Category: Business Expansion

Albemarle Limousine

Wedded together: Unique concept says “I do” with the SBDC

Bought a 10-bay building that allowed the company to expand its services; created 60 jobs.

https://www.albemarlelimousine.com/

Albemarle Limousine & Travel Service, LLC, was an idea that started with a wedding.

“It was my daughter’s wedding, and I was planning it,” CEO Andrea Saathoff says. “I was looking for a classic wedding-car rental and was surprised to learn that the closest one was in Washington D.C.”

In 2008, Andrea decided to start her own classic-car business in Charlottesville. “I quickly learned that vintage transportation was more of a hobby than a business,” Andrea adds. “So we added modern cars that first year.”

Being a business owner, the former elementary school teacher noted, was a learning experience. “That’s the fun of being an entrepreneur — we were doubling in revenue every year,” Andrea explains. “Within five years, we had a fleet of premium sedans, SUVs, shuttle buses, and vintage limousines.” As the company grew, Virginia Auto Detailing was added, and a mechanic was hired to manage a growing fleet of vehicles.

When COVID struck, the business was blindsided and nearly crippled. The situation quickly became critical. “We immediately lost 90 percent of our revenue,” Andrea says.

With the pandemic slamming the brakes on her business, Andrea contacted the Central Virginia SBDC. “I met SBDC Advisor Dillon Franks through a small business group I joined,” she relates. “He’s been our advisor ever since. We also worked with Central Virginia Director Rebecca Haydock.”

Rebecca provided additional guidance as the company grew. “Rebecca connected me with a QuickBooks specialist and helped with marketing, and Dillon provided guidance with our biggest customer, a very large corporation. He suggested things I never would have thought about.”

As COVID continued, Andrea looked for ways to diversify. “We already had a detailing business,
but it was seasonal due to lack of indoor space,” she says. “When a realtor I knew found a
property with 10 auto bays going on the market, we decided to buy it, as it would significantly expand our car and truck maintenance and service offerings to the public through our ACE Auto Center Express. We are now experiencing strong growth, due to our expanded physical plant and more central location.”

Andrea added, “Dillon and Rebecca were very helpful with the purchase of that building and issues related to growing our staff.”

Continuing to combat COVID, Albemarle Limousine launched a bicycle repair business, ACE Bicycle Charlottesville, in the spring of 2020. “Riding bikes offered socially-distanced exercise, so our shop was very popular,” Andrea adds. “Now all three businesses are in recovery, we have 60 employees, and everything is going gangbusters.”

Andrea continues to be enthusiastic about the SBDC and Dillon, who she describes as “a seasoned advisor who really cares about my business and our employees.”

“The SBDC helped us significantly through the pandemic,” Andrea concludes. “The SBDC has all the resources you need to help a business succeed and grow.”

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My Car Service

Driving forward in a pandemic

$954,000 loan; expanded from five employees to 18

https://www.mycarcorporation.com/

When businesses around the country were scrambling to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO Tariq Alam and COO Tahid Alam of My Car Service had other plans.

“The owner of the commercial property for our business was planning to sell, and we knew we needed to buy it,” Tariq says. “We had been building My Car Service for five years, and we didn’t want to see all of our hard work disappear, in case a new owner wanted something different for the property. But in order to buy it, we needed guidance on how to put together a good company portfolio to submit to the lenders and the bank.”

Tariq’s first shot at pitching his company’s ambitious business plan — in the midst of a global pandemic in the spring of 2020, no less — didn’t take off. The bank and lenders didn’t bite, but Tariq and Tahid were undeterred. As longtime entrepreneurs and business partners — and brothers — they were confident in what they had built. They simply needed somebody to help them craft a pitch that would get others just as excited as they were.

Through the US Small Business Administration (SBA), they connected with the University of Mary Washington SBDC in Fredericksburg, and received the push they needed from Center Director Susan Ball and her team.

