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Voinovich Center helps full-time mother win entrepreneurship award

POMEROY, Ohio (April 17, 2007) -- Randi Gheen, owner and operator of Gheen Rentals and Industrial Sales in Pomeroy, Ohio, and a 25-year-old full-time mother of two, has been named Ohio's Small Business Administration Young Entrepreneur of the Year with the assistance of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Ohio University's Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs.

Randi taught herself the ins and outs of the business and the industry, taking over the business after only two years and leading it to 35 percent sales growth and increasing its profitability by 2.75 times. 

The company receives most of its income from large contractors, but it also provides services to smaller contractors and home owners.  Its success has allowed Gheen to hire a manager and a full-time salesperson. 

Since growth in the equipment rental industry requires ongoing asset acquisition, she found it necessary to consolidate the company's various loans, allowing for fewer monthly payments that could be paid out over a longer period of time.  SBDC business consultant Lissa Jollick and graduate student Venkat Krovi helped her develop a financial projection to secure debt consolidation financing. 

"The SBDC has helped me in so many ways," Gheen said.  "When we decided to refinance, the SBDC helped me put together financials, put me in contact with banks and much more."

Gheen added that the SBDC helped her register with the Central Contractor Register and answered questions she had while filling out the form.  She said the SBDC has been a key factor in her success from the beginning, even when she was still unfamiliar with the business world.

"They actually helped me write our business plan when we first opened," she said.

Having been chosen as the Ohio's Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Gheen will now compete for the award on the national level.  That award is given to an individual under 30 years old who has served for three years as a majority owner of a small business or who is primarily responsible for operating the business.  Candidates are evaluated based on sales and profits, jobs created, creative business methods and demonstration of long-term entrepreneurial potential.

"I was very honored to even be nominated for this award," Gheen said.  "It feels great for someone to acknowledge your hard work.  My husband and I have put in a lot of long hours, usually bringing our kids with us, and it feels great that it is starting to pay off."

The SBDC at Ohio University provides a full range of free business consulting services for existing and new small businesses in Athens, Hocking, Meigs and Perry counties.  Services are provided in one-on-one counseling sessions and group seminars.  These include business plan development, market research and training, marketing review, recordkeeping assistance, resource referrals, cash flow training, loan application assistance, financial projections, government contract assistance and international trade assistance.

The Voinovich Center uses federal, state, local, university, foundation and private resources to address issues facing Appalachian Ohio.  It provides applied research, training and technical assistance to people in government, education, business and public organizations.

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Media Contact: Lissa Jollick, (740) 593-0473 or jollickl@ohio.edu

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