Category: Southern

Back and Neck Pain Relief Center

Holistic care relieves pain

Received a $11,000 PPP loan, a $5,500 COVID grant and retained 2 jobs

Holistic care, or looking at the whole patient before prescribing treatment, is a concept Dr. Japhet LeGrant decided to pursue while a student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. He was leaning toward studying physical therapy his senior year when a representative from Logan University, outside of St. Louis, Missouri, visited the campus. “I decided to look into it,” Japhet says. He decided to finish his academic career at Logan, where he earned a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and, in his own words, “has been going strong ever since.”

Japhet started practicing in 2002 as the chiropractor for Hampton University’s athletic department. Eight years ago, he moved to the Danville/Martinsville area where he practiced as an associate at Hill Chiropractic. “The doctor I was working with decided to retire, so that gave me the opportunity to buy the practice,” Japhet relates. He made an appointment with a Longwood SBDC counselor, and they discussed various factors involved in buying a business. “Kelvin Perry went over a lot of numbers to help me see how I could purchase the business,” he recounts. “The SBDC really helped me with the financial side of it.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to alter those finances, the SBDC was there to assist. “When I moved to Martinsville, I went in to see SBDC Business Analyst Michael Sales,” he adds. “Michael helped me take advantage of the opportunities as far as CARES Act money — everything that was available, I applied for it. That helped me pay my employees and keep everything going.”

While the Back and Neck Pain Relief Center, deemed essential, did not close during the pandemic, Japhet did decide to reduce office hours. “We took the necessary precautions, including cutting hours,” he explains. “I didn’t want my staff to be exposed unnecessarily.” Overall, Japhet treated fewer patients during the pandemic, but there was an influx of injuries resulting from home improvement projects and yard work. “We took care of those patients so they wouldn’t flood the ER during the pandemic,” he adds. 

“I love the holistic approach to care and helping my patients get better without the use of drugs or surgery,” he says. “It makes me happy when patients tell me they can play with their grandchildren again or mow their own grass. That’s why I got into this profession.” 

Japhet says he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the SBDC. “The SBDC really helped me with the financial side of my business,” he concludes. “They’re always there to help and keep me informed.”

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YakAttack pivots in the pandemic

Created 5 jobs, retained 45 jobs and received a $291,000 PPP loan

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in late March 2020, YakAttack, the kayak accessory business with $6 million in annual sales, lived up to its name. Owner Luther Cifers attacked the economic slowdown with a common-sense solution: his company switched production from kayak accessories to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

“Quite frankly, we had a lot of orders that just dried up,” Luther says. “Knowing that we had the capability, and knowing that there was an urgent need out there, we decided it would be a shame to just sit out the shutdown. We have an engineering staff onsite, and we design products in-house. Once a product is designed and needs to go to tooling, we also build that tooling. We can go from concept to a functional, shippable product faster than most companies.”

At that point the Longwood SBDC offered its assistance. Within a matter of weeks, YakAttack switched production from kayak accessories to PPE. Luther worked really well with Michael Duncan, the SBDC’s Lead Regional Consultant. “Michael has had a lot of manufacturing experience, and he helped us navigate the whole PPE thing, Luther explains. “Michael’s input guided us through the regulatory hurdles.” 

Once in production, YakAttack provided PPE at cost. “We also donated a lot of PPE with funds raised through a Go Fund Me campaign,” Luther adds. Beneficiaries included Central Southside Community Hospital, local nursing homes, area doctors and dentists, and more. 

Luther, who describes himself as a “homegrown engineer,” established his successful business from the ground up. “YakAttack started in 2009 in a friend’s basement,” he recalls. “In a year’s time, what started as a hobby business netted $20,000. “It was evident that there was a market, but you have to know the right steps to be successful in a business — or you have to figure them out,” Luther says. “We’ve done a lot of figuring out.” 

YakAttack’s “figuring out” has paid off. With a 250-plus product line, the company’s distribution includes all 50 states as well as Canada, Australia, and Europe. “We’re still growing,” Luther adds of the business that currently employs 50. He predicts his business will continue to grow in the 68,000-square-foot building YakAttack now calls home. He plans to take advantage of the SBDC’s resources to help promote that growth. 

“Every growing business is constantly faced with challenges they haven’t encountered before,” Luther concludes. “Having someone like Michael, who’s been down that road before, can save you from making a lot of mistakes. I plan to keep the SBDC at the top of my contact list.”

