Lavonna "Shorty" Koger, owner of Shorty's Caboy Hattery, knew a lot about rodeos and making quality cowboy hats. However, she did not know a lot about running a successful small business until she visited with Susan Urbach at the University of Central Oklahoma Small Business Development Center (OSBDC).
Today, her company, located in historic Stockyards City, is bursting at the seams thanks to management and technical advice received from the OSBDC. Sales have increased 400 percent. Staff has doubled, and the company offers better salaries with employee benefits.
“I don’t know what I would have done without the OSBDC,” said Koger. “I knew how to make and sell a great cowboy hat, but the OSBDC has helped me understand how to run a business. I trust them. They give good, sound advice in a way a plain speaker like me can understand.”
Koger, who has been involved in the rodeo since she was 14, began her business in 1990. Determined that nothing was going to stop her, Koger said she has the only woman-owned and operated custom hattery in the United States.
Koger said she will never forget her first meeting with Urbach. “She took a marker and started drawing a tangled mess of lines all over this blackboard,” she said. “I asked her, ‘what does that mean?’ Susan said, ‘that’s how your business has been running.’ I asked her, ‘can you help me?’” That illustration became the guiding focus that you can’t do everything all at once, but you begin to start unraveling and, eventually, there will be order.
Urbach, director of the OSBDC at UCO, said she began helping Koger by unraveling her personnel and work flow issues.“We walked her through letting go and hiring new people,” she said. “We spent a great deal of time talking about financial information and how to use it to help management decisions. This meant getting set up on QuickBooks and beginning to understand how it can help the company. We used information to look at cost of goods, pricing, salaries, and how she could get the most benefit out of income and maximizing every dollar. We have advised on marketing issues, looking at where she is spending her advertising dollar. In fact, recent advice has included redoing the building awning and thinking of it as a billboard, which has been helpful in increasing visibility for her retail business. And we have been working with her on redoing the layout of the retail end to maximize the sales from the space," stated Urbach. “Susan is honest, patient and she told me just like it was,” Koger said. “I can’t say enough about her. I must have drove her crazy for several years.”
Koger’s top quality hats are worn by many who are well-known in the western world, including horse show and rodeo winners as well as country music stars.
Koger advises others who are thinking about going into business to “be patient and don’t ever give up. You have to have determination to succeed. I love what I do. When I decided to go into the business, I was determined that nothing was going to stop me. But, the main thing I tell people is to go see Susan,” Koger said laughing. Assistance was provided by Susan Urbach at the UCO Small Business Development Center.
As in OSBDC.org