Mother and son duo cook up small business success at East Tennessee appliance store
John Burcham spent five years as a sales rep for a high end kitchen appliance brand. But he dreamed of going into business for himself. “I’ve always been a free-spirit entrepreneur,” says John. “All the time I’d be driving around town and thinking ‘that would be a great place for a store.’”
In 2011, John found the perfect location for a new high end kitchen appliance store in Maryville, Tennessee, and new it was time to realize his dream. Despite his product knowledge and industry connections, John knew he’d need a partner to run the accounting side of a small business.
He didn’t have to look far to find that perfect partner.
John’s mother Lila Downs had spent her entire career in accounting, and was working as the finance manager at a local car dealership when John came to her with the idea for Quinn Appliance. After much convincing, she made the jump from employee of a large company to co-owner of a new small business.
“I really liked the idea of becoming my own boss,” says Lila. “I’m convinced that being part owner of a this business was one of the best decisions I could’ve made.”
Her son, John, speaks vividly about his experience being part owner of a company alongside his mother. “There was no way I was going to do this on my own. I’ve never been strong with running the books and accounting, but she is. Thankfully she agreed to be my business partner!”
But with new business comes new challenges
Business for Lila and John was pretty steady in the beginning, but just like any other small business, Quinn Appliance had its ups and downs.
“The scariest part of owning your own business is definitely the difference in income when you first start out and you’re used to getting a paycheck,” says Lila. “With high end inventory, our cash flow could swing nearly hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time, which can be hard to manage. We needed outside capital to grow the way we wanted to.”
Recommended by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Lila and John got in touch with Pathway Lending.
“When we got with Pathway, it was painless and really easy,” says John. “The help that we’ve gotten from our business advisor, plus the funding has been huge.”
A new retailer is born
Formed in March 2011, Quinn Appliance has established themselves as a luxury kitchen appliance store serving the retail and wholesale market in Maryville.
They laugh together now about the day they opened, when the delivery truck didn’t show up. “Here we were with only four appliances in the middle of the floor,” says Lila. “That’s definitely not what we had imagined.”
As a part-time musician, John says that his favorite part has been the creativity of it all. “We don’t have rows and rows of appliances here like a big box store,” says John. “Instead, we’ve set up these vignettes and full kitchens so our customers can envision what these incredible appliances will look like in their homes or properties.”
One of the owners’ biggest goals from the beginning is to ensure that Quinn Appliance stands out from all other appliance retailers. Lila and John built their entire store from scratch, putting the sweat equity behind what they knew would be a great opportunity. Their strategic location lets them serve Knoxville market as well as the booming rental property industry of the nearby Smoky Mountains.
Reaching new heights
Beyond crossing the financial hurdles with owning and operating a small business like Quinn Appliance, Lila and John hope that the future of their business includes reaching out to new customers.
“It’s a very niche market, so it makes us kind of like a boutique,” John says. “We serve mostly developers, builders, and designers. We carry a lot of industry knowledge, so we can sell appliances the correct way and to the correct application. We’re grateful to have Pathway with us as a partner on this journey.”
For more about Lila and John’s products and services at Quinn Appliance, visit their website at QuinnAppliance.com.
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