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Family YMCA of Emporia-Greensville

Family YMCA finds ‘best friend’ in the SBDC

Received a $141,400 PPP loan and a $150,000 EIDL loan

Shelia Reavis, controller for the Family YMCA of Emporia-Greensville, discovered the Longwood SBDC while looking for information on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, available because of COVID-19. She considers it her lucky day. “I sent out a generic email to the Longwood SBDC to ask about applying for PPP loans,” Shelia says. “Ellen Templeton responded right away. I felt like I’d found my best friend. She was Johnny on the spot and really down to earth — she was great.”

“A PPP loan was essential for us,” Shelia adds. “Ellen helped walk me through the whole application process. She helped me focus on the amount we needed, but not too much,” Shelia explains. Although the Y had to shut down from mid-March to June 1st, there was only one week that employees went without pay. “We were lucky to be able to continue to pay all our employees,” Shelia adds. 

Shelia is involved in every aspect of its operation. “I supervise the membership and marketing departments, as well as maintenance and custodial services,” she adds. “I also do all the accounting and payroll.” During April and May when the Y was closed, Shelia took advantage of several of the SBDC’s webinars. “I was watching around five webinars a week,” she says. 

Shelia appreciates the SBDC’s help in keeping the Y up and running. “Our town didn’t appreciate how much the Y means to everyone until it went away,” she says of the recent shutdown. Shelia cites a camaraderie that crosses social, racial, and economic barriers. “Looking at the treadmills one day, I saw a judge, a doctor, and a farmer all talking and laughing together while working out,” she recalls. “Where else would these people end up being friends?”

Shelia appreciates the value of friendship — like the one she’s developed with Ellen. 

“Our biggest advantage during the COVID crisis was Ellen and the SBDC,” Shelia concludes. “I could call Ellen any time and ask questions. When we applied for that PPP loan, Ellen was our inside connection.” Shelia has already told several others about the SBDC and its services. “I plan to keep our connection with the SBDC,” she concludes. “It really is like working with a friend.”

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Balance Gymnastics

Exercising success with the SBDC

Started a new business, received a loan of $64,000, created 12 jobs and retained 2 jobs

Balance Gymnastics opened for business in June in the midst of a pandemic. A COVID-19 success story, the newly-launched business is not only surviving, it’s thriving. Owners Matt and Brandy Knabb credit their success to the SBDC-Lynchburg Region. “Opening a gym was a goal of ours,” Brandy says. “We just wanted to find the right time and location.” Mid-2020 was not an optimal time, Brandy admits, but a lease was signed and plans had been made. The couple decided to go ahead with the June opening.

Brandy, originally from Concord and a gymnast from an early age, explains her motivation: “There was nothing like this in Concord. We wanted to provide the community with something it didn’t currently have.” Fortunately, Matt and Brandy connected with the SBDC during planning stages for the project. “A friend who has a gym in Charlottesville recommended the SBDC,” Brandy says. “We went to the Start Smart class last October and set up some one-on-one sessions with Stephanie Keener, Director of the SBDC-Lynchburg Region.”

The first order of business was writing a business plan. “We had all these ideas in our head but didn’t have a formal plan on paper,” Brandy recalls. “We knew we would need to have a business plan in hand to apply for a loan to buy equipment. Stephanie helped us with the beginning steps and told us what the plan needed to include. SBDC Business Advisor Jamie Reynolds helped us create financial projections to make sure a gym in Concord was feasible.” Matt and Brandy also found the SBDC classes helpful. “I know gymnastics, but I’m not a business major,” Brandy relates. “There were so many little things we could have missed had we not had the SBDC on our side.”

Balance Gymnastics was able to open at 30% capacity in June. “We started with a small group of staff and 35 kids whose parents were brave enough to register during COVID-19,” Brandy says. “After we opened, we relied on word-of-mouth and the guidance Stephanie gave us on marketing and social media. As restrictions lifted, we were able to offer more classes. Currently, we have classes for children 18 months old through college age.” As the year progressed, enrollment grew. “We have grown rather quickly,” Brandy notes. “We now have 175 students and a coaching staff of ten.”

The couple is already thinking ahead to the future. “After the first of the year, we plan to go to our next phase and offer adult fitness classes,” Brandy adds. “There are so many things we didn’t have a clue about when we went to the SBDC,” Brandy explains. “If we hadn’t worked with them, I doubt we would have ever been able to open, and definitely not in the same time frame.”

Matt and Brandy happily recommend the SBDC to others interested in starting a business. “The SBDC has something for every aspect of running a business,” Brandy concludes. “They keep you pointed in the right direction, and they really set you up for success right from the start.” 

