Category: Business Expansion

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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Matrix International

Global connections add security

Matrix developed an international customer base one year ahead of schedule.

Jeffrey Johnston understands the power of good connections. He sees it as the path to good business.

Jeffrey heads up international business development at Matrix International, a company that specializes in global security, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance planning. “My first effort to grow our business internationally took me to the Philippines,” Jeffrey explains. “A Foreign Commercial Service officer at the U.S. embassy in Manila connected me with his colleague in Arlington, Virginia, who pointed me toward the Virginia SBDC Network. That initial contact, made in the Philippines, opened a lot of doors,” he adds.

While Matrix, primarily a defense contractor, has about 65 employees, depending on the number of workers on contracts at any given time, Jeffrey only has one person working with him. “That’s it,” Jeffrey explains. “I don’t have the manpower to find international business opportunities and develop them on my own.” Then Jeffrey met Aaron Miller, International Trade Manager at the Virginia SBDC Network, who had a team ready and willing to help. “The SBDC has been tremendous in helping to multiply the manpower we need to accomplish the company’s growth,” Jeffrey says.

In 2016 Matrix worked with Aaron to gain insight into specific markets in the Middle East, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. “Aaron had business students from George Mason University do a market survey for us, which was extremely helpful.” Jeffrey explains. The Virginia SBDC’s international team found the best potential markets for Matrix, based on the presence of geopolitical conflict, modernization, and defense spending. The SBDC summarized regulatory environments, found market entry solutions and networking events, and provided Matrix with drone regulation information. The international team’s connections led to Matrix’s acceptance into the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) program. This allowed Matrix to add an international component to its commercial customer base.

 “Aaron and the SBDC have been an active and continuing partner for us,” Jeffrey says. “Whenever there are events that might be helpful to us, Aaron invites me to go along. It has given us access to meetings with the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. It has provided both the exposure and access we wouldn’t have been able to tap into otherwise.”

Jeffrey is pleased with the contacts and connections that have allowed Matrix to enter the international market a year ahead of schedule. “I couldn’t develop international business opportunities on my own,” Jeffrey concludes. “Aaron and the SBDC multiplied our manpower and that allowed our company to grow. It’s been tremendous for us.”

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Conveyance Marketing Group

Marketing with creativity

Revenues increased from $300,000 in 2016 to a projected $1.2 million in 2018, and 6 new jobs were created.

“Some of our clients don’t have their business ducks in a row,” notes Kristine Jacobson, founder of Conveyance Marketing Group. In 2016, she realized that she was in the same pond. Her marketing firm had been in business for five years but was “not quite at break-even.”

“Whenever we have a client that’s new, I tell them to head to the SBDC,” she says. Then Kristine followed her own advice and began meeting with Eric Byrd at the SBDC at MEC-Leesburg. “There are a lot of things I knew I don’t know,” she admits.

“I knew we needed to answer the big question: ‘What do I have in my house?’” She explains, “In other words, we needed to know what was working and how we could leverage that. We also wanted to know what was not working, and what to do about it. Were we being driven, or were we being led?”

Kristine’s goal was to grow aggressively. Eric helped her analyze her client base, which includes technology companies, consulting companies, consumer product companies, companies selling information technology services, and companies selling managed services. “We work with folks who are very analytically minded,” Kristine says. “We add the creativity that they don’t have to their messaging.” Kristine suspected a dose of creativity might be in order for her, too.

Next came the redesign of the sales process to focus on profitable clients and the addition of new services. “By digging into our financial statements, we were able to identify where our margins were suffering and where money needed to be spent to get those areas of the company growing,” Kristine relates. “We also profiled our existing ideal clients and built strategies and messaging around attracting more like them.”

In late 2017, Conveyance Marketing added public relations to its offerings. “I talked with Eric probably a year before I decided to put my toe in that pond and launch PR,” Kristine says. “We met to discuss what it would look like, who would buy it, and how we would package and communicate the offering. He cautioned me to take it step-by-step and not to just jump in.” She has found this and all of the SBDC’s advice to be sound.

