Appalachia’s strong, hard-working and resilient people are one of its most valuable assets. Lincoln County resident Beulah Hester is a prime example.
After high school, Beulah went to work in sewing factory that produced men’s sport coats and suit coats and received instruction on tailoring by an Italian tailor. A few years later, Beulah had an opportunity to establish her own alteration business when an alteration shop in a nearby town closed down. She left the factory and formed her first business: Hester’s Alterations.
She was hired to hem the pants of a customer who happened to be the owner of the National Softball Association (NSA). He was so pleased with her work that he asked if she could help with umpire ball bags. Beulah was thrilled to be able to combine years of softball experience with her tailoring skills. The ball bags she designed were a hit and were used by umpires in the NSA’s World Series. She applied for and received both a design patent and a utility patent. She incorporated the business as Ump Attire in 1995 and was soon making and embroidering bags and pullover jackets for the NSA.
After a painful experience with a joint venture in 2003, Beulah started a new company called Custom Officials Wear. She focused on Internet sales and creating new products for sports officials. She applied for and received a $25,000 grant from the Kentucky Science and Technology Center to develop a new product for basketball referee officials. Her goal was for the business to bring in enough money to support her family.
That’s where MACED came in. “MACED was a turning point for me and my business,” says Beulah. “I knew nothing about managing a business. I knew nothing about keeping books. All I knew was how to develop products and how to market them.” MACED and the University of Kentucky’s Small Business Development Center worked with Beulah as she developed and refined her business plan. MACED also extended over $250,000 in loan capital. Continues Beulah, “MACED was and is more than a lending institution. They offered technical assistance and one-on-one support; they were there for any call or any question I had.”
In 2009 Umpattire.com sold products to 47 countries had several million dollars in sales.