What started as a part-time passion for Scott Hanson became full time after he was downsized at his IT job in December 2017.
Hanson, the owner of Prime Start Capital, a veteran-owned independent loan brokerage, was suddenly faced with leaving his long-time job to step into the competitive world of closing loan deals. But more than a year after that fateful day, Hanson has worked to build his business and tell more potential customers about what he has to offer.
“I truly want to help them get the right solution, not just a solution that may come back to bite them later,” Hanson said.
Prime Start Capital helps broker various loans for its clients that range from federal government-backed Small Business Administration loans to equipment leasing deals. In return for his valuable services, Hanson receives a commission at the close of the deal, costing his clients nothing until the hard work of orchestrating the deal completes.
Hanson says unlike other loan brokers who push their clients hard to close a deal, he is looking to provide the best solution for each individual’s needs. That means being patient and seeking multiple options that don’t put clients in a difficult financial situation.
Prime Start Capital began in April 2017, when Hanson attended a training seminar in Albany, New York. Similar to a franchise agreement, Prime Start Capital began as a “business opportunity,” with Hanson taking all the profits on his work in return for a one-time payment for training and start up.
Between April and November of that year, Hanson completed one large deal that covered his initial fee, but was still looking for a push to turn his passion full time. Two things swung his decision. First, his wife told him to quit his full-time IT job, stepping out on his own. Second, Hanson was downsized a month later.
Both of those events helped push him toward pursuing his passion.
Now with multiple deals under his belt and more planned for 2019, Hanson admits there are things he would have done differently if he started again. First, he wished he had started full time at the outset, dedicating more time to networking and finding solid leads.
The hardest part of Hanson’s job, he says, is finding quality leads and referrals that can actually be closed. Hanson said he has had multiple potential clients walk on deals close to closing.
Another difficult task is reaching out to clients, some of whom have never heard of independent loan brokers but are still looking for help in dire straits.
What has helped Hanson in the interim is networking, both in person and online. Hanson has joined a number of small business groups in Facebook to help reach potential customers and see what his clients need.
In addition, Hanson has found gold in making personal connections to banks, lenders and anyone else in between. Hanson touts those connections as crucial to deals he has signed. A pending deal with a small business in Buffalo was the result of a connection he made at an impromptu networking meeting, he says.
Hanson said making those connections is increasingly difficult due to the number of competitors in his space. That’s why he is working to boost his online presence to attract more clients. Until recently, Prime Start Capital’s social media presence was solely controlled by a Marketing company. Recently, Hanson received access to his professional Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and hopes to start making connections potential clients.
But despite his pivot to the digital space, Hanson has had some hiccups in the last couple years. One of those problems was using online marketing tools like Google Adwords, which he said cost a fortune and returned few results.
As a small business owner in the earliest stages, Hanson said he is working to maximize his capital while attracting high-quality leads and referrals.
Looking ahead to 2019, Hanson said his goal is create a “pipeline” of referrals and leads that will enable him to close between two and three deals a month. While a steep task, Hanson said he plans to become more active in marketing himself and his business.
To do that, Hanson continues to scour the internet and local vendors for possible clients who are looking for an honest broker who has their best interests in mind.
“A lot of brokers are out there generating leads and closing deals, but are they really building any kind of relationship?” Hanson said. “I don’t want to be that guy. “
To learn more about Scott and the value he can bring to your business, check out his website: www.primestartcapital.com
Emergency and Safety Trainers – Offering the best First Aid, Continuing Education, and CPR Training in St. Louis!
In St. Louis, Missouri and surrounding states, James Fields and his team at Emergency and Safety Trainers (EAST) instructs classes for businesses, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics and individuals seeking CPR training and first aid training, and with for individuals needing Continuing Education Units, or CEUs, for state and national licensing requirements.
With certification in numerous safety classes, and with the ability to offer state accredited education courses, Fields finds himself traveling all over Missouri and the greater Midwest to teach classes to both businesses, individuals and anyone wanting to learn more about keeping themselves and others safe in an emergency. He is also a certified instructor for the American Heart Association.
