Local Entrepreneurs

All information provided to the Small Business & Technology Development Center staff is held in complete confidence at all times. The following business clients featured have provided the Missouri State University SBTDC with written consent allowing us to promote their small business success stories. We are proud to have assisted each of them.

H2O Technical Services, Inc.
Digital Technology & Surveillance
The Vacation Channel
Fundraiser Software
Furniture Gourmet
Specialty Merchandise Sales

H2O Technical Services, Inc. - Springfield, MO

H20 Tech logo Scott Frazier looking into microscopeSBTDC Director Rayanna Anderson and Scott Frazier in H2) warehouse
Springfield entrepreneur Scott Frazier cuts to the chase when it comes to business.

"We've got to make a profit today, or we don't stay in business tomorrow," says Frazier, encapsulating a practical philosophy regarding the perpetuation of his firm, H2O Technical Services, Inc.

Thus far his philosophy works, and works well. In 2006, his company will observe its sixth year in operation. And H2O Tech's business picture and revenue-generation picture just keep getting brighter. Last year's revenues reached $8 million. This year he projects a 50 percent increase to around $12 million, with nearly 10 percent of that coming from international business.

Rayanna Anderson, director of the Missouri State University SBDC, listens as Scott Frazier describes some of the latest challenges he faces at his Springfield-based firm H2O Technical Services, Inc.
And just what is his business?
Solutions to problems. That's what Frazier and his staff at H2O Tech give their clients who face water-quality challenges in the conduct of their businesses.
H2O Tech offers integrated water treatment services to a roster of national and international firms, which cover such industries as food and crop processing, power utilities, high-tech, municipal water-treatment and manufacturing.
"When you focus on results and solutions rather than selling products, it's essential to provide all the necessary tools to solve a problem," says Frazier, president of this specialized tech firm.
His company applies unique combinations of chemical and biological treatments to solve a host of complex water and wastewater problems. For each of his client's unique water-quality problems Frazier will send a team of research scientists and technicians to the site. They work with their client to improve productivity, reduce waste and costs, and meet the strictest compliance requirements.
"As our company has grown, more valued-added components have been added to our core business," says Frazier, who co-founded the company with his wife, Kala Frazier, in 2000. "This makes H2O a value-added firm to the end user who often needs a solution and not a product."

While touring H2O Tech's warehouse Frazier explains the application of some of the special equipment and material his firm uses to help clients solve their water-quality problems.
However, sometimes the problem solvers have a problem of their own. A couple of years ago Frazier needed to restructure H2O Tech's debt in order to refine and expand the company's service capabilities.
Before applying for a loan Frazier got some advice from Doug Page, a loan officer at Empire Bank. Page suggested that Frazier get help with the application process from the business counseling experts at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) on the Missouri State University (MSU) campus.
So, Frazier got in touch with Rayanna Anderson, assistant director at the MSU SBDC.
Frazier found the loan application process extensive and time-consuming. Anderson helped H2O Tech organize and streamline it.
"Rayanna helped me adhere to a timeline in getting the application to fruition," recalls Frazier. "She also knew what would help in making our application look stronger."
"By taking time to understand our business goals ... Rayanna knew more about what H2O needed in a loan package than I did. This is where most loan applications fail. You have to know what you need, before you can ask for it."

Frazier examines a microscopic specimen taken from a client's water sample that recently arrived for analysis at H2O Tech.
Ultimately Anderson's efforts helped the water-solution firm find the right solution to its financial challenges. H2O Tech addressed its debt restructuring issue, secured a $1 million SBA-backed loan and has increased its staff by more than 50 percent, expanding the roster from 16 to 25 people.
"In developing a high-quality technically-oriented staff, I think it's similar to challenges faced by the front office of a winning professional sports team," says Frazier. "You want to assemble the best possible talent and still meet the salary cap."
And the loan came at a critical time to help him achieve his goal for the firm.
"When we finally received our loan, Doug Page told me this was the first loan package he had ever received that was perfect the first time," says Frazier. "I just assumed this is how they all work but ultimately realized what Rayanna had meant to the process."
The moral to the story: the problem solvers at H2O Tech found the solution to their problem at the MSU SBDC. And Frazier, a 1991 graduate of Southwest Missouri State University (as MSU was then called), has a final observation derived from the business expansion process: "I learned you can grow too fast. I prefer working on the technical side of the business, helping to solve the clients' problems. I can't clone myself, so I've got to have good people on staff to make sure we move our firm at the proper pace and take it in the right direction."
Judging from the results it appears H2O Tech's president and his staff are guiding the company to the correct solution.

