Category: Business Expansion

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.

https://www.eliteculinarystaffing.com/

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.”

Read More

Flour & Water Co.

Flour & Water Co follows SBDC recipe for expansion success

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

https://www.flourandwaterco.com/

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.”

Read More

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.

https://jdrossconsulting.com/

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.”

Read More

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.

https://msmtechinc.com/

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.”

Read More

Liquet Medical

SBDC advice helps Liquet Medical improve critical care

Invested $650K in personal assets into the business.

https://www.liquetmedical.com/

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.”

Read More

Thinkblot Behavioral Sciences

The SBDC helps Thinkblot build community security

Received $100K loan; saw $165K sales growth; created 4 jobs.

https://www.thinkblotsci.com/

Thinkblot Behavioral Sciences CEO and Founder Serena Castelda left the teaching profession for a career aimed at addressing the concerns of an anxious world. A key component of that work is screening, assessing and selecting employees in high-trust positions, including public safety and government agencies.

“What we do is important work,” Serena says. “We do a lot of law enforcement, EMT and firefighter screenings. In today’s climate, we need to know that people protecting us are psychologically sound.”

Thinkblot currently provides screening for the City of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Prince William counties, and the smaller towns of Herndon and Vienna. They also serve private security firms in addition to the county and local contracts. The company offers behavioral science research, workforce resilience, leadership development and coaching, mental health counseling, insider threat mitigation, and survey design.

Serena’s husband, Bryan, serves as operations manager and senior psychologist, while Serena manages the business. She does that with the SBDC at her side, leaning on Mason SBDC Director Timm Johnson throughout her entrepreneurial journey.

“When you leave one career for another, you don’t always know which end is up,” she says. “Timm always pointed me up.”

Early on, Timm assisted Thinkblot with an acquisition of another practice in the same industry, advising on the structure and negotiation of the deal, financing and steps for post-integration. He also assisted Thinkblot on soliciting bids through county requests for proposals (RFPs), provided periodic reviews of the company’s accounting, and offered next steps for promising contracts.

“It’s like having a business advisor invested in your success,” Serena says.

However, Timm and the SBDC’s contributions to Thinkblot’s success have gone well beyond that acquisition. Since partnering with the SBDC, Serena has expanded Thinkblot’s mission substantially through capital investments nearing $200,000, the creation of four new jobs, and $165,000 in sales growth.

“The SBDC is one of the reasons we’re here today,” Serena concludes. “At the SBDC you’ll learn things you need to know from someone who has the experience to help your business grow.”

Read More

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.”

Read More

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.”

Read More

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.”

Read More

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.”

Read More