Category: Central

Dinamic Cuts

From old school to top of the class with the SBDC

Received $13,000 in grants; created 1 job.

Diane Madden began her career as a hair stylist going door-to-door with a portable hair dryer.

“I was laughed at, but I was determined,” she recalls.

However, those early difficulties helped Diane strengthen her resolve, and in 1995 she opened her hair and barber salon, Dinamic Cuts, with little more than word-of-mouth advertising and determination.

“I was old school,” says Diane, who recalled that her salon didn’t even have a phone when she first launched.

Diane’s relationship-driven business model survived for decades through personal grit, but in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to close. However, that setback proved temporary, as Diane tapped into her personal fortitude and took steps to reopen, including advising from the Shenandoah Valley SBDC.

“That’s when I met Business Advisor Diane McCarthy,” Diane Madden relates. “I needed to connect with someone who saw my vision; Diane [McCarthy] really did.”

With updated business tools and techniques, McCarthy took Diane’s business from old school to top of the class in two years. First, McCarthy helped Diane acquire a small local grant to purchase touchless soap, sanitizer and towel dispensers. Next, the SBDC offered Diane support to apply for a Comcast RISE grant.

“The RISE grant gave me $10,000 that provided a desktop computer, a year of internet service, two phone lines, a fax line and iPad,” Diane says. “I also got a Square POS system to take card payments and manage sales, inventory and appointments.”

The SBDC offered more ideas on updating the salon, including lighting and a new sign. Diane procured another local grant – for $3,000, awarded in September 2022 – that she will use for the new outdoor sign.

With help from McCarthy and the SBDC’s webinars, Diane learned how to build a website and market on social media. McCarthy also helped restructure Dinamic Cuts into an LLC.

“When I got my computer, Diane [McCarthy] sat down with me and showed me how to use it,” Diane relates. “I keep all the webinars so I can review them. If you take the knowledge presented and apply it, things will happen for your business.”

Previously the sole employee at Dinamic Cuts, Diane recently added a barber. Her optimism, paired with the SBDC’s expertise, point toward the hiring of new employees in the near future.

“I’m living testimony to what the SBDC can do,” Diane concludes. “Help is there at the SBDC. All you have to do is listen — and not give up!”

Read More

Blue Dragon Publishing, LLC

The Virginia SBDC salutes Small Business Veteran of the Year

When the Virginia SBDC Small Business Veteran of the Year Award was established 22 years ago, the SBDC had someone like Dawn Brotherton in mind — a veteran whose business ownership has made a significant contribution to the economy and a difference in the community.

Comments Jolie Spiers, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads SBDC, made during the 2022 Virginia SBDC Veteran of the Year presentation, summed up the award’s criteria.

“Dawn Brotherton, owner of Blue Dragon Publishing, is a decorated veteran,” the SBDC Director noted. “She is also a distinguished business owner and a dedicated citizen of Hampton Roads who supports our community organizations.”

As an employer, Blue Dragon Publishing, LLC., is a certified Virginia Values Veterans (V3) company and champions hiring veterans. She takes on interns through the Department of Defense SkillBridge Program, the College of William and Mary, Christopher Newport University, and James Madison University. Dawn also supports community organizations such as the summer reading program in Newport News; Bacon Street Youth and Family Services; Williamsburg Book Festival; Richmond Book Lovers’ Festival; and Rappahannock Writers’ Conference.

Dawn, who retired as an Air Force colonel, transitioned into the publishing business in 2010 for a practical reason — she wrote a book and wanted to publish it.

“During my first duty assignment in the Air Force, a stalker broke into my house,” she explains.

That experience inspired Dawn’s first book, The Obsession, which sparked the start of her publishing business. She didn’t want to simply self-publish; she wanted to create professionally published books. The recent release of her fifteenth book attests to the focus on professionalism and shows how much her company has grown since she launched it more than a decade ago.

“A few years after I started my company, people started coming to me for advice,” she notes. “When I decided to take on clients, that’s when I went to the SBDC.”

“Once a month, an SBDC advisor came to the Williamsburg Launch Pad, a place dedicated to working with new business owners,” Dawn recalls. “It was really helpful to bounce ideas around with him.”

Those idea sessions bounced back with benefits.

“To date, I’ve helped over 80 authors through Blue Dragon,” Dawn says.

When Dawn was ready to expand, she went back to the Hampton Roads SBDC for advice. They talked her through the paperwork required for payroll and best hiring practices.

“When COVID hit, I decided to shift gears and offer coaching to people who wanted to publish instead,” she relates. “I don’t have a marketing background and honestly hated that part of the business. Now I’m having much more fun helping writers become authors.”

