making processes, in determining how we can optimize our procedures economically. They have reviewed our marketing, our accounting systems, recommended new approaches and highlighted areas for development. The SBTDC has ensured that we are compliant with current law, and using the latest techniques. They support us by giving us a fresh perspective to contrast our business against best available practices. In so doing, the SBTDC has enabled us to focus on what we do best.

DO YOU THINK THE SBTDC HAS MADE AN IMPACT ON YOUR COMPANY? After completing a costing and workflow exercise, we embarked on an initiative to market the services of Shipman Tech. As a result, we increased our revenues by 550% in four months, we have tripled the number of direct labor employees, and added three engineers to our staff. With 2015 revenue predicted to grow 400%, we plan to expand our workforce further, and are currently recruiting for a President and CFO.

Host CampusES:

UNC Chapel Hill NC Central University

Center Director Fred Barringer

veteran focused staffing company experiences 400% revenue increase Founded in 2014 by Craig Gorham, Creative Management Staff Services (CMSS) is a company of veterans and nonveterans that supports disabled and non-disabled veterans transitioning or retired from the military by matching their professional skills with clients. CMSS initially contacted the SBTDC for assistance with potential growth, financial analysis, and business planning. Counselor Pieter Swanepoel acted as a soundboard for Craig while brainstorming business decisions for CMSS. He helped create cash flow analyses including permanent working capital needs, and advised on the development of SBA loan applications. Since Craig first came to the SBTDC in 2014, CMSS has added 50 positions to payroll, revenue streams have increased by 400%, and they have grown from three to seven clients. CMSS now has Veteran Small Business Owner certification from the Department of Veteran Affairs. “This resource has helped me grow as a business owner and its my intention to continue this relationship because the service and level of expertise is something you can’t put a price on.” Visit Creative Management Staff Services at SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



We were aware there was a communication issue, but we’ve been able to fully understand the deeper issues, we have a plan to improve, and assurance that those improvements take hold.


Weldon | Kris Neal |



We fabricate and manufacture the steel needed in commercial buildings, hospitals and universities. We also do heavy structure framing and erection, plus some work with other metals. Our distribution area covers the Mid-Atlantic, so from South Carolina to Maryland, roughly.

We have new robotics and equipment for automated production, which we expect to increase our profit margins due to these improved efficiencies. Our reputation for completing projects on time, meet needed qualifications, and exceed expectations has led to increased business as general contractors call us to bid on new projects. We also continue to gain customers as rival businesses leave the market. Steel fabrication is on the rise, so we are expecting growth rates of 15-25% over the next few years.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE? Managing through a recession, but we were able to make it through when a lot of other steel companies didn’t. Now that things are starting to improve, we’re in a position to pick up their business and start expanding.

WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED? It is exciting to build things and see what we can do. I drive past buildings knowing that our steel is in there, and that keeps me excited for the next opportunity. The employees here are another big motivator. We are a dynamic family where everyone is committed and proud of what we do, so I want to make sure we are doing well financially for them. We’re in a pretty rural town and even though we aren’t a huge company, providing jobs to 50 or so employees really makes a difference.



WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO REACH OUT TO THE SBTDC? In a way it was a good problem. We are growing and we had several employees that we promoted up into leadership roles. However, I realized that leadership is not necessarily something that people inherently know. It wasn’t their field, so we were looking for ways to strengthen our leadership team, and from there be able to handle growth effectively.

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO STRENGTHEN LEADERSHIP SKILLS? With the help of the SBTDC’s Strategy and Growth Services, we put together a personalized program to

develop communication within our management team. We’re still working through it, but we’ve definitely seen an improvement. We’re starting to utilize our different backgrounds as strengths instead of letting them get in the way.

WALK US THROUGH THE STRATEGY AND GROWTH SERVICES PROGRAM The first retreat gauged what was working and not working as a leadership team. That was a little rough, like pulling off a Band-Aid. We knew we had some communication issues, but we were able to find out what exactly needed to be addressed. After that, each one of the management team completed an individual assessment, which was evaluated by the SBTDC. We went through that with our counselors and they put together six, hour-long follow up sessions, each targeting an area of leadership—like inspiring others, communication, encouragement, you get the idea. While that was going on, we met one-on-one with our counselors to come up with measurable goals for ourselves. Now our counselors are holding us accountable to them, meeting with us occasionally to see what progress we are making. I think the individual sessions with an outsider are really effective because people are able to be more honest about what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they can improve on them.


YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE STUDENT ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? It was 10 weeks, and a team of grad students from the Wake Forest Business School completed a business valuation. At the end, they presented their findings with recommendations on ways to improve. It was great to work with the students because it takes their book knowledge and translates it into the real world. It was great for us, too, as we were able to learn from their presentation.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE SBTDC HAS MADE A DIFFERENCE? Definitely. We were aware there was a communication issue, but we’ve been able to fully understand the deeper issues, we have a plan to improve, and assurance that those improvements take hold. There isn’t a finish line for this sort of thing, but the improvements have been recognizable and have made an impact on the company. Since working with the SBTDC, we’ve had a 20% increase in employees and our revenues are increasing as our changes begin taking effect.

WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF WELDON STEEL? I’m involved in the economic development board Halifax Horizons, which creates opportunities and incentives for industries to move to the county. Halifax is rural with little need for steel, so although there isn’t necessarily a benefit to us being located here, there is a definite benefit for the county and that community involvement is really important.

Host CampusES:

NC State University

Center Director Mike Seibert

SBTDC Helps Engineering Firm Increase SBIR Phase II and Government Contract Awards Vadum provides innovative research and systems engineering and design solutions to the defense, law enforcement, and commercial communities. Its team of scientists and engineers has a keen ability to find, evaluate, and develop raw technical ideas into commercially viable product concepts, and turn these concepts into working prototypes and production solutions. When Vadum came to the SBTDC for assistance, it had experienced limited success in receiving Phase I SBIR awards, but was achieving success with Phase II awards. They had also received fewer government contracts in total than they desired. John Ujvari and Mike Carnes of the SBTDC’s Technology Development and Commercialization team worked with Vadum on their SBIR Phase I process, including commercialization plan tutorial, proposal writing, and a strategy session to determine the best direction for its research and development efforts. Today, their SBIR Phase I win rate has increased significantly. Rebecca Barbour, Procurement Technical Assistant Center (PTAC) Counselor, provided ongoing support regarding research contracting, proposal writing, and contract administration, which has resulted in greater government contracting success for Vadum. Visit Vadum, Inc. at SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



Work with the SBTDC, and you’ll find out just how easy exporting can be.


Laurel Hill | DeWayne Day |



My father, Darrell Day, started East Coast Umbrella on his living room floor after a nearby umbrella company made too many and was throwing them away. Dad bought them at $25 apiece and lined our whole front yard with them, selling them at a profit. Eventually, people started asking for more, and that’s how East Coast Umbrella got started. That was 30 years ago, and it is still family-owned with three generations working here. East Coast Umbrella has grown to become one of the leading outdoor umbrella and cushion companies in the USA.

Our sign out front that says, “OK, YOU SAID YOU WOULD STOP BY NEXT TIME. ITS NEXT TIME,” actually worked! Owen George, our counselor, dropped by one day to check out our shop and struck up a conversation with the manager on the sales floor, and we are glad he did. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the international growth that we’re seeing today.


Exporting wasn’t something we pursued - after we got burnt on a shipment to France and were never paid. But Owen convinced us there was a safer way. We developed an international strategy and when we were ready, Owen connected us with a Canadian designer interested in distributing our umbrellas. He also referred us to the ExportImport Bank where we received an export credit insurance policy that protects us from getting burnt again. Now we continue to receive export training through participation in Export University, which is basically six classes of one-onone instruction over a three year period.

We do a lot of the umbrellas for Dunkin Donuts and Hyatt Regency, but we’ve had some famous umbrellas. You can spot them on television and in the movies -- Dawson’s Creek, Dirty Dancing, Iron Man III, and Ralph Lauren had some made for his stores and liked them so much he had us make some for his mansion. And we’ve sold umbrellas to members of the royal family in Dubai.




