Burglaries can be beneficial. Just ask Alice Beechner Reeves.
In a roundabout way a crime led to the start of Paragon Business Solutions Inc., the firm Reeves co-founded with partner Karen Hamilton in 1997.
"It's kind of a crazy story," admits Reeves, a professional engineer with a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Rolla (UMR).
As Reeves neared completion of her doctorate, thieves broke in to her Kansas City home one weekend while she was gone. Among the items stolen was her computer, which contained all her painstaking dissertation work. The burglars even stole her backup disk.
During the ensuing six months, Reeves concentrated on rebuilding her dissertation while simultaneously working as a technical consultant for her longtime KC-area employer, Midland Grau.
The whole experience led to an entrepreneurial epiphany.
She decided to start her own company based on her areas of expertise in engineering and quality management. But Reeves needed to shore up her weaknesses on the business side. Enter Karen Hamilton, a friend and Midland Grau colleague.
"Karen was the best marketing person and manager I had ever worked with," says Reeves. "So I asked her to assist me with a few things, then a few more, and then I asked if she would be part of the company."
When Hamilton — who holds an MBA in marketing from Rockhurst University in Kansas City — agreed to join Reeves, Paragon Business Solutions was born. Paragon's primary work is in business management systems, which includes quality management, environmental health and safety management, and construction management.
"We assist organizations improve their business systems," Reeves says.
"We (recently) have developed a process optimization methodology that we're really excited about." The method helps clients eliminate organizational waste while improving their process effectiveness, according to Reeves.
So, the business systems and business management expertise have flowed well from these two veteran professionals. But they still faced challenges.
"The hardest part is looking for new business while you're absolutely buried with projects," Hamilton laments. "At the beginning our business was very cyclical. We could tell when we were not marketing due to a heavy project load, because there would be a lull in our income stream."
Yet business grew for the Nixa, Mo.-based company, landing such clients as Boeing, Harley-Davidson, UMR and Johnson Controls.
Then a few years after the entrepreneurial duo started their firm, Reeves and Hamilton learned of the government contracting leads provided by the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center (MO PTAC), affiliated with the University of Missouri's Extension program.
"Early on most of our clients were from the manufacturing or academic sectors," says Hamilton. "Greg McMullen and Bill Stuby at MO PTAC helped us move into the government sector."
"They gave us advice and a general understanding of government contracting ... where to find leads, which training and workshops to attend for more information, and what to put in to a proposal."
MO PTAC also provides Paragon with valuable guidance and insights into the government purchasing process at the federal and state levels, according to Hamilton.
"And we can get this information all in one place, which is very handy," adds Reeves.
"We always know we can call MO PTAC for advice, information and resources."
MO PTAC counselors are located in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla. MO PTAC is affiliated with the Missouri Small Business Development Centers, headquartered in Columbia (MO SBDC).
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