Category: 2023

Knead Bread

Knead Bread

Adding SBDC to the mix brings rising sales to Knead Bread

Opened brick-and-mortar location in 2023; expanded business to 10 employees.

Lenora Schmecko and her brother, Vincenzo Mazzone, opened Knead Bread in Winchester in May 2023 as a labor of love, bringing their lifelong passion for baking to the masses. But just as even the most well-kneaded bread will not rise without yeast, Lenora and Vincenzo knew they needed one final ingredient to make their bakery grow.

Enter the Laurel Ridge SBDC.

“Retail was a new concept for us,” Lenora says. “We needed advice, so we contacted the SBDC and met with Dale Maza, a Marketing Advisor. He helped with a business plan and provided analytics and projections. By the time we opened, we knew what to expect.”

Lenora and Vincenzo originally launched their business as an in-home wholesale bakery in Louisa County, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to cut the venture short…or so they thought. That delay turned out to give the business “proofing time,” and the brother-sister tandem opened Knead Bread’s brick-and-mortar location on May 20, 2023.

Sales quickly exceeded expectations as word spread about the new bakery featuring artisan breads and sweets.

“Business was a lot better than we thought it would be,” Lenora says. “In May and June, we were selling out by noon. We needed to hire more staff.”

Along with staffing resources, the SBDC suggested website and social media contacts. Currently Knead Bread has 10 employees and is looking to expand.

“The SBDC’s been with us every step of the way,” Lenora says. “They made everything a lot easier.”

Lenora believes every small business should start with a trip to the SBDC.

“The SBDC offers professional resources at no cost to you,” she concluded. “It’s worth it to reach out to the SBDC. They have a wealth of information and will use it to steer you in the right direction.”

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SBDC’s business know-how + creativity = Jpixx success

Utilized the SBDC to help with increase sales, define costs, and talent development.

Teviya and Jon Abrahams rely on creativity. It’s the foundation of Jpixx, the creative video agency the couple spearheaded in Virginia Beach in 2013.

Jpixx started ten years ago when video had just become a necessary tool all the way down to the local level, so they did not need heavy sales to get going. However, when the COVID pandemic allowed for forced downtime, Teviya relied on her creative instincts and contacted the Hampton Roads SBDC.

“I reached out to the SBDC to build our business knowledge,” Teviya says. “We were experts in our field, but we learned about running a business as we went along.”

By that point, Teviya and Jon’s team had already produced thousands of videos, traveled the world, and built an impressive roster of clients, including government contracts. But it was a pivotal time to leverage the experience they had gained over the years.

SBDC Business Analyst Bill Holloran helped Teviya and Jon gain perspective and realize what would help cinch up their business processes and structure to grow more mindfully.

“Bill got to know how we run our business,” Jon relates. “He gave us confidence in areas we were excelling in and suggested other areas to adjust and points to consider.”

“One of our favorite projects is a video about booster seat safety that went viral with over 20 million views,” Jon says. “Knowing we could reach so many parents all over the world and actually save lives was a huge moment for us. Reframing our thinking with the SBDC, we now like to use this to help others understand the impact of video marketing. It became fuel for us to define what projects and goals to focus on going forward.”

“Bill helped with increasing sales, defining costs, and talent development for our staff,” Teviya says. “He helped us prioritize growth options and the delineation of duties for us as owners.”

“When soft-launching a new website, Bill compiled notes from professionals and business students, making our website more effective for future clients,” Teviya mentions.

Jpixx has grown to 12 staff and counting. They produce commercials, but are particularly adept with 3 – 5 minute videos that tell in-depth, complex stories. “Jpixx is stellar at making the viewer feel as if they are in the room to experience it firsthand. So many things in life cannot be communicated or understood fully in writing,” Teviya says. “That visual element is crucial, and we love being a part of that.”

Capture Life Creatively is the motto Jpixx began with, and it’s still prevalent today. Teviya is so very grateful she got in touch with the SBDC. “It is invaluable to have a reliable and trustworthy resource to learn from, whether it is the very helpful SBDC webinar library or our very own mentor, Bill, to reach out to throughout the year.”

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Beartown Film

Beartown Film Bureau

SBDC guidance nets confidence and contracts for Beartown Film

Utilized SBDC contacts and guidance to connect with the Virginia PTAC, an APEX Accelerator, to receive HUBZone certification and his first contract.

