WWU Graduate Wins $10,000 to Start New Business

By Leigh Rice ’14

When Suzanne Ellerbrock
decided to pursue an MBA degree from William Woods University in 2008, her
husband asked her whether she planned to go into business for herself someday.
At the time, she answered “no.”

“I never thought I
would be comfortable branching out from Corporate America. I couldn’t see
myself living without the security of health insurance or other benefits that a
corporate position may provide,” she said.
 
Three years after
earning her MBA, Ellerbrock is now the proud recipient of a $10,000 award from
the Quincy, Ill., Chamber of Commerce Business Plan Competition. She and her
two business partners, Suzan Scholz and Nancy Waters, now have enough funds to
lay groundwork on their senior moving management business, Golden Bridges.
 
All three women are
close friends. Scholz and Ellerbrock are even coworkers at Blessing Health
System in Quincy. Blessing Health System is a group of organizations comprising
two hospitals, a physician group, a four-year nursing education program, a
foundation and a group of medical specialty businesses.
 
The new enterprise was
set in motion when Waters, who served as the executive director for one of the
assisted living facilities in Quincy, received a phone call from a family
asking for assistance with moving their parents.
 
“We started
brainstorming and thinking about the demographics of our community,” said
Ellerbrock.
 
“So many members of our
community are elderly, and most of their families do not live in the area. With
Golden Bridges, we would be able to make the moving experience so much simpler
on our seniors and their families.”
 
The idea behind Golden
Bridges is that the three entrepreneurs would coordinate each elderly person’s
move. The business would also offer referrals to lawyers, banks, or estate
auctioneers.
“Our job could end here, or if they needed our services further, we would be
available to make the phone calls to turn on their electricity at their new
home, contact auctioneers, find a good moving service, or whatever it is that
they might need,” said Ellerbrock.
 
“Who knows, they might
only need us for a referral, or they might need us to come and give them a
quote and see what all we can do for them.”
 
In 2012, the Quincy
Chamber of Commerce announced a competition for businesses that would be
willing to expand or relocate into Adam’s County. The prize would be $10,000.
 
“We just looked at each
other and saw this as the perfect opportunity. It was now or never,” said
Ellerbrock.
 
“We submitted our
business plan that April, and by June they had contacted us to inform us that
we were among the top four selected. 
They asked us to submit our final business plan by August. In October we
were asked to present our business plan to author, Jim Stewart, and retired
Disney executive, Judson Green, over Skype.”
 
The entrepreneurs’
connections in their local community gave them the confidence to present to
Stewart and Green. By visiting with members of their community and gathering a
network of responses, they were assured that they would receive community
support in their endeavor.
 
“It was so nerve
racking presenting to these two extremely successful men. But because of our
research we had completed within the community, we were very confident that our
business would be successful. As a group, we knew whether we won this award or
not, we were going to move forward, no matter what,” said Ellerbrock.
 
After presenting their
businesses plan, Ellerbrock, Scholz and Waters were asked to attend the news
conference during which the award would be presented to the winner from the top
four.
 
“At the conference, the
judges said that they were having a difficult time choosing because the
business plans for Gem City Coffee and ours were planned very well.
Fortunately, we were both given the opportunity to win because while the judges
were trying to decide, they were informed that a private donation of $10,000
had been made, giving both businesses the opportunity to win the $10,000,” said
Ellerbrock.
 
The award will allow
Golden Bridges to join the National Association of Senior Move Managers and
start their educational training.
 
“We are still working
to gather investors to help us with our expenses in labor costs, marketing and
continuing education. With our business being a labor-intensive business, we
really don’t have any overhead costs. This allows us to put anything we earn
towards immediately making our business grow,” said Ellerbrock.
 
The three entrepreneurs
plan to meet with existing companies to observe how their businesses are run.
With this experience and the training programs they plan to attend, they feel
sure they can build a professional business with a firm foundation of knowledge
and experience.
 
“Within a year we plan
to have at least one of us as full time and by 2020 our goal is to be listed as
full-time employees, but we are currently working part-time while working at
Blessing Health System,” said Ellerbrock.
 
The three eager
businesswomen plan to build a referral base through the hospital while hosting
informational meetings with local businesses they plan to partner with.
 
“Our biggest task with
this competition was creating a viable business plan, which I was so fortunate
to learn how to do in my business classes from William Woods University. I was
able to use the tools we learned in class, which saved us a tremendous amount
of time while preparing for the submissions,” said Ellerbrock.
 
“Earning my degree from
William Woods University was the best thing I could have done for myself,” she said.
“When I first decided to go after the business degree, it was for personal
reasons rather than career growth. Meeting once a week for classe