H2O Technical Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 14616
Springfield, MO 65814
Phone: 417-581-4585
Fax: 417-581-9318

Digital Technology & Surveillance, LLC—Nixa, MO

DTS camera DTS employee on the telephoneDTS employee in front of their computer equipment
Can you say "OmniOculus"? If not, you'd better learn. This tool could save your children's lives and give them a feeling of safety within their public school system. Digital Technology & Surveillance, LLC, a Nixa, MO-based business, has a mission to provide safe, secure facilities for learning, working and living! DTS was developed by co-founders Daniel Moore and Matt Hartzell and incorporated January 28, 2002. Dan and Matt were just acquaintances and classmates at Branson High School and probably never imagined they'd end up in business together. However, that's just what happened when they became friends while working within the Mt. Vernon Missouri Public School System. Dan was Information Technology Director for Mt. Vernon schools. Matt was a systems engineer for Ikon Office Solutions. After the Columbine High School tragedy, Dan realized that if officials could have surveyed the drama unfolding within the school from outside the buildings, it would have allowed them to access and rescue the victims more rapidly. Dan enlisted Matt's programming expertise and the result is "OmniOculus," a unique software designed from scratch that allows for seamless integration of multiple servers.

Using Axis communication cameras and DTS's surveillance software, security personnel can view the interior of a location from any remote computer. There is no special software required for the computer workstations of the end-users. DTS wrote the software and installs and supports the entire system. Their surveillance allows users to view all of their buildings from one single interface page regardless of geographical location. The system also leverages existing network infrastructure. Live video is streamed at up to 30 frames per second. DTS gives credit to Reeds Spring schools for taking a leap of faith as the first school system to install and begin utilizing the OmniOculus software.

Rayanna Anderson at the Missouri State University SBDC assisted DTS with the preparation of an SBA loan package. The business was able to quickly secure a loan with the Springfield center's assistance. According to Angel Hartzell, DTS's director of operations, "our experience was outstanding and the approval process was expedited due largely to the assistance of Mrs. Anderson through the SBDC. I would not only recommend, but encourage any small business to seek the assistance of the SBDC."

DTS currently employees four people and plans to increase that to 10 by early 2004, primarily adding technicians to install and service the software contracts. "This is an exciting and significant new use of technology, and the clients have done an excellent job of targeting their potential customers by solving a real need," said Anderson, SBDC assistant director. DTS created its system specifically for school districts. The company provides key elements that make it ideal for the K-12 environment:

  • The system is easy to budget with no hidden costs.
  • Districts can add unlimited cameras without hardware restrictions.
  • Video is viewed live via a secure web browser.
  • Images are automatically archived, date-stamped and easily accessed.
  • The system is 100 percent digital.
  • Districts can choose to provide access to police.
  • Police granted access can view images from any location including patrol cars equipped with wireless computers.

Currently, the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) has partnered with DTS and will assist the company with marketing the system to schools throughout Missouri. The system is already in place in Reeds Spring, Republic, Rogersville and From A Child's View daycare center in Springfield. James Bond-007 has nothing on DTS! Their surveillance system can be utilized as a remote monitoring tool for terrorism, safety, shrinkage, product display, OSHA implications, employee productivity ... and the list goes on and on!

