Small Businesses Make a Big Difference - Western

Apr 25, 2011

These seven small businesses were named regional finalists for the U.S. Chamber’s Dream Big: Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam’s Club®. One of them will receive the award during America’s Small Business Summit 2011 in Washington, D.C., May 23–25. The award recognizes a company for demonstrating exemplary business practices in the areas of staff training and motivation, community involvement, customer service, and business and financial planning. For more information, go to www.uschambersummit.com.

WESTERN
Praetorian Group

San Francisco, California
Provides online resources and cutting-edge information to first responders.

Did starting your business at only 24-years-old make it harder for you to find investors?
Co-founder and CEO Alex Ford: Back in 1999, the Internet was new and exciting and was going to change the world. I was working with a friend of mine who owned a web design business. One of his projects was a small law enforcement website. We saw the need and opportunity for a place where first responders could easily share information. We pitched our idea to an angel investor, and he offered us the money.

How did the tech bubble impact your business? 
When the bubble popped, it popped. We were left with a company of 40 employees that was $500,000 in debt and had no revenue model. Without access to capital, we had to figure out what to do and how to monetize this idea that we still really believed in. We moved to a dingy office that also housed a fish processing plant and a fruit market, and it had a serious rat problem. We downsized to three employees. It was a combination of keeping everything up and running and wearing a lot of hats.

What’s your advice for other small business owners?
Going through a boom, a bust, and a recession, I recognize that small business owners are in a really unique position, and we define our own reality. You need to be proactive. If your business model isn’t working, or the economy is in a downturn, or you don’t like your company culture, you can fix it. Break it down and fix it. As small business owners, we have the opportunity.

Eastern - Next Step Orthotics & Prosthetics Inc.
Great Lakes - Red Frog Events
Midwest - Heritage Homes
Northwest - R&R Conner Inc.
Southeast - Prestige Cleaners
Southwest & South Central - Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates
 

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