Category: Networking

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Back of the Dragon Project

Project Success

The Back of the Dragon route has now been granted official tourism designation by the Virginia Legislature. Signage has been provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation. The ribbon cutting for this official designation was held October 22, 2012.

The SW-SBDC Director initially met with Mr. Larry Davidson in January, 2011.  Mr. Davidson had recently retired from the US Army and moved back to the “Thompson Valley” area, on VA State Route 16, a scenic, mountainous road between Tazewell and Marion, VA, in Smyth County.  This 26-mile route crosses three mountains with an estimated driving time for the curvy route of about one hour. It is home to some of the most beautiful mountain areas in southwest Virginia, and Mr. Davidson was interested in putting this route “on the map” for tourism, attracting motorcyclist and car enthusiasts to the area.  Back of the Dragon is the name he gave the route and his project.

Mr. Davidson, along with his son, wanted to open a store front at the Tazewell end of the route that would also sell the various items and refreshments.  Research by the client and the Southwest SBDC found that this property did not meet VA Department of Health regulations for water and sewer, so the project was nixed.

Mr. Davidson began marketing the route to his target markets online.  To date, the “Back of the Dragon” project has held three all day events called “Back of the Dragon Day,” which have attracted thousands of visitors from all over the US, Canada, and England to southwest Virginia.  Another is planned for June, 2013.

Mr. Davidson has been successful in obtaining partners on the Smyth County end of the route, who also advertise the area and sell the memorabilia. Both Tazewell County and Smyth County report an increase in tourism that is attributed to this project.   The “Back of the Dragon” website, www.backofthedragon.com , is active and internet sales to advertisers and sponsors continue to increase.

The SW-SBDC also coordinated meetings with Mr. Davidson and the Tazewell County Office of Tourism.  Together they obtained a Marketing Leverage Grant through the Virginia Tourism Corporation to market this newly created tourism designation in southwest Virginia.The Back of the Dragon route has now been granted official tourism designation by the Virginia Legislature.  Signage has been provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation.  The ribbon cutting for this official designation was held October 22, 2012.

Mr. Davidson, working with the SW-SBDC, and has just completed a business plan and financial projections for the start-up of a full-service restaurant and event facility that would further enhance the Back of the Dragon project and promote tourism to southwest Virginia.

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Solar4 Leesburg, Leesburg

Solar4 Leesburg

Energizing Success

Solar4, Leesburg has placed for two years in Loudoun SBDC’s Business Plan Competition, which has given them additional exposure to community leaders and press coverage.

Solar4, Leesburg, LLC began operations on March 17, 2010 with four partners.  Today, though the specific partners have changed as the company has grown, Solar4Leesburg has four strong and engaged partners actively contributing to the company, plus 1 sales associate and 1 intern.  The company reported sales for CY 2011 of $130,000.

Solar 4, Leesburg has become a leader in Loudoun County for sustainable energy and government involvement.  In February, at the invitation of Solar4, Leesburg, Virginia Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey and Assistant Secretary Cameron Kilberg toured Mason Enterprise Center-Leesburg and paid on-site visits to two of Solar4, Leesburg’s solar energy clients, North Gate Winery and Endless Summer Harvest in Purcellville.

Loudoun SBDC staff and volunteer counselors have had a strong relationship with Solar4, Leesburg and provided the following services:  one-on-one and peer-to-peer counseling, business plan review and development, strategic planning, financial counseling and introduction to local community leaders.   The partners have been extremely generous in publicly supporting Loudoun SBDC and the services provided by the Center.

Solar4, Leesburg has placed for two years in Loudoun SBDC’s Business Plan Competition, which has given them additional exposure to community leaders and press coverage

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Valley Urgent Care, Harrisonburg

Valley Urgent Care

Jumpstarting Success

Melissa and Michelle now employ ten in the Center. The loans are paid off; gross revenues are healthy; and each partner is able to take a good income. 

Melissa Lafferty FNP-C came to the Shenandoah Valley SBDC in the fall of 2011, unsure if she could, would, or should open a new urgent care center. Although she possessed a strong medical background, she had no practical business experience.

With guidance from her Shenandoah Valley SBDC business advisor, Melissa worked through a SWOT analysis, prepared a business plan, and connected with an old friend who could join her as a partner.  Michelle Seekford, RN, had prior business experience, and with their complementary skill sets they found a private investor for  a loan of $50,000. With that capital infusion and a business plan in hand, the bank which had initially turned them down agreed to a loan of $70,000.  Valley Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine opened in Harrisonburg in May 2012 with three employees.

Update to 2013:  Melissa and Michelle now employ ten in the Center. The loans are paid off; gross revenues are healthy; and each partner is able to take a good income.  When asked to what they contribute their success, Melissa’s response was immediate: success is due to long hours and hard work.

Valley Urgent Care serves the local community and employers with occupational testing and screening, drug testing, sports physicals, workplace accident care and other urgent care services. A key to their rapid growth has been their high degree of community involvement.  Melissa and Michelle help refugees who cannot wait the many months to get into the local health center and provide pro bono care to the indigent.  Many local companies have switched from other well-established firms to Valley Urgent Care because they go the extra mile and provide great customer service.