As 2018 drew to a close, her business, as she put it, was “taking off like a rocket.” Revenue increased from $300,000 at the end of 2016 to a projected $1.2 million for 2018. “And we’ve hired six new employees,” Kristine adds. The now 17-member staff had to move to a larger building.

“I recommend the SBDC all the time,” Kristine concludes. “It isn’t just for starting a business; it’s for the whole life of your business. It’s not only a free resource, it’s a good resource. The fact that the SBDC can help from beginning to end — and everything in-between — that’s awesome!”

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Dog Daze Grooming Salon

Groomed for continued success

With 500 clients, Minda and Allie doubled their space and created 3.5 jobs in less than one year of operation.

Minda Dixon and Allie Ruff always loved dogs. They had been grooming them for many years at various salons, but they sensed that there were better ways to pamper pets. “We wanted to have more one-on-one contact with customers,” Minda says. “We wanted the dogs to have more physical freedom and walking space. We saw ourselves as a free-range pet-grooming shop.” By late 2017, they were ready to open their own shop.

Fortunately, Minda’s husband had started a company the previous year, called New River Outdoor Adventures (featured in the SBDC Client Profiles, 2017 edition), and he worked with the Blue Ridge Crossroads (BRCR) SBDC to get it going. Her parents, Manuel and Rose Gonzalez also worked with the Blueridge Crossroads SBDC to open their food truck, Taco Trolley, so she had a history with Director Mandy Archer and Assistant Ginny Plant.

“I met Mandy and Ginny when my husband started Outdoor Adventures and when my parents started their Taco Trolley. I knew that their assistance would be invaluable for getting Dog Daze set up,” Minda explains. “We needed help with the basics – a business plan, a financial plan, getting a loan, some legal assistance — that kind of thing. The SBDC was amazing all the way through.”

“They helped us with projected income, projected expenses, and getting a good rate from the banks,” Minda adds. “Even today, we meet with the SBDC to discuss how we can increase productivity; that’s one of our big plans for the next few months. As our success continues, our relationship with the SBDC strengthens.”

May 2018 marked a big step forward for Dog Daze with the expansion of their store and the addition of two employees. As their business thrives, they continue to look for ways to go “above and beyond” customer needs, including doggy daycare services and engaging Facebook photo contests.

Minda is always quick to refer to the SBDC as the catalyst for their continued success. “The SBDC has been so beyond our dreams in terms of supporting and nurturing this business,” Minda says. “It was just an idea two years ago, and now it’s the centerpiece of our lives. For anyone starting a business, they’re the first people I would talk to.”

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Amruta, Inc.

Analyzing the way to success

After consulting with the University of Mary Washington SBDC in 2017, Amruta’s revenue jumped from $1.3 million to $4.8 million, a 369% increase.

Beju Rao doesn’t hesitate to go back to the drawing board.

After only two years of operations, Amruta, Inc., Beju’s data analytics firm, had achieved $1.3 million in sales, but he wanted more. It was time to visit the University of Mary Washington SBDC. “I’m an adjunct professor at UMW, so I knew about the SBDC there,” he says. He met with Executive Director Brian Baker.

Beju’s goal was to gain entry into new markets, starting with the state and federal governments. “The SBDC helped me to get registered in the Electronic Virginia (eVA) system and the System for Awards Management (SAM) and to obtain Small-Women and Minority-owned business certification (SWaM),” Beju relates. He also met with procurement specialists from the Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program and the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, who helped him identify which agencies to target and how best to access them.

UMW SBDC’s first Innovation Roundtable, held in the Fall 2017, also helped Beju. Over a period of several months, roundtable participants learned how to assess and achieve their commercialization readiness. Or, as Beju put it — to go back to the drawing board! “The Innovation Roundtable was phenomenal,” he comments. “It helped me design a product and decide what product features would sell in the marketplace.”

