Business Innovation Group (BIG)
Parker College of Business

Guest Speakers

The Veterans Business Outreach Center offers Ongoing Assistance to Military Members

The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) is a Small Business Administration (SBA)-funded resource available to service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members and military spouses with an interest in starting or expanding upon a small business.  With over 20 locations across the United States, VBOC advisors provide entrepreneurial development assistance, mentoring and training in areas such as international trade, franchising, internet marketing and accounting.

In addition to personalized training and development, the Georgia VBOC attends, conducts and provides support for Boots to Business courses located at South Carolina and Georgia military installations.  The Boots to Business program is a two-day program available to transitioning service members and their spouses from any branch of the military.   During this program, service members learn the steps for evaluating business concepts, the foundational knowledge required to develop a business plan, and information on the resources available to help access start-up capital and technical assistance.

This month, VBOC will be participating as an exhibitor in the Annual Warrior Integration Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted by America’s Warrior Partnership.  This symposium serves as a source of empowerment and strength for Georgia’s veteran community. By unifying resources available to veterans, America’s Warrior Partnership creates a viable community for veterans where they live and work.  Members of the VBOC team are thrilled for this opportunity to share their assistance and resources with veterans aspiring to become entrepreneurs.  Additionally, VBOC Director Jeremy Horstman and Business Advisor Jeff Smith will be attending the National VBOC conference in Alexandria, Virginia.  This conference is nested with the national Women’s Business Center (WBC) leadership conference and will focus on the strategic direction and synchronization of the VBOCs across the nation.

Our VBOC business for the month of September highlights Melody Vogt with Notable Solutions.  Notable Solutions provides life coaching solutions to children struggling with issues affecting a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing.  Melody is a certified Adventures in Wisdom life coach and a licensed professional counselor offering services to children from the age of six to twelve years in age.  The purpose of Notable Solution’s life coaching is to address and improve issues including bullying, depression, self-esteem, and others to be discussed in a scheduled consultation with Melody.  At this time, Notable Solutions services are available in Statesboro and surrounding counties.  Due to the sensitive nature of life coaching sessions, face-to-face counseling appointments are required in order to maximize the benefit to the child.

Upcoming outreach events in October include participation in several Boots to Business courses in Georgia and South Carolina.  For more information on VBOC services, events, or contact information for Notable Solutions, please contact our office at 912-478-7781.


2nd BIG Cafe is a great success!

On October 14, 2015 at 9 a.m., more than 40 local entrepreneurs, students and faculty gathered at City Campus for Big Café. This monthly networking event is designed to help local entrepreneurs solve business problems using the input from attendees while enjoying a complimentary cup of coffee.

Presenting were Brian Reiss, owner of Party Harbor Inflatables and Paul Johnson, owner of Kingdom Cuts. Brian, looking to expand his business to new locations outside of the Statesboro area, posed the question, “Should I bring on an investor? How do you go about bringing on an investor, and what does that entail?”

Marco George, owner of Covenant Home Security, asked “Have you thought about going into Bluffton and joining the chamber there and getting involved with small business association there? Maybe SBA or Core in that area could help you with how to break into that market or how to get some funding.” Demetria Smith, Simplified Flooring, suggested that Brian use a midway point so he could leverage the items he already has. Other suggestions included forming a strategic alliance with people in the targeted community, constructing a market research analysis of the area, and waiving delivery fees in order to help build a presence in the targeted market.

Paul Johnson presented second. His goal is to franchise his business while still being able to give the highest level of customer service, creating an environment that is family friendly. “My problem or my challenge is recreating my philosophy and being able to do that successfully. How do I reproduce my philosophy?”

Demetria Smith suggested creating rules for franchise owners to abide by after opening up the franchise. She said, “Every franchise owner has specific rules and stuff that they have to do to keep that franchise and with cloning yourself, cloning your philosophy, creating essentially your bible, that’s going to help whoever wants to buy into your franchise to know what this whole theory is about.” Jim Williams provided a contact who has a business very similar to Paul’s, and who previously expanded his business just like Paul desires to do. Other suggestions included using discipleship to mold potential employees, creating a playbook that includes a mission statement, paying time plus commission, and finding people who have the skill set along with the same moral compass.

The second, BIG Café was a tremendous success. Thanks to everyone who attended and gave such invaluable feedback. Special thanks to the presenters as well. If you would like to present your business obstacle(s) at BIG Café, please contact Jill Johns at jjohns@georgiasouthern.edu or 912-478-0872. The forum is not only a wonderful networking opportunity, but also a chance to learn from other entrepreneurs. Also, attend five times and you can receive a free BIG Café coffee mug!

The next BIG Café will be Wednesday, November 11, with presentations starting at 9 a.m. RSVP here.


BIG Cafe Launch is a great success!

On September 9, 2015, at 9:00 a.m., nearly 40 local entrepreneurs, students and faculty gathered at City Campus to launch BIG Café. This monthly networking event is designed to help local entrepreneurs solve business problems using the input from attendees while enjoying a complimentary cup of coffee.

Presenting were David Hoyle, coffee sponsor and owner of Cool Beanz Espresso Bar and Jeff Leggett, owner of CT Recycling. David, looking to open a second location, posed the question, “How do I build an infrastructure? I know I can’t be in two places at once.”

Stacey Ventura, a dog trainer by trade and new to the area, suggested training a shadow to learn what he does and how he does it. Marco George, Covenant Home Security expanded on this suggesting incentivizing employees and giving them some kind of ownership in the company. Other suggestions included finding a software to help streamline billing, inventory and payroll as well as having a standard operating procedures manual so that he can feel better about giving up some control.