“We reached out to three different places, but the SBDC, especially Susan and the team she works with, showed us the path forward,” Tariq explains. “They helped me put together a business plan and an effective way to present it to the lenders. Right away, the reaction was very different. [The lenders] were wowed with the plan and our mission, and they really believed in us,” Tariq continues.

Tariq says that this shift made a critical difference for their business. “The funds became available, and we were able to purchase the property along with a construction loan and equipment loans. That has really helped propel us into the future,” Tariq explains.

The revamped proposal netted My Car Service a $954,000 loan that included not only funds to purchase the property, but also loans to expand their business. They have since added an eight-bay car-service center and grown their workforce from five employees to 18. “Our business grew about 300%,” Tariq says. “It helped us create a full-service dealership, as opposed to just reselling cars.”

Now, thanks to their own market awareness and preparation heading into the pandemic — and an assist from the SBDC — Tariq and Tahid have been able to make headway on the next phase of My Car Service’s expansion, which will include a franchise.

“One thing that was great to see was how much the SBA and the SBDC care about small businesses and how much they support them,” Tahid says. “Their level of concern is awesome. They’re advocates. I can’t thank the SBA and the SBDC enough. They’re making our dreams come true.”

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Genesis Learning Center

Petersburg day care pushes past the odds

Secured a $900,000 loan to fund an expansion to serve 125 families and provide 25 full-time jobs.

Amy Venable-Turner, owner of the Genesis Learning Center, believes learning never stops. She’s built a thriving day care business focused on that approach.

“I started working for Genesis, a church-operated day care, when I was 21,” she says. Amy completed a degree in early childhood education and then decided to take a job on the West Coast. She was called back to Virginia by the Genesis Learning Center. “The school was failing, and they wanted to see if I could save it,” Amy relates. Three years later, the pastor gave the school to me — I guess you could say I inherited it.”

Since Amy took over the business in 2006, Genesis has expanded to include three locations. “In 2020, we decided to add a fourth location in Petersburg,” Amy says.

Amy had several goals when she contacted Ellen Templeton, Center Director of the Longwood University SBDC — Eastern Region, also known as the Crater SBDC. “I needed to understand the Petersburg market and wanted someone in the area to help me make connections and network,” Amy explains.

Networking began with an SBDC workshop on “How to Start a Business.” At that workshop, Amy made an important connection with Dennis Wagner of the Small Business Administration (SBA). This led to another connection to an executive at a Petersburg hospital looking for a source of quality childcare. “We had identified a location for our school in Petersburg,” Amy relates. “At that point, Ellen encouraged me to contact the SBA for funding.”

To apply for an SBA loan, Amy needed to write a business plan — something she had not done during her 14 years in business. “Ellen walked me through the application process and all the paperwork involved with it,” Amy continues. “We did secure a $900,000 loan for the Petersburg expansion to serve 125 families and provide 25 full-time jobs.”

It seemed like all signs were a “go” for the new location as things continued to fall into place. However, COVID had other plans. The pandemic abruptly halted the forward movement for the newest Genesis Learning Center. “The Petersburg project was put on hold,” Amy reports. “Now, in 2021, we basically have to start over from the beginning.”

Despite such setbacks from the pandemic, Amy is confident about the future. “Because Ellen walked me through the SBA loan process pre-COVID, I’m not afraid to start again post-COVID,” Amy says. “To me, that’s the real value of the SBDC.”

Amy doesn’t hesitate to recommend the SBDC. “I’ve had a wonderful experience with the SBDC and specifically with Ellen,” she concludes. “The SBDC has the experience and knowledge to help any small business owner succeed.”

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Delany Products

SBDC networking connects Delany Products to future success

Received COVID financial assistance; featured in Virginia Business.

www.delanyproducts.com/

Delany Products, a plumbing products manufacturer since 1879, needed a makeover. “We had multiple issues as we entered the 2000s,” Scott Delany says of his company. “We had not adapted well to globalization, and as a result our business had started to dwindle.”