Emergency and Safety Trainers courses cover a wide range of topics as they operate under several organizations. They are a training center for the Emergency Care and Safety Institute, the National Safety Council and the American Safety and Health Institute. Having this experience gives Emergency and Safety Trainers the opportunity to utilize specific materials that best relate to their clients.
Currently, Fields works for two nationwide companies that don’t allow for him to market his own business, but they cover overhead such as textbooks and equipment, and keep the bills paid while seeking to grow his own business. Fields travels all over the state of Missouri as one of the company’s only emergency and safety instructor.
Fields believes that his ability to offer on-site training that travels to his clientele is just one of the many things that sets his business apart from other CPR training St. Louis businesses. Clients can even register online and complete online courses to work towards their CEU. Emergency and Safety Trainers also holds numerous, sporadic pop-up classes in and around the St. Louis area.
In 1999, Fields began working with ambulance services and holding safety and first aid trainings for extra income. After years of some 96 hour shifts and strenuous labor that the field demands, Fields wanted to avoid early retirement and continue his work in the same scope of practice.
While working in smaller communities with no budget for continuing education, Fields knew many local first responders, medical staff and others in need of certifications to keep their government required licenses updated. Fields shared this was likely due to budget cuts to rural areas businesses, with training and education being the first to go. This left employees to pay the full expenses of all resources needed and for the training themselves on a minimum-wage budget, which included travel time, travel expenses, time away from work, the purchase of materials needed for courses and more.
As Fields was once one of those many employees who had to handle all training expenses on their own, he felt he could relate best to them and offer affordable, on-site training so that all individuals that take his courses could get their CEUs for their licenses without having to travel or spend extra time away from their work.
Fields knew this was a problem he needed to solve, and this was one of the main reasons he started Emergency and Safety Trainers.
Emergency and Safety Trainers underwent reconstruction on Jan. 1, 2018, becoming an Limited Liability Company (LLC) and changing its official name to better represent what the business does. This was a big decision, but one Fields knew must be taken to keep the business growing, expanding and serving as many people and businesses as possible.
In the early days, Fields and his new business got started with help from a federal grant. When the East Missouri Action Agency advertised a free of charge entrepreneurship program to stimulate economic growth, Fields attended. There, he and several others had to formulate and submit a business plan based off what they learned through the program. The top two picks selected by the EMAA received a $5,000 grant to help with the start-up of their business.
Fields was one of those awarded the grant. He used this money on the purchase of a laptop, projector, used equipment for courses, CPR mannequins and used cardiac defibrillators for training.
Even with the help of the EMAA grant, the toughest aspect of being a new business for Fields was marketing on a small budget. He would drop off business cards at area businesses and use internet links and Facebook marketing to reach clients. Fields noted that he hopes to find a newly opened marketing business that has an interest in marketing him as a trial run at a reduced price.
To date, 2018 was Emergency and Safety Trainers busiest year and Fields suspects that 2019 will be similar. “There’s nothing better than being your own boss, but there’s nothing worse either,” he laughed.
His local Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture operates out of an old doctor’s office, so Fields is looking into possibly utilizing the space that the chamber only uses once a month as a location for Emergency and Safety Trainers to hold classes. Fields is also looking into making his business more virtual, getting his national accredited license renewed, expanding his business throughout the U.S. and finding a happy medium between virtual training and hands-on traditional teachings.
During the summer months, his business allows him more downtime which he likes to spend with his sons and their Boy Scout troop activities.
To learn more about James and his first aid training St. Louis business, Emergency and Safety Trainers, check out his website at https://www.eastrainers.com.
Whether you’re starting a business or wanting to get your current business a bit more organized and effective in its capabilities, answering all the how-to-fix-it questions yourself as a business owner is demanding and often unrealistic. Seeking professional advice from those with years of experience is a sound investment that will have a positive impact on your business revenue, its employees and your customers.
In the general St. Louis area of Illinois, Lorie Nelson owns and operates Signature Virtual Assistance, Inc., a business that offers personalized business administrative consulting. Nelson has some 40 years of experience in the field, working for all levels of management for both profit and nonprofit businesses of nearly every size.
