Long Hair Repair: From a Borrowed Bike and Borrowed Tools to Small Business of The Year

Long Hair Repair on Oklahoma Ave in Guthrie Oklahoma

If you have a chance to have breakfast with James “Long Hair” Gallant, do so. You will never forget him. Long Hair and I had coffee a week back to connect and visit about his past and his future. Long Hair runs a remodel and repair business that is thriving in and around Guthrie, Oklahoma. He has long hair, a full beard, quick wit , remodel skills and an amazing story. The name of his thriving business is, Long Hair Repair. Take a few minutes to check it out. I promise you, his story (and language) is colorful, interesting and inspirational.

Good morning, Long Hair. First of all, let’s start with the name of your business, Long Hair repair. It’s interesting for a home remodel and repair business. How did you come up with the name?
Hell, I didn’t. Von Coburn and Patricia Cornforth [both Guthrie based realtors] made me start my business. Von said, ‘you’re starting a business, what are you going to call it?’ I didn’t even know I had a business to start, let alone have a name for it.

I thought for a minute and said, well, everyone I work for says, ‘get that guy with the long hair to do it.’ Von said, ‘That’s it! Long Hair Repair! I’ll get your business cards printed.’ My sister made the logo. Then Von printed the cards.

Then, they kicked me in the ass and said, ‘you need to start a business.’

Let’s do a flashback, Long Hair. How did you make your way to Guthrie, America and end up running Guthrie’s Small Business of the Year?
In 2006 I was working as a hotel maintenance man in Canada on Prince Edward Albert Island. My Mom had a stroke so I came to Guthrie, Oklahoma to help her and my sister.

Did you start your business as soon as you arrived in Guthrie?
Hell no! I didn’t even have a car.

So, how did you start Long Hair Repair?
I was offered a free place to stay in a house on 1st Street. It was free but I had to remodel it. So I did that. But, it didn’t pay me cash. I needed cash to live, you know? So I borrowed my Step-Dad’s bike and some of his tools and went door-to-door.

Would you explain what going “door-to-door” looked like?
Well, I just rode around Guthrie on my borrowed bicycle with borrowed tools and looked at houses. I saw stuff that needed fixing. I’d knock on the door and tell ‘em I could fix anything, sheetrock; doors; windows; downspout; fence picket; lawnwork; painting; whatever. They’d ask me, ‘how much?’ I’d say, whatever you think is fair.

I’d do the work and they always paid me fair.

What happened next?
I met Patricia. She was the cog, the main cog that got me started with my own business.

How so?
I was remodeling the house I was living in, remember?

Patricia Cornforth is a realtor and she came by to look at the house. It looked good! And she asked, ‘what company did the remodel?’ I told her, ‘hell, I did it.’ That’s when she started referring me to her clients that needed work done. Then I met Von Coburn and she started doing the same thing.

Then, they kicked me in the ass and said, ‘you need to start a business.’

You went from a bicycle and borrowed tools to a full crew, multiple trucks and now, Guthrie’s Small Business of the Year. How do you feel?
First of all, it’s not really me. That happened because so many people helped me along the way. Von and Patricia helped me get work. Larry, my main man, has been with me from day one. Larry knows how to do everything. Brenda Welch does the books and keeps the business in order. I do work for James Long and he refers people too.

There are just so many people I’m thankful for. I’ve done so much work for so many people in Guthrie. Without everyone I wouldn’t even have a business.

Long Hair Repair

But, you do. Congratulations! What surprised you most during your first couple years as a business owner?
All the work it takes to just run a business. Me and my crew can fix anything. But, running a business, the paperwork was just crazy. Without Brenda Welch, I’d be lost.

What are the keys to success as a business owner, Long Hair?
Honesty and hard work. At every job we do I ask myself, ‘would I want to pay for this work?’ If I’m not happy with it, why would I expect someone to pay me? My people are the key. Everyone that helps run the business and helped get it going.

You give back to the community. You donate time and labor to Neighborhood Solutions, Kiwanis, the local schools. You hire people that need a second chance. You’re a small business, why do you give back?
I came to Guthrie and no one judged me, so many people gave me a chance. I just want to help other people in the community. So, anything I can do to help is my way of saying. ‘thank you.’

This could all go away, my business could all go away if it weren’t for people in our great community.

You also throw one heck of a Christmas Party.
It’s a big one for sure. It started out as an employee party and it’s just grown. Really, the party is a celebration of the community we serve. Again, without the people in this community giving me a chance, I would have nothing. The party is just my way of bringing all kinds of people together to say, ‘thank you’ to all the businesses who support us.

What advice would you give to others as they start or manage their business?
Be yourself. Be honest with yourself and to others. Also, don’t let others’ judgement get in the way of doing your thing. There are always critics. Learn from them but don’t let them control you. And, do quality work. Whatever you do, learn to do it well.

Thank you Long Hair. Congratulations. You’ve come a long way, we’re proud of you and grateful for the work you’ve done.
Hell, I’m more surprised than anyone. I’m thankful to everyone that has believed in me along the way. Thank you.


About Made Possible By
Made Possible By is the new way community minded companies manage and share their grant, sponsorship and charitable gift requests. Made Possible By is reinventing the community investment process for companies with an easy to use, online toolset that saves them time and money and helps them earn community and customer trust. Learn more at our website or blog.

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Coaching and Equipping your team to direct sponsorship requests to your Community Impact Page

Giving back is rewarding.

Make it simple by coaching those that work with you to reroute sponsorship requests to your Made Possible By system and Community Impact Page.

