Charitable donations, employee volunteer programs and sponsorships are just a few popular ones.
But KeeFORCE President Terry McKee wanted to help local businesses and provide more than a one-time bump, said David Morse, KeeFORCE marketing director.
Launched in 2011 by Symsonia-based IT firm KeeFORCE, the KeeFORCE Xtreme Business Makeover provides an emerging business with more than $40,000 worth of services from more than 20 local companies. The services offered are from a wide range of local businesses — accounting firm, phone service company, flooring store, etc. — and are geared toward developing a business.
Businesses apply for the makeover and an independent panel selects a winner based on demonstrated need, community involvement and dedication to growing the company.
The commitment is intense for both KeeFORCE and the other participating businesses.
For 10 months out of the year, Morse’s department dedicates time to organizing local businesses for the contest, coordinating its services and following up with the winners.
“We talk to the winner every couple of weeks to make sure everything is going as planned,” Morse said. “I think that everyone is starting to gain a sense of what this contest is about. ... It’s a community project and there’s now an understanding of how it can help the community.”
Morse announced the launch of the third makeover earlier this month, which will accept applications through March 7 (see box for more information).
It’s a unique and, so far, effective approach that has brought together the business community. It has also touched upon a vital part of the region’s economy.
Jobs and small businesses
The vast majority of western Kentucky’s job growth since the early 1990s has been generated by small, locally-owned businesses, according to a report led by Dr. James L. Stapleton.
Stapleton is the executive director of the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Southeast Missouri State University.
The Delta Regional Authority supported his research. The Delta region covers 252 counties and parishes in eight states, including the counties in western Kentucky.
The report found that the Delta region is becoming one of increasingly local, smaller firms. Nearly 42 percent of all jobs in the region at the beginning of 2010 were offered by small businesses with nine or fewer employees.
Since 1992, locally-owned establishments in the Delta region with nine or fewer employees have created more than 91 percent of net new jobs, according to the report.
So the makeover isn’t just bringing the business community together for a project, it’s providing help to a vital part of the region’s economy — the small business startups and existing businesses needing a lift.
Who it’s helped
Growing grapes and nurturing a vineyard for years was easy compared to building a business, Steve Glisson said.
Glisson, along with his wife Katie Glisson, has cultivated an emerging vineyard in Lone Oak, and a downtown Paducah retail operation, from what used to be a hobby and a former booth at the local Farmer’s Market.
What do the Glissons credit for helping them over the hump from hobby to a full-time business?
The makeover, which they were awarded in the spring of 2012.
Steve Glisson offers a warning, however. “If you own a business starting out, I do encourage you to apply for it (the makeover),” Glisson said.
“But if you don’t have the time to put forth to this, don’t apply. It’s very time consuming.”
In January, Glisson discussed designs for a new bottle logo and a new website with a representative from Solution Media Group in Mayfield. Since the spring, the Glissons added two part-time workers, and have turned the tasting room at 126 Market House Square into an events hall and gift shop hawking their wines and other craft items.
The contest’s first winner, Riley Architect Services in Mayfield, has also emphasized the intense level of commitment and high impact results that the makeover brings.
“It’s not always the tangible results that we stress either,” said Don Riley in mid-January. “Our name recognition went way up.”
Riley, who launched the firm at 105 W. Broadway in Mayfield in 2005 along with wife Elizabeth Riley, said the networking that the makeover provides is invaluable as well.
In the two years since the makeover began, Riley said the company has taken a new direction with more projects designing buildings for nonprofits and churches. The firm is set to design a new girl’s home for New Pathways for Children, and has added three new nonprofit clients in the last year, Riley said.
This year, 21 companies pledged nearly $45,000 worth of services, some from first-time participants such as WPSD Local 6 and FNB Bank.
Particularly rewarding for all involved is how the makeover’s winners have participated. Riley Architect Services pledged $3,500 of services to the makeover that Glisson Vineyards & Winery eventually won. The Glissons have offered to host a 20-person party or meeting at the tasting room downtown to this year’s winner, a package valued at $500.
“As long as we have the community behind us, and we have applicants, we will continue to (host the makeover),” Morse said. “We’re looking for those success stories.”
The 21 companies participating in the third KeeFORCE Xtreme Business Makeover: 1187 Creative, Four Rivers Business Journal, Capstone HR, EntrePaducah, FNB Bank, Frick Investment Group/Money Concepts, Glisson Vineyards & Winery, Goodman Lumber & Hardwood Flooring, iListPaducah, KeeFORCE, Long & Long PLLC, mylocalconnect.com, Omni On Hold Messaging, Peel & Holland, Petter Business Systems, Rene Advertising Specialties, Solution Media Group, Turner Communications, WPSD Local 6, Williams, Williams & Lentz CPA, Workforce Solutions at West Kentucky Community & Technical College.
Contact Adam Shull, Journal editor, at 270-575-8653 or follow @adamshull on Twitter.
KeeFORCE is accepting applications for the third KeeFORCE Xtreme Business Makeover.
Eligibility and selection:
—Contest is open to new and established businesses with three or more employees.
—Business must have been in operation for more than two years as of Jan. 5.
—Must be located in the eight-county Purchase region in western Kentucky.
—Non-profit organizations and home-based businesses are not eligible.
—Winner is selected by a independent panel of judges from the region based on demonstrated need, community involvement and dedication to growing their business in the region.
Applications and deadline: Applications will be accepted through March 7 and are online at keeforce.com/makeover. Applications are also at participating businesses. Find more at keeforce.com.