Featured Success Stories of Companies Certified by NWBOC
Meet Beth Harshfield of Exhibit Arts in Wichita, KS
Beth Harshfield was able to take a successful career in working at advertising agencies and parlay it into a $20M company which she owns. To do so she first had to recognize that with upheavals in the ad industry causing numerous corporate buy-outs, upper level positions were few and far between, and -- in her corner of the world at least – being filled with males. “The only jobs opening up were entry level positions at that time. I just didn't see a future for myself any longer in the ad agency arena,” Ms. Harshfield recalls. Second, she had to realize it was up to her to create her own version of the future, and that meant researching opportunities and taking advantage of government supplier diversity programs that were available for women and minorities. “In fact I realized the future I wanted was not going to happen by working for someone else. I wanted to build my own business,” she says. “Once I realized there was significant work going on with the government, and that our company could qualify as both woman and as an American Indian owned business, I knew it was time to start my own company.”
The strategy was not to rely on a single program, but to utilize all that were a good fit. Within a year of founding Exhibit Arts in 2000, the company obtained their GSA Schedule, which they continue today. Two years later, they were accepted into the SBA 8(a) program, from which the company has since graduated. For other federal work, the company obtained WBE certification from the Kansas Department of Transportation. The company has WOSB and EDWOSB certifications for participation in the SBA's procurement program for woman-owned companies, which has been in effect since 2011. Also, Exhibit Arts is WBE-certified through NWBOC, which is part of their ongoing strategy to further develop corporate clients.
“Blending our corporate experience with the opportunities coming from the government led us to focus on trade show exhibits, special events promotion, and logoed products in the beginning,” Ms. Harshfield says, “But more than just supplying products, we have always customized programs to fit customer's needs. In many ways that flexibility led us into other service areas.” Additional services added over the years include providing branded uniforms, corporate awards programs, staffing, and administrative support. The company also offers customized web stores and full-service product fulfillment, which is more complicated than it sounds. Exhibit Arts creates the logoed merchandise, offers it on a custom customer website, manages the inventory, processes the orders, and handles the shipping. “We have found that our customers are typically either too large to want to be bothered with doing all this in-house, or they are too small and just don't have the capacity to handle it in-house,” Ms. Harshfield observes. “Brand managers understand how important it is for consistency in logoed products for marketing purposes, and our staff works with them closely to customize their program and make it a total success.
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