We provide sample language here.

Equip those you work with to reroute requests into the Made Possible By system as well. We recommend a reroute card for your receptionist, counter help and anyone in the field. The reroute card looks something like this:

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This simple card equips everyone in your organization to effectively and efficiently help those requesting sponsorship. When asked, tell those requesting sponsorship you would love to learn more. Offer them a card that shows them how to apply.

Change the language and design to match your brand or style.

Setting Up Your Community Impact Page

The Community Impact Page is designed to save you time and eliminate the confusion that comes from receiving numerous sponsorship requests from numerous sources (email, phone call, drop-in-visits, for example).

Your Community Impact Page helps you:

  • Tell the world who you are.

  • What you value.

  • And share the total scope of your community investment.

  • It’s also the place to reroute sponsorship requests with the “Apply Now” button.

To get started, add the basic details (and make sure you select “save” during the process):

Navigate to your “Settings.”

Once you sign in, just go to the upper right corner at MadePossibleBy.us, click the drop down and select “Edit Profile.”

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who you are

Add:

  • Business name

  • Email address to which you want sponsorship request notifications emailed to

  • Contact info

  • A brief bio. No need to get fancy. Often, your existing website copy, Facebook or Twitter summary works well.

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Add your website and social media urls to help viewers connect with you in other channels as well.

Add your values

What are the local or global causes that you value most? Help your customers and community get to know you better by sharing your values. As you begin to receive, review and decide on community sponsorship opportunities, use your values as a guide.

We’ve listed some values. Check the box and they will show up on your profile.

If you’d like to your unique values, we’ve made it easy. Select, “Add New Value.” Type it in the box. Hit save.

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To remove a value from your profile, de-select the box, or hit remove.

Upload your Picture.

“Picture” is the smaller photo on your profile. Made Possible By accepts .jpg and .png files. To make it easy, the image size matches your facebook or Twitter thumbnail. Just use that image!

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Select, add, remove or change. Upload the photo. Crop the image with the grey box if necessary and hit save.

upload your cover.

The process is similar to uploading your picture. Select a wider image and upload, crop, hit save.

Other elements

For ideas about drafting sponsorship guidelines, check out our Best Practices article. There, you will learn how to draft sponsorship and grant guidelines, why and then how to add them to your Community Impact Page.

Celestial Cycles: Cycling and Community. What Else Do you Need?

I met Sheridan Marquardt years ago when I began riding a bicycle with Team Young Life OKC. He’s one of the most fun-loving guys I’ve ever met—true of most avid cyclists by the way. I dropped by his shop on a Friday night. I unintentionally crashed an impromptu party, saw some old friends and shook hands with a few new ones. Sheridan started out as a starving artist and learned how to make a living doing what he loves— helping people, owning a bike shop and riding his bike.

Sheridan, how did you start Celestial Cycles?
I didn’t start out thinking I’d own a bike shop. I actually started the company as a custom, bike frame builder in 1999.

Really? Why did you want to build bike frames?
I wanted to be an artist. Bikes and bike frames are art to me.

My dream was to have a retail shop, an art gallery to show off the frames I build. And, I wanted to be that old guy in the back of the shop building frames.

“I’ve always valued time over money.”

Really? What caused you to start the retail side of your business?
I got sick of being the starving artist.

[Laughing] So it was tough to start the frame building business?
It wasn’t tough to start.

It was just super tough to make a living. Man, those were lean times. I actually spent some time sleeping at the shop. Really, I was living out of the shop at times.

Wow. After all that, why did you stick with it?
For the love of cycling and the people and community that come with it. You never really go into this industry to get rich.

That’s good insight. What happened next? How were you able to make the jump from starving artist to small business owner?
Leaving the bike industry was never an option so, in 2002, I started carrying a little of inventory and then started the retail side of the business. That helped me turn the corner and start the process of making a living in the industry I love.

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“Cycling and community, man! What else do you need?”

You were able to stay self-employed. What do you like best about being a business owner?
I’ve always valued time over money.

I control my schedule. This allows me to do super cool stuff, the stuff I love. Like, I just spent the afternoon with my daughter at a P.E. Assembly at her school.

You’ve been at this for 20 years. I know you now invest heavily in the community in a variety of ways. Why?
Cycling and community, man! What else do you need?

I’m proud and honored to help people doing cool work. I’m proud to be a part of making the miles of new trails around Oklahoma City possible. Cycling is more than a sport, it’s a lifestyle and a community.

That shows, Sheridan. I look around and there are fifteen people hanging out doing life at your shop’s counter.
All the time, man.

One last question, What advice do you have for other small business owners and aspiring owners?
Make sure you love it. You have to love your idea and dream.

Don’t expect to do more than make a modest living. There has to be more to your motivation than money.

Then, when you do make money, that’s just icing on the cake.

Thanks Sheridan.
You’re welcome. See you soon.


About Made Possible By
Made Possible By is the new way community minded companies manage and share their grant, sponsorship and charitable gift requests. Made Possible By is reinventing the community investment process for companies with an easy to use, online toolset that saves them time and money and helps them earn community and customer trust. Learn more at our website or blog.

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John Vance Automotive Group, Three Generations of Business Success and Community Impact

John Vance Automotive Group is a mainstay in Guthrie, Perry and Miami, Oklahoma and represents twelve automotive brands in 3 communities. I knew they invested in each community but, when they became the lead sponsor of Guthrie’s Red Brick Nights summer concert series, I had to learn more about them, their history and their motivation. I recently spent a few minutes with Megan Vance Ochs, Vice President to hear their story.

