Category: Business Expansion

Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home, Vienna

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, Galax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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