Andy Richmer, head chef and owner of Crystal & Jules in Madison, prepares orders while Chad Scudder works at the stove and grill. Richmer opened the restaurant with guidance from the Southeast Indiana Small Business Development Center. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Andy Richmer, head chef and owner of Crystal & Jules in Madison, prepares orders while Chad Scudder works at the stove and grill. Richmer opened the restaurant with guidance from the Southeast Indiana Small Business Development Center. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
People get ideas for businesses, buy businesses, inherit businesses and expand or rejuvenate businesses. Last year, four new businesses in Jefferson County got started with free or reduced-cost help from the Southeast Indiana Small Business Development Center.

With the New Albany-based center's help, there were four investment projects in Jefferson County last year that had $259,769 from loans and infusion of capital.

Eighty-two Jefferson County clients were counseled last year - that's 1.5 percent of the clients the regional office counseled - and 273 hours were spent with clients in Jefferson County, which was 7.7 percent of the hours regionwide.

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Andy Richmer went into business knowing about his field. He had wanted to own a restaurant since he started cooking, and got his first food job at McDonald's when he was a student at Madison Consolidated High School.

While at MCHS, he took a culinary arts class at the Southeastern Career Center, where his teacher, Shirley Rogers Herrick, encouraged him to pursue a cooking career.

Richmer graduated with two degrees from Sullivan University in Kentucky, which is known for its culinary program. He honed his skills at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y., and at the end of the program received a certificate as a chef de cuisine.

Before opening Crystal & Jules restaurant in Madison in December 2011, he was a chef at Belterra Casino Resort and Spa and at Embassy Suites in Louisville.

At Sullivan and at the institute, his studies included the business side of the culinary arts.

He, his father and step mother tossed around ideas for a restaurant when he visited them in Lafayette, where she owns a retirement community. His step mother, Pam Holt Richmer, has "a lot of business savvy," Richmer said, and suggested that he visit Venture Out Business Center for help with the specific details of owning his own business.

At Venture Out, he was connected with Eric Kranz, a business adviser at the Small Business Development Center who primarily works with clients in Jefferson, Jennings, Bartholomew and Decatur counties.

"The first time I met him, it was just kind of like to get to know him and let him know what I'm thinking," Richmer said. "It was that day he told me to start getting some things together and concentrating on the numbers."

Kranz provided a computer program that Richmer could log into from his cell phone that was the framework for starting his business.

"Every detail was in it," Richmer said. "There was a place for your executive summary. Your whole business plan is on one page." Richmer filled in the information called for, section by section. "It would walk you through step by step," Richmer said.

The Small Business Development Center's help included information Richmer would need for his business plan such as data about the location Richmer had chosen, all the restaurants in the area, the traffic volumes that pass his location, the average cost of meals at other restaurants and the average income levels for the area.

"Who opening a restaurant would even know this stuff?" Richmer said. "And it was all free."

Kranz told him to make his restaurant upscale. "He was right," Richmer said.

"He was a tremendous help. He's a great aide, an awesome guy."

One purpose of a business plan is to provide information that lenders want to see before they decide whether to approve a loan.

"He (Kranz) was there to prepare me for getting a loan. He helped me with my business plan."

Richmer and Kranz met about every other week. "He'd tell me what I needed to get done," Richmer said. "He gave me encouragement."

Kranz also proofread Richmer's paperwork and told him what he needed to know as an employer and business owner.

"He went through and told me all the tax forms I had to fill out. ... He knew what sales tax form and he knew what employee tax forms I needed."

They still exchange emails, and Kranz has called Richmer a couple of times since the business opened. "He'll ask me how things are going."

Richmer finished his business plan, but didn't have to use it to persuade a banker to lend him the money to buy a building on West Main Street. His father, Dale, and step mother lent him the money, and they did it formally with a written document prepared by an attorney.

Richmer named his restaurant Crystal & Jules for his fiancee, Crystal, and his late mother, whose nickname was Jules.

He opened the restaurant Dec. 10 last year, and with the help of his father, a carpenter, is building what he said is Madison's first outdoor kitchen restaurant, where food will be cooked for the outdoor seating area, which they are expanding. He has 10 employees.

"The second month open, and we're in the black," he said as February ended.

•••

In the 13 counties the southeast region covers, 466 businesses have been bought or created with help from the Small Business Development Center, and 1,884 net jobs have been created since 2000, according to data the center compiled. The same data shows that last year the center exceeded its goals for bought or started businesses, clients counseled and training provided.

The center is financed with a cooperative agreement between the federal Small Business Administration and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. The SBDC has a hosting relationship with Indiana University, Ivy Tech Community College and Purdue University.

It also has local sponsoring partners that include city and county governments, chambers of commerce, a visitors bureau, economic development agencies, a Main Street program, a business and banks.