Combining her coaching skills with her military background, Dawn recently launched a new project on behalf of the Women Veterans Alliance titled “Sisters in Arms: Inspiring Future Generations.” Dawn says the goal of the anthology is to inspire women veterans to share their experiences with women joining or considering joining the military.

For the writers, it’s about more than getting published. It’s about learning how to be an author, and that includes working with a writers’ group to give and receive feedback.

“Being part of a team is an absolute requirement,” she says.

From her time in the Air Force to her work with the SBDC, a team-centered approach has been a constant throughout Dawn’s career. It’s a valuable asset, Dawn says, and one she encourages others to pursue.

“I’ve recommended the SBDC many times,” she concludes. “The SBDC is a great resource when you need them.”

Read More

Dogma Grooming + Pet Needs

Mission possible: From employees to business owners with the SBDC

Received $180K loan; retained 13 employees.

Megan Solomon and Rhiannon Gamble, dog groomers for 13 and 17 years respectively at Dogma Grooming in Richmond’s Carytown district, considered owning a business to be little more than a dream. However, with help from the Capital Region SBDC, their dream became reality in August 2022.

“We both worked at Dogma and loved the small business feel there — we’d found our niche,” Megan says.

That niche was obvious to Dogma’s owner, who looked to Megan and Rhiannon when she decided to sell the business.

“The owner mentored us for a year,” Megan continues. “She was the one who recommended the SBDC.”

It was good advice; helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams is the SBDC’s mission. The business partners contacted SBDC Business Advisor Charese Chambers, who offered encouragement, business basics, and financial projections.

“Charese was wonderful,” Megan says. “She was in constant contact throughout the acquisition process and showed us the ins and outs of getting started. She helped with our business plan, explained lease renewals and put us in contact with the right people.”

Following the SBDC’s pointers, Megan and Rhiannon were approved for a $180,000 bank loan and added $20,000 in owner investment.

“Charese showed us ways to raise funds for our investment as well as how to deal with loan details,” Megan notes.

The business came with 13 employees,. “Fortunately we had employee experience and looked at our employees as family — some have been here over 10 years,” Megan says. “We do have a bookkeeper, and Rhiannon helps with payroll.”

Future plans include taking SBDC classes to add to their business ownership knowledge.

“We plan to hold steady for a year or two before expanding,” Megan adds. “If we stay on the same path we’ve been on, we’ll be fine.”

Megan and Rhiannon don’t hesitate to recommend the SBDC.

“We didn’t know an organization like the SBDC existed,” Megan concluded. “It’s an awesome resource for employees like Rhiannon and me who never thought we could own a business. I hope we can inspire other women to do the same.”

Read More

Coffee Hound

Welcoming Connections Fuel Coffee Shop Success

Secured $25,000 Harrisonburg Economic Development Loan

Coffee Hound Facebook Page 

For entrepreneur Hailey Rogers, owning a coffee shop is about creating an environment that encourages interpersonal connections and being the best local small-batch roaster serving a variety of specialty coffees. At the Coffee Hound on South Mason Street in Harrisonburg, you will feel welcomed and so will your canine companion. The dog-friendly space is a nod to Hailey’s love for dogs and an additional way to make customers feel at home.

“I was inspired to open a coffee shop because of how the coffee shop environment brings people together. I wanted to have a neutral space where anyone and everyone could feel welcome,” says Hailey.

The road to small business ownership was a whirlwind for the Harrisonburg native, who took over the former Shenandoah Joe in November 2021.

When Hailey, the manager of Shenandoah Joe, was unexpectedly offered the opportunity to purchase the café, she knew it was a path to fulfilling her dream of being her own boss. But she quickly experienced several obstacles; including needing to secure adequate, immediate funding to make purchasing the business possible.

Enter Allison Dugan, a business advisor at the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, who helped Hailey with the necessary steps to make Coffee Hound a reality.

A high-interest personal loan got Hailey started, but becoming an SBDC client helped her work out the kinks of business development.

Allison helped Hailey form a business plan in order to apply for a loan through Harrisonburg Economic Development.

Hailey says, “Allison Dugan provided me with every necessary document I needed to complete my loan application. I found the cash flow projections she provided and helped me fill out to be extremely helpful.”

Hailey, who emphasizes the personal touch as part of her business philosophy, found that a personal connection with Allison was a definite plus. “Allison was always professional and able to answer any questions I had. She worked with my schedule to find time to meet with me via Zoom and give necessary feedback on my work. Her dedication to my success was apparent throughout every conversation we had.”

