Kentucky Storm Shelters - From Trophies to Tornadoes
December 03, 2021

For 54-year-old Paul Gabehart, an entrepreneurial spirit first manifested back in 2001 when he realized his favorite hobby—sand carving—could be turned into the profitable business of engraving. So he borrowed $4,000 against his beat-up old truck, found a space to rent on Main St. in Campbellsville, Kentucky and bought an engraver that allowed him to turn out trophies, plaques and a variety of other goods. By 2006 his business had grown to the point that Gabehart needed his own facility, so with technical and loan assistance provided by Pam Russell and Mike Hillock of Community Ventures, his dream became a reality. CV helped him secure a small business loan to get started, but it didn’t stop there.

In 2008 Gabehart borrowed again to add a storage business to the premises, which quickly became as successful an endeavor as the engraving. After selling the engraving business, Gabehart rolled the capital into his latest venture—Kentucky Storm Shelters—also financed by Community Ventures. Kentucky Storm Shelters installs underground tornado shelters and in-house safe rooms, offering customers protection from weather events or other emergency situations.

“Community Ventures’ help was paramount,” Gabehart imparted. “At the time it was hard to get any loans to start or expand businesses. CV offered an opportunity that I couldn’t find in the private sector.” Gabehart obtained a business expansion loan to support his own expansion plans. Expansion loans are typically used to cover a variety of projects, from small renovations to larger construction projects. “But it wasn’t just the money. Pam helped me with starting the business. I attended their classes and seminars on marketing. I felt like someone was there when I needed them, and it gave me a whole lot more confidence.”

Not too long after launching Kentucky Storm Shelters, Gabehart was dealt a setback when he was handed a cancer diagnosis and lost the ability to talk.

“My right tonsil was 100% cancerous, and also a lymph node. I had a 2x4 cm lesion wrapped around my jugular vein and another dozen or so lymph nodes that were pre-cancerous,” the businessman explained. “They put me on the roughest regimen of chemo and radiation, and I really thought for awhile that I wouldn’t make it through the treatment.”

Five years later and Gabehart has been deemed cancer free and has regained his speech, which he feels is a big contributor to the success of his business.

“I try to be genuine and honest. I spend time talking to people and answering their questions, even if I don’t think they are close to buying a shelter. I am definitely not a high-pressure sales person,” Gabehart laughed. “I am optimistic—I look at cancer as something I overcame and went on. I do take more time for myself now. I built my own plane—a Zenith 750 STOL—and learned to fly it. My wife and I had fun recently flying it to Bardstown and dropping pumpkins on a target.”

As for advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Gabehart says “Know your numbers. What is your profit likely to be—short and long term? Community Ventures is a great place to start. They can help you find those answers.”

To learn more about Community Ventures and the support we provide to entrepreneurs like Paul, contact us today at www.cvky.org!

To learn more about Kentucky Storm Shelters, visit www.kentuckystormshelters.com or call (270) 469-6196.