SINCE THAT FIRST CANADIAN EXPORT, HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED? We were told that it typically takes 18 months or more to flourish once you get a game plan together, but things went more quickly for us. We flew up to Canada for a trade show and that experience showed us what we could do with some effort. Then Owen showed us an even better way to go. He directed us toward RestaurantPoint, which is an alternative to tradeshows. It’s expensive, but you meet individually with restaurant chain decision makers and make your case. It was a home run. Dunkin Donuts told us that we were “good old boys from down in the country and I want to do business with you.” I guess some companies walk away and aren’t sure what they got out of it, but we made deals right there.

WHAT OTHER COUNTRIES ARE YOU EXPORTING TO? Owen helped us with a State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant so we could participate in a trade mission to Guadalajara, Mexico - and he introduced us to a sales contact from Singapore. The STEP grant paid for our booth,


airfare and hotel to Mexico -- and now we’re exporting to Mexico and Singapore. We’re also in Dubai, which was an expensive investment of time and resources, but it has paid off. Just this morning we sold to Dubai 36 Illumishade umbrellas - which are $500-$600 each.

WHAT MAKES YOUR UMBRELLAS DIFFERENT? We are known for our quality, customization, and how fast we can turn around a job. We’ve also been working with our counselor on having products that tell a story and stand out in the international market. We just released the first umbrella in our “Made in the USA” line. To [legally] claim that label, only 51% of the materials and labor need to be sourced in the U.S.A., but ours is 100% American. The wood comes from Maine, the fabric from the Carolinas, and the design, sewing and assembly is all performed in-house - it really has that story quality.

WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE? We plan to go back to a tradeshow in Dubai and to Saudi Arabia in November. Now that we’re started, it is getting even easier. We have reps in the Middle East region and with the STEP Grant to help pay for the booth and samples, our reps will be on site to handle the tradeshow. We’ve already gone from 50 to 64 employees since working with the SBTDC, and we plan to add 10 to 12 more in the near future.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS HOPING TO BREAK INTO THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET? Work with the SBTDC. They held our hands through the process, and we never would have gone to those other countries without their help. Work with the SBTDC, and you’ll find out just how easy exporting can be.

Host CampusES:

Fayetteville State University UNC Pembroke

Center Director

Johnnie Marshburn

SBTDC Assistance leads to financing for sweet potato fries producer Trinity Frozen Foods, LLC, a Pembroke-based producer of sweet potato fries, came to the SBTDC seeking funding to purchase and renovate their property. Beth Wilkerson, Assistant Director at the UNC-Pembroke office, worked with owner Barry White and the Robeson County Grant Administrator to develop a funding package that resulted in Trinity Frozen Foods receiving an NC Building Reuse Grant, a Community Development Block Grant, and USDA Business & Industry Loan. The SBTDC assisted Trinity with business plan dvelopment and cash flow projections that they used to successfully complete applications for funding. Once in operation, an MBA Intern assisted Trinity with devleoping an HR manual, policies and procedures. Trinity has also worked with the SBTDC International Busienss Development team, the NC Department of Agriculture, and the USDA to expand their markets. The client has two existing work shifts and with continued growth, they are looking to add two more work shifts in 2015. They now have a certified organic line, and are hitting their financial and growth targets. Visit Trinity Frozen Foods at

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



They have been my backbone, a support group, someone to vent to and positive reinforcement.


Jacksonville | Marion Plocica |

CAN YOU DESCRIBE EXTREME OUTFITTERS? We are a military, law force, and tactical outdoor retailer. We have a 15,000 sf store and an online retail site that’s internationally known with over 100 vendors. Our product lines range from apparel and footwear to weapons accessories, knives and camping gear.

HOW DID YOU, AS A WOMAN, BREAK INTO THIS INDUSTRY? Ten years ago, my son was trying to go pro in motocross and the owner of Extreme Outfitters became his sponsor. My husband and I got to know him when my son made it to the nationals and he eventually offered me a job as General Manager, so of course I accepted. I love knowing that the gear that we provide allows police officers, firemen and the military to do what they do. Then, about two years ago, he passed away suddenly without any plan in place for the company. We were in limbo with 18 employees that had been with us for 10 to 14 years and I felt like I needed to make sure they still had a job. So, I started working with the executor to take over the company. It was really challenging. The previous owner left behind a lot of debt, two companies, one of



which I needed to sell and consolidate assets. I’m really more of a behind-the-scenes person, and I’d much rather support someone else. Then the first attorney I went to looked at me and the paperwork and told me to get my resume ready. It would have been so easy to just give up at that point, but God had another plan and the thought of my employees kept me going.

coming out from under everything and starting to really grow. Our sales numbers are growing. We’re carrying new brands, and we’ve gotten rid of most of the excess inventory the previous owner bought in bulk. With all of the space that created, we’re constructing new offices, a conference room, an online retail area and new marketing department which will be vital in growing our business.



