Faye Gish runs a busy office supply business where she explains earnestly, “I don’t have staff or employees, I have a fantastic team.” Today there are nine members of that team and, in 2014, Faye Gish will celebrate her 20th anniversary as Faye’s Office Supply. Faye’s is a member of the Orange, Culpeper and Madison Chambers of Commerce.
She started out by doing bookkeeping and renting a third of her father’s building in Locust Grove; she poured her earnings into buying inventory for the office supply business she wanted to build. Faye credits the SBDC for providing key assistance along the way as she has grown her business and for continuing support through classes, workshops and consulting on specific issues. She also has referred other small businesses to the SBDC. One of her college friends was able to secure a business loan with help from the SBDC and Faye is quick to point colleagues to their range of consulting services.
Faye comes from a family of business owners. Her father was her original mentor and each of her four siblings now owns a business along with a lot of her nieces and nephews. Office supply appealed to her personal bent for organization and she also “naively figured that every other business was a potential customer” since all needed office supplies. She describes the first six and a half years as a learning curve, even as she grew into half her father’s building and then occupied all of it.
The turning point came with an opportunity. Faye had become friends with a woman who owned the office supply store in Orange. One day the friend said she was ready to sell and asked if Faye was interested in taking over that store. Within two days, Faye had two locations, a situation that lasted eight months until she consolidated her business in the Orange location where there was greater visibility and a more vital business environment.
She is part of a buying group that allows her pricing to be competitive and the SBDC helped her to identify businesses that were her best customer targets so she could focus her sales and marketing efforts.
Now her team includes her husband, son and daughter along with five others dedicated to customer service, the quality Faye sees as 95% essential to her success. At team meetings, insights and suggestions are shared, including observations by their delivery driver, Faye’s son.
When she had questions about compliance issues, Faye turned to the SBDC for answers and she has taken advantage of a number of SBDC workshops, including a retail program that was part presentation and part on-site visit. As a result of those “fresh eyes” and the expert’s evaluation, she made a few changes in the store’s physical appearance and signage. She has appreciated the range of SBDC programs that are geared to various business phases from meeting the needs of start-up companies to those of older, growing businesses like hers. As the recent recession hit, the SBDC produced a useful checklist about how to cut costs, a document she shared with fellow Chamber members. And, she points out that other members of her team are benefiting from classes such as QuickBooks training sessions.
“Lots of start-ups want to be an instant success,” she says, but it’s important to understand that “with any business you have to keep learning and you have to change with the times.” She has developed a system for tracking repeat orders and created individualized client “favorite lists” to help them speed up their ordering process.
Faye notes that “the hard part is working in your business while also working on it.” Clearly she finds it energizing to take webinars and SBDC trainings while also managing her team, serving her clients and building her business. She laughs that her duties include “sales, accounting, deliveries, promotion, and bathroom cleaning.” And clearly, she’s looking forward to the next twenty years of her business and counting on the SBDC to be there for her.