Category: Business Expansion

Felts Supports for Living

Felts Supports for Living

Home Sweet Home

“The SBDC and incubator services have been vital in helping us meet our goals. Assistance in accounting, legal, training, and incubator services have helped us grow and become sustainable,” shared Chris Felts. “We are excited to now have 5 office employees, 12 residential homes, and 11 individuals receiving services,” added owners Jerry and Jean Felts.

Felts Supports for Living

“We want to make sure the residents that we serve find a family they can call their own,” says Chris Felts, owner of Felts Supports for Living.

Felts’ business provides home licensing for Sponsored Residential Services, a branch of Virginia Department of Behavioral Health Developmental Services. Sponsored Residential Services provides homes for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The homes are like foster homes, and Felts Supports for Living trains families in how to work with people with intellectual disabilities, overseeing all services.

“These services provide life-changing opportunities to our clients, including travel and daily family activities. Our motto is “a life like ours,” ensuring that every person has a happy and healthy home,” says Felts.

Felts Supports for Living is a family-owned business. Chris Felts, his father Jerry, and his stepmother Jean own and operate the business. The Felts family has over 80 combined years of experience in the field. When they were just starting their business, the family worked with the Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC to develop a business plan that was vital for licensure.

Felts Supports for Living moved into a small office in the business incubator located in the Crossroads Institute. The Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC and business incubator continue to support Felts Supports for Living, helping to enable expansion and job creation.

“The SBDC and incubator services have been vital in helping us meet our goals. Assistance in accounting, legal, training space, and incubator services have helped us grow and become sustainable,” shared Chris Felts. “We are excited to now have five office employees, 12 residential homes, and 11 individuals receiving services,” added owners Jerry and Jean Felts.

Although the business has grown, Felts Supports for Living will remain a family-owned business and stay focused on the people they serve. “We started this business because we saw a need,” Felts says. “We like working with individuals and structuring their life so it’s their life, and they enjoy it.”

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G2 Ops

G2 Ops

Mission Possible: G2 Ops Redefines Small Business

G2 Ops is currently working on a five-year contract, valued at up to $15.6 million. They have 40 staff members spread throughout their Virginia Beach, San Diego, and Arlington Offices.

Military contracts, cybersecurity, and systems engineering may not be the first things most people think of when they heard the words “small business.” But for Tracy Gregorio and her company, G2 Ops, these specialties are their bread and butter. Based out of Virginia Beach, G2 Ops delivers Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) and cybersecurity services. Their services help clients improve their configuration management and cyber posture, and their target allocation of their limited resources to fulfill their business mission.

G2 Ops was founded in 1999, focusing primarily on military training and ship repair. When Gregorio joined in 2013, the company switched its focus to expanding their systems engineering services. “Our business is set apart by our people. We hire smart, energetic staff. Our corporate values are integrity, excellence, innovation, and customer worldview. These are ingrained into our culture.”

Like all small businesses, G2 Ops faces the omnipresent challenge of cash flow. According to Gregorio, although the financial needs are non-stop, that can be a sign of healthy growth. “There is always something to pay: employees, federal taxes, business license fees, health insurance, corporate liability insurance, worker’s compensation, unemployment taxes, rent, phones, internet service, and on and on it goes,” says Gregorio.

The Hampton Roads SBDC assisted G2 Ops in submitting a winning proposal that resulted in a five-year U.S. Navy contract, valued at up to $15.6 million, for systems engineering work in San Diego, California. The contract kicked off in September of 2016.

“Right now our revenue is generated through Department of Navy contracts,” says Gregorio. “We are working to diversify our revenue and the SBDC has done a few things for us, including introducing us to potential new customers and other contract vehicles like GSA. They have also provided research on other industries where we would like to diversify,” Gregorio says.

Gregorio says that the Hampton Roads SBDC is one of many reasons that Virginia is a great place for small businesses.

“Virginia is rich with opportunities to expand our business and serve federal customers and commercial companies located and headquartered in Virginia. Virginia and its elected leadership are striving to lead the nation in cybersecurity,” Gregorio says.

She adds that small businesses need to be intentional about pursuing the opportunities that are available.

