Category: Southern

Jurys Inn

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

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

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

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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C&C Piping and Fabrication

C&C Piping and Fabrication

Not Just a Pipe Dream

With encouragement from the SBDC, Cyrus applied for and won a $15,000 grant to expand the business. She is currently looking for a suitable storefront location before expanding into a 10,000-square-foot industrial space.

Starting a business is like cooking from scratch. So says Codie Cyrus, owner of C&C Piping and Fabrication. “It’s like not knowing how to cook,” says Cyrus. “Someone puts you in the kitchen and you say, ‘OK, where’s the recipe?’” Cyrus and her husband, Cody Hurd, have found their recipe for success: hard work, a sound business plan, and community support.

In October 2015, Cyrus and Hurd had an idea for a business that would capitalize on Hurd’s experience as a welder. Welding is both a trade and a talent, and Hurd is extremely good at it. He began welding when he was 12 years old and trained at a technical institute in Missouri. He has traveled all over the country working on welding projects. When the time was right, he and Cyrus decided to go into business for themselves. They would fill a need for mid-sized industrial projects. He would do the repair, maintenance, and design/ fabrication work; she would run the business.

Cyrus had a lot to learn. She researched a great deal on her own and then signed up for Pop-Up Altavista Program. The SBDC at Central Virginia Community College partnered with Altavista on Track, Altavista’s Main Street Program, to deliver a nine-week curriculum based on the GrowthWheel® methodology for start-ups and expanding businesses. Although Cyrus was aware that grants were available through the program, she didn’t intend to apply for one originally, as her business is outside the town limits. With encouragement from Nathan Kolb and Stephanie Keener at the SBDC, she applied for and won a $15,000 grant to expand the business. She and Hurd are currently looking for a suitable storefront location.

Cyrus notes that their expansion happened very quickly. They created a five-year plan and grew into it within the first year of business. And they are grateful for the community support they have received. “It’s all about the support system,” she says. That system has contributed to C&C’s success, helping them turn their dream into a reality.

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Southern Plenty

Southern Plenty

Southern Plenty, SBDC, and a plan — a recipe for success

After taking the SBDC’s SoBo business boot camp class, Mary was awarded a $10,00 SoBo StartUp! grant. When Southern Plenty opened, it had 2 employees and seated 8; now there are 8 employees and seating for 60.

South Boston’s Southern Plenty lives up to its name. Advertised as “nourishment for the body and mind,” the Main Street cafe serves southern-style dishes, with other choices as well. “I opened Southern Plenty eight years ago as a bookstore,” Mary Bagwell said. “Then I met my husband, Don, and expanded the store,” she added with a smile. She has added new things ever since.

One new addition is a second-floor renovation. To fund the project, Mary received a $10,000 grant in the SoBo Start Up! grant competition, which required her to write a business plan. “Lin Hite, Regional Director for the Longwood SBDC, taught the SoBo business boot camp,” Mary said.

Writing a business plan was an eye opener. “Mary’s been through a lot of businesses, but she’s never had any business education,” Don said. “Writing a business plan deepened her understanding of her own business and the restaurant industry in general.” Mary added, “Financially, it was good to see where we’re at and where we’re going. It made me feel like I had a hold on the reins in this wonderful evolving business.”

Pleasantries, Mary’s new upstairs bakery, includes custom cakes, ice cream sandwiches with homemade cookies, fine chocolates, and fruit bouquets. While looking at the new seating area, the bakery for specialty cakes, the wine bar, and the gallery for local artists, Don remarks, “This is not what you’d expect to find in Southside Virginia.”

Mary notes that new ideas come with risks. “I’ll risk $500 on a new item,” Mary notes. “If it doesn’t work out, I put it on sale and take a new direction.”

The SBDC classes, Mary explains, helped her envision how her business could grow. “With SBDC classes and a business plan, I could see I’d done the right things,” Mary concludes. “Business boot camp brought it all together. It was wonderful!”

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Virginia Auto Glass

Virginia Auto Glass

SBDC offers a window of opportunity

David received a loan from the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA), with help from the SBDC, allowing him to weather the 2007-08 recession; later the SBDC helped him get another one to update inventory and equipment.