Adding to Scott’s problems, the price of copper, a major component of plumbing products, rose dramatically. “We started to lose money hand over fist,” Scott continues. “We closed our foundry and laid off three quarters of our workforce. It became obvious that the only path forward was restructuring.” That restructure involved a complete shift from manufacturing to outsourcing.

“Currently, Delany Products does research and design in house and depends on outside suppliers to make product components,” Scott explains. “We still do 100 percent of the assembly and final operational testing.”

The company was moving ahead with its outsourcing model; then COVID hit. Fortunately for Delany Products, when the pandemic arrived, so did the Central Virginia SBDC. “When the pandemic struck, Rebecca Haydock at the SBDC called to see if she could help,” Scott recalls. “We immediately said — ‘sounds great!’”

The Central Virginia SBDC Center Director put the Delany team in touch with a marketing firm to assist with the launch of its new product, TruStop, a patented innovation that reduces maintenance costs for institutional toilets. “The Fellows Group, now our marketing firm, did a complete update of our website,” Scott says.

In addition to the marketing assistance, Rebecca connected Scott with Aaron Miller, the Virginia SBDC’s Director of International Business Development. “Aaron had students from George Mason University do a study of potential markets,” Scott says. “We’ll explore those markets once we build our sales for TruStop in the United States. We really believe TruStop will be a game changer for us.”

Rebecca also offered help with applications for COVID assistance. “We applied for everything we could to keep us afloat during the pandemic,” Scott notes. “Rebecca helped us through all the confusion. Additionally, she put us in touch with Lisa Wood at the Procurement Technical Assistance Center who’s trying to locate government contracts for us.”

With a restructured business model in place and a new product on the market, Scott is hopeful about the future. “Right now, our backlog list is huge because of supply-chain issues,” he comments. “Once that clears up, things will change. Business is already better than last year.”

Scott says Rebecca and the SBDC team were at the right place at the right time to make things happen for his company. “The SBDC helped us out at a very critical time during the pandemic,” Scott concludes. “Rebecca Haydock and the SBDC are a great resource.”

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Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home

Amy Peltier goes from coast to coast with the SBDC

Increased sales by $200,000 and created 6 jobs

“I’ve spent almost 20 years refining my design style and skill set, but I’m learning more every day when it comes to running a business,” says Amy Peltier of Amy Peltier Interior Design and Home. The design agency boasts East and West Coast offices, and specializes in a signature preppy style infused with California, classic, and modern vibes. She and her team work with clients on anything from selecting new furnishings to entire remodels and new construction.

As owner and founder, she brought a wealth of knowledge in residential interior design when she left Michigan for Southern California to re-open her design firm. Armed with a passion for design and a high standard of professionalism, she quickly became a well-known interior design name in the Pasadena area. Amy was even featured in HGTV Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and was on the cover of California Homes. This success has allowed Amy and her team to expand their services to the East Coast. Amy’s company serves the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. areas, and brings a hint of California-casual to the traditional East Coast design landscape.

Amy sought out the Mason SBDC to help expand her firm “the right way.” They helped with everything from business planning, budgeting, marketing, and most recently, obtaining a PPP loan. “The SBDC advisors have been invaluable in helping me navigate the roller-coaster climate of 2020,” Amy says. “For many years, my business had been strong but stagnant. My SBDC advisor helped me plan and execute an organized and logical growth strategy.”

The advice she received helped her remain on track during this difficult year, and as a result she has emerged more determined. “I look forward to my regular meetings with my advisor because it is a way to strategize with an experienced professional that I otherwise would not have access to,” she notes. 

 

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Nailed It

The SBDC helps client nail it

Bought a new building and retained 2 jobs

It started with an idea. Janet Savage was a talented nail technician working in a salon on the second floor. After noticing elderly clients struggle to get up the staircase, she decided to branch out on her own and solve the problem.

“My daughter is also a nail technician, so I asked if she would want to work for me,” Janet says. “I told my clients at the time that I was considering going out on my own. One of them had previous experience with the Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC and referred me to them. That’s how it all got started.”

