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Annual Report

Seventeen South Carolina Small Business Development Centers (SC SBDC) across the state offer individual, confidential business consulting at no cost. Highly-trained consultants assist both existing and startup companies. Consultants provide a variety of services, including advisement on business plans, fiscal and operations management, financing options, marketing strategies, human resources and much more. Centers conduct affordable education workshops and provide referrals to useful business resources. Specialized services include government contracting, exporting, technology commercialization, veterans business assistance and minority outreach. Visit to find a center and make an appointment. Follow small business news at and on Twitter @SCSBDC.

South Carolina Small Business Development Centers by region G








Cherokee York



Winthrop Region Florence Myrtle Beach Rock Hill


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Union Anderson

Laurens Fairfield


















Edgefield Calhoun





Orangeburg Barnwell








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SC State Region



Clemson Greenville Spartanburg Greenwood




Clemson Region

Marion Florence



Colleton Charleston Beaufort

Office includes a Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC)

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USC Region

Aiken Beaufort Charleston North Charleston Columbia Hilton Head Newberry Sumter

Contents About Us/Impact Numbers From Bobby Hitt, Secretary of Commerce, SC Department of Commerce From Michele Abraham, State Director, SC Small Business Development Centers From Roger Weikle, SC SBDC Consortium Chair Success Stories Technology Commercialization SBA Winners State Star/NASBITE

1 2 3 4 5-10 10 11 12

Advisory Board Chair, Barbara Blau, Chair and President, DP Professionals Vice-chair, Steve Bailey, CEO and Chairman, Merus Refreshment Services, Inc. Carlson Austin, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, SC State University Georgia Good, Vice President, Rural Advancement Fund Bonner Guidera, Owner, The Flooring Connection Phil Hamby, President and CEO, Harbor Enterprises Dr. Alonzo Johnson, President and CEO, Agape Certified Nursing Assistant Academy Frank Knapp, Jr., President and CEO, SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce George Long, Lead Small Business Underwriter, TD Bank George B. Patrick, III, Deputy Secretary SC Department of Commerce A. O’Neil Rashley, Jr., Senior Vice President and Counsel, SC Bankers Association Raymond F. Reich, Downtown Development Manager, City of Florence Robert (Rob) F. Youngblood, President, York County Regional Chamber of Commerce John A. Walter, President and CEO, PMG Management Group and Owner, Clemson Cleaning Company Teresa Gore, Owner and President, GT Industrial Co. Honorary member, Elliott Cooper, District Director, Small Business Administration

We’re big on small business. For more than 30 years, entrepreneurs have turned to the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers. The SC SBDC’s mission is to advance the state’s economic development by helping entrepreneurs grow successful businesses. This means not only assisting the formation of new ventures, but also helping existing businesses find new markets and faltering companies to stay on course. SC SBDC consultants tailor their approach to meet the needs of any business—from a technology startup to a local restaurant to a manufacturing plant with 500 employees. SC SBDC offers client education and no-cost confidential counseling on financing, marketing, employee management, importing and exporting, strategic planning, market expansion, bookkeeping, technology commercialization, manufacturing and government procurement. There are also focused programs for veterans and minority-owned businesses. The SC SBDC is always evolving and developing new programming to meet the needs of an ever-shifting economy. Visit for more information on educational seminars, workshops, business resources and consulting services available throughout the state.

In 2012, the SC SBDC network helped: • • • • •


4,797 entrepreneurs. create or retain 891 jobs. the startup of 116 new ventures. create $34.6 million in capital formation. secure more than $26.3 billion in government contracts. SC SBDC State Director’s Office 1705 College Street Darla Moore School of Business University of South Carolina Columbia, SC 29208 803.777.4907 SCSBDC@SC.EDU

