Category: Business Expansion



SBDC’s business know-how + creativity = Jpixx success

Utilized the SBDC to help with increase sales, define costs, and talent development.

Teviya and Jon Abrahams rely on creativity. It’s the foundation of Jpixx, the creative video agency the couple spearheaded in Virginia Beach in 2013.

Jpixx started ten years ago when video had just become a necessary tool all the way down to the local level, so they did not need heavy sales to get going. However, when the COVID pandemic allowed for forced downtime, Teviya relied on her creative instincts and contacted the Hampton Roads SBDC.

“I reached out to the SBDC to build our business knowledge,” Teviya says. “We were experts in our field, but we learned about running a business as we went along.”

By that point, Teviya and Jon’s team had already produced thousands of videos, traveled the world, and built an impressive roster of clients, including government contracts. But it was a pivotal time to leverage the experience they had gained over the years.

SBDC Business Analyst Bill Holloran helped Teviya and Jon gain perspective and realize what would help cinch up their business processes and structure to grow more mindfully.

“Bill got to know how we run our business,” Jon relates. “He gave us confidence in areas we were excelling in and suggested other areas to adjust and points to consider.”

“One of our favorite projects is a video about booster seat safety that went viral with over 20 million views,” Jon says. “Knowing we could reach so many parents all over the world and actually save lives was a huge moment for us. Reframing our thinking with the SBDC, we now like to use this to help others understand the impact of video marketing. It became fuel for us to define what projects and goals to focus on going forward.”

“Bill helped with increasing sales, defining costs, and talent development for our staff,” Teviya says. “He helped us prioritize growth options and the delineation of duties for us as owners.”

“When soft-launching a new website, Bill compiled notes from professionals and business students, making our website more effective for future clients,” Teviya mentions.

Jpixx has grown to 12 staff and counting. They produce commercials, but are particularly adept with 3 – 5 minute videos that tell in-depth, complex stories. “Jpixx is stellar at making the viewer feel as if they are in the room to experience it firsthand. So many things in life cannot be communicated or understood fully in writing,” Teviya says. “That visual element is crucial, and we love being a part of that.”

Capture Life Creatively is the motto Jpixx began with, and it’s still prevalent today. Teviya is so very grateful she got in touch with the SBDC. “It is invaluable to have a reliable and trustworthy resource to learn from, whether it is the very helpful SBDC webinar library or our very own mentor, Bill, to reach out to throughout the year.”

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Pretzel bakery brings “Malt & Salt” to Reston brew house scene and beyond

Received a $250,000 loan for equipment and leasehold improvements; opened second location for increased production capacity, which expanded business from 800 square feet to over 2400 square feet in two locations.

From its launch as a wholesale bakery in 2016 to its Mason SBDC-aided expansion in 2023, Nordic-Knot’s wholesale pretzel baking business has seen its profile rise right alongside its gourmet pretzels. But for all the growth Eric Lundberg and Melissa Romano’s Scandinavian-style bakery in Reston has experienced, it owes its beginnings to a note and a pretzel once placed on the doorstep of the Lake Anne Brew House, which Melissa also co-owns..

“The note was from a pretzel-making neighbor Eric Lundberg,” Melissa says. “Together, we visualized a pretzel bakery and the Brew House as ‘a match made in malt and salt heaven.’”

With a business model aimed at wholesale, Nordic-Knot opened in 2016 with Melissa and Eric as co-owners. The culinary duo specialized in baked-to-order pretzels made with natural and organic ingredients and hand-milled grains.

“We wanted to add vibrancy and give back to our Lake Anne neighborhood, and also find a way to support other small breweries, coffee shops and businesses with our wholesale pretzel sales” Melissa adds.

Despite challenges to that vibrancy that came during the COVID pandemic in 2020, Nordic-Knot continued to adapt, evolve and grow. They overcame the pandemic hurdle by incorporating direct sales into their business strategy, and their customer-friendly service earned them second place and a $40,000 cash award in the national “Small Business Big Wins” contest for pandemic-impacted small businesses. The addition of Wolf Trap National Park as a major customer in late 2022 set the stage for an expansion of the business and a consultation with the Mason SBDC.