Good morning Megan. John Vance Autogroup has been around for a long time. Tell me a bit about the history.
This industry is in our blood. Both sides of my family have been connected with the automotive industry for 3 generations. My grandparents, Mike and Carolyn Vance, were big supporters and always very well respected in the dealership. My grandfather, Phil Galleher, was a service representative for Pontiac for 30 years. That’s who inspired my dad, John Vance, to started selling cars at Ernie Miller Pontiac where my Grandmother Mary was the Controller. My dad worked his way up to General Sales Manager and then, in 1983 he and my mom bought the first dealership in Guthrie. Family is a huge part of our business. My Uncle Mark worked here until he passed away in 2005. My brother Garrett, cousin Derek and I plan to carry on the legacy. 

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The Guthrie Dealership was probably a lot different in 1983 than it is today, correct?
Oh yeah. When he bought it, it was a small, GM dealership in a wheat field. He grew that business and then began adding more. He became the youngest Cadillac dealer in the nation. He then added a Chrysler and Ford store; added a mobility department; then more stores in Kansas, Perry, Texas and Miami, Oklahoma. We’ve since sold the Texas and Kansas stores and started our latest venture, Vance Insurance, May of 2014. It’s been a great run and we’re grateful for it.

You grew up in and around the dealership businesses. But, you haven’t always worked there.
That’s right. My first job was at the Prairie Rose Cafe which was next to Guthrie’s Blue Bell saloon. I worked at Granny Had One and a carpet store during college then, my first “real” job was at the dealership.

“I love to make things better—people, processes, you know—with whatever ability and means I have”

That’s interesting. How did those roles prepare you for what you do today?
Well, traditionally, people advance in the auto sales industry through the sales path or finance path. In my role in Customer Relations, I was really focused on process development, process optimization and customer experience.

The core and heart of our business is taking care of people. That’s how I’m wired as a person and that’s what my prior experience shaped in me. It was really a great way to start my career in the automotive business.

Before I go much further into your career path, I have to ask, what makes you tick? What do you love in your work?
Wow.

[Pause]

I love to make things better—people and processes—with whatever ability and means I have. I love to see people grow. I love doing what I can to help them. I also love making processes better, easier and more efficient.

Thanks Megan. How did you land your current role at the dealership?
When my son was a year old, I got a call from the dealership to run our business development center. I brought a service oriented approach and worked hard to improve all the processes to make the shopping and buying experience more efficient for our customers.

What happened next?
In 2007, I became the General Manager. Which was interesting. It was right on the front end of a recession that hit everybody hard including the car businesses we ran.

I remember that period of time, 2007 to 2010, or longer. It was really tough. As the new General Manager, I can imagine it was stressful. That said, how do you manage stress?
[laughing]

I pray.

And, I have to choose my mindset. Stress is always around. I have to recognize that and choose to be optimistic. I also work hard to focus on doing the things in my control with that spirit of optimism.

Megan, you invest in the communities you serve through corporate sponsorship and charitable gifts. Why?
That’s easy. It’s the right thing to do.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t spend money on advertising, we’d just do good work and invest back into the communities we serve and let people tell our story. Our main source of business has always been repeat customers and referrals.

You partnered with James Long and some others through the years to launch and grow Guthrie’s Red Brick Nights. Tell me about that.
I love music. I love Guthrie and James is really enjoyable to work with. He’s a true professional.

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Are you surprised it’s drawing tens of thousands of people to Guthrie each season?
I’m happy, but certainly not shocked. We had a vision for the event. It is just the perfect event at the right time for the right community.

“Passion. That’s it. Passion drives perseverance. Going in, you have to know it’s not going to be easy—nothing comes easy. I think it was Einstein that said something like, ‘you can’t fail until you quit.’”

What do you find most rewarding?
Making a difference through all of our community investments is most rewarding. Helping teachers, students, communities grow and enjoy one another is always rewarding. With Red Brick Nights, I think it’s so fun to see many, many people outside of Guthrie show up. Last month I was in Nashville for a meeting and ran into some local musicians trying to catch a break. When I told them I was from Oklahoma they said the had been trying to get into this new venue called “the red brick”. I had not even mentioned Guthrie. The word is getting out about about what is happening in our little town!

O.K., you told me you listen to music every night. What’s on your play list?
Ha! Everything…Pearl Jam, CCR, Tom Petty, Citizen Cope, Levi Parham, Turnpike Troubadours. I could list more…

Alright Megan, last question: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs and your fellow business owners?
[laughter]

I’m trying not to sound like a fortune cookie…

Passion. That’s it. Passion drives perseverance. Going in, you have to know it’s not going to be easy—nothing comes easy. I think it was Einstein that said something like, “you can’t fail until you quit.”

Thank you Megan. You’ve inspired me and others to keep going and keep making a difference as we work to make a living. I appreciate you.
You’re welcome.


About Made Possible By
Made Possible By is the new way community minded companies manage and share their grant, sponsorship and charitable gift requests. Made Possible By is reinventing the community investment process for companies with an easy to use, online toolset that saves them time and money and helps them earn community and customer trust. Learn more at our website or blog.

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Environmental Management Services: From a Garage Startup to Nationwide Coverage

A couple years ago, when Made Possible By was just an idea, I had lunch with Terry Bobo (Thanks Dan Newton!), founder of Environmental Management Services. Shortly thereafter, he introduced me to Kristal Flury, EMI’s HR Coordinator, point person on community engagement and a 20 year veteran of the company. EMI was one our first customers. It’s been a privilege and inspiring to learn about business, life and community impact from these great people. Kristal and I visited to talk about EMI’s history and one of their most recent awards. I think you will too will be inspired by the story.

