Woman-Owned Small Business Spotlight: Visual Workplace, Inc.

Welcome to the first edition of our woman-owned small business spotlight series. This edition highlights the safety solution company Visual Workplace, Inc. The company’s CEO, Rhonda Kovera, shares her story and advice for other woman-owned small businesses.

What inspired you to start Visual Workplace?

I always had an inspiration for improvement and realized that there were not many product solutions in the marketplace for this [lean and safety solutions]. I tested the ideas with the company I had been currently working with and found there was a tremendous need. Using my industry experience, I built a sales organization to fill this need.

When working for others, it was sometimes difficult to see how others managed. I felt that if I ever had the opportunity to lead a company, I would make sure that I was objective, fair, and would not ask anyone to do something I would not do. Having the opportunity to start this company allowed me to fulfill a market need and run a business differently than I had ever witnessed.

What is your proudest moment for Visual Workplace?

Buying our facility was a very proud moment. It was a tremendous endeavor but provided a great return on our investment. It was similar to buying your first house – it can be very scary, but you adjust to the mortgage payment and begin to build equity.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome with your company?

Determining when to take risks and when to hold tight has been my biggest challenge. Financing typically plays a role in risk, but when it does not and you have the opportunity to grow, expand, or invest it can be frightening. You should get the best advice you can and follow your instincts.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Build an advisory board! You need to have a strong team of people you can rely on when you have questions, ideas, or difficulty. It does not necessarily have to be a formal team, but find resources that you trust for advice and honest feedback. Include individuals from sales, human resources, operations, and finance.

Do you have any advice or resource suggestions for woman-owned small businesses?

Always keep your word! Be conservative if you have to and try to under-promise and over-deliver. This is important for your customers, employees, banks, and especially you.

To learn more about Visual Workplace, visit their website at https://www.visualworkplaceinc.com/.

The Benefits of Woman-Owned Small Business Certification

From the stamp of approval for the government contracting industry to the relationships built, becoming certified as a woman-owned small business (WOSB) has benefitted our company in many ways. Though JetCo Federal doesn’t rely on the certification to win new businesses, we know industry partners care that we have the certification. Here are some of the benefits we’ve experienced from getting certified as a woman-owned small business.

Stamp of Approval for Government Contracting

The women-owned small business (WOSB) program began in December of 2000 to help the federal government meet its goal of awarding at least 5% of all contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses. As a company that sells to the government, winning bids is an important part of our work, and as a woman-owned small business, we wanted to make sure we had access to these contracting dollars set aside for WOSBs.

Eligibility for these contracting dollars requires getting certified as a WOSB through a certification program. Our organization decided to go with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification and now we have the government’s stamp of approval to bid on those contracts set aside for WOSBs.

Relationships Formed with Other WOSBs

Another benefit of getting certified as a WOSB is that it helps you find and form relationships with other woman-owned small businesses. The network of woman-owned small businesses is tight-knit. We’re thankful for those we’ve connected with and are even starting a quarterly WOSB highlight this month to shed a light on incredible WOSBs throughout the country.

Getting certified as a woman-owned small business may not be for everyone, but we’ve seen the benefits of certification help advance business goals. Here’s what our President, Sue Tellier, had to say about WOSB certification.

“WBENC certification gives a stamp of credibility to woman-owned small businesses, verifying the authenticity of the ‘woman-owned’ claim. This opens doors to new markets and new audiences within existing client relationships. We are proud of our proven capabilities and don’t rely on the WBENC logo to win business, yet we know savvy buyers and supplier diversity professionals care that we have it.”

Interested in learning more about how you can utilize our WOSB status as a supplier? Contact us for more information.

Big Impact from Small Businesses

This is a challenging time for small business owners. The unpredictable, ever-changing nature of our economy due to the global pandemic causes ambiguity for employers and employees. Many service providers are sending multiple alerts each day, flooding our inboxes with well-intentioned information.

So many of my close friends are other small business owners. We’ve been talking, commiserating, and sharing online about the horrible options in front of us. Some had to close in the early days of the pandemic because of the nature of their business – they are hospitality or salons or gyms. I’ve heard their pain in having to close or severely curtail operations. It’s heartbreaking to watch affected companies and their leaders make difficult decisions about shuttering or temporary layoffs.

Silver linings for small businesses will become more evident with time. A few have already jumped out.

  1. It becomes VERY obvious if a small business is working with the right partner for accounting and insurance. I’ve sent thank you emails to our CPA, Rehmann, and commercial insurance company, BHS. They’ve really killed it with timely information, giving it concisely and intuitively. Our banker at Macatawa Bank has also reached out proactively to ensure we have all the information we need and has calmly and quickly responded to any questions.
  2. Small businesses support other small businesses. This is demonstrated with our purchasing decisions and through information sharing and support. I’m having a weekly virtual happy hour with about a dozen women who own businesses in Michigan (Sheri Welsh, Welsh and Associates; Gina Thorson, Stormy Kromer; Rebecca Cox, Savant Group; Lorri Rishar, EDGE Partnerships; Ginny Sherrow, Fenton Winery and Brewery; Sassa Akervall, Akervall Technologies; Anita Abrol, Lewis Knopf CPAs; Sue LaBonville, Allis Information Management.) It’s therapeutic, and can make us all feel less lonely about the tough decisions.
  3. Standout employees show their stripes. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with my team. They are working tenaciously to support each other, step in where help is needed, and become even more intense. We have coffee mugs that say “No damn whining.” Their actions show these aren’t just words.
  4. Inspiration is EVERWHERE. Two very close friends, Gina Thorson of Stormy Kromer and Sassa Akervall of Akervall Technologies (who are part of my weekly virtual happy hour), retooled their manufacturing operations to make masks, gowns, and face shields. This kept their employees working, and flattened the impact of closures on their revenue streams.
  5. Sharing talent and time matters. Every text I’ve gotten from a business owner friend, I’ve responded quickly and helpfully. They’ve done the same. (Kim Bode, Jennifer Jurgens, Jason Dodge… the list goes ON.)Crisis breeds creativity.

Small business owners are creative as hell.