Posted by Business Lexington
BY DAN DICKSON
One of the most important questions the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) wants operators of start-up businesses to ask themselves is: “Am I ready?” That is, ready for 60- to 80-hour work weeks, time away from family, friends and hobbies and the loneliness of “being the boss.”
The SBDC, with 15 offices around Kentucky, helps entrepreneurs prepare to open their own businesses or guides them once they do.
Most entrepreneurs start with a certain amount of expertise in their fields, but there is often one major barrier.
“Access to capital is still the biggest hurdle for small-business owners. That hasn’t changed,” explained Shirie Hawkins, director of the Bluegrass SBDC in Lexington.
Hawkins said most new business operators have done their homework and know how much working capital they need. But there are other areas where they are lacking.
“Many start-ups still need assistance with business plans and putting a loan package together. They may go to their local bank only to have the banker refer them back to the SBDC, so we can help with their package, so the banker can take the application to the loan committee,” said Hawkins.
They also need help with financial projections, making sure they have all of the equipment they need in their budgets and maybe help with market research.
“They may need to bounce an idea off of someone here,” said Hawkins.
Bottom line: The SBDC knows what the bank wants and preps the applicants for their meetings so rejections are fewer.
Maynard Studios in Lawrenceburg, Ky., is a business that creates handcrafted railings and furniture. The husband and wife team of Matthew and Karine Maynard are designers, blacksmiths and artists who use metal and architectural space as their media. They specialize in hand-forged custom stair rails, furniture and applied design. The business incorporated in late 2010.
Matthew Maynard, the company president, was sole proprietor from 1999 to 2010, and Karine Maynard, the vice president, has been with the business since 2005. Their greatest challenge as a start-up was “our growth,” she said.
“It’s a lot of switching from left brain to right brain and finding the balance. In other words, all of the things I would have learned if I had gone to business school,” she said.
“I have a lot of education and I’m well-traveled, but I have less experience in managing a small business. I went to accounting school right after high school, but what was missing was small-business management,” she added.
So the Maynards went to the SBDC. One piece of advice they received was how the two should divide the work.
“We discussed that the person who is the craftsman [should] do craftwork and the person who is good at the back office stuff do that,” Hawkins related. “Originally, [Matthew Maynard] was doing both the craft work and the bookkeeping and administrative duties. He is the craftsperson. But he was the ‘$100-an-hour person’ who was entering data into the accounting software when someone else, the ‘$50-an-hour person,’ could have been doing it. You could make more money doing what you are best at.”
Matthew Maynard, who is from Pikeville, Ky., discovered the Foxfire series of books as a young man and was fascinated with the blacksmithing described in them. He and his grandfather fashioned an anvil in a barn, and Matthew Maynard was on his way.
Along with his wife’s, Matthew Maynard’s work has been featured in international periodicals, given prominence by the National Ornamental Misc. Metals Association and the Artist Blacksmiths Association of North America.
The Maynards obviously have the credentials, which Hawkins said is vital.
“Know your business, because not everyone is your customer,” Hawkins said. “If you need assistance, don’t be afraid to ask. Many business owners are good at their craft, whether a landscaper or a Web designer, but they may not be good at the office stuff like bookkeeping and human resources. They may want to outsource that to another small business with expertise.”
Hawkins described Maynard Studios as a solid local business because the proprietors “are listening to their customers and know their market.”
The Maynards plan to stay in their same location in Lawrenceburg . They are awaiting word on loan approval from the Small Business Administration (SBA). But first, they thought things through carefully. Expanding a business isn’t always a smart move. They did a lot of planning and number crunching to keep the overhead as low as possible.
“We plan to put up a new building so our studio has room for growth,” said Karine Maynard. “We plan to add one full-time employee and possibly more. The business loan that we are applying for will help us meet those goals.”
Karine Maynard was glad they found the SBDC.
“It was free, confidential and could help us with a number of things,” she said. “It has a relationship with the University of Kentucky and was another state program that could benefit our small business, which is why I called them.”