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Good afternoon, Kristal. EMI is a local company that provides services throughout the United States. Where did EMI start?
Terry and Lonnie Bobo started the company from their garage in Edmond in 1983.

Well, from an entrepreneurial perspective, the garage-based startup is always fascinating. Did they start out with a lot of capital?
I don’t think so. Terry had an idea and a lot of expertise. Lonnie was supportive. So, they just set up shop and got to work.

“Never burn a banana. They smell horrific.”

Environmental clean-up is a unique business. I can imagine the required expertise must be unique as well. What was Terry’s background?
Well, he’s a Chemist. He went to school at Auburn and graduated with a Chemistry degree. But it wasn’t just Terry’s expertise that helped him grow. It was Lonnie’s support and family support. Lonnie’s dad, Robert Nichols, was the accountant for many years. This support really allowed Terry to do what he does best, chemistry and operations.

That education sounds like it lends itself well to Environmental Cleanup. But, what exactly does EMI do?
We have 52 employees that cross the nation to do hazardous and non-hazardous waste cleanup. We work for the transportation industry cleaning up spills on our highway system or rail transport; we help medical providers; schools and colleges; pigeon droppings are toxic an we clean those out of buildings, etc. Really, if there is a spill of anything hazardous or, non-hazardous, anywhere, we clean it up.

O.K., give me some examples.
For the sake of our clients I can’t say much but I will say, never burn a banana. They smell horrific. We had to clean up an overturned truck full of burning bananas and we have employees that still can’t eat a banana. We also do underground storage tank removals, asbestos testing, lead paint testing. Sadly, we even test for chemical residue from meth labs.

Let’s shift gears. You implied that EMI is a family run business but, being around you leads me to believe that the business is run like a healthy family.
That’s true! We love each other. We care for one another. We have lunches together. We throw baby showers. the team came by and helped my family clean up our place after a tornado…really, when one of has joy, we all have joy. When one of us is hurting, we’re all hurting.

Terry just cares for people. You know, in 35 years of business, we’ve had one layoff. We do everything to avoid them.

“When one of us has joy, we all have joy. When one of us is hurting, we’re all hurting.”

You won Guthrie’s Business of The Year for 2018. What does that mean to each of you at EMI?
We’re honored for sure. Terry is so humble and just goes about the business doing what he does because it’s the right thing to do. But, it is an honor and it’s more of a testimony to the team we have and the hearts we have for one another and the community. We’re grateful.

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What motivates EMI and Terry to invest in the community?
Terry has such a kind heart. He does everything he can to make those around him better. He loves to share his experiences, knowledge and expertise. EMI moved to Guthrie in 1987 and he’s committed to help this community and all the communities we serve become a better place.

From experience, I know you do. How do you go about that?
We partner with and support the organizations, events and causes doing work we love. These type of investments range from investments in kids and schools to local food banks. It’s really a privilege to be able to help as we can.

Both you as an individual and EMI have been actively involved in the United Way as well, correct?
We have. Since 2003 EMI and our employees have contributed significantly to the work the United Way provides Logan County. It’s been a great way for the company and our employees to rally together to make a difference locally.

I know you invest financially in numerous communities and organizations, but you also provide equipment, labor and expertise to those in need. Tell me about that.
As I said, Terry loves to lend his expertise. On numerous occasions we’ve sent our crew and equipment to help with disaster cleanup resulting from tornados in Mulhall, Oklahoma City, Carney etc. We also send our crew and tanker trucks out to refill fire rigs during wildfires. Finally, we’re able to give away usable salvage from our Product Distribution Program. This includes things like paint, light bulbs and occasionally food supplies.

We look for ways to lend what we have to make a difference and are grateful that we can do it.

I’m always inspired by companies that have figured out how to survive the ups and downs of business. What advice would Terry offer a new or relatively young business?
I spoke with Terry about this very subject. For him, life and business is really simple when you, “surround yourself with the right people” and, “Do your best to pay for things as you go, do not have debt to service.”

Kristal, thank you for your time. It’s an honor to share your story, we appreciate your work and wish EMI another successful and impactful 35 years.
Thank you. It’s been a joy to be a part of this company the last 20 years.


About Made Possible By
Made Possible By is the new way community minded companies manage and share their grant, sponsorship and charitable gift requests. Made Possible By is reinventing the community investment process for companies with an easy to use, online toolset that saves them time and money and helps them earn community and customer trust. Learn more at our website or blog.


Billy Clark: 8 Thoughts on How to Make a Difference in Your Community

Billy Clark has been in the car business for over 35 years. After 5 years as Eskridge Chevrolet’s General Manager he semi-retired from the car business. Under his leadership, Eskridge Chevrolet was named Guthrie’s Business of The Year in 2017. And, Billy was just named Guthrie’s Citizen of The Year for 2018. Fortunately, for his community, he’s really not retiring. He’s just freeing up time to do more of what he loves: invest in the people, causes and community he loves. Here’s a bit of his story and what he’s learned about making a difference.

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You’ve been in the car business for quite sometime haven’t you?
My whole life really. I’ve been doing this for 35 years.

You’re wrapping up your tenure in the business, transitioning out of the General Manager role at Eskridge Chevrolet.
I am. It’s time. My 10 years at Eskridge have been amazing and rewarding.

How so?
Well, a couple reasons. First, I work for an owner’s group, the Eskridge family, that truly cares about people—their customers and the communities they serve. Their values really align with mine. Second, I was able to be a part of a community that cares for one another. I really fell in love with Guthrie. I’m blessed.