“One day, Mandy Archer [the SBDC’s Center Director] told me, ‘It is either go or no from here,’” explains Janet. “When she said that, Nailed It seemed like the best thing I could do.” With the business insight of the SBDC, Janet’s idea for her own salon came to fruition.

She rented the space for her own salon — on the ground level, of course — and, in 2015, opened Nailed It. The SBDC staff guided Janet in making sure she was legally prepared to open her business, and helped her with a ribbon-cutting and press release to celebrate the opening. Unlike most salons, she does not use any electric tools. “My elderly customers like that I do everything by hand, and I don’t charge them much,” she says.

In early 2020, Janet sought to expand. She visited the SBDC again, seeking assistance to purchase a larger building for Nailed It in the community that inspired her from the beginning. It will also be home to additional nail technicians and hairstylists. 

Janet is quick to credit the SBDC and Mandy Archer and Ginny Plant for Nailed It’s success. Janet still maintains a close personal relationship with her SBDC advisors and even picked up Ginny as a Nailed It client. “Once I got confronted with licensing and other obstacles, I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it. The SBDC helped me do pretty much everything,” she says. “Without the SBDC, Nailed It may still very well be an idea floating around in an upstairs salon.”

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Gatekeeper Security

Security business makes bold move

Gatekeeper Security saw their sales increase by $500,000 and 42 jobs are supported.

The September 11 attacks inspired Chris Millar to found Gatekeeper Security. “Really, it was a result of seeing what happened at 9/11 and seeing so much poor equipment being purchased,” he explains.

After 18 years in the banking and international investment banking with exposure in the area of computer vision, he put together a team to design and develop a unique series of intelligent optical inspection and recognition products. With these, he entered the security technology industry.

And enter it he did. Today, Gatekeeper Security is an international organization with more than 2,500 permanent security installations in 38 countries for nuclear power plants, natural gas facilities, oil refineries, airports, commercial banks, chemical plants, hotels, government facilities, and more.

Eventually, Chris decided to move into a different subset of the market: short-term, event security. A surprisingly large demand exists for security services at sports stadiums, conference centers, and large-scale entertainment venues where horse shows, air shows, parades, and concerts occur. Expanding into this unlikely market in the United Kingdom is what motivated Chris to contact the Virginia SBDC Network. He sought help identifying possible clients in the UK.

The Virginia SBDC-George Mason University International Business Development team, consisting of International Trade Manager Aaron Miller and student researchers, Tim O’Shea and Catherine Haggerty, put together a research plan to shape a strategy for the new business model.

“Talking to Aaron and his team, we agreed on a statement of work. They set out doing a lot of research in the UK market, and they identified quite a bit of potential,” Chris says. The SBDC team provided detailed data that included an assessment and contact information for the competition in the UK security technology space. They wrote a detailed spreadsheet listing all the major events and festivals in the UK, including event revenues, venues, the security budget, the points of contact for security, and even a list of the most common criminal activity associated with particular events.

Gatekeeper contacted event producers and elicited promises for security contracts in 2020. Their new business in the UK means increased revenue for Gatekeeper and more jobs here in Virginia.

The move to the short-term event market in the UK helped them win a 2019 Moxie Award. “The Moxie Award is for boldness in business. Gatekeeper won for technology,” Chris says. Since the International Business Development Program at the Virginia SBDC helped identify this new market in the UK, Gatekeeper plans to continue on their bold path with the Virginia SBDC’s team and expand their temporary security services in other countries.

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Deep Run Roadhouse

Roads to growth

Deep Run Roadhouse supports 17 jobs, has 7-figure sales, and developed a growth plan that involves opening a third restaurant.

Well-known chef, Paul Hubbard, cooked at upscale Richmond restaurants like Chez Max, Franco’s, and Sensi’s, but found his niche in humble barbecue. “I did finedining for a while, and I got tired of cooking for one percent of the population,” Paul explains. “What I truly love about barbecue is that the same attention to detail and the same high quality ingredients are there, but the appreciation comes from a much wider audience.”