She goes on to recommend that other small business owners take advantage of the one-on-one counseling available through the SBDC, “Having an advisor right there with me to give input while I worked through what my business needed was crucial to my success.”

When you visit Coffee Hound, make sure to say hi to Gatsby, the Italian greyhound that inspired the name!

Read More


InHealthRVA facilitates functional medicine with support from the SBDC

Received a $25,000 line of credit and a $50,000 term loan; 1 part-time and 2 full-time jobs.

Home | Functional Medicine | Richmond, VA (

When Tressa Breindel was 14, her pediatrician diagnosed her with a severe autoimmune disease. By her early twenties, all conventional medical treatments had failed. These frustrations with her care sparked an idea.

Tressa knew what she needed: medical practitioners who provided her with options for understanding her chronic, complicated condition. She took matters into her own hands and by January 2016, she launched InHealthRVA, a clinic that specializes in integrative and functional medicine.

“Functional medicine is really about understanding the body from a physiology and biochemistry perspective and then applying that understanding clinically to give people better health,” says Tressa. “Functional, integrative medicine should be primary care.”

In 2021, as Tressa worked to grow InHealthRVA, she connected with Capital Region SBDC Executive Director Rodney Williams. Rodney quickly became an essential advisor, helping her set goals and stay on track – even if that just meant checking in periodically.

“Having the accountability of knowing I had to report to Rodney was very helpful,” she says.

The SBDC and Rodney helped Tressa secure capital for her growing business. When she needed a small business loan, the SBDC walked Tressa through necessary steps. Rodney helped her edit her business plan and referred her to a QuickBooks expert.

“That was really instrumental,” Tressa notes. “When my business was small and simple, I could just focus on cash in and cash out, but that’s no way to run a business as it grows.”

The SBDC also introduced Tressa to M&T Bank, which resulted in a $25,000 line of credit and a $50,000 term loan. This financing allowed her to expand, hiring a nurse practitioner, a full-time customer care specialist, and a part-time administrative assistant.

As she looks to the future, Tressa hopes to add another practitioner to the clinic, and, eventually open a second location. However, she has more ambitious goals as well.

“InHealthRVA is an experiment to dial in the business model. When it’s dialed in with several practitioners, then I’ll be able to replicate it in other locations,” she explains. “My mission and vision is that everyone who has a tummy ache, a headache, a chronic illness, or an autoimmune disease should be able to access this type of medicine.”

Tressa cites the SBDC as key in growing InHealthRVA, and readily recommends it to fellow entrepreneurs. In fact, just recently, she referred a physical therapist to the SBDC.

“She wants to grow. She wants to hire and improve her marketing, so I gave her the SBDC’s website!”

Read More

Flour & Water Co.

Flour & Water Co follows SBDC recipe for expansion success

Maintained steady annual growth of 25%; added 13 jobs.

Meredith Norris, co-owner of the Flour & Water Co. in Woodstock, knows you can’t make bread with flour and water alone — it requires yeast. To help her growing business expand, Meredith consulted the Laurel Ridge SBDC to add the missing ingredient to the mix: SBDC resources.

“In two years’ time, our business had taken off,” Meredith relates. “We needed information on expansion and decided to try the SBDC.”

Meredith’s idea for the artisan bakery in Woodstock began with a 2018 trip to Ireland where she and her sister, Paje Cross, became “enamored with” a local establishment on The Emerald Isle. The sisters made business plans on the way home to Woodstock. Their third partner, Jacoby Ginges, soon joined them in the venture.

“We’d all been involved in food service of some description,” Meredith adds.

The partners tested their bakery idea with three pop-up shops, which sold out every time. Early in 2020 they started searching for a building — only to be interrupted by the pandemic.

“We decided to wait, which turned out to our advantage,” Meredith says. “We bought a building at auction, and after renovations, opened in December 2020.”

Despite pandemic obstacles, Flour & Water Company rose to the occasion. In their first year of operation, the baking partners nearly tripled their projected revenue.

As the company eyed expansion, an acquaintance suggested a visit to Laurel Ridge SBDC Director Christine Kriz, who advised them to take the SBDC-sponsored Cureate Course. The six-week course for food and beverage producers gives advice on scaling existing business operations and next steps for strategic growth.

“The Cureate course was monumentally helpful to us,” Meredith notes. “SBDC resources have offered us a wealth of knowledge.”

That knowledge, Meredith affirms, yields dividends.

“We started with three employees, and two years in, we have 16,” Meredith says. “Year over year, we’ve grown 25 percent, and we’re moving ahead with our expansion plan. The SBDC is already helping with that.”

