Bridges Home Health Care LLC, Woodbridge

Bridges Home Health Care LLC

Bridges to a better world

Received a $95,000 PPP loan, a $10,000 EIDL loan, retained 32 jobs and created 28 jobs

Thaddious “TJ” Osby, Jr. had seen a lot by the time he prepared to end his 20-plus years of military service. A Marine and a registered nurse, he had seen war and had been stationed all around the world. You wouldn’t think that much could rattle him, but as he mulled over his retirement and what path to take, he felt plagued by one unfamiliar feeling: fear.

“I knew going back into a hospital wasn’t going to be an option for me. I had seen too many fighters torn up, and I didn’t want to see any more. I knew being the owner of a business was the route that I needed to go for mental, spiritual, and physical well-being,” TJ explains.

In 2014, TJ sought out the University of Mary Washington (UMW) SBDC and connected with Susan Ball. He initially broached the idea of operating an assisted living facility, but Susan helped pivot that idea into a home health care agency. “Even though I sat on the battlefield and had bullets shoot by my head, I was still afraid. I didn’t have enough confidence. I didn’t believe in myself. But Susan started plugging in numbers right away,” TJ recounts. “She started talking to me as if I already owned the business. The biggest thing I needed initially was the courage to put thought to paper — and I got that from Susan.”

TJ had observed many elderly and disabled veterans in his life who were not getting the care they deserved. He realized that a home health care company would provide a way for him to keep doing what he loved most. “It allowed me to continue to take care of people. I was drawn to something I had naturally been doing, which was taking care of elderly people. I saw and still see a lot of veterans falling through the cracks. I decided I was going to create that bridge for the elderly and the disabled,” TJ says.

TJ slowly began building Bridges Home Health Care LLC from the ground up with Susan and the UMW SBDC right by his side. He credits them for helping him navigate the many pages of paperwork required to satisfy federal and state requirements, not to mention the piles of paperwork for both the Richmond and DC Veteran’s Administrations, as well as Medicaid, Medicare, and other major insurances.

Despite COVID-19, TJ’s company closed 2020 with strong numbers: over 30 full-time employees, 20 part-time employees, and plans for a brick-and-mortar building in early 2021. TJ hopes to expand the business to offer more robust PCA, CPR, and nurse’s-aid training classes.

It’s a long way from the nervous man that debated if he could take the first step with his business back in 2014. TJ credits it all to the SBDC. “If there is anybody that could be a mascot for the SBDC, it’s me. I preach it to everybody that is even thinking about starting a business,” TJ says. “They have had my back from day zero, and they’ve still got my back today. It’s been quite a ride, and I am so grateful for every single person there.”

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Walker Seafood, Willis Wharf

Walker Seafood

Call of the coast

Received a $5000 grant and increased sales by 120%

Revel Walker always knew that being a waterman was in his blood. Stretching back to 1889, Walker Seafood represents six generations, each of whom worked the waters of the Atlantic Ocean from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. They sell whole in-shell clams and oysters, both farm-raised and wild-caught, to suppliers throughout the country.

Due to careful planning and years of practice, Revel can grow and harvest oysters and clams throughout the entire year, which makes his business invaluable to distributors, who resell to upscale restaurants and grocery stores in New York, Boston, and other metropolitan areas.

The oysters are grown in the temperate waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. With a grow-out time of about a year and a half, timing is everything. “What’s important to my customers is that I have a year-round supply,” Revel says. “Planning digs is important, because we dig 30 to 45 bushels at a time.”

After working in the family business for years, Revel navigated a lot of change when he took the helm in 2013. Then he went full time (became a “co-oper”) and stepped into the lead at Walker Seafood. That posed its own set of challenges.
“Things like paperwork, invoices, and making sure everyone gets paid on time — this was all stuff that was new to me and were things that I’ve had to get the hang of as I’ve gone along,” Revel says. Fortunately, he didn’t have to look far for help. “The Hampton Roads SBDC-Eastern Shore to me is George Bryan,” Revel says. “I took his class when I knew I was going out on my own. George advised me on what loans to apply for. He gave me some good pointers on budgeting and finance,” Revel adds.

