“Without the help of Charlie Askanas, my SCORE mentor, I never would have gotten my business plan in shape to go after the additional funding that I needed for my business,” says Cheri Haganey, founder and CEO of BridgeWorks, Inc. BridgeWorks is a leading – edge software company providing applications that improve sales, profitability and customer service of V Twin motorcycle bike shops and aftermarket product suppliers. Haganey has used the help of Silicon Valley SCORE counselors since 2004 to develop and refine the business plan for her company
Haganey has been in the financial and forensic accounting arena for 25 years. After serving as controller of several Bay Area corporations, she founded Business Support Creations in 1997. In this role she works with small businesses as a QuickBooks Professional Advisor and independent contractor. Many of her clients are small V Twin motorcycle shops that customize Harley Davidson motorcycles. “I’ve been a motorcycle enthusiast for over ten years and have worked with many bike shops to implement new business systems during that time,” explains Haganey. “One of the biggest inefficiencies and impediments to customer service in a bike shop is the antiquated system of unwieldy parts catalogs that almost all bike shop owners have had to use,” she adds.
In 2003 Haganey formed BridgeWorks, Inc. to develop an electronic catalog that would consolidate parts information from all aftermarket vendors in one easy to use source. She envisioned making this e-catalog available on a subscription basis as a CD that would be updated quarterly or as a real time document on line. “I spent all of 2003 doing market research,” Haganey says. “I hired a software developer who had experience in e-catalogs and we put together concept demos and packages to show to parts distributors.”
In early 2004 Haganey felt that she needed some validation that she was on the right track with BridgeWorks. She met with Silicon Valley SCORE counselors, Carol Harrington and Jack Davey, who reviewed what she had done and encouraged her to continue with her market development efforts. Between 2004 and early 2006 BridgeWorks continued to develop and demonstrate its first product, Bike Shop – 1st Edition. Haganey was able to convince Drag Distributors, the largest distributor in the aftermarket bike parts industry, to endorse the BridgeWorks e-catalog. Other major distributors including MC Advantages, Biker’s Choice and Midwest Motorcycle Supply also signed on and agreed to promote the product. In order to finance all of this missionary work Haganey obtained a mortgage line of credit on her house and used profits from her ongoing Business Support Creations business.
“By early 2006 we were really starting to get a lot of interest in our product,” says Haganey. “Unfortunately, I was also just about out of money from my credit line,” she adds. Haganey decided to seek SCORE’s help to prepare a business plan that she could use to raise additional capital. She especially wanted to work with a counselor who had experience in raising venture funding. Silicon Valley SCORE counselor, Charlie Askanas, fit the bill. “My initial attempt at writing a business plan was a hundred page document that Charlie told me just wasn’t going to fly,” she says. “Charlie and I met about once per week over the next few months. He guided me through the business planning process and reviewed my progress,” she explains and adds “he didn’t pull any punches, but always gave me constructive feedback.”
By using the focused plan that she developed and pursuing various contacts, Haganey was selected into the highly prestigious program sponsored by the Women’s Technology Cluster (WTC) of Silicon Valley. Her business model is particularly attractive to potential investors because it can be generalized to any spare parts type of business. As part of the WTC program she was able to pitch her plan to prominent venture capitalists and angel investors in the Valley. Ultimately, she used the plan to raise additional funding from multiple sources including clients of her Business Support Creations business and other private investors. Moreover, she was able to retain full control of BridgeWorks.
Haganey sees significant synergy between BridgeWorks and her Business Support Creations business. “There’s been a major surge in automation in the bike shop business in the last couple of years,” she says. “Shops are really clamoring to implement point of sale QuickBooks systems along with our e-catalogs. We’ve decided to go completely to the on line version, Bike Shop Full Throttle™. It all fits together.” Haganey anticipates that BridgeWorks will break even by the third quarter of 2007. In the meantime, she has seen a tripling of revenues for Business Support Creations since the beginning of 2007. “Business is really taking off,” says Haganey. “I’m going to need a lot of marketing and business development advice as well as help in building the infrastructure of the business. I’m hoping for additional support from SCORE in these areas,” she concludes.