“We have purposely utilized the resources of the SBDC and Virginia Beach Economic Development, as well as Senator Warner’s staff. We graduated from the VALET program offered by Virginia Economic Development Partnership,” says Gregorio. “There are resources available but they need you to communicate your needs and push them to work on your behalf.”

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Pranapiloga Yoga Studio

Pranapiloga Yoga Studio

A Successful Business is No Accident

Pranapiloga Yoga Studio started with one employee back in 2015; since then, they have grown to a staff of 14 with 230 active clients.” This was an opportunity to bring something I love to a place I’ve grown to love,” Elsen said.

It was an accident in 2012 that motivated Rebecca Elsen to start her own yoga studio, but it’s no accident that her business is a success. In 2016 Elsen was named the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year and was voted “Best of the Best” by readers of the Culpeper Times-Exponent.

Following her accident, Elsen decided to move from Fairfax to Culpeper. “I wanted to go to a place where the lifestyle isn’t so hectic,” she says. The yoga practitioner, who had been teaching yoga since her late teens, soon noted a lack of yoga studios in her new location. “I thought there was an opportunity to bring something I love to a place I’ve grown to love,” she adds.

In March 2015, Elsen paid a visit to David Reardon at the Lord Fairfax SBDC in Culpeper. Elsen was teaching private and small group classes but wanted a downtown location for a dedicated yoga studio. “David was full of great information and gave me tons of tips,” she says. “The SBDC seminars were really helpful, too—like the one on Facebook and social media.”

Elsen’s opened the Pranapiloga Yoga Studio in April 2015. “I was fortunate that I was able to start this business with my own capital, but learning to draft the right kind of business plan was a big help,” she says. The studio offers private and small group classes in yoga, yoga therapy, and Pilates including both land- and water-based environments. Waterbased classes are taught at the Powell Wellness Center pool.

“I like to think outside the box,” Elsen says. This philosophy extends to her clients. Once a month the studio holds a class for persons with mental and physical disabilities. “You have to learn how to work with them,” she says. “One client was afraid to go downstairs, so I sat down beside her, and we scooted down together.”

Elsen’s business model is obviously a successful one. Her staff, starting with herself as the only employee, now includes three karma yoga ambassadors, two meditation teachers, four yoga teachers, and four part-time instructors. Her client database currently includes 230.

“When I opened my business, I felt that if one person showed up, I was OK,” Elsen says. “Teaching and sharing yoga is my favorite thing to do.” As the business grows, Elsen plans to continue her visits to the SBDC. “I don’t have the experience,” she says. “So it’s better for me to lean on people who do.”

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College Nannies & Tutors

College Nannies & Tutors

Building on Stronger Families

College Nannies & Tutors started with 45 employees in 2014, grew to 205 employees in 2015, and expect to double that number in 2016. They generated $700,000 in growth in 2015 and expect their sales to increase by 60% in 2016.

Simon and Caitlin Gillett opened a business because they saw a need in the Fairfax community they now call home. “When we moved to the United States, we noticed there were a lot of working families without grandparents nearby,” Simon Gillett says. “We’re a couple like that with a young family.”

The Gilletts decided to open a childcare franchise of College Nannies & Tutors, a national organization that provides caregivers who bring order, organization, and options to family life.

As the name suggests, College Nannies & Tutors provides reliable childcare and tutoring to children “from cradle to college.” “From infancy we provide child care. As a student ages and requires homework help, we offer tutoring up to college.” The company hires experienced nannies and sitters and requires CPR training and First Aid certification. If sitters have questions or concerns while on the job, Caitlin Gillett or another manager is always on call.

When planning his business, Gillett looked up the Mason SBDC. “I was a college professor, and the connection with the university led me to the Mason Enterprise Center,” Gillett says. “When you’re starting a business, there are a lot of administrative details that need to be dealt with, and knowing there is someone to support you when you run into a roadblock is important. The SBDC helped us with a business plan as well as financial aspects, marketing, franchise opportunity, and accounting.”