With COVID-19 sweeping the country, Walker Seafood had to navigate some decreases in demand as restaurants struggled with pandemic-related closures. “Sales are definitely down in the Northeast,” Revel notes. Fortunately, he has been able to meet consistent sales goals by reaching out to new customers. Revel says the family name is so well known within the industry that it works as its own calling card.

In the end, no amount of name recognition will make up for a product that isn’t up to par. Revel is proud to bring fresh seafood to his distributors that more than lives up to his family’s well-known name. And he couldn’t have done it without the help of the SBDC.

“We aren’t just competing with other local growers,” Revel says. “Walker Seafood has instant name recognition. My dad and uncle were the people to start doing the farm-raised clams and oysters. You have to have the product to back that up. And we do.”

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Great Harvest Bread Company

Baking A Miracle: Bakery brings hope during pandemic

Received a PPP loan and retained 29 jobs

The happiest day of Pablo Teodoro’s life was the day he was fired. “I was overwhelmed with happiness, because I was sure it was the beginning of something really exciting,” he says. “I had this strange certainty that I was going to start a business and that it was going to be amazing.” Little did he know that this day would lead him to giving life-saving help to his community in the midst of COVID-19.

Already seasoned in management and inspired by his own ideas, Pablo spent roughly two years focusing on running a small farm, learning about monoculture farming and sustainable agriculture, and exploring the ins-and-outs of selling his products to local farmers markets. Then fate led Pablo to discover the Great Harvest Bread Company. Founded in Montana by a free-thinking, free-living couple, according to Pablo, the company’s values mirrored his own, and the freedom and flexibility it offered its franchisees is what drew him.

“We get to become a community bakery. We get to sell food that people in Warrenton want to eat,” Pablo says. “We have a stone mill in the basement, and we mill our own flour. Just like eating a fresh apple or drinking a fresh ground cup of coffee, everything here tastes rich, full, and exciting in a way that other bakeries cannot reproduce.”

Pablo and his new franchise, Great Harvest, have developed a relationship with Lord Fairfax SBDC Director Christine Kriz, powered by mutual motivation and excitement. “Christine understands our struggles. She made a big difference by making practical and inspirational differences in our local business community,” he adds. She connected Pablo with Cort Maddox, a business advisor at the Lord Fairfax SBDC, and they meet monthly for business coaching. “I will give Cort an update,” Pablo explains. “He will point out things, provide statistics, and tell me if he thinks I am on the wrong track.”

When the pandemic hit, Great Harvest found itself in a very difficult spot. On the verge of closure, Pablo made a bold move: he continued to bake bread. Then a viral Facebook post opened the gates to a demand for over 5,300 loaves of bread for food banks and others in need. Donations to offset the cost of ingredients began to roll in, and things began to turn around for the small corner bakery. “We were baking hundreds of loaves of bread a day. Customers were coming in droves. People were also requesting the ingredients — which gave us the money to afford to bake bread for the food banks.”

Finding a warm heart in the midst of the strange times has grown Pablo’s business and especially his spirit. “Although I know that COVID is overall a tragedy in terms of illness and death, it has also provided unexpected miracles and unexpected blessing,” Pablo says. “We are on a better footing than we’ve ever been.”

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Mt. Everest Karate Studio, Suffolk

Mt. Everest Karate Studio

The SBDC goes to the mat for karate studio

Received a $10,000 Rebuild VA grant

It’s been an uphill climb for Carlos Rivas since opening his Mt. Everest Karate Studio in Suffolk three years ago. “I started teaching karate in 1996,” he says. “Then in 2017 I took a leap of faith and opened a studio in the Crittenden community.” Two years later Carlos rented the space next door, doubling the size of his studio.

