Pinellas Park company utilizes SBDC services over 18 year span

Custom Manufacturing & Engineering of Pinellas County

Nancy Crews, Ph.D., started working with the Florida SBDC Network 18 years ago, with just an idea and licensing in hand for her new business, Custom Manufacturing & Engineering (CME).

“My very first visit, we had already gotten our paperwork done but we hadn’t gotten up and running yet as a company,” she said. “So we went out to the SBDC to see what they had for small businesses that are starting up. We’ve been working with them for 18 years, on and off.”

CME, started in Pinellas County in March 1997, specializes in electrical and electronic engineering design and manufacturing, particularly for the Department of Defense.

Over the years, Crews has used a variety of Florida SBDC Network services. “I reached out to them to help me when we became an 8(a) certified company. I’ve worked with them over the international marketing space looking at international markets and how we might go forward, and I look at them from time to time for educational opportunities too,” Crews said of her involvement. In addition, the company received a Growth Acceleration business assessment, which includes an in-depth financial review of the business by credentialed consultants.

Being a company that deals primarily with the defense industry has been a challenge for CME in recent years. “It’s an industry that is undergoing a lot of changes with sequestration and budgeting issues, which makes it very difficult for everyone in the defense business, but particularly for small businesses that are 100 percent defense, so we have been looking at diversifying the business,” Crews said.

This, in part, is what has the organization focused on possible international expansion, and led to the creation of an Export Marketing Plan from the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida. “They went out and looked at where products like ours were being sold internationally,” Crews said. “It got us to begin to focus on the international marketplace an gave us an idea as to what opportunities were out there.”

Since then, Crews has participated in networking events to educate herself on foreign business cultures, as well as participated in two trade missions – one to Canada and the other to Chile. Crews said she realizes as a small business owner, she would’ve been hard pressed to meet with as many companies in those foreign markets as she did, had it not been for the resources of the Florida SBDC Network, Enterprise FL, and U.S. Commercial Services.

“I think as a small business, you cannot afford to have all of the resources that large corporations have to help you with diversification or growth,” she said. “Those resources are made available through organizations like SBDC, Enterprise FL, and U.S. Commercial Services.”

Moving forward, Crews is focused on revenue growth and diversifying into two additional industries, and one of those is the international marketplace. In years past, the company has dabbled in exporting, but now has a renewed focus on the efforts. “It was a good introduction for us but I think we’re now ready and better educated to do a lot more than what we’ve done in the past,” she said.

No matter what the business, Crews recommends that others take advantage of the plentiful resources that are made available in the Tampa Bay region. “There are a lot of resources out there for small businesses and I would recommend that no matter what your strategy, whatever your business model is, that you avail yourself to those capabilities.”