Former houseboat executive tapped as small business coach

A familiar face to many in the local business community is coming back to the area to help small businesses get and stay in the game.

Steve Lochmueller, once CEO of Sumerset Houseboats and most recently retired as athletic director for Eastern Kentucky University, has been hired as a small business coach through a new partnership between the Kentucky Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) and the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA).

In his new role, Lochmueller will provide one-on-one consultations at no cost to existing and potential entrepreneurs in southern Kentucky, while also facilitating low-cost training programs taught by industry experts and qualified SBDC consultants for the small business community. Through this partnership -- made possible by Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding -- Lochmueller will be based out of SPEDA's headquarters in Somerset but often traveling throughout the region.

"I am excited about the opportunity to work with KSBDC and SPEDA to coach entrepreneurs and small business owners in these difficult times as well as in the future," Lochmueller said. "My goal is to use my experiences as an entrepreneur and small business owner as well as my corporate experience to bring value to each of them."

In announcing the hire to board members last week, SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler noted Lochmueller's "tremendous business acumen" and people personality. CARES will be funding the position through September 2021.

Throughout his career, Lochmueller has been recruited to design and implement strategies to start up new organizations, turn around existing ones and grow others while using his experience and management skills through his consulting company, Direct Attention Inc. In addition to Sumerset Houseboats, he has also served as CEO for Lightyear Network Solutions, and in leadership and management positions for several others in the telecommunications industry. As a liaison for technology and communications for Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones, he helped upgrade all state government communications and implemented cost efficiencies throughout the Information Technology & Telecommunications divisions.

A former University of Kentucky basketball center/forward and member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, Lochmueller's love for sports and business combined in his role as EKU's athletic director. During his four years there, he achieved a number of improvements -- including hiring 10 new head coaches, leading the effort to refurbish a number of athletic facilities, elevating department revenues and winning four Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner's Cups for overall athletic excellence.

Kristina Joyce, KSBDC state director, said Lochmueller's background and skillset will provide an excellent resource to the entrepreneurs of the Somerset area.

"The Kentucky Small Business Development Center is happy to welcome Steve Lochmueller as our newest business coach, in partnership with SPEDA," Joyce said. "Small business owners are looking for assistance now, more than ever before, and we are excited to have Steve fill that need."

Girdler said he is grateful to KSBDC for initiating this partnership, which will help SPEDA continue in its mission to support existing businesses and build entrepreneurship.

"SPEDA is intimately focused on increasing interaction with existing businesses in Somerset-Pulaski County, fostering personal relationships and listening to their needs," Girdler said. "An integral part of that is being able to offer one-on-one coaching and training for current business owners and those who are interested in starting their own enterprises. We are thrilled to have Steve join our team to provide this outstanding service to our community. His experience will prove to be incredibly valuable to the people in this region."

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