EDITOR'S NOTE: Building a Business is a yearlong series in which The Augusta Chronicle follows the progress of a local startup company, Everthere Carriers LLC, as it attempts to take its fledgling product to a national market. The following is the final story in the monthly series.
Overcome with emotion, Steve Threet addressed his family, friends and business partners at the Everthere Carriers Christmas party.
As the company president reflected on a year of business deals, negotiations and country-wide travel, he spoke to all those responsible for making it happen.
"This is a family to me," Mr. Threet said standing tall with tears in his eyes at B.C. Davenport's in North Augusta. "I truly believe we can do great things."
Twelve months earlier, Everthere leaders were working out of their homes on a product that had kinks and little traction in the marketplace.
Now, Mr. Threet and his partners are bracing for a busy year. The company, first comprised of Mr. Threet and his brother-in-laws, Jack and Travis Mason, has grown into a full-fledged operation.
It continues to grow. There are deals in the works with national retailers that are poised to break in the first quarter next year, Mr. Threet said.
As of now, growth can be funded by the company's gradually increasing sales, he said. If a giant national retailer suddenly wants 20,000 units, however, they will rely on funding from the bank for this possible surge in Everthere's demand.
"At some point we're going to take a huge jump. I don't know how big a jump that will be," he said.
The eventual goal is for Everthere Carriers to be sold in all the major "big-box" retailers, Mr. Threet said.
In the past two months, Everthere signed a contract with E-Z-Go to sell carriers as accessories to the Augusta company's ST-Trail Vehicle, targeted to hunters and outdoors sportsmen.
For example, if a hunter nabs a buck, he or she can haul it back to the house in the carrier.
"We like the design of the Everthere Carrier," E-Z-Go spokesman Ron Skenes said. "It's very rugged. It's very lightweight. It's easy to store, and it's just a real handy accessory."
If the carrier proves successful with the trail vehicle, E-Z-Go might market the product with its other vehicles, Mr. Skenes said.
Mr. Threet said three sales employees will be hired next month to help handle Everthere's sales growth. On Jan. 1, the company also will launch its new product, the Everthere Mobility Carrier, a two-piece lift and carrier that allows the disabled to easily transport their scooter or wheelchair.
"Everthere will be a well-recognized name," Mr. Threet said. "Just give us three or four or five years."
Gauging the true success of a startup business can't be determined until then, said Bernard Girouard, a counselor with Aiken's chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Until then, you're just in "formative stages," he said.
New companies need to continue to network and get their names out, Mr. Girouard said.
"That's one of the greatest ways to grow a small business," he said.
For future expansion, they also will need a business plan, he said. Business works in cycles. A good year this year might not guarantee one next year. Securing a business plan that states how you will fund operations when times get tough is essential, he said.
"When you do a business plan, you can project what's going to happen and you can try and minimize negative things that are bound to happen because you've thought about it in advance," Mr. Girouard said.
Organizations, such as SCORE are in place, to help small businesses establish their plan.
Everthere has its plan, but problems are bound to creep up in 2006, Mr. Threet said.
"We're not in smooth sailing, however, we're getting close," Mr. Threet said. "We believe we'll realize the American dream."
Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.