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Anne Vaughan Designs

Designed to Shine

Anne Vaughan Designs supports 17 jobs and increased sales. 

The Vaughans didn’t start out to create a successful jewelry making business. In fact, Anne originally intended the venture to supplement husband Aaron’s income. They invested $500 from their personal savings to purchase some basic tools and gemstones. Between her children’s nap times, Anne created her first designs and exhibited them at the Roanoke City Market on a busy Black Friday in 2006. It marked the launch of a thriving business with online and wholesale customers across the country. “We have a unique product in the American handcrafted jewelry marketplace, specifically layered gemstone jewelry collections,” Aaron explains.

Creating a unique product in a rural area comes with challenges. “We had to train our staff in jewelry making, since most of them come to us with no prior experience. The upside is that most of our makers have been with us between three and nine years, so we are blessed to have a committed staff,” says Aaron.

Anne Vaughan Designs learned about business through the trainings offered by the Roanoke Region SBDC, including the GrowthWheel® program. GrowthWheel provided Anne and Aaron with a “360 view” of the business process. “It covers almost every part of a business, from customer relations to organizational operations and more,” Aaron explains. “The program was especially helpful, because we worked with other local small businesses to see their specific challenges, and then used the GrowthWheel® Framework to walk through the decision-making process and identify ways to resolve and overcome those challenges.”

Aaron and Anne worked closely with SBDC counselors Tom Tanner and Amanda Forrester. “We consult regularly with Tom on quarterly financial reviews and Amanda on networking leads, marketing, and other topics. Having their guidance has been invaluable,” Aaron says. Tom and Amanda helped Aaron and Anne develop cost-efficient systems to maximize profitability, as well as streamline operational systems and software. “Tom Tanner came to our office and spent a half day just going through our financials and making recommendations on how to track expenses differently, make changes to our books, and do an initial cleaning of our data. It was invaluable,” Aaron declares. “Since then, Tom has met with us quarterly to review our financials, ask probing questions about our profit and loss, and identify areas to look into, further based on his expertise.”

The Vaughans are proud to say that they never borrowed any capital, yet have accomplished year-over-year growth since 2006. Anne Vaughan Designs is doing so well that Anne and Aaron are set to participate in a peer advisory group where they will pass on the lessons they have learned over the past 14 years to new start-ups and other businesses in the area. “I am excited to work with other small businesses in our community to help guide them in the same ways that the SBDC has helped us,” says Aaron.

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Caring Hearts Academy

The SBDC helps Caring Hearts find success

After one year, Caring Hearts Academy opened with a bank loan and equity of $205,000, created 17 jobs, and doubled enrollment.

In a little over a year, Shannon Facchina turned a love for children into a successful South Hill business, Caring Hearts Academy. “We started one year ago with 23 families, and yesterday my enrollment increased to 45,” Shannon says.

The Longwood SBDC, Shannon notes, has been with her every step of the way. “I kept children in my home for nine years,” she relates. “Then I worked in a church pre-school for 11 years.” When she heard about the grant program offered by the Virginia Growth Alliance (VGA), she decided to participate. That’s where she met and began working with SBDC Business Analyst Brandon Hennessey. “That’s how I became familiar with the Longwood SBDC,” she adds.

“During the competition, Brandon helped me put together all the numbers and demographics I needed to develop a budget. That helped me realize that I actually could start my own business.” Compiling this data gave Shannon the answers to important questions. “There was another licensed childcare facility in our area,” she continues. “Did we have enough children to support another facility? We looked at median income to see how many families in the area would want private childcare and who could afford it.”

The SBDC helped Shannon write a business plan. “That’s what I took to the bank when it was time to purchase the building,” she explains. “That plan was pivotal to obtaining the loan.” While she did not receive a VGA grant, Shannon considers her connection with the SBDC to be more valuable than  dollars and cents. “The SBDC helped me develop everything — from my handbook to my budget to my pricing,” she adds.

Caring Hearts Academy continues to thrive as it enters its second year of operation. “We started with seven employees,” Shannon notes. “Now we have 17 on the payroll, and we’ve doubled our enrollment.”

Parents appreciate the educational component Caring Hearts provides. “We use a child-friendly curriculum for each age group from six months to kindergarten,” she explains. “Our goal is to get children ready for public education, while allowing them to be little for as long as they can — something else I’m passionate about.”

