Category: Southern

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.

Read More

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!”

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Thrive

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.”

Read More

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.”

Read More

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.”

Read More

Jr’s Music Store & More

Jr's strikes a chord

Jr and Toni, strong community supporters, won 2 grants worth $6,000.

Jr’s Music Store & More began with a dream. Today, through Lloyd France, Jr.’s hard work, it offers everything from instrument rentals to sound system support. “I’ve loved music all my life,” Jr says. “Coming up in school, I played drums in the band and sang in the choir.” Along with his parents, Jr sang in The Family Five Gospel. “The group is special because his grandparents started it 72 years ago,” says Toni, Jr’s wife.

Jr knew the retail music business; he worked for ten years at Woodall’s Music. “I was a sales rep and did guitar repairs,” he notes. “When Sandy Woodall closed the business, I saw an opportunity and seized it.” Woodall’s Music provided band instruments for local schools, and Jr did not want that to stop now. “I wanted these kids to have the same chance I did,” he says.

Plans took shape when Jr met with Longwood SBDC Consultant Kelvin Perry. “Kelvin and I sat down one afternoon and discussed everything I wanted to do,” Jr says. “The second time we met, we started putting plans into action. I worked with Kelvin for about four months.”

Jr attended an SBDC small business class taught by Kelvin at Patrick Henry Community College. “I learned about keeping financial records and how important growth is,” Jr says. “They told us to keep inventory low at first. If you don’t plan carefully, uncontrolled inventory can take you out of business.” Kelvin helped Jr craft a business plan, and his assistance paid off. Since opening, Jr’s customer base has grown.

Jr and Toni also participated in the SmartSTART program offered through Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation’s Small Business Division. “We received two grants through that program that came to about $6,000,” Toni notes. “That was very helpful.”

From the beginning, being helpful hit the right chord with Jr. “We want Jr’s Music to be a hands-on business,” he says. “It is family oriented; come in, sit down, try a guitar!” Jr’s offers sound system support to the local community. If a microphone goes out in church, Jr’s helps, often just before a service starts. Local schools depend on Jr’s for band instruments. Toni points to a display of clarinets, trumpets, and flutes. “We have affordable rent-to-own plans,” she adds. Jr’s also offers piano and guitar lessons for older students.

“Stop dreaming; start playing” is the store motto, which also applies to local recording artists. In the recording studio upstairs, people cut demos and CDs. Soon Jr’s Pickin’ Porch will open to local performers, and anyone who sings or plays is welcome. “For Christmas, we’ll plan a recital for our students,” Toni adds. “The whole purpose at Jr’s is sharing music,” Jr concludes. What more could anyone ask of a music store?

Read More