Monday, January 31, 2011

Charles Dean, Jr. – Dean’s Janitorial Service, Inc. located in Easton, MD

Dean’s Janitorial Service, Inc. (DJS) is a commercial cleaning business that was founded in 1989 by Charles Dean, Sr.  The company began with two employees and one client.  Today the company has over fifty employees and services more than sixty accounts.  The company’s clients include banks, hospitals, schools, government buildings, post constructions and medical buildings.  Charles Dean, Jr. is the company’s Vice President and majority shareholder.  He has served as the Vice President since 2003.
DJS is a family run business.  Charles Jr. likes this approach because he feels that you get to spend more time with your family.  In addition, you get to work with people that you can trust.  While he likes this approach, he identified several disadvantages to running a family owned business.  He says it’s hard to keep business and family issues separate.  Sometimes the lines get blurry.  You’re never off work. Whenever you talk to a family member involved with the company business issues may come up.  You are constantly mixing your business and personal life. 
As a small business owner, Charles Jr. recognizes that there are certain problems and challenges that he faces.  He feels that it is challenging to manage assets to ensure the company is getting the most out of each asset.  One example is receivables, which he has to ensure are collected in a timely manner.  Because DJS doesn’t have much financing, it is important to get the money within 30 days to pay bills.  “Pleasing our customers is often sometimes difficult and sometimes our customers can’t be pleased.”  Another challenge is identifying which contracts aren’t money pits and which ones are (or will be) profitable.  Competition is also a challenge because the barriers (to enter the field of commercial cleaning) are low so there is new competition every day.  This affects the prices of the service, which leads you back to the challenge of managing your assets.
I asked Charles Jr. if it is easier to work for an established small business or to start a new business.  He said that both have positives.  Currently he has reputation on his side.  Since his father started the company, they still have three of their first four accounts (the fourth is no longer in business).  That reputation and brand recognition is hard to accomplish.  The negative side is trying to transition the old to the new.  Management, employees, customers, that is the hard part.  It would be easier if he started [the business] because things would be his way and he wouldn’t have to make changes.  There is a constant war between the old and the new.  Each day must be better than the next day, because there is always someone waiting to take your job or steal your business.  Charles Jr. believes that if you take pride in what you do, and do the best you can do for your customers, the money will follow.
For more information about DJS, visit
Submitted by Ralleisha Dean

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stephanie Lightfoot – Together Everyone Achieves More

On February 12th, Good Life Wellness center located in Savage, Maryland is celebrating a milestone - their 10 year anniversary. They are having an open house featuring organic food and will be giving the public the opportunity to see and experience the different wellness services they offer such as massage, acupuncture, nutrition counseling, life coaching and chiropractic care to name a few.

At the helm of this wellness center is Stephanie Lightfoot who is a certified massage therapist. She originally purchased Hands On Bodyworks from a former colleague and also inherited all the clients. During the course of helping her clients to de-stress, she developed a rapport with many of them where they felt comfortable sharing some of their concerns which had led to the tightening of their muscles. Because of her compassion, she referred them to other practitioners such as chiropractors and mental health counselors so they could have additional help to get fully healthy.

Lightfoot began thinking about a proposition that would be a win-win for everyone. The practitioners she was referring clients to each had to pay rent and utilities for their individual practices and clients had to drive all over town to meet them all. She thought to herself – why not form a co-operative and have the practitioners all in one location to share overhead costs and also support one another? This would also be convenient for the clients to have their additional health needs addressed at one place.

She chose a co-operative as a business model so that everyone can benefit since each practitioner has ownership of their individual businesses and they can give referrals to one another. In addition, decisions are made democratically and everyone has a vested interest in the co-operative’s success. There are currently 12 practitioners who make up the co-op and include a naturopathic doctor, mental health counselor, life coach and energy healer. In 2007 a second location, Bikram Yoga, was opened in Columbia, Maryland. This type of yoga is commonly referred to as “hot yoga” because it is taught in a hot studio with high humidity for 90 minutes each time.

The decision to create a co-operative as opposed to a traditional business owned by one person, has enabled Lightfoot to live a balanced life. She said when she became a business owner she was told she would never have free time for herself and yet she has experienced the exact opposite. As a mother of two she is able to work around her children’s schedule and she is also part of a band. Lightfoot says, “The most pleasant surprise I have found as a business owner is the freedom I’ve experienced. The business is truly running itself and I can choose which days I want to work.”

Choosing this business model was influenced by her two year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kingston, Jamaica. One of the lessons she learned was the importance of teaching the people she was there to help, the attitude of ownership and being invested in their own success long after the Peace Corps volunteers have gone. By doing this, the people will still function because they are self-motivated. She used the same idea for Good Life Wellness and it continues to flourish as a result.

As an entrepreneur, Lightfoot has faced several challenges. One of them was due to not having a full-time receptionist since she could not afford one. For many years she was responsible for answering the phone and returning calls and admits that she lost many customers this way because it was not possible to answer every call or return calls in a timely manner. When she found this solved the problem. This company provides a virtual receptionist and answering service and has transformed her business.

This attentiveness to customers who call has helped the company with its goal to help people and to stand out among the competition. They pride themselves in creating an environment where they can build solid relationships with their clients. Lightfoot says, “People come in to Good Life Wellness looking for relief from all different kinds of pain. Whether the pain is physical, mental or emotional, we work hard to find out what it is and give them relief.”