Shannon plans to keep in touch with the SBDC on a regular basis. “I will continue to check in with Brandon every other month as things come up,” she says. “I feel very comfortable working with the SBDC, and future plans for the business are on an annual-review basis. The SBDC has so many resources to help you build your knowledge base,” she concludes. “The SBDC gave me all the tools I needed to start my own business.”

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Rivertime Seafood Market & Deli

Seafood market brings new life to Surry

With a $260,000 equity investment, Rivertime Seafood Market & Deli created 2 jobs.

When Everett Howell came back to Surry in 2015, he found his hometown didn’t contain a single grocery store. “When I was growing up, Surry was a thriving community,” Everett recalls. “There was a drugstore, hardware store, and this grocery store where I worked as a bag boy when I was in high school. Sadly, things have deteriorated — there’s no grocery store at all now. When I heard folks say they had to drive all the way to Smithfield to buy an onion, I knew I had to do something.”

Ellen Templeton, Director of the Longwood SBDC – Eastern Region, heard about Everett’s project and went to see him. “Ellen sat right here in what was then a trashed building and explained what the SBDC could do to help me,” he relates. “I’d never heard of the SBDC,” he says. “Someone at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended I contact her. She helped me with my business plan and gave me information on what’s available through the SBDC.”

Everett’s first step was renovation, followed by a soft opening for his Rivertime Seafood Market & Deli in October 2018. Funny enough, he initially didn’t know much about seafood. “We started with oysters — now we’re certified as a shucker/packer, so we can box, ship, and sell oysters,” he says with a note of pride. “It’s on-the-job training in its truest form.”

Everett is glad to have the SBDC standing by to help as his business grows. “It helps to know there’s somebody I can talk to,” he adds. “Ellen’s been very supportive — that’s helped a lot.” The SBDC seminars on financial statements, funding, and dealing with the IRS were also a boon. “I’m a process guy,” he adds. “I want to make sure I’m good with the housekeeping stuff.”

While Everett has yet to put a permanent sign out front (it’s on his final “to do” list), customers have already found him. “Right now it’s word-of-mouth,” he says. “All we did was turn on the ‘open’ sign and unlock the door. Now people come in every day to buy seafood. They really want us to succeed.”

Future plans include tapping into the local tourist market. Everett knows the SBDC is ready and willing to help make that happen. “It’s good to know I can pick up the phone and talk to Ellen,” he said. “She always comes through.”

“Bringing this community back has to start somewhere,” he concludes. “We want to be a part of that.”

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Grounded Earth

Grounded in success: The SBDC helps crystal shop shine

Grounded Earth had a capital infusion of $24,300 and created 1 new job.

Some businesses begin with an idea. Others start out of necessity. Heather Erb began hers with a revelation. While mourning the passing of her stepfather, Heather took time to reevaluate her career as an art teacher in the Lynchburg school system.

“After diving deep into my own spirituality, I began to find myself attracted to the idea that spirituality was bigger than any idea I had previously held, and spirit started to show up in my life in ways I hadn’t expected,” Heather relates. “Fortunately, it led me to crystals.”

Heather realized that starting a business of her own could look different than she imagined, but still provide the fulfillment she sought. She explains, “I had always had the inclination to start a business of my own and had seen it in my life through my parents, as they both successfully worked for themselves. However, I was under the misconception that my business would be one that supported me as a local craftswoman.” She went on, “That’s when it occurred to me that if I couldn’t find the type of healing I was in search of, then I could create my own healing and open a store that catered to the needs I had, in the hopes that it could also cater to others in need like me. And so the idea was born to open a crystal shop.”

Grounded Earth was born. In addition to crystals and gemstones of all types, the shop offers Reiki, energetic clearing and chakra balancing, as well as psychic readings, and other spiritual guidance.

Heather explains that Grounded Earth has thrived thanks to direct support from the SBDC-Lynchburg Region Center Director Stephanie Keener. “Working with Stephanie has been a godsend. She was very knowledgeable and made me feel confident that opening a new business was actually not scary. She answered my questions and gave me resources that exponentially propelled me forward,” explains Heather. “Stephanie continued to check in with me after I started the process, encouraging future meetings with her to make sure I was going to be successful at starting a new business,” Heather adds.

For Heather, Grounded Earth is a small retail shop with a big mission. Heather sees the SBDC and Stephanie as a critical part of that mission. They worked with Heather and Grounded Earth to design and build a website for the fledgling business free of charge.