With a proven product and an even larger customer base provided by Wolf Trap’s addition, Eric and Melissa met with SBDC Senior Business Counselor Mark Julian. In those early meetings, Mark provided them with options on financing and examples of a business plan to present to lenders.

By early 2023, Nordic-Knot was seeking a $250,000 loan for equipment and leasehold improvements, which SBDC Program Director Timm Johnson helped them procure by preparing plans and a presentation and connecting them with M&T Bank.

“The SBDC not only showed us the steps needed to apply for financing but also provided direct connections to local lenders,” Melissa states.

By May 2023, their loan was approved, and they have since added over 1,800 square feet of production space to supplement their original bakery space at Lake Anne Plaza

“The SBDC was very supportive of our journey to expand,” Melissa concludes. “You wear a lot of hats as a small business owner, but you don’t always know all you need to run a business. It’s good to have SBDC resources available to help you learn.”

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Johnson Funeral Services

Johnson Funeral Services

Third-generation family business adapts to changing landscape with SBDC

Secured $50,000 Tri-Cities Small Business Capital Access Program Loan; improved business processes through courses in taxes and finance.

In 1927, entrepreneur Harry P. “H.P.” Johnson established Johnson Funeral Home in the small Virginia town of McKenney. Nearly 100 years later, the third-generation family business has grown to include three funeral homes spread in the Tri-Cities area, including the McKenney facility operated by Joseph “Joey” Johnson Jr.; the South Hill facility run by his sister, Mary E. Johnson-Fields; and the Petersburg facility managed by Wendal A. Givens.

Even a longstanding family business that has been in operation for nearly a century like the Johnson’s can benefit from the SBDC, as H.P.’s great nephew Joey has learned since partnering with the Crater SBDC in Petersburg beginning in 2021.

“I was raised working in the funeral home,” says Joey, who, alongside his sister, worked at Johnson Funeral Services in various capacities as a child and young adult.

“In 1992, I took over the McKenney home. But there’s been a lot of changes in the industry. Changes to the business environment and business in general.”

Those changes, Joey says, range from the rise of the internet and digital marketing to the demand for alternative disposition methods, like cremation. That’s in addition to the gamut of traditional responsibilities related to running any small business, which was what originally led Joey to connect with the SBDC.

“[What first drew me to the SBDC was] the resources they offered,” Joey says. “I was looking for more experience and knowledge related to running the business.”

Joey reached out to the Longwood SBDC in Farmville after seeing a flyer for programs available to small-business owners. From there he began working with Vandy Jones, the Eastern Region SBDC Director who oversees the Crater SBDC.

Vandy initially helped Joey apply for a grant and enroll in SBDC courses related to taxes and finance. However, with Johnson Funeral Services coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic – which forced significant changes in how the business structured its on-site gatherings – Vandy saw another way to help Joey and Johnson Funeral Services by helping them apply for the zero-percent Tri-Cities Small Business Capital Access Program loan.

That loan, which is offered through Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and in partnership with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and SBDC, allowed Joey to pay off high-interest debt with a zero-interest rate loan. Vandy assisted Joey by setting up a business plan and organizing other documents needed for the application.

“It was a program that with the struggle from the pandemic helped us secure some extra financing. It was a resource that really helped us,” Joey says.

That assistance will help ensure Johnson Funeral Services’ success and keep the family business running for generations to come.

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STEADY Academy

STEADY Academy

STEADY Academy scores success with SBDC on the team

Received an initial $50,000 line of credit to start her business; increased her coaching staff from seven to 20, and her player enrollment from 40 to 200.

As a star soccer and lacrosse athlete, sports have played a pivotal role in Nora Maguire White’s life, instilling lessons that molded her into the person she is today. Following her playing career, she founded STEADY Academy with a vision to use soccer as a tool to empower girls with life skills on and off the field.

