Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 9:14 am, Sun Jan 30, 2011.

New entrepreneurs gain tips, insight from 8-week course

By MIKE ELSWICK melswick@news-journal.com Longview News-Journal 

New East Texas entrepreneurs James Vaughan and Brooke Crisler did not let obstacles such as being a college student or a parent with a baby on the way stand in the way of fulfilling their dreams of being business owners.
While their ventures are different, Vaughan and Crisler said they found a key resource at the Kilgore College Small Business Development Center in establishing their respective businesses and getting them started on the right foot.
The next series of the eight-week “How to Start and Operate a Business in East Texas” classes start in February in Longview, Gilmer and Marshall.
‘Huge market’
Pallet Jack Services is the name of the firm Vaughan started in 2010 after seeing what he felt was opportunity calling. He had been working as a welder at a Longview manufacturing plant.
“When things were slow in the welding shop, they’d send me to the pallet department,” Vaughan said. There he got experience repairing and working with pallets — and the nugget of an idea for starting his own business.
“Longview is exploding these days,” he said. “There’s a huge market for moving things.”
And, when a lot of those materials get moved, they get moved on pallets, he said.
His father owned and operated his own machine shop for years and served, in part, as Vaughan’s inspiration for venturing out on his own.
“He was very independent. I had a good mentor,” Vaughan said.

Crisler is the owner and operator of Babies N Bellies — A Maternity and Baby Boutique in Longview at 100 Tall Pines Ave.
Being her own boss is the culmination of a longtime dream. Crisler said when she started looking for business opportunities, she felt she discovered an underserved niche in the maternity and newborn arena.
“Now I have more time with my family, and I’m doing what I love,” Crisler said. She previously worked as a case manager for the Texas Mental Health and Mental Retardation Commission.
That job kept her on the road and out of town, sometimes for days at a time. With a 5-month-old and 4-year-old, that travel got to be an issue.
“I always wanted to start my own business,” she said. “A lot of my friends suggested there was a need in Longview for this type of shop.
She attended the Kilgore College Small Business Development business startup course in the fall with her husband, Jeff, who also operates his own part-time business.
Crisler said attending the course was a good investment of time and money on her part.
“It was really informative,” she said. “The speakers offered a lot of tips on the right way to get a business going.”
Crisler said one of the sessions featured Julia Barron, the longtime operator of Barron’s Books and Gifts and Café Barron’s with her husband, Jim.
“She was inspirational, but focused on the good and the bad,” Crisler said. “She emphasized that you need to dedicate yourself to it because your business becomes your baby — it’s a part of you.”
Crisler said the course offered a lot of tips on areas she was not familiar with, but which are vital parts of operating a business successfully.
“Attending the classes helped me think about a lot of things you don’t normally think about — like taxes and the sacrifice it takes,” she said. “I would definitely recommend it for anyone thinking of going into business.”

Learning curve

Vaughan said as he set about making his dream of being a business owner a reality, he also realized he had a lot to learn. He found sources of pallets, tracked down potential customers and put tools to work making sure the pallets he was selling were to quality and would serve his clients needs.
To fill that learning void, he enrolled in last fall’s session of “How to Start and Operate a Business in East Texas.” Brad Bunt, executive director of the center, said the Kilgore College Small Business Development Center has provided tips to hundreds of students during the past 19 years.
“If you are looking to start a small business or learn how to successfully operate a current business, this course is for you,” Bunt said.
In Vaughan’s case, he had already started Pallet Jack when he signed up for the course. Despite the fact he got involved after making the plunge to entrepreneurship, he found the time and money invested in the eight-week class well worth it.
“I learned a lot about organizing a business, taking care of taxes and ways to fill in the cracks of things I wasn’t familiar with and how to apply things I knew I was supposed to take care of,” Vaughan said. He said the computerized bookkeeping and tips on maintaining records, such as all receipts, have helped set Pallet Jack Services on the road to profitability.
Bunt said the center’s eight-week business startup course is designed for people like Crisler and Vaughan who want to venture into the world of business on their own.
The course will be offered 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday evenings, Feb. 10 through April 7 at KC-Longview’s Hendrix Building, Room 107.
The same course will be offered Tuesday evenings, Feb. 8 through April 5, in Marshall at the Marshall Center for Applied Technology, Conference Room D, at 2660 Southeast End Blvd.
It also will be offered Feb. 8 through April 5 in Gilmer at the Etex Telephone Cooperative, at 1013 Highway 155 North.
This course was designed by Bunt and Sandra Russell CPA, in an effort to aid current and future entrepreneurs not only with the difficult decision of going into business for them selves, but also with the difficult day-to-day decisions regarding the operation of a business.
Whether it is poor or ineffective management, lack of financial resources, or a lack of information and planning, many business startups fail within the first five years of operation, Bunt said.