Bobby Hitt Secretary of Commerce, SC Department of Commerce A small business can be a one-person shop or a company with hundreds of employees and multi-million dollar contracts. Both are equally important to the economic growth of our state, and both can find assistance through the private consulting services, provided at no-cost, by the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers (SC SBDC). The SC SBDC plays a pivotal role in our ongoing efforts to meet the needs of businesses trying to find new ways to grow and succeed. Soon approaching 35 years of outreach and service, the SC SBDC is instrumental in supporting business development and growth, improving our communities and benefitting the lives of our citizens. We’ve seen a recent shift in emphasis as the SC SBDC focuses more heavily on helping existing businesses retain jobs, an initiative that has proven successful. In the past five years, the SC SBDC has served nearly 20,000 small business clients and assisted in helping create or retain more than 6,000 jobs in our state. These numbers show their services are cost-effective and provide a strong return on investment. We congratulate the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers for passing the rigorous standards necessary to gain national accreditation this year. In addition to earning full accreditation, our state’s network received four commendations for exemplary performance in leadership, organizational adaptability, communications and outstanding branding and marketing. The SC SBDC’s network of passionate professionals dedicated to helping small businesses succeed is a vital partner in the economic development of our state. On behalf of the South Carolina Department of Commerce, we applaud their ongoing efforts and look forward to our continued relationship as we work to assist every small business owner who needs guidance. Sincerely,

Robert M. Hitt III Secretary of Commerce, SC Department of Commerce


Michele Abraham

State Director, SC Small Business Development Centers Dear Friends, Partners and Clients: You are reading the SC Small Business Development Center’s first annual report. This publication is one of many positive additions and changes our network has put in place in the past few years. Our most public change has been the development of a new brand identity for the network. While we continue to operate centers throughout the state, we are now one cohesive network under a single brand umbrella. As our brand recognition continues to grow, so will the significant ways the SC SBDC contributes to our state. The long road to economic recovery has imposed serious challenges on our state’s small business owners. The difficult economic climate has also placed incredible demands on the SC SBDC. However, like the business owners we serve, our network has remained diligent, focused and innovative in finding ways to overcome these obstacles in order to support and grow our small enterprises. This is illustrated by our 2012 results: 1059 jobs were created/saved, $26.4 billion in government contract awards, $41 million in financing obtained and 121 new businesses created. We have also introduced new programs and services that meet the evolving needs of entrepreneurs in both rural and urban communities throughout the state. For example, our network expanded international trade services and sponsored six of our consultants to obtain NASBITE certifications in 2012. We also added dedicated experts to address the needs of manufacturers, minority and veteran-owned companies. Most recently, the SC SBDC introduced a technology commercialization program that will help entrepreneurs successfully innovate and bring new products to market. A crowning achievement was being awarded full accreditation. This is a rigorous process in which every element of our operation is examined by a national panel of SBDC experts based on Malcolm Baldridge performance excellence standards. The 2012 review brought an amazing accreditation award with no conditions and four commendations for exemplary performance. National accreditation ensures that all SBDC programs across the country operate as world-class organizations that demonstrate the principles we teach our clients. It’s a new day at the SC SBDC as we look for ways to innovate and meet the demands of an ever changing business environment. We invite you to visit our newly designed website to learn all the SC SBDC has to offer. Make a private appointment with one of our consultants, attend a workshop or follow our news on Facebook and Twitter. We mean it when we say, “We’re big on small business.” Sincerely,

Michele Abraham State Director, SC SBDC


Roger Weikle

SC SBDC Consortium Chair The consulting centers that make up the South Carolina SBDC network are hosted in universities and colleges throughout our state. The network is advised by a unique consortium led by the business schools at Clemson, USC, SC State and Winthrop and each school shares support of this statewide business outreach program. For most of the schools, an increasingly important benefit from SC SBDC support comes in the form of contributions to student learning. Graduate assistants and student project teams conduct research, make presentations and advise clients. This means real-world learning for students while clients receive free consulting services that would be highly valued in the open market. Students work on overall business plans, marketing plans, export initiatives and provide technology capabilities that would be out of reach for many clients. In these days of high accountability and scarce resources for higher education, interaction between the SC SBDC, students and the small business community is a rare win-win-win dynamic. While the network will continue to be accessible to startups, a new plan calls for more involvement with existing businesses poised to grow and create jobs. SC SBDC leadership has done a masterful job of ensuring a significant return on investment to taxpayers. Communities all around the state are teeming with the success stories of SC SBDC clients. The SC SBDC leverages relatively small investments from federal and state governments and university budgets to achieve dramatic results. On behalf of the leadership of the university consortium, we congratulate the SC SBDC on making great strides in accreditation, branding, certifications and new service offerings as they continue to make significant contributions to our state’s economic development. Sincerely,

Roger D. Weikle, Ph.D. Dean of the College of Business Administration Winthrop University

Thank you to our host universities.

