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Shavonne and Duane Grundy believe they were summoned to entrepreneurship by the almighty himself, trusting in their faith through the hardships of starting and sustaining a business to provide for their family and support their community.
“Every day we have to remind ourselves, ‘If (God) called us to this, then he is going to make a way,’” Shavonne said. “This is it. There’s no second option. We’ve come too far to go back.”
With a network of other entrepreneurs and educational and financial support from TEDC Creative Capital (TEDC), Generation FSH went from bending over backward to a booming business.
Living on a Prayer
During the height of COVID in the Spring of 2020, the Grundys decided owning a business would be better than working for one. Shavonne, a retired city worker, leveraged her pension while her husband and co-owner, Duane, left a competing welding company to fulfill their divine purpose.
Made in His image, Generation FSH was born. The name itself reflects both driving forces behind their calling to become business owners: first, the desire to provide for their future family line (i.e., “Generation”) and second, their steadfast faith (“FSH,” an acronym for Father, Son & Holy Spirit.)
Admittedly, it was a rough start, like many other entrepreneurial journeys. The Grundys recall sleeping at their first commercial space, staying with friends, and returning a vehicle to the dealership to ensure their employees were paid.
“When we first started, it was crickets,” Shavonne said. “There are times when we just come into the office, pray, and just say what we wanted to see, but we were not getting paid. If you’re an entrepreneur, then you know it’s a sacrifice. We have to make sure everybody else is taken care of.”
However, with unwavering trust in their creator, the Grundys pressed onward in building their business to ensure generational wealth for their children.
Lean Not On Your Own Understanding
Finding the pursuit of entrepreneurship isolating, Shavonne knew they needed help and, with the unpredictability of business ownership, craved stability.
After over a year in business, Shavonne researched entrepreneurial programs for small businesses and came across MORTAR Tulsa, an entrepreneurial education and accelerator program previously offered by TEDC. Here, Shavonne was introduced to core business concepts, developed new skills, and could network with others on a similar path. Arguably, the main takeaway from this 15-week intensive was that community was critical to success and the idea that entrepreneurship is not meant to be tackled alone.
“Honestly, God has never called us to walk alone, whether that’s in business or life; we were never meant to do life alone,” Shavonne said.
As a result of participating in the MORTAR program, Shavonne gained access to other entrepreneurs experiencing similar struggles and could connect, commiserate, and troubleshoot together, assuring her that what Generation FSH was going through wasn’t personal or uncommon.
“It’s okay to reach out and get that help from others, whether it’s CPAs, bookkeepers, just other people maybe in the industry that I’m in that are further along that can kind of tell me.”
Ask, and You Shall Receive
After much rejection, Generation FSH realized that a particular certification, the ASME U-Stamp, would almost surely launch the company to new heights, providing a level of legitimacy and validation they were lacking. The U stamp certifies that a manufacturer meets the quality control system requirements of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and not only can be a lengthy process but also carries some heavy application and associated fees upwards of $11,000.
After the invaluable experience with MORTAR, Shavonne called on her growing relationship with TEDC to explore what non-traditional funding opportunities they might be able to provide in efforts to obtain the much-needed accreditation.
Fast forward to March 2023, when the Grundys sat with TEDC Loan Closing Manager, Joanna Oxford, to sign the paperwork granting their life-changing CDBG loan, eventually allowing them to obtain their U-Stamp.
“That put us on another level, and we were about two years in at that point,” Shavonne said. “That certification meant that companies would start to take notice and give us a chance where they would have shut the door before because they didn’t know us. Now people at least respond and will check us out, and that’s all because of the certification that we would not have been able to afford without TEDC.”
The U-stamp was not the only result of the capital infusion; Generation FSH was also able to hire additional employees, expand into a new building, and increase its capacity by six times.
Paying it Forward
Not only is reaching the business’s goals the continued focus of Generation FSH, but it also aims to elevate its community and help support other entrepreneurs. During MORTAR’s run with TEDC, Shavonne and Duane were happy to lend their entrepreneurial insights to the current cohort, act as mentors, and were regulars at the organization’s pitch competitions in showing love to other small business owners, as small business owners.
Expanding beyond TEDC and further into the community, Generation FSH now partners with five to six high schools and tech schools per year, offering internships for students to learn a trade, a career path the Grundys want to make sure today’s youth know as a viable one.
“The favorite part of what we do currently is just being able to give people opportunities that may have been overlooked, and what that looks like is we, on purpose, try to expose minority youth in our community to manufacturing,” Shavonne said.
Additionally, Generation FSH maintains an open pipeline with tech centers posting available positions and recently launched an apprenticeship program with the help of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance and Tulsa Innovation Labs.
In honoring their faith and business’s namesake the Grundys continue to serve the Lord and answer His call by actively participating in outreach efforts in churches and community centers around Tulsa.
Fellowship with One Another
Generation FSH’s experience in forfeiting the security of their comfort zone in entrepreneurial pursuit is not a new story, but one made possible only by their faith, network of other small business owners, and the education and creative capital opportunities of TEDC.
By receiving the loan necessary to cover the costs of the accreditation Generation FSH desperately needed, the business was legitimized in the eyes of prospective customers and finally started to see an influx of clients and profit, allowing them to make significant upgrades to compete and deliver at a higher level.
If there’s a bit of counsel Shavonne could give to other entrepreneurs who are just starting and feeling lost, she would advise, “It’s okay to need help.” She suggests leaning on your network, seeking education, and always keeping faith in your plan, protector, and provider, reminding all on a path to entrepreneurship that it is not meant to be done alone.
TEDC Creative Capital is a community development financial institution (CDFI) providing progressive lending to promising start-ups and growing businesses in Oklahoma. With a mission to build equitable economic prosperity by helping small companies operate more successfully, create jobs, and advance communities, TEDC offers local entrepreneurs educational resources and non-traditional funding opportunities. Contact the experienced professionals at TEDC to explore how they can help start, ignite, and further your small business ownership today.