Former State employee launches office and medical supply business
For more than 20 years, Memphis-based business owner Lonzell “Lonnie” Yates has operated X-Cel Business Products LLC to provide customers with “quality products and services that enhance customers’ productivity and profitability.” But he wasn’t always an entrepreneur.
After a long career working in minority business development with the State of Tennessee’s Economic Development Office, Lonnie decided to make a game plan for when he was no longer with the State. For years he’d helped potential entrepreneurs establish their own businesses, and knew he could do the same for himself.
“Even with all my experience setting other business owners up for success, it’s easier to do for others than it is to do for yourself,” says Lonnie. “But I saw an opportunity.”
From opportunity to small business success
In 1996, Lonnie embarked in the supply sales industry, when he saw the need for a more convenient, one-stop shop tailored toward customers’ office, medical, janitorial, and industrial supply needs. “Many supply companies that only did one thing. Either they only had furniture, or they only had office supplies,” says Lonnie “I noticed customers wanted a more convenient option. For them it would be easier to order from one vendor. And that that one vendor would be me!”
From that moment Lonnie’s ambition to open and operate his own store was his top priority. He sought out various ways to fund his business idea, but ran obstacles finding the money he needed to land larger contracts.
“The hardest part of owning your own business is not having the capital to support some of the things you need for your business, like inventory and equipment,” says Lonnie. After trying to secure a traditional bank loan to grow his business, Lonnie was referred to Pathway Lending by his personal banker.
With a line of credit and a microloan from Pathway Lending, Lonnie was able to bid on larger contracts, and also had some working capital for the day-to-day needs of his company. Along with his loan, Lonnie was paired with a Pathway Lending Business Advisor, Mason Worthington, to address any questions or obstacles his company was facing.
“Working with someone like Pathway Lending, who is small business friendly, has been really helpful,” says Lonnie. “Not only do they work with you on the finance side, but they also provide you with guidance. Mason has helped me dig into my numbers and helped me plan better. Just being able to talk to him and toss around some ideas really worked out well for me – it’s been most helpful.”
After securing his loan, X-Cel Business Products was awarded a 3-year contract from the City of Memphis Fire Department to provide medical supplies to local firehouses, boosting the company’s annual revenues tremendously.
The future of X-Cel Business Products
Raising his company from a small startup to a flourishing supply provider, Lonnie has high hopes for the future of X-Cel Business Products. With about a dozen client relationships, Lonnie predicts that the company will expand its local and private sector opportunities as well as working with larger federal government entities. As Lonnie says, “Oh, I’m gonna be BIG one day!”
When Lonnie’s not busy receiving solicitations from customers, making deliveries, and bidding on potential projects, he enjoys studying the genealogy or history of his family. He has even studied his family going back as far as the late 1790s!
After a career of helping entrepreneurs launch businesses, Lonnie has newfound advice as an entrepreneur himself. “Plan, plan, plan… and develop relationships,” he says. “Find out about your industry, visit all of the regulatory resources, and really learn who your customers are and what they need.”
X-Cel is certified by the Small Business Administration as a Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) currently located in a Federally recognized HubZone contracting area.
To learn more about X-Cel Business Products, visit x-celbusinessproducts.com.
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