Clay County Business Owners Selected to Participate in National Program at Babson College
But one family business in Clay County has been selected to participate in a national program at Babson College, which U.S. News and World Report has ranked as the top business school in entrepreneurship for more than 15 years. Theresa Chambers, who owns Thersey’s restaurant as well as a Subway in Clay County, is one of only 100-150 business owners nationwide selected to participate in Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses for each class. The national program is co-chaired by Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, the billionaire “Oracle of Omaha.”
“Entrepreneurs have lots of ideas, but it can be difficult finding the time and ways to execute those ideas,” said Chambers, a Clay County native who lived in California for more than 20 years and worked in the tech industry with her husband, Dan. “This program will give me the tools I need to fix the problems I see and help create more jobs. It’s very fulfilling to come back to the community and try to be a change-maker.”
Through specific curriculum and a peer-to-peer learning, the program leverages participants’ shared objectives to grow their businesses, increase revenues and create jobs. They must complete and present their growth plan to the class in order to graduate.
Chambers will spend a week at Babson College in Massachusetts at the beginning and end of the program, where she will receive a combination of advice, guidance and coaching. Faculty and business advisers work together to review the growth challenges of each business owner and suggest specific community resources that participants might use to target those challenges.
Participants own companies that had revenues ranging from $200,000 to $4 million. Chambers is the fourth client of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation or the Kentucky Innovation Center in London to be selected over the last three years.
She and her husband moved to Kentucky in 2001 to be closer to her parents. They had owned numerous companies, but the restaurant business was new. Chambers gradually acquired four Subway franchises but wanted to do something more creative. From the Subway franchises, she learned about inventory and pricing, then sold two of them and applied that knowledge to a restaurant she opened called Thersey’s using her childhood nickname.
Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center, which also serves as part of the Kentucky Innovation Network in London, has been working with Chambers for the past year by helping with business planning and laying the foundation to build a loan or an equity proposal so that she can expand both her restaurants.
Her Subway is already a high-performing franchise, so various avenues are being researched on ways to grow outside of the existing strip mall location. She also would like to expand capacity at Thersey’s to add banquet space and room for larger parties. Thersey’s, which serves everything from steaks and seafood to Tex-Mex to fried chicken, is one of only three sit-down restaurants in the county.
“The national program that Theresa is attending will give her more credibility as we work together to help her gain access to a loan to relocate and expand her business,” said Bill Schutters, director of the Kentucky Innovation Center in London. “It is a component of a partnership KHIC announced in fall 2012 with Goldman Sachs. The 10,000 Small Businesses provided KHIC’s loan fund with $5 million to lend to small businesses in low- and moderate-income areas throughout Kentucky.”
Chambers also plans on sharing her knowledge with her 20 employees.
“I have great employees and look forward to providing growth opportunities for them,” she said. “A few people working for me want to start their own business, so they’re excited to find out what I learn.”
Thersey’s restaurant also serves as a meeting space for Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center’s eChampions program, which provides mentoring for entrepreneurs.
Coincidentally, the family’s relationship with KHIC dates back 40 years. Chambers’ husband, a software engineer for Northrop Grumman, attended a three-day Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation seminar in 1975 on how to start a business.
Babson accepts applications on a rolling basis at www.10ksbapply.com.