Jorge Rey retired from federal service two years ago with a plan to move into the world of small business. He credits the Southwest Virginia Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) with moving him in the right direction.

“I started Beartown Film Bureau on my own and then connected with the SBDC for guidance,” he says. “Margie Douglass, Southwest SBDC Director, walked me through the steps for starting a business.”

Jorge found the SBDC while searching for business advice online, and scheduled his first consultation shortly afterwards.

“After hearing my ideas, Margie and her team crafted their services to show me how to be successful in getting government contracts,” he adds.

Jorge previously tested his small business idea by offering free services to community non-profits, which were primarily story-based informational videos. With SBDC assistance, he was able to transition his business opportunities from pro-bono to paid.

“Margie connected me with the Virginia PTAC, an APEX Accelerator, funded by the Department of Defense,” Jorge says.

Together the SBDC and PTAC walked Jorge through the process to become certified as a Veteran-Owned Small Business and enrolling in the U.S. government’s System for Award Management ( to become eligible for federal contracts. SBDC and PTAC also assisted him in achieving HUBZone certification, a program that awards federal contracts to small businesses in underutilized business zones.

“It was a complex process, but they decoded it and gave me the confidence to present myself as a viable vendor,” he notes. “Margie showed me how it all works. Without the SBDC’s help, there’s no way I could have accomplished what my business is today.”

Within two months, Jorge landed his first contract with a government organization. He also received the 2023 Best Video Series for an Attraction (of the Burke’s Garden Artisan Guild) at the Virginia Tourism Summit in Wytheville, a huge accomplishment for a new business

“I consider the SBDC to be my secret weapon,” he concludes. “Their guidance allowed me to move forward with confidence. I would have been dead in the water without the SBDC.”

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Rappahannock Adventures

Rappahannock Adventures

The SBDC puts river adventure business on solid ground

Launched two businesses, and became SWaM certified.

Woodie Walker always harbored a love for history and the outdoors – especially being physically on the water. Earlier this year the University of Mary Washington (UMW) SBDC helped him turn those two passions into two new businesses: Rappahannock Adventures, a history-themed tour of Virginia’s Rapidan River, and E & L Acres, a plant nursery specializing in growing trees in demand by the federal government.

“I was in the military for ten years and then in conservation,” says Woodie. His conservation and historical pursuits have led him to serve with organizations including Friends of the Rappahannock and the Rappahannock Tribe.

Those pursuits also brought him to Fredericksburg where he began leading history-themed tours of the neighboring Rappahannock River.

“I started with a Civil War Paddle and Native American History Hike,” he notes. “My hook was history, and people loved it.”

As a lifelong learner, Woodie’s passion for the past still drove him to learn more. In 2020, at 58 years old, he earned a master’s in history from University of Mary Washington and became a historian and environmentalist for the Rappahannock Tribe in Tappahannock. From there, he took his passions a step further and launched his own business, doing so with the help of UMW SBDC Director Susan Ball.

“We met once a week,” Woodie continues. “She helped with everything I needed to be a legit business: state regulations, a business license, tax ID number.”

Susan’s advice also included establishing his businesses as two separate LLCs to minimize risks and allow him the flexibility to sell one or both in the future. She also assisted Woodie with certification paperwork for SWaM, which enhances contracting opportunities for veterans in state-funded projects, and eVA, Virginia’s electronic marketplace for buyers and sellers.

In January 2023 Rappahannock Adventures went live, offering the Civil War Paddle tour to history buffs, tourists and curious locals alike. To solidify the initial structure of his business, Woodie followed Susan’s advice of offering the Civil War Paddle as a contractor through another tour guide.

“That gave me a good payday without the expense for insurance,” he adds. “That kind of advice was valuable.”

As for his nursery, he expects the federal government to soon become a buyer of the trees he is growing on his three-and-a-half acres of land in Tappahannock.

“I’d advise anyone starting a business to visit the SBDC,” Woodie concludes. “Susan gave me positive feedback that made me feel like I could do it — and she was right!”

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Corgi Clay Arts Center

Corgi Clay Art Center

The SBDC helps bring ceramic arts to Stafford

Secured a $150,000 small business loan and received marketing advice and business education.

