Maintaining a growth path can present challenges for a small business in any economy, but even more so during a pandemic. Fortunately, there are resources and support available to help business owners navigate potential obstacles and capitalize on possible opportunities. Over several years, and especially during 2020, Shelley Powell, the founder and President of Covenant Cleaning Services, called upon the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for its no-cost consulting services, business training, and market research support. And it has paid off handsomely for her and her company.
Covenant Cleaning Services – “Where Service is our Pledge” – has been providing honest and dependable residential and commercial cleaning services in the Orlando area since 1999. As its name implies, Powell believes her company makes a promise to her clients: to provide high quality people; top end equipment and supplies; and exceptional service. “We pride ourselves in our clients’ satisfaction,” she says. “Taking care of them and any issue that might arise is where we shine.”
Early on in her venture, Powell quickly recognized that caring for customers is one thing, but running a business is all together another. She notes, “when I first started my company, I realized there was so much more about business that I didn’t know, even though I had a background in bookkeeping and accounting. That’s when I turned to the Florida SBDC at UCF.”
“I have utilized a lot of what the FSBDC has to offer,” Powell recalls. “From initially taking classes, to receiving assistance writing a business plan and then getting help with filing for an SBA loan to purchase the property my business is in, I have gained a tremendous amount through the SBDC. For instance, for my loan, my FSBDC consultant Pauline Davis took my financial data and turned it into something of value that helped me get my loan.”
In addition to benefiting from the FSBDC’s consulting, training, and market research support, Powell has been participating in its Business Recovery Team (BRT) service. Intended to assist with revival after the unexpected disruptions of COVID-19 and to build sustainability thereafter, the program is designed to help companies develop and implement customized business strategies, realign their business models and adapt to a new environment. In the case of Covenant Cleaning Services, a team of six (6) SBDC consultants led by consultant Sharon Smith collaborated with Powell to build a new, 3-year strategic business plan, create a business resiliency plan, conduct new market research, produce a new marketing plan, and develop a 2021 financial forecast and budget.
“Since I began working with the FSBDC, I have had amazing, positive changes in my business,” Powell says today. “Everything from an increase in sales – as high as 45% in one year, to going from 23 employees to 38 today, as well as rebalancing our client base to 60% commercial/40% residential, and at the same time increasing our profitability.” All of those wonderful things have happened as a result of Covenant Cleaning Services working with the FSBDC.”
“If I had to use one word to describe the FSBDC, it would be “success”, concludes Powell. “Because that’s what the FSBDC has brought me: success.”