• Comet Signs, LLC

    Comet Signs, LLC

    Nearly 60 years ago, Arthur S. Sitterle founded Comet Neon Advertising Company in San Antonio and later merged the company with Reynolds Signs to form Comet Signs, LLC in 2013. Today, Arthur S. “Pete” Sitterle, III, oversees operations alongside Tommy Reynolds and Mikal Harn. With expansion to Austin, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth and Tyler markets, the company specializes in sign design, engineering, manufacturing, maintenance, and installation. A UTSA SBDC client since 2013, its portfolio includes the Fort Worth Texas Motor Speedway, H-E-B, and Valero. Senior Business Advisor Crystal Darby provided advising on social media management, targeted market development, and content development. The SBDC PTAC also provided direction on government contracting and human resources. The company’s expansion has created new jobs and retained existing jobs.

    “Crystal Darby has and continues to provide invaluable guidance through her wisdom and expertise, helping Comet Signs continue our business growth.  I feel that for any business, an “outside” voice is important to ensure we stay on track and maintain focus on our goals.”

  • Vertical Technologies Solutions Group

    Vertical Technologies Solutions Group

    Dan Pallone and business partner Carl Dugart have worked at a local Information Technology company for years. They started Vertical Technologies Solutions Group (VTSG) as a professional services organization with a laser focus on Infrastructure and Software Development. From their work at their current jobs, they identified a gap in the ability to evaluate and source Information Technology Professionals who are the cornerstone of every successful business. Exploiting this gap created a value proposition to find IT professionals of higher value coupled with significant cost savings to clients. They originally planned to focus on providing IT services, but discovered that it was difficult to obtain those contracts while working full time. They discovered, however, that they could launch an IT staffing firm first. They filed the company as an LLC in February 2014 and spent the rest of the year putting their platform and processes in place. Danny and Carl contacted Crystal Darby at the San Antonio Small Business Development Center for assistance with expanding their small business. She met with them to assist with marketing and provided them with direction on government contracting.

    They met business advisor Crystal Darby and received assistance with marketing, including advice on their target market, website text, and social media. Crystal referred them to the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) for help on government contracting and to the International Trade Center for advice on international staffing.  During 2015 and 2016, the company took off and in 2017 they secured a large contract with Texas State University and have continued to grow each year. Since then, Crystal has served as a sounding board for their projects and provided direction for them on marketing and government contracting. They have expanded their services and now provide managed services and installation as well as customized software solutions and IT staffing. For their expansion, VTSG secured a line of credit from a local lender and retained jobs. They anticipate an increase in sales.

    “With the help of Crystal at the SBDC, we were led in a path that allowed us to learn, grow and execute better than we were doing at the time.” Danny Pallone

  • Ultimate Classic Cars

    Ultimate Classic Cars

    Dennis Cahill and his wife Shirley are classic car enthusiasts, which steered them in the business of replicating classic cars. They operated their classic car manufacturing business in Fort Worth; but when they decided to move it to Boerne, they reached out to the UTSA Small Business Development Center for assistance. The Cahills received assistance from Senior Business Advisor, David Baenziger at the SBDC.

    With David’s help, the Cahills refined their business plan and financial projections resulting in their funding approval for the property in Boerne and for the business move to Boerne. They were able to add the equipment and staff needed for the new location.

    The Cahills also met with Crystal Darby at the SA SBDC who assisted with refining their marketing message, focusing their target markets and using social media for their marketing. With the help of the SBDC, their move to Boerne was successfully accomplished. The Cahills received the funding to help with the expansion.

    Today, the Cahills operate a manufacturing facility, Ultimate Classic Cars, in a newly renovated facility in Boerne, Texas. They manufacture 1965 Cobra Replica kits and 1953 Corvette Replica kits. They also buy and sell cars that they take into consignment and then restore them.  Due to the assistance from the SBDC, new jobs were created and existing jobs were retained.

    “David Baenziger was very knowledgeable as to what the banks would require from us to approve a loan. We would probably not have succeeded in obtaining the loan without his guidance.” Dennis and Shirley Cahill

  • Facekey Corporation

    Facekey Corporation, Annette Starkweather and Yevgeny Levitov, Founders 

    Annette Starkweather and Yevgeny Levitov founded Facekey Technologies in 1999. Facekey manufactures security products that use biometrics, fingerprint and face recognition, for identification. Annette has decades of experience in business development, management strategies, and alternative financing requirements, with an emphasis on financing and the oil and gas industry. She serves as the CFO for the company. Yevgeny had more than thirty years’ experience in the image recognition field. He previously served in engineering and management positions for one of the largest manufacturers of medical equipment, and a global manufacturer of wiring devices. Yevgeny serves as President of Facekey.

    Headquartered in San Antonio, Facekey has pioneered and patented a family of biometric products and solutions that utilize face recognition or fingerprints for identification. From small businesses to global enterprises, Facekey’s family of products have a proven record with employee time and attendance tracking, asset protection and crisis management.