Paul previously co-founded Alamo Barbecue with business partner Christopher Davis. In 2013, he sold his half to Christopher in order to launch Deep Run Roadhouse. Since then Deep Run Roadhouse’s mouth-watering offerings of Tex Mex, southern comfort food, and barbecue have proven successful in the Richmond market. In 2016, he opened a second Deep Run Roadhouse near the Virginia Commonwealth University campus.

Paul had no intention of stopping at two restaurants. But he wanted help as he weighed options for further growth. He contacted Professor Louis Martinette at the University of Mary Washington, who leads a program that allows MBA students to work on real-life projects. Louis, in turn, asked Brian Baker, the SBDC Executive Director, to join Paul’s project. According to Brian, “Deep Run Roadhouse had cash flow and potentially favorable financing, but Paul wanted to assess the current market positions and the current service channels to determine the best market opportunities for growth.”

The MBA students were divided into five teams, and their assignment was to present the pros and cons of the growth option assigned to their team. The five options included (1) staying in Richmond and buying the restaurants’ real estate, (2) expanding the Deep Run Roadhouse into new territories, (3) licensing or franchising the Roadhouse concept, (4) catering with food trucks, and (5) establishing a barbecue “academy” to teach other restauranteurs. Ultimately, Paul chose (1) and (2) — opening another Roadhouse, this time in Hampton Roads, and buying the real estate. “This is an ongoing engagement to help Deep Run Roadhouse move to the next level,” Brian explains.

According to Paul, the process was incredibly eye opening, as the teams worked with him through such issues as a competitive growth analysis and the development of detailed mission and vision statements. “There are a lot of things to take into consideration when you take the next steps,” says Paul. “When you own any business, you are looking for ways of creating responsible growth. This process put so many things into context for me.”

If there is one thing Paul loves more than cooking barbecue, it’s seeing something come together. As he plans for 2020, it is clear that everything is progressing well for this young chef. Paul explains, “To open up a restaurant and be successful, you have to love what you do. And I truly do.”

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Paladin Bar & Grill

No bull about it: Paladin Bar & Grill bucks into town

Paladin Bar & Grill created 40 new jobs, landed $550,000 in capitol infusion, and went from $0 to $600,000 in revenue in one year.

It definitely wasn’t their first rodeo, but Craig Spaulding and William Waybourn, owners of Paladin Bar & Grill in Stephens City, decided to embrace the wild west spirit all the same.

A massive 1,100-pound bull named Paladin dominates the front entrance to Paladin Bar & Grill. The statue, created by Bettye Hamblen Turner, is constructed from stainless and carbon steel and recycled motorcycle and car parts. “Paladin was created on the LBJ Ranch in Texas and is one of five Longhorn sculptures. This one was the fifth in the series and the only one on public viewing, as the other four are in private collections,” William explains. The eatery’s namesake has been bullish about pulling in curious patrons and photo-op hungry passersby since opening its doors in March of 2018.

Craig and William are no strangers to entrepreneurship. They own Long View Gallery in D.C., the largest private gallery in the capital city, as well as Screen Archives, a massive online film-and-music distributor. When it came to the always-fickle restaurant scene, Craig and William were glad to have the assistance of the Lord Fairfax SBDC and seasoned analyst, Christine Kriz.

“Early on Christine gave us a demographic overlay of the area that was instrumental in our decision to sign the lease. She also provided us with resources of various governmental entities and private businesses to help us get oriented and in business,” William says. “We never would have opened this location had it not been for the SBDC and Christine Kriz. Her assistance and data were invaluable in making a determination to open Paladin Bar & Grill in Stephens City,” William adds.

For Craig and William, the restaurant incorporates pieces from all their ventures. “We try to make all of our companies partner with each other,” William says, “hence the artwork and restored movie posters you see everywhere around Paladin.”

