2022 WBCS Lillie Knox Winners from WBCSouthwest on Vimeo.

Therapeutic Focus

Tell us about Therapeutic Focus

Therapeutic Focus (TF) is my heart: a passionate, outpatient pediatric therapy clinic located in West Memphis, Arkansas. TF provides occupational, physical, and speech therapy services to predominantly impoverished children with disabilities while focusing on improving their overall functional performance in the areas of fine and gross motor skills and speech.

How has WBE certification benefited your business?

As a result of acquiring the WBE certification, I have been afforded the opportunity to not only successfully apply for a RFP, but also awarded a contract via the Memphis, TN school district.  As an active participant involved in the Women's Business Center South, I was able to take an offered course that prepared business owners for pitch competitions and cultivating our "ask".  The course also provided participants with information concerning building a pitch deck and a 90 second pitch.  The course and the content presented by Vonesha Mitchell, Executive Director of WBC South was a completely new concept for me, yet it was very beneficial for me, as it also helped me to secure the winning bid/contract.  After I submitted the RFP to the school district, I was asked to submit a pitch deck followed by an interview, in which I would be allotted a set amount of time for my pitch.  Honestly, when I was told this information, I should have been terrified; however, I was not, I felt just the opposite.  I felt empowered and well prepared for the task because the WBC south course prepared me for that very moment.  I had a pitch deck ready to present, a 90 second pitch, and I had an "ask" prepared for the interview.  As a result of participating in WBCS opportunities as well as having acquired the WBE certification, I possessed all of the tools needed for my business to apply for a RFP and win the contract.  Consequently, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and applied for an RFP for the very first time in my professional career, and successfully was awarded the contract!

What do you intend to use the Lillie Knox Funds for?

Currently, I am in the process of modifying a new facility for Therapeutic Focus because I have outgrown the present facility that I rent, but due to lack of capital and being denied loans, this has been an enormous challenge.  It is imperative that I am able to make the necessary modifications to the building because it will enable me to offer more services to more severely disabled children.

Many of the children that I offer therapy to are diagnosed with Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and many are non-verbal and even wheelchair bound. My new building will be equipped with a sensory room that will provide a swing for children that are non-ambulatory, lights that can be dimmed, which is needed for children that have light sensitivities and sensory dysfunction, specialized textured seating that  will provide children with the input within their body needed to reduce melt downs (which is targeted in occupational therapy sessions), an interactive board on the wall, which will be utilized to promote conversations within speech therapy sessions and even a small rock climbing wall to facilitate eye and hand and foot coordination, needed for those individuals with deficits resulting in a need for physical therapy services. I've purchased some of these items, however, many items I have not purchased due to the lack of accessible funds for me to make the much needed purchase.

CAET Construction

Tell us about CAET Construction

We are a project management / owners representative company turned general contractor.  We have combined our experience and relationships to expand our service offerings to large corporations.  We continue to offer collaborative, accountable, excellence, and trusted project management services for construction projects, but now we are also a builder for remodels and new construction.  The company has expanded to two WBE businesses but currently all business is under the project management firm.

How has WBE certification benefited your business?

The WBE certification has provided a lot of support for both Molly and CAET. We are a proud sponsor, volunteer, mentor, and soon to be past board member. These experiences have helped to grow the business relationships with partners and clients alike.  With our sponsorship, we share these opportunities with potential WBE members so that they have the opportunity to see what WBCS has to offer. I am still surprised when people say they haven’t heard of the organization and I take that as a reason to help promote WBCS. My relationships with other WBEs are so valuable. Women who have owned businesses longer than me offer support, guidance, and to be a sounding board as I navigate the changes of business ownership and the ups and downs we have experienced, especially through Covid. I don’t know where we would have been without this organization and the people in it. The events and opportunities I have had through the organization have helped me to grow both personally and professionally.  I am a better speaker in public, I have implemented HR screening tools that help us hire better, and made business deals thanks to the support and relationships from this organization. I love paying it forward and helping to connect people with others that I know. There isn’t much more satisfaction than to watch a business deal come to light from a seed that you helped to plant.  That’s what the organization is about and I can’t wait to watch what happens next.

What do you intend to use the Lillie Knox Funds for?

We have expanded in to the role of a general contractor and I am spending a ton of time estimating and managing the jobs. We have to be cost competitive to win and we need to be efficient.  Sometimes bids are lost by just a couple hundred or thousands of dollars. I need to reduce the amount of time I am coordinating quote requests and tighten up my dollars on general requirements. We have talked extensively about purchasing equipment so that we aren't paying high dollar rental fees and having to spend hours requesting and coordinating rental quotes, drop offs and then pick ups to avoid paying even more rental money!  The equipment we would like to purchase are for our general requirements and they are traffic control barricades and a forklift bucket for trash.

