Fort Worth thinks big – and small


Marice Richter Special to the Business Press

What’s going on in Fort Worth? In this week’s issue we discuss some familiar names – Sundance Square and RadioShack. But it’s not just big business moving forward. There’s a lot going on with small business as well. With a goal of growing small business, the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center Plan Competition recently awarded three innovative local companies cash prizes and services valued at more than $50,000. “This competition is really a great opportunity for small businesses to help them achieve their goals,” said Robert Sturns, director of the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center. “But it also has benefits for the community as a whole. “Small business is crucial to economic development and investment and job creation here,” Sturns said. “It’s wonderful to be able to recruit Fortune 500 companies to the area but small business is critical to our overall economic well-being and prosperity.” This year’s competition drew more than 25 entries, including established and startup companies. Competitors presented a business plan to either launch a new business or grow an existing company to the next level. Established in 2011, business plan competition is the Fort Worth Business Center’s marquee event. Qualifications for participation include being in business for at least six months, annual revenue of less than $500,000 and being located in Tarrant County. Partners in the competition are the Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business MBA Program, the Small Business Development Center for Enterprise Excellence, Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the Tarrant Small Business Development Center. Founding sponsors are Capital One Bank and The Alternative Board. This year’s first place winner is WellCare Dimensions Inc. followed by Ampcare LLC, in second place; and Signature Image in third place. The winning lineup was announced after finalist presentations Oct. 24 at the Dee J. Kelly Alumni and Visitor’s Center at TCU. WellCare and Ampcare are health-care businesses and Signature Image is a fine art print studio, all based in Fort Worth. Finalists were judged on the basis of their business plans and final presentations. A panel of business experts judged the competition. Besides cash prizes, the top three winners receive business coaching and counseling as well as assistance accessing capital for investment, Sturns said. “On behalf of Capital One, we are very happy to be involved with the BAC and support small businesses,” Dave Monaghan, senior market sales executive for business banking-DFW/Austin at Capital One Bank, said in a statement. A division of the city of Fort Worth, the Business Assistance Center, 1150 South Freeway, is a nonprofit agency that offers services to small business owners, including free business counseling and business planning assistance and low-cost workshops on taxes, loans and certification and other business matters. Other sponsors include Sandler Training, Fort Worth Business Press, B2B CFO, Select Interactive, Solomon Bruce Consulting and BrentWorks. Financing opportunities were provided by PeopleFund, a nonprofit lender that provides small business loans and other business assistance to small business owners with limited access to funds.

First Place: WellCare Dimensions Inc. Co-owners Dr. Ann Hawkins and Robert L. Hood provide access to health care through a telephone help line service that is available 24/7. The service builds on the established practice of on-call nurses who can provide round-the-clock assistance. This offers callers the opportunity to speak directly with physicians who can diagnose non-emergency ailments and prescribe non-narcotic medications. “The most commonly prescribed medication are antibiotics,” said Dr. Hawkins, who has been an advocate of preventative and wellness care for about 40 years. The company sells its service to individuals and contracts with corporations as a health-care benefit for their employees. “It gives people a good option for common ailments such as head lice, pink eye, urinary tract or sinus infections, especially after business hours,” Hawkins said. Hawkins said the competition process is beneficial and everyone providing support, including the SBA and SCORE, were “absolutely phenomenal,” she said. The company will re-invest its winnings in the business, she said. Second Place: Ampcare This company was founded to help people with difficulty swallowing. Dysphagia affects about 18 million in the United States and is a condition that is hard to manage because it is typically caused by a neurological disorder such as cerebral palsy or as a result of a stroke, head or neck cancer or a disease such as Alzheimer’s. Pneumonia, largely arising from swallowing problems is the 5th leading cause of death of seniors in the country. Ampcare is developing a medical device that employs innovative technology to help dysphagia sufferers swallow and improve their quality of life. Russ Campbell, a physical therapist, teamed up with speech language pathologists Rick McAdoo and Ronda Polansky to try to find a way through their combined expertise to help people with dysphagia using electrical muscle stimulation. “I really believe it is a kind of holistic approach,” Campbell, president of Ampcare, said in a statement. “We all get into the medical field to help people, and when you can contribute to the total scientific score of helping someone and combine two disciplines…it’s just a nice marriage.” The company operates out of TECH Fort Worth, a nonprofit technology incubator at the James E. Guinn Complex in South Fort Worth.

- FWBP Digital Partners -

Third Place: Signature Image Established in January, Signature Image is dedicated to fine art printmaking. The company has produced exquisite prints for a variety of artists as well as businesses such as Fort Worth’s Central Market, the Sid Richardson Museum and the Moncrief Cancer Institute. Sigler has more than 15 years experience in the industry from working with his father at a pre-press shop that offered digital imaging, graphic film and other reproduction services. Signature’s services also include large format scanning, custom greeting cards, online gallery image manipulation, photo restoration and canvas gallery wraps.

In Market is a column written from the perspective of a plugged-in business journalist about business happenings in and around Tarrant County. Got an idea for In Market? Email Robert Francis at