Small Business Success Stories
Growing in Place
Opened as a portrait photography studio by three friends — an engineer, a CPA and an educator — Orlando-based RTW Photography enjoyed quick success with its creative take on photo shoots for weddings, graduations, special events and commercial services.
Leading the charge was founder and CEO Derrious Robinson who quickly brought on long-time friends LaVell Monger and Walter Trè Idlette as he expanded the business to include videography and a photo booth. It wasn’t enough.
Says Robinson, “We needed a long-term plan for how to grow our business.”
With help from FSBDC at the University of Central Florida and its affiliate, the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at UCF, Robinson, Monger and Idlette grew their commercial client base, built a better website, learned how to forecast financial needs and landed their first-ever government contract — 10 years as official photographers for Hillsborough County Public Schools. Bottom line: RTW grew its revenues by 40% in 2020 alone.
For more information about RTW Photography, please visit ridethewave.co.
Puttin’ on the Shine
Shelley Powell is no stranger to hard work. As founder and president of Orlando-based Covenant Cleaning Services since 1999, she has cared for the needs of her clients with one hand, while building her own business with the other. “We pride ourselves on our clients’ satisfaction,” says Powell. “Taking care of them and any issue that might arise is where we shine.”
Where Covenant didn’t always shine, however, was in managing its own business.
“There was so much I didn’t know,” says Powell, “but since working with the FSBDC in Orlando since 2014, I’ve seen amazing, positive changes. Everything from an increase in sales — as high as 45% one year — to going from 23 employees to 38 today, and rebalancing our client base to 60% commercial/40% residential and, at the same time, increasing our profitability. It’s all the result of Covenant Cleaning Services working hand-in-hand with FSBDC.”
For more information about Covenant Cleaning, please visit covenantcleaningorlando.com.
A Plateful of Growth
Six years ago, Alain Lemaire was an obscure kitchen chef working at various events and festivals in South Florida who couldn’t imagine running his own business or competing on a notorious food network television series like "Chopped." But thanks to this chef’s extraordinary talents and expert guidance from the SBDC at Florida Atlantic University, a future that once seemed unlikely for Lemaire is today reality.
Together with his partner Neima Belancourt-Heraux, Chef Lemaire has launched Sensory Delights Catering, with a Caribbean inspired menu, for weddings, large corporate events and small private social gatherings. Business was slow at first, but quickly grew with the addition of digital marketing, branding strategies and social media engagement. “We have more growing to do,” says Lemaire, “but with help from Florida SBDC at FAU, our plans to open a permanent location will finally come true.”