Business Owners Speak Out: Spotlighting Solon’s Businesses

Here’s a collection of interviews from Northeast Ohio business owners with amazing insights into today’s challenges.

ActionCOACH’s Mark Phelps virtually sits down with fellow members of the Solon Chamber of Commerce and dives into what’s really happening.

Check out their inspiring stories for tips on how to cope with and successfully recover from this pandemic, and learn how to avoid making common mistakes. Be sure to check out special offers from these businesses. We can all use a little extra help right now!

And, most importantly, visit the company websites. Reach out to those who offer services you can use. Let’s support each other and get through this together!

Berman Moving and Storage Owners, Marcy & Brad Robbins

Berman Moving & Storage are your go-to team for moving, storage, warehousing, decommissioning, and most recently installation. They handle your household moving, commercial moving, or delivery both domestically and internationally. You can be at ease with any final mile delivery or the handling of valuable possessions like a piano or billiard table as team members are verified drug free every month.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Marcy Robbins (MR): We are about 80% commercial movers so our target audience is any business with a need for moving or storage. They may outgrow their space or want to redecorate or re-carpet their offices. We also target anyone moving their home.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
MR: Our business slowed down tremendously but we are considered an essential business. One of the things we were able to do is pick up where other companies walked off the job. COVID impacted us in the convenience factor, and it changed what we were doing.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
MR: One of the little things that we did that a lot of people never thought of is we now give out the pens because customers have to sign off every day. The customers take the pens so there is no back and forth pen sharing. Everything is wiped down twice per day and every truck is outfitted with gloves, wipes, and hand sanitizer. We have also provided masks to everybody, and we wear our masks whenever we are with a customer. The goal is to keep both our employees and customers safe.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
MR: When my husband and I took over the business, we didn’t think it would have as many moving parts as it did. There’s different people who do different types of moves on our team so you can’t just hire anybody and throw them on any job. There’s the personnel side that we had to learn about. My advice would be to expect to come into a new situation and let things be for a period, because if you start making changes about something that you don’t have 100% of the information on, the changes might be meaningless. 

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
MR: The fact that we are a team. Our office team and our movers all work together. It is very inspiring to be on a team where everybody wants that.

Contact: Be sure to reach out to Marcy by email at mwrconsultinginc@gmail.com or by phone, (216) 663-8816.

Essentially Organic Vending Owner, John Gentile

We are locally owned and operated, and we are headquartered in Solon, Ohio. We service the greater Northeast Ohio area. We have about 200 pieces of equipment out in the field including vending machines, office coffee service, and micro markets. We specialize in providing healthy options but we also do traditional options as well. We work with customers who have a need for an upgrade on the refreshment side of things and provide them with a custom-tailored solution. We carry over 400 products which allows us to provide our customers with variety and ever-rotating products to keep things fresh for our customers. With our industry leading software, we are able to monitor our machines remotely and see our inventory levels in real time from our warehouse.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
John Gentile (JG): I would say our target audience is anybody that is looking for an upgrade to upscale vending products and services. We do well in schools, office settings, rec centers, and production facilities.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
JG: One thing that we were able to do during this downtime was really dive into the analytics of all of our accounts. We took everything as an opportunity to comb through our day-to-day operations internally. This way, we can better serve our customers currently and in the future when everything is back to the way things were.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
JG: We took action to streamline our process which allows us to better serve our customers.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
JG: Inaction is one of the things that can get you in trouble. I think one of the things that we did as a young company, from an employee standpoint, was trying to figure out the right mix and the right type of employee that we need. If there is an issue, make an action sooner rather than later. It is important to coach people and to be honest and open with them.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
JG: That is an easy question. It would be my kids. My daughter is four years old and my son is one. I am able to see them grow and absorb, which gives you something to think about each day. It is always nice to see somebody look at you for direction and cling to that. It is one of those things that I use as motivation and inspiration day to day.

Contact: You can reach John by email at john@eovending.com and by phone at (440) 465-1898, and online at eovending.com.

