The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has named Bellinda and Jim Higgins, of Stay Online Corporation of North Carolina, Exporters of the Year for 2016. The company is headquartered in Creedmoor, North Carolina. Bellinda is president and her husband Jim is general manager. They were nominated by Alex Viva, International Business Development Counselor at the North Carolina Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC).
Bellinda and Jim established Stay Online in 1987, selling computer paper, diskettes and computer related items.
Today, the company ships from three continents and maintains the largest in stock selection of power cords and plug adapters in the world. Stay Online also manufactures molded power cords, PDU whips, electrical drops, box builds, wire harness assemblies and other power connectivity products. A PDU cable or “whip,” is a specialized cord used in data centers to help distribute electricity from a power unit to servers and IT equipment. The firm has facilities in the U.S., China, and established a new location in the Czech Republic in 2015.
Belinda Higgins stated Stay Online was, "honored to be selected as the recipient of the 2016 North Carolina Exporter of the Year award. Our success relies on empowering the Stay Online team to change the way business is conducted in established industries. We are particularly proud of our world class Quality Management System which has qualified us as an approved supplier for some of the world’s largest power infrastructure companies.”
The criteria for the award include: Increased sales, profits and/or employment due to exporting, creative overseas marketing strategies and introduction of unique trading relationships, products or services.
Both export and total sales increased dramatically since 2011. Approximately 10 percent of their $17 million revenues are from exporting. The firm created 60 jobs in 2015, eight of these directly related to exporting. Eleven new positions have been filled since January 2016.
SBA has been an integral part of Stay Online’s success. In 2009, the couple used an SBA 504 loan package from Self-Help Ventures Fund and Fidelity Bank to buy the land and build the company headquarters in Creedmoor, just north of Durham.
For the last three years, The Higgins’ have worked closely with Alex Viva. At the time, they had little, if any, international experience among their management. Alex guided them in the development and implementation of a strategic export plan, which helped them double their overall business and quadruple their export sales through internal strategies and support from partner companies.
The plan included specialized export training from Export University and SBTDC’s Certified Global Business Professional Workshop. These courses assist experienced business men and women to successfully compete in the global marketplace. An SBA State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant was used to attend one of the largest international computer expos in Germany.
Sales have increased dramatically.
“Alex is our go-to guy for all issues international,” said Bellinda. “We have used his knowledge extensively and have referred many of our partners in NC to him for his support.”
Stay Online has returned the favor in working with the SBTDC by offering their experience and expertise to several other companies throughout North Carolina — helping save these companies thousands of dollars in expenses as well as retaining and creating dozens of jobs.
Stay Online has also been a very active participant with the next generation by supporting internship programs of MBA, Legal, HR and CPA college students in NC.