Kinzua/Wolf Run Marina

Since the 1980s, Diane DeLarme has operated the Kinzua/Wolf Run Marina and Docksiders Café on the Allegheny Reservoir, a vast body of water in northwest Pennsylvania that crosses into New York. On the Commonwealth side, much of the reservoir is bound by thousands of acres of National Forest lands. Tourists from Ohio and New York, in addition to Pennsylvanians, are attracted by the area's natural beauty and its opportunities for boating, fishing, sailing, and swimming.

Kinzua/Wolf Run Marina and Docksiders Café is the only commercial venture on the Pennsylvania side of the reservoir. The success of this business was threatened in 2003 when the U.S. Forest Service changed the requirements for obtaining a renewal of the permits DeLarme needed in order to continue operating on Forest Service property. The Service now requires companies to have a business plan. Further complicating events, DeLarme needed a 10-year permit from the Forest Service before her bank would qualify her for the financing necessary to modernize her docks and marina.

Until the Forest Service revised its permit requirements, DeLarme had been able to rely on her own experience and know-how to run her business. Like many entrepreneurs, Diane did not have a plan on paper: she had one in her head. The demands of organizing a formal business plan led her to seek help from the Gannon University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) outreach office in Warren.

Management consultant Hank Rudge recognized her challenge. To have 10-year financial projections is extremely unusual – the most a bank ever asks for is five years and three years is more common. Despite the difficulties, Rudge was able to help DeLarme work out a business plan that was so successful in meeting the challenges posed by the Forest Service requirements that she was awarded a 20-year permit. The bank subsequently approved $550,000 in incremental financing to modernize the marina's facilities.

In an unexpected turn of events, the Forest Service itself received funds to make structural improvements to the marina and the surrounding area, which freed DeLarme from taking on additional debt. DeLarme now leases her docks from the Forest Service and she is paid to maintain them. The 2006 season, the first with the structural improvements in place, brought a marked increase in sales for Kinzua/Wolf Run.

As a member of the local chamber, DeLarme says she often recommends the SBDC to others. “The help I got was just great,” said DeLarme. “It pumps you up to have a business plan and to see what you've accomplished. Now I use it to help me plan the future.”