Balanced Financial Concepts Owner, Gautam Pai

We are a financial advisory firm that focuses mostly on the personal financial and retirement planning side of things. A lot of it is helping people and keeping them on the path to live the life they have envisioned for themselves. We focus on tomorrow so that you can focus on today! We do comprehensive budgeting, cash flow insurance, estate planning, income generation, and wealth accumulation.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Gautam Pai (GP): So, we have two target audiences. One is the 40 to 50 year olds that are thinking about retirement and want to make sure they are on the right track, and ultimately get them where they’re trying to go. The second target audience are the millennials that want to make sure they have a roadmap to their future. So we answer the question, “how do you know where you’re going and when you’re going to get there?”

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
GP: We’ve been incredibly busy this year, probably busier than any other year. My team is currently still working remotely. I’m the only one that’s in the office right now to meet with clients. The biggest impact that COVID has had on us is allowing people to take a break from their day-to-day routine and really think about their life. COVID really brought to light the fact that time is going to go on regardless of what the world throws at us, and we better be prepared.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
GP: Fortunately, we have not had to adapt very much. Everything we have done is accessible online. We started doing virtual meetings and video meetings about two years ago. More and more clients are comfortable with virtual meetings, and see how efficient they can be.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
GP: Are we over serving our clients? This is something we talk about all the time as a team. We expect a lot from our clients. In a lot of cases, we are chasing clients down for things that we feel is incredibly important that may not necessarily be a priority for that client. If it is a priority for a client, it is a 100% priority to us. We tend to set expectations up front with clients to make sure we are not spending time chasing clients down for things that are not really important in their world yet.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today? 
GP: I have always been a person that is self-motivated and driven about possibility. I am motivated by what the future holds. Financial advisers essentially live in the future because the future is exciting. If we can show people a reason to be excited about their future, that is exactly what we want to do.

Contact: You can reach Gautam by email at gpai@ceteraadvisors.com, by phone at (440) 349-5110, and online at balancedfinancialconcepts.com. Be sure to call him for a conversation!

Etched Metal Company Owner, Scott Nameth

Etched Metal Company manufactures custom product identification out of both metal and plastic. They also do decorative and industrial applications. They can handle any quantity order from a single piece to 10,000 or more. Everything is done locally in Solon and is custom to whatever their customers can dream up!

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Scott Nameth (SN): We have well over 300 different customers in our customer base. People come to us for metal parts. We are very active in the rail industry as well.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
SN: The workflow went down by about 20-30% in terms of orders coming in. Unfortunately, we have had to make some changes but they were very minimal. We are hoping to rebound like everybody is trying to say is going to happen here in this last quarter of the year.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
SN: I have instructed my shop and supervisors to clear the deck and get everything we can get out of here. We don’t want to be in a position where we can’t continue to serve our customers because they are going to need stuff in a hurry. This helps to keep people working, things flowing, and morale up rather than laying people off. We push it to the limit because we have faith that it is going to come back.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
SN: In the early stages, the biggest thing was that we did not have enough experience in all the different areas of the business. We learned the hard way because we found out that one of our partners was being dishonest. That opened our eyes more to the accounting aspect of the business. I concentrated too much on the duties that I had, which was sales, and left everything else to the other partners. I learned from this, and I am more careful with who I trust. What’s right is right and that is how I philosophize around here. Always do the right thing, you won’t benefit from doing the opposite.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
SN: The fortitude of the people here that are continuously moving forward, standing strong, and working together. These are unprecedented times, and we are not going to get anywhere unless we stay together and keep it moving.

Contact: You can reach Scott by email at scott@etched-metal.com, and by phone at (440) 248-0240. Be sure to mention the Solon Chamber and your setup charge will be waived!

NovaCare Rehabilitation Central Manager, Sam Dennis

NovaCare outpatient rehabilitation is a Physical Therapy Center. They do physical therapy rehabilitation for orthopedic injuries, neurological, concussion rehab, runner rehab, sports rehab, and geriatric care. They have recently added a COVID rehab program.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Sam Dennis (SD): Anyone that needs physical therapy services. Our patients have a wide variety of injuries, pains and conditions.   We love working with orthopedic injuries like sprains, strains, fractures, and also shoulders, necks and backs, and women’s health. We also help with runners and athletes as well as those injured in the workplace. We focus on everyone, young to old, head to toe, whatever their need may be.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
SD: When the pandemic first started we paused our business and didn’t see patients for a period of time.  Physical Therapy was deemed an essential service and once we felt it was appropriate and we had established strict screening and cleaning measures, we opened the clinic for the patients who needed us most.  