She advises other business owners to take advantage of all the SBDC has to offer.

“The SBDC provides a wonderful service,” she concludes. “It only makes sense to use it.”

Read More

Liquet Medical

SBDC advice helps Liquet Medical improve critical care

Invested $650K in personal assets into the business.

When John Schindler and Derek Hall co-founded Liquet Medical in 2020, their goal was to develop a medical device that gave ICU doctors better options to treat patients who were critically ill with vascular disease. But while their technology was certainly revolutionary, they launched the business with more than profit in mind.

“My mother passed away from a pulmonary embolism in 1971, so I had a personal attachment to this technology,” John explains.

In 2020 John and Derek started Liquet Medical, a company centered on an innovative medical device that treats both lungs simultaneously. Placed in a patient’s lungs, the Versus Catheter provides real-time pressure monitoring that allows for better critical care decisions.

Designing new technology while growing a business from the ground up is no small feat. Throughout the process, John and Derek sought startup support and business development assistance from two important resources: the Virginia SBDC Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) and Central Virginia SBDC.

“Before we were entrepreneurs, we both had strengths in sales and marketing,” Derek notes.

Before launching Liquet Medical, the two innovators had worked together for multiple companies in the vascular field. John’s activities revolved around new market creation for emerging technology and product development, while Derek specialized in biomedical engineering.

“ICAP helped us strategically early on,” John comments. “ICAP’s Life Science Mentor William McPheat gave us a great introduction on ways to build our company and advised us on key elements to present to the medical community.”

ICAP, under the SBDC network, offers an intensive startup assistance program that includes one-on-one advising from experienced ICAP mentors.

Central Virginia SBDC Director Rebecca Haydock provided connections and offered advice on investor presentations.

“Rebecca was instrumental in prepping us for meetings with investor groups,” John relates. “Rebecca advised us on how to tell our story, which was very helpful.”

While the Versus Catheter is currently in an estimated nine months of clinical trials, the Virginia SBDC team stand ready to help the company move into its next phase.

“ICAP and the SBDC helped us create a solid foundation to build the company into the future,” John adds.

That future will include marketing and a permanent location.

“We look forward to Virginia SBDC assistance as we establish a brick-and-mortar location and hire local talent,” Derek says. “It’s great to know we can rely on these ongoing resources.”

Read More

Inspired By The Dress

Inspired By The Dress relocates, grows thanks to SBDC pitch competition prize

Won $15,000 pitch competition prize; opened downtown brick-and-mortar store.

Teri Butler sewed her own wedding dress at age 19. Years later, she purchased the same fabric to design her daughter’s wedding gown, which became the debut dress for Inspired By The Dress, a design studio for custom creations and wedding gowns Teri started in her home in 2013.

“That was when I thought, ‘I really enjoy making brides look beautiful,” Teri recalls. “Any body — and I mean body shape or size — can wear a beautiful garment if it’s made and designed for that shape. I am really drawn to making every body look good in what they choose to wear.”

Like any small business owner launching a new venture, Teri navigated personal and professional obstacles. At different points, she pulled back and stopped advertising, but word of her beautiful designs kept brides knocking on her door. When Teri connected with the Central Virginia SBDC in 2022, her business blossomed.

Teri applied for the Scottsville Community Business Launch program run by the Central Virginia SBDC in collaboration with Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) and the Town of Scottsville. Alongside a cohort of entrepreneurs, she attended seven training programs that covered topics like marketing, branding, pricing and recordkeeping.

What Teri did not realize when enrolling was that the program’s final week included a pitch competition. Her program advisor, Central Virginia SBDC Assistant Director Greg Dorazio, helped Teri build a business plan and practice her final pitch.

“Greg helped me do some local research on the Charlottesville/Albemarle County area,” Teri explains. “We wanted to focus on how Inspired By The Dress could benefit the Scottsville community and support local businesses.”

Greg was Teri’s business advisor and cheerleader.

“We really connected,” Teri recalls. “He absolutely wanted my success, and he felt the energy that I had for this dream and this desire to be successful.”

Teri’s pitch won her a $15,000 prize, which she used to lease a storefront in Downtown Scottsville and rebuild her website. She is currently planning for a future where her studio can be a place for aspiring designers to learn the artisan skills of dressmaking and pattern-drafting.

Teri continues to work with the SBDC as she receives brides by appointment in Scottsville. SBDC advisor Ellen Martin assists her in managing QuickBooks and her payment system. In Teri’s opinion, the SBDC is a well-kept secret that should not be so well kept. She is working to spread the word.

