News stories today often contain disappointing news about the closure or moving elsewhere of small business startups. But, here in Hernando County, we have a success story to tell about a young entrepreneurial couple who’ve got what it takes to survive those early startup years and ride their elevator business to success.
In January 2017, Wade Sutherlin and Amanda Young of Spring Hill, decided to strike out on their own and launched their company Nature Coast Installation and Service, LLC., — also known as NCIS Elevator. And, in just under two short years, business revenue has quadrupled.
NCIS specializes in the manufacture, installation and refurbishment of high-quality, custom-built elevator cabs.
Wade, a talented carpenter, has been in the elevator cab industry for many years customizing elevator interiors in properties from public housing to posh, expensive office buildings in Boca Raton, condominium high rises, multi-million dollar residences in Miami and Orlando, new construction projects, hospitals, medical research facilities, assisted living facilities and military bases.
“It took me 5 years, working alongside a qualified technician, to earn my elevator technician competency license,” Wade said, “and I still have to attend workshops and take classes regularly to keep up-to-date with the extremely stringent rules regarding the operation, maintenance and refurbishment of elevators.”
And Amanda, a real estate investor who manages her own property management venture, is hands on with her husband’s business too.
“I find myself more and more assisting him with keeping his calendar straight, following up on calls, researching products, the more mundane things like invoicing, accounting and, of course, learning elevator language,” she said. “It’s quite a management exercise for us to keep on top of everything.”
Amanda also accompanies Wade on jobs with him and works alongside him, as well as meeting with prospective customers.
“I do it simply because I love doing whatever I can do to help our business be successful,” Amanda said, “However, when I found an elevator cab lodging in the pantry; that was the last straw,” she laughed.
With so much new business on the books, they had surely grown out of working out of their home and garage workshop. It was time to look for suitable premises and to hire some production help.
The couple sought advice from the county’s economic development office and the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce, and soon found the perfect commercial property on Princeton Road, just off Spring Hill Drive.
“It was a breeze to work with the economic development office headed up by Valerie Pianta,” said Amanda Sutherlin. “Valerie was a wealth of information and guided us in the right direction with her words of wisdom, tax information and what hurdles to watch out for.”
Valerie Pianta, the county’s Economic Development Manager, explained the priorities of the Office of Economic Development are to work with our existing industries, large and small, to connect them with the available resources such as training grants, tax exemptions, local and state incentives, and the USF Small Business Development Center just to name a few.
“It has been a pleasure to work with and assist NCIS Elevator as they expanded and moved into a larger facility,” she said. “Entrepreneurs like Wade and Amanda are a local success story and future employers of our community. Many of our existing businesses started as smaller family owned operations and have grown exponentially over the years.”
As members of the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce, Patricia Crowley, the chamber’s Chief Executive Officer, said she was “so glad to see the success of their business and the impact they have had on our community.”
“ NCIS Elevator is another great success story for Small Business in Hernando County. The chamber is very excited for their growth as the Tampa Bay area is experiencing both business and residential development, said Crowley.
“Only a short distance to the Suncoast Parkway or US41, our new premises are perfect as our customers are scattered throughout the whole of Florida,” said Amanda. “And we’ve got tons of storage and space to create our designs.
“At 5,200 sq. ft., it’s a little large but at our current rate of jobs lined up, we’ll soon be using up all the space,” she said. “It’s just wonderful to be able to bring all our materials here and get our home back.”
With lots of space to work in, Wade has invested in new equipment including a panel saw and a Holzher edge bander. Affectionately known as “Gertrude,” an edge bander attaches a narrow strip of material to panels to create a durable and aesthetically pleasing trim during finish carpentry.
“To do edge banding by hand is time consuming so Gertrude is a great investment for us,” said Wade.
The couple also have hired a new addition to their team.
“Mike Wery is someone I used to work with before I formed our business,” said Wade. “He’s fully licensed by the State of Florida too which means I can let him loose on jobs by himself.”
Having Mike as a licensed technician means Wade doesn’t have to be present at every install as, by law, only fully licensed technicians are allowed to work on elevators.
The couple is also very cognizant that there are only so many minutes in any given day and how they spend that time impacts how successful their business will be.
“It’s important to have a good work and home life,” said Wade. “As a family, we eat dinner at least three times a week together.”
“It’s been a wonderful journey for us,” said Wade, “But we couldn’t have done it without the help of all our local resources,” said Wade.
As business owners and working for ourselves, we need to take risks and recognize the need to change as economic climates change,” he said. “But it’s ours and all the hard work is so worth it.”
Wade and Amanda Sutherlin can be reached at 727-743-7866