Karalee Laney, owner of Joplin 3D4D Imaging Center, LLC, has cracked a problem that's vexed mathematicians, philosophers and engineers for centuries.
She's broken into the fourth dimension.
And she's making money doing it, filling a gap in affordable ultrasonography with results delivered to expectant parents quickly and accurately.
A registered diagnostic medical sonographer and member of the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Society of Diagnostic Sonographers, Laney has performed X-ray, computed tomography (CT) and ultrasound exams for more than 30 years. In those decades, Laney heard innumerable requests from expectant parents for three-dimensional ultrasounds — so many, in fact, that she approached the Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) SBTDC about starting her own business.
That was in 2005. She was forced to put her dream on hold for five years for various reasons, not the least of which was an ultrasonographer's crazy schedule, being a working professional and having to put food on the table.
With the help of the MO SBTDC, Nanova Inc. was incorporated in 2007 by Dr. Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU's College of Engineering; Dr. Qingsong Yu, MU associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Dr. Meng Chen, Nanova chief scientist; and Dr. Kenneth Lambert, an orthopedic doctor.
Li and his partners' research on nanostructured materials, composites and medical devices has led to genuine breakthroughs in orthopedics, dentistry and cardiovascular science. This website described some of these breakthroughs in a 2008 success story.
In late March 2013, Nanova signed agreements with the WuJin Economic Development District and Chinese venture capital firms to produce absorbable bone screws and dental products based upon the company's core nanomaterial technology.
The Chinese venture capitalists will invest an estimated $7 million in the joint venture, $4 million directly in the firm's Columbia operations in the next two years, said Li. Most of the firm's domestic manufacturing and sales will be conducted in Columbia.
We received the following letter from a small-town western Missouri bookstore owner in response to our article about best and worst business ideas — of which an independent bookstore was one.
The article's contention was that ebooks are so dramatically changing reading habits that the bookstore as we know it may be an endangered species. It turns out the answer is not that black and white:
In response to the above article, we feel we must comment.
As booksellers in business in a small community for almost nine years, ranking bookstores as a bad business idea because of ebooks is just silly. Independent bookstores promote community, a venue for events, a social hub and generate local sales tax income. If the book business is approached with this in mind, technology cannot compete with it.
Amazon, a billion-dollar corporation that does not collect sales tax and sells millions of products besides books, offers nothing to a community and has hurt many small retail businesses in the process. The numbers are impressive but Amazon just sells stuff. Period.
While it is true that our book business has been impacted somewhat by ebooks, there is still a strong market for printed books ... just ask our customers! There are some people that prefer face-to-face contact and personal recommendations about books. Book groups meet in our store using paper books bought from us.
This indicates to us that the brick-and-mortar book business in general is morphing into a niche business. We carry toys, games and other products to complement our line of books. Given the appropriate business parameters and a little creativity, bookstores can and do thrive.
In this regard, as a publication about small business you sold the book business short. Is it risky? Yes. Is it a good startup candidate? Like any new business, it will not succeed without community networking, an appropriate location, working capital, proper inventory and a relevant strategy. Technology as a threat? Surprisingly, many of our customers have e-readers but have converted back to paper.
Thank you for letting us share our thoughts.
The national Association of Small Business Development Centers 2012 report on the bookstore sector confirms this analysis, stating that while overall the bookstore business is expected to contract over the coming years, independent booksellers who can combine technology with a compelling retail environment and customer experience have the best chance of succeeding.
The report goes on to say:
- Nationally, the average household spent $55.23 at bookstores in 2012.
- Bachelor's degree holders spend 60 percent more than the national average at bookstores.
- Those holding master's, professional or doctoral degrees spent 156 percent above average.
- Those aged 18 to 24 and over 65 spend the least amount.
Today, according to the U.S. Census, there are nearly 8,000 bookstores ranging from small, independent retailers to major chains' stores. And while bookstore sales have slumped since reaching a peak of $17.18 billion in 2007, bookselling is still a multi-billion dollar industry.
