Category: Business Expansion

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 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 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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Elite Culinary Staffing

Elite Culinary Staffing provides solutions for the hospitality industry with guidance from the SBDC

Received approximately $160,000 in grant funding; launched mobile app.

When employee call-outs left chef Jermaine Boothe short-staffed during a busy evening at the restaurant where he worked, he said to himself, “I wish there was someone I could call.”

“I wanted to create something where you have a bunch of professionals on call,” explains Jermaine.

Jermaine previously met Hampton Roads SBDC Assistant Director Debra Farley in 2012. As his vision of owning a restaurant shifted to staffing, he knew exactly whom to contact. With Debra’s help, he began planning his new venture.

“Debra has been there in every stage of my business and growth so far,” he says. “She knows my business inside and out.”

In 2013, Jermaine founded Elite Culinary Staffing, a temporary staffing agency. Elite Culinary seeks to meet the growing needs in the hospitality industry, and offers transitional job opportunities and skills training for military veterans, foster children aging out of the system, and formerly incarcerated individuals in the Hampton Roads area. In 2018, he expanded services, opening a training facility for hospitality professionals ranging from servers to small-business owners.

Since Elite Culinary launched, the SBDC has facilitated growth through one-on-one advising and workshops, and helped Jermaine with marketing strategies and insurance options. During the pandemic, Debra provided professional insight, keeping Jermaine up to date on available resources.

“I can Google things and take a shot in the dark, or I can contact Debra and say ‘this is what I’m looking for,’ and she will connect me with people I can trust,” Jermaine says. “Like many businesses, ours was adversely affected by the pandemic. Debra assisted me in pivoting. We began working on a mobile application, which connects employers to employees directly.”

With Debra’s help, Jermaine launched his staffing app in 2020. The SBDC also provided support for state and federal grant applications, resulting in approximately $160,000 in funding.

Looking to the future, Jermaine has big goals. He hopes to grow his mobile app to serve 10,000 users, secure more government contracts, and begin consistent workforce development and training in his new facility. He cites the SBDC’s professional network as the organization’s most valuable asset.

“As I grow and sustain my business, it’s so important to me that I have someone I can call that understands business — and most importantly, understands my business and can give me constructive advice,” says Jermaine. “I do and will refer people to the SBDC all the time.”

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Flour & Water Co.

Flour & Water Co follows SBDC recipe for expansion success

Maintained steady annual growth of 25%; added 13 jobs.

Meredith Norris, co-owner of the Flour & Water Co. in Woodstock, knows you can’t make bread with flour and water alone — it requires yeast. To help her growing business expand, Meredith consulted the Laurel Ridge SBDC to add the missing ingredient to the mix: SBDC resources.

“In two years’ time, our business had taken off,” Meredith relates. “We needed information on expansion and decided to try the SBDC.”

Meredith’s idea for the artisan bakery in Woodstock began with a 2018 trip to Ireland where she and her sister, Paje Cross, became “enamored with” a local establishment on The Emerald Isle. The sisters made business plans on the way home to Woodstock. Their third partner, Jacoby Ginges, soon joined them in the venture.

“We’d all been involved in food service of some description,” Meredith adds.

The partners tested their bakery idea with three pop-up shops, which sold out every time. Early in 2020 they started searching for a building — only to be interrupted by the pandemic.

“We decided to wait, which turned out to our advantage,” Meredith says. “We bought a building at auction, and after renovations, opened in December 2020.”

Despite pandemic obstacles, Flour & Water Company rose to the occasion. In their first year of operation, the baking partners nearly tripled their projected revenue.

As the company eyed expansion, an acquaintance suggested a visit to Laurel Ridge SBDC Director Christine Kriz, who advised them to take the SBDC-sponsored Cureate Course. The six-week course for food and beverage producers gives advice on scaling existing business operations and next steps for strategic growth.

“The Cureate course was monumentally helpful to us,” Meredith notes. “SBDC resources have offered us a wealth of knowledge.”

That knowledge, Meredith affirms, yields dividends.

“We started with three employees, and two years in, we have 16,” Meredith says. “Year over year, we’ve grown 25 percent, and we’re moving ahead with our expansion plan. The SBDC is already helping with that.”

She advises other business owners to take advantage of all the SBDC has to offer.

“The SBDC provides a wonderful service,” she concludes. “It only makes sense to use it.”

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JD Ross Consulting

The SBDC helps JD Ross Consulting stay local and grow

Purchased their own building, increased the number of employees by 4 and expect 2022 income of more than $600,000.

Johnathan Ross launched his software development company, JD Ross Consulting (JDRC), with two goals: keep it small and stay local. With the assistance of the University of Mary Washington SBDC, he achieved both these goals and surpassed them.

“In the past I worked for big companies where people were just a number,” Johnathan says. “I wanted a business that would be more personal.”

To achieve the small-town feel, Johnathan consulted UMW SBDC Director Susan Ball. She showed him the value of purchasing property and connected him with the right people to grow his business.

“I met Susan at a symposium, and out of the blue she asked, ‘Hey Johnathan — want to buy a building?’” Johnathan relates. “That had never crossed my mind, but I started thinking about it — six months later we bought a building!”

