Thomas and Laurie Pavlou have been baking cakes since 1988 in Cleveland, Tenn. From what began as a simple desire to go into business for themselves has since grown into the T&L Baking Company, built by Thomas himself with the help of a local contractor, housing nine ovens and the capacity to produce 10,000 cakes per week.
“We began production with one convection oven, one stainless steel table, a small mixer and several sheet pans,” Laurie Pavlou said. “Our initial operation included baking and delivering specialty Greek pastries directly to local grocery stores.”
Business jumpstarted when they began producing angel food cakes for an East Ridge distributor, and by spring of 1990, Laurie had one full-time employee helping her produce more than 800 cakes and 400 packages of pastries per week. After Thomas and Laurie found two more interested distributors in Middle and West Tennessee, Thomas decided to quit his job and work full time at the bakery. From there, T&L Baking Company began producing 3,000 to 4,000 cakes per week supplying three distributors and several local stores.
With the help of an SBA loan, Thomas and Laurie were able to double the size of their building and purchase additional ovens and equipment. “By this time, we were producing angel food cakes and pound cakes as our specialty and working with six main distributors. The bakery was outputting 4,000 to 6,000 cakes per week and we had two employees year-round with several temporary helpers during the busy season.”
By 2008, Thomas and Laurie applied for and secured a BERO microloan. From that, Laurie says they learned the value of creating and following a business plan, and recognized the value of access to low-interest capital which led to an increase in sales. “With the help of TNECD and the input of our local Tennessee Small Business Development Center, our company continued to grow in the past five years. We expect to hire at least two more full-time employees and increase sales by at least 10 to 12 percent this year with the help of a new BERO microloan.”
Working with the Tennessee Small Business Development Center has also resulted in the development of marketing tools including a brochure and company website to highlight and advertise their products.
While Thomas and Laurie pour most of their energy into growing their business and baking cakes, they are also focused on giving back to the community. Since they began, they have hired high school and college students, and local residents in the neighborhood surrounding the bakery.
“We are excited about the future as we plan for growth economically as well as having opportunities to touch lives daily throughout our local community.”
To learn more about T&L Baking Company and their delicious cakes, please visit www.tandlbaking.com.
Before Phil and Dianna Pipkin opened “Phil’s Dream Pit” restaurant in Kingsport, you might say it was a leap of faith years in the making.
“Phil has barbequed for 30 years,” Dianna Pipkin said. “[We] started smoking meat at home and all our friends and neighbors raved about his food.”
Encouraged by all the positive feedback and their love of cooking, Phil and Dianna kept their “day jobs”, but purchased a smoker in 2007 and began catering their famous barbeque.
“Most people wanted to be able to try your foods first, so that was an obstacle, not having a storefront,” explained Dianna.
While they had both dreamed of opening their own restaurant, Dianna says they were apprehensive about taking the plunge.
“The challenge was that we could not keep our full time jobs and make a go of the restaurant,” explained Dianna. “We needed to be hands on all the time.”
That’s when fate stepped in. When Dianna’s job was eliminated and at the same time Phil’s employer talked about moving them away from East Tennessee, Dianna believes their great moment of opportunity came knocking.
“Phil was born and raised here and wanted to retire here,” Dianna said. “We decided if we didn’t give it a go we probably would not have the opportunity again.”
With backgrounds in running warehouses full of product, Phil and Dianna also found invaluable guidance through the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Business Enterprise Resource Office (BERO).
“BERO was such a help to us. Besides the BERO loan that we got, which helped us pay our bills that first year, we had such a wealth of information and assistance readily available to us to guide us and instruct us in. I attended many great workshops that BERO put on throughout the state.”
Armed with a BERO loan and a lot of faith, Phil and Dianna opened their restaurant in Kingsport in February 2009.
“I tell everyone that I meet who is considering opening a business to contact BERO, or go online and find out all the resources available through BERO,” Dianna added. “There is no reason for anyone to start a business on their own—the resources and people available to help are numerous and all are willing to take the journey with you.”
Phil and Dianna have four full-time employees with dreams to one day expand the barbeque business behind their current property. If you do decide to visit, Dianna says her favorite part of owning the restaurant is creating a welcoming, neighborly and of course, tasty experience for all of their customers.