Sounds like the perfect fit, Billy. Why leave?
Ha! It’s just time. I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve treated people right and that’s given me the opportunity to have options. So, the number one reason is, I’m ready to keep making a difference in different ways, apart from the day to day operations of the dealership.

One more question about the dealership. Eskridge Chevrolet was Guthrie’s Business of the Year. How did that feel?
Honestly, it was probably the highest honor I’ve had professionally. I just try to go about my business and do what I can the right way. I don’t do what I do for any sort of recognition or reward. But, I have to admit, when my peers in the community voted our dealership as Business of The Year, it felt amazing. Kind of like the culmination of my work. I teared up.

Also, I like to think we raised the bar for community involvement. We’ve been able to do so much. It wasn’t always easy but we love it. I think we were out in front and that our involvement got other businesses to get involved too.

“Relationships will make or break you. Align with the right people.”

O.K., Billy, what’s next?
Some days, I have no idea. I have the general stuff figured out but, the details are a bit foggy. I know I’m called to make a difference. So, that’s it. I’m transitioning out of the dealership to have more time to invest in the community.

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You were just named citizen of the year. How does that feel?
I’m still shocked. Also, honored. It’s still sinking in. But, it was confirmation that the next steps I’m taking are the right ones.

Billy, it is well deserved. After running the business named Business of The Year and then being recognized as Guthrie’s Citizen of The Year, what can you share with us about how you go about investing in your community, people and making a difference in general?
Well. There’s no real formula for me.

[Long pause]

Here’s what comes to mind:

  1. Just treat people the way you want to be treated.

  2. If you say you’re in, go 100%.

  3. I’m married to the right person. I’m really blessed to be married to Maggie. She loves to give and do even more than I do. She’s my inspiration.

  4. Don’t overthink stuff. Just do it, do what you can. Take action.

  5. Show up, give your time. Say yes.

  6. Relationships will make or break you. Align with the right people.

  7. Time is the hardest thing to give. But, the most rewarding.

  8. Keep your eyes open, look for ways to give. And do it, time, money, whatever you can.

Billy, it’s exciting to think that you’re just getting started. We commend you for the impact you’ve made and look forward to your future. Thank you.
Thank you.


About Made Possible By
Made Possible By is the new way community minded companies manage and share their grant, sponsorship and charitable gift requests. Made Possible By is reinventing the community investment process for companies with an easy to use, online toolset that saves them time and money and helps them earn community and customer trust. Learn more at our website or blog.

Jameson Real Estate. An Entrepreneurs Journey to Impact

I met James 6 years ago. My family had just moved to Guthrie and we crossed paths often—the way it's done in small towns. He was in the middle of his first business and starting his second. James has strong convictions, and he's vocal. He's also an accidental, astute, and now, seasoned entrepreneur. He's also committed to Guthrie, America. So much so, he moved from the edge of town to the center in order to connect with the community and make a difference. Grab a beer or fruit smoothie with him from Guthrie Nutrition sometime, you will enjoy the visit. In the meantime, read on to learn more about his journey and vision for community impact.

How did you become an entrepreneur?
Well, it started out as an accident. I was an employee for an oil and gas land/lease company. In 2007, the company restructured and began to focus on their core business. But, they had a problem and I guess I was the solution.

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What was the problem?
They wanted to divest a small training business they owned and they offered it to me. I said, "look, you guys know what I make, you pay me. I don't have the money to buy much of anything at the moment.” But, they saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself at the time.

I think laughter and candidness helped the negotiations. After more detail and discussions than anyone cares about, it worked out. They wanted out of the training business and I got into it...

What did you learn from your first business?
Out of the gate the business did great. It generated a lot of cash. But, I didn't understand all the details of accounting, tax liability, processes etc. I did a great job marketing the business and training people. But, I wasn’t a great business operator at the time.

Hire a good accountant. Learn how to operate the business, not just do the work you do to make the money.

Fortunately, I partnered with a strong accountant near the end of the first year. It was expensive. But, not having them could have cost me the business.

What happened next?
Well, we had the real estate crisis around 2008, the credit crunch, whatever you want to call it. It wasn't directly related to oil and gas but it hit that too. My business slowed down. But I thought it was also an opportunity.

How so?
Well, it's a funny story. Houses in my home town were affordable so I called a realtor. She didn't know how serious I was so she directed me to another realtor, Patricia Cornforth. As I said, houses were affordable. I bought my first three properties that day and that's how I got into real estate.

Since then, you obtained your Real Estate license and you and Patricia opened Guthrie Real Estate. You've since got your Broker’s license and rebranded as, Jameson Real Estate.
Correct.

A moment ago you said you found opportunity in a “down market.” Explain that and, what advice would you offer to others facing their own crisis?
It just seemed that there is an opportunity amidst every crisis. I've learned to look for them. When things get bad, I look for opportunities. Fortunately I’ve found them. But, if I had been scared I wouldn’t have even looked. So, just keep looking and working.

When things get bad, I look for opportunities.

Congratulations on the hard-won experience. At every stage of your business ventures you've been for your community. You were part of the founding team of Red Brick Nights and you invest in the local schools. Why?
There are a few reasons. In general, I love my community. It’s a hell of a place—unique even. I just want the town and the people to do well.

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Tell us about Red Brick Nights.
You know, there are a lot of community parties. But, Red Brick Nights is the only one that is centered around the community, Oklahoma artists, and the town. Also, it’s an environment that caters to families and kids.