“I tell everyone that if you’re an entrepreneur, you need to check them out,” she says. “It really is a wealth of resources.”

Read More

Massanutten Country Corner

Massanutten business follows SBDC’s steps to success

Received a $4,000 grant and Increased revenue by from $40,000 to $300,000 during the pandemic.

Jeff and Kristin Gaulard’s Massanutten Country Corner (MCC), which opened in 2017, experienced an unexpected upward trend during the COVID pandemic. “The pandemic had the opposite effect for us — our business actually increased during COVID,” Kristin says.

The Gaulards believe that the Shenandoah Valley SBDC’s advice led to that upturn. “Jeff worked on a business plan with Business Advisor Sara Levinson before we even bought the property,” Kristin says.

A former 1960s-style roadside gift shop, the property included four buildings, all in need of renovation. “Jeff knew how to do the work to renovate, but our retail experience was limited to selling our Cork to Barrel home décor items at wine festivals and craft shows,” Kristin explains.

The Gaulards knew they would need more knowledge to run a traditional small business. Financing was first on the list.

“With advice from the SBDC, we were able to get a People Inc. microloan of $50,000 for renovations and inventory,” Kristin explains. “Sara also helped us decide what we should do with the four buildings we had. We decided on a farm market for the garage, and we thought we could use the building out back for a garden shop.” Those decisions would later lead to success.

“Until COVID, business was really slow,” Kristin says. “April 2020 was our first really busy month — in May our business more than tripled!”

When word got out that MCC had local meat, eggs, and produce for sale, customer traffic increased. “People who were avoiding the main stores started shopping at our farm market,” Kristin recalls. “We were also selling plants and gardening supplies in our garden shop. And, since people were at home and getting into gardening, that did very well also.”

As business increased, the SBDC helped MCC secure a Page County grant of $4,000 for technology updates. “Previously we were doing a handwritten inventory,” Kristin notes. “We used that grant for a new computer and a couple of registers.” Future plans include a café opening in the spring.

Since the pandemic began, Kristin reports, business has continued to improve. “The first year we barely made $10,000,” she says. “We’re up to $300,000 now.”

Jeff and Kristin credit the SBDC for helping them achieve that success.

“The SBDC has been there to support us every step of the way,” Kristin concludes. “I can’t imagine starting a business without them.”

Read More

Vision BBQ

When Vision BBQ opened in Charlottesville in February 2021, owners Mike Blevins and Gabi Barghachie weren’t surprised to find their tables empty. In fact, it’s exactly what they expected.

The duo behind the city’s newest barbecue joint have taken a unique approach to creating a memorable dining experience for their customers by focusing almost entirely on a convenient takeout service, instead of the traditional dine-in model.

“We’re not a place that does a crazy amount of volume, but we put out really good food that people will come and get,” Mike says. “Even with the pandemic being at the height of takeout, we were confident with the business model we have: low overhead and an emphasis on carryout and convenience.”

Originally conceptualized as “The Snack Shack,” what is now Vision BBQ has long been a dream project for Mike and Gabi. Both have extensive experience in the food-and-drink industry. Mike is a veteran of the service industry, having managed restaurants and a large sales team at a beer distributor, and more. Gabi is a 2008 culinary-school graduate, who has cooked at local favorites such as Maya Restaurant in Charlottesville.

Sometimes even the most experienced professionals can benefit from a push in the right direction, and the Central Virginia SBDC provided Mike and Gabi exactly that.

“They’ve been a godsend for us,” Mike says. “Anytime we’ve had questions, the SBDC has been right there to assist. The biggest things they’ve helped us with were our website, social media, advertising, getting our books straight, and navigating this brave, new digital world we’re living in.”

The foray into business ownership was not Mike’s first; and, by the time he and Gabi were ready to launch Vision BBQ, Mike’s connections with the SBDC were well established. From a previous brewery project in Hopewell, he first met Ellen Templeton at the Longwood SBDC, and Ellen referred him to the Central Virginia SBDC when he and Gabi began planning their barbecue venture.

From there, the SBDC Business Advisor Diane Arnold and Assistant Director Greg Dorazio helped Mike and Gabi not only get Vision BBQ started but also establish it as a takeout destination for those seeking quality meals on the go. Now, six months after launching, Vision’s smoker is still running strong, and the front door is opening with regularity even if the dine-in tables remain unoccupied.

“Mike and I just had this idea, and during COVID we ended up with a bunch of free time we used to hone in on what we wanted to do,” Gabi says. “The SBDC helped us get going, and now here we are celebrating our six-month mark. We’re doing well, and we’re as happy as we can be.”

Read More