Nelson has two office locations: one in Bethalto and one in Overland, MO, though, she and her five independent contractors service clients from across the United States. Her clientele spans from small town businesses to multi-million-dollar companies that have been in need of administrative support.
After having grown tired of working for others and wanting more control over her time, Nelson had the idea of starting her own business 10 years ago. Currently, Signature Virtual Assistance has been in business for seven years and has grown considerably in the last three years.
Nelson targets small business owners as she feels that they would benefit the most from administrative consulting. “Most people go into business with a great idea that they can make successful, but they don’t realize all the other things that need to happen along the way,” she said.
Nelson begins her work by developing a trusting relationship with potential clients through in person and video call face-to-face conversations. She helps clients organize their needs, prioritize them to fit the company’s specific needs, establish networks and offers LinkedIn campaigns.
According to Nelson, businesses typically need calendar, email and database management. With her clients, she can offer expert advice on what an executive assistant’s duties should include.
Nelson shared that her strong skill is administrative support and began business administrative consulting this year. She speaks with her clientele regarding the backend office operations, categorizing what’s working and what’s not and finding a plan that will work efficiently while saving her clients money. Nelson is also responsible for implementing that plan to take away extra work for business owners, something she shared is well received.
When Nelson began her business in August of 2012, she first focused on administrative support, bookkeeping and social media support. After a couple of years, social media management was dropped as she found it to be too demanding.
In the past year, bookkeeping was dropped so that Nelson could focus more on administrative consulting. Signature Virtual Assistance can offer referrals to bookkeepers and social media experts if Nelson finds that her clients would benefit from their services. “I think it’s smart to do what you’re good at and that’s what I tell my clients to do,” Nelson shared.
One struggle Nelson faced upon the opening of her business was having to educate on what a virtual assistant is. Later, she realized that she should not have had such great expectations that others would quickly grasp concepts that she understands well.
She started with two clients: one local and one in Maryland. The benefits of working from home and owning her business helped bring in clients excited about her work schedule running on weekends. With the help of a business coach, Nelson feels she is more equipped in providing a better level of support and trains her contractors to better know what to expect and how to provide a client’s expectations.
She noted that Signature Virtual Assistance is in “growth mode”.
Nelson appreciates the perks of owning her own business, such as flexibility and being less expensive than going out into the workforce where transportation maintenance, clothing allowance, parking fees and daycare can all take away from income. “It just is a great way to combine your personal life with your business life all into one. It’s perfect,” Nelson added.
Also, Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs, can give business owners the specifics of certain tax benefits from working from home.
In 2019, Nelson expects competition will be huge in the workforce, which she believes is a good thing as it promotes motivation for contractors to have something that sets themselves apart from everyone else in their field. She believes that her business stands out to clients because not many in her field can bring 40 years of experience to the table.
Signature Virtual Assistance brings in most of its clientele from word-of-mouth, LinkedIn campaigns and their website. In previous years, Nelson spent her time attending networking events, only to find that they were not beneficial to her. Being an introvert, Nelson prefers attending some luncheons and speaking directly with smaller groups that are not in a convention-like setting.
While she believes networking is vital to business growth, she recommends doing it in a manner that works best for the owners, the industry and the owner’s personality.
As far as technology goes, Nelson removed Signature Virtual Assistance’s Facebook page as it was not the platform where her clientele could be found. Using Zoom Video Communications with clients and her independent contractors has boosted productivity, communications and has lessened the need for travel where time and resources are wasted. “We’re both still sitting at our desk, drinking our own coffee and looking at each other having a conversation. We don’t have to go to Starbucks or Panera to do that,” Nelson laughed.
She spoke on the stigma around her business name containing the word “virtual”, sharing that she recommends on and off site persons for jobs if it is in the best interest of her client. “I’m not stuck on people working virtually. I’m stuck on getting you what you really need,” Nelson stated.
Within the next year, Nelson hopes to have an assistant of her own so she can focus her attention on marketing and meeting one-on-one with potential clients, as she feels her place in the company is promoting her own vision and that no one can do that better than her.
