Small business owner Stephen Hailey, founder and operator of The Baseball Mission, has been named this year’s recipient of the “Rising Star” award by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Cleveland.
In its fourth year, the award is one the local center uses to highlight the success of one of its clients each year.
David Hudson, director of the TSBDC, said Hailey was someone who worked through the challenges of becoming a first-time business owner, listened to the office’s advice and realized his dream of opening a business.
“We chose Stephen because of his commitment to success,” Hudson said. “He overcame several adversities and kept on pushing.”
He added that the center currently works with more than 200 business owners, and Hailey was the one who stood out the most.
Hailey’s business is one he said grew out of his love for seeing students he coached succeed in baseball and for his passion for “doing things right and safe.”
From his location at 3127 Frazier Park Dr., he provides training to individuals and teams who want to improve their baseball and softball skills. Using equipment like a device (radar gun) that clocks the speed of a pitch, Hailey and a staff of other coaches teach students how they can improve using an indoor facility big enough to allow for pitching and hitting practice. Currently, the majority of his business consists of one-on-one training lessons with individuals, he said.
Hailey said his business idea was simple. He realized athletes needed space to work on improving their skills even when it was not baseball season.
But getting the business off the ground to later become a “Rising Star” was the hard part, he said. The financial side of business ownership required him to think in terms of formal business plans rather than just dreams.
“I needed a business plan to convince others I needed to do it,” Hailey said.
Others encouraged him to go to the TSBDC which is housed at Cleveland State Community College, and he said that helped him get to where he is today.
He began by attending workshops on financial and other business topics and meeting with Bob Hotchkiss, a small business specialist at the center.
While continuing to work at his day job, Hailey said he spent nights and weekends over several weeks learning all he could by pouring through public records at the courthouse, traveling to facilities like the one he wanted to open and doing other types of research.
He worked with Hotchkiss to write and polish his business plan to share with lenders so he could get the funding he needed to start the business.
The Baseball Mission opened in September 2012, and Hailey said his schedule started filling up with lessons by the middle of October. The business is now “going strong,” he said.
When Hailey learned he was receiving the “Rising Star” award for 2013, he said he was surprised but happy to know someone had recognized the work he had done.
“I felt proud,” Hailey said. “It’s been a lot of 100-hour weeks ... I felt like I’d accomplished something.”
He thanked all the staff of the TSBDC for their help throughout the process of starting his business and the instructors who teach at The Baseball Mission for keeping his dream going.
The TSBDC location in Cleveland is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and Cleveland State and is one of 20 centers statewide. It offers private business consulting, workshops and other services for business owners. The center is open to both new business owners or existing ones wanting to continue to grow.
For more information about the TSBDC, call 478-6247 or visit www.clevelandstate-cc.edu/sbdc.