Local vets celebrated by SBA’s Veterans Small Business WeekWritten by Duane Ramsey | | email@example.com
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) celebrated veteran business owners during National Veterans Small Business Week Nov. 3-7. The SBA has helped numerous veterans establish small businesses in Northwest Ohio.
Veteran business owners are responsible for nearly one in 10 small businesses and employ nearly six million workers in the U.S. Veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed and generate $1.5 trillion in receipts each year, according to the SBA.
Last week, the SBA celebrated those military veterans across the country with their small business endeavors and entrepreneurial spirit.
One local veteran, Donald Hill Jr., became an entrepreneur after serving as a hospital combat corpsman in the U.S. Navy from 2007-12.
Hill grew up in Toledo, graduating from Bowsher High School and the University of Toledo with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. He joined the Navy after college rather than work for less outside his desired career, he said.
Hill served as a combat corpsman with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. One of his experiences there led to a career in a field he never imagined he would become involved.
He had an MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) with sloppy joe that was nothing compared to what he was used to eating at home. He wrote his mother, nostalgic for his Grandmother Joann’s recipe for sloppy joe sauce that their family had been enjoying since the 1960s.
When he came home, he began working on his master’s degree at UT. His mother soon retired and he began the process of creating a business based on grandma’s sloppy joe sauce.
Hill connected with the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK), a nonprofit facility that assists entrepreneurial efforts and expands development of specialty value-added foods. He said they provided him with a checklist of things to do and contacts to make.
“I was new to the food business and had to learn fast, either sink or swim,” Hill said. “It took us a year to get everything in order.”
Hill and his wife April established Traditions Sauces LLC as their company for producing and marketing their sloppy joe sauce in early 2013. After much brainstorming, they came up with the name Brickyard Sloppy Joe Sauce.
During the planning stages, he met Lt. Haraz Ghambari of the U.S. Naval Reserve, who serves as military liaison at UT. Hill said Ghambari was extremely helpful providing important contacts for their fledgling business.
“We needed capital so Ghambari called his contacts at the SBA and the Pentagon,” Hill said.
Hill was contacted by James Duffy, manager of the SBA District Office in Cleveland, who connected him with the people at the Small Business Development Center hosted by the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Hill later received SBA financing for his company through Huntington National Bank.
The new firm initially produced 20 cases of Brickyard Sloppy Joe Sauce on July 9, 2013 at NOCK’s facility in Bowling Green. The sauce was packaged in 18-ounce glass jars suitable for making two pounds, Hill said.
“We took 13 cases from that first batch and made our first sale to the public at the Perrysburg Market and sold out,” Hill said.
Next, they submitted sauce from that first batch to a food chemist and the Food and Drug Administration.
He reported that they began taking samples of Brickyard Sloppy Joe Sauce to local supermarket chains. They were surprised that every one of them was impressed enough to begin offering the product in their stores in Northwest Ohio.
“We had to begin larger production runs and find a distributor to deliver the product to the local stores,” Hill said about connecting with Lipari Foods to distribute their product.
Ghambari met someone who was in town looking to hire veterans for Walmart. He learned about a conference the retailer was holding about buying more local products.
Hill said they wrote the buyer at Walmart, Marlene Bond, and sent her a sample of Brickyard Sloppy Joe Sauce. After using the product at a family picnic, Bond called about offering their product in Walmart stores.
In January, the first batch of Brickyard Sloppy Joe Sauce was delivered to the Walmart Super Center on Central Avenue in Toledo. It is now available in Walmart stores in Toledo and across Ohio.
Hill said that Kroger soon contacted them about carrying their sauce in its stores. They worked with Mark Nolting from Kroger to make it happen.
“You’ve got to go through a lot of steps with retailers like Kroger and Walmart but it’s worth it,” Hill said.
He reported they are now producing batches every other week for several hundred cases of the sauce. They also began offering it in 1-gallon containers for institutional use.
Hill said they first sold it to the Bowling Green School District and then to several other local school districts. They met with representatives from Toledo Public Schools and are now working with Gordon Food Service to supply TPS with the sauce.
“It’s been such a whirlwind for us,” Hill said about all that they accomplished with their sauce and the business during the past two years.
He said April is very involved in the business, handling accounts, marketing, product demos, and social media. For more information, go to www.traditionssauces.com.
The SBA has also helped other local veterans with their small businesses, including Navy veteran Benjamin Brockway of Black Paw Canine, and Air Force veteran Jesse Morris of JLM Unlimited Enterprises, both of Toledo.
After serving in the Navy, Brockway founded Black Paw Canine in 2011 to provide training for dogs and their families along with other related canine services.
Morris, CEO of JLM Unlimited Enterprises, received an SBA loan through Huntington Bank for her original business. She is no longer in that business, but now operates the firm that provides database and information management, administrative and other services for businesses.
Morris, who also markets a line of clothing online, served in the U.S. Air Force for 21 years. She is certified by the federal government and Veterans Administration as a Service Connected Disabled Veteran Contractor authorized to submit bids for federal and state projects.
Fee relief was instrumental in helping many veteran small business owners through the SBA’s Veteran Advantage initiative by offering zero fees on loans of $150,000 to $350,000 to veterans. Fee relief for veterans began Jan. 1, and by the end of the fiscal year amounted to $610,000. Fee relief for loans $150,000 and under and for Veterans Advantage was extended through fiscal year 2015.
The SBA’s 7(a) Loan Program reached another lending record in FY 2014, according to an SBA announcement Nov. 6. By the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), SBA had approved 52,044 7(a) loans for $19.19 billion, an increase of 12 percent in number loans and 7.4 percent in dollar amount over fiscal year 2013.
Tags: April Hill, Benjamin Brockway, Black Paw Canine, Brickyard Sloppy Joe Sauce, Donald Hill Jr., Jesse Morris, JLM Unlimited Enterprises, Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen, SBA, Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Center, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, Traditions Sauces