“Stephanie took a process that felt overwhelming and broke it down into steps that made it easy for me to manage,” Heather says. “She went above and beyond my expectations and presented me with opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Thanks to Stephanie Keener and the SBDC-Lynchburg Region, Grounded Earth can begin establishing a presence within the community.

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Ballad Brewing

Brewery taps new markets with the SBDC’s help

Ballad Brewing had 6 new hires totaling 16 jobs supported and a $754,000 investment.

Ballad Brewing opened in Danville in 2017. “The first year, we sold beer in our own tap room to learn what our customers liked and to choose the beers we wanted to put into distribution,” Ballad’s Business Operations Manager Tim Meyers explains.

The brewery was an offshoot of a Danville River District project started by developers Ross Fickenscher and Garrett Shifflett. “Ross and Garrett had been working on this building as a third phase of their loft-apartments project,” Tim says. “Rather than rent the lower floor of the building to other businesses, they decided to get into the brewery game themselves.”

Ross and Garrett, who also restored Farmville’s Hotel Weyanoke, had previously worked with the Longwood SBDC. When the brewery needed financing for its bottling line, visiting the SBDC was the logical next step. “I initially reached out to the Longwood SBDC Executive Director Sheri McGuire, and she told us all the things the SBDC had to offer,” Tim explains. He and Aly Fickenscher, Ballad’s Creative Director, have been working with the SBDC team ever since. “SBDC consultant Brandon Hennessey did a fantastic job of working with us to build various models so we could analyze the types of beers we make, change recipes, and approach new markets,” Tim added.

The Hotel Weyanoke opened and so did Ballad Brewing. “Farmville is a small market, but it has a higher volume than we expected,” Tim says. “Now our bottles are for sale in Farmville’s Food Lion plus several restaurants. Then we added Danville, South Boston, and Martinsville.” Tim adds, “Just a few months ago we brought Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Salem into the fold.”

Tim plans to grow slowly until the brewery reaches full capacity. He credits the SBDC with guiding them through this gradual growth process. “They’ve been super helpful in giving us a roadmap so that the growth we’re experiencing is good growth,” he says.

Tim appreciates the long-term relationship the SBDC offers. “When I first started working with the SBDC, I assumed it would be a one-time deal. They would help us get our things in order, and then we would be on our own,” he says. “What we found was exactly the opposite. I can send Brandon new financials any time I have them, and he’s ready to help. I would absolutely recommend the SBDC,” Tim concludes. “They’ve been extremely helpful for a small startup business like ours. I can’t thank them enough for all the help they’ve given us.”

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KJ’s Cake Creations

KJ’s finds a recipe for success

KJ’s Cake Creations opened at the end of 2017, with a $7,500 grant and $10,000 owner investment; 3 jobs have been created.

LaKisha Jackson does not believe in giving up. When she was laid off from her job in 2009, LaKisha didn’t despair; she made cakes instead. Now she has her own business on South Boston’s Main Street.

“My aunt got me into cake decorating,” LaKisha say,. “and I took four courses to be certified.” For the past eight years, LaKisha has been making a name for herself – KJ’s Cake Creations – selling cakes and other baked goods from her home.

“Last year a friend asked if I’d heard about the SoBo Start Up program,” LaKisha continues. She filled out an application and started attending the classes taught by Lin Hite, Director of the Longwood University SBDC – Western Region.

“A lot of different people came in to talk about starting a business from the ground up — all the things you needed to know,” LaKisha says. “They gave us analytics that showed what competition we would have. They talked about how we could reach people in our area and how to target them.”

Preparing a business plan was another important component of the class. “The SBDC has a packet for doing a business plan,” LaKisha explains. “It was pretty much self-explanatory and a big help.”

With funding from the SoBo Start Up grant award, LaKisha was able start her business without additional financing. Her family pitched in to transform a former tattoo parlor/beauty salon into a bakery. “If I purchase the building, then I will need to obtain financing,” she adds. “And, if I do purchase, I would fix up the second and third levels and rent it out for meetings and conferences,” she adds.

LaKisha, who uses family recipes and does all the baking herself, depends on customer feedback to fill her display cases every day. “I didn’t think my business would take off like it did,” she notes. “There’s been some days we’ve sold out by 5 o’clock.”

“Lin Hite is a big asset,” she says. “He will just pop in and ask, ‘How are things going? Do you need any help?’ I’m very appreciative of that.” LaKisha doesn’t hesitate to tell others about the SBDC. “I highly recommend them,” she concludes. “The SBDC is a good backbone for your business. They’ll get you headed in the right direction, and with the SBDC you don’t have to fight the battles by yourself.”  

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