The Citadel Costal Carolina University Florence-Darlington Technical College

Lander University Newberry College Spartanburg Community College


MedOne Medical Transport: Where taking care of patients is taking care of business “We hire only the best employees. People who are compassionate,” said Michael Thigpen, Chief Operating Officer of MedOne. “We don’t make patients wait. We’re gentle and take time at each medical transport.” MedOne in Florence, South Carolina is a family-owned company operated by Thigpen and his wife, Tricia, who serves as company president. Serial entrepreneurs, the Thigpens came to the medical transport business after owning both construction and real estate companies. After the slow economy hit the housing industry, the Thigpens looked for a recession proof business to start. “With the aging population we felt that the medical field was a good bet,” Thigpen said. He researched the competition, the number of hospital discharges each week and how many assisted living and nursing facilities were within a 30-mile radius of Florence. In the end, with a ton of research and a fleshed-out business plan, Thigpen felt MedOne could be a success. Knowing that the majority of their patients would be Medicare recipients, Tricia set about getting into the system. “You have to have fully equipped, basic life support vehicles and staff in place before Medicare will approve your company,” she said. Thigpen sought the assistance of business consultant Mike Bell of the Florence Area SBDC. He was looking for what he called, “a subjective set of eyes.” Bell went over the business plan for MedOne, helped refine it and then worked with Thigpen to identify the best source of funding to purchase the first transport trucks. “Michael was the perfect client,” Bell said. “He had a plan and reasonable goals. He had done the research. He had equity to invest. He had an open mind and knew that he was going to have to work hard.” MedOne secured a $50,000 loan to purchase two trucks, equipment and supplies. They also secured a $30,000 line of credit backed by receivables to help with operational expenses for the initial 90 days until a Medicare number could be obtained and billing begun. Starting with three dialysis patients in May 2011, the company grew at a rapid pace. They quickly added discharge patients from local hospitals and purchased two more ambulances by the fall. After six months, they had contracts with three skilled nursing facilities and had reached 31 percent of their annual sales projections. By year’s end, they had six trucks, nine full-time and six part-time employees and had reached nearly 100 percent of their yearly sales projections with a total of 2,739 calls. Their second year in business the Thigpens opened a satellite office in Sumter and took their fleet up to 11 trucks with a total of 20 full-time and four part-times employees. They added a number of skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, as well as private clients such as dialysis patients. All indications are that MedOne will finish their second year in business nearly 40 percent above their annual sales projections. They expect to answer nearly 7,000 calls in their second year and have more than $500,000 in payroll.


