STEUBENVILLE -- Two years ago Mike Givens was in the Project Bootstraps audience, listening intently as area entrepreneurs talked about everything from their motivation for going into business to practical issues like taxes, insurance and licensing.
"I'd been on the bubble of starting my own business," Givens recalled. "I'd always worked for other people, and wasn't quite sure if I wanted to do it or not. After listening to the people talk and hearing what they said about all that was involved in starting their own business, I decided to give it a go."
Givens opened his own home improvement business, Givens Home Improvement, LLC, and last year was invited back to be one of the Project Bootstraps panelists, sharing his observations with a new generation of would-be entrepreneurs.
"How weird is that?" he asks with a laugh. "I had no business background whatsoever, I was just a labor guy. That's why (they) asked me to come back and be on the panel."
Project Bootstraps allows budding entrepreneurs to learn the how-to's of business from some of the Steubenville area's most successful businessmen and women. Now in its third year, the free forum takes the form of a give-and-take discussion between the entrepreneurs and their audience, according to Thomas Kelly, faculty adviser to Franciscan University of Steubenville's Students in Free Enterprise group.
The first panel discussion in this year's Project Bootstraps series is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the seminar room at Franciscan's St. Joseph Center. Kelly said it typically plays to a packed house, and he expects this year will be no different.
"It's designed to inspire people in the community to live their dreams and open up a business," Kelly said. "If they open a business and are successful at it, obviously economic improvement will occur in the community. We're showing these people...proof positive that you can make it in Steubenville and the surrounding area."
Kelly said the discussion typically plays to a packed house.
"Starting a business is a scary thing, no question about it," Kelly said. "Project Bootstraps is designed to provide them with encouragement, let them know they can do it."
SIFE sponsors the event in conjunction with the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Progress Alliance, the Community Foundation of Jefferson County, Herald-Star and Valley Ventures Inc.
Panelists for the Nov. 9 session are Bob Chapman of Choice Brands of Ohio; Tracy McManamon of One Source Benefits; Arieh Ordronneau of Anytime Fitness; Nino Scaffidi of Scaffidi's Pasta; Philip Rook of Professional Lawn & Landscape; and Rob Runkel of Rehab Plus.
Bob Chapman is president and chief operating officer of KMC Corp., the holding company of Choice Brands of Ohio and Iron City Distributing company. He also is senior vice president of Beverage Marketing Corp.
After graduating magna cum laude from Franciscan University of Steubenville, he became a certified public accountant. He joined Choice as controller in 1978 after working as a senior accountant at other public accounting firms.
He is a member of the American Institute and the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants, past chairman of the Franciscan University Board of Advisors, vice chairman of the Workforce Investment Board, treasurer of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, member of the JB Green Team and a member of the Foundation board for Trinity Health System. He and his wife, Sharon, life in Steubenville. They have two sons, Robert Jr. and Matthew.
"You win with people and you need to stay focused on the Vision," Chapman said. "In our case, since 1937 the vision and guiding belief is to market the finest beers, wines, and other beverage products with the highest level of customer service. Truly this rich tradition and approach to business describes our current business partners, which represents our suppliers and customers."
Tracy McManamon grew up in Cleveland, attending parochial school before enrolling at Ohio State University, where he majored in economics, business administration and a minor in marketing. He worked as assistant director of operations and public relations for the Cleveland Browns for more than five years before he and his wife moved to Southern California, where he worked in advertising. Fifteen years later the McManamons moved to North Carolina, where he started his own insurance agency. A few years later he sold his agency to Acordia and soon after joined the firm, working with them for the next 12 years. During that time he scored honors as the youngest person ever to serve as senior vice president and partner until 2003, when he again opened his own agency.
McManamon and his wife, Amy, have been married 30 years and are the parents of Sarah, who now works with him in the family business; Catherine, Elizabeth, Madelen and Julia. He's a member of St. Peter Church, Serra International and Knights of Columbus, and chairs the Faith in the Future Task Force in Jefferson County. He and his wife also founded Two Hearts, a foundation to assist young girls in China with health care and educational needs.
Arieh Ordronneau opened Anytime Fitness in the Hollywood Plaza in November 2009 and is working to complete and open a second location in Weirton in January.
Ordronneau, a father of seven, had moved to Steubenville with his family from Oregon to complete his graduate theology degree at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2006. After earning his degree, he began to look for opportunities locally, not wanting to uproot his family again. He said he saw real opportunity in the area and liked the idea of being his own boss and building a business for himself, particularly since he couldn't find a job in the area in his field. He said his 12 years spent in business-to-business sales and in project management in the high-tech industry out West had prepared him for being a small business owner.
