October 22 was a great evening for entrepreneurs in Creek County. Two family-owned businesses were honored as the Creek County Entrepreneurs of the Year, and Roger Mashore, CEO of MTM Recognition delivered the keynote, at the Tidal School Winery in Drumright, Okla.
Brad Hewitt with Hewitt Specialty Services in Oilton, Okla. and Susan McClure with Phelps Market in Mannford, Okla. each received the award. The Entrepreneur of the Year Awards is sponsored by the Creek County Industrial Authority and Central Tech and recognizes excellence in entrepreneurship, leadership, innovation, risk taking, growth and community support.
“The Creek County Entrepreneur of the Year Awards is a great way to recognize businesses in our county that make it a great place to live and work,” said Ron Dyer, Central Tech Assistant Superintendent. “Hewitt Specialty Services and Phelps Market are exemplary family-owned businesses making a positive impact in their communities, and definitely deserving of this award.”
Hewitt Specialty Services
Brad Hewitt and his mother, Marla, started a hydrovac excavation franchise in 2005. Hydrovac excavation uses water and vacuum suction to provide environmentally friendly techniques for excavating around pipelines. When the franchise arrangement didn’t work out in 2011, the company reorganized as Hewitt Specialty Services (HSS) and hasn’t looked back.
“We started over by purchasing all new equipment and acquired MSA’s to continue providing services to our customers,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt Specialty Services has experienced tremendous growth, with sales almost tripling and employment swelling from two to 18 workers, since the reorganization. Hewitt said he expects HSS to be running 25 trucks and employing 75 workers within five years. In addition to growth, HSS has also found a way to ensure the stability of the business, even though the industry they’re in is volatile.
“We addressed the changing economy by staying focused on our pipeline and refinery maintenance customers,” Hewett said. “Maintenance must be performed regardless of the economy.”
Additionally, what sets Hewitt Specialty Services apart from competitors is the true old-fashioned way of doing business, and the family ties that run it. Brad runs the business with his two sisters, Ashely Casey and Brandi Finney.
“At HSS, we build our relationships the ‘old-fashioned way,’” said Casey, who manages sales and contracting. “We prefer face to face communication, whether it be on the jobsite or over lunch. We believe in person-to-person contact for sales, conflict resolution and for building working relationships.”
Though the family dynamic of running a business together, can be challenging at times, it is worth the effort, agreed the siblings.
“It’s not easy, but it is very fulfilling. We have learned that people are both our greatest asset and greatest frustration at times. You never stop learning. There is a new lesson learned daily and sometimes hourly.”
Phelps Market began in 1975 with Bill Phelps, father of Susan McClure. McClure took the reins of the operation in 1980 after her father’s passing.
An exception to many business rules, Phelps Market is a family-owned business, that has survived more than 40 years, plus a transfer of leadership from one generation to the next. Additionally, it is an independently-owned, full-service grocery store in a rural location. To top it off, McClure, the owner, is a woman, which is extremely rare for the industry.
When visiting with McClure about what sets her store apart from the competition, a familiar phrase resurfaced, “old-fashioned.”
“We still do ‘old-fashioned’ carry-out service for our customers,” McClure said. “We also do custom cutting and offer free marinating for meat. We still have a butcher that cuts the meat – unlike so many stores these days who only have pre-packaged meat.”
According to the store’s controller, Phelps has managed to produce sales growth and stable profits, even though more than 200,000 sq. ft. of retail grocery space was added in the trade area, and the town experienced numerous homes lost in a wildfire in 2012.
“We understand our customer groups and strive to meet their needs,” McClure said. “We recognize the distinct differences and individualized needs of the groups, such as food stamp and WIC customers, budget-conscious customers, seniors, and those who prefer organic foods.”
While many rural Oklahoma towns are struggling, Mannford is healthy and experiencing growth. Due to this positivity, Phelps is embarking on a journey of expansion. On Friday, Phelps held a groundbreaking ceremony at the location of their new “bigger and better than ever” 32,000 sq. ft. full-service grocery store on Highway 51, just west of Mannford, set to open in April 2014.
“Being named the Entrepreneur of the Year in an incredible honor,” McClure said. “I know my dad would be proud of me.”
During his keynote, Mashore spoke about people and the importance of feeling valued and how it affects return on investment.
“You make people feel more valued so that you have engaged employees, so you are more successful,” Mashore said.
Both Hewitt Specialty Services and Phelps Market take this lesson to heart, each citing people as a factor that sets them apart from the competition.
Central Tech Congratulates Hewitt Specialty Services and Phelps Market for their hard work and accomplishments to be named the 2013 Creek County Entrepreneurs of the Year.