Catering and confections business anchors revitalization of Main Street in Sumter In 2003, retired Army veteran Delores Green started a part-time catering business in her home in Sumter, South Carolina. After five years of success, Green decided she’d like to expand her business by acquiring another catering company. She knew she needed a business plan to get a loan. Green turned to the Small Business Administration who referred her to the Sumter Area SBDC. There she met business consultant and Veterans Business Program manager, Jim Giffin. After thoroughly researching the confectionary/cake business Green intended to purchase, Giffin advised her to use her own money to open a brand new business instead. They worked out a business plan and waited for the other catering company to close. Then, Green leased a downtown building, hired the other catering company’s employees and in 2010 Serendipity opened as a café and catering service. Her business grew, and a few years later Green again requested Giffin’s assistance in obtaining a loan to expand her business. She purchased a building on Main Street in Sumter, which contributed to the revitalization of that small town. The dilapidated building had been the location of several nightclubs that had gone under and was in foreclosure. When Green and her husband purchased the building, Green made a commitment to being self-employed and quit her day job. Serendipity was opened in the new location in August 2012. Only six months later, this new business not only provided Green with an income, but it also employed seven full-time and 22 part-time people. Giffin is proud of his long-term client. “Delores went from a home operation to a successful business with $235,000 of capital formation and a lot of hard work,” Giffin said. “She employs dozens of people. She’s contributed to her community by renovating a rundown building and she provides a valuable service that people enjoy. That’s a success story of the best kind.” “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jim on several occasions and each time he provided sound direction and guidance,” Green said. “He actually prevented me from borrowing $150,000 to purchase a dead company. He’s dedicated to his clients. I would recommend that anyone thinking about starting a business make Jim Giffin their first stop. If it sounds like I’m one of his biggest fans, it’s because I am!” “The South Carolina Small Business Development Center provides an invaluable resource for our state’s small businesses. They serve as consultants to start-up businesses or those wanting to expand, and there is no cost to the client. The work of the Small Business Development Centers helps to drive the economy and create and retain jobs here in SC. I applaud their more than 30 years of encouraging our state’s entrepreneurial spirit and look forward to their continued good work.” ~ Congressmen James E. Clyburn 6

Freeland Construction lays foundation with 8(a) designation, builds with government contracting CEO Kenneth Cantey is a can-do kind of guy. He’s literally a mover and a shaker, as well as a planner and a builder. This civil engineer works on large scale projects like the Long Island Expressway rehab in New York City, the central artery project in Boston and the replacement of our state’s beloved Ravenel Bridge. So when Cantey came to Charleston in 2009 to help grow Freeland Construction, he was ready to build a better business. First he secured an 8(a) designation for the company, which allowed Freeland to compete in a market with set-asides for minority-owned companies. While Cantey encourages other small businesses to look into this opportunity, he cautions that the program needs to be viewed as a stepping stone. “Too many 8(a) businesses are shocked when their status expires,” Cantey said. “When you enter the program, your first thought must be where your company will be when you graduate. Start day one thinking about your exit strategy. I like to call it life after 8(a). If you are not prepared for this reality, it will be difficult to be self-sufficient by the end of the nine-year term.” Cantey was interested in government contracting, so he sought advice from the Columbia Area SBDC. There he met procurement specialist, Scott Bellows, who showed him how to access the, where all arms of the military, as well as most federal and state agencies list jobs, some with 8(a) designation. After learning about the database, Cantey pulled stats to find the best opportunities for sole source work. “It’ something anybody can do,” he said of the process he found relatively simple. Freeland currently works in Columbia at Fort Jackson, in Beaufort at Parris Island and in the City of Charleston. Their jobs range from mass renovations of municipal buildings like the Gaillard Auditorium to naval bases, hospitals and utilities. Starting in 2010 with $1.5 million in revenue, the next two years saw revenue top $5 million. Today, Freeland Construction has 26 employees, a 100 percent increase from the same time in 2012. While facing the possibility of a less robust outlook due to sequestration, Cantey still feels positive about growth. The business plan is for Freeland Construction to become one of the top infrastructure contractors throughout the Eastern U.S. “As long as we are able to utilize the SC SBDC, I know we’ll have the business advice we need to make those all important connections, find good job prospects and move forward in a sound way,” Cantey said. “The Small Business Development Centers network is one of the most underutilized but most necessary services the government offers.”

