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Woman-Owned Small Business Spotlight: SPACE, Inc.

This is the third edition of our woman-owned small business spotlight series. For this edition, we take a look at SPACE, Inc., a company focused on workplace interiors. The company’s Dealer Principal, Kathie Fuce-Hobohm, gives an inside look on SPACE and gives advice for other woman-owned small businesses.

Can you provide a brief overview of what SPACE does?

SPACE is a WBENC-certified, woman-owned small business (WOSB) that specializes in designing, selling, and installing beautiful and functional workplace interiors. Incorporated in 1995, we have a professionally trained team of interior designers, product specialists, project managers, and installers focused on developing productive and sustainable working environments that enhance productivity and meet the project mission. Our projects are monitored from beginning to end to provide each customer the finest in turnkey services.

SPACE is passionately committed to impacting the work lives of everyone we touch by crafting brilliantly creative, highly efficient, and sustainable workplaces for businesses and federal agencies. Our clients look to us for more than providing products; they rely on us for interior spaces that meet a triple bottom line—people, profit, and planet.

What inspired you to start SPACE?

I am what is known as an “accidental entrepreneur” and opened SPACE when the company I had previously worked for closed their doors in October of 1994.  I knew I did not want to work for anyone else, so I opened SPACE, Inc. 90 days later. It was quite an adventure.

What is your proudest moment for SPACE?

I am always proud when one of our team members steps firmly out of their comfort zone, “finds their voice,” and grows professionally. That is immensely rewarding. From a business standpoint, when we won the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch and being named one of the Best and Brightest Companies to work for every year from 2017 to 2020.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome with SPACE?

It would have to be learning to lead the business. I did not have any leadership experience or business acumen when I started SPACE, Inc.  Being able to lead an organization is massively different than owning a company and learning to lead is a daily challenge.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

You must be able to understand and use all your financial data. Someone once told me that learning to read financials is like learning to read music. I agree. The better you read and interpret the information the better you can run your organization.

Do you have any suggestions on resources that women-owned small businesses should use?

I love the Aileron organization in Dayton. Their mission is to help small businesses grow and their courses/information are extremely helpful.  Also, the Edward Lowe Foundation sponsors CEO roundtables using a technique called “Peerspectives.”  And finally, The Small Business Association of Michigan, or SBAM, has an Owner to Owner program that connects small business owners and facilitates peer learning.

To learn more about SPACE, Inc. visit their website at http://spaceinc.net/

Carrie Jokiel of ChemTrack

Woman-Owned Small Business Spotlight: ChemTrack

Welcome to the second edition of our woman-owned small business spotlight series. This edition highlights ChemTrack, an environmental engineering, remediation services, and construction company. The company’s President, Carrie Jokiel, shares her story and advice for other woman-owned small businesses.

Can you provide a brief overview of what ChemTrack does?

ChemTrack is an 8(a) Alaskan Woman-Owned Small Business, specializing in environmental engineering, remediation services, and construction. We combine geological, chemical, hydrological, and engineering expertise with a broad understanding of regulatory and risk frameworks to solve environmental assessment and regulatory compliance problems for our clients. ChemTrack tailors innovative methods and concepts to individual problems and provides environmental solutions, especially as they apply to arctic and subarctic conditions in Alaska.

What inspired you to start ChemTrack?

I’m a born and raised Alaskan woman and second-generation “ChemTrackian.” My mother grew up in bush Alaska, our remote areas, as my grandparents were teachers in the villages. My dad emigrated here from Germany to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks back in the ‘60s. He fell in love with my mom and the spirit of Alaska. Being raised with that same spirit led me to becoming partners with my father and eventually becoming majority owner. We both share the entrepreneurial spirit that comes from the beauty and opportunities this great State has to offer.

That combination of respect and entrepreneurship has created a workforce culture that truly enjoys what we do to prevent negative environmental impacts, restore our remote areas to their original pristine conditions, and work together with our clients that share our passion for the State of Alaska.

What is your proudest moment for ChemTrack?

This summer season is already kicking off to be my proudest moment. I feel like we have arrived.  We have worked incredibly hard to be prepared to have a good season and I see the fruit of that labor happening. We were coming off a tough, stressful season last year, and the resilience my team has shown along with the can-do spirit, has been incredible to witness.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome with ChemTrack?

We had a project go sideways two seasons ago that had a ripple effect into last year’s season as well.  It stressed our company at every level; it pulled my focus away from our strategic plan into survival mode; it affected the crew involved on the project, from the project manager to each laborer.  Amazingly, it also bonded us together. We were all in the trenches together, backs against a wall, and we survived. I wouldn’t wish tough days on any business owner, but the grit my crew showed and what we learned from our challenge has made us a much better company and now, we are poised to thrive.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Listen to the nudges you feel when leading. Realize you are a master of your trade and how you lead may seem unique to the mainstream we are often surrounded by. Know that your intuitiveness matters, and is at its core, how YOU run your company. Basically, you know what you’re doing – keep crushin’ it.

Do you have any suggestions on resources that women-owned small businesses should use?

To keep up on what our government is doing to help women-owned small businesses, get involved in Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).  If starting out, get to know your PTAC office.  If a federal contractor, get to know your local SBA office personnel.  If you’re a federal contractor and can budget it, use a service like FEDMINE to track and monitor RFPs, competitors, and contracts. Good luck!

To learn more about ChemTrack, visit their website at http://chemtrack.net/.

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/.