There are not many budding small businesses that can challenge corporate giants and live to tell about it. But that is exactly what Carol Ann Hurley did 22 years ago.
Carol Ann and her husband Bill started EBS Econotel Business Systems out of their East Providence home with $1,000 and what seemed, back then, to be an insurmountable challenge. Compete with AT&T. Ma Bell. Yes, the phone company!
In those days when someone needed telephone equipment they called Ma Bell. Would anyone call Ma Carol? We now know the answer. Yes, they did. Within five years that initial $1,000 investment turned into a $1 million business venture.
Bill Hurley, who worked as a technician with AT&T for 19 years, decided it was time to branch out on his own. So over lunch, he convinced Carol Ann that there was money to be made in the telephone business. He would handle the technical end and she would have to run the business side. There was only one problem. Carol Ann knew nothing about running a business. The learning curve was very steep. However she admittedly is tenacious, loves people, and was totally committed to being a successful business person.
Her first stop was to SCORE: Counselor's to America's Small Business, a SBA resource partner. Carol Ann needed to learn about financial statements and business plans.
Initially, business was slow. Companies would hire EBS Econotel for small jobs to make certain that they could handle the work. It took a lot of coaxing, but eventually the companies would call back with more work.
Carol Ann credits a "take it slow" mentality for keeping EBS Econotel alive and growing for more than two decades. She did not want to sacrifice top-notch customer service by taking on large jobs that the company might not be ready to handle. The company boasts 24-hour service, seven days a week. The emphasis on quality customer service has enabled the company to experience tremendous growth over the years.
Today, the company has customers around the world and 13 employees. EBS Econotel offers voice, video and data systems and provides all phases of planning, design, installation, and maintenance for the application and operational needs of the customer.
Hurley believes that successful small businesses must rely on hiring the right people. They have to see the company's vision and become part of it.
Carol Ann Hurley is a past recipient of the SBA Women in Business Advocate of the Year Award, the Rhode Island Minority Business Enterprise of the Year Award from the State of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island ATHENA Award from the YWCA of Greater Rhode Island.
She also believes in giving back to the community. Carol Ann volunteers as a mentor to budding entrepreneurs through the Rhode Island Coalition for Minority Investment (RICMI) Gateway Business Forum. She also is a member of the board of directors for the East Providence Chamber of Commerce.
The U.S. Small Business Administration presented the 2007 Joseph G.E. Knight Award for Entrepreneurial excellence to Carol Ann Hurley, president and CEO of EBS Econotel Business Systems, East Providence, R.I.
The Joseph G.E. Knight Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence was created to honor the memory of Joseph G.E. Knight, who passed away in October 2005 at the age of 96. Mr. Knight was one of the founders of SCORE: Counselors to America's Small Business in 1964. He served as the association's national chair in 1977 and 1978. The Joseph G.E. Knight SCORE Chapter 13 in Providence is the only SCORE chapter in the nation named in honor of an individual.
Mr. Knight dedicated more than 35 years to helping countless entrepreneurs realize their dream of business ownership through his sage mentoring and expert advice. This award is presented annually to an entrepreneur who has exemplified the highest ideals of business achievement.