Quaboag Valley CDC helping a small business to recover and grow after tornado.

Tibbetts Optical is a 17 year old retail optical shop owned and operated by Brenda Tibbetts, a sole proprietor, for the past two and a half years. She's grown the business from gross sales of $101,055 in 2011 to $130,714 in 2012.  It is now a very attractive retail storefront business in downtown Monson.  Brenda is an active participant in the downtown merchants group.   

Brenda Tibbetts has 15 years of experience as an optician and a passion for “helping others feel good about their eyewear."  She was a manager at Lens Crafters for 10 years and also has two years experience teaching opticians. In late 2010, she purchased an existing practice in Monson that had been in operation for 15 years. Shortly after opening the business, the June 2011 tornado destroyed much of downtown Monson and blew the roof off Brenda’s store. Much of the refurbishing work, equipment, and inventory purchases were financed with two low interest rate credit cards.  However, the credit cards now carry rates as high as 20%.

Adding to the credit card burden, Brenda’s spouse, Raymond, who has his own drywall contracting company, recently injured his back.  This required surgery that will keep him out of work for more than 6 months.

A request for bank financing within the last year was declined due to the business’s high debt to income ratio and length of time in business.

Brenda asked QVCDC for assistance in preparing for another approach to a bank. QVCDC staff, augmented by consulting help from a Certified Public Accountant, completed a financial review and identified several steps Brenda could take to improve her financial position and record keeping. As a result, Brenda made significant changes in order to reduce expenses.  She made improvements to her accounting system and corrected previous errors. She learned what inventory moves and which is more profitable.

With help from Quaboag Valley CDC, Brenda identified that her main competition comes from a business in Palmer, and that she has some competition from WalMart in Ware.  Accordingly, she’s repositioned her business to feature her consultative selling skills, better selection of merchandise and fast and accurate service because she cuts many of her own lenses.

Due to her extensive industry contacts in western and central Massachusetts, Brenda receives many referrals to her shop from colleagues. She has demonstrated her ability to persevere through setbacks, and has the willingness and capacity to become more strategic in her business operations.

The assistance and improved finances helped Brenda obtain the capital for needed equipment.

QVCDC’s next steps with this client are to help her use the more accurate financial information to put together a financing package to refinance her high rate credit card debt.

By Gail Farnsworth French, Quaboag Valley CDC

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