By Michael Roknick
The Herald, Sharon, Pa.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) For SBDC director Maggie Horn, there is nothing more thrilling than helping people start a business that becomes successful.
When it comes to understanding the rough and tumble world of business, Margaret, “Maggie” Horne has walked the walk
Now serving as director of the Gannon University Small Business Development Center, 30 years ago Horne was a single mom living on Sharon’s West Hill. At the time she worked in a downtown Sharon restaurant as a waitress. She drove daily to the restaurant — until her car broke down.
“I couldn’t afford to fix it right away because I didn’t have the money,” she said. “So I walked to work every day for 6 months until I saved up enough to fix the car.”
Since then, the Sharpsville resident has weaved her way through the obstacles of life.
Raised in Liberty, Ohio, after graduating fron high school Horne eventually found herself attending Penn State Shenango. But at the same time she also worked at American Business Appraisers, a Sharon business appraisal firm, in addition to the waitressing.
“I helped do research and analysis for Evans & Evans,” she said.
Horne set a goal of getting her bachelor’s degree and MBA before she hit 40.
“I graduated from Penn State then got my MBA from Point Park College a month before my 40th birthday,” she said with a broad smile.
After working at Penn State Shenango in admissions and advising clubs at the Sharon campus, she took a job offer at Gannon University.
The consultant job for SBDC proved to be a great fit, Horne said. She was promoted as its director 7 years ago and has held that job since. She oversees SBDC’s territory, which covers, Mercer, Crawford, Erie and Warren counties.
At its heart, SBDC advises existing companies on expansions and those interesting in starting a business. She particularly relishes marketing for area businesses.
“I wanted to be in front of people, to help them with marketing,” Horne said. “I wanted direct contact with business owners.”
There’s times when new business owners come to her with sophisticated products they’ve developed. She helps them craft their message to customers.
“I tell them ‘Show me how it works — don’t just tell me about it,’ ” she said.
Horne always asks clients to understand their customers and their buying habits.
“The way 20- and 30-year-olds shop today is very different than how they use to shop 20 years ago. So much of what they buy is online,” she said.
A real struggle for some interested in creating a business is showing them it can’t be done in a snap.
“We’ve had people that took 3 years to start their own business,” she said.
SBDC helped to create or save 1,200 Mercer County jobs during the most recent fiscal year ended Sept. 30, Horne said.
These aren’t fantasy numbers, she said.
“Our term for a saved job is if the business says they wouldn’t be able to keep an employee if they didn’t do the expansion or project,” Horne said. Further, SBDC doesn’t create the numbers, she added.
“These numbers are coming from the companies we helped from a survey we ask them to complete,” Horne said.
A Horne client praised her for bringing multiple tools to the table in creating a business.
“Maggie has been really helpful and a great resource,” said Ron Anderson, president of Anderal LLC, based in Hermitage.
Owning a steel-related operation in the past, Anderson sold it in 2010 and was looking for a new project. Through her connections Anderson found an entrepreneur working on new technology for the steel industry.
The technology, still under development, makes the metal easier to work with while also keeping its strength intact. As a result, less steel is needed to create a variety of products from autos to appliances.
“The auto industry is constantly looking to use less steel to reduce the weight of vehicles,” Anderson said.
Horne also helped him get settled into the eCenter@LindenPointe in Hermitage. The center is an incubator for new businesses.
“I was the first one there at the eCenter. She was extremely helpful in making connections for me with other metal companies,” Anderson said of Horne. “And we continue to talk with each other.”
The SBDC course materials include how to create a business plan. The plan gives details on the product or service for the company, number of employees required and funds needed to crank up the operation.
Around 25 percent of clients going through the SBDC course bail out when realizing their dream isn’t a good idea, Horne said. Another 25 percent move forward but the business never gets started — largely due to economics.
“They come to the conclusion they can’t live on $10,000 a year,” Horne said.
Timing can be a critical factor, she noted in recalling one startup business. A couple of local people formed a fledgling software enterprise. A week before launching their product a much bigger company announced it created a similar software. That wiped out any hope that the local operation with tiny resources would succeed.
Another post she serves on is the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank’s advisory committee. Over the past year Horne said she’s talked to the Fed about a difficult climate for the business community.
She believes the Fed listens to those on the front lines in the business world.
“They lowered interest rates 3 times this year because of that,” she said.
These days in her spare time Horne works with her son on their Horne’s Homestyle Catering business.
But the real thrill, Horne said, is helping people start a business that becomes successful.
“It gives you the feeling of accomplishment,” she said.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.