One of the other biggest changes this year has been in the advances in Telemedicine.   In the world of Physical Therapy, we call our appointments with patients “Telerehab.”   We have found patients have loved the ability for us to assess the source of their pain and injury through video from their own home.   We have loved adapting to the needs of our patients and using new technology to develop exercises and see patients through video technology.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
SD: We started a COVID rehab and recovery program. Our therapists received competency-based training following the American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines. We identify and resolve impairments while monitoring vital signs to ensure a safe progression. We continue to be a clean environment for patients. We are making sure that patients are spaced out and not having overlap times of comings and goings.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
SD: Always be honest and upfront. I would say that integrity is the biggest thing and making sure you do what you say you are going to do. It is important to be yourself with customers.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
SD: My patients are inspiring to me. Seeing the progress made by the patients is inspiring and the reason why I come to work every day. When a patient has been in pain or had an injury, there is nothing I like better than helping them meet their goals.

Contact: You can reach Dennis by email at sdennis@novacare.com and by phone at (440) 519-1008. Be sure to call for a free consultation to see if physical therapy is appropriate for your condition!

Spa Lavender Owner, Chyanne Perry

Spa Lavender has been in business for four years. We do relaxation massages and facial beauty services such as eyelash extensions. We do full body waxing, and we’re all about your relaxation!

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Chyanne Perry (CP): We typically have working mom and dads. Our target audience is mostly mid-age, working class.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
CP: The greatest impact was redesigning the business so that customers and employees feel comfortable with receiving services and administering services. Another impact was trying to operate the business with a decrease in staffing.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
CP: I am trying to be supportive of the workers we have here. The main focus is to still put out amazing services for our guests. We are making sure that we are following the proper guidelines and taking the temperatures of everyone that enters into our establishment.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
CP: That is a great question because I’ve made many mistakes, and I am a true believer that if you don’t learn from the mistakes, that is a sign of insanity because you’re not changing anything. I think the biggest mistake was that I put a lot of people in positions that weren’t best fit for this type of environment. I had to learn how to choose individuals that would be perfect for our culture here.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
CP: Overall, my passion for helping people. It is satisfying to me that people come here to de-stress and leave feeling much better.

Contact: You can reach Chyanne by email at spalavender@outlook.com, by phone at (440) 394-8633, and online at spalavendermassage.com. Be sure to reach out about their introductory rates: $70 for a Swedish Massage and $80 for facial services. 

Energy Focus Inc. President and CFO, Tod Nestor

Energy Focus provides LED lighting solutions to the military and commercial sectors. They also do controls (switches) which leverages existing wiring to give additional functionality to their customers. Energy Focus’s products impact health through color tuning, the environment through the use of tubes, and the economy thanks to the productivity improvements resulting from color tuning. They recently received a prestigious award for Product of the Year from Energy and Environmental Leader (a leading publication in the industry). Their newest product to launch leverages UV lighting to clear air.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Tod Nestor (TN): We serve the military as well as the commercial sector. In commercial, our customers include healthcare and eldercare providers, educational institutions such as universities, as well as industrial and commercial warehouses.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
TN: On the military side, the businesses remain very robust so we haven’t really seen a slowdown. We’ve seen slow downs and project delays on the commercial side. We have prioritized getting our new UV lighting product to market in order to help people work safely. Probably the biggest impact we’ve seen is in the supply chain.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
TN: The UV product is the main action taken, and I think we are going to make a difference in bringing back the country, the economy, and frankly the globe.  We have a whole strategy of bringing people back to work safely and allowing people to get as much normalcy as possible.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
TN: We learned to allow the voice of the customer to truly drive our product development. So let that drive what we do for them, not what we think they want. Make sure to listen to your customer and let them drive what you develop. By understanding how to resonate with customers and then delivering a product that they want, you will be successful. It is all about listening to the customer. I learned what really makes a business successful is being honest and letting yourself not be afraid to hear something different than what you thought was the answer.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
TN: The people that I work with inspire me. It is what we are doing and we are doing some really important things here. What we are doing is going to help the economy recover and will help people get comfortable again. It’s the chance to create a lot of jobs, to create a lot of health improvement, to get people comfortable again and create a legacy that I’ve looked for my entire career beyond the brand part of it.

