Local Business Fuels Growth With Help From The SBDC

Small Business Development Center hosted by Economic Development Collaborative
Fred’s Gas – Oxnard, CA

BEFORE:
A survivor of the Communist regime in Cambodia, Sam Seng arrived in Los Angeles in 1984 as a refugee. In 1989, he married a fellow survivor, Chanthy. Starting with nothing, the industrious couple saved their earnings to buy an Oxnard donut shop, eventually expanding to three locations. In September 2003, the Sengs decided to venture into a new industry, purchasing a gas station. Family-run Fred’s Gas quickly became known for serving the community with reasonably priced gasoline and a mini-mart. Seeking to improve the business’s façade with new paint and signage, Sam turned to the Small Business Development Center hosted by Economic Development Collaborative for help finding financing.

BEST ADVICE:
In September 2010, Sam approached the SBDC seeking help finding financing to renovate his location. Business Advisor Mary Anne Rooney helped him develop a business plan, explore financing options and obtain a grant from the City of Oxnard.

LESSONS LEARNED:
• A business plan is a tool for growth. “I learned about the need for a proper business plan and the benefits that can be obtained by having a good plan,” says Sam. Rooney explains, “When Sam first started the renovation project, he was only planning minor renovations. After going through the [business plan] process, he determined that he wanted to do a much larger renovation.”
• Make the right connections. Rooney directed Sam to various financing options available through the City of Oxnard. “The SBDC worked with me on making connections to local officials and assisted in maneuvering my application through the City for approval,” says Sam.
• When you need help, ask. “Without the knowledge of [the city] grant, we would not have begun this renovation. We expanded to a much larger scale than we originally thought due to the assistance Mary Anne provided,” says Sam. “I learned that asking for help is a good thing!”

AFTER:
With a combination of city grants, his own money and financing he obtained from a credit union, Sam completed a $400,000 renovation of Fred’s Gas that included adding a new façade, expanding the food mart, updating signage and installing an ATM. “Our customers tell us every day how wonderful our business is with all the improvements,” says Sam. The improvements have helped more than just Fred’s Gas, says Rooney. “Mr. Seng’s business is well known and respected in this community. With his improvements to the business, the citizens’ morale was raised. Additionally, a major fast food chain next door is making improvements because of the renovation made by Fred’s Gas.” Future plans for Fred’s Gas including additional renovation, increasing sales and hiring more employees. “I intend on keeping this business indefinitely,” says Sam. “We appreciate all the assistance [the SBDC] provided.”