“The backbone of our economy in South Carolina is small business, and the SC SBDC does a remarkable job cultivating and supporting small business throughout the state.” ~ Senator Wes Hayes


Metalsmithing company forms bright future with the help of PTAC consultant If it’s metal, they can make it. From brackets to locomotive hoods, J & J Services of Piedmont, SC is a woman-owned small business forging ahead in a difficult economy. J & J Services offers all types of metal fabrication and precise laser cutting. In business since 1993, the slow economy began to negatively affect J & J sales in 2008. Looking for a way to get things back on track, manager Michelle Wenner attended a Clemson Region Small Business Development Center workshop. At that workshop, Scott Bellows, PTAC manager for the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers, spoke about working with the government. “Scott was a very good speaker and teacher,” Wenner said. “I was in desperate need of direction, so after the workshop I asked him if he could counsel me on how to grow our business.” Bellows began to mentor Wenner, explaining further how to do business with the government. They met online on a regular basis, a helpful tool for busy people who can’t travel to make face-to-face meetings. “Scott helped me to get a DUNS number. He helped me understand and navigate SAM, DIBBS, FPDS and FBO. He set J & J Services up with the search agent that automatically emails me opportunities,” Wenner explained. Bellows also helped create J&J’s website. Bellows views J & J as similar to many of his clients who have top-grade machinery and a high level of expertise, but an uncertain approach to new markets and marketing in general. “A difficult economy is a good time for companies to consider what they can do differently to compete in an ever changing world,” he said. “Understanding government contracting is a whole new approach for many of these companies. The government places heavy emphasis on industrial standards. It emphasizes competition. Work in this arena helps companies to improve performance in the private sector as well.” Where they feared having to downsize their workforce the previous year, in 2012 J & J added a second shift that meant moving some part-time employees to full time, plus the creation of three additional full-time jobs. “I take a lot of satisfaction from seeing clients make the most of what they learn in a business counseling session,” Bellows said. “Michelle was able to take some basic help, capitalize on it and turn her company around in a short period of time. That’s success.”

“I appreciate the South Carolina SBDC’s great work and encourage them to continue all they are doing for South Carolina’s small businesses. These businesses are the backbone of our state’s economy.” ~ Congressmen Mick Mulvaney


Cyber defense company ISHPI making positive impact on national security

Noah Leask understands the value of information—protecting it and acquiring it. Leask, a service-disabled Navy veteran with more than 10 years of wartime service, is the founder of ISHPI, a Charleston-area firm that works at the forefront of the cyber landscape helping organizations process information securely.

“We focus on information and cyber-dominance,” Leask said. “Information assurance is a key part of what we do. We work with government stakeholders who own a product or some thing to protect.”

The effectiveness of ISHPI’s services carries high stakes. In addition to the commercial section, ISHPI’s client list includes FEMA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and key agencies within several branches of the United States military. Each ISHPI client is unique, which is why the company offers full practice in intelligence support services, wartime information and system engineering. ISHPI was established in late 2006 and began 2008 with four employees. By the end of 2012, ISHPI had 110 employees (95 percent are veterans) and more than $17 million in revenue. Early in the process, Leask recognized that staying in business could be as much of a challenge as fending off cyber threats. To assist him, he added the Charleston Area Small Business Development Center as a resource of information and opportunity. At the suggestion of his Charleston Area SBDC consultant, Leask joined the Charleston Defense Contractors Association. This move expanded his business network by putting him in contact with defense contractors who would need subcontracting firms. It was ISHPI’s foot in the door to being able to establish its identity and reputation. In addition to connecting Leask with networking opportunities, his Charleston Area SBDC team, comprised of Linda Blanton, Tom Lauria and William Henley, provided help with financial needs, composing a company profile and much more. “There have been times when I needed capital when we were finally growing,” Leask said. “I recieved help with the 7-a SBA loan. They explained it and encouraged me to get it.” In 2008, Leask received a $265,000 loan through the Patriot Express Loan Program. Leask, who was recently selected as the South Carolina SBA Small Business Person of the Year received assistance in qualifying for the 8(a) program which made his business more attractive to prime contractors who had set-aside funds for minority businesses. ISHPI is soon to graduate from the 8(a) program (a nine-year term), but Leask is satisfied that his company now has the maturity to compete and win in a full and open market.