Obviously I found a new attorney, and she referred me. Paying off the debt was my first priority, so I began applying for an SBA loan. Not to knock it, because that loan has been a lifesaver, but it was certainly a stressful process. We had to resubmit paper work over and over and I was frustrated. My counselors came in and prepared me for the marathon. They gave me the support, the heads up, and the understanding for why things are done this way. They have been my backbone, a support group, someone to vent to and positive reinforcement. And the thing of it is, I didn’t have to pay for anything.

I love being able to give my employees the opportunity to make this their own. I love relinquishing authority, sometimes reluctantly, only to watch them take it and be successful. Being able to say “Look, you did this!” is incredible. We are a company of people whose ideas, trials and errors have created a successful business. It’s about working hard and going home with a feeling of accomplishment.


Social media is a really important strategy for us. Right now we’re having an Instagram contest. We’ve asked for video submissions and somewhere in the video needs to be our logo’d sticker. The best one receives a $500

So far it has mostly felt like survival mode, but now we’re



shopping spree. So, now we have these essentially free little commercials all over Facebook and Instagram. It is really important to me that we take care of what’s in our own backyard, so we do a lot with the community through participation and giving back and events like the Veteran Appreciation event that we hold each November in our parking lot.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE? We just accomplished one of my biggest goals, which was to open up the option for a 401K plan for the employees. I am so excited about that.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOURSELF AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS JOURNEY? I know it is hard and you want to be at the end, but it does get easier. It has been an incredible experience. Every time I was about to give up, the right people were there to offer the help or support I needed at that time. I won’t take any of the credit because I have an awesome team of people behind me and an awesome God leading me.

Host CampusES: UNC Wilmington

Center Director Fran Scarlett

SBTDC helps furniture manufacturer open for business When Matt McCormick came to the SBTDC, he was sorting through a variety of businesses he was looking to purchase. The SBTDC worked with him to investigate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of each business under consideration. His second option had its challenges, but it also had the potential to be wildly successful. The SBTDC counselors discussed alternatives to purchasing the business and suggested a strictly detailed asset purchase and a new start up. He agreed. The SBTDC provided startup guidance, reviewed the financials of businesses available for purchase, examined valuation, prepared cash flow projections, and discussed areas of concern. Matt ultimately opened Rogue Wave Polyworks, a company that designs and manufactures outdoor furniture made from recycled plastics. They immediately hired 6 employees, invested $300,000, and are seeking additional working capital of $350,000. The business plans to participate in UNCW’s MBA Learning Alliance in 2015-16. Visit Rogue Wave Polyworks at

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



I don’t think I can unwind where counseling ends and the business begins, we think of our counselor as part of us.


Greenville | Vin McCaffrey |

DESCRIBE GAME THEORY GROUP We provide student athlete development to college athletic departments, and we do this by developing comprehensive assessments and learning tools for on and off the field, with a focus on careers. We design courses for real life skills like setting goals, time management, resume writing and credit scores. These courses, combined with GPA, major, interests, and the perspectives of coaches, are all important pieces of information to an employer. By quantifying this information into metrics that can be used intelligently, we create a clean path for businesses to recruit student athletes and for the student to be recruited by the employer.

WHAT IS YOUR STARTUP STORY? I am a former student athlete, and my dad was a coach. That played a big part in choosing to target student athletes, but having that history doesn’t take you all the way. There has to be a market opportunity. In 2014, I read that every day 10,000 baby boomers retire, and the workforce is shifting toward hiring these students. I knew that finding a better way to match students with employers had value for both parties, and pairing that with my background just made sense.




never existed before, so there’s no benchmark and that’s kind of cool, but we have to put up our own benchmarks.

