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Florida SBDC at USF helps business land $800K SBA loan

Executive Reporting Service of Pinellas County

In 1981, after a week of having no work assigned through the court reporting agency she worked for, Diane Emery decided to make a change. A few hours after quitting her job, she embarked on her own small business venture.

“I was loading my plants in the car and the guy from Brownlee Jewelers said, ‘Where you going little girl?’ Emery said. “They all called me little girl back then. I said ‘I quit, but I’m gonna start my own business.’ He rented me an office space for $300.”

IMG_1168Emery started her business like many entrepreneurs. She knew she wanted to continue to be in the court reporting industry, but she knew very little about being a small business owner. Thankfully, she says, she found the Florida SBDC at USF to assist her along the way.

Since March 2009, she has benefitted from multiple consulting sessions, participated in training seminars and utilized Growth Acceleration services.

She started her journey by obtaining a woman-owned business certification and participating in the SBDC’s government small business conference in 2009.

“Working from the seminars at the trade show, I was familiar with the terminology so when they called from MacDill Air Force Base, I said, ‘Of course we can do business with you’, Emery said. “If I hadn’t done those things, I don’t know what I would have said because there are all these special things you have to be able to understand in working with government agencies.”

As business progressed, Emery doubted the business was as profitable as it could be. Having signed up to receive the SBDC’s monthly email newsletter, she saw a posting about Growth Acceleration services, and applied for the program immediately.

Growth Acceleration encompasses a wide range of services, including a business assessment, business plan assistance, cash flow analysis, financial projections, and identifying sources of capital.

“This was a heavy duty, amazing program, for free. I can really work with the financials now,” Emery said. “I can look at them and I know how to see if something is off by looking at a profit and loss, and that’s because of Pearl.”

Pearl Para is just one of seven certified business consultants Emery has worked with over the years.

“I think I would’ve been out of business if I hadn’t done that program,” she said. “The process of working with Pearl and having her be in the books was different, because I was in the books with her. She helped me to get all the checks in place so that I could then actually manage them.”

Since then, Emery has added 11 employees and independent contractors to her staff, increased revenues to more than $1 million, and been approved for a Small Business Administration loan, upwards of $800,000 – all with the guidance of Florida SBDC at USF consultants.

Jim Parrish, a certified business consultant who primarily works in Growth Acceleration services, has worked with Emery since June 2009.

“She listens and that’s really important,” Parrish said of Emery. “She not only takes action, she keeps the issues on the front burner. She sets aside time to work on her business, not just in it.”

Emery has big plans for the future of her business, and says she intends to have the SBDC along for the ride the whole way.

“I have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do,” Emery said. “It’s a place that I trust and can interact and get advice and there’s not going to be a hidden agenda.”