After Nora added Shenandoah Valley SBDC Business Advisor Barry Henderson to the team, her vision became reality with the opening of STEADY (Striving Towards Educational and Athletic Development of Youth) Academy.

STEADY Academy is the result of nearly three decades of coaching experience for Nora. She is a 1992 graduate of James Madison University and a two-sport standout who was inducted into the JMU Athletics Hall of Fame. After her playing career, she embarked on the traditional path of coaching, beginning as an assistant soccer and lacrosse coach at Loyola University in Maryland and moving on to stops as head soccer coach at Illinois State University and assistant soccer coach at the University of North Carolina.

However, after five years in the college coaching ranks, which included winning a National Championship at North Carolina, she took a timeout to revisit the real reasons she got into coaching.

“Over 18 months I wrote a 26-page development curriculum for girls,” she relates. “Initially I contacted the SBDC in Chapel Hill [N.C.], then let it rest awhile.”

That plan outlined her vision to bring the lessons she learned and personal growth she experienced through sports to local youth. STEADY Academy was the result.

After returning to Harrisonburg, Nora completed a business plan and started building her team. One of her first additions was Barry at the Shenandoah Valley SBDC.

“I think it was an act of God I was assigned to Barry,” she comments. “I would never have known how to get the capital I needed on my own. Barry’s experience in banking, contacts in the community, and passion for getting me over the end line led to a $50,000 line of credit.”

A good coach, Nora believes, makes all the difference.

“Many factors in starting a business can shut doors,” she adds. “Without someone to guide you, those doors won’t open.”

STEADY’s line of credit allowed for expansion of the coaching staff from seven to 20 and a player enrollment increase from 40 to 200, which has led her to plan for a national launch of STEADY this October. Going national with her program, Nora believes, will be a game-changer.

“I would not be where I am today without the SBDC,” Nora concludes. “The personal touch of the SBDC is what really put STEADY Academy over the edge.”

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Afton Scientific

Afton Scientific

Afton Scientific expands international foothold with SBDC as a guide

Expanded business to two international markets, Germany and the United Kingdom. 

With an established business, high-quality products, and sound processes, Charlottesville-based pharmaceutical contract manufacturer Afton Scientific, a 30-year-old business, was primed for growth.

Afton Scientific was seeking information on expanding their existing export efforts in the international pharmaceutical marketplace. Specifically, they wanted to develop a plan to gain a greater footing in traditional direct sales to customers as well a tap into and maximize e-commerce sales. Marketing Sales Manager Katherine Brandt and Business Development Specialist TJ Kliefoth turned to the Virginia SBDC Network where they connected with Senior International Trade Specialist Dulce Zahniser and the Virginia SBDC’s International Business Development (IBD) office.

Afton Scientific had long excelled as a manufacturer of pre-sterilized vials and small-batch filling of pharmaceutical products but faced a different set of challenges in expanding their export target market. The SBDC’s IBD programming is tailor-made for businesses like Afton, providing training, resources, and contacts for everything from distribution to region and industry-specific regulations.

“The SBDC initiated a three-part IBD program for us,” Katherine says. “We needed assistance with market research and export regulations.”

That program included participating in the International E-Commerce Program/Accelerator, Trade Compliance Cohort, and International Business Plan Cohort.

“During that program, the SBDC gave specific feedback,” TJ notes. “For example, the E-Commerce Program showed us how to move our inbound marketing strategy to a more strategic outbound marketing with websites in target market areas.”

Following that advice, Afton established websites in Germany and the United Kingdom, which lead to an increase in Afton’s presence in those two international markets.

“These websites helped us reach potential new customers,” TJ says. “The SBDC’s advice definitely paid off for us.”

The International Business Plan Cohort offered additional guidance and mapped out specific steps, goals, and metrics for the expansion.

“Our marketing strategies have been very reactive in the past and this helped us become more proactive,” TJ notes. “Walking through the business plan process with experts was very helpful.”

