Even in the best of times starting a new business is a challenge. Four years ago with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a powerful personal motivation (a baby on the way), Michael and Christine Foskey stared boldly in the face of impending economic decline. Without two nickles to rub together, they took a giant leap of faith, opening thier own heating and air business, operating it from home and doing every lick of the work themselves. Against the odds, the business has grown by leaps and bounds-300% each year according to Christine. At the same time, business ownership has allowed her the flexibility to work from home and spend more time with her children.
“It was scary because basically we started out with nothing-just my reputation from working for other companies,” said Michael who was born and reared in the Lowcountry and has worked in the industry for the past 25 years.
They bought an old van (paid cash), with 200,000 miles on it, a leaky roof and no air conditioning. Michael worked out of that vehicle for two years, making all the service calls, all the sales calls, and doing all of the installations while Christine managed the office, kept the books, and took care of the administrative duties.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster. I found out that, as a couple, we are really good business partners. We’ve found each other’s strengths,” said Christine.
But the Foskeys are quick to point out that they couldn’t have succeeded without a wide web of community resources and support, including their SCORE counselors, Harrison L. Hays III (“he held our hand and basically walked us through how to start a business,” said Michael) and Scott Griswold, Pat Cameron at USCB, and David Carter at TCL helped, too, among others.
The Foskeys credit God and community for their success but the real formula is revealed in their business philosophy, succinctly stated in their tag line: “honest answers and affordable options”. That’s what they promise and that’s what they deliver.
According to the Foskeys, building a loyal clientele is a matter of truthfulness and compassion. “A lot of the bigger companies now are just sell, sell, sell. They send their employees to sales school before they send them to technical school,” said Michael. “With the way the economy is now, a lot of people can’t afford a new unit.”
“One thing about being in business for yourself is that, at the end of the day, you want to feel comfortable with everything you were able to do instead of working for someone else and having to abide by their rules,” said Christine.
Today the Foskeys employee two NATE-Certified technicians, two field technicians, and two full time office personnel. They hope to grow their company in a way that benefits their customers and the community. Their office is located in the Promenade in historic downtown Bluffton.
(Portions of this article provided by Linda S. Hopkins from the June 2010 edition of CH2 Magazine.)