When you’ve made a career out of managing disaster response teams, serving cold cones of shaved ice out of a truck sounds practically like retirement.
But for Dean Dozier, who owns the local Kona Ice franchise with his wife, Denise, switching from employee to entrepreneur took a lot of work and quite a bit of faith. Especially considering he moved to the area practically sight unseen from his home state of Louisianafive years ago.
“We knew what we were getting into with the franchise, but we were not sure what the market forces were going to be like,” saidDozier, 60. “Like most things that are new, you’ve got to build a brand and build a reputation. Unless you’re opening a Starbucks or aMcDonald’s or something with name recognition, it takes a lot of marketing and a lot of contacts.”
Fortunately for the former petroleum engineer and emergency management coordinator, he was able to secure financing from Navy Federal Credit Union after finding the help he needed from local small business resources such as the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce in Evans and the University of Georgia Small BusinessDevelopment Center in downtown Augusta.
Such organizations will be in the spotlight during National Small Business Week May 1-5, an event the U.S. Small Business Administration has recognized since 1963 to celebrate the businesses that employ roughly half of all Americans and create approximately two out of every three of its new jobs.
The SBA defines small business as any enterprise with 500 or fewer employees.
SBA Administrator Linda McMahon – former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, a company she built with her husband, Vince – will be promoting entrepreneurship at events in Washington during the week.
“My husband and I started our business sharing a desk,” she wrote in a recent blog post. “Over decades of hard work growing our business, that company we created now has grown to a publicly traded enterprise with more than 800 employees and consumers in180 countries worldwide.”
For Dozier, a trained geologist and petroleum engineer who served in emergency management roles during disasters such as HurricaneKatrina and the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill, the desire to be his own boss snowballed as his time away from home intensified.
“It was an interesting career, but far too many air miles and hotel points,” he said of his former career, which included a three-year stint working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington. “It was always in the back of my mind to do something. I just didn’t know what.”
Everything clicked, however, after he had his first Kona Ice in 2013. The Kentucky-based company was only three years old at that point, but Dozier liked what he saw. And he liked the product.
“Coming from Louisiana, especially in New Orleans, it’s kind of shaved ice country,” he said.
He and his wife spent months doing demographic research and decided they would settle in Augusta, which had no Kona Ice franchises and was only a 10-hour drive from Louisiana and eight hours from Maryland, where Denise is from.
Five years, four trucks and 12 employees later, Dozier has had no regrets.
“Business is doing very well,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”
His favorite flavor, by the way: Green Apple Margarita.