The SBDC also helped Beju get a foot in the door of the healthcare marketplace. “For the past couple of years, we’ve been working on a patient enterprise system that uses hospital performance data to improve health quality outcomes,” Beju says. Brian introduced him to Eric Fletcher, Senior Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer at Mary Washington Healthcare. The project involved the use of data management and analytics to improve operating performance, patient assessment , and patient experience initiatives. Currently Beju is working with the SBDC to secure funding to launch the system in other health-care facilities. “It was very helpful to be able to test our system in a hospital setting,” Beju adds.

Beju’s drawing-board concept has already increased revenue for his company. “We are growing again,” he says. “We have more than a dozen clients now, so the cumulative revenue is $4.8 million.” That is 3.7 times more than 2017.

Beju credits the SBDC with helping him achieve that growth. “They are continually helping me,” he says. “I know I can reach out to Brian Baker or Susan Ball whenever I need help.” He plans to maintain his relationship with the SBDC. “I want to reach $20 million in the next three years.”

Beju has entered markets in the healthcare and financial industries. His next focus will be to improve the scale of Amruta and grow new clients. “The SBDC is a trusted advisor,” he concludes. “And I certainly appreciate that.”

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Finding a formula for growth

PurSolutions was awarded a $225,000 NSF-SBIR grant, increased sales by 3 times, created 3 new jobs.

Beattie Sturgill, Emma Sturgill, and Prashant Singh can tell you all about the science of cytoskeletal proteins, but they learned that finding a formula for success in the world of small business is not so easy.

The three co-founders of PurSolutions started their bootstrapped venture in the complex life-science industry in 2015. Their focus was the manufacture of proteins used in cancer and disease research. Good science and good business, as the partners soon discovered, require different areas of expertise.

“In 2015 we went to see Betty Hoge, Director of the Central Virginia SBDC in Charlottesville,” Beattie says. “We needed help navigating the small business world.” In Betty Hoge, the PurSolutions partners found both a coach and a counselor. “We met one or two times a month,” Beattie recalls. “We would talk about problems we were having, and discuss solutions with Betty.”

Betty helped the partners navigate available resources, verify and refine their business model, and find ways to expand to new markets. “Being a small business with only three partners, we were extremely invested in our company, and that can cloud your vision,” Beattie notes. “We took our ideas and strategies to Betty and she would provide valuable insight. The SBDC provided a valuable third-party review of our business that helped us grow.”

Practical applications of these reviews were soon apparent. “For example, we had some hypothesis about some market trends we were seeing. So Betty had us do some customer outreach, and helped us to refine our hypothesis based on the data,” Beattie explains. The SBDC’s development tools were also helpful. “Tools like the Growth Wheel helped provide a forward looking review of our company,” Beattie says.

When PurSolutions applied for a NSF-SBIR grant, the SBDC was there to help. “Betty was definitely instrumental in helping us develop a strong application,” Beattie says. “She provided key facts and helpful feedback during our reviews with her.” The award rate for this grant is only 12% nationwide. “That we received that SBIR grant is a testament to the assistance and support provided to PurSolutions by the Central Virginia SBDC,” he adds.

The SBDC also advised the company on filing several patent and trademark applications and on expanding its workforce by employing talented professionals in multiple facets of the business. Future growth was also a topic at the SBDC meetings. “Company growth was the focus of almost every talk we had with Betty,” Beattie notes. “It was the heart of every meeting.”

After working with the SBDC for three years, Beattie and his partners are confirmed fans. “I tell other business associates about the SBDC,” he concludes. “Even if they’ve been in business for years, I still recommend a visit to the SBDC. It’s like having a checkup with your doctor — it’s a good business practice.”

PurSolutions was awarded a $225,000 NSF-SBIR grant, increased sales, and

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Premier Pediatric Therapy Source

Problem solved: Private practice takes big steps

Premier Pediatric Therapy created 3 new jobs and exceeded their previous yearly sales by 21%.

Where many might see problems, Debbie Allen, owner and clinical director of Premier Pediatric Therapy Source in Alexandria, sees only new ways to succeed.

