Category: Southern

Rivertime Seafood Market & Deli

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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Ground Earth

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

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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KJs Cake Creations

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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Haley's Honey Meadery

Haley’s Honey Meadery

Haley’s Honey Meadery looks to golden future in Hopewell

With a $60,000 loan, a $24,000 grant, and $135,700 owner investment, the Meadery created 4 jobs.

Haley’s Honey Meadery is the new business on the block in downtown Hopewell, and Tonya Haley could not “bee” more pleased. “My mom and dad were beekeepers in Richmond for years,” Tonya says. “Later I branched out and opened Haley’s Honey.”

In 2016, Tonya and husband Mike decided to expand. “The honey market was saturated with local farmers, and we needed a new product,” Tonya explains. “We decided to start a meadery and make honey wine.” Tonya worked with the Longwood University SBDC – Eastern Region when she opened Haley’s Honey 25 years ago. “I decided to go back to the SBDC,” she says. “Ellen Templeton was a tremendous help. I would go to her with a question, and she would point me in the right direction.”

To secure funding for the meadery through Virginia Commonwealth Bank and the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) grant, Tonya sought help from Ellen. “The projections Ellen computed for the bank to secure the loan were very important,” Tonya notes. “The business plan she helped me with included description, visions, and projections — everything was there.” The SBDC helped Tonya secure an AFID grant, matched by the City of Hopewell. One stipulation of the grant is the use of all Virginia products.

“We offer our own Virginia honey, bee pollen, and mead, which is honey wine, by the bottle, glass, or flight,” Tonya explains. “Mead is biblical, and it’s one of the oldest fermented alcoholic drinks. People think it’s sweet, but it’s not. Mead can be dry, semi-sweet, or fruity.”

Finding the right location for this unique product was another challenge Tonya took to the SBDC. “Ellen and I discussed localities where this business would work,” Tonya says. “There are no breweries or meaderies in Hopewell, and they welcome unique ideas. Hopewell was willing to work with me.” The Hopewell Downtown Partnership helped Tonya find a downtown location, and Tonya, in turn, hired local craftsmen to renovate the building.

Tonya also turned to the SBDC to fine tune her business skills. “I’m taking a QuickBooks class that meets every other week,” she notes. Another plus for Haley was the cost. “Since I was working with the SBDC, the class was free to me,” she says.

Haley believes that the SBDC helped her establish her business in the right place at the right time. “In the next five years this little downtown in Hopewell is going to change,” she predicts. “I’m hopeful in Hopewell!” With the SBDC on her side, Haley believes there is nothing she cannot achieve.

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Buggy Top Utility Barns and Sheds

Buggy Top Utility Barns and Sheds

Buggy Top builds on customer service

The Bapperts acquired a $910,000 loan, generated sales of $1.55 million, and created 2 jobs while retaining 10.

When David and Danielle Bappert purchased Buggy Top Utility Barns and Sheds, they wanted to create a top-notch business while making customer service a priority. “I’d worked for Buggy Top for 18 years, so I knew the company,” David says. “But there were a lot of things I didn’t know about being a business owner.” They visited the Longwood University SBDC to learn how to do it.

“At the SBDC we met Brandon Hennessey,” David explains. “He helped us figure out if Buggy Top was a good business to purchase.” Danielle adds, “Brandon really helped guide us through our business plan. He did all the projections for us and showed us what our monthly budget would be.” With a business plan in hand, David and Danielle applied for funding. “We got a business loan from BB&T,” David explains. “And we bought our Cumberland business in April 2018.”

David and Danielle took a startup class at the SBDC. “We learned the basics of what was needed for a business,” David relates. “We learned about money flow. We learned that just being busy isn’t always a good thing; you have to make money, too.” David and Danielle found the SBDC’s analytics on competition and marketing especially valuable. “We’re different from our competition because we’re not a ‘cookie-cutter’ business,” David says. “We build more customized buildings and sheds.”

David and Danielle have gained valuable business insights from the SBDC. “I bounce everything off Brandon,” Danielle says. “He knows what works and what doesn’t. He helped us with our business cards. We even sent him a message with a preview of our website to get his advice.” All of that advice — as David and Danielle were pleased to learn — was free. “I was actually amazed that I didn’t get charged for all those services,” she says. “I don’t think we’d have gotten very far without the SBDC!”