Debra Balestreri, a former director at the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center and adjunct professor at University of Mary Washington, decided to step into the small business world in 2019. Unfortunately, that first step began in the midst of a global pandemic.

“It wasn’t intentional to start Corgi Clay LLC in a pandemic,” she says.

Debra has learned, as an artist, that perseverance is key to turning a work in progress into a work of art. For her, the complete picture she envisioned was turning her successful web-based pottery business, Corgi Clay LLC, into a brick-and-mortar space dedicated to teaching the ceramic arts.

Following a 2021 crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $40,000 in pledges, Debra turned her attention to securing additional funding to put the finishing touches on her burgeoning business.

“I knew I would need more than crowdfunding, so I reached out to the University of Mary Washington SBDC and was connected with SBDC Advisor Angie Kelley,” Debra relates. “Angie connected me directly to the Bank of Charleston that represents the Small Business Administration.”

That connection netted Debra a small business loan for $150,000, which allowed her to further her goals for Corgi Clay.

“The SBDC gave me a lot of good advice on financials,” Debra adds. “I didn’t study business in school, so I took the SBDC’s advice and hired an accountant.”

The SBDC provided Debra with more than funding advice. Angie and her team also provided marketing advice, business education and professional growth opportunities.

“The SBDC was awesome to send me links to free workshops,” Debra notes. “I stay in touch with them on all the things that pop up for a new business owner.”

On September 23, 2023, Debra unveiled Corgi Clay Art Center’s studio to the public.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the SBDC,” Debra adds. “Starting a new business is a lot to take on. The SBDC helped me through the details and put my mind at ease.”

Debra recently recommended the SBDC to a local friend who runs a farmer’s market.

“My advice to any other business owner is simple,” Debra concludes. “Don’t try to do it on your own — go to the SBDC.”

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Drone business takes off with SBDC guidance

Increased revenue by 125%; added one employee; added new client for contract work; entered and won RISE Collaborative Business Pitch Competition, netting a $5,000 prize he used to invest in a new drone.

Ryland Clark’s RCFlyBy drone business started as a hobby that took flight as he learned more about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). After working with the Longwood SBDC and participating in the RISE Business Bootcamp, RCFlyBy reached new heights of success.

“In 2019 when I started my business, I went to see SBDC Regional Director Lin Hite,” Ryland says. “He gave me advice on getting started. I took a drone certification class, then went to the Danville Airport for a proctor exam.”

Services offered by RCFlyBy include 3D imaging, construction site reports, land sale photography, aerial photography, inspections, property imaging, real estate videography and fireworks videography.

A friend urged Ryland to enroll in RISE Business Bootcamp. The 10-week online program, coordinated by the SOVA Innovation Hub and Longwood SBDC, helps new business owners create a business plan and establish next steps to move forward.

“There were about 30 [participants] in the January 2023 bootcamp,” Ryland explains. “Talking with other business owners was the most valuable part for me — how to market, set pricing and share your value with customers. I also wrote a business and finance plan.”

The winter 2023 session was RISE’s largest ever cohort, but Ryland’s vision for RCFlyBy rose to the top. The bootcamp ended with the RISE Collaborative Business Pitch Competition, which challenged Ryland and his fellow entrepreneurs to pitch their business to a panel of judges. RCFlyBy took the top prize.

“I tied for first place and received $5,000,” Ryland reports. “I invested the money in a drone with mechanical shutter that takes photos 40 percent faster.”

The SBDC helped Ryland complete the SWaM and SAM certification process, which opens up additional avenues for work. After consulting with the SBDC and RISE Collaborative, Ryland reports a 125% revenue increase. Recently, RCFlyBy has hired one employee and secured a contract with a Richmond-based company.

Ryland says he is grateful for the SBDC’s continued support.

“The SBDC helped accelerate growth and take my business to the next level,” he concludes. “It’s good to know I have the SBDC to rely on.”

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Marie’s Hair and Nail Supply

Marie’s Hair & Nail Supply

The SBDC builds on a dream for Marie’s Hair & Nail Supply

Earned approval for a $10,000 business loan; set up and received an $8,500 Kiva loan.

Tawann Scott always dreamed of being a business owner. When she discovered a need in Richmond’s Southside and Northside communities, she found her niche — a beauty supply store for African American customers. When she discovered the Capital Region SBDC, she turned her dream into a sustainable reality.