Debbie founded her private practice in 2011 to offer the best therapeutic resources available for children. While living in California, she helped her employer create an occupational and physical therapy department from scratch. “That job inspired me to start my own practice and build it in a way that allowed me to stay true to what I value as an occupational therapist and how I wanted children and families to be served,” Debbie says.

And that’s just what she did when she moved to Virginia and started Premier Pediatric Therapy Source. The group includes speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, and a registered dietitian, who all work with special-needs children in Northern Virginia. Debbie, who holds a doctoral degree in occupational therapy from the University of Southern California, is passionate about making a positive impact on her clients. “I believe the families we serve sense our motivation not only in me, but in my team as well,” Debbie adds.

In 2016, Debbie joined the Business Incubation Center at the Community Business Partnership (CBP), that offers offices to startups and entrepreneurs, along with business assistance and resources. It was here that she connected with the SBDC at CBP. 

“The SBDC has helped me in every area of my practice,” Debbie says. “I use their counseling services religiously, because my practice is constantly evolving. I’m entering into unchartered territory, and I know someone in the SBDC can always help me navigate or at least find me someone who can. They have helped me with HR issues, financial projections to plan for future growth, contracts and lease proposals, hiring interviews, marketing, and so much more,” Debbie adds.

All the help paid off magnificently. In 2017, Premier Pediatric Therapy Source launched an outpatient program and opened a clinic in Alexandria. “This program took off much faster than I anticipated,” Debbie says. “It’s been exciting to see so many children being served who are benefiting from our services. In early 2019 we are moving into a larger clinic, because we’ve outgrown the one we are currently in,” she adds.

“The SBDC counselors and volunteers have been instrumental in helping me increase my knowledge and confidence in business ownership,” Debbie says. “Because of their guidance, I’m confident my practice is heading in the right direction.”

Looking back over the last seven years, Debbie feels a deep sense of pride in the steady growth that Premier Pediatric Therapy Source has maintained. Even with 10 full- and part-time employees and sales figures already nearly a third higher than the previous year, Debbie remains unwavering in the vision that started it all. “I think when you’re motivated to make a difference in someone’s life, people are naturally drawn to you, and we have certainly seen that by the amount of referrals we receive on a weekly basis.”

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Birch Studio Graphics

Creative Solutions

Became profitable through focused marketing and financial management, despite adverse effects of the 2009 recession. Increased revenues by more than 35% in the past year with substantially more growth in net income.

Birch Studio Graphic became a client of the Central Virginia SBDC in 2004 when the owners, David and Jenny Robinson, sought assistance in developing a marketing strategy.  It quickly became apparent that the firm needed assistance in marketing tactics, including prospect development, pricing, as well as overall financial and human resource management.  The company, which is now positioned as a branding firm, provides graphic and web design services to small and mid-sized businesses.  The company sought guidance from the SBDC on purchasing and financing their office site, human resource management (staffing, job descriptions, hiring/termination practices), and annual budgeting and financial management to improve profitability.

The Center assisted the company in analyzing profitability at the firm level and productivity at the worker level,  as well as providing recommendations on prospect development, sales calling tactics, pricing, and process management within the firm to improve profitability. It also assisted in looking at expansion into new markets for its directory of alternative health care providers, which generates revenue for the company through advertisements in the directory. The company experienced a serious decline in revenue during the recession and refocused its marketing direction.  In the past few years, the Center has assisted the owner in his development of an annual budget and recommended refinancing of existing debt to improve cash flow.

Results Include:

  • Became profitable through focused marketing and financial management, despite adverse effects of the 2009 recession.
  • Increased revenues by more than 35% in the past year with substantially more growth in net income.
  • Re-hiring staff (1 added in 2012).
  • Acquisition of the office space that owners operate and successfully refinanced in 2012 at the recommendation of a bank referral by the SBDC.
  • Most importantly, development of owners into proactive business managers compared to graphic designers with no plan or strategy which was the initial situation.

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SNA International

Top 500!