Missouri State University SBTDC wins SBA Small Business Development Center award, client wins business person of the year award
The staff of the Missouri State University (MSU) SBTDC, Springfield, has won the SBA's Region VII Small Business Development Center Excellence and Innovation Award for outstanding service in helping small area businesses. The MSU SBTDC competed against nominees from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
At the same time, Thomas Douglas, owner of JMARK Business Solutions, Inc., a technology consulting firm for small to medium-size businesses specializing in full-service computer network care, which was previously profiled, has been named the 2013 Missouri Small Business Person of the Year.
The MSU SBTDC previously received such awards as Missouri's first Star Performer Award, the Excellence Award for outstanding effort in Small Business Advocacy and awards for performance in economic impact and in revenue generation. The center has also developed a series of innovative seminars on financial education for small business owners that have become premiere programs for the entire MO SBTDC system.
JMARK has also previously won multiple awards, including being named a 2012 MO SBTDC Rising Star of Entrepreneurship, being ranked No. 113 globally and No. 90 in North America as a top managed service provider and named among Inc. Magazine's Fastest Growing Privately Held Businesses for three years. Douglas was also named a Top Executive by Nine Lives Media in their Top 250 global managed service providers and entrepreneurs.
Founded in Cabool in 1988, the small computer service moved to Springfield 10 years later. Douglas joined the company in 1997 as an engineer, becoming president in 2000.
Under Douglas' energetic leadership, JMARK grew to 15 employees by 2007. In 2008, Douglas bought out two competitors, doubling the company's workforce. In 2012, he opened offices in Fayetteville, Ark. and Colorado Springs, and the company now employs 63 people, enjoying revenues of more than $6 million in 2012.
In a 2012 interview, Douglas was quick to credit the MSU SBTDC. "Despite the economic downturn during the past several years, JMARK is growing," he said. "One of the big reasons for that is the new foundation we laid. And helping make that all possible is the outstanding working relationship we have with Isabel [Eisenhauer, business specialist] and Rayanna Anderson [director] at the MSU SBTDC."
Douglas and the MSU SBTDC will be honored at the SBA and RMI's Lenders Appreciation Breakfast on May 6 during Springfield's Small Business Week. The awards will be presented to all SBTDC winners, and Douglas will go on to the national Small Business Person of the Year competition in Washington, D.C. in June.
Are you a rural business or farmer thinking of investing in energy efficiency or a renewable energy upgrade?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Energy for America (REAP) program has announced the availability of $10.4 million in grants and $43.4 million in guaranteed loans to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy consumption and costs.
REAP provides grants to help pay for up to 25 percent of the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems or energy efficient improvements. It also offers guaranteed loans to cover remaining project expenses, including equipment purchases, land acquisition and working capital. REAP loans can be used independently of grant applications.
Grant applications, combination grant and guaranteed loan applications and renewable energy system feasibility study applications are due May 30. Guaranteed loan-only applications will be accepted until July 15.
Contact Nathan Tutt, USDA business program specialist, at 573-876-9321 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin the application process. For more information on financing and resources for energy efficiency and renewables, visit the Environmental Assistance Center's energy efficiency Web page.
Intuit, maker of QuickBooks and other small business accounting software, has created a Small Business Growing Strong campaign in which 15 small businesses can win $5,000 each. The money must be used to grow the business.
Intuit says these projects can range from new marketing campaigns, new equipment, a new sign or a renovation — almost anything that will impact your business. Enter before May 12 at loveourlocalbusiness.com.
MOSourceLink's motto is "Linking Missouri's business to the right resource at the right time."
That's mere hyperbole for some for-profit business services, but it's an accurate description of MOSourceLink, a MO SBTDC partner service that connects small business owners with a network of nonprofit resource organizations that help build businesses.
In just two steps, the group's Resource Navigator can find the partners you need, for whatever stage of business you are in (concept, start-up, established or revenues of more than $1 million a year) and whatever your needs are. Simply select your industry from the drop-down menu, then specify what kind of help you need within a 25-, 50- or 100-mile radius.