“We opened in 2014 with 45 employees,” Gillett says. “In 2015 we had 205 employees, mostly part time. This year we’ll double the number of employees.”

In 2016 the Gilletts launched a My Sitters app that allows clients to book a favorite sitter with as little as three hours’ notice. “It complements what we’ve been doing for a long time—building stronger families,” Gillett says. The last three words of that comment, Gillett adds, are the company’s mission statement. “We’re not a website,” he says. “We’re local and based in this community.”

Gillett noted that his business had $700,000 in growth in 2015 and expects a 60% increase in 2016. “The SBDC is about peace of mind,” Gillett concludes. “The SBDC is always there and ready to help if we need them.”

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C&C Piping and Fabrication

C&C Piping and Fabrication

Not Just a Pipe Dream

With encouragement from the SBDC, Cyrus applied for and won a $15,000 grant to expand the business. She is currently looking for a suitable storefront location before expanding into a 10,000-square-foot industrial space.

Starting a business is like cooking from scratch. So says Codie Cyrus, owner of C&C Piping and Fabrication. “It’s like not knowing how to cook,” says Cyrus. “Someone puts you in the kitchen and you say, ‘OK, where’s the recipe?’” Cyrus and her husband, Cody Hurd, have found their recipe for success: hard work, a sound business plan, and community support.

In October 2015, Cyrus and Hurd had an idea for a business that would capitalize on Hurd’s experience as a welder. Welding is both a trade and a talent, and Hurd is extremely good at it. He began welding when he was 12 years old and trained at a technical institute in Missouri. He has traveled all over the country working on welding projects. When the time was right, he and Cyrus decided to go into business for themselves. They would fill a need for mid-sized industrial projects. He would do the repair, maintenance, and design/ fabrication work; she would run the business.

Cyrus had a lot to learn. She researched a great deal on her own and then signed up for Pop-Up Altavista Program. The SBDC at Central Virginia Community College partnered with Altavista on Track, Altavista’s Main Street Program, to deliver a nine-week curriculum based on the GrowthWheel® methodology for start-ups and expanding businesses. Although Cyrus was aware that grants were available through the program, she didn’t intend to apply for one originally, as her business is outside the town limits. With encouragement from Nathan Kolb and Stephanie Keener at the SBDC, she applied for and won a $15,000 grant to expand the business. She and Hurd are currently looking for a suitable storefront location.

Cyrus notes that their expansion happened very quickly. They created a five-year plan and grew into it within the first year of business. And they are grateful for the community support they have received. “It’s all about the support system,” she says. That system has contributed to C&C’s success, helping them turn their dream into a reality.

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Discovery Time Reading

Discovery Time Learning Center

Learning on the Go

Discovery Time Learning Center opened in 2014 with a profit the first year; revenues exceeded $1 million in 2015 and are expected to be $1.2 million in 2016. They have also been able to create 23 jobs.

Stephanie Harris began planning the child daycare center she opened in 2014 while still in high school. Profitable its first year of operation, Harris’ Discovery Time Learning Center in Alexandria had revenues exceeding $1 million in 2015 and anticipates an increase to $1.2 million in 2016.

“Having my own daycare center was a dream I’ve had since I was 15 years old,” says Harris. She was part of a comprehensive early childhood program for three years while in high school. Continuing to make plans, Harris went to the Alexandria SBDC in 2011 for advice while pursuing her Master’s in Special Education at George Mason University and working as a middle school teacher. “I needed something to hold me over,” she explains. “My goal was to open a daycare operation for 75 to 100 children in the Del Ray area of Alexandria where there is a large millennial population,” Harris explains. “There continues to be a demand for child daycare facilities there; all of the centers in operation now have waiting lists.”

As Harris continued to make plans, Alexandria SBDC Financial Analyst Jack Parker introduced her to a successful daycare operator in the area who became a mentor. “Most of my research was learning on the go,” she says.

“The SBDC was a one-stop shop for me. They helped me with everything,” Harris says. “I worked with Jack Parker on my business plan, and he connected me with a real estate broker. It took two years to find a location with room for a playground and parking.” Parker also approached Eagle Bank, which eventually approved the SBA 7(a) loan Harris was seeking.

