Sonja Biggs knows how difficult it can be for parents of blind, deaf, and visually impaired people to ensure that their children are getting a quality education. When her son Brandon, who is blind, was young, available educational options did not meet the needs of a bright and artistic blind child.
That’s why Biggs decided to found Sonja Biggs Educational Services, a business offering educational programs designed for blind and visually impaired students. The business offers braille and large-print resources, life-skills training, curriculum consultations, and individual assessments. Their orientation and mobility services help institutions create spaces where blind students can learn and thrive in sports, theater, and everyday activities. SBES also provides the services of interveners and paraprofessionals.
At first, the business was built around Biggs’s work as an educator. But in 2015, SBES grew to include another teacher and an administrative assistant. A year later, they added two more teachers, an intervener and a paraeducator. Biggs’ son Brandon, now 25, is her CFO and head of marketing. Now Biggs and her talented staff contract with local California school districts and education offices to provide blind, visually impaired, and deaf students with a quality education.
Sonja and Brandon came to SCORE for help in 2016 when they found that, despite having revenues of around $300,000, the business was losing money. They struggled with the fact that their hourly rate was determined by the state of California.
SCORE mentors Mel Weisblatt and Jerry Rose found that the company was not charging for all the preparation time and travel time that the state allows. This small change made the business profitable. Weisblatt and Rose then helped the company develop a cost-tracking system so SBES could correctly capture employees’ hours. Finally, SCORE also helped Sonja and Brandon develop a marketing strategy to show school systems why it was less costly and more effective to outsource this special education program rather than to keep it in-house.
Solving these problems has freed Sonja up to be the main spokesperson for the company and to develop educational programs that benefit her clients.
Biggs was honored as the 2012 Educator of the Year by the Northern California Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCAER). That same year, she received a special recognition award from the San Benito County Office of Education Board of Directors for her dedication and service to the students of San Benito County.
Despite state-mandated constraints on what she can charge for her services, Biggs has built up a profitable, thriving business.