David and Danielle are looking forward to growing their business with continued help from the SBDC.

“One of the things in our three-year-growth plan is to increase stock during the slower months,” Danielle notes. “We plan to do that in January and February.” And they now offer delivery to build customer satisfaction. “I’m the delivery man,” David says. “It’s nice to have that final touch and set up a building the way your customer wants it,” he says.

As David and Danielle see it, being a top-notch business means staying on top of the game in customer satisfaction. “Small businesses are the foundation of our economy,” David concludes. “You might have big ideas, but you have to start small and grow. The SBDC can help you do that.”

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Learning Den

Learning Den

Learning from the bottom up

Dana Elder opened a new business, created 5 new jobs, secured a $5,000 loan, and invested $10,000 in owner equity.

To a casual passerby, the Patrick Henry Memorial Library in the little town of Brookneal might look like an ordinary run-ofthe-mill library, but a closer inspection reveals something even more magical and exciting happening. Beneath the stacks of books and quiet, carpeted halls, the library’s basement is home to The Learning Den, a fully licensed, after-school, childcare facility.

The venture, which opened in March 2018, is the long-time dream of Dana Elder, whose background in elementary education, including three years of teaching in public schools, left her eager for a tangible way to make a difference in the lives of children.

“I truly believe with all my heart in learning through play,” says Dana. “At the Learning Den, there’s the flexibility to do that. The kids are having so much fun that they don’t even realize they’re learning. Plus I saw a huge need for a licensed childcare facility in this area,” she adds.

Receiving approval by the county board of supervisors and navigating the complexities of the situation were challenging. Fortunately, “a friend upstairs” at the library told Dana about the SBDC in Lynchburg. “I didn’t even know it existed,” she laughs. “And now I’ve met with Stephanie multiple times,” referring to SBDC’s director and business analyst Stephanie Keener. “She has a vast knowledge of business, and her resources are extensive.”

Currently, The Learning Den enrolls 12 children between the ages of five and ten, with a new program for 3- and 4-year olds opening in the summer.

Dana is also proud of her dedicated staff of five part-time employees. Through their work, some have found their calling to become teachers, something that deeply moves Dana.

“When I hear about a child who used to drag his feet getting out of bed to go to school but is now excited and eager to face his day, or one whose report card has improved because we are taking time to sit and do homework each day, I know we’re making a difference. That’s the only thing that matters to me.”

This bright, bubbly haven, tucked away in the library basement, has never been about making a million dollars. It’s always been about so much more, and Dana is grateful for the help the SBDC helping to make her dream a reality.

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Colonial Systems

Colonial Systems

Colonial Systems brings a cinematic eye to government branding

Colonial Systems employs 14+ people on a contract basis, with 2 full-time employees. It holds the largest single federal contract by dollar value in Appomattox County.

A desire for storytelling can hit at a young age; think Steven Spielberg.

While in high school in 2016, Nathan Simpson worked with the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, which gave him $1500 to start his own company. It was then that Nathan got involved with the SBDC – Lynchburg Region.

Still in high school, he started his next company, Colonial Systems, in 2017. Nathan’s dream was to bring a new vision to clients using fresh video, social media, and all aspects of digital marketing. He knew the SBDC would play a key role in this venture, but his story does not follow the typical path.

 “I’ve always had a passion for storytelling and felt that multimedia design was a great outlet for that,” Nathan says. “Fortunately, my business partners and I discovered an underserved market in federal agencies.”

Nathan and his partners got to work drafting proposals and creating demonstrations of their services for government organizations. They managed to catch the attention of the National Park Service and the Department of Defense.

Though thrilled with these early triumphs, Nathan was shrewd enough to know that Colonial Systems would need support and careful preparation to ensure enduring success. “I knew we’d need the oversight of the SBDC. They helped us establish relationships with the Procurement Technical Assistance Center and introduced us to people who’ve supported us in taking this business to the next level.”

Nathan and Colonial Systems now lead the charge in taking modern digital marketing to the government sector and telling stories in new, engaging ways. When it comes to Nathan’s story though, he is the first to acknowledge the SBDC’s critical role.

“Especially in terms of getting into government work, Stephanie Keener at the Lynchburg office was great,” Nathan says. “She helped get me up to speed on government contracting. The SBDC was outstanding in preparing me for the work Colonial Systems now does.”