“After years of going to stores for products for my kinky hair, I wanted to pursue my dream of opening a beauty supply store,” states Tawann, a Southside Richmond native.

Tawann’s beauty supply store was self-funded from the start, but with one daughter in college, another planning a wedding, and widespread economic complications from the COVID pandemic, she was forced to push back her original opening timeline. However, an unwavering commitment to her vision allowed her to persevere and open the doors to Marie’s Hair & Nail Supply in October 2021.

And while that grand opening was a major milestone for a first-time business owner, it had an even bigger impact that led to introductions to the Metro Business League (MBL) and, later, the Capital SBDC.

Initially, the MBL helped Tawann secure a “KIVA” loan of $8,500 made up of contributions from unknown individuals, including family members. When she began working with SBDC Assistant Director Charese Chambers soon after, she gained access to more funding opportunities and, equally important, guidance on the next steps to take for her burgeoning business.

“From the start, Charese was on it,” Tawann recalls. “When she gave me an assignment, I knew I had to do it.”

Charese started by updating Tawann’s Quickbooks account, which included categorizing transactions dating back to 2021 and organizing her accounts. That provided Tawann with the necessary documentation to apply for a business loan of $10,000 through Bridging Virginia. Along with additional guidance from Bridging Virginia’s Michelle Jones, Tawann was approved for the loan.

“Thank the Lord for Charese,” Tawann adds.

From there, Charese and Tawann set their sights on marketing, beginning with a flyer for a braider. The response prompted Tawann to expand Marie’s Hair & Nail Supply’s offerings, which now includes two stylists who rent space in the store.

Tawann credits the SBDC for helping her business grow.

“The SBDC will shoot it to you straight,” Tawann concludes. “To me, SBDC is a necessity — as a small business owner, you need that support,”

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Pretzel bakery brings “Malt & Salt” to Reston brew house scene and beyond

Received a $250,000 loan for equipment and leasehold improvements; opened second location for increased production capacity, which expanded business from 800 square feet to over 2400 square feet in two locations.

From its launch as a wholesale bakery in 2016 to its Mason SBDC-aided expansion in 2023, Nordic-Knot’s wholesale pretzel baking business has seen its profile rise right alongside its gourmet pretzels. But for all the growth Eric Lundberg and Melissa Romano’s Scandinavian-style bakery in Reston has experienced, it owes its beginnings to a note and a pretzel once placed on the doorstep of the Lake Anne Brew House, which Melissa also co-owns..

“The note was from a pretzel-making neighbor Eric Lundberg,” Melissa says. “Together, we visualized a pretzel bakery and the Brew House as ‘a match made in malt and salt heaven.’”

With a business model aimed at wholesale, Nordic-Knot opened in 2016 with Melissa and Eric as co-owners. The culinary duo specialized in baked-to-order pretzels made with natural and organic ingredients and hand-milled grains.

“We wanted to add vibrancy and give back to our Lake Anne neighborhood, and also find a way to support other small breweries, coffee shops and businesses with our wholesale pretzel sales” Melissa adds.

Despite challenges to that vibrancy that came during the COVID pandemic in 2020, Nordic-Knot continued to adapt, evolve and grow. They overcame the pandemic hurdle by incorporating direct sales into their business strategy, and their customer-friendly service earned them second place and a $40,000 cash award in the national “Small Business Big Wins” contest for pandemic-impacted small businesses. The addition of Wolf Trap National Park as a major customer in late 2022 set the stage for an expansion of the business and a consultation with the Mason SBDC.

With a proven product and an even larger customer base provided by Wolf Trap’s addition, Eric and Melissa met with SBDC Senior Business Counselor Mark Julian. In those early meetings, Mark provided them with options on financing and examples of a business plan to present to lenders.

By early 2023, Nordic-Knot was seeking a $250,000 loan for equipment and leasehold improvements, which SBDC Program Director Timm Johnson helped them procure by preparing plans and a presentation and connecting them with M&T Bank.

“The SBDC not only showed us the steps needed to apply for financing but also provided direct connections to local lenders,” Melissa states.

By May 2023, their loan was approved, and they have since added over 1,800 square feet of production space to supplement their original bakery space at Lake Anne Plaza

“The SBDC was very supportive of our journey to expand,” Melissa concludes. “You wear a lot of hats as a small business owner, but you don’t always know all you need to run a business. It’s good to have SBDC resources available to help you learn.”