“The favorite part of our business is the fellowship with the customers,” says Dianna. “We have been so blessed to have really great customers—many of whom feel like family.”
You don’t have to live in Kingsport to enjoy Phil and Dianna’s labor of love; you can buy their special barbeque online at www.philsdreampit.com or at your local Walgreen’s stores.
When Diane Ravens first read about honeybees in 1991, she had no idea her fascination with the social insects would spark a hobby and ultimately, a
“The fact that they are the only insect that provide food for human consumption, and that food—honey, never spoils, made me think there was more to honeybees than we realized,” Ravens said. “That was the beginning of my journey with this beloved insect.”
Ravens began this journey as a part-time beekeeper, but having a family inspired her to create “Appalachian Bee” in 2001, taking the company to the next level.
“I wanted to do something that kept me close to home, where I could be available to our young children,” Ravens explained. “Working with honeybees had always been enjoyable and challenging.”
Appalachian Bee began as a one-person effort in Ravens’ basement. She focused on creating artisan honey products—including varietal honey and honey butter—and natural skincare products. Ravens soon realized going it alone had its challenges.
“Some of the challenges I faced were where to find information about marketing, branding, and funding availability,” Ravens said.
Once Ravens secured a BERO loan, she says her business was truly able to thrive.
“One of the best things I did with the BERO funding I received was finding and hiring a qualified graphic designer to create a brand for our products,” Ravens said. “This included designing the layout for the package labels, marketing materials, and stationary. The funding also covered the cost of printing these items, as well as the cost of designing our e-commerce website. Once the branding was established, it presented my products as professional and desirable to my clients.”
Appalachian Bee has experienced enough success to expand out of Ravens’ basement into a 2,000 square foot manufacturing facility, complete with a soap studio, packaging and shipping area and storage for supplies and honey barrels.
“Having the BERO funding gave me the ability to reach the next level with my products by promoting them in a professional manner and gave me exposure on the Internet with my website that, otherwise, I would not have been able to do,” Ravens explained. “It was an easy process applying for the funding, and the interest rates were unmatched. Having this support from the state of Tennessee positively affected our bottom line, and each year we continue to grow.”
As a small business owner, Ravens prides herself on the quality and integrity of her products. She uses only the best ingredients available and counts her ability to interact with the retail businesses that sell her products, as well as the customers who visit her honey house, as reasons why she loves her job.
“Taking that leap of faith is difficult enough,” Ravens added, speaking about taking the plunge with her business idea. “When you get that support it was like the state of Tennessee saying ‘We believe in you’ and ‘We support what you are doing!’”
As far as the future, Ravens has big plans.
“My future business goals are to continue growing the business in new markets, hire additional sales representatives to market my products nationwide, continue to market my unique skincare products using elements from the beehive, and expand upon them,” Ravens listed. “I also have in development artisan infused honeys, which have had very favorable reviews.”
You don’t have to visit Ocoee or live in Tennessee to enjoy Diane’s labor of love; you can buy Appalachian Bee products online at http://www.honeybeesrock.com.
U.S. Veteran Ted Dunn launched a new career as an entrepreneur after a 30-year career with General Motors. Ted is the inventor of a multi-purpose trailer hitch that provides a one-stop hook-up. With the help of TNECD's BERO office, Ted was able to successfully launch his product.
Native West Tennessean Ted Dunn, is an eight-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a 30-year retiree from General Motors.
After a fulfilling career, Ted turned to a new line of work. He has recently launched a multi-purpose trailer hitch that provides a one-stop hook-up - called the D-Wyng. As inventor, designer and engineer of the D-Wyng, Ted turned to the TNECD BERO office to secure funding for the manufacture and marketing of the product.
BERO directed Ted to the Rural Small Business and Entrepreneurship Loan Fund program, which offers below-prime-interest-rate loans to entrepreneurs, home-based and part-time businesses. He was approved and is now the first small business in Henderson County to receive this microloan.
In preparation for the launch of the D-Wyng, Ted also received assistance from The Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Jackson State Community College, the University of Tennessee Procurement Technical Assistance Center and BERO.
Ted is married to Cora and is the father of six children.