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Agency honors local business
Hines Funeral Service an 'SBA Success Story'
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Nathan Hines

Monday, March 19, 2007

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Nathan Hines has some advice for people wanting to open a small business: Work hard and don't take "no" for an answer.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is recognizing Hines Funeral Service as an "SBA Success Story." Bob McLoone, a business development specialist for the SBA's office in Richmond, said that to his knowledge, the funeral home is the first Henry County-Martinsville business to receive the recognition.

Had he listened to naysayers a few years ago, Hines said, he never would have realized his dream of operating his own funeral home.

Bank of America financed a loan for Hines to start his firm after receiving a guaranty from the SBA, said Dick Ephgrave, director of the Longwood Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) in Martinsville.

Other banks in the community turned him down, Hines recalled. But the more he heard bankers tell him "no," the more determined he became to obtain financing.

"You've got to have an undying determination to succeed," he said. With that determination, "the more "˜nos' you get, the stronger you become."�

"Somebody has got to see potential" in a person who presents a strong case as to why he or she should open a business, he said.

To present that case, though, a prospective business owner also must prepare an in-depth business plan that shows why the firm is needed and how the person would launch the business and make it prosper, according to Hines.

He remembers spending many hours - often after coming home from work each day - doing research and developing his plan. He said that after doing the research, he knew figures such as population and death rates for Henry County, Martinsville, Patrick County and eastern Pittsylvania County by heart, and he had to be prepared to discuss those statistics with bankers.

Lenders scrutinize business plans when considering loans, said Hines, adding they tend to take more notice of businesses that would be "cash cows," or generate significant cash.

"A funeral home is not a cash cow," he emphasized. He said that some weeks funeral homes can be "swimming in cash" if a lot of payments for services are received, but other weeks money is slow to come in.

Ephgrave said that Hines Funeral Services was not successful immediately. But with a comprehensive business plan prepared with help from the LSBDC, he said, Hines was able to get financing to keep the business afloat until it became profitable.

Hines worked for Hairston Funeral Home about 20 years before opening his mortuary in 2001. His firm began turning a profit three years later, he said.

"It was a minute profit" then, Hines recalled, but at least "we finally got away from the minus side" of the ledger.

Still, "I didn't expect us to show profitability that quick," he admitted. It took "a whole lot of hard work."�

"I've got ... the bald head to show for it," he laughed.

Ephgrave, who nominated Hines for the SBA recognition, said that few locally owned businesses operated by African-Americans have been as successful as Hines Funeral Services.

"It has been very difficult for them (the SBA) to find a Success Story in the southern end of the state, especially a minority-owned business," he said.

McLoone said the Virginia SBA office includes one Success Story per month on its Web site at He did not know how soon Hines' story would appear but speculated it would "more than likely be May or June."�

"It's a fantastic honor," Hines said. "I never expected to win. You never expect to win" such an honor.


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