Since being featured as the Alexandria SBDC’s 2012 Success Story, SNA International has become a highly respected provider of forensic science services. In only four years, SNA achieved a growth rate of almost 2000%! This achievement earned national recognition and a mention in Inc. Magazine’s Top 500 Fastest-Growing Companies. Starting in 2017, SNA applied for and won three highly-competitive, multi-year Federal forensic contracts totaling over $145M.

SNA International, an Alexandria consulting firm, empowers organizations to achieve public confidence through optimal performance in their human identification and forensic initiatives.  They serve organizations in varying stages of development: from the first identified need to complex laboratory expansions. They develop and implement solutions for operational challenges ranging in scope from evidence handling to a comprehensive response for large mass fatalities. Their technical and managerial capacity building consulting services are designed to increase productivity, staff morale, and operational efficiency while reducing overall costs by up to 20%.

Dr. Amanda Sozer, President/Owner, received international recognition for her extensive forensic human identification work following 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and other global human rights initiatives. Dr. Sozer started meeting with the Alexandria SBDC Assistant Director late in 2009 for assistance with business development because SNA International believed that proper mass fatality response plans are critical to effective emergency management. SNA International was particularly interested in expanding the consulting side of their business to provide effective emergency planning services to localities, and state governments.  They were also interested in increasing their Federal business.

The Alexandria SBDC was able to offer this client advice on negotiating all of the registrations and certifications necessary to pursue work with state and local governments, as well as federal certifications that will enable them to bid for set-aside contracts.  SNA International was able to achieve DBE/SWaM certified in Virginia, and SNA International has expanded their certification to other states.  SNA International has also completed the registration for Federal Woman-Owned Small Business 8(m) certification and recently submitted their 8(a) application to the Small Business Administration.

They also contracted with the Emergency Planning team in the City of Alexandria to develop the most comprehensive Mass Fatality Family Assistance Center (FAC) operational plan in the United States.  With this past performance, SNA International then took advantage of an opportunity first identified by the Alexandria SBDC to successfully bid on a contract to provide emergency planning and disaster preparedness services for the State of Virginia and are currently working with various state agencies pursuant to that contract. Initiatives include a major training program with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) for first responders, forensic scientists, public health professionals, and emergency response staff.  This training will be held March 14 – 16, 2012 on the VCU campus. SNA International has also been able to increase their Federal business, particularly with the US Department of State and Department of Defense, and they continue to work with the US and foreign governments and NGOs throughout the world.

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Arrieta Construction

Constructing Success

In the period between 2010 and 2011, Ms. Arrieta company’s revenues grew from $1.9 million to over $2.1 million and she has created 5 new jobs and retained 7.

Originally from New York City, born and raised in the Bronx, Elaine Arrieta’s parents did all they could to ensure that their daughter had the best education possible. As she grew up, she worked in a variety of positions, including serving as the Executive Secretary to the VP or Nomura Securities. In 1992, Arrieta relocated to Virginia. She has been involved in construction for nearly 10 years working up from the bottom beginning as a laborer and advancing to office manager, executive assistant and accounting and project manager assistant.

When the opportunity presented itself for her to start up her own business, Ms. Arrieta jumped at the chance and quickly realized that she needed to become more knowledgeable about all aspects of business. Starting with online courses offered by the US Small Business Administration, she soon discovered the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center, attending workshops and taking advantage of the counseling services offered. Arrieta Construction, Inc. was formed in 2009.

The SBDC has been a vital asset to my business’ quick success. I attended several workshops/events that cost next to nothing (many were free). It was and continues to be a “home base” for me. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and eager to assist with anything they can, to get you the information you need to succeed!

I highly recommend contacting your local SBDC for guidance on starting-up or even to further excel in your business.”

In the period between 2010 and 2011, Ms. Arrieta company’s revenues grew from $1.9 million to over $2.1 million and she has created 5 new jobs and retained 7.

Arrieta Construction provides construction services for most Government Installations in, but not limited to, the following Virginia communities: Yorktown, Lackey, Newport News, Hampton, Richmond, Norfolk & Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Williamsburg & Alexandria. Goals for 2012 include obtaining 8a Certification and expanding our commercial & residential service divisions.

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