While Carlos knew his karate, he wasn’t as adept at selling his services. “I started losing students because I didn’t know how to market properly,” he admits. “I hired a business consultant who specialized in martial arts. His advice was to get in touch with the community I was working in, but the expense was high.”
To get his business back on track, Carlos decided to reach out elsewhere. “That’s how I met Debra Farley, Associate Director of the Hampton Roads SBDC,” Carlos says. “I told Debra I was looking for a business microloan. She was very helpful and scheduled an appointment for us to meet right away.”

Debra connected Carlos with Karen White at the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority. “Karen helped me secure a microloan for $25,000,” Carlos adds. “The process was easy and straightforward, and Debra and Karen were always available whenever I had questions. I could not have done this without their help.”

Things were looking up for Carlos, but then COVID-19 happened. “We were closed down for 14 weeks,” he explains. Carlos turned to Zoom classes to keep his students engaged, adding extras like a weekly scavenger hunt. “I had to be creative, like everybody else. I offered prizes — $1, $5, even $20,” he says. “The kids loved it, and parents loved it, too.”

The karate studio opened its doors again on July 6. “When I reopened, Karen told me about the Rebuild VA grant,” Carlos relates. This application process was more complicated and had a few “hiccups” along the way. Nevertheless, when Carlos opened his mail one day, he was thrilled to find a $10,000 check from Rebuild VA.

“I was jumping up and down,” he says. “Debra and Karen steered me in the right direction throughout the application. I would not have received this grant without their support.”

Carlos is pleased to report that business is picking up. “I signed six new students this month,” he says. “Things are turning around.” He credits the SBDC with making it happen.

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Binbox, Sterling

Binbox

The SBDC’s guidance puts a lock on success

Received investment funding from several Mid-Atlantic angel and venture networks

When COVID-19 shut down Binbox, a business Dan Flynn and Eric Herring launched last fall, Dan didn’t despair. Instead, he turned to the Mason SBDC for guidance through the pandemic. “When you’re thrown a lemon, make lemonade,” Dan says.

Dan and Eric started planning the business in Dan’s garage. “It took a while to get some traction,” Dan describes. When a friend suggested the George Mason Entrepreneurship program, Dan decided to check it out. “They linked me with the Mason SBDC, who linked me with ICAP,” Dan adds. The Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), a statewide technology-commercialization initiative, is a program offered by the Virginia SBDC Network. The ICAP program changed the course of the business by focusing on “customer discovery.” As a result, Binbox developed a solution for what people could do with their personal belongings while attending sporting events, concerts, or the like. “We monetized a smart lock and put it in a locker so people could use their phones to store belongings while attending large events,” Dan explains.

After completing ICAP’s Introductory Course, Dan continued to work with his ICAP mentor. “We looked at high volume venues, like arenas,” he says. “We’re currently pushing close to 30 venues, including the Washington Nationals, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Denver Broncos, and Atlanta Falcons — some major teams.”

Binbox was well on the way to success when the pandemic stopped them in their tracks. “We were completely impacted,” Dan says. “With everything closed down, we had to focus on conserving cash and finding a different way forward.”

That way became clear as sports venues cautiously began to reopen. “We became part of the opening plans for these venues,” Dan explains. “The venues needed to keep everything safe and sanitary, and we could provide that service.” Messaging on the Binbox webpage reflects the new focus, which reads, “Keep belongings safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 with secure, no-contact solutions from Binbox.” Dan adds, “Our sales tripled in the last couple of months.”

To ensure a continued future, Binbox received investment funding from several Mid-Atlantic angel and venture networks.When COVID-19 shut down Binbox, a business Dan Flynn and Eric Herring launched last fall, Dan didn’t despair. Instead, he turned to the Mason SBDC for guidance through the pandemic. “When you’re thrown a lemon, make lemonade,” Dan says. 

