By Mackenzi Klemann The Lima News, Ohio
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Yolanda Phillips has big plans for her custom jewelry business called "Just Peachy." Thanks to a microloan from the "Potts Entrepreneur Center" she's ready to put those expansion plans into action.
Yolanda Phillips hopes to open a storefront of her own one day. For now, she relies on word of mouth and social media to promote her custom jewelry designs, Just Peachy Jewelry.
Phillips has been crafting custom-made jewelry for five years now, a venture which she'd like to convert into a small business. She might have the chance, thanks to a microloan extended by the Potts Entrepreneur Center and the Superior Foundation, Inc., a prize awarded Thursday as part of Lima's first "Shark Tank"-style small business pitch competition.
"This was a big step for me tonight, to showcase what it is that I've been doing for the past five years ... now the community will actually know that this is what I'm doing," Phillips said.
The next step for Phillips is launching a website where customers can browse her designs and place orders, a process which currently happens on social media or talking directly to Phillips. She'd like to hire two employees within the next two years and get a storefront of her own or a mobile truck she can use to shop her designs around.
Phillips has also considered partnering with locally owned boutiques to carry some of her designs, another ongoing goal. But Just Peachy Designs is still a part-time gig for Phillips, who trains nursing aides from Findlay.
"I took a hobby, and now I'm trying to make it into an actual business," she said.
"I try to talk to people to get a feel for their personality so that their personality can be in the jewelry," Phillips explained. "That brings them their sassiness, that brings their boldness, their confidence so they're like, 'Oh, this is mine. No one else will have it.'"
Jesse Austin, lead instructor and founder of Total Revolution MMA, found the small business pitch competition useful for his business too.
Austin opened his mixed marital arts gym on MacKenzie Drive just over a year ago. But Austin has only been able to keep the gym open part-time as he works another job to sustain his family. A loan would put Austin "years ahead of schedule," allowing him to hire another instructor and offer more courses.
"What restricted me would now be freed, so the growth potential is scary in a good way," he said.
The competition, styled after the popular television series "Shark Tank," was an outgrowth of a series of small business courses offered to aspiring entrepreneurs. Those students had the chance Thursday to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges, who awarded microloans to several aspiring entrepreneurs, including Phillip, Austin and the Autism Life Center.
"They had to have a business plan ... to be able to pay the money back," said Leandra Johnson, owner of Fresh 'n' Faded barbershop and one of the panel's judges. "One of the things that I was looking for was the passion and the drive to succeed at their business."