Keith and Julie Ferrin
Keith and Julie Ferrin worked well together, buying the worst houses in the best neighborhoods and fixing them up. In 2006, they bought an historic hotel in downtown Rexburg. With 95% occupancy in upstairs apartments but only 25% in downstairs commercial spaces, they needed to work it or sell it.
In January 2008, Julie and SBDC consultant Randy Ashliman met in her unoccupied, unheated commercial space and shivered for 2½ hours as they discussed options. Worried that a building that might need constant repairs would leave them broke, Randy advised them to sell. Keith, however, reminded Julie that this was a long-term commitment, not a short-term investment.
Julie enlisted help from the Rexburg Entrepreneurial Center and BYU Idaho business students, whose market surveys and analyses confirmed what they suspected, “…there was really nothing to do in Rexburg except movies, bowling and scrapbooking.” Located in the heart of Rexburg one block from the university, they decided to use their 16,000 square feet of commercial space for laser-tag, blacklight golf, an arcade and restaurant. Their goal was “…to enhance the downtown area, rehabilitate an old building, and continue to provide affordable housing to students and community members alike.”
Keith was working 60-75 hours a week, so Julie, a trained nurse and involved mother of four, met with Randy each week. She had never even balanced a checkbook, and now she had to write a business plan and convince lenders she could provide a good return on their investment. With SBDC counseling and training, Julie was convincing enough to receive funding from the Regional Development Alliance.
Julie hired architects to do feasibility studies and develop a workable floor plan. Working together, Keith and Julie opened The Craze Fun Zone in July 2009. Financially, the business has broken even every month of operation, in spite of the recession, and they even managed to offer incentives for reading programs in schools and donate to the Haitian Relief Fund.
Julie, now a savvy businesswoman, declares, “We are a successful business that employs eleven people and fills a need in the community. We control our destiny, and having the help of seasoned, knowledgeable business people to help us with our future plans and review our decisions is priceless.”
She had never even balanced a checkbook, and now she had to write a business plan and convince lenders she could provide a good return on their investment. With SBDC counseling and training, Julie was convincing enough to receive funding from the Regional Development Alliance.
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