Category: Southern

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 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 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 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

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

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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The Jury’s Inn

The Jury’s Inn and the Verdict’s Good

With a loan from Virginia Community Capital, the Jury’s Inn opened its first 3 rooms in October and would like to add 3 additional rooms soon. Revilla’s two-year goal is to have 70% occupancy for her hotel business and event space.

Victoria Revilla wanted to live downtown, so she started a hotel business. “I bought this building in 2008,” the retired Army Colonel says. “I was stationed at Ft. Lee three times and liked the Petersburg area. So I asked myself, ‘what should I do now?’” The answer made sense: why not a downtown hotel? “Everybody was building apartments,” Revilla says. “And I wanted to live downtown where the action is.”

Revilla’s plan was to open a six-bedroom boutique hotel like the ones popular in Europe. To enlarge her space, she also purchased the lot next door. Since the 1850s-era building was in Petersburg’s historic district, the first step was restoration. That, Revilla soon learned, could be costly. “When looking for funding, I went to the Richmond Economic Development Corporation to apply for a small business loan,” she says. “They referred me to the Crater SBDC of Longwood University.”

Revilla had a business plan but found that it needed to be presented in a certain format. She enrolled in the SBDC’s free classes and “started learning about all the things I needed to do.”

Revilla acquired a business loan from Virginia Community Capital, a revitalization group that was expanding into Petersburg, and quit her job as a contract employee for the Army to take over the building renovation. “My architect has been with me since 2011,” she says. “I’m the designer, and after he does the drawings, we sit down and talk about it.”

Revilla admits there were difficulties along the way. “You run into some bad people,” she says. “They underestimated to get the job and then did poor work. But I never gave up on it.” Instead Revilla, asked herself, ‘what do I need to do to get over the next hill?’ The answer was the SBDC. Now that her business is established, Revilla plans to keep that connection.

Revilla’s two-year goal is 70% occupancy for her hotel business and event space. Equipped with a full commercial kitchen, The Jury’s Inn also includes an event room that will seat 30 with room for 40 with the courtyard.

Revilla advises prospective business owners to attend the SBDC classes. “You have to have a plan,” Revilla says. “I know I’ve learned a lot.”

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Cruz Productions

Cruz Productions Shares Love of Music

Since November 2015, Cruz Productions has grown to 8 employees and has expanded their business to include photography, videos, and other media-related services.

Joel Cruz, Patrick Zurn, and Brent King are firm believers in an old adage, “Do what you love, and you’ll never go to work a day in your life.” The trio of entrepreneurs turned their love of music into a business, Cruz Productions, a rapidly growing DJ, videography, and photography business serving Southside Virginia and regions beyond. “I’ve always had a passion for music,” Zurn says. “I saw this as an opportunity to not only enjoy my passion for music, but also to give people a memorable experience.” CEO Joel Cruz and COO Brent King shared a dorm room at Longwood University. “We met in the community lounge and immediately connected,” Cruz says. “Brent was the first to get me a DJ gig at Longwood, and Patrick was the one who helped us break into the Greek-life market, which ended up being our largest source of revenue during our initial start-up phase.” They learned about the Longwood SBDC in Farmville from a professor. The trio scheduled an appointment with consultant Kim Ray. “She helped with all the required paperwork, helping us define what our company actually is and how we should run it,” King adds. “She was involved in every aspect, and she deserves all the credit.” With Zurn’s love of music, Cruz’s DJ skills, and King’s connections, the stage was set, the lights were cued, and Cruz Productions was born. The three friends launched their business on November 3, 2015. “The SBDC helped our business immensely,” King says. “Although we’re business majors, the classes at the University couldn’t possibly have prepared us for what was entailed in owning our own business in terms of paperwork, approvals, certifications, and doing everything by the book.” Support from the SBDC didn’t end with start-up help. Cruz Productions has continued to benefit from ongoing check-ins with the SBDC staff. “They’ve been a pillar for us to fall back on whenever we had something we did not quite understand, particularly with tax questions and regulations,” King says. “The SBDC is a place we can walk into anytime and have a question answered.” “We developed our business out of a genuine passion for music,” Cruz concludes. “Money eventually came, but it’s not the center of our drive. When the hard times come around, which they will, looking back on why we started our business will keep us going. Remember, but never stop pushing forward, and don’t be afraid of risk. Do what you love.”

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Piedmont Regional Feeding & Oral-Motor Clinic

Business of the Year Builds on a Plan

“PRFC started in 2006 with just one employee-me. Now we have 26 full-time and 3 part-time employees. I’m very proud that PRFC was named the 2016 SBDC Danville Region Small Business of the Year,” Boone said.