Afton also took advantage of the IBD’s International Trade Research to explore target markets. This was especially crucial for Afton, whose industry includes an array of highly-specific consumer needs and heavy regulations that vary by country and region.

“We’re not a typical retailer,” Katherine relates. “Our target customers range from small biotechs to large pharmaceutical companies, research labs, hospitals, and universities.”

The IBD Program’s market research helped find those international customers. Employment numbers at Afton Scientific have increased from 50 to 85, which has helped the business meet the increased demand from the international expansion.

“Dulce has been phenomenal and is always there when we need advice,” Katherine says.

“We love working with the SBDC,” TJ adds. “We had heard about the SBDC but had no idea they offered so many programs at no cost. We’re so glad they found us!”

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New World

A New World of Learning Bilingual Academy

SBDC connections help bilingual academy grow

Received $43,000 in grants: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan for $10,000; Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) grant totaling $10,000; and Department of Education CARES Aid totaling $23,000.

Sandra Eduardo and daughter Ebony Vargas possess the qualifications and experience to operate an early childhood education center. They lacked a business plan that would allow expansion and growth. When Hampton Roads SBDC Advisor Bill Holloran joined the mother-daughter duo, a plan for growth took shape.

“My mother was an educator for 25 years and wanted to share her Hispanic culture and native tongue,” Ebony says, remembering A New World of Learning Bilingual Academy’s launch in January 2018. “I was in college and wanted to learn about being a business owner. During an SBDC-sponsored course for child care facilities, Bill was assigned to be our mentor.”

When the pandemic arrived in 2020, that educational course, as well as plans for expansion, were put on hold.

“When things opened up again, Bill reached out,” Ebony explains. “He was a phenomenal mentor and immediately helped us apply for relief grant funding.”

Those connections resulted in grants through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) totaling $10,000; Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) for Hampton Roads totaling $10,000; and four rounds of Department of Education Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES act) totaling $23,000.

Bill also helped Sandra and Ebony make practical connections.

“Bill connected us to a science firm that provided us with a laser jet printer with a lifetime guarantee,” Ebony continues. “He also suggested a USDA subsidy that reimbursed food purchased for the school.”

Today the Learning Academy’s most pressing issue is expansion. The school is thriving, and a larger facility has become a necessity. The SBDC’s projections helped set an expansion plan in motion, and Ebony and Sandra’s partnership with the SBDC has grown alongside their business.

“We have three waiting lists,” Ebony notes. “Our current location accommodates 30 preschoolers with six older children before and after school. Bill showed us the fundamentals of business growth. Currently, we’re working with a loan officer to find a property we can own.”

With the SBDC on their side, Sandra and Ebony are confident of success.

“This process would have been five times harder without the SBDC connecting us to all these resources,” Ebony says.

“The SBDC is always looking out for us,” Sandra adds. “Support is very important, and the SBDC supports us 100 percent!”

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SBDC helps manufacturer reach new heights

Assisted with international sales expansion; awarded $30,000 in Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) funding.

Dhiyohouse Inc.

Dhiyohouse manufactures and refurbishes conveyor belts for the mining sector. Looking for resources to expand overseas, Dhiyohouse contacted the Small Business Administration (SBA) in July 2021. The SBA Office of International Trade mentioned the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) and referred Dhiyohouse to the Virginia SBDC’s International Business Development Program (IBD) for one-on-one assistance and connections to additional support organizations in Virginia.

In the ensuing meeting, the IBD team learned that Dhiyohouse had significant interest in multiple foreign markets but had not taken advantage of government trade resources.

The IBD team launched an extensive research effort on behalf of Dhiyohouse to identify the ideal global markets for expansion. Through that project, the IBD team and its student researchers narrowed the number of countries down to a small group of high potential markets.

Dhiyohouse project manager Robert Leonard credits the SBDC for supporting the company’s international growth: “If you follow the SBDC’s model, it’ll produce international revenue and grow your business. Just follow the model! The SBDC team will give you the research and provide you the resources for success.”