"Sales is the lifeblood of any business, no matter what. You have to find customers. The skill sets I had developed meant I wasn't intimidated by opening my own business and finding customers," Ordronneau said. "I knew they wouldn't just come to me."
Ordronneau said owning a business "can be very challenging on an emotional level, but seeing people improve their health and self-esteem in this business in particular is a very rewarding aspect. We change people's lives for the better."
Philip Rook is a landscape designer and the owner of Professional Lawn & Landscape of Steubenville.
A 1997 graduate of Catholic Central High School, he earned his business marketing degree in 2001 from Franciscan University of Steubenville and his master s in business administration from Franciscan in 2007. While still in high school he went to work at Professional Lawn & Landscape, which his brother, John, had founded in 1987. When he became co-owner in 1999, he focused on developing the company's design/build landscape division. He also was president and chief executive officer of Highland Hills Landscape Supply in Follansbee, a partner company to PL&L, from 1999-2002. In 2005 he became sole owner of PL&L.
Rook has completed courses in landscape design through the Ohio State short course program as well as extensive training in computer design imaging through Designware Inc. He is an Authorized Unilock retaining wall and paving stone contractor. In 2009, he became a Certified Aquascape Contractor, one of only 300 across the U.S. and Canada. CAC's are considered an elite group of water feature builders who specialize in constructing waterfalls, ponds, pondless waterfalls and rain water harvesting systems. Philip's work as a CAC recently took him to Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh to install a rain water harvesting system at the center for sustainable landscapes, which is currently under construction. This $20 million building will be one of the few LEED certified platinum buildings in the world.
Since 2005 Rook has steered the company from a full-service lawn maintenance company to a design/build landscape company. PL&L now specializes in residential landscape design and installations, brick patios and walkways, retaining walls, outdoor bars and kitchens, outdoor fireplaces and custom water features. The firm has 10 employees and mainly services the Steubenville/ Weirton area, but also completes projects from Pittsburgh to Wheeling.
A member of the Jefferson County and Weirton Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association, he lives in Steubenville with his wife and five children and has been a volunteer Jefferson Kiwanis Youth Soccer Coach for the last six years.
Robert Runkel is owner, chief executive officer and chief clinician at Rehab Plus Physical Therapy in Steubenville
In business for himself for 13 years, Runkel graduated from Kent State University in 1991 as a physical therapist assistant. He earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Barry University in North Miami Shores, Fla., graduating Cum Laude in 1994. He earned his master's in physical therapy from Barry University the following year, and his doctorate in physical therapy from Chatham University in 2004, specializing in orthopedics and sports medicine. He also completed certification in manual therapy technique, mobilization and manipulations of the spine from Michigan State University.
Runkel said he'd identified a number of patient needs that either couldn't be addressed due to staff limitations or that simply weren't of concern to large organizations, and opted to go into business for himself so he could address some of those needs. He said the hands-on approach he applied to patient care remains an integral part of his practice today.
Prior to acquiring Rehab Plus and going into private practice in 1998, Runkel worked for large corporations as a staff physical therapist and in various management positions. He recently expanded his practice, purchasing and renovating the former Spahn's Dairy building. His new, 7,000-square foot complex features state-of-the-art equipment and the area's only full-service aquatic therapy setting. The business currently employs five people, but is in the process of adding personnel.
A lifelong resident of Steubenille, Runkel and his wife have three children. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association and the Ohio Physical Therapy Association, and has earned numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Kent State Univesity, the Progress Alliance Best of the County Award and Who's Who in Business.
Nino Scaffidi and his wife Dawn own Scaffidi's Pasta.
The Steubenville natives opened for business in September 2009, moving into a larger space in August.
"We started small, understanding the risk involved, especially in a down economy," Scaffidi said. "But hard work, good customer service and providing an authentic product at a reasonable price has helped us grow the business from a 25-seat location to over 200 seats."
Scaffidi had majored in psychology at the University of Akron, and logged 15 years of management experience in various industries from corrections to food distribution before opening the restaurant. His wife has a degree in business management from the Bradford school, with 10 years of experience in retail.
"We both always wanted to open our own business," he said. "It takes hard work and dedication, but if you have that and a good product you can do it."
Scaffidi says to succeed, a small business owner must be prepared to "put a lot of time into it, and have a passion for it."
"Business ownership has been extremely rewarding," he said, "and we are blessed that we are able to provide a service in the community we call home. Our future goal is to continue to grow the business while staying true to our core values."
(Harris can be contacted at email@example.com.)