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J.C. Spare Parts

J.C. Spare Parts & Consulting

From Colombia to Pulaski — Greater Roanoke & NRV SBDC paves the way for JC Spare Parts’ success

Started their business after receiving her E-2 Visa; increased employees from one to eight; increased repeat customers from one to five, sales grew 800%.

For 25 years in their native Colombia, Jeniffer Sanchez and her husband Juan Carlos Correa owned a successful machinery parts manufacturing business. When they decided to move to Virginia and replant their entrepreneurial roots stateside, a partnership with the Greater Roanoke + New River Valley SBDC was crucial in helping them establish a new business venture.

“As a Colombian I had to start from scratch in the US,” Jeniffer says. “I found the SBDC online and made an appointment with Tom Tanner.”

Working with Tom, an SBDC Business Advisor, Jeniffer found help for everything she needed to open J.C. Spare Parts and Consulting. That process started with acquiring a specific work visa and continued with financial projections, capital formation, and marketing – all of which the SBDC assisted with.

“I came to the US with a tourist visa,” Jeniffer says. “Tom helped me with the business plan I needed to apply for the E-2 visa that allows me and the three technicians I brought from Colomba to work in the USA.”

The SBDC also connected Jeniffer with key educational resources, like SBDC marketing webinars, and profit and budget forecasting and management.

After laying those early foundations, Jeniffer followed Tom’s guidance and began networking within the new community she and her husband now called home. That included joining the Pulaski Chamber of Commerce, Pulaski County Innovation center and connecting with local manufacturing groups.

In May 2020, JC Spare Parts and Consulting officially opened for business. In the three-plus years since, the company has expanded its services by offering Class A electrical installations to its existing services of providing industrial parts, sharpening, and maintenance services.

That growth has been sustained by the formation of a large repeat client base that has grown from one to five clients from multiple states, and a team that has grown from one employee to eight and its sales grew 800% in just two years.

“The SBDC supported us the whole way,” Jeniffer concludes. “Pulaski is projected to grow, and we want to be part of that growth. With SBDC, we believe we can do it.”

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Hansel Union Consulting, PLLC

Hansel Union Consulting, PLLC

The SBDC guides Hansel Union Consulting to success

With the help of the SBDC grew to a $5 million agency with 36 staff.

Dr. Bobbie Hansel-Union established Hansel Union Consulting, PLLC in 2010 to provide personal therapeutic services. After experiencing, and surviving, a brain aneurysm in her late 30s, Bobbie was convinced of the value of therapeutic services.

“After my experience, I realized it was only through therapy I was able to come back,” Bobbie says. Inspired by a desire to help others with developmental, intellectual and neurological disabilities, she opened her office in Portsmouth with a staff of one – herself. However, even though Bobbie embarked on her business venture on her own, she knew that didn’t mean she had to go about it alone.

“I was the only one on staff,” she says. “But I knew about the Hampton Roads SBDC, so I reached out to them for help.”

Bill Holloran, a Hampton Roads SBDC Business Analyst, answered Bobbie’s call and has been her advisor ever since. Their partnership started with a business plan Bill helped her write, along with developing business goals for Hansel Union Consulting’s future.

As Hansel Union developed its primary goal – to serve children and adults “from birth to the end” – the company experienced steady growth, both in personnel and clientele. While the SBDC was instrumental in getting Hansel Union off the ground, their assistance didn’t stop there. Bill and the SBDC helped Bobbie secure grants of $25,000 and $10,000 and advised on staffing as Hansel Union expanded.

“Next we added recreation therapists and occupational therapists,” Bobbie says. “From there we added psychologists, physical therapists, speech therapists, and a nursing staff.”

As Hansel Union’s team expanded, so too did its footprint in the community. They now provide both in-person and virtual services across the commonwealth, from Richmond to Roanoke and Northern Virginia.

As the company continues to move forward, Bobbie plans to take the SBDC along.

“Without the SBDC I don’t think I would have been as successful as I am,” she says. “My first year in business I made $33,000; today Hansel Union is a $5 million agency with 36 on staff.”

“The SBDC has always been there for me,” she adds. “I don’t understand why anyone would start a business without SBDC support. They provide a wealth of knowledge — and it’s free.”

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