Hunting is usually a rewarding experience. So why was David Helwig, founder of InfernoTek and a St. Joseph area resident, so miserable?
That the mercury was very low that morning, that he was shivering and cold and that his toes were turning numb were certainly major factors. Add that he was going through a grueling time in life, with three kids still in high school, and he had to throw in the towel.
"It was just awful," he says from his home. "And I started praying, 'God, I could sure use some help here — something!'"
He patented that something within 30 days: the Inferno Element Protection System (EPS), a cross between a hooded jumpsuit and sleeping bag made of tough, rip-stop nylon, treated with an anti-microbial finish to help keep human scent in the bag. A thick insulation barrier keeps the outdoorsman or -woman warm to minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit while the outer shell shields the body from wind, rain and snow. The suit's capacious pockets have plenty of room for a thermos, snacks or anything else.
Helwig sees potential for his product well beyond hunters to shivering soccer Moms, fans at football games, police, first responders and military personnel forced to camp out for hours. The nylon outer layer is also flocked, meaning you can move around without crinkling; not very important at a football game maybe, but vital in a stakeout or when that big buck you've been chasing all winter is right in front of you.
A client of Rebecca Evans, associate regional director of the Northwest Missouri State University (NWMSU) SBTDC and of Larry Lee, director of NWMSU SBTDC and of NWMSU's Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Helwig's story sometimes reads like a primer on how not to introduce a new product.
He tried Kickstarter. The online funding service approved his product, but after he'd paid a professional videographer to make a video, they rejected it. "I was so angry!" he says. But he thought the concept of crowdfunding was a good one, so he tried again with Springfield, Mo.-based Crowdit. He was even allowed to partner with the Wounded Warrior Project; if the InfernoEPS became fully funded through Crowdit, Helwig would personally lead a wounded veteran on a guided hunt to be later shown on a hunting channel. "And that was just a total bomb," he says. "Almost nobody signed up."
Hal Herweck, director of government programs for Phoenix Textile Corporation, knew he'd made it.
His firm's was one of only four booths at a recent U.S. Department of Commerce-sponsored trade event in Istanbul, Turkey. The other three? Aerospace titans Boeing, General Dynamics and Northrup-Grumman.
"I thought, 'We are with the big boys now!' " he recalls. "It was a great feeling."
Gratifying as this recognition was, it wasn't an unusual occurrence for either Herweck or Phoenix, founded in 1983 by CEO Palmer A. (Pam) Reynolds. Herweck's Government Services Program was added in 1999. With the advice and assistance of Millie Miller-Hoover, procurement specialist with the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) in St. Louis, the firm has risen to become one of the premier distributors of textiles to the long-term care industry and a fierce competitor in the acute care marketplace with more than 100 employees headquartered in O'Fallon, a distribution center in Sparks, Nev., sales personnel across the country and sales of about $50 million.
Phoenix's meteoric rise hasn't gone unnoticed. Among local honors the company has received are being named a top 100 workplace and recognized with the St. Louis Small Business Award. The firm was also nationally recognized as an Inc. Magazine 500 fastest growing company and also received recognition as a top woman-owned business, best employer and Entrepreneur of the Year.
The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC)'s latest projections of fastest-growing occupations from 2012 to 2014 shows a projected 8 percent increase in home health and personal care aide employment (8.26 and 7.75 percent, respectively).
In fact, eight of the top 20 occupations MERIC examined were in health care or veterinary care. This matches national trends: the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study of 22 occupational groups showed employment in health care-support occupations growing most rapidly (an amazing 34.5 percent), followed by personal care and services occupations (26.8 percent) and health care practitioners and technical occupations (25.9 percent). BLS estimates the health care and social assistance sectors will collectively gain 5.6 million jobs by 2020 as the population ages and the entire baby-boom generation moves into the 55-years-and-older demographic.
These percentages are far above the national total employment average, which is expected to grow 14.3 percent over the next decade, and represents a fertile field for alert entrepreneurs.
