Woman business owner no stranger to challenges
Caladesi Wash Bowl of Pinellas County
Georgette Vance has encountered a few hardships throughout her life. An emigrant from Lebanon, she has already overcome throat cancer and a partial blindness.
She’s been a successful businesswoman in the United States for the past 20 plus years, specializing in commercial laundry services. When her laundry business, Caladesi Wash Bowl, started to struggle due to broken equipment, she reached out to the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development (PCED), for assistance.
“I reached out through my counselor Mireya [Hernandez],” Vance said. “We were looking to buy new machines so I wanted to get a loan. We only had three dryers and two washing machines working for one year.” Hernandez is with the Florida Division of Blind Services.
Kurt Forster, certified business consultant with the Florida SBDC at PCED, went to work showing Vance how to build a business plan, to prepare for a loan application.
“Georgette had a long history in business so we knew that she could be successful and she had a lot to work with, with this location and commercial accounts,” Forster said, “so we just had to find the right lender who could understand her situation.”
For that, the pair reached out to community lender Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation. Due to the business plan that had been created, they were interested in lending to Vance, but through the process of pulling together all the necessary paperwork, another organization wanted to help.
The Division of Blind Services strives to ensure blind and visually impaired Floridians have the tools, support and opportunity to achieve success, according to Hernandez. The Division saw Caladesi Wash Bowl as a business they could get behind. “Ms. Vance demonstrated to the division, her peers, and the community that despite her disability she can do all things,” Hernandez wrote in an email to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida.
The organization granted approximately $64,000 worth of equipment to get Vance’s business fully operational again. Ten dryers, seven top-loader washing machines, three double loader washing machines and two 40-pound loaders were installed in late September.
“Because of the work we did on the business plan, [Division of Blind Services] trusted more that if they granted her help with the new equipment, she would be successful,” Forster said.
Vance is looking forward to the future, as now she can go after the commercial work she once had to turn down due to equipment limitations. In addition, she hosted a grand reopening on October 31 to let the public know that they were available again. There are also plans to obtain the loan from TBBIC in the next year as well.
“We’re looking at improving her profitability with the new equipment over a period of time and then showing that to TBBIC so we can borrow the money to upgrade the rest of the facilities,” Forster added.
Vance says she would like to replace the flooring, laundry tables and more, with loan money, in the next year. In the mean time, she will continue to work with Forster on her marketing and profitability.
“I know to work but I don’t know how to do a business plan,” she said. “They are very nice people and have helped me a lot.”