Applying their experience closer to home

Couple start company offering financial advice, investing in local business

February 25, 2002|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Frederick S. Shaw has lived in Howard County for five years, but he's never seen much of it.

As a chief financial officer for Workflow Management Inc., and before that as a partner with KPMG Peat Marwick Main and Co. in New York, he spent every week traveling around the country, and visited home only on weekends.

Now, as head of KJC Financial Services, Shaw and his wife, Susan, are around full time, and they're investing where they live.

They opened their business last month with a combined 45 years of experience as accountants. Shaw also has $50 million in "angel money" from NFL players and agents to invest in local businesses. Angel money comes from private investors seeking to finance and help manage businesses at a smaller scale than venture capitalists.

Richard W. Story, executive director of the county Economic Development Authority, said the fact that Shaw is looking locally reflects well on the small businesses that exist in the county.

"It underscores the reality that Howard County is a hotbed of entrepreneurship opportunity," he said. "It was not that long ago that we in the Baltimore metropolitan area were complaining that venture capitalists were spending their money elsewhere."

As an investor, Shaw joins Steve Walker and Associates, Optical Capital Group and the Chesapeake Emerging Opportunities Club, all of which are in the county and focus on technology-related companies.

But Shaw said the focus for his company and for the angel fund is helping to build any small business, technology-related or not.

"My main focus is to take my 30 years and Susan's 15 years and put it back into the community," he said.

He has not run into any companies that need funding help, but he has found a few that want to use his services. After less than two months in business, he has obtained about five clients - from the high-tech incubator company Votara to a small landscaping company in Ellicott City.

Shaw said he knows he has a lot of competition from accounting firms, but his focus is to do more than accounting for his clients. It is to provide the information that a chief financial officer would.

"The common thread that seems to be missing is no one talks to clients," he said. "They're accountants and tax preparers, but they're not a financial officer for their clients. They're looking for a volume business."

Shaw's service as an adviser is one of the things that attracted Chuck Jackson of Lonestar Landscape in Ellicott City.

"I was looking for someone who had been in my shoes as an entrepreneur," Jackson said. "He gave me the impression that he's been there, done that and wants to help me around the mistakes that small businesses often make."

Although Shaw knows most of the companies he is targeting cannot afford all his services, he said his immediate goal is to establish a rapport with the small clients in hopes that those relationships will lead to larger contracts.

"I don't need the revenue today," he said. "I do it to invest in the future. If one of these companies is successful, and I was part of that, there's a good chance I can be their accountant on the [positive] side of the revenue stream."

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