Contra Costa SBDCPleasant Hill, CA

“We had never run a business before and really didn’t know how much there was to know. We never seemed to have any money left at the end of the month. The SBDC broke down, from the financial side of the business, what was really going on and taught us how to focus on what was important. They gave us the quick one, two, three steps that I could repeat and see what’s going on every month. The SBDC gave us the confidence to make better decisions about the business.”

Kristen Helmick

Background: CPR-FAST helps individuals, business owners and cities prepare for health emergencies. The company provides Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Training, an emergency procedure for a victim of cardiac arrest, and First Aid Training. In 2004, owner and Ohara Park Middle School Teacher Kristen Helmick and her husband Brian, a Battalion Chief with East Contra Costa Fire Department, recognized that there was a need for emergency and first aid training in Oakley and nearby Brentwood communities. Since opening, they ensure that everyone from childcare providers and firefighters to industrial works and EMT’s are confident in providing emergency care.

Challenges: The Helmicks knew they wanted to be successful and learn how to run their business better, but were unsure where to begin. They needed a realistic financial view of their situation and they wanted a better handle on their money to make sure that they could pay the bills and grow. The Helmicks also wanted to learn how to construct a winning proposal (RFP) in order to work better with cities and make a profit.

Actions Taken: In January 2005, Brian Helmick searched the Internet for assistance and found the Contra Costa Small Business Development Center. An SBDC Business Advisor was assigned to help them get organized and focused. After reviewing their profit and loss statement and balance sheet, the SBDC explained how to compute the money their business made in 2004. The SBDC also helped develop sales projections, reviewed direct costs and overhead. They helped the Helmicks establish job cost controls as a basis for measurement of employee performance. The SBDC also reviewed and prepared the business to negotiate a major $70,000 contract, which was successful.

Results: CPR-FAST now has 15 trainers. Their net profit increased 27 percent in 2005 and another 34 percent in 2006. They have expanded their services from an initial class offering in a one-room facility in Oakley to the City of Oakley Annex building and an Adult Education Center in Brentwood. They have certified more than 2000 people since 2004 and have helped to save countless lives.

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.