Service is the number one priority at Odiss Enterprises, LLC, owned by Mary Jo and Don Longnecker in Indianola, Neb.
That mantra is one of the reasons the Center for Rural Affairs chose Mary Jo and Don as the 2016 Entrepreneurs of the Year. They were recognized at an award ceremony on March 10 in York, Neb. The couple was unable to attend, so they received the award last month at the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference in McCook.
The Entrepreneur of the Year Award is presented annually to an individual or individuals who best exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit that defines and is crucial to the future prosperity of Nebraska’s rural communities.
We visited with the couple last fall to see how their business was going and found them getting ready for their busy season.
“Winter is our busy time, contrary to what most people think, as the cold puts stress on door springs and other parts,” Mary Jo said. “We are gearing up for a super busy season.”
Odiss Enterprises services and offers maintenance on all types of doors and operators, residential or commercial. Whether working on a broken spring, a detached cable or a faulty opener, their goal is to take care of their customers.
The business opened full-time in June 2014. Don has been in the industry since 2011, when he was selling used and refurbished overhead doors and operators as a side job on the weekends.
“We felt that we could offer better service than our competitors, and we saw that as a need for this area,” Mary Jo said. “We made service our number one priority. It took off from there.”
Setting up the business took some planning. First, Don and Mary Jo searched for a door company that offered the quality and variety of doors they needed as well as a reputable company for operators.
Then, they reached out to the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) during its office hours in McCook, Neb. There, they met Dena Beck, senior project leader and loan specialist, who helped them with a business plan.
The couple had bank financing, but needed a little more. They were awarded a REAP loan to fill the gap. The loan helped with the initial equipment investment, including purchasing a truck, trailer and lift, and helped with worker’s comp insurance and other operating expenses.
“They had many of the tools to get started, but a loan from REAP helped with much-needed working capital,” Beck said. “We gave them the boost needed to get their business off the ground.”
REAP’s assistance didn’t stop after the business was up and running. Mary Jo attended a marketing workshop co-sponsored by REAP’s Women’s Business Center. And Beck has administered one-on-one technical assistance and business counseling along the way.
“As an entrepreneur, Don saw the potential and had the ability to take the risk,” Beck said. “I think you can ask 10 people the definition of an entrepreneur and you’d have 10 different definitions. But the risk taker is always the common denominator.”
“REAP was wonderful to work with. We feel they have been very supportive and are always there to help answer questions we may have,” Mary Jo said. “Dena Beck made the whole experience very easy.”
Odiss Enterprises sells and installs Midland doors and Liftmaster, Sommer or Genie operators. Since they’ve opened, they’ve added another truck trailer and a lift. They’ve also expanded their door offerings to Cornell for rolling steel doors.
“We will work on any type of door, even the sliders that many companies stay away from,” Mary Jo said. “Recently, we built a new set of sliding barn doors and installed them on an old barn.”
The business has also expanded to the Holdrege area. Odiss Enterprises now employs two full-time workers and one part-time worker.