Sometimes, the most important asset a business can have is hope.
Abdoul and Charlotte Diakite, the co-owners of A3 Contracting in Linden, NJ., had the skills, the drive, the work ethic and the experience to move their business to the next level. UCEDC, they say “gave us hope”.
Like many businesses - particularly construction contractors who must pay up front for project supplies and often face long waits on payments - A3 Contracting found the growing business needed a line of credit. But like many small businesses, they were turned down by traditional lenders.
“Not only is it difficult now to get a line of credit,” Charlotte says, “but it can be very discouraging.” Undaunted, the pair approached UCEDC where they found not only an experienced business consultancy and a willing lender, but the support they needed to grow.
“They have had a significant impact on where we are today and where we are going,” Charlotte notes, calling UCEDC: “A source of renewal and hope.”
Building for the Future
The company took a close look at itself following the economic downturn. With 95 percent of its business coming from residential repair and contracting through its long-time relationship with the home improvement store, Lowes, Abdoul and Charlotte determined that the business needed to expand in other areas and diversify.
“UCEDC helped us sit down and really look at the business,” recalls Charlotte. “Ellen (McHenry) and Erich (Peter) asked us some really good questions that required us to do a lot of introspective analysis so we could really grow. Part of that growth involves expanding into government contracting, subcontracting with general contractors, and entering into joint ventures with other small businesses.”
They are currently registered contractors with the Union County Home Improvement Program and have been successful in winning projects. “UCEDC’s line of credit was instrumental in giving us the purchasing power and ability to mobilize on an awarded project with the City of Linden,” says Charlotte.
The Diakite’s involvement with UCEDC, however, didn’t stop there. The duo worked with the team at UCEDC to “take a deep look” at business practices and tools such as their website, marketing tactics, and appropriate certifications so they could better position their business, make connections with potential commercial collaborators and be better equipped to compete for contracts.
They continue to call on UCEDC’s expertise, recently attending a QuickBooks seminar and knowing that if they have a question, they can “make a quick call” and get an answer or an appropriate referral.
Charlotte credits her husband’s hard work and experience with being the bedrock of the company, but her business experience and master’s degree in psychology have come in handy in navigating the certification, bidding and management processes.
“All of this is a gift from above,” she says. “UCEDC is a part of our journey and we appreciate our continuing relationship with them. We would highly recommend that any small business seek them out for help and listen to what they have to say.”
What other advice would Charlotte give to fellow small business owners?
“Always give your best, grow yourself and your business.”
To learn more about A3 Contracting, visit www.a3contractingllc.com