To learn more about Lorie Nelson and Signature Virtual Assistance, you can connect with Lorie on her website: https://www.signaturevirtualassistance.com
Opening a restaurant can be hard. Opening a restaurant that uses local, fresh ingredients and works to benefit the local economy is even harder.
But that’s exactly what Gabriela Ramírez-Arellano and her husband Victor are doing at Don Emiliano’s Restaurant, a made-to-order Mexican restaurant that opened in O’Fallon, Missouri, in 2015.
Ramirez-Arellano, who kick started the business alongside husband, said the restaurant aimed to help her town by hiring local employees and pumping up the local economy.
In order to open the restaurant, Ramirez-Arellano said they had a steep learning curve finding a location with reasonable rent, forming relationships with food vendors and buying quality kitchen equipment. In addition, she said they wanted to focus a menu around traditional Mexican recipes with vegan options since her daughter is vegan.
Deciding to focus much of her menu on vegan fare required the duo to do hard math on how to make recipes that were solely vegan and how to best source the right products.
Since opening, Ramirez-Arellano said there are certainly a few things she would have done differently. She said she should have hired an attorney to look over her building lease and talk to an insurance broker. More importantly, she wishes she had talked to people with more experience to help ease her transition to operation, not just family who tell you what you want to hear.
Seeking outside information, she said, would have made some of the critical decision making easier. Instead, they were often left to make difficult decisions without the ability to relate their choices to those of other successful small businesses.
Now, with three years of experience under their belt, the team at Don Emiliano’s is working to expand her customer base and build her business.
In order to get more customers through the door, the restaurant has leveraged social media and more traditional marketing tactics to boost word of mouth. The restaurant is currently working to use DoorDash, an online food delivery service, to deliver food to customers who can’t come to the restaurant. In addition, the business advertises in local hotel books and offers a vegan specialty menu that attracts eaters with dietary restrictions like diary and gluten.
Some ideas have been less successful, including a monthly coupon book and a birthday coupon mailing for discounted coupons on customers’ birthdays.
But even with a successful restaurant, Ramirez-Arellano said there are number of difficulties facing any small business owner in 2019.
The main challenge, she said, getting people through the doors and understanding how to best leverage social media and online tools to get more customers in the door. For any brick-and-mortar restaurant, in today’s world, communicating with potential customers over social media is crucial. That extends to Yelp, the online review app, which gives restaurants a rank of one to five stars. If you don’t do well on Yelp, it can be difficult to convince new eaters to give you a shot.
Because of the challenges of social media, Don Emiliano’s focuses on driving word-of-mouth support for the business and working closely with local non-profits. The restaurant also hosts fundraisers and seeks to be a hub for the local community.
Last year, the restaurant participated in the Project HOME Golf Tournament that has been helping preserve O’fallon as a great place to live and provides assistance with home repairs to homeowners. The restaurant also sponsors several fundraisers during the year with a portion of the sales going to the MS Walk and the Alzheimer’s association, to name a few.
Ramirez-Arellano advised other businesses to focus on targeted messaging to their customers as a quick tool to help create word-of-mouth. For restaurants, particularly those that want to become part of the local scene, that outreach is a necessary tool.
To accomplish that increased word of mouth, Don Emiliano’s focuses on the values that put it in a class above its competitors. At Don Emiliano’s food is made to order and nothing is prepared beforehand. Also, all the products are fresh, making the end product even better.
The restaurant also hires locally and likes to see their profits reinvested in the community.
Looking ahead to the first six months of 2019, Ramirez-Arellano said they want to increase the customer base during the lunch hour, opening up a new stream of revenue for the restaurant.
In addition, they continue to focus on training employees how to best run a small business. With that knowledge, employees can feel empowered to bring fresh ideas to the business and help increase customers.
Ramirez-Arellano also said she hopes to be more involved with the business moving ahead and leverage her husband’s personality to bring more soon-to-be-satisfied customers through the front doors.
More importantly, Ramirez-Arellano hopes the next six months will provide her with greater insight on how to make Don Emiliano’s more efficient, while providing great food and service to all of their customers.
To learn more about Don Emiliano’s and the great food and service the offer, check out their website: Don Emiliano’s Restaurant