A second property is now on the agenda for Discovery Time. The additional location will make room for more families currently on a waiting list. “We started with 20 kids, and now we’re at 85,” Harris says. “Currently the staff is at 23.”

Harris hasn’t forgotten that the SBDC is the place that helped make it happen. “I recommend the SBDC one hundred percent,” she concludes. “The one-on-one attention the SBDC provides is remarkable.”

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Tee Spot Creative Learning Center

Tee Spot Creative Learning Center

Tee Spot is spot-on for early childhood learning

Tiarra moved her business from her house to a 4,000 square foot facility, with an enrollment of 52 children and a highly qualified staff of 12.

Tiarra Dawson believes learning starts at home. “In 2014, I opened Tee Spot, a small early-childhood-learning business in my home. I knew it would bloom rapidly,” explains Tiarra, known as Ms. Tee to her students. “My vision was to provide children with remarkable learning experiences, a loving and safe place to grow, and bonds that would last beyond my care.”

When Tiarra had 10 children enrolled at Tee Spot, she began meeting with Christine Kriz, Director of the Lord Fairfax SBDC in 2016. “Tiarra had excellent training for early childhood learning, but wanted to learn more about business functions,” says Christine. “She knows that you can’t do it all yourself, and she wanted to develop a staff that would offer the best learning environment for children.”

Tee Spot soon outgrew Tiarra’s house. She continued to meet with the LFSBDC, in order to help manage her business growth. Christina connected Tiarra to advisors, realtors, lawyers, and others who could help her move to a new facility. She also advised Tiarra on financing, accounting, operations, and human resource functions.

“At the end of April 2016, Tiarra found a 4,000-square-foot facility,” Christine notes. Tiarra adds, “It was a blessing to find this building. It used to be the probation building, and the foyer is made of bulletproof glass. It’s one of the safest and most secure daycare centers in the area.”

For children from six-weeks-old to third grade, the program introduces a structured learning environment that includes a teacher-directed and student-directed approach. “Each day of the week students focus on a particular area of development,” says Tiarra. Daily areas of study include music and movement, early literacy, writing development, science/social studies, and mathematics.

Given her goals, Tiarra consulted with Christine again in 2017 for help with business operations and staffing needs. To achieve the standards that Tiarra set, the right cultural and educational fit is critical.

Tiarra, who holds a degree in early childhood education, says, “I’m extremely passionate about children and love to aid in their growth and development. We welcome all young children in our place of learning. We teach our young children daily, and they continue to teach us.” “Tiarra’s center is having an impact on the children and the communities it serves,” Christina says. “She is determined to continue to shape the minds of the future — the sky is truly the limit.”

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Industrial Biodynamics

Industrial Biodynamics

Slipping to Success

Industrial Biodynamics has sold over 65 Slip Simulators to businesses in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

If you think falling on purpose sounds crazy, you haven’t met the founders of Salem-based Industrial Biodynamics. Their signature product, Slip Simulator™, is proof that the concept is revolutionizing workplace safety. Based on the research of former Virginia Tech professor Dr. Thurmon Lockhart, the simulator reduces slip, trip, and fall injuries in the workplace by up to 70%.

“The goal was to create a learning environment that was safe, yet simulated very difficult slippery conditions that would typically result in a fall,” says Jon Hager, one of the original founders of the company. “By using a harness, supported by an overhead gantry, a trainee could experience worst case scenarios, fall safely, and then learn new techniques that would build situational awareness, confidence, and success in conquering the most challenging slip-and- trip conditions.”

Jon, Thurmon, Christian James and another managing partner founded Industrial Biodynamics in 2013, and the company enjoyed meteoric growth, as major companies including UPS, FedEx, and DuPont have begun using the Slip Simulator training system.

The Roanoke Regional SBDC Adviser Christina Garnett offered key assistance to Industrial Biodynamics. “We reached out to the SBDC for help to develop a marketing plan to expand our business, especially locally and regionally. The majority of our sales have been to large corporations across the country, but we are interested in exposing our product and services to midsize regional companies as well,” says Jon. “Christina Garnett has provided excellent insight into social media marketing and networking and has also supported our efforts to acquire staffing to execute our plans,” he adds.

