Small businesses make big gains with help from SBDC
By Lyric Mattair
For as long as she could remember, Renae Rollins has had a passion for cosmetology. So naturally she had no problem when it was time to make a career choice.
She prepared herself, attending beauty school before opening her salon not knowing too much about the business aspect of what she’d embarked on.
A little research led her to the Small Business Development Center, where she found all of the resources that she needed to propel her business. Today she is enjoying success that she said she couldn’t have had without the involvement of the SBDC.
Her initial meeting with Keith Bowers, director of the center, was a game-changer, said Rollins, who opened World Class Academy of Beauty on Orange Avenue in 2006.
The SBDC, which covers eight counties in the Big Bend, is set up on FAMU’s campus.
“They were right there every step of the way,” said Rollins, owner of World Class Academy of Beauty. “Even when it got hard and I put everything on the line, I never had second thoughts about following through with my business. I never thought about going anywhere else for business or help because they have been there ever since my first encounter with SBDC back in 1993.”
Some of the resources that SBDC helped Rollins and other businesses discover include access to funding sources, how to grow sales, how to expand their customer base and increasing profits. Additionally, the agency provides technical assistance and consulting services.
As a result, the SBDC has become one of the area’s strongest agencies for developing the local economy. The center assisted more than 600 existing or start-up businesses last year. State-wide, the agency has helped to create 2,100 jobs, assisted clients with increasing sales by $301 million; obtain $52 million in contract awards. Clients have also received $4 million in loans.
Rollins’ business has four employees, including two of her daughters. The Academy, which is nationally accredited and gets federal funding, has scholarship programs that includes Florida Bright Futures and scholarships for children and spouses of deceased or disabled veterans.
Courses at the academy include hair braiding, cosmetology, body wrapping, barbering, hair wrapping, and nail technology.
Over the years, Rollins has developed an extensive list of clients, most learning about the academy by word-of-mouth.
“My son told me that a lady he saw at Bank of America hair was cut really nice, he asked who did such a great job? And was told that Renae did it,” said Bessie Evens, a repeat customer. “Ever since then, I’ve been coming to World Class for my hair needs.”
Anyone interested in resources available through the SBDC or considering a small business start up can contact the agency through its website: www.sbdcfamu.org.