“It’s good to have someone in your corner to be with you throughout the process of starting a business,” said Sylvia Small of Wagram, co-owner of Triune Laboratory Inc. in Aberdeen, a full-service reference laboratory providing blood testing services to a wide variety of clients. “Someone you can call who reassures you, reminds you of the realities of how long it takes for things to happen, and encourages you along each step in the process. Natasha was that for me.”
Natasha Khachaturov is the counselor for Richmond Community College’s Growing America Through Entrepreneurship (GATE) program. Each week she talks with unemployed adults at the Employment Security Commission about the program, which assists people interested in starting their own businesses in developing a business plan, finding funding sources, and managing the hurdles they encounter.
Small worked in local hospital laboratories for nearly 20 years when she accepted a job with an independent reference lab in Raleigh. After working there for several months, she was asked to sign a non-solicitation, non-compete agreement for her employer. She had always had a vision of starting her own business someday, so she asked for changes to be made to the agreement. It was non-negotiable, and she soon found herself out of work and needing unemployment benefits to sustain her until she could fine-tune a business plan.
“After I heard Sylvia’s story and business idea, I was eager to have her as a client,” said Khachaturov. “She had her business plan in place, already obtained accreditation, and knew exactly who she wanted her customers to be. Almost every idea I gave her for marketing the business, she already had put into place.”
Small was accepted into the program and able to receive unemployment benefits while working on developing a client base. Khachaturov provided her much-needed information on loan opportunities, which Small and business partners Rhonda Outlaw and Tammy Cummings of Maxton pursued.
Finding funding was critical for the purchase of specialized equipment costing thousands of dollars. Outlaw’s skills came into play on getting the lab set up, establishing accounts and fleshing out the logistics of transporting specimens by courier. Small is the information technology guru, runs the equipment, and manages the marketing.
Because the three wanted to tap into the health care market in Moore County, they chose to locate in Aberdeen. The business opened in March and was operational in June. Some of their marketing ideas involved holding health fairs at churches and industries.
Today there are nine employees, including phlebotomists and specimen couriers. The equipment hums from early morning until late at night so doctor’s offices have lab results the same or next day. Using Cloud technology, doctors or their staff can draw blood, enter orders into a computer, have a courier pick up the samples, and pull up the results on their computers. Paperwork is reduced and information can be easily transferred to electronic medical records.
“We have struggled to get the business off the ground,” Small said. “Financing was a major issue. We’ve found developing a client base is challenging because people want references before they take a chance on using your services. Most of our clients are small family practices and hospice centers, but more are coming in. We’re blessed things have done well so far.”
Khachaturov is proud of their accomplishments, especially Small’s ability to optimize search engines like Google so www.triunelaboratory.com pops up on the first page of results for searches of reference laboratories in North Carolina.
“We are very excited for these women and hope their growth continues in the years to follow,” Khachaturov said. “Creating your own job is empowering. Having these women as an example brings me great joy.”