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Scholarship to Scale: Susan Hunter – Security 101®

By Glenda Lassiter

Today, Susan Hunter is owner of a thriving physical commercial security business that, in its third year, peaked at $5 million in revenue. Just prior to this venture, she taught math at a community college. Solid analytical and reasoning skills served superbly as she ventured from the classroom to a very different profession. Applying the right formula to a situation is her niche.

Hunter owns and operates Security 101®-Hampton Roads, offering the protection of integrated systems to other businesses and locales. Her Norfolk, VA doors opened in 2013.

"I didn't have any business background at all," Hunter explained. "When I wanted to open a business and (assessed) what it takes, I figured a franchise was what I should consider. There's a lot of things that the franchise brought, so I didn't have to start from scratch."

A wife and mother, Hunter began to explore entrepreneurship, as was her plan, once her children were in college. When that time came, she left her teaching job and plunged into six months of methodical research for the right business fit. She emerged from the deep dive, intrigued by the security industry. She discovered Security 101®, an enterprise with a growing global footprint that specializes in a gamut of security solutions. Coincidentally, Hunter's son, Matthew Netardus, was working for a national retailer that uses the same suite of products. Confident in and energized by Netardus' assessment, Hunter spent a discovery day at the franchise's headquarters. "I was 100 percent in," she remembered. "By then, I'd learned a little about the industry. I was completely convinced I can do this. I came back very excited."

Next, the corporate office determined her potential for ownership. As they may have soon discovered, Hunter is more than meets the eye. She's a former U.S. Air Force airman - an honor that brings business benefits for veterans. There also were the trove of Women's Business Center (WBC) resources at her disposal. With her tenacity, aptitude to thwart doubts, and WBC's support, Hunter became the business's 36th franchisee.

Joining a franchise relaxed some of the daunting, complex tasks that from-scratch businesses might encounter, but Hunter still had requirements to meet. The franchise offered support services to help her be successful. Hunter leaned on the WBC the entrepreneurship product of the Old Dominion University Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (IIE) for other informed and experienced networking, WBC provided information about helpful seminars. Hunter said, "I went to all of those. You sign up for them all because there's something in all of them. The things they do to help a small business, they do an amazing job. I became a sponge for who's out there who can help me.

"In that process, you get signed up on different sites and you end up with someone like Erika," she said referring to WBC's Program Director Erika Small-Sisco. "I probably went to an event a month. They begin to walk you through all the things you need to do. You need to get your business in front of the agencies that can then decide they want your services."

Hard work yields positive outcome. A bragging right for both the WBC and Hunter is that the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) - WBEC Greater DMV Certification Committee awarded her company a Women's Business Enterprise (WBE) certification in 2020, opening networking doors to Fortune 1000 companies. The distinction is the most recognized third-party U.S. certification a woman-owned business can obtain, according to the WBC. It will position Hunter's business for more awards and, potentially, more business.

Hunter suggested an aspiring business owner do what she did: Let the likes of Small-Sisco and the WBC Team "fill your head." The resulting treasures are access to accountants, lawyers, realtors, and the like, who have the needed expertise and, because of your WBC connection, are willing to help.

During a time when the weight of COVID-19 has flattened businesses, Security 101® has stayed afloat.

Small-Sisco is maternally proud of Hunter's success. "What impresses me about Susan is that from the very start, she sought training and resources to help grow her business. In my experiences, most former military use a strategic approach to business growth that includes training, and seeking the proper tools and resources to succeed," Small-Sisco said. "Susan has done just that, and continues to surround herself with supportive services including the WBC, Women in Defense Greater Hampton Roads, Women's Forum of Coastal Virginia, and recently added Women's Business Enterprise Council (WBEC- Greater DMV) to her cadre of business resources.

"Another thing that stands out about Susan is that she has taken on a social mission through her business. She awards products and services each year to a deserving charitable organization. She also hires and mentors interns to train them in the business. She gives back, while paying it forward for others. It is an honor to celebrate Susan Hunter of Security 101® and shine the success spotlight on an amazing woman, veteran, business owner and leader."

If you are a women business owner interested in learning more about "Scholarship to Scale", and how to apply for a Women's Business Enterprise (WBE) certification scholarship, please contact ODU Women's Business Center.