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Planning for Business Growth

Small Business Development Center hosted by College of the Canyons
Blue Earth Enterprises Inc. • Valencia, CA

Before:
Kirk and Teresa Kryger’s online-only retail business, Blue Earth Enterprises Inc., sells fashion jewelry and gift items. In February 2008 the couple, who were operating out of their garage, were ready to expand. They visited the SBDC at College of the Canyons for help obtaining a loan — and found much more.

Best advice:
In February 2008, the Krygers began consulting with Senior Business Advisor Gil Murphy, who advised them on developing a business plan and using strategic planning and projections.

Lessons Learned:
A business plan is not just for the bank. “Instead of doing things by the seat of our pants, Gil suggested we create a business plan,” recalls Kirk. “Going through every aspect of our business and planning the next steps really helped us focus.”
Bootstrapping builds value. With Murphy’s help, the Krygers were in the process of getting a bank loan when they came to a realization. “We had grown from the start without borrowing money, and we wanted to keep the same path,” Kirk says. So “instead of getting capital, we kept investing our savings,” says Teresa. In the first year after working with Murphy, sales nearly tripled — from $202,000 in 2007 to $580,000 in 2008.
Measure your margins. In early 2008 the Krygers had a few websites, but primarily focused on selling via Amazon.com. Strategic planning revealed that sales made on their own sites had higher profit margins, so “we started focusing our efforts on our sites,” says Kirk. Today, Blue Earth has 13 websites.

After:
The Krygers have moved out of their garage into a 4,000-square-foot space and are eyeing further expansion. Their staff has grown from four to 13, including themselves. And sales have increased tenfold, reaching an estimated $2.25 million for 2010.

Murphy advised the Krygers to diversify their line by attending trade shows to source products. They’ve since added some 20,000 SKUs to their Amazon listings, and are Gold Tier Resellers. They also sell on Sears Marketplace and will soon begin selling on Amazon.co.UK.

In five years, Blue Earth should be generating over $10 million in sales, and be self-sufficient enough that the Krygers can retire. But money is not their focus. “We have the opportunity to grow,” explains Teresa, “and to give other people the opportunity to work.”

The Krygers regularly recommend the SBDC to others, and still check in for advice. Recently, when a vendor offered to buy Blue Earth, the couple debated for two months, then talked to Murphy. “The next day, we decided not to sell,” says Kirk. “The flexibility of having [the SBDC’s] expertise at our fingertips like that is really valuable.

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