In addition to market research, the IBD introduced Dhiyohouse to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), which invited them to participate in a spring 2022 trade mission to Peru and Chile. During that mission, Dhiyohouse identified over half a dozen potential partners. To date, VEDP has provided $30,000 in grants to Dhiyohouse to support their trade program. The IBD team also connected Dhiyohouse with the U.S. Commercial Service for assistance vetting interested foreign buyers.

The SBDC’s IBD program has been an ongoing resource to Dhiyohouse by providing specific assistance on growing international sales and recommending translation companies to internationalize its website.

Dhiyohouse has enrolled in the Virginia SBDC’s inaugural cohort of the International Business Plan program, in which companies learn how to develop a sound, bankable export strategy.

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InHealthRVA facilitates functional medicine with support from the SBDC

Received a $25,000 line of credit and a $50,000 term loan; 1 part-time and 2 full-time jobs.

Home | Functional Medicine | Richmond, VA (

When Tressa Breindel was 14, her pediatrician diagnosed her with a severe autoimmune disease. By her early twenties, all conventional medical treatments had failed. These frustrations with her care sparked an idea.

Tressa knew what she needed: medical practitioners who provided her with options for understanding her chronic, complicated condition. She took matters into her own hands and by January 2016, she launched InHealthRVA, a clinic that specializes in integrative and functional medicine.

“Functional medicine is really about understanding the body from a physiology and biochemistry perspective and then applying that understanding clinically to give people better health,” says Tressa. “Functional, integrative medicine should be primary care.”

In 2021, as Tressa worked to grow InHealthRVA, she connected with Capital Region SBDC Executive Director Rodney Williams. Rodney quickly became an essential advisor, helping her set goals and stay on track – even if that just meant checking in periodically.

“Having the accountability of knowing I had to report to Rodney was very helpful,” she says.

The SBDC and Rodney helped Tressa secure capital for her growing business. When she needed a small business loan, the SBDC walked Tressa through necessary steps. Rodney helped her edit her business plan and referred her to a QuickBooks expert.

“That was really instrumental,” Tressa notes. “When my business was small and simple, I could just focus on cash in and cash out, but that’s no way to run a business as it grows.”

The SBDC also introduced Tressa to M&T Bank, which resulted in a $25,000 line of credit and a $50,000 term loan. This financing allowed her to expand, hiring a nurse practitioner, a full-time customer care specialist, and a part-time administrative assistant.

As she looks to the future, Tressa hopes to add another practitioner to the clinic, and, eventually open a second location. However, she has more ambitious goals as well.

“InHealthRVA is an experiment to dial in the business model. When it’s dialed in with several practitioners, then I’ll be able to replicate it in other locations,” she explains. “My mission and vision is that everyone who has a tummy ache, a headache, a chronic illness, or an autoimmune disease should be able to access this type of medicine.”

Tressa cites the SBDC as key in growing InHealthRVA, and readily recommends it to fellow entrepreneurs. In fact, just recently, she referred a physical therapist to the SBDC.

“She wants to grow. She wants to hire and improve her marketing, so I gave her the SBDC’s website!”

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MOVA Technologies

MOVA Technologies

MOVA Technologies discovers its customer base and scales with the Virginia SBDC-ICAP

Raised $1.5 million in private equity; received $420,000 in grants; created 3 jobs.

MOVA Technologies

MOVA Technologies’ selective air capture technology offers a system with nearly infinite possibilities. In the business world, however, limitless potential is not always an easy place to start. With the guidance of the Roanoke Regional SBDC and the Virginia SBDC Network’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), MOVA Technologies spent the past two years narrowing its focus.

Founder Steve Critchfield incorporated MOVA Technologies in 2016. Under the leadership of CEO John Schott and Communications Manager Luke Allison, the company is scaling up — in part due to the applicability of its system in a world racing against climate change. MOVA Technologies transforms pollutants into products — or as Luke puts it, turns liabilities into assets.

