Mike Carter of Midwest Customs explains how Steve Holt,
MO SBTDC counselor, helped him start a truck accessories and
body shop in Carrollton, Mo.
Fresh from high school a few years back, Mike Carter went to work for the local FM radio station, KMZU 100.7 in Carrollton, Mo. The general manager of the station planned to teach Mike the ropes of the radio business ... marketing, advertising, programming, customer relations.
All those are good subjects for any newcomer to cover when entering a business. But Mike had a couple of hurdles to overcome. First, his heart was elsewhere. He preferred the roadways to the airwaves. Maintaining and customizing trucks and automobiles was what really tickled his fancy.
Secondly, Mike had an independent streak. He really wanted to start his own business and not be working for someone else … especially the general manager at KMZU, Miles Carter ... Mike's father.
"When I graduated high school I was stuck with a choice. I had (either) college for the next four years or the workforce. And I worked for my dad for about two weeks … and that was about enough of that," Mike laughingly recalls.
So Mike followed his heart. He decided to start a truck accessories and body shop in Carrollton-Midwest Customs.
But soon he found he had more obstacles to surmount ... most of them related to starting a business. So he knocked on the door of someone who could give him solid advice about establishing an enterprise, veteran business expert Steve Holt.
Holt, a Northwest Missouri State University specialist with the Small Business and Technology Development Center in Chillicothe, counseled Mike about starting his business. Holt helped the young entrepreneur focus on a detailed business plan and financial goals.
The biggest challenge Mike faced was obtaining a loan large enough to meet his plans. Holt counseled Mike with sound business advice, pointing him in the right direction.
"I'll promise you, a 19-year-old kid going to a bank asking for $120,000 is a little unheard of," says Mike. "And if it weren't for such a strong business plan and all the information and support from Steve, there's no way I would be where I am today."
And today, according to his MySpace page, Mike reports: "I'm a 22-year-old kid livin' out his dream in the middle of the Midwest. I own Midwest Customs. We sell truck accessories and do custom rebuilding that has been seen and sold all across the U.S. from Washington state to Georgia and everywhere in between! I do what I love and love what I do!! I've got a great crew that helps put out awesome rides and everyone should be this lucky in their career!"
When Mike started his business he created four new jobs and achieved around $350,000 in sales in the first couple of years, according to Holt. Mike also has been considering opening a second shop in west central Missouri.
And he's spoken to youth entrepreneur groups in the Carrollton and Chillicothe areas, touting the help he received from Holt. Mike tells aspiring entrepreneurs that if any of them are truly interested in starting a business after they graduate, they should seek advice from the SBTDC.
"If it hadn't been for Steve Holt and the SBTDC, I'd still be dreaming about starting a business instead of running one."
Mike also has one other important piece of wisdom to pass along to any young would-be entrepreneur he encounters: "The best advice I ever got was from my grandfather. He told me, 'It's not what you know, it's who you know. Don't ever be so bashful you can't walk up to somebody and introduce yourself.'"
That's sound advice for anyone ... and especially for any budding entrepreneur.
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This story was featured in the January 2009 newsletter.
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