Ten years ago, Alexandra Radford and Lauren Tatum were teenagers at a Gwinnett County high school where they shared common interests like fashion, friends and cheerleading.
Today, the two women still share interests but now those are graphic design, social media marketing and business operations at the small business they own together, the Edge Agency in Buford, Georgia.
There’s often also another party to the conversation: the UGA Small Business Development Center, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. The mission of the SBDC is to strengthen small business through one-on-one consulting as well as with trainings and workshops.
Radford first turned to the SBDC when she launched her first business in 2016. A UGA graduate in consumer journalism, she felt comfortable working with consultants from UGA. SBDC consultants helped her get the Limited Liability Corporation status and a business license for her company, Edge Marketing Company, LLC.
At the time Tatum was running a separate company that handled marketing for small businesses, and the two friends referred clients back and forth to each other for different services.
“One day we said, why are we doing this? This is silly. We could join and do this together,” Tatum said. “So that’s what we did. We took our two small business and put them together.”
They turned back to the SBDC to help form the new business, the Edge Agency. The transition was much easier with SBDC assistance, Radford said.
“I remember talking to the SBDC about an operating agreement, but it wasn’t something I needed when it was just me. When Lauren and I [put our businesses] together, it was something we did need and I wouldn’t have known about it without the SBDC,” Radford said.
Benny StaRomana, an SBDC consultant in the Gwinnett office—one of 17 regional SBDC offices across the state—helped the women through a strategic plan for their consolidated business.
“I helped them develop a strategy to accelerate cash flow by focusing on markets that are most receptive to their unique strengths.” StaRomana said. “Our role at the SBDC is to look at the underlying foundation and fundamentals of the business, including how to improve sales, which is always a major goal especially for emerging businesses.”
Although Radford and Tatum are young, they understand and can help their clients understand communications, relationships and psychology—a unique advantage StaRomana helped them find.
“The Edge Agency will ask clients, ‘Who is your ideal customer?’ If it’s a boutique selling clothes to 22- to 39-year-old women, earning $60,000 and above with small families, they know how to relate that demographic information to a website and design choices,” StaRomana said.
In just over two years, the Edge Agency has grown to four employees with more than 20 clients located not just in Georgia but also internationally. Clients range from companies focusing on real estate, events, fitness and wellness, insurance and nonprofits, to even plumbing.
Now, the women are in a place where they’re regularly invited to tell their story during SBDC training classes, like StartSmart™, for new businesses, and GrowSmart™, to help businesses expand. They also regularly refer clients and industry colleagues to the SBDC.
“I recently sent a friend who was debating buying a book of business (a list of someone else’s clients) to the SBDC,” Radford said. “My uncle is also debating opening a franchise, so I told him he had to go. I tell people, why would you not go? It’s free. I throw it out there every chance I get.”
“We still meet with Benny StaRomana once, or every other month. The best leaders are always learning,” Tatum said. “Our advice to other young entrepreneurs: keep learning.”
Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator
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