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Kate and Jason McCrea

Boston, MA

INDUSTRY: FOOD SERVICES
BUSINESS: McCrea's Candies
YEAR FOUNDED: 2009
PROGRAM: 2014 INTERISE BOSTON FOOD INDUSTRY
“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished and what this crew has accomplished.”
BUSINESS OVERVIEW
McCrea’s Candies was founded in 2009 by Jason McCrea, who was soon joined in the family business by his wife Kate. McCrea’s is a Boston-based candy company specializing in caramel. McCrea’s caramels are made from only real food ingredients, through an old-fashioned long cook process to maximize flavor—their Black Lava Sea Salt Caramel was awarded the prestigious Good Food Award in 2016. McCrae’s sells directly to customers, and wholesales to retailers across the country as well as to specialty food makers who use caramel as ingredients in their products. The company is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston, where the McCrea family also lives.

ROOTED IN COMMUNITY
For Jason and Kate, business and community are intertwined. “I think that’s part of our success, being able to be close by, being in our own community,” says Kate. The McCreas’ long-time neighbor, Head of Operations Jim LaFond-Lewis, rounds out the company’s leadership team, and most of their employees also live close by. The McCreas take their role as employers seriously. Some of their most valued employees began as high school students, and they describe the experience of workforce development as gratifying and humbling. “Give people a chance, communicate with them, have integrity with them, and they will do amazing things,” adds Jason. Through the Interise program, Jason and Kate were inspired to begin thinking seriously about a long-term plan to keep McCrea’s Candies running as a successful, community-oriented business in Hyde Park for many years to come.

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Jamil Brown

Somerset, NJ

INDUSTRY: SOCIAL ASSISTANCE
BUSINESS: HYBRIDGE LEARNING GROUP
YEAR FOUNDED: 2006
PROGRAM: 2016 EMERGING LEADERS NEWARK
“I’m encouraging the growth of the company but also looking at the individuals as well. What are their goals and how can their goals help the company and, in a sense, help them too.”
BUSINESS OVERVIEW
Hybridge Learning Group was started in 2006 as a way for Jamil Brown to pursue his passion for helping children with autism. Today, his business helps about over 100 children “in the areas of communication, social skills, and behavior management” across New Jersey. 15 percent of their work is done with schools, who look for additional support whether in the form of professional development or in-class support, while the other 85 percent is done in homes on a one-to-one basis. Jamil sees his business as supporting parents prepare their children to become fulfilled and productive members of society, children who have conditions that no parent is prepared for. Today, Hybridge Learning Group is powered by 12 full-time employees and 61 part-time employees. Hybridge has grown quickly, making almost $2M in revenues last year with plans over the next two years to open three additional locations.

LEARNING TO INNOVATE
For years, finding talent has been a significant barrier for Hybridge. “Because what we do is very technical, the skill set involved isn’t ubiquitous,” Jamil points out. “So there aren’t a lot of people who can do it.” This is a common problem among high skill employers like Hybridge. Especially in low- or moderate-income communities, it can be hard to find people with the certifications that the job demands. In 2015, however, Jamil found an innovative solution to his problem.

Because Hybridge makes most of its revenue through insurance coverage, there are still a large number of parents who do not have the necessary coverage to receive Hybridge’s service. Jamil realized he could take these children, who would not receive therapy otherwise, and support them by opening up a free to low-cost clinic, where some parents pay no more than 30 percent of the actual cost. This clinic gives uncertified employees the training they need to become certified, and provides children who are not covered by insurance with the care they otherwise would not get. Today, about 40 percent of his employees come from service in this clinic. This training clinic has not only solved Jamil’s hiring problem, but it also has been a huge asset to the community by providing free to low cost quality therapy to children who need it.

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Phoebe Suina

Pueblo de Cochiti, NM

INDUSTRY: PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
BUSINESS: HIGH WATER MARK, LLC
YEAR FOUNDED: 2013
PROGRAM: 2016 EMERGING LEADERS ALBUQUERQUE
“I’m encouraging the growth of the company but also looking at the individuals as well. What are their goals and how can their goals help the company and, in a sense, help them too.”
BUSINESS OVERVIEW
High Water Mark, LLC was founded in 2013 by Phoebe and her then business partner Ryan Weiss. With background in flood prevention infrastructure, the two saw a need in northern New Mexico for their expertise after major fires and subsequent floods swept across the region. High Water Mark is an environmental consulting and project management firm that helps secure, manage, and implement funds “to protect, recover, and mitigate impacts from flooding and other natural hazards.” While doing this, they facilitate cooperation between local, state, and federal actors. During its first year, all of High Water Mark’s contracts were in tribal communities, including Phoebe’s tribe of the Cochiti Pubelo, but it has since expanded to work on projects in non-tribal communities. While in 2013, revenue was around $50,000, Phoebe projects revenue will reach $900,000 in 2017.

MEET CLIENTS WHERE THEY'RE AT
High Water Mark distinguishes itself through its inclusive approach to developing and implementing projects. High Water Mark engages all stakeholders, whether they are tribal, non-tribal, state, or federal actors. One way High Water does this is by being transparent at every step. “A level of understanding, and making an effort to work with everyone, actually reduces conflict down the line. Conflict is very expensive, in both time and money.” High Water also hires from the communities served: “It provides us with perspective when we’re implementing projects across different jurisdictional boundaries or different communities.”

In 2015, Phoebe was confronted by a particularly challenging situation between tribal and non-tribal stakeholders in a project concerning the Nambe Reservoir. “We found that there was a lot of politics that surfaced during the collaboration, but we got to work for the betterment of everyone.” High Water Mark found a sustainable solution by facilitating conversations between the two sides. When they worked together and with Phoebe’s help, the community was able to secure $4.5M in state and federal funding. These outcomes show High Water Mark’s deep understanding and commitment to both their clients and the communities they live in.