    The company had the opportunity to acquire face recognition technology, which they believed was necessary for access control.  All the access control products available allowed access with the right card, but could not tell if it was the right person.  In addition, the access control products required many cable runs and lots of labor.  Facekey decided to develop security products to run on the network that could identify the right person via by recognizing their face. They believed this would reduce the cost of the system and provide a much higher level of security.The goal of Facekey is to provide security products that actually provide security and reduce the cost of operations. The business will be able control access to their facilities and reduce the cost of labor and materials during installation and the cost of admin during use.  No cards are required.   The result is a system with accurate identification, low cost installation and operation, which will help business operate safer and be more profitable.

    Annette and Yevgeny are long-term clients of the SBDC, since 1999. They started working with Crystal Darby in 2015. The three have met often to focus on marketing, specifically to help with determining their target market. Through the help received from the UTSA SBDC, the company has been able to structure a viable marketing plan.  This includes development of a new web page, development of new marketing collateral, and beginning an extensive email-marketing program.  These efforts have resulted in increased sales and strengthened the company’s ability to move forward.

    Facekey is working with Diebold, a financial self-service, security and services corporation, internationally engaged primarily in the sale, manufacture, installation and service of self-service transaction, electronic and physical security products, software and related services for global financial and commercial markets. As a result, Facekey anticipates an increase in sales this year. They have three full-time and one part-time employee, which were retained from their recent expansion. Facekey has not formally sought any loans.  Currently, the company is assessing their best sources for procuring funds for marketing. In the short term, they need to grow sales so they can provide good paying jobs in San Antonio.  Their task to meet the goal is to strengthen their dealer/reseller channels. Longer term, they would like to become the “GO TO” vendor for manufacturers if they have a product, such as a cabinet or equipment, that requires identification for access or to start/use.

    “Facekey has depended heavily on advisors and training programs to get the company to its current position. Helping us think through the profile of our target market has been a very specific task. Currently, we are meeting frequently to study and resolve ongoing issues as they appear.”  Annette Starkweather and Yevgeny Levitov

  • Mission Adventure Tours San Antonio Texas

    Mission Adventure Tours, Sarah Neal, Owner 

    Sarah Neal managed Mission Kayak for over a year before she decided to purchase the business, expand its offerings and rebrand as Mission Adventure Tours.  Sarah took full advantage of the services offered at the SBDC. She attended 29 different small-business workshops where she met with Business Advisor, Tracie Hervey. Tracie and Sarah worked on financials, strategy and process to support the business purchase.

    Mission Adventure Tours, started in January of 2017, sells Kayak Tours, Bike Tours and Running Tours. Mission Adventure Tours is also expanding into the Kayak/Canoe retail business. Sarah saw a need in the San Antonio market for an all-in-one outdoor adventure tour company. Over 13 million people visit San Antonio annually and many of them want to get outside and see more than the normal tourist spots. Mission Adventure Tours works closely with the San Antonio River Authority, San Antonio Housing Authority, Lackland AFB’s Teen and Youth Programs, Mission Road Ministries and numerous disabled veterans groups to discounts their tours so that these organizations can afford to take people on the tours. Mission Adventure Tours gives back to the local community by donating supplies. MAT is also one of the largest sponsors of the San Antonio River Foundation’s River Relay Race.  Mission Adventure Tours donates all of their kayaks, paddles, lifejackets, shuttle services, etc. to help ensure the River Foundation has a successful event each year.

    Sarah earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology and certified in the American Red Cross 1st Aid and CPR/AED certification. She has the American Canoe Association (ACA) Level 2 Kayak River Instructor Certification, ACA Level 1 Stand-Up Paddleboard Instructor Certification, ACA Coastal Kayak Day-Trip Planner Certification, ACA Adaptive Paddling Certification and has a Texas Parks and Wildlife Texas All-water Paddle Craft Permit.  Sarah is a duty connected disabled veteran who has had a hard time adjusting to the civilian world. Over the last seven years, she used kayaking as a form of healing for herself and her family. Now, as the owner of Mission Adventure Tours, Sarah takes special pride in the fact that she can share kayaking with other veterans who also need a way to heal both physically and mentally.

    Sarah attended 29 different workshops at the SBDC in 2017. These workshops were invaluable to her as a new small business owner. Mission Adventure Tours plans to expand, which will give her the ability to tap into the kayak and outdoors retail market. This move has the potential to be huge in central Texas. Sarah is also looking for land and a building to lease/purchase so that Mission Adventure Tours can finally have a “home.”

    With UTSA-SBDC’s help, Sarah took a single kayaking business to a significantly larger business. Mission Adventure Tours has increased sales and number of employees. Thousands of people have booked trips with Mission Adventure Tours.  Sarah obtained a line of credit, which allows her to buy next season’s equipment in advance resulting in saving money. Sarah is also in the process of finalizing additional financing for her next expansion of the canoe and kayak business.

    “Tracie is a wonderful sounding board and she can give honest advice. Tracie is not a “yes” woman if she sees something that is not right or know that the idea is not the best. What I need is a person who is honest and is willing to tell me ‘no.’ Tracie is this person and that is invaluable to me.”  Sarah Neal, Owner