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Last Update: Saturday June 12, 2021

Key Idea: Start Small

You can start a business on a wing and a prayer and if you start small enough you can shield yourself  from major disappointment or financial loss.

Key Question:


Roy had two partners.  One of the partners had a father-in-law who gave the young men $3,000 to get going.  They worked around the clock to make things work for themselves and a few employees.

Ken Duncan, owner of Ken Duncan Galleries, took some pictures and printed them up then took them door-to-door under his arm until he sold enough of them that he could go back and take some more pictures.  Today he has multiple retail galleries, a state-of-the-art lab and a global business.

Donna Baase started Cowgirl Enterprises from her kitchen with one skincare product called Cowgirl Cream. 

Anne Beiler of Auntie Anne's Pretzels started with one tiny kiosk at the farmer's market near her home in the tiny town of Gap, Pennsylvania. 

If you study the stories of the companies here at Small Business School, you will find hundreds of  strong businesses that all started very small.

Questions for this clip: 1 | 2

Think about it

Could I start my business from home?  Could I start my business while I keep my job for cash flow?  Where could I find just one customer to get going?  What is my best idea for a business?  

Clip from: Texas Nameplate


Dallas, Texas: Dale Crownover took Texas Nameplate from being just another print shop to become the first small business to be given the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. You will find their nameplates are on virtually everything. They print those specialized labels that out last the item to which it is attached. And because of quality controls, this group is the international supplier to the world's largest companies.

When he went to Washington to receive the Baldrige, the other two winners, Boeing and Solar Turbines, and all DC bureaucrats listened in awe; this man talked about the essence of quality, family and this nation's charter to achieve and to always do better.

We can all learn from Dale and his people. Yet, they did not stop working at it;  and six years later, they received the award again!
You will quickly see that this is an extraordinary work force. When we first taped this episode of the show, nobody including Dale had a college degree and some employees had just received their high school diploma. Notwithstanding, here you learn how they make world-class products and reap plenty of profits.

Oh yes, today, Dale and others have earned a college degree.

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Texas Nameplate

Dale Crownover, Owner

1900 E. Ervay
Dallas, TX 75215

Visit our web site:

Office: 2144288341

Business Classification:

Year Founded:

Start Small

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant, and thanks for joining us here.

We're the place to be if you want to learn more about starting, running and growing a business. Every week we go inside a business, and small-business owners show us how they are bringing new products to market, how they hire and develop people, and more.

If you watch regularly, you know here at SMALL BUSINESS SCHOOL we have a Master Class every week, but in our Master Class, you will not find teachers or gurus or journalists because we think you learn best from people who have experience, so you find experienced small-business owners. Today you'll meet not one but two.

This company, Texas Nameplate, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The founder is with us, and also the man who will take the company into the next century.

(Voiceover) You can tell the products stamped, machined and etched here are made to last. Texas Nameplate company produces metal labels and tags, the kinds of identification you see on big products, from refrigerators to computers. Located in an industrial neighborhood in Dallas, this is the smallest company ever to win the Texas Quality Award. Today it's competing for the Baldrige.

ROY CROWNOVER: I never missed a payment.

HATTIE: OK. (Voiceover) Roy Crownover, with two partners, started the business in 1946.

ROY: None of us had any money, so Tommy's -- that was one of my business associates -- father-in-law was a doctor, Dr. Knox. So he said, `I'll loan you boys $3,000, $1,000 apiece. And you pay me back whenever you want to.' And, of course, it was 30 years before we ever paid him back.

HATTIE: No. ROY: Yeah. HATTIE: Really?

ROY: But we did, we paid Dr. Knox back.

HATTIE: Took you 30 years? Oh, come on. Are you pulling my leg?

ROY: No. HATTIE: Why'd you take so long? ROY: We had our ups and downs. We started out with no operating money.

HATTIE: Right.

ROY: Have you ever tried being without any operating money...

HATTIE: I have.

ROY:'s rough. So that's what happened to us. We never did have money.

HATTIE: When you started, were you doing all the tasks? I mean, do you know how to do all the steps that are going on back there?

ROY: Yes, ma'am. I punched nameplates, I answered the telephone, sure did; did the whole nine yards. We tried everything in the world to make money.

HATTIE: To find a product that you could make that would generate profits. Do you still have the same two partners?

ROY: No, the elder gentleman died.


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