Digital Technology & Surveillance, LLC
Dan Moore, President
Matt Hartzell, CTO
501 North Fort
Nixa, Missouri 65714
417-724-9282 - Fax
888-886-9555 - Toll Free

The Vacation Channel — Branson, MO

The Vacation Channel logo

Stagnant market equals stagnant growth equals stagnant revenue.

What do you do if you find yourself in a limited market and your business won't grow?

Expand your horizons, reinvigorate your employees and explore other venues that can utilize your firm's products and services.

That's exactly what The Vacation Channel (TVC), a Branson television station and video production company, has done with the help of the SBDC at Missouri State University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Springfield. The 15-year-old TVC originally provided informational programming aimed at overnight visitors in the two-county area it serves.

When Scott Earls, TVC's general manager, initiated contact a couple of years ago with the SBDC he was looking for suggestions to help improve the firm's business, which had been experiencing sluggish growth for several years. An SBDC consultant recommended conducting a Strategic Management Analysis and Review Tool (SMART) assessment of TVC's business. The analysis covered topics such as customer and market focus, process management, financial statement analysis, strategic planning and leadership.

As a result of the SMART analysis, an SBDC team of consultants recommended a multi-pronged approach for TVC to manage business growth and increase profitability: better definition of production processes; improvement of customer contact management; implementation of an incentive program to control expenses; and diversification of products. The SBDC also offered a set of training sessions for TVC management and employees on such topics as image and branding, sales performance, marketing and strategic planning, advertising and promotions, and a variety of human resource subjects.

With gradual implementation of several SMART recommendations Stan Bess, TVC's vice president and general sales manager, has begun to notice improvements in the company's bottom line. Revenue has increased 14 percent in the past 20 months, according to Bess. He and the SBDC consultants expect the positive impact of the changes at TVC to continue over the next few years as improvements are fully implemented.

More recently the SBDC recommended TVC seek business-improvement ideas from a commercial strategic planning source, THINKtegic. In conjunction with the THINKtegic facilitator Mike Renfer, TVC's management team has pinpointed critical goals to accomplish in 2005. Tied to increased diversification and product efficiency, those goals include: increasing sales, publicizing TVC-sponsored community-support activities, focusing branding efforts, honing marketing plans and specifying communication goals.

As a result of all these recommendations TVC is taking deliberate strides to diversify product lines. The company is branching out from its original mission to expand production for the training, promotional and educational needs of local, regional and national clients. For instance, TVC recently supplied a crew and technical assistance for last fall's PBS broadcast "Daniel O'Donnell - Live from Branson".

"The SBDC has been a tremendously positive experience for aiding in the current and future growth of The Vacation Channel," says Bess. "It was a pleasure to work with a team of professionals who remained truly focused on our business, helping us to see the positive aspects of our company, but not (be) afraid to point out areas for improvement."

And because of the growth and perseverance demonstrated by the company, TVC will represent SBDC at the first Client Showcase and Legislative Breakfast Thursday, Feb. 10, in the State Capitol Rotunda in Jefferson City.

At that event — hosted by the Columbia-based MO SBDC at the University of Missouri — TVC and 24 other outstanding Missouri companies will meet with legislators to discuss their products and services. They also will be recognized for their contributions to the economic development of the state of Missouri. Recognition from MO SBDC will be accompanied by legislative resolutions presented by each company's district state senator and state representative.

Scott Earls, General Manager
The Vacation Channel
225 Violyn Street
Branson, MO 65616
Phone: 417-334-1200
Fax: 417-334-5209
General e-mail: contact@tvcbranson.com

GHN — Springfield, MO

GHN logoJean Stoops from GHNGHN staff photo

Architecture is their business. That's what the experts at the Springfield, Mo., firm of Gaskin, Hill, Norcross (GHN) know best ... along with engineering, planning and interior design. They know their business. But a few years ago they also knew they lacked business savvy. That's when GHN turned to the business experts with the Small Business Development Center at Missouri State University.