Contact: You can reach Tod by email at tanestor@energyfocus.com and visit their website at energyfocus.com. Be sure and stay tuned for how their affordable solution will help you in this time of COVID!

MFS Supply CEO, Brandon Guzman

MFS Supply is a wholesale distributor of all things renovation. This includes cabinets, appliances, plumbing, lighting, and electrical. We also have a good amount of reps focusing in on college housing, as well as hospitality in general. We have a gamut of different markets in which we sell in, and we have 165 employees headquartered here in Cleveland, Ohio. We have two locations in Solon, one on Solon Road and the other on Aurora Road. Although we are heavily situated in Solon, we also have locations in New Jersey, Orlando, Texas, and Toronto.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Brandon Guzman (BG): We sell to contractors that are doing home remodels or that are doing their own private investments for their own real estate. Predominantly, we work with investors in multi-family properties.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
BG: By the first week of April, we built a ten product mix of all PPE, and we went to market with it. We put it into three channels which included our sales reps where they were able to go to our existing clients to offer them PPE where they couldn’t get it anywhere else. We were able to pivot the business in a quick way to capture an opportunity. This was a really great thing for the culture of our business. Our core values are relentless and solution driven, and we were able to do both of those things. 

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
BG: We have built out new departments that we feel will add a lot of value to businesses. Companies might want a reopening kit, so we provide customized kits for them. It is important to be very entrepreneurial and be able to move quickly to an opportunity.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
BG:  Sometimes mistakes that I have made are pivoting the business either too quick before we’ve actually come to a clear strategy around things. I had to surround myself with detailed-oriented people. So that’s a lesson learned, when you have that vision for the business that you want to continue to grow, sometimes moving slower can be more beneficial than moving too fast.

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
BG: The people that come to work every day and help you accomplish your goals. Through COVID, we saw a tremendous amount of grit and resilience out of our people that work in supply. So they are inspiring me to continue to deliver for them.

Contact: You can reach Brandon by phone at 440-287-7411. Be sure to contact MFS Supply about a free CAD drawing of the kitchen of your dreams!

Prosperity Financial Design Founder, Cullin Fischel

Prosperity Financial Design is a virtual, online only, financial planning organization that links your principles with your investments. We focus on sustainable investing and comprehensive financial planning. The goal is to make sure your investments are linked to your values.

Mark Phelps (MP): Who is your target customer?
Cullin Fischel (CF): My target audience is a person who is thinking about retirement or thinking about their financial future. So this would be somebody 40 to 60 years old who wants to invest better and wants to be more connected with their investments.

MP: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
CF: I think one of the biggest things is that people are more willing to meet online via virtual meetings, or video meetings. The future of business really is meeting people online and making it as convenient and easy as possible for people. The traditional way of meeting with your financial advisor is to schedule an appointment, wait in the lobby, and then finally see your financial advisor for maybe 45 minutes. I think video meetings are going to be the way of the future of meeting people and doing business.

MP: What are one or two actions you have taken to make a difference?
CF: I think that is what my business is all about, making a difference. When you invest
in companies that do not harm the environment, you’re really making an impact and you’re making a change. That’s kind of what my business is all about, because I’m making an impact while doing good for your finances.

MP: It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes you’ve made over the years that other entrepreneurs could learn from?
CF: I think one of the mistakes that I’ve made early on was not engaging and getting my message out as actively as I should have. The only way that you’re going to get your message out is by shouting it from the rooftops to everybody who will hear it. 

MP: What is most inspiring to you today?
CF: These past few months have been very tumultuous and there’s been strong opinions on either side of the aisle. I’ve been inspired by how passionate everybody seems to be with respect to where they stand. It’s moving to see people expressing their opinions and expressing their values as vocally as they are.

Contact: You can reach Cullin by phone at 216-223-8302 and online at profinancial.design. Be sure to check out their website for a free financial assessment to get an idea of how your investments are aligned with your goals and values!