UCEDC has so much to offer—and Keely Freeman is here for all of it.
Keely is the founder and owner of WillDog Property Preservation and Management, a start-up business that specializes in property and waste management. She launched with a service that managed bank-owned properties, but as the real estate market shifted, Keely did too. Today, 90% of her business revolves around collecting and processing waste and the company’s dumpster containers are in high demand.
With business booming, Keely came to UCEDC for help managing growth. She plans to move WillDog to a larger space, one that she owns instead of rents that has room for her trucks plus 10 more dumpsters. “It sounds like a lot of growth,” Keely says, “but we want to get hundreds of dumpsters. Some of these yards where they do waste management have thousands—miles and miles of containers.” With so much potential on the horizon, Keely applied and won one of 10 spots in the 2021 Virtual Incubator Program (VIP).
VIP gives small businesses owned by members of the Black, Latinx, Asian, LGBTQ and veteran communities the tools they need to reach the next level. After completing eight weeks of workshops, Keely became eligible for a loan that’s repaid with credits earned during follow-up business counseling sessions. She says the funds and the one-on-one discussions are invaluable. “My mentor is absolutely amazing and has been key to us being able to expand,” Keely says. “She has great ideas and there’s never been a question that she hasn’t been able to answer.”
With what she learned in the program, Keely structured WillDog’s finances and developed the company’s marketing tactics. She also tapped into other resources at UCEDC. Through the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) she has access to government contracts open only to qualifying businesses.
“PTAC is a great service and it’s free,” she says. As a grant writer—a skill she uses to fund Sierra House, a non-profit she co-founded 20 years ago that improves the lives of homeless youth—Keely knows the process. Thanks to UCEDC’s bid match system, she saves time. “I don’t have to look through different sites for contracts because a summary comes into my inbox. I can spend those two hours a week doing something else for my business.”
Running two organizations keeps Keely energized and excited about what the future holds. “For now, WillDog plays only a small role in waste management, but it’s just amazing how waste gets repurposed into something useful like mulch or compost or even energy that’s used to heat homes,” she says. “We all want to do our small part to make this world more sustainable and more liveable. I’m really glad I entered this industry. I love it.”
Want to learn more about UCEDC’s Virtual Incubation Program? Details here