As an example, a query for equity funding and partners for a small, new, woman-owned restaurant in Columbia shows the MO SBTDC; the SBA's micro-enterprise site; the Mid-America Angels (an angel investment entity); the Grace Hill Women's Business Center, which helps women start a new business or expand an existing business; and other agencies.
MOSourceLink also has an up-to-date list of relevant events and blogs, tips for any sized firm, growth and exit strategies, resources for starting and growing high-tech firms and a lot more.
You can also call MOSourceLink at 866-870-6500. All MOSourceLink services are free. The assistance is invaluable.
Six individuals with extensive business experience have joined the MU Business Development Program statewide advisory board. These individuals will help guide the activities and decisions of the MO SBTDC and its sister programs; offer input from their respective industries; and advocate for the programs at the national, state and regional levels.
Nilson Goez, Sr., owner of Infinite Energy Construction, Inc., Kansas City, Mo. Goez will represent the greater Kansas City metro area. Originally from Brazil, Goez grew his business from a one-person electrical engineering company to a vibrant, $15 million general construction business employing nearly 50 people today with the assistance of the MO SBTDC and MO PTAC.
Steve Halter, president of the Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce and of Poplar Bluff Industries, a not-for-profit economic development organization that works with businesses wishing to expand or relocate to the greater Poplar Bluff area. Halter, who will represent Missouri's southeast, also serves as director of economic development for Butler County. Halter previously held numerous management positions in a more than 20-year career with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Steve Hamilton, who will represent northwestern Missouri, is senior vice president of economic development for the St. Joseph Metro Chamber of Commerce. Prior to joining the chamber in 2010, Hamilton worked for nearly four decades in commercial banking, serving as president and CEO of community banks in several states, as Northwest Regional CEO, as chairman of UMB bank and as president and CEO of First Bancorporation Inc.
Michael Hudson, president of Heartland Fabrication and Machine Inc. and of Three Feathers Construction and Sales, LLC, both in Raytown, will also represent the greater Kansas City area. Hudson, with the assistance of the MO SBTDC, MO PTAC & Mid-America TAAC, grew Heartland Fabrication and Machine from an idea in the mid-90s to a 20-employee, nearly $3 million national recognized fabrication and machine business today serving the food industry and the Department of Defense. Three Feathers, which employs up to 45 union iron workers and has sales of $4 million over the past four years, provides and installs rebar, structural steel and precast placement on highway structures and in commercial civil and industrial projects. Hudson is also proud of his Native American heritage and is a registered member of the Chickasaw Nation.
Mark Stewart, regional director for the east central region of MU Extension, has been elected as an at-large member. Stewart has served MU Extension as a livestock specialist for more than 30 years, focusing on production and management, improved forage utilization, business planning for alternative enterprises, water quality and food safety. Stewart has also provided leadership for MU Extension at the county, state and national levels.
Angela Wright, SBA adviser and assistant vice president of Commerce Bank in Kansas City, trains commercial officers throughout the Midwest, performs SBA sales and marketing and facilitates government lending. She also administers and oversees the bank's SBA portfolio, handling any function from originating a small business opportunity to liquidating one. Wright is a member of the Alliance for Economic Inclusion, an FDIC initiative to bring Kansas City metropolitan area low- and moderate-income unbanked and underserved populations into the financial mainstream. She has served Commerce Bank's small business customers and the surrounding community for nearly 20 years.
We continue to profile the members of the MU Business Development Program statewide advisory board. These are the experienced business professionals who help steer the MO SBTDC and its sister programs.Charley Welker
Charley Welker, CEO and founder of CW's Trophies & Awards in Monroe City, has been a board member for 21 years and served as chair for two separate terms.
CW's, founded in 1987, specializes in engraving, embroidery and custom-imprinted team uniforms. The business also has a full-service sign shop. In its second full year of business, CW's was recognized by the Monroe City Chamber as Outstanding Business of the Year. In the intervening quarter century, CW's has continued to expand with more building space and new retail offerings.
