The loss of a job can be devastating news. But, it can also be an opportunity to re-invent yourself. As part of our "Help Wanted" collaboration with the Plain Dealer, ideastream®'s David C. Barnett brings us the story of a young Geauga County father who's going against the odds to start a new business.
Life had been good for Eric Maynard. He lived with his wife and three young children in Bainbridge Township. He had a good job in the Quality Control department at Steris Corporation, one of the nation's top medical suppliers. He'd just gotten a pay raise and was looking forward to landing a managerial position after working there for 12 years. But, last Spring, his supervisor stopped by with some very different news --- the economy had forced Steris to make some changes. Maynard's department was being eliminated.
ERIC MAYNARD: My first reaction was: I've got three mouths to feed…house payments…car payments --- I've got to find a job. As I looked, there were no jobs available, so I really had to sit back and think, "What am I going to do?"
A friend who owned a landscaping company jumped in to help. Eric Maynard spent the summer cutting grass, shoveling mulch and pondering his future.
CINDY WOLLANT: It was terrible, but I think he wanted to make a career change anyway, so I think it was actually meant to be.
Cindy Wollant owns the Mentor Heisley Racquet and Fitness Club in Lake County, where Maynard has been a part time personal trainer for the past ten years. It had always been sort of a hobby, but after some brainstorming, the two of them figured he could turn it into a full time business using a new piece of computerized training equipment, called Traq 3D, developed by the Cleveland Clinic.
ERIC MAYNARD: After I put my business plan together --- met with accountants, met with friends who owned their own companies --- and from, putting all those pieces together, I then said, "Okay, let me approach the banks." So, I met with all the big banks, gave them my business plan. Everybody turned me down.
That's a common experience, according Steve Millard, who heads Northeast Ohio's Council of Smaller Enterprises. He says the big banks are risk-averse these days.
STEVE MILLARD: What folks are doing at this point is turning to friends and families or they're going to community banks. There's a lot of organizations that have actual underwriters who look at the business risk, talk with you, get to know you, and decide whether you're a good risk for the bank.
TIM FLENNER: Eric had a plan; I think that's what was most impressive to me.
Tim Flenner is a loan officer at one of those community banks --- Lake National in Mentor. He looked over Eric Maynard's plan to set up a personal training business and was won over by the detail.
TIM FLENNER: He had done his research, he had all his projections, and the other thing that really stood out was how passionate he was about his dream and what he was about to embark on.
Lake National's financial support came with some strings. Maynard would have to arrange for a microloan from the Lake County Port Authority's small business division. If the Port Authority would put up $20,000, Lake National would match it. Both loans were approved and Maynard opened up shop at the Mentor Heisley Fitness Club, last October.
SOUND: video game-type sounds
ADRIANA JONES: Should I do Phase 6? I did Phase 5 last week.
Gymnast Adriana Jones made a bad dismount off the parallel bars and broke her ankle four months ago. Eric Maynard is helping her with some rehabilitation therapy.
ADRIANA JONES: He's one of my idols. I've been coming to him for like three years.
Maynard hooks her up to the Traq 3-D machine, which is similar to the popular Wii home video game, except this equipment measures and records a client'sprogress in great detail. It's an intense workout that involves continual movement and rapid judgment calls in reaction to what you see on a big video screen.
SOUND: Adriana laughs and gasps at the pace
Adriana is part of a client base that Eric Maynard built-up over the years, working with young athletes. But, he needs to bring in more people.
ERIC MAYNARD: My base is working and allowing me to pay my bills and keep my nose above water. But, I need to be able to support my family. So, I need an income --- not only to pay bills and get by, I need money coming in, which is [takes a breath] where I am right now.
Maynard hopes to keep money coming in this summer with a series of training camps. He's starting to pay off his loans, but he's still got a long ways to go.