The UGA SBDC helped catapult “The Elf on the Shelf” to stardom. Here’s how:
Since helping Carol Aebersold and her twins, Christa Pitts and Chanda Bell launch the best-selling holiday book in 2004, the UGA Small Business Development Center has continued to provide support and guidance to the Kennesaw-based company.
“The Elf on the Shelf” story is told in homes every holiday season. An elf is sent to children’s homes to monitor who is naughty or nice. The elf hides in various spots each night and might get into some mischief, depending on the home.
A family member told Aebersold and her daughters about the SBDC’s no cost, confidential consulting. When they contacted the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University—one of the 17 UGA SBDC offices across the state—they met Area Director Drew Tonsmeire.
“It was very encouraging and motivating for us to hear from someone other than family and friends that our product had great potential. Drew asked us challenging questions and really helped us take a good, hard look at what it was going to take to make this business success,” said Pitts, now CEO. Tweet This
The family needed money to produce their part-book/part-toy product, but several lenders had turned them down. The UGA SBDC connected the company, CCA and B (formed by their initials and standing for Creativity Classic Activities and Books), with an alternative lender. Although it was an expensive option, requiring them to cash in retirement accounts and sell one of their homes, it was the only resource that helped them get started.
“Without that one connection to that loan source, they recognized it would have never happened,” Tonsmeire said. “It was that one pivotal move.”
The company now is a multi-million dollar business with national recognition on numerous levels, such as making the Inc. magazine’s list of fast-growing companies three times, having a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and an animated TV special. Over the years, Tonsmeire has served as an unbiased adviser for “The Elf on the Shelf” creators, providing knowledge and a look at the pros and cons related to expanding staff, facilities, and product lines. The UGA SBDC offers knowledge and resources that business owners can’t find on their own, as well as doses of encouragement in success and dark hours, said Tonsmeire, whose office won the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Excellence and Innovation Awarded for the Southeast in 2014.
“Their only goal is to help you be successful,” Pitts said.
The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center can also help YOUR business grow. Find out how here:
(Source: Lori Johnston, Beyond the Arch, 2014-2015, Public Service and Outreach)