How so?
North Church sponsors a great kids’ area. This is unique to Red Brick Nights. The music is curated by Justin Fortney and features amazing talent from in and around Oklahoma. It’s an event that’s big enough to feel electric and small enough for my kids to run and get an icee and come back on their own.

How did it start?
Guthrie has a tradition of community based festivals and is a sleeper community for musicians. We had a couple of ladies that started a monthly music event several years ago, Christie & Shirley Clifford and it unfortunately ended. A few of us had the idea to restart that and rebrand it and it just rolled from there.

Did the business community and other community organizations embrace the idea?
Absolutely. Without the support of Meghan Vance with John Vance Auto Group, The City of Guthrie, Long Hair Repair, the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce and a dozen other businesses we couldn’t pull it off. The business community sponsors it and our city government supports it. The entire event is only possible with the support of the businesses, volunteers and civic leaders.

What about Schools? You’ve invested in the local schools, public and private alike. Why?
I don’t care where you stand on the school funding issue. The issue aside, the problems aren’t the kids fault or the teachers. So, let’s just get some damn supplies into the classrooms. If we won’t invest in our own children, who will?

If we won’t invest in our own children, who will?

Enough said?
Enough said.

What made you get on the City Council.
I realized I can’t live in a bubble centered around me. So there are so many cool things going on in the Guthrie community and so many challenges. I just want to be involved and help our community move forward.

Thank you James. Any closing thoughts for entrepreneurs and difference makers?
If you want to leave things better than you found them, you’ve got to get involved with people. People aren’t easy. I’m not easy. But, making a difference isn’t easy either. Get involved with the people around you.

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Why We Built Made Possible By

Made Possible By makes it easier for community minded companies to manage and share their grant, sponsorship and charitable gift requests. We're reinventing the community investment process for companies with an easy to use, online toolset that saves time and money and helps you earn community and customer trust.

After connecting with hundreds of companies like yours, we found that they receive numerous requests to give back to their community. With these opportunities to give back comes some challenges.

We discovered three such challenges.

process problems

Businesses receive a lot of requests to give back.

  • Weekly, and even daily, companies are asked to give back. These requests come from email, phone call, drop in visits and snail mail.

  • Multi-location companies receive the same requests at different locations.

  • Single location companies receive the same request from different people within their own company.

  • Handling each request for sponsorship takes time.

Without a system, these requests become overwhelming; sometimes even lost or forgotten.

AWARENESS CHALLENGES

The total scope of a company's community investments are often unknown by those in the community.

  • That's because the investment is shared temporarily: the poster with a company's logo is taken down and the placard on the sponsored, 9th hole is pulled up when the event is over. The social media post? it flies by like a billboard on the freeway.

  • There's not a single location where all the work a company does in and for the community is available for view.

As a result, community impact and goodwill is temporary, or even unknown.

CUSTOMER AND COMMUNITY MEMBER EXPECTATIONS

Finally, customers and community members want to do business with companies that do good. But, most people aren't aware of a company's total investment in the communities they serve.

We built Made Possible By to solve the process and awareness problems associated with community investment. As a result, we save you time and help you better connect with your community and customers.

We do this by offering a digital space for you to centralize the sponsorship process and better tell your story. We provide your own Community Impact Page.

Learn how to make the most of Made Possible By in our resource section. If you’d like more details about how Made Possible By works, connect with us.

Consumers expect companies to...invest[ing] in causes in local communities and around the globe.
— Sustainable Brands

Sharing Your Sponsorship Participation

Made Possible By allows you to share the story and impact of your sponsorship by initiating a "Project or Event."

PROJECTS AND EVENTS: SHARING YOUR STORY OF SPONSORSHIP

Once you sponsor a "Project," or "Event" you may display a brief story of your sponsorship for perpetual awareness. Start by selecting "Projects" from the drop down menu after you have logged in.

CREATING A PROJECT OR EVENT

  • Select, "New Project"
  • Add an image or logo. The image type must be .png or .jpg or .jpeg
  • Share the details
  • Press, "Save"
  • Then, once you're satisfied with the draft, press, "Publish"

Receiving and Reviewing Sponsorship Requests

receiving A Sponsorship request

As you reroute sponsorship requests to your Community Impact Page, your Made Possible By administrator will receive an email notification when an application is submitted.

Reviewing a Sponsorship

You may view and manage all sponsorship requests by logging in to Made Possible By. Once you log in:

Select, "Sponsorships" from the navigation.

You will then see a table of historical sponsorship requests. To manage a request, select "View" on the far right of the table.

Once you select "View" you are able to track the details of the sponsorship request including:

  • Accept or Decline;

  • Track the cash contribution

  • Cash value of an in-kind contribution

  • And even volunteer hours.

When you’ve added the details of hour sponsorship participation, just hit save.

Once you've sponsored a project or event, make sure to share the story on your profile.

Components of effective sponsorship guidelines

Because you can’t say “Yes” to every opportunity, sponsorship guidelines will guide your decisions and make the decisions easier.

what’s your objective with your community investment?

Have an objective. What do you hope to accomplish with your investment? You are likely motivated by one or a combination of any of these.

  • You value certain issues and opportunities. Let these values be your guide-that is, align your community investment with your values

  • You want to help solve a community problem and/or create memorable community experiences

  • You want brand visibility

  • You want to more deeply engage your employees and community by sponsoring what they value

define your criteria

Common components of effective sponsorship guidelines include:

  1. Where. Define the geographic area, community, causes and customers you serve. Does the project or event add value and awareness to the community and consumers you serve?