Jeff Leggett was next to present about his newest venture, CT Recycling. Jeff, current owner of Pestmasters, is hoping to fill a void left by the recent dissolvent of the county’s Keep Bulloch Beautiful curbside recycling program. The problem he sees himself facing is customer acquisition. “How do I get these commercial properties to want to recycle? How do I get those customers to understand that there’s a value in what I do?”

Brian Reiss, owner of Party Harbor, reminisced about growing up in New York and getting paid five cents per can to recycle. “So I’ve been recycling since I was a little kid, it was ingrained in us, plus we wanted that nickel.” Since it was something he learned early in life, he and his family are still passionate about recycling. He suggested getting more literature out to educate the community on the importance of recycling to get their buy-in. Joseph Akins, 84 Lumber, suggested building on the synergy of his Pestmaster business to incentivize current customers to also use his recycling services by offering some kind of discount.

The first BIG Café was a tremendous success. Thanks to everyone who attended and gave such invaluable feedback. Special thanks to the presenters as well. If you would like to present your business obstacle(s) at BIG Café please contact Jill Johns at jjohns@georgiasouthern.edu or 912-478-0872. The forum is not only a wonderful networking opportunity, but also a chance to learn from other entrepreneurs.

The next BIG Café will be Wednesday, October 14 at 9 a.m. RSVP here.


Entrepreneur Lecture Series to Feature Digital Cobbler, Lucy Beard

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On Tuesday, April 28, at 5:30 p.m., in the College of Engineering and Information Technology, Room 1004, the Georgia Southern College of Business Administration Business Innovation Group (BIG) will host the Entrepreneur Lecture Series with speaker, Lucy Beard, as she discusses her adventures in starting Feetz, the digital cobbler for the new era.

After becoming frustrated trying on several pairs of ill-fitting shoes, Beard pondered the idea of custom-fit shoes using 3D printer technology. She and her team spent a year developing the unique SizeMe™ technology with guidance from experts in footwear and 3D printing.

Customers use the Feetz mobile app to take three pictures of each of their feet. Then, the customer designs and personalizes their Feetz shoes to fit his/her own personal style. The shoes are then 3D printed and shipped to the customer.Feetz-3DPrintedShoe-TheCord2

Feetz relocated from San Diego into The TENN Master Accelerator Program at Launch Tennessee in Chattanooga. The company has since developed patent-protected algorithms and customized software that create the 3D printable shoes from models of customers’ feet. The company has also been working on novel material compositions and material designs to extend the durability and flexibility of the 3D printable materials available. Beard has also raised $1.3 million in seed funding from Khosla Ventures and The JumpFund.

BIG is excited to have Lucy Beard share her story and amazing technology with the Georgia Southern community as it awaits the much anticipated construction of the digital fabrication laboratory (FabLab) slated to open at City Campus. Growth of the City Campus with the FabLab and Innovation Incubator will bring similar opportunities to entrepreneurs and innovators in the region.

The Entrepreneur Lecture series was developed by the Center for Entrepreneurial Learning and Leadership as a way to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit. This lecture series plays a great role in helping to harness and grow an innovative culture in the region. For more information or further inquiries, please email Suzanne Hallman, BIG business advisor, at shallman@georgiasouthern.edu.


Local Georgia Southern alumni speak to students about entrepreneurship

Bradley OdomThree local Georgia Southern alumni spoke to Chris Welter’s entrepreneurship class at Georgia Southern University on starting their own business.

“You don’t have to be the smartest person, just honest and a people person,” said Bradley Odom, owner of Swim. Bike. Run. Boro.

Odom graduated from Georgia Southern with a Health and Physical Education degree. He taught for six years but always knew he wanted to start his own business so he started his own auto detailing company. Making more money detailing cars than teaching, Odom acquired heavy equipment and began detailing Chatham County’s school buses.

Odom began running but after becoming injured started swimming. He became interested in triathlons and soon developed the idea for an endurance store. Due to his passion and the niche market, the bank approved and Swim. Bike. Run. was started.

Ryan Brack, a Georgia Southern graduate of the College of Information Technology, is the owner of Crossfit Boro. After failing to grab employment at large corporations, Brack began working on computers for family and friends.

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Courtesy of Crossfit Boro website

Eventually reaching 350 pounds, Brack decided to make a change and joined a gym. He offered to purchase the gym but was turned down by the owner. After receiving his Crossfit certification, he bought a small space and began Crossfit Boro, going from zero to 96 members in the first month. Crossfit Boro outgrew its original location and is now located in a 7200 square foot facility.

Woody Johnson, an entrepreneur since the age of eight, graduated from Georgia Southern in 1978, learning key entrepreneurial skills while serving as president of Kappa Sigma Fraternity. With a strong interest in commercial real estate, Johnson began a property management company. Johnson made a deal with four Papa John’s pizza stores and in 2010 Johnson bought six stores for Marco’s Pizza.

Savannah area residents became interested in a partnership with Johnson and Marco’s Pizza, but due to the lack of key knowledge about the interactions, Johnson bought them out. Within 14 months, Johnson has acquired seven Marco’s Pizza locations.

Marco's_057“I wanted a lifestyle where I could spend time with my family and give back to the community and that’s where I’m at now,” said Johnson.

To be a successful entrepreneur, the three alumni agreed it was important to be persistent and to have a good accountant. Money isn’t always necessary at the front end of beginning a business.

“If you want it bad enough, you’ll be able to find the money.  If your passion is there, people will invest in you,” said Brack.