GHN traces its roots to 1930; the Springfield office opened in the early '80s. It specializes in building-design projects for healthcare facilities, college campuses and public institutions. Formerly the firm's day-to-day business details were handled by an affiliate office in Arkansas. But a couple of years ago the opportunity arose for the Springfield office to establish itself as an independent firm. Charles Hill, head of the Springfield operation, and his colleagues jumped at the chance. That's when the architecture professionals began concentrating on learning the nitty-gritty details of running a business that the SBDC training offered. "We first learned of the SBDC when we received the Training and Resource Catalog in the mail," says Jean Stoops, former GHN administrative assistant and current business manager. "The thing that caught my eye was the class entitled 'Understanding Financial Statements.' The description had something in it about the class being for non-financial managers, which made me feel it would be understandable and not above our heads."

Charles Hill (seated, right), head of GHN, in the firm's conference room with co-owners (clockwise from Hill) Ken Stufflebeam, Joe Vejraska and Paul Melgren. Hill, who has headed the Springfield office since 1981, agreed with Stoops. They needed a better understanding of fundamental business principles to enable them to operate their business better. So they both enrolled in the financial statements class offered by the MSU SBDC. "What we actually discovered was that there was much more to learn," says Stoops. "We were very impressed with the quality of instruction and information, and realized other classes in the (Financial Management) series would be beneficial. We learned ways to analyze and utilize financial information for better business management."

Subsequently GHN received one-on-one consultation from Rayanna Anderson, business consultant and assistant director of the SBDC in Springfield. Anderson worked with Stoops and Hill to analyze the firm's financial data and compare it to national norms in GHN's industry. "This evaluation helped determine our strengths and identify areas needing improvement," Stoops explains. "Our challenge was to learn more about good business practices. We knew how to be good architects and engineers, but (we) had much to learn about business to become a more profitable and responsive company." So Hill, Stoops and other members of the firm embarked on a series of business classes offered by the SBDC to improve their understanding and execution of essential business practices.

Stoops attended the class on developing a business plan. Through it she acquired an overall perspective on business planning and an understanding of the tools needed to influence the direction of the company: "I feel it was an important part of my professional development that led to my promotion as business manager." As leader of the firm, Hill took a class on human resources and personnel law. He found the class full of practical suggestions to better protect the company and its employees, and to better manage employee information. Several GHN staffers – including Stoops; Dwayne Calhoun, senior vice president; and Julie Dame, marketing clerk – took a class entitled "Develop a Winning Marketing Plan." The class exposed them to the process and methodology of creating a marketing plan for the company. It exceeded their expectations, helping motivate them to develop specific marketing strategies and tactics to meet client needs and expand the firm's customer base. GHN's entire management team participated in THINKtegic™, a strategic forum, aimed at evaluating and broadening a company's long-term vision. With this process GHN's managers focused on the firm's strengths and weaknesses, identified specific goals and learned about the tools and adjustments necessary to reach those goals. It made them think about the specifics of why they were in business and what they wanted the firm to be. Jean Stoops, GHN business manager, along with Charles Hill and other members of the firm discovered valuable business information from the experts at the Missouri State University SBDC. The result of all this concentrated training and consultation is a much improved, independent company. "Overall, we have a much greater perspective of what is required to operate a profitable business, while practicing architecture and engineering," Hill confesses. "Rayanna and the SBDC staff brought new vision to our company (enabling) its successful continuation as a viable business enterprise." The extended series of classes, which involved more than half the members of the firm, created some added yet unexpected benefits, too. As each member of the firm concentrated on mastering previously unfamiliar business topics, the joint learning experience promoted camaraderie among the colleagues. "Seeing your boss and co-workers out of their element gives you a new perspective, helping to foster more of team environment," declares Stoops.

From a results standpoint, all this effort and new direction for the firm has had a positive impact leading to a 27 percent workforce increase (from 11 to 14 employees), the securing of a $425,000 business expansion loan, and a jump in sales of $474,000, according to the SBDC's Anderson, GHN's unofficial business mentor. And yet with all these improvements in business execution, the folks at GHN are not about to declare complete self-satisfaction with their new-found knowledge.

