WWU Graduate Wins $10,000 to Start New Business
|2/27/2013||Mary Ann Beahon|
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||(573) 592-1127|
By Leigh Rice '14
When Suzanne Ellerbrock decided to pursue an MBA degree from William Woods University in 2008, her husband asked her whether she planned to go into business for herself someday. At the time, she answered “no.”
“I never thought I would be comfortable branching out from Corporate America. I couldn’t see myself living without the security of health insurance or other benefits that a corporate position may provide,” she said.
Three years after earning her MBA, Ellerbrock is now the proud recipient of a $10,000 award from the Quincy, Ill., Chamber of Commerce Business Plan Competition. She and her two business partners, Suzan Scholz and Nancy Waters, now have enough funds to lay groundwork on their senior moving management business, Golden Bridges.
All three women are close friends. Scholz and Ellerbrock are even coworkers at Blessing Health System in Quincy. Blessing Health System is a group of organizations comprising two hospitals, a physician group, a four-year nursing education program, a foundation and a group of medical specialty businesses.
The new enterprise was set in motion when Waters, who served as the executive director for one of the assisted living facilities in Quincy, received a phone call from a family asking for assistance with moving their parents.
“We started brainstorming and thinking about the demographics of our community,” said Ellerbrock.
“So many members of our community are elderly, and most of their families do not live in the area. With Golden Bridges, we would be able to make the moving experience so much simpler on our seniors and their families.”
The idea behind Golden Bridges is that the three entrepreneurs would coordinate each elderly person’s move. The business would also offer referrals to lawyers, banks, or estate auctioneers.
“Our job could end here, or if they needed our services further, we would be available to make the phone calls to turn on their electricity at their new home, contact auctioneers, find a good moving service, or whatever it is that they might need,” said Ellerbrock.
“Who knows, they might only need us for a referral, or they might need us to come and give them a quote and see what all we can do for them.”
In 2012, the Quincy Chamber of Commerce announced a competition for businesses that would be willing to expand or relocate into Adam’s County. The prize would be $10,000.
“We just looked at each other and saw this as the perfect opportunity. It was now or never,” said Ellerbrock.
“We submitted our business plan that April, and by June they had contacted us to inform us that we were among the top four selected. They asked us to submit our final business plan by August. In October we were asked to present our business plan to author, Jim Stewart, and retired Disney executive, Judson Green, over Skype.”
The entrepreneurs’ connections in their local community gave them the confidence to present to Stewart and Green. By visiting with members of their community and gathering a network of responses, they were assured that they would receive community support in their endeavor.
“It was so nerve racking presenting to these two extremely successful men. But because of our research we had completed within the community, we were very confident that our business would be successful. As a group, we knew whether we won this award or not, we were going to move forward, no matter what,” said Ellerbrock.
After presenting their businesses plan, Ellerbrock, Scholz and Waters were asked to attend the news conference during which the award would be presented to the winner from the top four.
“At the conference, the judges said that they were having a difficult time choosing because the business plans for Gem City Coffee and ours were planned very well. Fortunately, we were both given the opportunity to win because while the judges were trying to decide, they were informed that a private donation of $10,000 had been made, giving both businesses the opportunity to win the $10,000,” said Ellerbrock.
The award will allow Golden Bridges to join the National Association of Senior Move Managers and start their educational training.
“We are still working to gather investors to help us with our expenses in labor costs, marketing and continuing education. With our business being a labor-intensive business, we really don’t have any overhead costs. This allows us to put anything we earn towards immediately making our business grow,” said Ellerbrock.
The three entrepreneurs plan to meet with existing companies to observe how their businesses are run. With this experience and the training programs they plan to attend, they feel sure they can build a professional business with a firm foundation of knowledge and experience.
“Within a year we plan to have at least one of us as full time and by 2020 our goal is to be listed as full-time employees, but we are currently working part-time while working at Blessing Health System,” said Ellerbrock.
The three eager businesswomen plan to build a referral base through the hospital while hosting informational meetings with local businesses they plan to partner with.
“Our biggest task with this competition was creating a viable business plan, which I was so fortunate to learn how to do in my business classes from William Woods University. I was able to use the tools we learned in class, which saved us a tremendous amount of time while preparing for the submissions,” said Ellerbrock.
“Earning my degree from William Woods University was the best thing I could have done for myself,” she said. “When I first decided to go after the business degree, it was for personal reasons rather than career growth. Meeting once a week for classe