‘Watikuh’ is a Hopi word which means to run for it. The word is also found in the name of Kayla Hefner’s business, Watikuh Assistive Technology Services (WATS). Kayla stated, “starting a new business is any environment is tough. But starting a business in physical, emotional and mental chaos, and having a vision at the same time is overwhelming.” What did Kayla do? She went for it.
For seventeen years, Kayla was a partner and field representative for a business that provided assistive technology to learning disabled Native American students. The technology delivered reading material in a digital format. The program read aloud while the reader controlled the pace. The program is based on the Neurological Impress Method (NIM) for teaching reading. When sight (printed words) and sound (speech) are mixed together consistently, it impresses language on the brain.
Kayla saw results when her then fourteen year old son improved from a second grade to a ninth grade reading level in less than six months. The program allows a classroom teacher to focus on teaching, while the student has tools to facilitate independent reading. When students can read, their brains can make sense of information and frees them up to learn.
In 2016, Kayla was going through personal health challenges when her business partner announced her retirement. Kayla’s desire was to start her own business using the same premise but upgrade the computer based platform. She knew the product worked, but she needed structure and a network of business professionals who knew how to navigate a start-up. “There is work, and there is running a business. How do you manage five employees, pay bills, get clients, funding, all while working with the government?”
Kayla’s prior business utilized the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in 2003, and over the past few years she received support from SBDC consultant Jasper Welch. He was her primary liaison within the Durango business community. In the spring of 2017, Kayla signed up for SBDC’s Leading Edge (LE) program. LE provides entrepreneurs with training on how to start and manage a small business. “I wanted to be around people who do what I want to do.”
Money was Watikuh’s most pressing need. Kayla had been waiting months for the government to pay on a contract.
Jasper referred her to Sherry Waner from First Southwest Bank. Sherry and Kayla collaborated to get a loan based on the government purchase order Watikuh awaited payment on. Kayla’s biggest financial take away was knowing the importance how best to present her finances. Learning Quick Books to document financial matters correctly made her records legible, and more importantly, understandable to decision makers who would consider giving her a loan. Having organized financial statements was one way Kayla learned to make money work for her.
Kayla also met SBDC consultant and Durango Chamber Director Jack Llewelyn. He shared his ideas and insights regarding business content and direction. Kayla applauded the passion of SBDC’s consultants stating, “working with people having a passion for business keeps my passion up.”
Growth was another focal point for WAT. Consultants proposed Kayla expand WAT’s market with Native American populations. If Watikuh is to grow, it would have to come through more government contracts. The government contracts relevant to WAT come in the form of procurements, which are administered through a federal agency called the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). SBDC has given Kayla instruction on how to write better contracts for procurements and her subcontractors.
SBDC’s network provided Kayla an opportunity which may expand her client base. The SBDC Durango office put her in touch with a SBDC consultant from Denver, who happens to have contact with the BIA in Albuquerque, NM. In this case, the Denver consultant will personally bring Kayla into BIA’s Albuquerque office to present her business. Kayla said, “vendors rarely get the chance to present in front of a government agency.” What a hookup!
Since Kayla connected with SBDC, she has completed the LE program, collected on two contracts, has five government contracts pending, and is looking to hire three field agents. Kayla’s long term dream is for Watikuh to grow winds and fly, whether through a sale or partnership.
“SBDC has been my center. They taught me how to prioritize all the facets of life. They helped me learn how to prioritize and let go of what I can’t direct and take hold of what I can do in finance, growth, customer service and health, all of which are in the center of my control. Everything else is the mental chatter you can’t stop thinking about.” This is watikuh.