Santa Cruz SBDCAptos, CA

“Besides helping me with current challenges, a greater value is the confidence SBDC gives me to expand because I know that as new situations arise I can always count on them to advise me. In part because of this support, I’ve had the confidence to add an entirely new product line, sustainable construction materials, made in America.”

Lonna Speer

BACKGROUND
Ferguson Safety Products opened for business in Santa Cruz in 1989 after Lonna Speer, a public health nurse at the local jail, was supplied with woefully inadequate bulky coverings to clothe suicidal inmates. Mrs. Speer resolved to make a special garment to solve this problem and became the first anti-suicide smock manufacturer.  Her design and product line continually improved, and her family joined her in the business, supplying her products to more than 1,000 prisons and jails.

Mrs. Speer started as a Central Coast SBDC client in 1994, consistently upgrading her marketing strategies, web presence, customer contracting, recordkeeping software, and employee policies. The business had been developing new green products that promote health and safety- including a solvent-free degreaser, anti-graffiti coating and remover, cement and asphalt remover, anti-skid coating, and a recycled paint product.

CHALLENGES
In recent years, while the family business had developed their additional safety products, Mrs. Speer was still concerned about slowing sales and the decision to expand during challenging economic times.

She contacted the Central Coast SBDC to help with the strategic planning for the new product line and all business operational changes (including an exit strategy). Certifications were also needed to expand successful contracts with local cities, counties and more government agencies. Lastly, they needed to develop more successful hiring procedures.

ACTIONS
The Central Coast referred Mrs. Speer to the SBDC TAP Program, where the SBDC TAP Advisor assessed her new technology needs in order to accommodate the new products, and prepare the business for an exit strategy.  A Procurement Advisor reviewed all appropriate certifications so the client could focus on the certifications that would promote her contracting goals; specifically the woman-owned (WOSB), and the certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). An SBDC Bookkeeping Advisor reviewed the changes needed to update and expand recordkeeping, and the SBDC HR Advisor assisted with new hire procedures.

Family members attended the Central Coast SBDC QuickBooks Seminar, as well as two seminars provided in our Brown Bag at the Santa Cruz Library seminar series.

RESULTS
Lonna is happy to report at the end of 2012 that sales have more than doubled (to $1.75 million), they retained five jobs and hired two new employees, and they are contracting with two new major metropolitan areas. 

Private investment funding received by the business for the new contracts inventory was $80,000, and additional production funding of $100,000.

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Funded in part through cooperative agreements with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the California Governors Office for Business and Economic Development, and other private and public partners;  and nationally accredited by the association of SBDCs.