Piedmont Regional Feeding

Amie Teague Boone was still in elementary school when she started making plans to start her own business. Fast forward to 2016 when the Piedmont Regional Feeding & Oral-Motor Clinic (PRFC) she established was named the 2016 SBDC Southern Region Small Business of the Year.

“At the age of 10, I started writing to universities asking how to become a speech pathologist,” she says. “After I went to 4-H Camp that summer and learned sign language, I decided I wanted to be a deaf interpreter. Gallaudet University sent a brochure that said deaf interpreters work closely with speech pathologists. That’s what I decided to be.”

After earning her Master of Arts in Communication Sciences & Disorders from UNC Greensboro, the Danville native worked for five years as a clinician. “I felt I needed that realworld experience before starting a business,” she says.

In 2006, Boone decided to step out on her own in a specialized field. “It was just me when I started the business,” she says of the PRFC “There are only a handful of feeding clinics in the nation not attached to a hospital or university. We work with different issues—a baby having trouble with swallowing, patients with autism who can’t stand textures in the mouth, or someone who’s had a stroke and can’t swallow.”

To get the right start for her business, Boone contacted Longwood SBDC-Danville Director Diane Arnold. “When I took her class on how to write a business plan, I was seven months pregnant and started having contractions in class,” Boone recalls. “Everyone asked if I wanted to leave, but I stayed. I wanted to write that plan!”

Boone credits the SBDC with helping her business weather the recession in 2008. “During that time, funding cut off just like that,” she says. “I was able to persevere because the SBDC gave me the resources and knowledge to keep going—and I will always be grateful.”

Another setback occurred three years ago when Boone’s husband of 14 years developed leukemia and passed away. “My team of employees kept the business going,” she says. “At that time I also realized our business was no longer following our original plan, so we started a vision implementation to get back on track.” A chart with the company’s vision is now displayed on the conference room wall. “Everyone can see why we’re making the decisions we make and what’s next. That keeps all our employees invested,” Boone says.

Several years ago PRFC moved to a new location that allowed the business to expand. “We recruit from all over the country,” Boone says. “We bring master’s degree and doctoral-level people to this area.” PRFC currently employs 26 full-time and three part-time employees.

“The SBDC has been a big component in helping me get the resources and knowledge I need,” Boone concludes. “I might not be here today without them!”

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Corner Kitchen

Corner Kitchen Realizes Small Town Dream

Corner Kitchen now employs 8 to 10 people and has seen an upturn in customer flow, with increased profits of 50% over the last year.

Laurie Allen always said she’d marry a chef. Four years ago she did and in the process realized another dream when she and husband Sam opened their own restaurant in Blackstone.

“Sam grew up in Blackstone, and I’m from Vermont,” she says. “We’ve been in the restaurant business for years, but Sam’s dream was to have his own restaurant.”

Trained in French cuisine, Sam acquired his culinary skills at the New England Culinary Institute. “We were co-owners of a restaurant in Chapel Hill with two other gentlemen when we heard about the Blackstone restaurant for sale,” Allen says. The Allens decided to buy it for two reasons—to be near family and to own their own business. “We’d lived in cities for 15 years, so it’s really nice to be in a small town,” Allen adds. “We love it!”

Allen admits that making the change from an urban to a small-town business model did take some adjustments. “Blackstone and Chapel Hill are very different places,” she says.

The first step was to rename some of their menu choices. “It was a challenge at first to try new things here,” she says with a smile. “A classic French name can be hard for the servers to pronounce, so a lot of times we just change the names on the menu. If it sounds too ‘hoity-toity,’ nobody wants it. We didn’t want that kind of feeling.”

To help the couple get off to a good start, Sam’s mother recommended a visit with the Longwood SBDC in South Boston. “We ended up chatting with SBDC Business Analyst Gary Shanaberger, who gave us a lot of information,” Allen says. “The business part of a company is something a lot of people don’t know. The SBDC’s program was a huge help to us.”

Shanaberger helped the new business owners develop their business plan. “That’s the most difficult part,” Allen says. Although the Allens did not take out a loan, the business plan the SBDC helped them create still proved helpful. “It showed us what we needed to look for as far as numbers go and what we were projecting,” she says.

The Corner Kitchen, which has eight to ten employees, has seen a significant increase in business since opening in June 2015, especially on Saturday nights. “This year we had a steady stream of customers during the Christmas parade and a packed house after,” Allen says. “Last year, not so much.”

The Allens credit their success to experience and the assistance provided by the SBDC. “Opening your own restaurant can be a scary prospect; to have help from the SBDC was amazing,” Allen concludes. “We’ve been welcomed by the community— that’s very exciting for us.”

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