  2. Awareness. Does the organization requesting sponsorship have a promotional plan that brings awareness to the project, event and the sponsors?

  3. Values driven. Define your values and invest in the projects, events and relationships that align with your values and brand.

  4. Amount and type. How are you able to invest? Cash, in-kind, volunteer hours, space? Let the requestor know the types of contributions you do and do not make.

You may request metrics and benchmarks for the project or event.

  • Budget that outlines the use of funds

  • Promotional plan. how many people will the event serve and reach?

  • What other sponsors are participating?

Once you have sponsorship guidelines, you may post them on your application by uploading a .pdf file.

Saying, "Yes!" and "No, Thank you." With Confidence

The community-minded companies Made Possible By serves have a common experience, each receives numerous sponsorship requests. No matter the size of your company there are always more opportunities to invest in your community than resources.

Often, you have to say, “No. Thank you for the opportunity.”

Most don’t enjoy turning down a request however, with clear sponsorship guidelines and a plan it doesn’t have to be an awkward process.

Here’s how to review a sponsorship request and make the decision.

Does the request and requestor fit your sponsorship guidelines? Start with clear sponsorship guidelines. With these in mind you are able to evaluate each request efficiently and objectively.

Does the request fit within your budget? Determine a sponsorship budget and stick to it. The budget may be an annual amount or a quarterly amount you predetermine.

Also, It is appropriate to list a “maximum amount” for each sponsorship on your guidelines. Requestors, like any good fundraiser or event coordinator, will start “high” and graciously receive what you are able to offer. It is fair for you to offer what you are able, not what is requested.

Budget and plan for your recurring sponsorships and beneficiaries. You invest in events and organizations annually. Plan for those first.

Is the request redundant? You sponsor the organizations and events you value. As a result, similar organizations will approach you. In this case, just let the requestor know that you value their work, so much so, that you currently invest in similar organizations doing similar work and. At this time, you must allocate your sponsorship dollars to the organizations you're presently committed to.

Offer an alternate amount or an in-kind contribution. You do what you do really well. In some cases you may be able to offer services or goods instead of financial support. 

You may defer the request. If you truly value the organization and opportunity but can’t sponsor them consider deferring and ask them to request the next quarter or year for future evaluation.

Saying, “No, thank you" may not be easy. However, saying no to the many, good requests allows you to invest in the best ones--those that bring the most satisfaction and value to your company and your community.

Adding the Made Possible By icon to your site

Made Possible By inserts the process of accepting and reviewing sponsorship requests into the world-recognized social media set.

When the icon is added, it looks something like this.

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Your web designer may find the icon, in styles that match your existing web design, here.

By placing the icon on your site, you may then reroute sponsorship requests to your Made Possible By icon on your site. By clicking through the icon, the requester is taken to your Community Impact Page to learn about your company, core values and then apply for sponsorship.

This simple act of rerouting sponsorship requests saves you time and helps you give back to your community much more efficiently.

Rerouting sponsorship requests to your Made Possible By Community Impact Page

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Sponsorship requests come from many sources: email, telephone calls, letters, and/or drop-in visits. Even internally when employees ask you to consider sponsoring a project, event or organization.

Made Possible By streamlines these requests by consolidating all requests into a central place and system.

Reroute requests to your Made Possible By community impact page

When you receive a request for community sponsorship, here's sample language to reroute the request to your Made Possible By system.

"Thank you for thinking of us. We would love to learn more! Would you go to our site, click on the Made Possible By icon next to instagram? You can learn about who we are, what we value and what we've sponsored.

If you think we might be a good partner, just complete the application for sponsorship and we will be in touch.

Thank you for thinking of us and we appreciate the work you’re up to.”

This simple redirection will save you time and allow you to simplify and centralize the sponsorship process. It also allows you to review requests apart from the day-to-day operations.

You may use this type of language in a few ways:

  • When asked in person. When someone approaches you in the course of your workday, just ask them to apply. Then, you may thoughtfully review the request.

  • When you receive a phone call

  • Create a template response for emails. When you’re asked through email, take the request out of your inbox and place it into the system. You may use the language we provided above or craft your own message. However, make sure you include the link to your Community Impact Page.

If you haven’t added the Made Possible By icon to your site, we show you how here.

Finally, make sure you coach and equip your staff to reroute requests as well.

Made Possible By Site Update

It's been less than a year since we launched Made Possible By. It feels like just yesterday and forever ago--all at the same time. In the last 11 months, we've learned so much, thanks to the friendship, feedback and insight from our peers and customers across 3 states.

No August Lull.

We made the most of August (and the past 11 months) by listening to feedback and then designing and developing an updated problem-solving platform for our peers, the community-minded companies we serve.

Simplifying Sponsorship 

Community-minded companies across the country express similar challenges with sponsorship requests.

Made Possible By makes it easier for these companies to accept and review sponsorship requests then share the stories of those they support. You may learn more about how it works on the site.

The "Why" behind the solution

The vision is to equip every community-minded company to create and inspire impact in their communities with their peers, customers and the causes they love. Experience shows that we can have a greater impact when we share and support stories of impact together.

How

Just look for the Made Possible By icon on the sites of a growing list of community-minded companies. You will get the idea.

Special Thanks

Made Possible By is a start-up, as such, we rely upon the feedback and support of a community of visionary leaders and customers. They help us define the exact problems they want solved and help us refine solutions that meet their needs.