For Industrial Biodynamics, the partnership with Christina and the Roanoke Regional SBDC has been vital, enabling them to increase their local brand awareness while simultaneously bolstering their marketing efforts.

“We offer a fresh take on workplace safety with our unique and effective safety training solution. We change the way companies discuss and address safety challenges by actively engaging the employees in an informative and fun way,” Jon says.

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Barnes Monument

Barnes Monument

Building a monument to success

After working with Matthew and Megan to successfully jump start their newly purchased Barnes Monument, the BRC SBDC helped them obtain a microloan through JUMP! Galax, which enabled them to hire local contractors.

When Matthew and Megan Barnes purchased a monument business in 2015, they were building on a foundation that had been there for over 45 years. Barnes Monument LLC creates beautiful, timeless memorials, while carving out a place of their own in the Galax community.

The couple worked with Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC to jumpstart their dream. The BRC SBDC Director Mandy Archer helped them develop a marketing plan and financial analysis that included expansion opportunities. Business boomed.

But in early 2017, Barnes Monument found themselves without a truck of their own that could transport the monuments. Purchasing a used truck solved that problem, but it created cash-flow issues for the fledgling business.

Mandy helped Matthew and Megan obtain a low-interest loan from JUMP! Galax. Mandy explains, “JUMP! was developed by Galax’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to encourage investments which would create locally owned microbusinesses. By investing in small businesses, the IDA is helping to create a sustainable local economy.” The loan also allowed Matthew and Megan to hire local part- time contractors to transport, set, and clean monuments, further boosting the local economy.

Because of its partnership with the community and the BRC SBDC, Barnes Monument has established itself as a permanent fixture in the Twin Counties. Mandy applauds the commitment this couple made to their entrepreneurial dreams. “Opening a new business can be difficult, but Matthew and Megan keep their eyes on their goals and continue to move forward,” Mandy says. “The BRC SBDC looks forward to providing on-going support as Barnes Monument continues to grow.”

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Cork & Table

Cork & Table

Planning and patience — a recipe for success

Now in its third year, Cork & Table has doubled its sales over year one and eliminated almost all debt. Plans for a new location are already underway. 

Chef James Fallon ran the successful Northern Neck Gourmet Restaurant in Warsaw, VA, when he began thinking of moving to a larger market. With advice from the University of Mary Washington SBDC, James found a recipe for success in Fredericksburg.

“James wanted to carry his food and wine points of view to more people,” SBDC Executive Director Brian Baker says. “He had built a strong brand with the Warsaw restaurant, but like other graduates from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, he hungered for growth opportunities. He was determined to move to Fredericksburg, where the market was significantly larger.”

The SBDC helped James develop a business plan, identify a location, negotiate a lease, and identify sources of working capital. “With reserves from Northern Neck Gourmet Restaurant and a Virginia Small Business Financing Authority microloan, he started the Cork & Table restaurant,” Brian says. “The Warsaw brand gave James market familiarity and loyalty,” he adds, “which helped nurture Cork & Table’s early brand.”

One of the biggest challenges for James was learning the tastes of his new community.

“Not only was it challenging to find the right individuals to assist with building the restaurant, but once it opened it took another three months to solidify the concept and menu,” he says. “It took the entire first year to understand the downtown market.”

“The UMW SBDC and Brian Baker played key roles in defining the process of developing the business, both financially and logistically,” James says. “Most importantly, Brian helped me negotiate the terms of the lease. The process required a focus on long-term goals instead of dwelling on the short-term struggles,” James states. “Brian was available for routine guidance meetings, site visits, market strategy sessions, and telephone calls on the fly.”

Patience, planning, and hard work paid off. Cork & Table is successful and already expanding. “As Cork & Table concludes its third year, it has enjoyed fantastic growth, doubling our sales over year one,” James says. “We have eliminated almost all of our debt and are at the point of needing a new location to accommodate the volume of sales and to bring new food concepts to the market.” UMW SBDC is on the job assisting with the process.

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