For our renovation projects, we have to get the trash and demo items from the site into the dumpster.  It's heavy, messy, and there is a ton of it.  For each job, it is $495 to rent the bucket. It's less if you only need it for a day but the delivery fee $75 and pick up is $75. You can get it with the forklift delivery but then you end up with it longer and pay $495, plus tax and damage insurance. We have the opportunity to win over 50 customer service remodel projects in the next 20 months. Our client takes low bid so we are trying to shave off money from the general requirements costs. If we had two buckets to bring to the sites when we deliver the other materials and supplies from the shop, we can save $25,000 over those 50 jobs.  The buckets cost $2700 each brand new.  We could use them for other projects as well since they would belong to us. We have considered purchasing the lift but that isn't as easy for us to transport from site to site. This is true for the traffic control and barricades.  We are finding that we need this more and more. Other GCs already have these materials so they don't have to add in the cost on their bids and end up with a cost advantage or if they still put an allowance in, they get that as straight profit. We want to gain that advantage to have some income producing assets and we feel these items will do that for us.

L.V. Browne, CPA

Tell us about L. V. Browne, CPA

L. V. Browne, CPA is a full service CPA firm in the Richardson area serving the metroplex and beyond.  Many small businesses spend too much time on administrative tasks and not enough on the core of their business.  L. V. Browne, CPA specializes in taking care of the administrative details, leaving the small business owner free to focus on the crux of their business and begin to enjoy it again.  We provide accounting, tax and advisory services including audits, tax preparation, compilations, tax planning, and varied custom financial projects.

How has WBE certification benefited your business?

This is my second year of being certified and upon my renewal process, and I am looking forward to being more plugged into WBCS and the WBENC Network.

What do you intend to use the Lillie Knox Funds for?

My business revenue has grown over 600% from 2020 to 2021.  I want to keep up that momentum into 2022.  Year to date in 2022, I have already exceeded my 2021 revenue and am on pace to at least double my 2021 revenue in 2022.  My goal is to triple my 2021 revenue in 2022 but I will need more leads in order to accomplish this goal.  

Bliss Bracelets LLC

Tell us about Bliss Bracelets

Bliss Bracelets LLC is the company behind Blisslets, the only acupressure bracelets that are also stylish accessories. Acupressure bands have been around for decades, but until recently, the only options available were conspicuous plastic or sweatband-style devices. I started dreaming up Blisslets after using the sweatband-style products during my first pregnancy. I had terrible morning sickness, and I found that acupressure made the difference between being debilitated with nausea and being able to function in work and life. However, during my first trimester, I had to hide them under a suit coat (in the scorching summer!) because I wasn't yet ready to share the news of my pregnancy with my co-workers. One day, however, a male colleague spotted them, and called out for the whole office to hear, "Hey, I didn't know you were pregnant!" I knew then that there had to be a better way. 

Fast forward several years, and I gathered a team around me to found a family-centered business that is certified both as a women-owned and minority-owned enterprise. Today, Blisslets are well loved not only by other expecting moms, but also by travelers prone to motion sickness, those who suffer from chronic conditions like vertigo, migraine, and IBS, and those undergoing nausea-causing treatments like chemotherapy. Not only do Blisslets provide drug-free relief from nausea, but when you're confident in how you look, that helps you feel better, too. 

Blisslets are available both through our ecommerce platform, Blisslets.com, and in wholesale channels that include outlets like the nationwide boating chain West Marine, Disney Cruise Line, and many independent retailers. At the same time, we know there is still a huge segment of the potential market that doesn't know about Blisslets. Our goal is for Blisslets to be available everywhere nausea products are sold, so that no one has to choose between finding the natural nausea relief they need, and looking their healthy best.

How has WBE certification benefited your business?

Since receiving certification in February of this year, our WBE status and WBCS membership have allowed our company to access very promising sales opportunities, educational programming, and women-owned B2B services. This has included buyer meetings through supplier diversity programs run by CVS and Southeastern Grocers, participation in an accelerator competition run by the marketing firm MPG and ECRM (where we were chosen as one of 12 finalists out of 600+ applicants), and access to valuable training opportunities such as the Women Owned in Retail program with Target Corporation. We have also benefited from the member directory, through which we were able to connect with the owner of another local WBE, Lakeesha Browne, who will serve as our new CPA beginning in September.

What do you intend to use the Lillie Knox Funds for?

Having established a strong ecommerce base through blisslets.com and begun developing our wholesale arm with partners like West Marine and Disney Cruise Line, the time is right to enter an important market we have not yet tapped: Amazon.com. Given our competitors' presence on this platform and the large number of customers on it already shopping for acupressure wristbands, we are convinced Blisslets could achieve significant growth by opening up this new sales channel. However, participating successfully in this competitive market requires developing a variety of assets to support our product pages and ads, not to mention significant labor hours and unique expertise. 

After three years of solid growth in direct-to-consumer sales through blisslets.com, with revenues increasing 77% YOY between 2019 and 2021, we are hitting a plateau this year in that side of our business. While we are marketing effectively through search engines and social media, the fact is that a significant portion of customers for products like ours go directly to Amazon when considering a purchase.