"You do not 'graduate' from learning (at) the SBDC," Stoops admits. "Expanded course offerings from this valuable resource allow for continual improvement in our business practices. We look forward to more opportunities to work with the SBDC in the future, helping evaluate and develop our business."

GHN | Architects Engineers
300 S. Jefferson Ste. 301
Springfield, MO 65806
Phone: 417-869-0719
Fax: 417-869-3044
E-mail: jstoops@ghnaes.com
Web: http://www.ghnae.com 

FundRaiser Software — West Plains, MO

Fundraiser Software logoGene Weinbeck photo
From a small idea a mighty business can grow...

Some 20 years ago Gene Weinbeck found himself running a one-man computer consulting and software firm in West Plains, Mo. Among his clients at the time was a local politician who needed a custom-designed software package for his election campaign. That package had to include a component to track donations. From that initial foray into the world of fundraising, Weinbeck has built a company dedicated to the design and production of computer software aimed at solving the fund-raising challenges of a global list of nonprofit clients. Over the past two decades Weinbeck's business has evolved to meet the demands of his customers. He initially mixed fundraising software creation with his computer consulting and custom software development business.

By 1993 he converted the company's focus exclusively to the fundraising needs of his clients, eventually developing a line of computer software to address those needs. This adjustment in entrepreneurial direction gave birth to the firm's name, Fundraiser Software. Since then Fundraiser Software has expanded its products and services. Growth has led to a line of three increasingly sophisticated software packages and to the expansion of the company's sales and service workforce from one to 12.

The growth in personnel allows Fundraiser Software to maintain Weinbeck's customer-friendly approach to service. He says: "It has always been my belief that prompt, friendly and expert technical support is vital to the users of any software, and it has been my intention from the beginning to supply just that to my customers." Weinbeck's computer savvy has taken the company a great distance. However, early in the evolution to Fundraiser Software's current success, he knew he needed advice from business experts. He found those experts at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Missouri State University in Springfield.

Over the past 15 years Weinbeck has looked to the SBDC for help on a variety of business challenges, according to Lyle Wright, coordinator of the SBDC office at Missouri State's satellite center in West Plains. Weinbeck sought help with financial projections and a business plan. He needed advice on marketing and sales. Together he and Wright explored the potential of an employee stock ownership plan. "The SBDC has been able to help this client grow by providing solid counseling and select services every step of the way he expanded," says Wright. "The partnership of small business and the SBDC resulted in improved economic health through increased employment, additional capital invested in the community, and another successful small business to anchor the fabric of rural America." And what does the leader of Fundraiser Software think of the advice he has received from the SBDCs?

"Lyle Wright has been able to direct us to the resources that provided information to meet our specific needs, and help us understand and implement several best-business practices," says Weinbeck. "Having this type of individual and personal resource available locally has been an invaluable asset to us."

Because of Weinbeck's success, Fundraiser Software received an award and a legislative resolution at a Feb. 10, event in the State Capitol in Jefferson City. At the event — the first Client Showcase hosted by the Columbia-based Missouri SBDC — Fundraiser Software and 24 other outstanding Missouri companies met with legislators to discuss their products and services, and to receive recognition for their contributions to the economic development of the state of Missouri.

FundRaiser Software
Gene Weinbeck, President
P.O. Box 901
West Plains, MO 65775
417-256-6370 (fax)

Furniture Gourmet - Springfield, MO

Floor pillows picturephoto of colorful wooden bowls & utensilsFurniture Gourmet logo
"Details to Delight You" is the tag line used by the Furniture Gourmet, an Internet-based retailer of decorative home accessories. Karen Parry and her daughter and co-owner, Jennifer Yarbrough, have begun delighting people from across the country with their web business. Karen came to the Southwest Missouri State Small Business Development Center to attend the "How to Write a Business Plan" session and then began working one-to-one with a consultant.

