Category: Business Expansion

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 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

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

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

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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StageCoach Theatre Company

StageCoach on the road to success​

With the new programs Stage Coach now offers in its permanent location, they  estimate a revenue boost of 30% to 40%, with an additional 10% in revenue driven by rental income. 

StageCoach Theatre Company has been on the road in Loudoun County since 2011. By 2017, the traveling theater troupe was ready to find a permanent home, and the SBDC at MEC-Leesburg made it happen, when Jerri Wiseman and Terry Smith, founders, turned to them for help.

“I guess you could call me an SBDC groupie,” Jerri says with a chuckle. “I went to anything and everything they offered. I was looking for information on how to run a business, particularly in Loudoun County, and the SBDC offered a good number of resources.”

“Jerri came to the SBDC in Leesburg to tackle two main challenges,” SBDC Manager Eric Byrd says. “The first was to determine the best location for the permanent theater, and the second was to change her business model to support and fully utilize a permanent location.”

The urgency to find a permanent home was driven by the StageCoach summer camp program. “We have always offered adult classes,” Jerri says. “Finding a space to hold our summer camp for children, however, was a problem.” Eric helped Jerri with planning and revenue projections. “While expenses would go up, our projections showed that increased capacity and program stability would more than pay for extra costs,” Eric explains. “By expanding classes and corporate training programs, like an improv course for business leaders and by renting space in the facility to other groups, these revenue streams gave StageCoach higher profitability through diversification.”

Jerri found the marketing advice that the SBDC provided especially useful. “Eric helped with marketing — who and when we needed to target,” Jerri adds. “We also did some budgeting. Eric showed me how many kids we needed to bring in to make it work.”

With a new theater home and new business plan, Jerri is confident of the future. She says, “The SBDC has been with us all the way. I absolutely will continue to go to the SBDC for advice. I’ve already made plans to meet with them soon.”

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