David Walwer and his family-owned business, Virginia Auto Glass, have provided residents of Petersburg and the surrounding communities a clearer view of their world for nearly four decades. Virginia Auto Glass offers the repair and placement of auto glass, in addition to replacement services for door and window glass, commercial storefronts, screens, storm doors, mirrors, headlight restoration/ cleaning, shower doors, and retractable awnings. “We take care of anything in glass,” David says.

David started in the glass business at a young age. “My dad opened this business in 1978,” he says. “I went from cleaning the office to handling tools and assisting in the garage to managing the shop.”

In 2010, David took over the business and incorporated it under his name.

Soon after, he visited the Longwood SBDC. “I went to the SBDC for some help with financing,” he says. “The recession in 2007 really hit us hard.”

Pat Hood, a consultant at the Longwood SBDC, connected David with the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA), the Commonwealth of Virginia’s business and economic development financing arm that provides businesses, not-for-profits, and economic development authorities with certain kinds of financing. “At the time we needed money for our inventories and to bring another employee on board,” David notes.

Over the years, times have changed for the business started in the 1970s. “I’ve seen changes in everything from the way glass is measured to the way we write tickets — from hand-written to computerized,” David says. For help with some of these changes, David attended SBDC classes on QuickBooks and social media marketing.

“This is a competitive business,” he explains. Some competitors’ ads have actually helped David’s business. “When a national company started doing glass repair commercials, our business actually jumped up,” he says. “Customers started calling to see if Virginia Auto Glass offered the same service. Our answer was, ‘yes, we can come out to repair or replace a window or a windshield,’” David adds.

Recently, David returned to the Longwood SBDC, and Ellen Templeton assisted him with another loan, which came through the VSBFA.“Working with the SBDC made it easier for us,” he says.

David points to a framed sampler on the wall presented by a satisfied customer. It reads, We take care of your pane. “That’s what we do,” David concludes.

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Art Thrive

SBDC helps Lynchburg artists thrive

17 Artists enrolled in the initial 4-week small-business course for artists, followed by an exhibit at Riverview Art Space. A second ArtThrive course is planned for Spring 2018.


ArtThrive, an innovative business course for artists, began during a casual conversation. “I was having coffee with my friend Stephanie Keener. She works for the SBDC at Central Virginia Community College where she counsels and trains small-business owners,” Kim Soerensen says. “And my background is a blend of the arts and design. I run the Riverviews Art Space in Lynchburg.”

The discussion turned to a common problem in the art world — artists marketing their work.

“Stephanie and I talked about how artists don’t realize that they’re small businesses,” Kim adds. “I said, ‘What if we started a small business course for artists?’” The two friends liked the idea and began making plans.

Many artists, Kim notes, do not feel justified in asking for money for their work. “It’s called artwork for a reason,” she says. “Creating art is work! We called it ArtThrive, because we want our artists to thrive.”

The course ran for four weeks in October and included classes in marketing, social media, finances, taxes, and resources. “We brought in speakers in each field,” Kim notes. “Stephanie did a phenomenal job. She set up the syllabus, and she was there every day for the classes. The response was amazing.”

Throughout the ArtThrive course, Kim stressed the importance of artists marketing their own work. “I would tell them, ‘You have to convey the value of your artwork,’” she adds. “‘You have to tell that story.’”

The business classes ended with an exhibit of the artists’ work held at Riverview Art Space in Lynchburg. “The exhibit opened Dec. 1, just in time for Christmas shopping,” Kim says. During the exhibit, Kim continued to offer advice. “When we set up the exhibits, I asked the artists, ‘Do people know how to get in touch with you? Do you have a website? Do you have business cards? Are you collecting people’s names for your mailing list?’” “I didn’t know that marketing myself as a business for my art was part of the job,” a participating artist comments. “Now I understand it.”

Kim credits Stephanie with helping to set up the small business course for local artists. Kim believes that ArtThrive, being offered again in the spring, should be a pilot program for SBDC. “It was the SBDC that made ArtThrive work,” she concludes. “SBDC resources were imperative to the success of our classes.”

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Motion Gymnastics & Tumbling Center

Motion Gymnastics & Tumbling Center

Tumbling to the top

Motion Gymnastics & Tumbling Center received a loan, increased its students by 50% in one year, and plans to add instructors in the near future. 