Welker graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau with first a bachelor's then a master's degree in education. He was a high school football coach, track coach, athletic director and administrator for area public schools for nearly 20 years prior to opening the business, and he continues to officiate at track and field events.
In 2006, he was inducted into the Missouri Track and Field Hall of Fame.
"I see the MO SBTDC as an integral part of the growth of Missouri businesses," Welker writes. "The statistics are just overwhelming in terms of the number of jobs and start-up businesses the SBTDC has helped throughout the state. And the leadership and guidance of SBTDC state director Max Summers for the past 25 years has been outstanding.
"I see my association with the SBTDC as a true win-win experience. I have been able to reap the rewards of continually updated information on how to properly run a successful small business and incorporate new methods and technology. And now I get to give back."
But like most quick fixes, there is a downside. The danger comes when discounting becomes a long-term strategy rather than a short-term tactic. Here are some pros and cons of using discounting to create better cash flow.
- Customer loyalty. Everyone loves a deal. So you'd think your regular customers would be thrilled to receive a discount. And they probably will, at first. But think about what attracted your best customer to begin with; it was probably much more than price. Factors like product variety, personal service or a reputation for on-time delivery are what keep customers coming back. If they see you lowering prices too often, they may assume you've lowered your standards or that your business is on the ropes. A steady stream of discounts will thus cheapen your brand and may actually drive away your best customers.
The MO SBTDC and MO PTAC offer a variety of outstanding educational opportunities throughout the year. Here are highlights of upcoming events.
Learning what investors want to see before investing in your company is crucial. Where are you now as a company? Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years? What's the ROI for investors? This seminar, to be held at the UMKC SBTDC, 4747 Troost Ave. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., will be presented by Michele Weigand, former chief investment officer for the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation, vice president of business development at GE Mortgage Insurance and director of business development for software firm GEAC. Lunch will be provided. Class size is limited to 15 people, and seminar fee is $35. For more information, contact Carmen DeHart, director of the UMKC SBTDC at email@example.com or register online.
New to business or been in business less than three years? The fourth annual Missouri Alliance for the Development of Entrepreneurship (MADE) in Missouri Competition, open to new business owners, promotes and celebrates business in Missouri. There are two categories: Owners aged 18 and younger and 19 and older. The competition begins with a submission and questionnaires; judges decide who is ready to move on to the second and final round, where contestants must submit a business plan with financials and operate a trade show booth at the Missouri State Fair, Sedalia. Winners will be announced at the fair's closing ceremony. Submissions for the preliminary level are due May 31. For more information and to register, go to MADE in Missouri. Sponsored by the Missouri Alliance for the Development of Entrepreneurship.
Cancelled until next year.
"Nurturing Entrepreneurs, Growing Economies," the National Center for Economic Gardening's 11th annual national conference, will be held at the Downtown Marriott, Kansas City, Mo., from June 5-7. This conference is the country's premiere Economic Gardening event. Wednesday, June 5 features a reception from 6 to 9 p.m.; Thursday, June 6 opens with a plenary session then breaks out into two tracks, "Growing Economies" for economic developers and "Nurturing Entrepreneurs" for economic gardening team members. Scheduled luncheon speaker on June 6 is Dell Gines of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. Kansas City Mayor Sly James; Region 7 SBA Director Patricia Brown Dixon; Corey Dillon, aide to U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill; and Kansas Secretary of Commerce Pat George are also scheduled to attend. Friday, June 7 features a "peek behind the curtain" on how programs are really funded and how measures and impacts add up to sustainable growth. Conference fee is $175 (early bird rate extended to April 22). After April 22, registration is $200.
Organizing partners include the National Center for Economic Gardening/Edward Lowe Foundation, MO SBTDC Business Growth Services, NetWork Kansas and Advance Iowa. Sponsors are the Edward Lowe Foundation, ESRI, Reference USA, MU Economic Development, KC EDC, NetWork Kansas, MAMTC and the Kansas Department of Commerce. To learn more or to register go to conference.nationalcentereg.org or contact Deni Phillips, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accredited Member of the ASBDC
America's Small Business Development Centers
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.
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