Dan and Eric started planning the business in Dan’s garage. “It took a while to get some traction,” Dan describes. When a friend suggested the George Mason Entrepreneurship program, Dan decided to check it out. “They linked me with the Mason SBDC, who linked me with ICAP,” Dan adds. The Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), a statewide technology-commercialization initiative, is a program offered by the Virginia SBDC Network. The ICAP program changed the course of the business by focusing on “customer discovery.” As a result, Binbox developed a solution for what people could do with their personal belongings while attending sporting events, concerts, or the like. “We monetized a smart lock and put it in a locker so people could use their phones to store belongings while attending large events,” Dan explains. 

After completing ICAP’s Introductory Course, Dan continued to work with his ICAP mentor. “We looked at high volume venues, like arenas,” he says. “We’re currently pushing close to 30 venues, including the Washington Nationals, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Denver Broncos, and Atlanta Falcons — some major teams.”

Binbox was well on the way to success when the pandemic stopped them in their tracks. “We were completely impacted,” Dan says. “With everything closed down, we had to focus on conserving cash and finding a different way forward.” 

That way became clear as sports venues cautiously began to reopen. “We became part of the opening plans for these venues,” Dan explains. “The venues needed to keep everything safe and sanitary, and we could provide that service.” Messaging on the Binbox webpage reflects the new focus, which reads, “Keep belongings safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 with secure, no-contact solutions from Binbox.” Dan adds, “Our sales tripled in the last couple of months.”

To ensure a continued future, Binbox received investment funding from several Mid-Atlantic angel and venture networks.

 

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ABC Consulting, Smithfield

ABC Consulting

Focusing on success with the SBDC

Increased sales by 300%

Crystal Stump launched her ABC Consulting business with a good idea. But as time went on, she found it wasn’t enough. “I was 27 years old and a five-year employee of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority when I terminated my special agent position and started my own business,” Crystal explains. “I felt that the small businesses I worked with needed someone on their team with the knowledge to navigate the alcohol licensing process. I knew I was that person.”

While her business model was sound, Crystal found managing her own business to be a challenge. “Because I didn’t know how to manage a small business, I quickly created credit card debt,” she relates. At that point, Crystal decided she needed help. “I reached out to the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce,” Crystal says. “They referred me to Jim Carroll, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads SBDC.”

Crystal sees it as a turning point for her business. “My first meeting with Jim Carroll was a painful one,” she admits. “I had to be honest with him so he could provide guidance. We looked at my biggest challenges and what was working — and what wasn’t — and started making plans. I found myself constantly thinking about not making enough money,” Crystal continues. “Once I changed my focus and looked at how I was helping my clients, it was amazing to see the difference.”

That positive focus led to a complete turnaround for Crystal, as well as for her business. “I will never forget Jim Carroll’s smile when we reviewed my profit and loss report a year later,” Crystal recalls. “My sales had increased by an unbelievable 300%.”

Jim also introduced Crystal to workshops offered by the SBDC. “The course on social media was especially helpful,” she adds. “I decided to outsource my social media to the speaker for that course, Wendy Craighill. That was a big help in reaching new prospects.” The SBDC, Crystal affirms, taught her to focus on things she could do herself and outsource the rest.

When the COVID-19 crisis brought a downturn to her business, Crystal again turned to the SBDC for assistance. “Jim Carroll and his team assisted me with applications for various grants, which were approved,” she adds. Since March, Crystal has used her expertise to assist restaurant clients placing skilled gaming machines in their businesses.

“When the state regulations changed to allow skilled gaming, I was ready to help game distributors apply the right way,” Crystal explains. “I also launched a YouTube channel to get information to my subscribers. As a business owner, you have to adapt and move forward.”

Moving forward has been the name of the game for Crystal since she signed on with the SBDC. “Today, I am out of debt, I have learned to hire great help for what I cannot do, I have retirement savings, and my dream is ten times bigger than it was ten years ago,” Crystal concludes.

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