Hardware Store is at the Heart of Couple’s Small Business Success Story
Four years ago, Luke and Jenn Bates left their comfortable corporate jobs, working normal hours and receiving regular paychecks, to cash it all in and take on the most incredible adventure of their lives to begin writing their own small business success story.
The husband-and-wife entrepreneurial team followed their small business dreams of opening an independent “mom and pop” hardware store to fill a niche in the hometown they love. They’ve done it step by step, day by day, struggle by struggle – together.
“Embarking on this wild ride with my wife has been an incredible adventure. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done, hands down,” Luke Bates said. “Together, we’ve turned dreams into reality, faced challenges head-on, and built a business and a shared legacy. In our small business journey, having my life partner by my side adds magic to the journey. We have had challenges, but we’ve grown more as individuals, a couple and as business partners because of them.”
Today, the Bates own and operate ProTrade Hardware & BBQ Supply in Somerset, Ky.
ProTrade is a successful, independent, hometown hardware store that fills a void in the community and, more importantly, for the Bates, is playing a pivotal role in their community, such as fundraising and volunteering for several local organizations.
The young parents will admit juggling home life and work has been challenging.
“The life of a small business owner isn’t always a walk in the park. It’s a journey filled with challenges, tears, worry, a roller coaster of emotions, late nights, sometimes blood, sweat and tears…and a lot of heart. Yet, it’s a journey we embark on with passion and purpose.”Jenn Bates
Their customers and the hometown they serve appear to appreciate that passion for purpose.
In 2020, ProTrade received the New Business of the Year award from the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce. In 2021, Luke and Jenn received the 40 under 40 Award from Young Professionals of Lake Cumberland for their exceptional success and commitment to the Lake Cumberland Region.
But their success did not happen overnight. Let’s go back to the beginning to see how it all started.
Four years ago, we were in the middle of a pandemic. While others were masking up and shutting down, the Bates were building a business plan and calling on folks with small business experience to help them achieve their goals.
SKED’s Small Business Development Training Director Amanda Kelly was one of the first people they called. One of her roles is to help business entrepreneurs succeed in all stages of their businesses. She met with the Bates, helped them develop their business plan, and has been a valued advisor to the Pulaski County small business owners ever since.
But because SKED offers ongoing technical assistance to small business owners across its 45-county service territory, Kelly’s role with ProTrade did not stop there.
Eventually, the Bates took out a U.S. Small Business Administration Microloan from SKED, and Kelly was able to ramp up her technical assistance with them.
In addition to business planning, she has helped them design store layout, website development, social media training, financial analysis, event planning, email marketing, business expansion analysis, QuickBooks training, and more.
Kelly calls it a labor of love.
“Working alongside Jenn and Luke has been remarkable for me in more ways than one,” Kelly said. “Entrepreneurship demands resilience and determination, yet with a clear vision, adaptability, perseverance, and passion – qualities they both have and inspire in each other. I am inspired by their love for our community, business, and each other.”
ProTrade describes itself as your go-to destination, catering to homeowners and professional contractors with a diverse range of general hardware. The store is renowned for its grilling, barbecue, and hardware expertise, boasting the state’s largest selection of BBQ rubs and sauces. As a Traeger Grill Platinum Dealer, Big Green Egg Dealer, Napoleon Grills Dealer, and a Pitts & Spitts Dealer, ProTrade offers top-notch brands. They are planning a BBQ competition and festival this year to bring the community together to enjoy BBQ and fellowship. This BBQ festival will welcome anyone, regardless of expertise or the type of grill they have, fostering an inclusive celebration of the love for grilling.
The Bates say they are dedicated to seamlessly blending the warm and welcoming atmosphere of a “mom and pop” hometown store with a user-friendly online experience, ensuring diverse offerings. Their strong presence on social media underscores their commitment to supporting their community, especially during challenging weather conditions.
The store is consistently well-stocked with essentials for immediate and future needs, and they leverage social media to communicate their constant availability and support for customers. They aim to foster a store environment free from rigid corporate policies, emphasizing the pride they take in being personally present in various roles, such as janitor, accountant, cashier, bagger, marketing, research and development, purchasing, accounts receivable, stock crew, pricing, door greeter and more. The Bates family takes pride in creating a home-like atmosphere where meaningful relationships can flourish.
The Bates fundraise often for local schools and the American Cancer Society throughout the year. Jenn also contributes to The American Cancer Society’s Denim and Diamonds annual fundraiser, serving on the planning committee. They actively engage in the Chamber of Commerce and the Young Professionals of Lake Cumberland. Jenn serves as a Chamber Ambassador and a former Young Professionals of Lake Cumberland (YPLC) board member. Beyond her many roles, Jenn has been instrumental in the YEA Program (Young Entrepreneurs Academy), mentoring aspiring young participants. They are supporters of local law enforcement, first responders, military, and other community organizations such as Somernites Cruise and Master Musicians Festival, to name a few. They are leading the charge in local food-associated events, festivals, and tourism and host several BBQ shop classes for the community.
To learn more about ProTrade Hardware & BBQ Supply, visit https://protradehardware.com/, follow the store on social media, or visit it at 390 KY-80, Somerset, KY 42503.