SelfInformed

November 2011


The NASE Presents $20,000 Achievement Award To Member

Friday, November 04, 2011

Fifth Annual Award Goes To Dog Sport Equipment Manufacturer

By Molly Nelson


Most business owners would jump at the chance to have a client like Lucy. Although she doesn’t say much about it, she played an integral role in Pat Bennett’s decision to start what is now a growing manufacturing business. 

It was Lucy’s interest in lure coursing that prompted Bennett to start her La Mesa, Calif.-based business, Wicked Coursing. Wicked manufactures multiple types of lure coursing machines, and Lucy, one of Bennett’s Bedlington Terriers, is a fan of all of them.

Although lure coursing is a simple sport—dogs chase a plastic bag lure attached to a string—the machines require intricate design and assembly. Dissatisfied with the design issues of an existing manufacturer’s product, Bennett realized she could design and build a better machine herself. So in 2008, she launched her business with a version of the current Lure Baby machine. 

With the goal of staying competitive by bringing production of a machine component in-house, as well as growing her business by bringing a new product to market, Bennett applied for an NASE Growth Grant™ in December 2010. Bennett’s $5,000 grant was part of more than $530,000 in grants given by the NASE since 2006.

The grant allowed Bennett to launch her company’s newest product, the small and affordable ZippityDog™, in record time. The product was ready for sale on her website in just a few months—a process that otherwise would have taken at least a year. Orders for 20 ZippityDogs came in soon after the product was made available on Bennett’s website, and by mid-2011 more Wicked products had been sold than in entire past years.

Recognizing Bennett’s ability to leverage a small amount of money to expand her business, while simultaneously driving innovation and fostering the entrepreneurial spirit, the NASE awarded her the $20,000 Achievement Award.

Growing Her Business

After a year of running all aspects of the business herself, Bennett hired Darrenn McComas in 2009 as Wicked’s production manager. Together, they worked to streamline the business’s existing products as well as design, build, test and launch additional machines.

Today, Wicked Coursing produces four types of lure coursing machines—from the reversible continuous-loop L’il Monster for field events with many dogs to the new hand-held ZippityDog. 

Bennett says she works more hours running her own business than she ever did working for someone else. She handles Wicked’s administrative needs from her home office. Design, production, repairs and product shipping is based at the company’s new 500-square-foot space. 

The workspace is a big improvement. Before receiving the Achievement Award, Bennett and McComas had worked off of adjacent workbenches in a 10-by-15-foot self-storage unit, manufacturing all of Wicked’s machines from start to finish.

Looking To The Future

NASE President Kristie L. Arslan presented Bennett with a $20,000 check at a ceremony in front of her family, friends and Wicked’s employees and business associates.

“Pat is a shining example of how small-business owners do more with less,” said Arslan at the ceremony. “We know Pat is going to make her dream a reality, and we’re humbled to offer a helping hand along the way.”

Bennett has big plans for her business, and for the achievement award funds.

She plans to prepare Wicked Coursing for even greater growth by upgrading and adding equipment and purchasing workflow management software. Bennett also plans to invest in components and materials to build up her inventory. Expanded marketing efforts—including print advertising and showing Wicked’s products at pet expos—will help Bennett introduce her products to a wider audience.

“The award is going to be instrumental in getting us to the next level,” Bennett said. “You have truly made a difference in my life and provided me with the opportunity to take Wicked where my vision has pointed.”


Molly Nelson is the NASE’s Member Communications Manager. She was honored to help out as Huntmaster at one of Bennett’s lure coursing events. 



One-On-One Advice From The NASE Experts


Along with her $20,000 Achievement Award, Bennett also received one-on-one consultations with NASE micro-business experts at Business 101 and TaxTalk. Here are some of the suggestions they offered.

Gene Fairbrother, lead micro-business expert with NASE’s Business 101


Continue Business Planning
It’s important for all business owners to revisit and update their business plans, especially as their business grows and changes. While Wicked Coursing has created a fairly extensive business plan, the key emphasis of the plan should take a more strategic direction to identify and act on the most critical parts of the business to help organize the growing opportunities in the marketplace. 

Improve Infrastructure

Your business certainly has opportunities for growth, but your current business infrastructure (staffing, inventory and manufacturing) is unable to support many more sales. Your company must be capable of meeting the demand for your products before you add many new clients or expand the marketing efforts of the business. 

Don’t Lose Focus On Marketing
While the ability to produce products is critical, you also need to be developing your marketing plan. As the business adds staff and increases the ability to manufacture, the marketing plan needs to be gradually implemented to create more product demand. This will include revising your current website, building a stronger national relationship with associations like the American Kennel Club, promoting more clinics at municipalities and dog parks, and developing a stronger customer contact and communications program.

Keith Hall, certified public accountant and TaxTalk consultant.

Selecting An Entity Form
Even from the very beginning of your business, the entity form you choose can have a large impact. From tax benefits and legal liability to paperwork and compliance burdens, making the choice between an S Corporation and an LLC, or any other entity form, can make a big difference in running your business. There are certainly pros and cons to each choice, but having the right information can help you make the right choice.

Employee vs. Independent Contractor

An issue faced by many self-employed and micro-business owners as their business starts to grow is that of worker classification. Information available from the IRS on whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor is often hard to understand. However, it’s important for you as the business owner, as well as for Darrenn and any other future workers to know their classification for taxes, compliance, liability and many other issues.

Finding Funding
You’re reaching a point in your business where additional growth may very well depend on outside funding. Additional borrowing from a local bank or through an SBA guaranteed loan can be useful although potentially expensive, while investments from venture capitalists or angel funding sources can dilute your ownership control. Make sure to use the resources available to you as an NASE Member to help you evaluate your options.


Apply For An NASE Growth Grant™

Need working capital for your micro-business? Apply for an NASE Growth Grant worth up to $5,000.
To be eligible, you must be an NASE Member in good standing and provide detailed documentation about your business.

Get all the information you need to apply at NASE.org.