Andrew Furbee grew up on Panther Lick Road in Rivesville, West Virginia. He learned his way around construction and heavy equipment in the United States Marine Corps. In civilian life, he supervised projects for construction/demolition companies.
Stephen Toth grew up in Morgantown, less than 15 miles from Rivesville. He applied his athletic coaching degree from West Virginia University to a head coaching position at Waynesburg High School in 2000 – 2001. He then switched gears to be a territory manager for construction and heavy equipment rentals.
Through their respective jobs, Furbee and Toth eventually crossed paths on construction sites. Gradually they built a friendship that has lasted more than 17 years.
Friends to partners
In 2019, Toth planned to join Mountaineer Toastmasters classes to improve his public speaking.
“I asked him if he wanted to join me,” Toth said. “Surprisingly, he said he would. Before and after classes, we began to come up with ideas to form our own company.”
They had heard that the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WV SBDC) offered one-on-one professional business consultations at no charge. WV SBDC Business Coaches Sharon Stratton and Frank Goldsborough advised them on business structures and helped them set up Blue Gold Development LLC. The WV SBDC coaches also worked with them on a business plan and a three-year financial projection, useful when applying for funding.
“Since we had little to no money to start out with, we jumped at any opportunity that offered free help,” Toth said. “We contacted Sharon Stratton and she helped us register our company within the state and federal entities to be a legitimate business.”
By January 2020, Blue Gold Development LLC construction and demolition business was officially established. Furbee and Toth resigned from their jobs to work full time at Blue Gold Development (BGD) around March 2020.
By mid-March, the novel coronavirus was declared a worldwide pandemic. Public safety concerns imposed social distancing, masking, and restricting or closing many businesses.
“We didn’t know if SBDC could help us with funding, strategizing, networking, etcetera,” Toth said. “It turned out Sharon and Frank helped us in all these areas and have continued to do so over the last 18 months. Most recently, Frank walked us through the process to secure a Paycheck Protection Program loan.”
Adapting marketing tactics for a pandemic
For many businesses and industries, the pandemic changed everything. For BGD, it upended its marketing strategy.
“What it affected was being able to physically visit people. All the networking events were gone,” said Toth. “Office visits, luncheons, dinners were nonexistent. We used what we did have: social media, emails, phone calls, advertisements, to name a few. We had to find the people that couldn’t or didn’t want to wait for the work to be done at a later time. People still needed projects completed and thankfully we found some of those people through 2020.”
Although marketing had to be adapted, the BGD partners’ overall approach remained the same.
“Odd as it sounds, it didn’t change our overall strategy,” Toth said. “We got up every day and started working at 7 a.m., as we always had in our previous jobs.”
Company mission includes giving to the community
In addition to the partners’ friendship, BGD stands on their shared values. That is shown in their practice that with every job they get, they give back to their community. Toth and Furbee typically ask the customer of the completed project to suggest a charity or volunteer group with which they like to work.
“We also will use our manpower to volunteer within local charities,” Toth said. “We have helped stock shelves, emptied food trucks, and worked at pickup facilities. We recently received a message to put up some shelving for a nonprofit food pantry with a small crew in Morgantown. From day one, giving back to the community has been part of the BGD foundation.”
Right along with commitment to community, Toth said, BGD is committed to quality workmanship, professionalism, and customer communication throughout the project.
“With this strategy in place,” he said, “we feel confident about the future of Blue Gold Development.”