None of the sponsoring partners is in Jefferson County. The city of Madison stopped giving $5,000 a year to the Small Business Development Center after state SBDC officials moved the regional office from Madison to New Albany in the summer of 2009. There is an in-kind contribution of office space for the SBDC at Venture Out Business Center.

Not everyone who gets help from the SBDC will be given access to all of the center's resources. A note at the bottom of documents from the SBDC reads: "We require many of our clients in business for less than a year to attend an ISBDC business overview workshop before tapping into ISBDC market research, financial diagnostic, and business consultation resources. Because most of our funding comes through tax revenues, we have the responsibility to maximize every dollar. By having a 'first-step' requirement, we demonstrate to taxpayers that the business owners we work with have a commitment to education and growing their business."

••••

Libby Large was a single mother of three preteen children when King's Daughters' Hospital cut her job about six years ago. She had been a nurse at KDH for 17 years.

Before she lost her job, patients occasionally had asked her to provide care for them after they went home, which she did on her own time. From being in their homes and from her experience as a mother, she knew there was a need for her kind of training, and also for other home services such as grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving people to appointments - not only for older people but also for new mothers and for people recovering from surgery.

"Here I was a nurse and didn't know anything about business," she said.

Large's nursing degree was from Ivy Tech Community College, and after becoming unemployed, she returned to Ivy Tech for an associate degree in business management with an emphasis on health care administration. As part of her college work, she wrote a business plan for the business she wanted to open. Later she came up with a name, Home Care Home, a takeoff on the saying Home Sweet Home.

She did a lot of research on her own to learn about requirements such as licensing. While visiting her father in Florida, she checked out businesses like the one she wanted to start, but well outside the market where she would be competing. She learned how to become a vendor for the Veterans Affairs Administration and approved for services to people who are Medicaid-waived.

Still, she had questions. She talked to Andy Sons at Venture Out Business Center and took his entrepreneurship class. Formerly with the Small Business Development Center, Sons works for the Scott County Economic Development Corp. The Madison Area Chamber of Commerce contracts with the economic development corporation to make Sons available in Jefferson County to business owners and entrepreneurs, regardless of whether they are Chamber members. The services are free, but some courses have a fee.

Corey Murphy, executive director of the Chamber, said the work Sons does and the Small Business Development Center does differ in approach. The SBDC uses tools such as computer programs to help clients start and expand their businesses, while Sons does face-to-face talks and teaches classes, he said. The programs complement each other, not compete, Murphy said.

When Large thought about getting help, she thought about Linda Wood, whom she had known for a long time. Large knew Wood did something with business and worked at Venture Out Business Center. At the time, Wood was the regional director of the Southeast Indiana Small Business Development Center.

Large contacted Wood and learned that what Wood did was what she needed.

Large opened Home Care Home a little over four years ago. She has taken other classes through the SBDC, and has become an advocate for small businesses with such activities as being an Ambassador for the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce.

Now when she has a question, she can ask Kranz in an email or when he is at the SBDC office at Venture Out Business Center one or two days a week. Home Care Home's office is at Venture Out also.

Large's state-licensed personal care agency employs 20 to 25 people, some full-time and some part-time. She visits new clients to determine what they need - usually spending 24 hours with them - and works out a schedule for her caretakers, who cost $15 an hour. Clients are in assisted-living centers, hospitals and nursing homes as well as in their own homes.

Last year, Large turned again to the Small Business Development Center for business counseling when she decided to expand her business into Kentucky - she has an office in Milton - and started expanding in Lawrenceburg. She doesn't want to expand too fast.

Financially, her business is where she wants it to be, but she said she isn't in it "to make millions."

Instead, she said, she's in it for people like Jane and Harold Duke of Hanover. A year ago, Harold had a stroke and fell. From the hospital, he was sent to rehabilitation, and couldn't wait to get home. Jane knew she could not care for him alone, and they did not want him to go to a nursing home. A doctor had heard of Home Care Home and made the initial call.

At first, the Dukes had Home Care Home caregivers around the clock. Now, with Harold able to do many things himself, they have a caregiver for grocery shopping, household chores, errands, "anything I want done," Jane said, for four hours a day, three days a week.

For the Dukes, whose 69th anniversary was March 2, it's about peace of mind. For Large, it's about owning her own business and providing jobs through a tough economy.

"At a time when people are out of work, I'm creating jobs," said Large, whose parents - part of the large Schafer family in this area - moved to Madison from Georgia when she was 2. "I'm hiring. I created my own job. I'm not out to make millions. What I wanted to do was provide services for people and be able to support myself, and I'm doing that, and you put back into the company to keep it going."

Her advice to people thinking about starting a business: "Talk to people. Find out how they got started. You look for the need and then you fill it."