Meat markets and butcher shops nationwide are losing more and more customers to competition from traditional grocery stores, super centers and nontraditional food retailers like Target. But don’t tell Wayne Lanier’s customers in Augusta. They wouldn’t believe it. In fact, they know if you don’t get to Lanier’s Meat Market early enough, you’ll have to wait to get a parking spot.

Man in collared shirt resting his hand against a large white plaster bull.“Mr. Lanier is a low-cost leader with great service. He could easily raise his prices and increase his margins, given the quality of his product,” says University of Georgia SBDC business consultant Eric Frickey. “But when we tell him, his response is always, ‘I don’t want to do that. I want to make sure families who can afford good quality food can get good quality food.’ That keeps his margins razor thin, but he makes up for it in sales volume.” Lanier came to the Augusta SBDC office in October 2013. He was looking for assistance in obtaining a small business loan to open his market. Frickey began working with him six months later. “I had successfully opened and built two very good businesses for other owners, one for my brother. I knew every aspect of it,” says Lanier. “When I turned 54 with no retirement, I knew it was time to do it for myself. So, I basically went for broke.”

Lanier mortgaged his property and borrowed from friends and family. He had already begun filling the space under his garage with saws and grinders. When he realized he would need more equipment, he went to the local bank. The banker advised him to go to the UGA SBDC before he filled out his application. Lanier knew his target market and their spending habits. “I know what they want.” He knew his vendors and had developed good working relationships with them. He knew what he wanted to accomplish and how he was going to do it. “I told everybody my original goal. I wanted my business to be in two years what it would take a regular business five to seven years to be. But most of this knowledge was in my head,” says Lanier.

The first UGA SBDC consultants he met, Brian Paige and Susan Caldwell, helped Lanier research his competition, industry and target markets, and gather information on demographics and consumer spending patterns for the market area surrounding his proposed market site. They taught him how to create financial projections and draft his business plan. Lanier acquired the loan and opened Lanier’s Meat Market. Frickey then helped Lanier develop his marketing plan. Frickey recommended he attend SBDC’s GrowSmart®, which Lanier admits he attended twice and sent his employees to attend. He also extended his learning with SBDC courses in QuickBooks and the Digital Marketing Bootcamp.

“Mr. Lanier is relentless when it comes to marketing,” says Frickey. “He has learned how to manage his marketing strategy.” Lanier’s Meat Market’s sales grew 75 percent in 2014, and nearly 100 percent in 2015. He now employs a staff of 20. The market’s iconic brand, a full-size cow statue Lanier calls Mr. Moo, is growing, too. In the last two years, Ms. Moo and Baby Moo have joined the family, much to the delight of his youngest customers. After going to the UGA SBDC for additional assistance, Lanier received funding to purchase the market building he had been leasing. “I was able to convince the landowner to lease the building to me with the option to buy. When the three-year lease was up, I purchased the property.” He is now looking at purchasing some adjoining property.

“The SBDC will continue to work with Mr. Lanier through his growth process,” says Frickey. “Whenever I need something, I have access to a wealth of information and knowledge at the SBDC,” says Lanier. “When I want to use their resources or even just ask questions, I go to them. And when I talk to anyone interested in opening a small business, I tell them the first thing they need to do is go to the SBDC.”