DOROTHY ALEXANDER, 71, of Gibbsboro, N.J., is president and CEO of Versie Total Office Solutions in East Falls. The 10-year-old firm, named after her late mother, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and sells office furniture to federal agencies including like the General Services Administration, the Veterans Administration Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Versie?
A: I was working for an office-furniture business and they decided to spin it off and let me start a woman-owned business and get certified by the feds.
Q:Where did you get the resources to start it up?
A: The company that employed me had a [furniture] contract, and the person who owned the chair molds wanted to sell them. I purchased the molds, and that's how we started. The initial investment was $25,000.Q: What does Versie do?A: We buy and sell office furniture and a small amount of office supplies. We sell mostly to government agencies, but part of my business plan this year is to add more commercial customers.
Q: What percentage of the biz involves selling office furniture to the feds?
A: About 80 percent.
Q: The biz model?
A: We do telemarketing and have access to GSA eBuy [an online request-for-quote tool] and we get different projects. We also have a marketing and sales office in Montgomery, Ala. Over the past several years we have been providing the furniture for a lot of new public schools there.
Q: What's the price range of typical contracts?
A:The Navy contract we had was over more than $3 million for two buildings, which involved design and layout of the space in addition to furniture. We have a Defense Commissary Agency contract where we get sporadic orders ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 a month. Last year they refurbished a lot of the commissaries. We have two contracts: office furniture, cafeteria furniture.
Q: How big a business?
A: In 2013, we had revenue of about $3.7 million, but were over above $4 million in 2012.
A: Five here, and three in Alabama.
Q: You were one of 27 entrepreneurs in Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses/Greater Philadelphia business-education program. What's the most important thing you learned?
A: Taking a step back, evaluating, your business and doing a business plan, part of which is a growth plan. We have decided to add medical supplies and small equipment.
Q: What's next?