After receiving valuable guidance on property insurance coverage and deeding, Johnathan contacted the SBDC for advice on another venture, a nonprofit to provide a safe space for local teens to engage in eSports. With extra space in the new building, JDRC decided to expand its community involvement policy.

“Since I didn’t know how to start a nonprofit, I asked Susan,” Johnathan says. “She gave me the steps I needed to follow.”

SportingNextLevel, which includes a youth soccer program, will launch later this year.

To date Johnathan is pleased with the growth of his company and nonprofit venture.

“JDRC started with one employee, and now we’re up to six,” he says. “Business is really starting to snowball — we anticipate income of more than $600,000 in 2022.”

Johnathan credits the SBDC with providing business details needed to help his business grow.

“I knew how to do government contracts, but I didn’t know how to set up Quickbooks or pay taxes,” he adds.

Johnathan readily recommends the SBDC.

“I tell other business people who ask about our success to check out the SBDC and have a consultation,” Johnathan concludes. “The SBDC will definitely benefit anyone starting a business.”

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MSM Technology

The SBDC mentors MSM Technology through reset and growth

Created 61 new jobs and achieved $4 million in sales growth in 2021; increased staff to 100 and nearly tripled sales growth in 2022.

Armed with an extensive background in IT and project management, Manisha Morris felt confident about opening MSM Technology in 2004. However, as her infrastructure modernization company expanded, Manisha discovered that growing a small business required guidance. Wisely, she contacted Timm Johnson, Director of the Mason SBDC.

“I reached out with a plea for help,” says Manisha, who has spent 18 of her 25-plus years in the IT field as president of MSM. “By 2021, MSM Technology was up to 35 employees and growing. I needed a resource to help prepare for doubling or tripling my company.”

When Manisha initially launched her business, she worked on a single IBM contract for ten years. But as her business expanded, so did her workforce and, by extension, her responsibilities as a business owner.

“In 2018 I decided to take a step back and restart the company,” she explains. “I needed to know how to grow the back-office infrastructure to support the growth we were experiencing. As a business owner, I needed an advisor.”

Timm easily stepped into that role.

“Our first conversations were about basic things like loans and a line of credit,” Manisha relates. “I was worried about making payroll if we won a large contract.”

That foresight paid off, and when opportunity came calling recently, Manisha’s work with Timm and the SBDC put her in a position to succeed.

“We just won a $70 million contract that needed staffing in three weeks,” Manisha relates. “Thanks to the SBDC’s help we now have a great recruiting team and were able to meet those staffing needs.”

The SBDC also helped Manisha revamp the company’s accounting system to align with the Defense Contract Audit Agency’s (DCAA) standards. Additionally, Timm assisted with setting up a spreadsheet solution for transferring data from payroll into accounting.

Through 2021 MSM’s growth continued, adding 61 new jobs and realizing a sales growth of $4 million.

“In 2022 our staff has increased to 100 employees, and sales have probably tripled from the $4 million last year,” Manisha comments.

Now that she’s discovered the SBDC, Manisha plans to keep that connection.

“The SBDC offers help wherever you are — from a company with one employee to a business like mine with 100 employees,” she concludes. “On every level, the SBDC is an invaluable resource.”

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Liquet Medical

SBDC advice helps Liquet Medical improve critical care

Invested $650K in personal assets into the business.

When John Schindler and Derek Hall co-founded Liquet Medical in 2020, their goal was to develop a medical device that gave ICU doctors better options to treat patients who were critically ill with vascular disease. But while their technology was certainly revolutionary, they launched the business with more than profit in mind.

“My mother passed away from a pulmonary embolism in 1971, so I had a personal attachment to this technology,” John explains.

In 2020 John and Derek started Liquet Medical, a company centered on an innovative medical device that treats both lungs simultaneously. Placed in a patient’s lungs, the Versus Catheter provides real-time pressure monitoring that allows for better critical care decisions.

Designing new technology while growing a business from the ground up is no small feat. Throughout the process, John and Derek sought startup support and business development assistance from two important resources: the Virginia SBDC Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) and Central Virginia SBDC.

“Before we were entrepreneurs, we both had strengths in sales and marketing,” Derek notes.

Before launching Liquet Medical, the two innovators had worked together for multiple companies in the vascular field. John’s activities revolved around new market creation for emerging technology and product development, while Derek specialized in biomedical engineering.

“ICAP helped us strategically early on,” John comments. “ICAP’s Life Science Mentor William McPheat gave us a great introduction on ways to build our company and advised us on key elements to present to the medical community.”

ICAP, under the SBDC network, offers an intensive startup assistance program that includes one-on-one advising from experienced ICAP mentors.

Central Virginia SBDC Director Rebecca Haydock provided connections and offered advice on investor presentations.

“Rebecca was instrumental in prepping us for meetings with investor groups,” John relates. “Rebecca advised us on how to tell our story, which was very helpful.”

While the Versus Catheter is currently in an estimated nine months of clinical trials, the Virginia SBDC team stand ready to help the company move into its next phase.

“ICAP and the SBDC helped us create a solid foundation to build the company into the future,” John adds.

That future will include marketing and a permanent location.

“We look forward to Virginia SBDC assistance as we establish a brick-and-mortar location and hire local talent,” Derek says. “It’s great to know we can rely on these ongoing resources.”

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