Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) Success Stories

EAP Helps Syracuse Businesses Expand and Grow

Central New York EAP SuccessBennie McDonald had no business experience or training three years ago when he started his lawn maintenance business, BMD Snow Removal and Grass Cutting in Syracuse. While he landed a few residential jobs, McDonald realized he needed to do something to boost business.

In 2008, he set up shop in the South Side Innovation Center, the business incubator Syracuse University' s Whitman School of Management opened in 2006 in one of the city' s poorest neighborhoods. McDonald enrolled in the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program, where he spent 60 hours learning how to manage his finances, secure financing, market his business and develop a business plan.

In May, he graduated from the EAP program, one of the program' s 18 graduates. He also won second place in the EAP Business Plan Awards.

The EAP program, McDonald said, helped him manage his finances and gave his business more exposure. He' s landed business opportunities with the City of Syracuse, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, local banks and  other businesses. Sales increased from $70,000 in the first year to $100,000 so far this year, he said.

"You can come to them with any type of issue you may have," he said. "If they can' t answer you, they will lead you in the right direction."

He invested $110,000 of his own money to buy two trucks, lawn mowers, computers, a navigational system and other equipment needed to cut grass and remove snow.

Since the EAP' s  inception in Syracuse in 2009, 69 people have participated in the program. Participants are now running restaurants, grocery stores, selling greeting cards, clothing, catering and much more.

The EAP program has brought cohesiveness and a purpose to new entrepreneurs, said Margaret Butler, coordinator of the program.

"The need for a business plan is brought to life for them as they move through the different aspects of training, with the culmination being a completed business plan, their road map to success," she said.

McDonald credits the EAP program for helping him receive certification as a state Minority- or Women--owned Business Enterprise and a federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. He' s also been certified as a Syracuse Minority and Women business and a Verified Service Disabled Veteran-owned business.

When he started the business three years ago, McDonald attended the City of Syracuse' s pre-bid meeting to see if he could land some city contracts. He looked in the room and realized that he couldn' t compete because he didn' t have money or resources.

The EAP program, he said, helped him develop a business plan, apply for various certifications and provided other support services so that he' s confident he can compete for city contracts during the bidding season next year.

In the last three years, he' s done over 60 residential jobs and landed some state and federal contracts.

"Without the EAP, I wouldn' t have been able to get those certifications," he said.

With Solar Wi-Fi, the SkyStream's the Limit

Roger Ramsey SkyStream SolarA few years ago, a member of the Wellsville Village Board approached Roger Ramsey, owner of the Computer Clinic in Wellsville, New York, with a question: "How can Wellsville enjoy the benefits of Wi-Fi, as many larger communities have, without spending several hundred thousand dollars?"  The Computer Clinic began to design and engineer an affordable Wi-Fi system, and it was not long before the Main Street Business District was outfitted with internet service.  
Ramsey' s creation, SkyStream, is a solar-powered wireless internet solution package designed for small town main street business districts seeking to provide Wi-Fi internet access to their residents, visitors and prospective business clients. He was aided by a local Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) Center.  These offices are located across the state to provide instruction, training, technical assistance and support services to individuals who have recently started their own business or are interested in starting a business.

"Communities that want to offer wireless internet in their downtown districts just need to purchase our solution and a high-speed internet connection through an Internet Service Provider. We come in, install the system and provide support on an as-needed basis," Ramsey explained.
SkyStream is a cost effective alternative to traditional systems, which can run in excess of $100,000. "Many companies require tens of thousands of dollars just to build towers, but we use existing structures," Ramsey said.  "This method reduces the impact on the environment along with the cost of the system."
SkyStream's solar-powered solution is scalable to any size area. The Wellsville deployment utilizes three antennas, and located out of sight are one solar panel and enough backup battery power to sustain the system for a minimum of three days without sun.  The recyclable batteries are replaced every three to five years and the solar panels are built to last for 25-30 years.  These panels are so sophisticated that they can register a charge from the moon or streetlights.
Parallel with the business district system, a 100% solar-powered mobile unit was developed specifically for emergency services situations during which traditional electricity service is interrupted.    SkyStream has obvious potential homeland security, emergency management and first responder uses.   "If FEMA were to have a supply of the mobile units, they could move into a distressed area, set up very quickly and mobilize search and rescue," offered Ramsey.
"I am so gratified that Roger' s innovative idea could be developed and distilled with the support of an EAP Center," said Joyce Smith, Director of the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program at Empire State Development.  "His unique internet access solution provides a much-needed service in a flexible and environmentally friendly way.  I can see this system being adapted to many future uses and wish Roger continued success."
EAP Centers assist new and aspiring entrepreneurs in developing basic business management skills, refining business concepts, devising early-stage marketing plans and preparation of action plans.  In addition, the program actively assists EAP client efforts to obtain business financing. 
"This project could not have been possible without the assistance of the Accord Corporation of Belmont, New York. They believed in us when no one else did. Accord was instrumental in providing funding for this project and continues to be a very valuable resource for us," said Ramsey.

EAP Helps Businesses Start Up!

Lavetta Smith The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) announced the nine recipients of The 4th Queens Start Up! Business Plan Competition, which comes with $24,000 in prize money to be shared between winners. This year, out of the nine total winners were EAP Technical Assistance or training course clients.
The second prize winner, Lavetta Smith, won $5,000 in award money.  Her business, Stir It Up!, is designed to inspire and encourage children aged 6 to 14 to discover the creativity of the culinary world.  According to Smith, the business focus is "To help children and young people develop a love of cooking, for one self and for others," and is meant to help encourage young people to discover themselves in the process of cultivating culinary skills.  Lavetta is currently working with QEDC to invest her $5,000 to increase sales.
Lavetta was a fall 2009 10-week EAP course student, which automatically entered her into the competition.  Her $5,000 will be put towards registering her business, getting insurance, and hiring a branding expert in order to jumpstart her business and begin to generate revenue.

"Before taking the EAP class, my business idea was just that, an idea. But now, after completing the intense 10 week program and following the guidelines, doing the homework and research involved, I now have a completed business plan and generally more "know-how" of what it takes to run my business in an effective and profitable manner," Lavetta said.


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