MICKEY MAURER: No gala, but a glorious grand opening

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In 2006, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. closed almost 200 transactions. Many recipients of the IEDC largess marked the opening of their job-creation activities with hightech galas featuring products rolling down gangways accompanied by the applause of dignitaries and well-wishers. Recognizing that attendance at these ceremonies was not an efficient use of time, the IEDC adopted the mantra, “We don’t cut ribbons, we just cut deals.” With rare exception, ribbon-cutting was left to the politicians. Last month, I participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. This was different.

Giant corporations, including Honda, Toyota, Rolls-Royce, Nestle and WellPoint, have committed considerable resources to Indiana. In response to IEDC incentives, they will create tens of thousands of jobs over the next few years. These and other major employers will help Indiana reach its aggressive goal of meeting the national average in per-capita income and average annual wages by 2020. However, the state must also generate thousands of home-owned businesses-all kinds of businesses.

It was with that in mind that I was pleased to play a small role in the successful quest of Kenneth G. Taylor. Taylor is a barber with more than seven years of experience in the Indianapolis area who longed for his own shop. He thinks the image and professionalism of barbering needs to improve. According to Taylor, barbering is a great and respectable profession.

Barbershops remain one of the vestiges of a segregated economy. Some, relying on racial stereotypes, say few barbers are able to work in both worlds. Taylor, a 37-year-old African-American, disagrees. He understands that some barbers find it awkward, but he is striving to overcome the racial barriers that plague his profession. His initial advertising is directed to the general public.

Taylor wrote a cogent business plan with the assistance of Chris McEvoy, a volunteer representing SCORE, the group that counsels new and prospective businesses. That plan, after a few revisions, was delivered with an impassioned plea to every potential investor who would listen. Taylor landed two partial loan guaranties, including one from a prominent member of the African-American community. That was sufficient to leverage a commitment for financing from a locally headquartered bank. On July 28, he officially established the Taylor Haircutting Co. at 5035 W. 71st St.

The ribbon cutting was a family affair. In addition to Taylor’s wife, holding scissors were Bishop Gary Burt of Agape Apostolic Faith Assembly; Taylor’s father-in-law, Evan Kimble; and members of an informal advisory board recruited to provide business seasoning for this young man. A couple of dozen friends and family attended the ceremony and applauded Taylor for realizing his dream.

Included in the festivities was landlord Steve Zinkan of Zinkan and Barker Development Co. The ribbon-cutting was special to Zinkan. His firm provided concessions to Taylor in the hope he will succeed.

The new shop is a cut above. Finished by minority contractor Visions Construction Services LLC, it is comfortably appointed and equipped to handle a large volume of business. There are 10 gleaming new barber chairs. At the ceremony, Taylor introduced his team of three well-groomed professionals and a receptionist. There is room to grow.

Success in business does not come easy. For a small startup short of working capital and business savvy, it can be even tougher. The statistics on failure rates reflect that. According to the research of the U.S. Small Business Administration, in the period 2003-2004, 11,110 businesses employing fewer than 500 workers were established in Indiana. In the same period, 10,260 companies of like size were terminated. It’s hair today, gone tomorrow.

Taylor is a soft-spoken man of faith-the kind you want to root for. If you want to support the latest Indianaowned business and look good in the process, take your head on down to Taylor Haircutting.

Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Media Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmaurer@ibj.comor go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.com.

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