James Guzman was no stranger to entrepreneurship when he began working with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC). Decades before starting his own business, Guzman already had the drive to own his own business, cleaning cars and selling candy in his Miami neighborhood. When his parents passed away, he had to drop out of high school to support his older brother.
Guzman found work as a plumber, thinking that it would be something to do for a few months. Instead, he found a family of coworkers who supported him as he completed his three years of apprenticeship.
In 2017, Guzman, his wife and two children moved to Atlanta, seeking better opportunities. He transferred to work in Gwinnett County, but he was underwhelmed by the work offered him.
“I needed to challenge my mind,” he said. “I work better under pressure.”
In 2017, Guzman founded his own plumbing company, Guzman Plumbing. The business had a slow start and by 2019, Guzman was experiencing growing pains that prevented him truly expanding the business.
Through a small business networking event, a peer recommended he connect with UGA SBDC in Gwinnett. He reached out and was connected with UGA SBDC business consultant Jason Bitar, who encouraged Guzman to register for the UGA SBDC Signature Series course StartSmart in early 2020.
StartSmart is a multi-session program that allows new or aspiring business owners to evaluate their business concept, improve knowledge of business fundamentals and build an infrastructure of business operations. Participants leave with an actionable business plan and access to business planning software and a network of entrepreneurial peers and professionals.
After StartSmart, Guzman got started on rebranding the business, relying on guidance from Bitar. The business was struggling to distinguish itself from the family-owned businesses in the metro Atlanta area and Bitar recommended Guzman start with a new name. Guzman and his wife spent a weekend brainstorming and settled on the name True Blue, representing trust, commitment and, of course, water.
Rebrand Leads to Tremendous Success
Bitar assisted Guzman with designing a new logo, rebuilding the company’s website, performing financial projections and putting processes in place for hiring, onboarding and pricing. Guzman has continued to educate himself on business essentials and graduated from the UGA SBDC’s GrowSmart course in May 2022.
A course dedicated to business with more than two years of successful operation, SBDC’s GrowSmart course guides participants through a step-by-step evaluation of their business to develop a long-term business plan with long-term vision and growth strategies.
“One of James’ assets is his willingness to teach himself,” said Bitar. “Not every client takes your advice, but those that do make their business better.”
Since its rebranding, True Blue’s sales have increased seven-fold. Guzman has expanded from one man and a van to four vans, six employees and has moved his operation to a new office complex.
“The UGA SBDC has delivered tremendous value for the overall health of my business. Not only have our sales increased, but our processes and procedures have improved,” said Guzman.
Most important for Guzman is the impact his company has had on his clients. Three years ago, his company had 10 five-star reviews on Google. Today? Over 200. While providing exemplary service is what most distinguishes his company, Guzman believes True Blue’s mission is to deliver the most impact in its community through the vocation of plumbing.
Guzman is inspired to mentor children and adolescents from humble backgrounds. He is interested in inspiring young people to take up plumbing as a means of self-sufficiency and personal development.
“Plumbing brings me back to my roots. I owe this trade something,” he said.
Guzman is utilizing the UGA SBDC to help him do that. He and Bitar are currently working on hiring more employees and getting a leadership team in place. This will allow Guzman more time to devote to other business ventures.
“I want to grow as much as I can,” he said.
For More Information: University of Georgia SBDC | (706) 542-2762