“We aren’t capturing air pollutants to simply throw them away,” Luke says. “Instead, we are selectively harvesting these captured pollutants in a pure form so they can be returned to the supply chain. So not only are we cleaning the air, but we are creating valuable and sustainable reuse, recycle, and resale options.”

Luke met Roanoke Regional SBDC Advisor Cheryl Tucker in 2020. Shortly after, he enrolled in the Virginia SBDC-ICAP’s introductory course, to work on defining his customer segment and value proposition.

“ICAP really helps you look at things through the eyes of the customer,” says Luke. “You could have the biggest, brightest, greatest idea, but if it doesn’t help the customer, then the customer will never buy it.”

During the ICAP course, Luke also developed an important network of connections. ICAP mentor Irfan Ali helped him determine where to broaden and narrow MOVA’s approach. ICAP Director Josh Green provided contacts for potential investors, such as venture capital firms. Additionally, ICAP connected MOVA to the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC) and provided strategic guidance and support for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant submission, which resulted in a $174,000 award through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Now that MOVA has defined a path from discovery to commercialization, the company plans to expand its portfolio of market-focused pollution harvesting products, grow its customer base, and grow its intellectual property. To date, MOVA has raised $1.5 million from angel investors, $420,000 in grant funding, and created three new jobs.

Both Luke and John believe that ICAP is an absolute must for small companies.

“So many small companies don’t necessarily know how to ask the right questions, discover opportunities, and then bring those forward to the market to assess market opportunity,” says John. “ICAP has been very good for us. It’s helped us pivot from some of our initial forays and really lock in on some things that the market is after.”

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Team Excel

Team Excel

Team Excel scores with an assist from the Virginia SBDC - ICAP Program

Expanded to serve 12 schools, created 1 job and is poised to grow revenue by almost more than 40% in 2022.

Working with Richmond-area nonprofits on youth development programs, Johnathan Mayo noticed a problem: many of the young people he encountered lacked academic motivation. This realization sparked Team Excel, a “reverse fantasy sports” app that turns success into a game, organizing teams to compete with one another based on metrics like academics, attendance, and community service hours. More importantly, Team Excel transforms students into teammates.

Johnathan initially tested his business idea as a pilot program under a nonprofit — with impressive results. Over four years, students increased their GPA by an average of 27%.

“We saw kids holding each other accountable, pushing each other, motivating each other as part of a team to do better,” he says.

Johnathan quickly recognized that to scale Team Excel, he needed to pivot out of the nonprofit sector. In 2019, he registered as a Virginia benefit corporation, which allowed him to create a technology solution that he could scale. He also recognized that he needed guidance in order to grow his business.

Enrolling in the Virginia SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) offered Johnathan essential startup support and connected him with mentor Neil Agate and ICAP Director Josh Green. ICAP helped Johnathan analyze his business model and his marketing strategy, with a focus on customer discovery.

“ICAP really dug deep into your target audience,” says Johnathan. “You might have ten potential audiences, but they really helped you determine who your end customer is.”

ICAP’s advice continues to guide Johnathan. When he first started Team Excel, he focused exclusively on K-12 student-athletes. However, since the pandemic, he’s taken a broader approach.

“Chronic absenteeism and low engagement from students are such huge problems that schools are looking for solutions to service all of their students,” he explains.

Recently, Johnathan pivoted to marketing Team Excel as an enhancement tool that can be used by any existing school, nonprofit or sports team. In 2022, he launched Team Excel in 12 schools, hired his first full-time employee and launched a new website. Eventually, he foresees Team Excel expanding into higher education.

Throughout this impressive growth, ICAP has offered ongoing support, and Johnathan makes it a point to attend monthly meetings and keep up with his mentors.

“It keeps up an ecosystem of founders and mentors — people in the startup ecosystem in Virginia,” he says.

Johnathan readily recommends the Virginia SBDC-ICAP Program to any small business owner.

“Thinking about your journey in business, it was a really good starting point,” he says, “a network of people that really want to see you succeed.”

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