I knew there would never be that great or perfect time but I tested the idea and validated that it would succeed, so there was never any concern for failure. My wife and I talked about it a lot, about how it would be hard for a few years, but honestly it is still hard seven years later.


WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE? Technology. We originally outsourced our system development and it is only designed to handle thirty schools or so. But, now we’re expecting dynamic growth and need a system that can handle thousands. I’m not a technologist by nature, so being able to recognize that and bring the talent in-house was the first challenge. The second was for our team to develop the platform for scale, which our third release is and then some.

WHERE DO YOU TURN FOR SUPPORT? One another. Michigan State’s athletic department has a saying, “a Spartan’s true strength is the warrior next to him” and that’s really true here. What we’re doing has

Early on. We were growing but weren’t sure what we were doing. We knew we needed money and we needed someone to go to and lay it out and say, “does this make sense?” The whole business was in Vin’s head and on paper, but the vision wasn’t communicated in a way to get investors. Our counselor took us through the business model and we worked with him to get access to funding. He was one really smart dude, and it didn’t cost anything.

HOW HAS THE SBTDC BEEN INVOLVED? Raising capital has to be the most influential way the SBTDC has helped. Our counselor literally took us through the projections for five years and helped us get the rest of our paperwork in shape. With those in hand we’ve been able to win some local grants, which our counselor brought to the table. He also introduced us to IMAF and they’ve been our largest investor.


WOULD YOU SAY THE SBTDC HAS MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THE SUCCESS OF GAME THEORY GROUP? I don’t think I can unwind where counseling ends and the business begins, we think of our counselor as part of us.

TELL US ABOUT THE GROWTH YOU’VE SEEN 2011-2014 has seen a 200 percent increase year-over-year. We’ve been able to hire eight full time employees plus several part time workers and will have somewhere between 25-30 interns work with us annually. Just as kind of an example, we attended the SBTDC’s Investor Ready Entrepreneur seminar two years ago, and the next year Vin was the keynote speaker. It was pretty incredible going from attendee to keynote in only one year.

WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE? Our software platform, Game Plan, has existed in two separate buckets – College and Pro—but we’re bringing them into a single platform. We’re developing an entire library of different e-learning modules as well as various assessment instruments, including GTG’s own proprietary assessment that measures an athlete’s identity and their transition away from sport. We are very excited about our most recent service offering which is employer sponsorships for athletic departments, which brings in revenue for the department while bringing in jobs and learning for their kids. From the point of efficiency, our hiring ratios reduce cost by 75% for the employer.

Host CampusES:

East Carolina University

Center Director Carolyn Wilburn

woman-owned scientific research firm receives outstanding achievement award

Geodynamics is a research firm specializing in coastal, marine and freshwater mapping, monitoring, and high-end Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analyses and database design. Formed in 2003 by researchers from UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, and NC State University, the group had a vision of providing state-of-the-art, research-quality science to the private, governmental and academic sectors. As a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) in an industry where woman-owned businesses are severely underrepresented, the company has faced more than their fair share of challenges. Geodynamics has been a subcontractor for many federal government agencies since 2003, and has grown as a government prime contractor since 2010 with assistance from the SBTDC’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). With two new large contracts with the US Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, Geodynamics is a company that exemplifies the spirit of perseverance despite all of the challenges that small businesses, particularly women-owned small businesses, face daily. PTAC nominated Geodynamics for the 2014 MWBE Outstanding Achievement Award, which they were awarded in Greensboro during the September 2014 MED Week. Visit Geodynamics at SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



Without the SBTDC, we wouldn’t have found out about the Revolving Loan Fund, and we wouldn’t have been able to open at the critical moment.


Nags Head | Abby and Brad Carey |

WHAT IS FIRST FLIGHT? First Flight is an Aerial Adventure Park. It’s an obstacle course that’s 12-50 feet in the air using cables, rope, wood, buoys, barrels, etc. It makes traversing the course both challenging and entertaining. Generally, all 42 obstacles and six ziplines take about two hours, but you can just tackle parts of it. We have guides up there for safety, rescue and coaching; but, you’re mostly on your own or with your group, working out the obstacles together. And we’re constantly changing things. We’ve already added seven new obstacles, and a viewing platform.