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Vista Fitness 24

Vista Fitness 24

Work around the clock: 24-hour gym comes to Altavista

The SBDC helped Justin and Alyssa obtain a $32,000 loan, open their gym, create 2 jobs, and reach profitability after 1 month

Justin and Alyssa Campbell are experts when it comes to motivation. As the owners of Altavista’s only 24-hour gym, they had to be, in order to realize their goal of opening their own fitness facility. Justin explains, “In a small town, we had concerns that a new gym might not have a big enough customer base, especially when there is stiff competition from the local YMCA.”

However, with a high concentration of manufacturing facilities in the area requiring employees to work odd shifts and late hours, Justin and Alyssa felt sure that a clientele existed who wanted, and needed, 24-hour access to a gym. “We firmly believe that fitness must be convenient to become a habit,” says Justin. “With Vista Fitness 24, we are able to fit around our clients’ lives instead of them having to work around a facility’s schedule,” he adds.

Alyssa and Justin attended two separate business boot camps to prepare for the opening of Vista Fitness 24. One, named Pop Up Altavista, was a business-launch competition that also gave participants a crash course in the basics of starting a small business. Through this event, they connected with the SBDC – Lynchburg Region and advisors Stephanie Keener and Nathan Kolb.

“It was at the second class that things got very real for us,” Justin says. “We knew that it was definitely happening, and we were clinging to every piece of information we could get. The one-on-one sessions with the advisors were so helpful for us,” he adds. “The SBDC counselors worked with us through the loan process and then worked with a student team from the community college to build our website.”

In January 2018, Justin and Alyssa opened the doors of Vista Fitness 24, a storefront nestled in the heart of downtown Altavista that offers guests cardio equipment, strength-training machines, free weights, and a wide variety of classes. Members have key cards and free childcare during select hours, key features that keep their patrons coming and meeting their fitness goals. “We hope to cut out as many excuses as possible for our clients not to come,” says Justin.

The timing for a 24-hour gym in Altavista was perfect. “We have been on an upward membership trajectory since we opened,” says Justin. “We were amazed to be able to reach profitability after the first month. Our clients are our biggest advertisers. We get so much positive feedback from them.”

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Quintessential Chiropractic, South Chesterfield

Quintessential Chiropractic

Chiropractic Success

Drs. Kat and Tess stated, “Crater Small Business Development Center worked with us to create an excellent business plan and presented us with the opportunity to sit down with a marketing professional.  The Crater SBDC has supported us in many ways, including offering encouragement and words of wisdom when things were not going our way.  We are grateful to have access to such a wonderful resource.”

Quintessential Chiropractic is owned and operated by Dr. Kat Mayes and Dr. Tess Graf.  They have been together their whole lives.  Born only ten months apart, the sisters were in the same grade all through school.  Their time at Life University was no different — they took every class together.  Their mom and dad even joked that they share a brain cell.  They also share a love of helping others achieve better health through chiropractic.  Both hold advanced certification in Activator Methods Chiropractic Technique and regularly add to their knowledge and expertise through continuing education programs and professional conferences.

The two sisters contacted the Crater SBDC right after completing their medical degree.  They were seeking assistance with putting together a business plan.  Dr. Mayes indicated that with all their medical training, business planning was not taught.  The Crater SBDC Director worked with the clients teaching them how to put together a sound business plan and financial projections.  The business plan was completed along with the financials, and both sisters were excited about the accomplishment.

The biggest challenge for this start-up company was obtaining funding.  In spite of obstacles, they plowed ahead with the business learning to make use of the resources they had.  Within a year they were able to move the business from their home to a commercial building.  The SBDC provided marketing strategies and assisted them with their Open House when they launched the business in their new offices in the spring of 2012.  Today they are in their new beautiful location.  Sales have already increased and their client base has doubled.  They also hired a part-time receptionist.

Drs. Kat and Tess stated, “Crater Small Business Development Center worked with us to create an excellent business plan and presented us with the opportunity to sit down with a marketing professional.  Although we were unable to obtain financing due to the state of the economy and unwillingness of lenders to work with start-up companies, the SBDC worked diligently to help us by putting us in contact with non-conventional lending resources.  They continue to offer support through classes, QuickBooks assistance, and other resources.  The Crater SBDC has supported us in many ways, including offering encouragement and words of wisdom when things were not going our way.  We are grateful to have access to such a wonderful resource.”

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