Karen's original plan was to partner with a "brick & mortar" design business in Springfield by providing the online portion of the business in exchange for decorating expertise. She also planned to have many custom and exclusive products from which customers could choose. As the center directed Karen in the planning process, she found that the partnership was not going to work, and as so often happens, she made adjustments in her plans. Karen has found that her natural gift for design has provided the expertise necessary.

Karen then attended the Financial Management Seminar Series, and began to gather information for her financial projections. She learned how cash flow would impact her business and adjusted her planning again. Karen says that although she has been in the business world for a long time, she found that planning and owning a business of her own was more complex than she had imagined. She indicates that the resources offered by the SBDC were fundamental to her success in starting her business.

The center also assisted Karen by doing a trademark search and developing the processes she needed in place to efficiently process orders. The center helped with web site research, how to work with web site developers, pricing of products, logistics and more. The center also reviewed her business plan and financial projections.

Karen has just completed her first year in business and is pleased with progress her business is making. She has found the beginning stages of startup in the current economy have been slower than projected; however, she continues to get more customers all the time. Karen says that the mistakes she has made this year have happened when she didn't follow advice and just did what seemed like a good idea. She says that the one thing she would do differently is to actually work, even part-time, in a retail business. She believes that would have given her more confidence that she really knew what to do.

As Furniture Gourmet begins its second year in business, Karen plans to focus on marketing the site, offering more custom products and marketing to interior designers. With sales continuing to grow each month, she feels assured that she will "catch up" with her projections this year.

Furniture Gourmet
1926 South Glenstone, #370
Springfield, MO 65804
Phone: 417-655-1206
Fax: 417-889-4771
Email kparry@furnituregourmet.com


Specialty Merchandise - Branson, MO

Photo of Nolene Davis from Specialty Merchandise Sales

The Branson, MO, boom was about more than just country music. In 1994, it encouraged Nolene Davis to move her wholesale fashion jewelry business to the popular Southwest Missouri tourist destination.

Nolene buys and imports women's fashion costume jewelry. Many of her customers are entertainment venues including Silver Dollar City, the Lawrence Welk Theater and the IMAX Theater in Branson, along with Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. The company also has two private labels—Branson Blues and Denim Connection—and two retail outlet stores in Branson. Nolene believes that her success selling fashion jewelry at tourist destinations results from offering products that are unique and hard to find. Those products range from clip-on earrings to the 10,000 butterfly necklaces purchased by the Rainforest Café chain.

While patriotic jewelry is popular year-round in Branson, Nolene purchased an extremely large amount in early summer 2001. Fortunately, Nolene's business had the inventory necessary to fulfill requests totaling over $100,000 in sales following the Sept. 11 tragedy. That equates to around 35,000 pieces of jewelry. Her red, white, and blue success story also included the distribution of 12,000 scarves.

Specialty Merchandise Sales has grown to produce more than $1 million a year and provides year-round employment to 10 people. Its latest area of growth has been the expansion of Christmas jewelry. Nolene recently filled an order for pins, earrings and scarves for Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, the largest Christmas store in the U.S. with 92,000 square feet. She also has her jewelry lines in Atlanta.

Nolene was first introduced to the SBDC through her enrollment in a "Financial Management Series" of seminars.

"The classes offered by the Small Business Development Center have assisted me in determining future cash flow needs and in developing financial plans for future growth," says Nolene. According to consultant Rayanna Anderson, the SBDC has since worked with Nolene on several issues including a building purchase, financial analysis and most recently a SMART analysis to help her plan for continued growth. Rayanna has enjoyed each project.

"What a fun business to work with!" Rayanna says. "Nolene has done a great job of monitoring fashion trends, giving great customer service and constantly seeking new information and knowledge to support her business's growth," says Rayanna.

Nolene plans to continue utilizing the services provided by the Springfield SBDC. "The recent SMART analysis really helped me focus on processes I need to have in place for the future. I have also appreciated the one-on-one time I have spent with my consultant, Rayanna Anderson, and the support of the whole team."

Specialty Merchandise Sales
P.O. Box 6728
Branson, MO 65615