As a gymnast, Natalie Kelly-Kimmel likes to keep moving. She grew up in a small town in Indiana. “I got my BA in elementary and special education and taught for six years before my husband’s job brought us to Farmville,” she explains.

Natalie, who trained and competed in the USA Gymnastics (USAG) Junior Olympic program, was dismayed to find that Farmville did not have a gym. “I taught tumbling classes at the YMCA for four years. When that position ended, I started thinking about opening my own gym,” she says. “A friend of mine consulted the SBDC for assistance in starting her business, so I decided to give them a call to help me start mine.” Motion Gymnastics & Tumbling Center was born.

At the Longwood SBDC, Natalie found a welcoming attitude and a wealth of information. “Gary Shanaberger, an SBDC Advisor, helped me run the numbers and price equipment,” she relates. “I’d do my homework and then go back, again and again.”

During the planning stages, Gary helped Natalie set up a focus group with local families with young children. “In the focus group we talked about different ideas about classes and pricing,” Natalie says. “That gave me some feedback — and the confidence to go ahead.”

Next, Natalie secured a business loan. “Creating a business plan was a very valuable piece when looking for a loan,” Natalie adds. “With a projection sheet I could speak to the bank. I’m very glad I had that tool.” Natalie, now in her second year as a business owner, still refers to her business plan. “I have that as a sounding board,” she says. “And I know where I stand.”

Natalie started her business with approximately 100 students. “I actually had people sign up a month before I opened my doors,” she says. “That was encouraging.” Now Natalie teaches 20 classes a week with 150 students. While she is currently the only employee, Natalie plans to add more instructors in the future.

Whatever that future brings, Natalie is reassured that she can return to the SBDC. “I called Gary after I opened my business,” she recalls. “I remember asking him, ‘Am I supposed to stop calling now?’” Gary assured Natalie that she was always welcome to come back to the SBDC. “He said that some of his best clients continued to call the SBDC on a regular basis,” she adds. “He told me that if you’re asking questions, you’re doing something right.”

“The attitude at the SBDC office was great,” Natalie concludes. “As a small business owner I appreciate that very much.”

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Lizzy Lou Boutique

Lizzy Lou Boutique

College dream becomes downtown success

Lizzy Lou Boutique grew from an online-only store to a profitable brick-and-mortar store with 2 part-time employees in only 2 years. 

The Lizzy Lou Boutique in Danville’s River District started with a plan Sarah Rodden wrote while studying at Virginia Tech. “I was taking a small-business class my last semester, and we had to write a business plan for opening a small store front,” she says.

Sarah graduated with a degree in communications and apparel product development. Facing a difficult job market, she remembered her plan.

She started with an online boutique that she operated from home on nights and weekends. “I did a few trunk shows and my customer base grew,” she adds. Sarah wanted to bring the latest style in women’s apparel and accessories to Danville at an affordable price.

In 2015, Sarah opened a storefront on Main Street in Danville. “The building was an empty shell. I put up the racks and lighting and planned the layout,” she said. “I still sell online, but most of my business is in-store. I’ve found that customers prefer to touch and feel — and try things on.”

“My business grows every year,” she said. “The tremendous growth of River District Association over the last two years has helped. It’s great when we all work together. For example, if all the stores decide to stay open at night, downtown becomes more of a shopping destination. We emphasize the ‘shop local’ aspect.”

It was through the River District Association that Sarah connected with Lin Hite from the Longwood SBDC and Marc Willson, Virginia SBDC’s Retail and Restaurant Consultant. The Association had contacted the SBDC to work with downtown merchants in Danville. “We each got an hour to spend with Lin and Marc and bounce ideas off them,” Sarah added.

Lin and Marc have gone back to meet with Sarah, discussing marketing strategies and even social media marketing. “It has all been so helpful,” says Sarah.

“The people I meet in my store make this job fun. I have amazing employees and customers,” Sarah says. “I’m glad I took a chance and opened my business in Danville. I feel blessed to have this opportunity.” She believes advice is also important. “Have a plan and have it evaluated by a professional,” Sarah concludes. “The SBDC is definitely a good resource.”

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