Boutique Public Relations firm ScoutComms, Inc. was recently named the 6th fastest growing PR firm in the nation. The overall aim of the unique business is to advocate for veterans and military families while empowering the organizations that support them.
Here’s how CEO and Founder Fred Wellman built his company and his plans to expand.
Talk about an impressive resume!
Wellman graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1987. A veteran of four combat tours, he served as a spokesman for Generals David Petraeus and Martin Dempsey.
Not content to rest on his laurels after retiring from the military, he graduated with honors from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and joined a small Public Relations firm after leaving the Army in 2009.
“It wasn’t a great fit,” he said. “I left after a year and was encouraged to start my own firm. I determined that we could be the guys smart on veteran’s issues for larger agencies.”
His approach was immediately successful. Wellman began working with a number of large agencies including industry giant Edelman.
“The Edelman D.C. branch was very good to me and taught me a lot,” he said.
Word Begins to Spread
Word had begun to spread about his area of expertise and in 2011, ScoutComms landed their biggest client to date. The Home Depot Foundation whose mission is to help improve the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families and the firm helped them launch a then 30 million dollar, three year campaign that has now crossed over 250 million in seven years.
“This opened my eyes to the world of veteran’s issues,” said Wellman. “I realized that I could have an impact on society and the community we serve. That’s our measure of success. We’re robust and mission focused.”
During that time, Wellman was named the U.S. Small Business Administration Veteran Business Champion of the Year for Virginia and Veteran Businessman of the Year by the Small Business Development Center Network of Virginia too.
By 2014, all ScoutComm clients were veterans focused with a corporate giving or nonprofit angle. This led the firm to seek the impressive B Corps distinction. B Corps are for-profit companies certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
ScoutComms now represents nearly a dozen clients from major corporations like USAA and The Home Depot to nonprofits like Student Veterans of America and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
When he founded ScoutComms eight years ago, Wellman went the old fashioned route and bootstrapped his business. He used $270 of his own money to build a website, create a logo and print business cards.
The Need for an SBA Loan
After eight years of phenomenal growth, Wellman realized he needed additional low-cost funds to keep up. He considered bringing on investors, but then heard about SBA loans and decided to give SmartBiz Loans™ a try.
While some business owners turn loan application duties over to a financial professional, Wellman handled all of the document uploading and back-and-forth with his SmartBiz Relationship Manager.
“I’m that kind of guy,” he laughs. “My bookkeeper got me the numbers but I took care of all communication.”
Wellman found the process streamlined and simple.
“It was great – almost too easy. Every now and then I needed something explained but the communication was clear. I’d recommend it to everybody.”
Wellman secured a $350,000 low-cost SBA working capital loan. Because of his U.S. veteran status, he received 50% off of the SBA guaranty fee, a savings of $3,937.50. (Note: As of October 2018, this discount is no longer available)
The proceeds from his SBA loan will help him reach his goal of a second location in Southern California.
“We want to do more work on the west coast with veteran owned companies. We also need cash in the bank to pursue government contracts and other new business lines.”
Wellman plans to use some funds for marketing.
“We’ve grown by reputation and networking. I haven’t had to market before so we’re ready to put effort into scaling the business.”
Wellman’s approach to his business is unique and one that fuels his passion.
“We’re not all about the bottom line of making money,” he said. “Companies want a partner that speaks their language and understands how military personnel think. We really want to make a difference.”