With military veteran, college football player, high school teacher and coach on his impressive resume, why would Tony Baird switch gears, take a leap of faith and start his own electronics company? In his own words, he launched Tony Baird Electronics, Inc. “because of my passion for the people in the city of Syracuse.”
After serving in the military, where he learned and honed his skills in electronics, Tony pursued a career in teaching. In March of 2005, with his mission to create opportunity for others in mind, Tony left his full-time teaching job to start his electronics business in Syracuse, NY, which specializes in custom cable and wire harness assemblies, audio-visual integration and distribution services. Tony Baird Electronics has been certified as a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Business (SDVOB), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE.) He says that becoming an entrepreneur was one of the most difficult, but also one of the most important things he’s ever done, and persistence has played a huge role in his success: “If you stick with something you can get things accomplished.”
An Important Cause to Drive His Business
Tony grew up in a rural area in Central New York and eventually moved to the city of Syracuse to teach. There, he recognized the economic disparities that afflicted urban communities and decided to make a difference. With his electronics background Tony started his own business, which he calls “a calling from God,” and made a conscious decision to employ minorities and people in need.
The hiring process is an essential aspect to Tony Baird’s business model, as he targets three sectors of employees: veterans, people with a criminal history, and impoverished individuals, giving people who might not otherwise have the chance the opportunity to succeed in a professional environment.
Need to Grow
Tony eventually faced a challenge that most small business owners encounter: the need for working capital.
“If you need money you’re under every bush to find it,” he said. In addition to growing his business for economic purposes, Tony realized that the more his business became independent and self-sufficient, the more he could focus on the economic equality that drives the foundation of his company.
Tony was looking to bid on a large construction project at Upstate Medical Center. He met Steve Willard, a Senior Vice President at Pursuit, who recognized Tony’s massive potential if he could obtain the working capital needed to expand: “We leveraged Empire State Development’s Bridge to Success program, which provides contract financing to minority- and women owned businesses, to get Tony the line of credit needed to pursue additional NYS contract opportunities,” explains Steve. Through the Bridge to Success program, Pursuit provided Tony with a $200,000 line of credit for working capital.
Tony believes perseverance is essential in business, specifically in regards to obtaining a loan. “A ‘no’ just means you have to work harder at it,” said Tony. “Just keep at it and something good will come.” Tony describes the process as “positive” and expresses his gratitude: “I can’t tell you how much it means,” he said. “The passion I have for this business is no more than the gratitude I have for this program.”
Growth Fuels Business and Change
As a result of the Bridge to Success loan, Tony’s inventory skyrocketed from $0 to $750,000. This past year, the company quadrupled their sales from the previous year and Tony recently hired a chief operating officer (COO), who is more hands on with the day-to-day activities of the business.
Even with this extreme growth, Tony intends to maintain quality at the forefront of his company. ”Our culture is quality, customer service, and taking care of people,” he explains.
More than anything, Tony wants to continue making an impact in the city of Syracuse. “If you want to make a change, you have to do it through the economy,” says Tony. His involvement in the local REDC and other community boards has helped him find partners that also want to make a difference. “You’ll attract people that are like you and that have the same mission.” Pursuit looks forward to Tony’s continued success in business and in the community of Syracuse.