Read how one experienced health care professional and MO SBTDC client parlayed his experience into a successful business (Accurate RX).
Found you were due a large federal income tax refund, or worse, owed more taxes than expected when you filed your 2012 taxes?
The IRS recommends you check your federal tax withholding or payments periodically to bring your taxes more in line to what you'll actually owe, especially if your life or business circumstances have changed. And the end of the tax year is less than four months away, so you might want to check now to avoid an unpleasant April surprise.
- Life-changing event. Have you experienced a life-changing event this year, such as a change in marital status, birth of a child, getting or losing a job or purchasing a home? These can all affect the amount of taxes you owe, meaning a change in your W-4 status, too. You can submit a new Form W-4 anytime.
- Estimated taxes. If there's been any change in your business, hopefully for the better, your estimated taxes -- that's taxes on income not subject to withholding -- may also have changed. Examples include income from self-employment, interest, dividends, alimony, rent and gains from the sale of assets. Look at how much you currently owe, and adjust upward or downward. If you don't know whether you owe estimated taxes, use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES to find out.
- Additional Medicare tax. A Medicare tax increase of 0.9 percent went into effect Jan. 1, 2013. This is not related to the Affordable Care Act. This additional Medicare tax applies to wages, Railroad Retirement Tax Act compensation and self-employment income that exceeds an amount based on the individual's filing status -- $250,000 if married and filing jointly and $125,000 if married filing separately; $200,000 if single, head of household or a qualifying widow or widower with a dependent child.
- Net investment income tax. A new 3.8 percent investment income tax also went into effect Jan. 1, 2013. This tax applies to individuals, estates and trusts that have certain investment income exceeding the same amounts above.
Consult a tax specialist if the IRS website doesn't answer your questions.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has proclaimed September National Preparedness Month to encourage everyone, business owner or private citizen, to be prepared for a disaster.
Preparation is more than just a good idea: most surveys put the number of businesses who never reopen their doors after a disaster at more than half, making a disaster recovery plan essential.
The following organizations offer good starting resources:
The MO SBTDC offers a wide range of publications and other information on disaster response and preparedness, such as:
- A comprehensive disaster resource guide that covers insurance claims, SBA disaster loans, tax relief and rebuilding
- An IRS disaster loss kit
- Record keeping and tax information
- Avoiding fraud and scams, effective employee communication, recovering from physical damage and more. Visit missouribusiness.net/sbtdc/disaster for this information.
The MO SBTDC also helped establish a Business Recovery Center in Joplin after the deadly 2011 tornado.
The SBA will co-host free webinars on disaster recovery each Wednesday at 1 p.m.:
- September 18: "The New 10 Steps to Preparedness -- Lessons from the Past"
- September 25: "Crisis Communications for any Organization"
(These webinars will be archived for later viewing. Follow the links above to access.)
Federal disaster aid update
FEMA has announced that federal disaster aid is available to Missouri businesses to supplement the state and local recovery efforts in areas struck by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding which occurred this spring and summer.
The presidential declaration makes federal funding available to affected individuals in numerous Missouri counties. Check with FEMA to see if your county is eligible.
State Emergency Management Agency
Each Missouri county has an emergency management agency to provide information on local conditions and programs, along with any assistance that may be available due to federal disaster declarations. More information from the State Emergency Management Agency.
You probably know that the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) open Oct. 1. You may also know that the majority of small employers are not required to offer health insurance coverage, and that even businesses with more than 50 full-time employees have received a one-year reprieve.
All businesses regardless of size are required to notify their employees of employer-sponsored coverage options and provide information about the marketplaces by October 1, 2013, however.
Here's what you need to know: beginning in 2014, most people are required to have health coverage. If they don't, they may have to pay a fee.
You or your employees can shop for coverage if you're uninsured or employer-sponsored coverage is deemed unaffordable. Many states have or will establish a health insurance marketplace, but Missouri is not one of them. In 2012, voters approved a legislative proposal blocking a state-run exchange; operation of Missouri's marketplace falls by default to the federal government.