South Carolina SBDC welcomes technology commercialization specialist Innovative thinkers have a new friend at the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers. People and companies with original ideas and pioneering products can benefit from the SC SBDC’s new technology commercialization services headed by business consultant Chad Hardaway. Hardaway, an MBA, a chemical engineer and a lawyer, has more than a decade of experience in intellectual property and technology development, strategy and management from both a top-tier research university and a corporate perspective. Hardaway knows how to form partnerships, find capital, research opportunities, explore new markets and move products into production and finally into the hands of consumers. He can assist in technology startup creation, license generation, patents and intellectual property issues and early stage funding for startups. He is adept at navigating the grant proposals and awards of the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Hardaway facilitates partnerships between private sector companies and universities where grants fund studies that help bring a company’s product to market backed by the scientific data of a major research university. Click the Technology Commercialization tab on the left menu of for more information. Hardaway can be reached at his office in the Moore School at 803.777.4031 or by email at

Just Wanna Melt featured in UPS success stories Misty Rawls and her organic personal products company, Just Wanna Melt, were recently featured in a promotional campaign by The UPS Store. The story behind Just Wanna Melt’s soaps and lotions shows how a good idea can become a business with the right direction and support. Rawls, who is a one-woman shop, sought help from the SC Small Business Development Centers at the beginning of her business idea. Along the way her consultant introduced her to a program at the University of South Carolina where business students work with SC SBDC clients to brand and market products. Through the assistance of her consultant, her student team and her local UPS Store, Rawls has been able to turn Just Wanna Melt into a thriving business. Read more of her story and watch the video on the front page of her website at:


Congratulations to our SBA award-winning clients! SC Small Business Person of the Year Noak Leask, President and CEO ISHPI Information Technologies Nominated by Linda Blanton, of the North Charleston Area SBDC

SC Small Business Person of the Year Runner-up Jerry Ellison, President and CEO JBE Incorporated Nominated by Mike Bell of the Florence Area SBDC Pictured with Elliott Cooper (on left) SBA District Director SC Office

SC Young Entrepreneur of the Year Chris Manley, Cofounder and Partner Engenius Noiminated by Scott Whelchel (on left) of the Greenville Area SBDC


Jim Giffin: Our State Star Jim Giffin of Sumter was recently recognized as South Carolina’s State Star by the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC). In a ceremony at the national ASBDC convention in New Orleans, Giffin joined other stars being honored for their significant contributions to the economic development of their states. Giffin’s role as manager of the Sumter Area SBDC was expanded in 2011 to include managing the Veterans Business Program. In the past three years, as business consultant and Veterans Business Manager, Giffin has logged nearly 700 counseling sessions with more than 400 clients. His clients have started 45 new businesses and generated nearly $16 million in financing resulting in the creation or retention of nearly 200 jobs.

SC SBDC consultants earn prestigious international trade certifications Five SC SBDC consultants recently became NASBITE Certified Global Business Professionals (CGBP), an intense and prodigious feat that expands their global business knowledge. NASBITE, which stands for National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators, is the only nationally-accepted, international trade credentialing program supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Education. CGBP credentials set the benchmark for global trade knowledge. Certification shows that an individual has the understanding required to be a successful global commerce professional. With this certification SC SBDC consultants are equipped to counsel clients in global business management, global marketing, supply chain management and international trade financing. Main fields they must qualify in are fulfilling documentation, legal and regulatory compliance, intercultural awareness, technology and resources. The new CGBPs are Forrest Norman of the Rock Hill Area SBDC, Tom Lauria of the Charleston Area SBDC, Ben Smith of the Clemson Area SBDC, Pete Oliver of the Columbia Area SBDC and Jill Burroughs, Director of the Clemson Region SBDC. “Our network is dedicated to the continuing professional education of all of our consultants, but we are particularly proud of the accomplishment of these five,” said Michele Abraham, State Director of the SC SBDC. “This certification in international trade will provide our clients with much needed insight into global markets and allow our network to provide better services to small businesses in our state.”


SC Small Business Development Centers Darla Moore School of Business University of South Carolina 1705 College Street Columbia, SC 29208


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SC SBDC 2012 Annual Report  

2012 South Carolina Small Business Development Centers Annual Report

SC SBDC 2012 Annual Report  

2012 South Carolina Small Business Development Centers Annual Report


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