HOW DID YOU GET INTO AERIAL ADVENTURE? Brad has always loved building anything from skate board ramps to rock climbing walls. While getting his BA in Construction Management from ECU, he got involved with ECU’s Adventure Center. That introduced him to a ropes course construction company and ended up working 12 years for them. He calls it construction on ropes; it’s challenging, there’s a lot of travel, and he loves it. Now, he’s helped design and build aerial adventure parks along the East Coast, including the one in Asheville, which was the first one in the United States.



About four years ago, we decided to start our own. Brad had the design and construction background and I have the experience in customer service. I have a BA in Recreations Management, plus experience as an instructor and front-line guide. We lived in Nag’s Head and decided that an adventure park would be a great fit for this tourist destination.

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN GETTING STARTED? Raising the capital that we needed. We were able to raise a lot of it through friends and family and from our own investments. The 6banks, though, thought we were starting PAGE with “excessive debt” and refused to loan to us. We had already tapped all our resources, but we were still $50,000 short. This was at the beginning of the year, and our schedule required that we start construction no later than March 18th in order to open by Memorial Day, which was essential. The season is really only 100 days, so missing that first weekend could have been detrimental.

HOW WAS THE SBTDC ABLE TO HELP? Southern Bank referred us to the SBTDC in February, and they directed us to the Albermarle Commission Revolving Loan Fund. This loan fund is designed specifically for good

projects that have been denied by the banks. Our business counselor walked us through the process and made sure we had our documentation in order. We were able to get the capital we needed and start construction on time. When we came to the SBTDC, we were so frustrated. We had tried everything, but they just looked at us and said, “We can help!” Our schedule was so tight and stressful. We didn’t even get our Occupancy Permit until Friday at 4:30 p.m. They were right, though, they were able to help. Our counselor was so supportive and flexible, even showing up at the construction sight to make sure things got signed. Without the SBTDC, we wouldn’t have found out about PAGE 32 the Revolving Loan Fund, and we wouldn’t have been able to open at the critical moment.

ELIZABETH CITY DO YOU THINK THE FIRST YEAR WAS A SUCCESS? It was. Last year went really well. We’ve already been able to pay back 25% of our debt and we have financing to expand. And, the SBTDC has continued to be a resource. Lately, we’ve been working with them on human resources. We’re essentially first time managers so we’re learning some leadership skills on the fly. Plus, just drawing in employees can be challenging since we’re competing against all the restaurants in the area. The first year, we were able to hire four full time employees plus 26 seasonal workers and 3 part timers. We originally thought we would only need 16 guides and one office staffer for our first season but we ended up hiring an additional 8 employees, which just kind of shows how things exceeded expectations.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER STARTUPS? Be creative in raising capital, but stick to trustworthy sources and don’t discount networking. Including our own contribution, we were able to raise $380,000 without going to the bank.

WHAT’S IN YOUR FUTURE? This year will be bigger and better. We’re already renovating the office and check-in area and added a shaded viewing platform. Last year, we got a lot of exposure with things like the Best Outdoor Adventure - Best of the Beach Award in Outerbanks Voice, and we were on the TV show Fit to Be Wild.

Host CampusES:

Elizabeth City State University

Center Director Michael Twiddy

Home-based event planner makes it happen with sbtdc guidance Established in September 2014, Let’s Make it Happen is a home-based event planning business in Hertford County, owned and operated by Penny Turner-Hall. She visited the SBTDC seeking startup assistance, funding sources and managing her business. The SBTDC educated Penny on the startup process, provided assistance in completing a business plan, marketing, and managing the business which included advice on what to provide her customers during the initial meeting, home office layout and banking. She also received guidance in the area of pricing her services and contractual agreements. After implementing the SBTDC’s recommendations, Penny was successful in starting her event planning business on September 6, 2014 with 1 full-time employee. She has since received positive feedback from her customers. Not only has Let’s Make it Happen succeeded in business start-up, but through the guidance offered, she has improved in several areas critical to entrepreneurs, such as organization and management skills. This business is a great addition to the Hertford County small business community. Visit Let’s Make It Happen at