Despite its neighborhood setting, the investment is paying off with continued steady business and growth. “We just recently started paying our servers above minimum wage — that’s unheard of in the restaurant industry,” says William. “Most servers barely survive on tips, so we made the decision to increase their hourly pay in anticipation that customers would agree that better service deserves a higher tip,” he adds.

While Paladin, the bold chrome bull, continues to be the talk of the town, William and Craig are looking to the future, once again with the assistance and resources of the SBDC. “We are currently working with the Lord Fairfax SBDC and Christine on another location in northern Frederick County,” says William.  

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Big Daddy’s To Go

The go-to place for food

In the past two years, Big Daddy’s has added a second location and reports an increase in sales of approximately 60%.

Big Daddy's To Go

Big Daddy’s To Go is the place to get a take-out meal in Meadowview. Owner Dwayne Duffield worked hard to make it that way. “A restaurant does keep you hopping,” Dwayne says. “The first year I worked seven days a week, but for me it’s not work. I enjoy what I do!”

Big Daddy’s is a take-out and catering restaurant where Dwayne serves old-fashioned meals in a box five days a week. Daily specials, listed on a chalkboard, feature downhome cooking. “This week it’s BBQ chicken leg (2) with cole slaw, green beans and a roll — $8. Everything in a box comes with dessert,” Dwayne says. “I do a lot of old-fashioned pies.” Dwayne’s interest in cooking came from his grandmother. “She cooked for farm hands,” he says. “That’s how I started learning.”

From Mountain City, Tennessee, Dwayne moved to Meadowview in Washington County, where his plan for a restaurant began to take shape. He had been preparing his wife’s lunch every day. When her co-workers started making requests for his lunches, Dwayne saw a need he wanted to fill. “This is not a high-end community,” he says. “I wanted people here to be able to afford to eat. With my meals in a box, a family of four can afford to eat and still have a little money in their pockets.”

Dwayne hopes his home-cooked meals promote family togetherness. “Big Daddy’s takes away the work. When people go home, they can sit down together at the table and put away those hand-held devices,” he explains. “My goal is to bring good food to our small community.”

In January 2017, Dwayne visited the Virginia Highlands SBDC for help starting his business. Virginia Highlands Director Cindy Fields assisted with setting up an LLC for Dwayne and registering his business with the Department of Taxation. The SBDC also counseled Dwayne on local certifications and how to be in compliance with local health department and government regulation.

Once the business opened in 2017, the SBDC showed Dwayne ways to increase business through visibility and government contracting opportunities. The SBDC assisted Dwayne with certification as a Small Woman and Minority Owned (SWaM) business and with establishing his business as a Virginia Certified Vendor through the eVA Procurement system. A year later, Dwayne tapped into the tourism business on the Virginia Creeper Trail and opened a second location in Alvarado. Future plans include a larger location. “I’ve had folks ask if I could open a place where they could come in and sit down to eat,” Dwayne says.

Diversification and hard work paid off for Dwayne. “From the time I started two years ago, I’ve grown a great deal,” he says. “If I had to give it a number, I’d say 60 percent.” Dwayne believes that good food makes for a good community. “When I see someone sitting on the curb I know can’t afford to pay, I’ll take them a meal,” he says. “Nobody around here should go hungry.”

“The SBDC helped set up my business,” Dwayne concludes. “They got me pointed in the right direction.”  

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Owners and key financial decisionmakers of for-profit businesses, share your recent experiences. Did your business seek financing such as loans or lines of credit in the last 12 months? How would you rate the financial condition of your business?

The Federal Reserve’s 2022 Small Business Credit Survey is open for responses, and the Virginia SBDC Network is a partner on this effort. By taking the survey, you contribute to data that directly informs the Fed, federal government agencies, service providers, policymakers, and others—ultimately benefitting your business and other businesses like yours. Take the 10-minute survey now. 

The survey is open to businesses currently in operation, those recently closed, and those about to launch. All responses are confidential.

The survey closes November 4, 2022. Questions? Contact Grace Guynn at grace.guynn@atl.frb.org.