Another challenge is the impact the economy has had on the industry. Because the services they offer are considered alternative medicine, they are not covered by health insurance plans. As a result, customers who come to Good Life Wellness have to pay 100% out of pocket and with people losing their jobs there are fewer people who can afford the services. Lightfoot’s team has been using a lot of specials and discounts especially for first time customers. They also offer packages to existing customers so that they can lock in a lower rate if they commit to using a service a few times.

So what does the future hold for Good Life Wellness? Lightfoot says, “I have a big vision! I am currently renting space but one day would like to purchase a facility where I can offer wellness workshops over several days; teach yoga; have an organic farm and even maybe a concert venue.” Although this is indeed a big vision, Lightfoot plans to yet again to use the co-operative model. She firmly believes that connecting with others who share your vision is the best way for everyone to succeed. She truly epitomizes the acronym T.E.A.M. that together everyone achieves more!

Please visit for more information. Experience Good Life Wellness for yourself  by attending their open house on February 12th,  (2011) from 1pm – 4pm to celebrate their 10 year anniversary.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ike Kanakanui -- CEO of The Freedom Boat

Ike Kanakanui is a 27 year old entrepreneur from Key West, Florida who created the concept of The Freedom Boat (, and its sister businesses.  
Ike was born to an American mother and a Hawaiian father.  He spent his growing up years in San Diego, CA where he loved to surf and enjoy nature.  Living on the border to Mexico he also had exposure to Mexican culture, as well as visits to Hawaii to see his father and connect with his clan there.
As a young man, Ike struggled with school.  He graduated high school with no money and no prospects of going to college, so he joined the Navy.  They immediately sent him to Coronado Island in San Diego, CA to learn how to deep sea dive and sail.  Shortly thereafter he was sent to Sicily, Italy to work at the naval base, and it was here that he began to think globally, taking advantage of every opportunity to learn Italian and network with Italian surfers in his spare time.  While he was in Sicily he created the idea of one day having a boat that he would use to charter for surfing expeditions.
While deployed in Iraq, Ike enlisted the help of his high-school friend Dustin to create a website for his future company.  Ike wrote a mission statement and started putting together a team with the people he met through his travels.  Ike’s dad passed away at this time and he was allowed to leave Iraq to go home to the islands for the funeral.  While there he met up with cousins and other surfers and added a surf clothing line to his company.  The dream was taking shape.
After several years in the Navy, Ike had fulfilled his commitment and left with an international following, a paycheck and a GI bill.  He located to Key West and bought an actual boat to go with his website description, and enrolled in the community college to get a degree and certification in being a dive-instructor and boat captain.  During his studies the BP disaster happened and Ike became concerned with the marine environment. 
He applied for and won a grant to do reef research and filmed a documentary off the coast of South America, getting a much needed marketing opportunity for his boat. 
He will finish college this year and will sail his boat around Panama to California and begin his charter business.  He will rent his boat out for scientific research and also for surf expeditions, bringing along a videographer to document his expeditions.  He is also considering marketing his own documentary to the discovery channel.
Ike came to the table with no money but only a vision and a fearless spirit that believed in himself.  While his dream was incubating he gathered a following and put together a team.  Much of this pre-vision planning happened while he was on the front lines of battle in Iraq.  He moved his dream into reality when he was given a grant to do his first research expedition.  The fact that he made a documentary further highlights his entrepreneurial thinking.   He is a young man who will go far.
Submitted by:
Kim Congdon

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blake Mycoskie - Philanthropic Capitalism

Blake Mycoskie - Philanthropic Capitalism

When traveling in Argentina to learn how to play polo Blake Mycoskie noticed the villagers did not have shoes. He also saw that they had various health problems because of their bare feet. They had cuts, sores, hook worms and other problems. During the rainy season it could be even worse.
Blake is a caring person. He wanted to do something to help those children with no shoes. All he had to do was provide some shoes for the villagers to protect their feet.
One impulse people have when they see a problem like this is to ask for donations. Please give money! Please give shoes! Please help us take the shoes to people who need them.
The only problem with that is it is not sustainable. It doesn’t last. Shoes wear out. They get lost (kids are kids). Shoes get outgrown.
So Blake needed to find a way to provide shoes for these poor villagers. And it had to be sustainable. It had to support itself. The villagers could not purchase shoes, so even selling them inexpensive shoes would not work.
The villagers needed shoes today, but they would also need shoes tomorrow. They needed tomorrow’s shoes.
And an idea was born. A new business model that would be profitable and would provide shoes for people who could not afford them.
Blake Mycoskie knew nothing about shoes, so he decided to start a shoe company. The model for this company would be that for every pair of shoes it sold at a profit it would give a pair away to someone who could not afford them. That was the essence of his business plan.
And it worked.
People would have shoes today, and tomorrow. Tomorrow’s Shoes became TOMS Shoes. Being profitable and philanthropic is possible and the model Blake Mycoskie started would become a model for other companies as well. He took something typical and ordinary, the manufacturing and retail sale of shoes, and added value to it. The value to to the consumer who purchases the shoes, knowing that purchase will help someone in need. The value it to the company and it’s employees, because it remains profitable, earns them a paycheck AND provides them with a job that is socially beneficial. And the value is to the over one million people who have shoes on their feet.
That’s what I call a win-win-win proposition.
To find out more about TOMS shoes please go to

TOMS Shoes Event November 15, 2010 Anne Arundel Community College