So, we'd like to thank Plenty Mercantile, i2e, Midtown Renaissance, Urban Teahouse, Eskridge Chevrolet, Hoboken Coffee, Orthodontic Arts, Levate, Cooper House Creative for helping us refine and grow Made Possible By. There are many more. These are just a few of the people we had long conversations with this past year.

We have a growing list of features that make sponsorship easier and more rewarding for all involved. Until then, we just want to say Thank You!

All our best,

Mike

A Visit With Conexa's Jason Ledlow, About Literacy, Business and Making A Difference.

When I first met Jason Ledlow, Founder of Conexa I perceived him to be an astute and scrappy entrepreneur. We crossed paths about 18 months later when Made Possible was invited to present at Oklahoma's EO Chapter on the subject of Consumer Engagement. Afterwards, we visited and I was left with the impression that amidst the start-up grind, here was a Founder that wanted to build a viable business while impacting people in meaningful ways. Later, when asked about Jason's commitment to people and making a difference, I responded, "He's authentic. He really wants to help kids read and help people."

What's the story behind Conexa?
A few years ago, I had a really good team at a company called UTPhone. We were looking for open space in the changing technology market and even changing demographics in the U.S. We realized there was a huge gap in the home internet market. We discovered that 90% of the kids 6th grade and below in Oklahoma City's Public School system speak Spanish in the home.

We were like, "Wow." Those people aren't being served well. So, we decided to offer a quality home internet service to them with a simple price structure and easy-to-understand terms. That was it, the starting point.

So, what have you been able to accomplish with Conexa?
I showed up at the kitchen table in a tie 3 years ago. Today, we have thousands of customers in 21 states and we're growing. We've been able to hire 17 people and have employees in 2 states. I'm very proud of the what we've done and the team's commitment to the company and their communities.

That's quite an accomplishment in just 3 years. Do you consider Conexa successful?
(laughing) Well, success is a moment by moment thing. In this moment, yes. However, we don't take it for granted. We show up everyday to deliver value to our customers and the communities we serve.

Speaking of customers, I've heard you comment on Internet service as more than just a product. Would you explain your thoughts?
Sure. The internet is a gateway to opportunity that no one should be without. Price, access, bandwidth--all of it--shouldn't be cost prohibitive, or restricted. It's a service that provides access to opportunity, information and so much more. That's why we use phrases like, "For Your Home." I could go on and on. It's just a rewarding product to provide because it does so much for individuals and families.

You recently distributed custom crafted, summer reading material to 600 students in Oklahoma City. Why?
As an entrepreneur, I'm a proponent of opportunity. Literacy and language is a key to both. I read with my kids to help them grow and I want all families to grow to their potential. This is about people, families and a brighter future.

Any other reasons?
Yes. I love to read and read with my kids often. Even with my involvement, it's hard for them sometimes to learn and stay motivated. This made me wonder, "I read with my kids and it's not easy. How hard must it be for some of these families that don't have the time I do or don't even speak English?"

With that in mind, what did you do?
We have a cartoonist on staff and a number of our staff speak Spanish. I just asked him to draw and draft a dual language reading primer that we could hand out to kids for their summer reading. Our team did a great job. Fantastic really.

We went on to partner with Oklahoma City's Lee Elementary to host a party, celebrate the kids and then handed out the books.

I was there and the event and the kids' enthusiasm was inspiring. How did the administration receive your offer?
They were thrilled. The material came at a time amidst massive budget cuts and they were ecstatic to work with us to celebrate literacy. More importantly, they wanted the kids to have access to the material we provided. We hosted the event May 20th. Since then, additional cuts have been announced specifically, textbook cuts. We look forward to doing more. Anything we do is helpful. Now, more than ever, we look forward to doing more.

More? What's next?
We envision a whole series of reading primers, coloring books etc. that we can hand out. Not just in Oklahoma, but in all the communities we serve. Our partnership and contribution to Lee Elementary is just the beginning. It will take time, but we're committed.

Thanks Jason. Any other community projects you see the Conexa team getting involved with?
Yeah. Due to a lot of personal experience, we're working with a Suicide prevention organization to help them do more of the good work they're about. I'll fill you in later.

Wow. Sounds personal.
It is. I'll tell you more later.

O.K. Changing directions, we've spoke at length about building a company. Any wisdom might share with fellow business builders?
Wisdom?! (laughing) I don't know about wisdom. I can share a few thoughts around my experience. Here they are:

First, sell. Just start selling. By, "sell", I mean pitch or share, your idea, product, or solution as fast as possible. And listen. Listen closely. The faster you start selling your idea the quicker you can adjust the value proposition. If you're lucky, you can generate revenue and that's the lifeblood of any start up. Put on a tie, share your product with the world, listen to customer feedback and adjust what you must.

Second, success is a moment by moment thing. It's never permanent. You have to keep working to move forward because, if not, you will inevitably go backwards.

Third, work hard and focus. Twelve years ago, I was given the opportunity to represent a broadband service provider and took it. The day after closing the agreement with the provider, I woke up, put a tie on and sat down at the kitchen table with my laptop and a cup of coffee by 7:30a.m. My wife looked at me and said, "What are you doing?" I told her, "I am going to work. I have a company to build."

I work better that way. I know some entrepreneurs wear flip flops. That may be great for them. But, I have to get in the right frame of mind to build a business and flip flops don't work for me. A tie does.

Finally, make others a priority. Help as many people as you can as you build your company. I'm grateful we're at a spot where we can do this. It's really the goal right? To build a business that's viable and support as many people as possible in the process.

Sounds like wisdom to me Jason. Thanks for sharing your story. We'll be in touch.
I look forward to it.