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Rhea Allen

Boise, ID

INDUSTRY: PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
BUSINESS: PEPPERSHOCK MEDIA
YEAR FOUNDED: 2003
PROGRAM: 2015 EMERGING LEADERS BOISE
“Having people to rely on and who help is big when overcoming challenges for your business.”
BUSINESS OVERVIEW
Peppershock Media is a family business, started by Rhea and Drew Allen in 2003. Peppershock is a one-stop marketing agency that not only provides strategic marketing for its clients but implements the plans. This complete service is a direct result of Rhea and Drew’s own experience, with Rhea’s background in strategic marketing and Drew’s background in video production. “We were the first ones in Boise to do both marketing and creative production. Now everyone does it,” said Rhea, who is also the CEO of Peppershock. Their expertise makes them one of the most successful marketing agencies in Idaho, where they serve a range of companies, large and small. Peppershock has had a successful 14 years, with ten staff members, and has plans to expand into surrounding states.

POWER OF THE NETWORK
Despite current success, three years ago Peppershock found itself hit by a series of changes: “We lost a bunch of clients all at once in January of 2015, most of them from uncontrollable situations.” Looking at her flat-lining growth, Rhea made sure she was part of Emerging Leaders, a program run by the Small Business Administration that provides established small business owners with the knowledge, know-how, and relationships needed to scale.

“The Emerging Leaders program really saved us,” Rhea recalls, but not because of a specific lecture or speaker. According to Rhea, the best part of the program was the people she met and the support they gave each other. In terms of business development, some of the small business owners became Peppershock clients. In personal terms, Rhea was able to get the answers she needed from peers who had been in her position before and gotten through it.

Rhea attributes her recent growth to what she learned during the program. She started to focus more on hiring reliable employees and, as a result, “employee retention has increased, with the number of employees increasing from 7 to 10.” One of her peers was a CFO, and the financial advice she got out of this relationship helped Rhea put her accounts in order. Sales growth, stagnant in 2015, has grown by over 25 percent since.

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Denise Griffith

Detroit, MI

INDUSTRY: PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
BUSINESS: GS GROUP, LLC
YEAR FOUNDED: 2002
PROGRAM: 2011 EMERGING LEADERS DETROIT
“Contracting officers have very little time, so you need to provide them with as much information about your organization as you possibly can in that brief period of time.”
BUSINESS OVERVIEW
Although GS Group was founded in 2002 under another name as a real estate and construction management business, the collapse of the housing market in 2009 forced GS Group to reinvent itself. Today, GS Group continues to manage construction projects. However, the business has shifted its core offering to environmental consulting and construction for private and public sector projects. The company’s largest clients include the Environmental Protection Agency, the General Services Administration, and the City of Detroit. In 2016, GS Group reported an increase in revenue over the previous year of 365 percent. In 2017, GS Group was recognized by the Small Business Administration as Michigan’s Women-Owned Small Business of the Year.

SECURING NEW CONTRACTS
Denise is no stranger to executing multimillion dollar contracts. She was able to weather the recession in large part because of her strong relationships to federal agencies and the City of Detroit. Her federal contracts have enabled GS Group to not only expand beyond Detroit and throughout Michigan, but across state lines to Fort Bragg, South Carolina.

To secure contracting opportunities, Denise says it is key to be concise: “When you’re out there in the federal market, people don’t always have a lot of time. For us, having a brief that provides a summary of what we do is essential.” This brief is a living document that Denise has been refining since the early stages of her business. Having an elevator speech like this, for her business, is a big reason why she has had so much success winning new contracts.

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Helen Callier

Kingwood, TX

INDUSTRY: PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
BUSINESS: BRADLINK, LLC
YEAR FOUNDED: 2004
PROGRAM: 2015 EMERGING LEADERS HOUSTON
“A problem can seem like an immovable boulder when, in reality, it is just a pebble. Sometimes it just takes different perspectives to see that a problem can be solved.”
BUSINESS OVERVIEW
Bradlink, LLC provides technical services on federal, aviation, transportation and other projects for government and commercial clients. Core services include building design, project management, building permit expediting, and construction oversight. One example of a recent contract: Before Super Bowl 51, Bradlink helped expedite City of Houston building permits to install the Super Bowl countdown clock at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport and consulted on the installation of countdown clocks at Hobby International Airport and Discovery Green Park. President and owner Helen Callier says, “It is our mission to provide our clients with value and we are proven to save our clients 59 percent in time and money.” Today, Bradlink employs 18 local Texans, with locations in Kingwood, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas.

STRATEGIC THINKING
In 2015, Helen Callier wanted to earn contracts with the federal government but had not figured out the right strategy for success in this market. A year earlier, she had received her 8(a) certification from the Small Business Administration (SBA) but still had no contracts to show for her new status. For this reason, she enrolled in SBA’s inaugural Houston Emerging Leaders program, powered by Interise’s StreetWise ‘MBA’ curriculum.

During the program, Helen created a Strategic Growth Action Plan where she focused on how Bradlink’s assets could be leveraged to win 8a sole source, and WOSB set-aside federal contracts. As a result of this planning, she opened her office in San Antonio to directly tap into government contracting opportunities there. Since graduating the program, Bradlink has won two federal contracts valued at $30,000 and $60,000.

Bradlink is also positioned to secure a third 8(a) sole source and they have identified a mentor, T. Baker Smith, LLC, to support them in the SBA business development program. “Going through the planning process helps you to see paths to capture opportunities. The actual written growth plan gets you moving toward the big picture,” Helen reflects. “It was great to be in an environment where you can dissect your problems and identify solutions. I am also grateful for networking and learning from my peers.”

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