Your City, Your Business: Business Owners Speak Out - Interview Series

This is a collection of short interviews and education from local business owners with amazing insights into today’s challenges. Coaches Mark McNulty (MM) and Sandy Merritt (SM) virtually sit down with business owners to learn how they are working through these unusual times, and their current challenges and successes. Check out their inspiring stories for business tips and general wisdom.

Be sure to visit the companies’ websites. Reach out to those who offer services you can use. Let’s support each other!

Featured in this edition:

Mercy Works Louisville, Jeff Flood

SM: Tell us about your business.

JF: We started Mercy Works Louisville about nine years ago. We provide non-medical care to senior citizens in their homes. We help to keep their home clean and provide for them in a variety of ways. We also help with their social interaction.

SM: Who is your target customer?

JF: We help seniors directly, but often the call comes from family members who want the person to stay safe in their own home. We also get calls from social workers and facilities looking for help with the seniors they’ve been assisting.

SM: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

JF: The most significant impact has been on hiring. I run the business from my home. The pandemic shut down many of the training resources we traditionally used, and that made it harder to get a feel for who someone is and whether or not they would be a good fit for us.

SM: What are one or two actions you’ve taken to make a difference?

JF: We’ve used online means of getting to know potential employees. We’ve limited the number of staffers entering a particular home. That means that we needed to hire additional staff.

SM: What are your goals for 2021?

JF: There’s been so much change everywhere since last year at this time, but it is especially true in our industry. Now we want to build up our relationships again. We want to grow our reach in the community.

SM: What is a mistake you’ve made along the way that other people can learn from?

JF: I had to learn to trust my instincts. Early on, I made excuses for an employee instead of reading the writing on the wall. I’ve learned to make decisions about hiring and firing more quickly. Thankfully, we’ve been able to keep employee turnover low over the years.

SM: What is inspiring to you today?

JF: I work with both the elderly and young people. I love seeing young people navigate the challenges in the world today and still keep such great energy. It would be easy to watch the negative news cycle and get down, but they stay so positive!

How to Reach Us:

Mercy Works Louisville

(502) 882-3049

Kids Cancer Alliance, Shelby Russell

SM: Tell us about your business.

SR: We are a non-profit dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of kids with cancer and their families. For 40 years, we have helped kids all over the state. Maybe they are being treated now, or perhaps they have been off treatment for a while. Either way, we make sure that they have the resources they need. We serve them through camps, programs in medical facilities, financial assistance, and more.

SM: How do families find you?

SR: We work closely with hospital staff to coordinate care for the kids and also the staff for our camps. Our community is very tight-knit, and people share information and resources, which is how people hear about us.

SM: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

SR: It forced us to rethink how we raised funds. Plus, we had to change how we provide support.

SM: What are one or two actions you’ve taken to make a difference?

SR: In a typical year, about 70 percent of our funds come from donations, so we had to find ways to reach people in new, creative ways. It is a continuous effort. We have provided activities and goodie bags for kids instead of running in-person programs. We’ve run virtual camps instead of in-person camps.

SM: What are your goals for 2021?

SR: We will continue to provide our virtual services this year. We had to pivot and evolve in 2020 to survive as a non-profit. We want to thrive this year. We want the kids to know that we are here for them and that they are not alone. Someone recently told me Kids Cancer Alliance is the best kept secret as a non-profit, and while we did take that statement to be a compliment, we don’t want to be a secret. We want people to know about us and the wonderful things we do.

SM: What is a mistake you’ve made along the way that other people can learn from?

SR: Early on in our organization’s development, I worked to keep costs low. That was well-intentioned. But it meant that I sometimes piled work on instead of spending money to expand our human capital. If I had it to do over, I would invest in growing our people early on.

SM: What is inspiring to you today?

SR: Every day since I stepped on the property of Kids Cancer Alliance, I’ve been inspired by the children. They’re facing a life-threatening disease, and they do it with so much courage. That teaches us, adults, to be resilient and to be thankful for what we have.

How to Reach Us:

Kids Cancer Alliance
611 W. Main St., Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40202

(502) 365-1538

[email protected]

Complete Restoration, James Franks

SM: Tell us about your business.

JF: We are a family-owned and operated business that opened in 2013. We provide a wide variety of industrial and municipal services, from repair to painting to construction and more.

SM: Who is your target customer?

JF: We help many industrial and commercial customers. We do a lot of work for cities across the country. A lot of the work we do comes to us from word of mouth.

SM: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

JF: Thankfully, we did not have to close, but the pandemic has affected our employees’ business travel. We implemented health protocols. There is a shortage of parts at the moment, and prices have skyrocketed.

SM: What are one or two actions you’ve taken to make a difference?

JF: We have continued to work with clients to meet deadlines and coordinate projects We have maintained communication to update people on the status of the job. We always finish the job the right way and make sure the customer is satisfied.

SM: What are your goals for 2021?

JF: We have formed new partnerships, so we want to keep developing those. We’re seeing high growth potential this year. We’re always on the lookout for skilled workers who are a good fit for us.

