Today, leaders of nine area businesses find out if their company will receive an annually presented Small Business Award from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
Businesses are divided into three different categories, based on the number of employees.
Yogi's Primo Promo
Yogi's has an array of services, from printing promotional items—such as T-shirts, hats and pens—to website development and company branding.
"There's a large spectrum of what we do—we do everything," owner April Maddox said. "We can do website design. We can rebrand somebody. We can do something as simple as order pens for a business."
The business has seven sales representatives and about 11 total employees.
Yogi has sales representatives in Georgia and Tennessee who work very closely with customers, Maddox said.
Something as simple as a pen with a business logo can make an impact bigger than a Yellow Pages ad or a billboard that people zoom by in cars, she also said.
"It helps when you can hand somebody something—that's your foot in the door," she said.
Maddox has been in business since she was a child, she said.
"My father owns a restaurant," she said. "I've been in the business world for as long as I can remember."
And her main goal is to take a burden off her customer.
"[Business owners] have so many other things [they are] worried about," she said. "What we like to do is go in and take that worry away."
And no matter what the price range is, her company can help, she said.
She isn't sure who nominated her company for the Small Business Award, but she is "thrilled," she said.
"I'm just excited we are a finalist," she said. "Just being a finalist, we feel like we've already won."
The "VIP" in the business' title stands for "very important people skills," founder Vincent Phipps said.
It is also Phipps' initials.
His company is housed in the Business Development Center, and for the past three years, Phipps has been helping area clients polish skills from public speaking to listening skills.
"I created this business because I've seen a need for people to have polish and confidence in their professionalism," he said. "I've always had a passion for helping people improve their leadership and communication [skills]."
He has a background as an executive coach, in which he consulted individuals or groups in communication, negotiation and other similar skills, he said.
And with the continued evolution of technology, Phipps—who has between 100 and 150 clients across the nation—said some people are losing those skills.
His three main focus areas he teaches are public speaking, listening skills and the ability to adapt.
And within each of those skills, there are different needs, he said. For example, some people have the "gift of gab," but they lack structure in their public speaking skills. Others know exactly what they want to say, but they are terrified to say it, he said.
Good listening skills are important because opportunities can be missed when people don't listen well, he said. And many people are programmed to react immediately, when sometimes listening and then taking time to think is more important.
"The average person only listens at 30 percent efficiency," he said. "They think they listen at about 80 percent."
And the third area of focus—adaptation—teaches people to identify another person's communication style and adapt to that style.
Phipps identifies four different styles of communication—laid-back, accurate, energetic and direct.
If a laid-back person is talking to a direct person, there may be misunderstandings because the laid-back person could think the direct person is being rude. All the while, the direct person is just being straightforward, he said.
As for the Small Business Award, it's an honor to be nominated, Phipps said.
"It's validation that what I'm doing is making a difference and people are recognizing the need for community training," he said. "That is phenomenal to know that people recognize what I have created."
Headlight Renew Doctor
Five years ago, Chris Watts, president of Headlight Renew Doctor, said yes to a request even though he wasn't exactly sure how he would make it happen.
The owner of a paint and body shop needed someone who could clean yellowed headlights and make it last for years.
So Watts developed a restoration system that cleans headlights that are cloudy and yellowed by the sun's rays.
Five years ago, there were more than 300 million cars in the United States, and between 50 and 60 percent of them had this headlight deterioration problem.
"I developed a process and a product that removes that oxidation on the outside of the plastic automobile headlight," Watts said. "It's a three-step, 15-minute process. It renews the luster of the headlight and restores visibility."
After about five months of no profit, a car lot called and needed his services. The next week, he made $800. Then, he started driving from Dayton to Dalton, stopping at car dealerships and used car lots. He passed out cards and spread the word of his new process, and by the end of the second week, he'd made $1,000, he said.
Cloudy, yellow headlights can cause safety issues, he said, and some used car dealers who offer warranties need to guarantee that the lights will be clear for years.
Watts made a deal with Ace Hardware to sell his product, got some local publicity and the product took off—selling out in 24 hours in Chattanooga, he said.
Now, he sells the product to 500 auto parts chains in Australia and locally at Ace Hardware. And he's expanding.
"We struggled for about three years," he said. "I've done this all on my own—no investors, minimal help from friends financially. Last year, [business] increased by about 30 percent. This year, we are poised to have about a 600 percent increase, which will put us into seven figures this coming year."
Like Phipps, Watts is in the Business Development Center. He has seven employees.
Watts said he hopes the chamber nomination helps legitimize his business more. As the business continues to grow, he will need more help.
"I'm hoping this will give us legitimacy to be able to present this to investors," he said.