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies



The Statewide Advisory Board has played an important role in supporting SBTDC leadership since 1985 and is comprised of both at-large and regional center representatives. Board members are selected to enhance the SBTDC and its capacity to provide high-quality service to stimulate business growth and economic development throughout North Carolina. In addition to advocating on behalf of the small to medium-sized business community, board members help develop the SBTDC’s strategic plan and annual work plans, identify new resources, and provide feedback and recommendations on SBTDC programs and services. Many board members have offered guidance to SBTDC counselors and clients, spoken at SBTDC conferences and events, and worked on special projects, including the development of Inception Micro Angel Funds across the state. The following individuals are currently serving on the SBTDC’s Statewide Advisory Board, and we thank them for their generous commitment to the SBTDC and small businesses across North Carolina.

Walter Daniels

Peter Bishop

Lynn Douthett

Nelson Morris

Dr. Mike Smith

Horace Stimson

Brad Bruestle

Debbie HildebranBachofen

Nick Nicholson

Tom Robinson

Chair Daniels & Daniels P.A. Research Triangle Park, NC

Chairman Emeritus Owner Developing Businesses, Inc. Pilot Mountain, NC

Wendy Banks

Owner Carolina Management Team Enka, NC

Ray Barnes

Exec Vice President Lending Group Branch Banking & Trust Co. Winston-Salem, NC

Economic Development Director Currituck Chamber of Commerce Currituck, NC

Vice President / Sales and Service Officer BB&T SFR Banking Group Wilmington, NC

John Chaffee

President and CEO North Carolina’s Eastern Alliance Kinston, NC

John Culbertson

Founder Cardinal Real Estate Partners Charlotte, NC

Thurmon Deloney Lt. Colonel (retired) Greensboro, NC

34 2014-2015 ANNUAL REPORT | SBTDC

District Director US Small Business Administration Charlotte, NC

Shareholder Manning, Fulton and Skinner P.A. Raleigh, NC

Finance Manager Kidzcare Pediatrics PC Fayetteville, NC

Executive Vice President/ Chief Credit Officer First South Bank Raleigh, NC

Kevin O’ Mara

Owner Blue Mountain Enterprises Hickory, NC

Executive Director The Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Elon University Elon, NC

Eileen joyce

Andrew Schwab

Leslie D. (Sonny) Hines

Lead Economic Development Specialist U.S. Small Business Administration Charlotte, NC

President First Flight Venture Center Research Triangle Park, NC

Professor / Department Head Western Carolina University Cullowhee, NC

Vice President ERD, LTD Kernersville, NC

Billy Walton President Sabre Companies Winterville, NC

Linda Weiner

Vice President for Engagement and Strategic Innovation Office of the President Raleigh, NC

John Weir

President Nimbus Technologies, Inc. High Point, NC




Special thanks to SBTDC staff members for their assistance with the SBTDC client success stories: Roxanne Bailey Reed Ariana Billingsley Annice Brown Michael Carnes Chris Conant Victor Dau Tommy Dennison Owen George Debbie Hathaway



Text by Scott Daugherty, Lisa Ruckdeschel, Jamie Forbes, and Angela Farrior.

Byron Hicks Gena Martin David Mayo Robin McIntire Janis Mueller Jamie Petherbridge

Photography by Jamie Forbes, Lisa Ruckdeschel, Angela Farrior and Staff at Club Canine (Club Canine).

Mike Seibert

Illustrations by Jamie Forbes.

Michael Twiddy

Layout and typesetting by Jamie Forbes. The Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.


Pieter Swanepoel Alex Viva Carolyn Wilburn Beth Wilkerson Jessica Young

SBTDC | Proven expertise and results for north carolina’s growing companies


for more info visit


Durham 828.251.6025 919.530.7889


Elizabeth City 828.262.2492

PAGE 8 252.335.3247

Hickory 828.345.1110

Pembroke 910.775.4000

Chapel Hill

Fayetteville 910.672.1727 919.513.1500






Winston-Salem 919.962.0389 704.687.0440 828.227.3504 336256.9300 252.737.1385


Small Business and Technology Development Center 800.258.0862 | |

Raleigh 910.962.3744 336.750.2030

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