SM: What is a mistake you’ve made along the way that other people can learn from?

JF: In the beginning, I was afraid to cast a wide net. You have to do that, to step out of your comfort zone and let people know what you can do for them. When you do that, the possibilities are endless.

SM: What is inspiring to you today?

JF: I hope that we will get through the pandemic soon. We all want to get back to a sense of normalcy.

How to Reach Us:

Complete Restoration
315 Turner Avenue
Henderson, KY 42420

(270) 869-7150

Total Office Products & Services, Chris Vessels

SM: Tell us about your business.

CV: We are a locally owned retailer of office, janitorial, and break room supplies. We also supply office furniture. We are the only locally owned company in our industry in this area. We have been in business since 1979.

SM: Who is your target customer?

CV: We work with many small-to-medium-sized companies with a high percentage of office employees. We also serve home-based businesses and large companies. We usually service southern Indiana and the metro Louisville area, including Shelbyville, Shepherdsville, and the surrounding counties.

SM: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

CV: People have not been in their offices. Aspects of that change seem like they might be permanent. We’ve also had customers who have downsized or closed.

SM: What are one or two actions you’ve taken to make a difference?

CV: We promoted the fact that we deliver to home offices. It’s about the same as delivering to a business overall. We had to adjust our strategy because people weren’t buying janitorial supplies. We are in an industry that may not grow in the next couple of years, so we are looking at ways to pivot our strategies and compete.

SM: What are your goals for 2021?

CV: We have to rebuild our customer base. We need to reach out to new customers and figure out how to sell better to existing customers. Our plan is to find ways to compete with Amazon and the big box stores.

SM: What is a mistake you’ve made along the way that other people can learn from?

CV: Regardless of your experience level, you don’t know everything. You always have to be willing to learn. The only thing you can count on in business is change. Don’t try to master every skill. If you don’t know what you’re doing in an area, hire someone who is good at it, whether it be an employee or a vendor.

SM: What is inspiring to you today?

CV: The desire to get better every day keeps me going. I want to improve something about our business every day.

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How to Reach Us:

Total Office Products & Services
3326 Kramers Lane
Louisville, KY 40216

(502) 636-3269

[email protected]

Acuity Packaging, Kim Woolery

SM: Tell us about your business.

KW: We are a woman-owned manufacturing business. We offer a variety of packaging options, and provide services such as assembly, storage, and more. We started the company in 2011.

SM: Who is your target customer?

KW: We serve a large, diverse base of customers with an array of different needs. We help people with projects big or small. With our thermoforming service, we have worked on 500 to 5,000 pieces up to millions of pieces.

SM: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

KW: Because of the pandemic, more items are being sent directly to customers. That has led to an uptick in business for us, so we are extremely busy. Certain supplies are costly and can be hard to find as a direct result of changes related to COVID-19.

SM: What are your goals for 2021?

KW: In 2020, it was hard to find highly skilled workers. We are thinking about new ways to attract and hire highly skilled employees.

SM: What is a mistake you’ve made along the way that other people can learn from?

KW: We had some great years in the past. Sometimes we spent too much money as a result. I learned to balance revenue with tax obligations and adjust for future financial situations.

SM: What is inspiring to you today?

KW: Being able to provide good jobs for our employees inspires me. Many people struggled last year, but we were able to give a lot of people both full-time and seasonal employment, which helped them out in a tough time.

How to Reach Us:

Acuity Packaging & Logistics Solutions
7715 National Turnpike
Suite 190
Louisville, KY 40214

(502) 368-0681

Uncle Miltie’s Pawn Shop, Jay Smith

SM: Tell us about your business.

JS: We’re a pawnshop that has been in business for 70 years. It’s been kept in the family the whole time. We are looking to pass it on to our son one day. We keep a lot of the old traditions. We hold onto people’s possessions for twice as long as most pawnshops before selling them, and the more people borrow, the less of a percentage they have to pay back.

SM: Who is your target customer?

JS: People who need a little extra money while waiting for their paycheck are our target customers. When you aren’t getting paid much, it can be hard to make your money stretch for two weeks, so people can turn to us to find help.

SM: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?

JS: We went through a lot of challenges last year. For a long time, many people did not have enough money to spend. Now, people have been able to use their stimulus checks to shop.

SM: What are one or two actions you’ve taken to make a difference?

JS: We adjusted to what people were buying. We worked to implement safety protocols. We moved some sales online and made deliveries. In a typical year, we would probably not make deliveries, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do these days.

SM: What are your goals for 2021?

JS: We want to get back to normal. We’re expanding our online business, and we want to build a website.

SM: What is a mistake you’ve made along the way that other people can learn from?

JS: Don’t work too many hours just because you’re micromanaging, and trust your employees to do it right. Hire good employees, and then trust them.

SM: What is inspiring to you today?

JS: The American people inspire me. We’re still standing, and we are not giving up.

How to Reach Us:

Uncle Miltie’s Pawn Shop
3775 Southern Parkway
Louisville, KY 40214

(502) 364-8844

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