In response, the federal government has awarded grants to private agencies in several states to provide information and counseling. In Missouri those agencies are Primaris Healthcare Business Solutions and the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging.
Open enrollment begins October 1. Full coverage can begin as early as January 1, 2014.
The SBA will also offer free weekly webinars on the act for small business owners Thursday, Sept. 19 and 26 at 1 p.m.
The IRS has launched an Affordable Care Act website explaining the tax benefits and responsibilities of individuals and families, employers and other organizations. The site also cites tax provisions now in effect and those that will go into effect next year and beyond.
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.Rob Sweeney
Rob Sweeney is founder and CEO of Mobile Media Technologies LLC dba TextCaster, a mass notification service that seamlessly integrates text messages, email, Facebook, Twitter and other apps and programs. In 2008, the firm was named Missouri's Small Business of the Year by the Missouri Department of Economic Development; in 2009, the company was named a Kansas City Small Business Magazine top employer.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Sweeney has started several businesses and held technology sales and senior management positions with such companies as First Data, CyberCash, Hewlett-Packard, Sybase and Palm Computing. At Palm, Sweeney oversaw development of banking and capital market mobile apps and worked with Sprint on the deployment of the Palm OS on the first Kyocera and Samsung smart phones.
(TextCaster is also a MO SBTDC client; read Sweeney's success story: "I sensed the need that small-to-medium-sized companies would like to have the same wireless communication capabilities larger companies would have," Sweeney said.)
Following sales and senior management positions with such companies as American Express and ENVOY Corporation (the precursor to WebMD), Sweeney entered the world of Internet commerce, generating license revenue exceeding $20 million per year for firms such as Financial Fusion and VeriFone. He also successfully deployed online banking solutions for financial institutions ranging in size from small community banks and credit unions to Wells Fargo and US Bank.
In 2010, Sweeney started Mobile Innovations LLC and invented the messageQube, a 3G wireless printer serving the growing machine-to-machine (M2M) communications industry. Partnering with Sprint, the messageQube delivers text messages and other value-added content in print form.
Sweeney also chairs the Innovation Center Board at the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg and is active in several not-for-profit organizations including The Global Orphan Project, which cares for orphans in Haiti and Africa. He is also a board member of Mount St. Scholastica College, overseeing financial development for women's health and self-help ministries.
"As an entrepreneur, I am passionate about my company and what we do to enhance the way our customers communicate," Sweeney says. MO SBTDC counselors share that passion, he says: "They are outstanding, quality individuals, very professional, very knowledgeable. These are experienced business people who have much to give small businesses. They listen. They ask questions. They challenge you. They make you think. They do these things before they start offering advice. In short, they take the time to get to know you."Robyn Heidger
Robyn Heidger is senior vice president of community development and compliance for Enterprise Bank & Trust, developing strategic alliances and building relationships with community groups and organizations in the St. Louis, Kansas City and Phoenix areas. Prior to joining Enterprise, Heidger worked at Mark Twain and Mercantile banks and as a senior compliance consultant with a large accounting firm. She holds a bachelor's degree in finance from Missouri State University.
Heidger also serves on the boards of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis and the Metropolitan St. Louis Community Reinvestment Act Association. She volunteers for the United Way, Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure and Beyond Housing, a group that provides affordable housing and homeownership services to lower-income individuals.
"I think the value of the MO SBTDC is that it provides access to resources that small businesses otherwise wouldn't have. These are a fantastic suite of services that give small business owners insights into what they are doing well and how to do things differently," she says. "Oftentimes small business owners are just too busy or don't have the staff to investigate other options."
Heidger speaks from first-hand experience. Her husband has owned a flooring company for 25 years, surviving the recession, among other calamities. "Living through this has helped give me an insight into the world of small business owners."
The product was great — priced just right. The facility was clean and the location convenient. So how did this small business lose a repeat customer?
The author, a customer experience professional with US Bank, walked into a sandwich shop one afternoon. There was no one behind the counter. She waited a bit until an employee emerged from the back of the store, took the order and promptly delivered it.
So far, so good. Just then the manager walked in to harangue the employee about stocking supplies. The author collected her sandwich, headed toward the door and said thank you.
They ignored her.
She thanked them again. The manager barely acknowledged her, focusing instead on this apparently far more urgent shelf-stocking conversation.
Time: Seven minutes.
You can't ignore the data. More and more people are using their smart phones, tablets and other devices to complete financial transactions. Because of this, small business owners who are able to receive mobile payments may be at an advantage over their competitors in terms of sales volume and available revenue.
Whether you run a service-based business like an in-home day care or sell fresh flowers from a mobile truck, mobile payment technology can boost cash flow in the following ways:
- Mobile payments make impulse buying easy for consumers, increasing sales.
- Mobile payments allow you to collect money on the spot — no more billing, invoicing and tracking past due accounts for service-based companies.
The MO SBTDC and MO PTAC offer a variety of outstanding educational opportunities throughout the year. Here are highlights of upcoming events.
"Communicating & Understanding Generations in the Workplace Today," the 2013 Women's Leadership Conference, will be held at Missouri State Southern University's Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center, 405 North Jefferson Avenue in Springfield, on Thursday, Sept. 19 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Speaker will be the dynamic Jennifer Yazell of Golden Egg Communications. For more information or to register, go to mssutraining.com.
Don't miss the fourth annual Missouri Technology Expo, to be held at the Bond Life Sciences Center, University of Missouri in Columbia, on Thursday, Sept. 19 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Speakers include Han Chen, co-founder and managing director of Kapyon Ventures, LLC, a San-Diego based technology incubation firm, which has successfully spun out three portfolio companies, as well as the vice president of engineering for MO SBTDC client and success story EyeVerify and Karl Kochendorfer, CEO, MedSocket, co-presenting on the next big thing. EyeVerify pioneered ultra-secure "eyeprinting" via mobile devices; MedSocket is a search tool that aggregates medical information databases for care providers. This event also includes a Tiger Cage, at which early-stage technology representatives may pitch their technologies, and the dedication of the new University of Missouri Research Commons. The Expo can help you establish key relationships with potential commercial partners, academia and industry partners. To register or for more information, go to motechexpo.missouri.edu/index.php.
StartUp Connection '13, to be held at the Saint Louis Science Center on Oct. 3 from 4-8:30 p.m., is your chance to learn from fellow innovators, investors and key regional businesses and to watch as 60 regional startups compete for cash prizes and services ranging from $500 to $100,000. The event, which also features a venture pitch stage, brings together two key parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem: the community of innovative startups and the resource organizations that support them. Companies have already been selected for this year's showcase; new applicants will be considered for 2014 only. The venture pitch event is still open. Fee is $25. For more information or to register online, visit startupconnection.org.
Don't miss Construction Business Management if you're in the construction industry and want to develop a plan for growing your company. In this course, to be held at 4747 Troost, Room 114, Kansas City, from 5:30-8:30 p.m., you will be an active participant expected to develop your own business strategy. Facilitators are knowledgeable entrepreneur-practitioners attuned to the issues that influence the decisions you make about your company, and you'll be able to access one-to-one counselor input long after the courses are over. Dinner will be provided. Class size is limited to 30; cost is $75. This session is the first of six. For more information, contact Carmen DeHart, UMKC SBTDC, at email@example.com or 816-235-6428 or register online.
The UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management will host the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers' annual conference, which gathers university-based entrepreneurship centers to share best practices on creating entrepreneurial experiences. According to John Norton with UMKC's Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the event, which will take place October 24-26, presents a unique opportunity for Kansas City businesses to be exposed to a wider audience. He also noted that "this conference is an opportunity for both Kansas City and UMKC to let the world know how serious we are," referencing Kansas City's goal of being the most entrepreneurial city in the world. The conference aims to provide a coordinated effort through which participating members can collaborate and communicate on the issues and challenges confronting university-based entrepreneurship centers. For more information or to register, go to gcec2013.com.
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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