Melissa writes of Lee Simon, their SBDC Business Advisor, “I never could or would have done it without your belief in me.  Your support made the difference.  Remember you told me there was more to running a clinic than seeing patients. That’s why I needed a business partner…you were right!”

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Sysnet Managed Services, Inc, Fairfax

Sysnet Managed Services, Inc

Managing Success

Rehan has successfully obtained and delivered on several large contracts, is pursuing multiple projects in the commercial sector, and is now in the process of growing his team to take advantage of new business opportunities and to face new challenges.

Sysnet Managed Services, Inc, Fairfax

It takes a lot of courage to leave a promising career to start a new business, especially in an economy where jobs are still hard to come by. Rehan Mahmood was a rising star at CSC when he decided to strike out on his own as a defense/IT consultant. Without a full-time source of income, Rehan realized that he had only a small window of time to make his business a success. Rehan knew he needed help,  so he called the Mason SBDC.

Mason SBDC’s counselors and coordinators worked with Rehan every step of the way from getting incorporated, deciding how to price his services, and building the business connections to pursue new clients. With our guidance, Rehan developed strong business fundamentals, learned how to write a compelling capabilities statement, and most importantly obtained the ability to not only confidently put together a strong contract proposal, but to deliver on it as well.

SMSI, Rehan’s business, was incorporated in July of 2013.  In less than a year, it has grown tremendously. Rehan has successfully obtained and delivered on several large contracts, is pursuing multiple projects in the commercial sector, and is now in the process of growing his team to take advantage of new business opportunities and to face new challenges.

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TRAXyL

TRAXyL

Making Tracks

TRAXyL has created 4 jobs and are always fine tuning their business processes. “The ICAP program put us in touch with a plethora of contacts to help us out and point us in the right direction, including financing,” said Turner.

Daniel Turner and Stephen Carter are planning to make tracks in rural America. Their company, TRAXyL, is developing a new way of distributing optical fiber for digital connections. Their optical fiber goes directly on the surface of the road rather than being buried underground or hung from telephone poles. The fiber is faster to install and much less expensive than traditional optical fiber installation methods. As Carter puts it, “We are helping to bring down the cost to connect rural and underserved areas to the internet.”

The optical fiber solution, known as FiberTRAX, is currently in the research and development stage. TRAXyL has faced some technical hurdles, particularly in finding the right resin to use in developing the fiber and in coming up with a machine to automate the process.

As they’ve been working on technical processes, they’ve also been attending to their business. TRAXyL has four employees, including founders Turner and Carter. When they needed business advice, they turned to Senior Business Counselor Bernard Ferret at the Mason SBDC. Turner found Ferret to be someone who is “great to bounce ideas off of and who brings expertise to the company we otherwise couldn’t afford.”

Turner and Carter participated in the SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), which benefited them a great deal. “They put us in touch with a plethora of contacts to help us out and point us in the right direction,” says Turner. Those contacts, including several subject matter experts – one of whom was himself an ICAP participant in a previous year, have helped the duo as they move forward in their plans to bring connectivity to those who might not normally have it. It also helped them land a fair amount of funding.

Having overcome most of the technical hurdles, TRAXyL is now focusing on customer acquisition. “The core of our company is bringing digital services to the rural customer, schools that need to close the digital divide, businesses, and even those working for disaster relief,” says Carter. As Turner explains, “The most rewarding part of the job is being able to provide service to people who really don’t have any other choices for internet access.”

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Adele Diamond

Adele Diamond

A Diamond in the Rough

Adele Diamond created 5 new jobs and sales doubled from 2015 to 2016. “We went from half a million dollars to over a million from one year to the next!” exclaimed Lyons.

Chris Lyons has been entrepreneurial his whole life. When his wife decided to open a jewelry store in 2008, it was a perfect fit. Lyons got involved a few years later to help grow the business, and today Adele Diamond is thriving.

Like every small business, Adele Diamond has faced its share of challenges. Lyons describes their primary issue was getting the word out about their business in an environment with seven or eight other jewelers. “We were a smaller business competing with larger businesses and inventories,” says Chris Lyons. “We chose to have a smaller, curated inventory.” By focusing on the customer and choosing to showcase in-demand rings at affordable prices, the business began to grow.

Lyons also knows the power of connections, so he began to reach out to the surrounding community. Through networking with people outside the store, the couple began to make new friends and business connections, and they got involved with nonprofits and neighboring businesses.

As part of his community involvement, Lyons joined Propel in 2015, a mentoring program developed by the Hampton Roads SBDC and the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. It includes a two-month “boot camp” about business principles, followed by mentoring. Lyons wanted to understand the basics of marketing, accounting, and finance, as well as to meet other business owners.

The program was extremely helpful and contributed to Adele Diamond’s growth, according to Lyons. “Our business from 2015 to 2016 doubled its sales. We went from half a million dollars to over a million from one year to the next.” Lyons and his team also relocated the store. He credits the relocation, which they did on the advice of the SBDC, with the increase in sales.

Their recent growth has allowed Adele Diamonds to shine, and they intend to continue doing so. They have their eye on growth, focusing especially on e-commerce. “We would like to be one of the best choices online,” says Lyons.

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Green Box ABA

Green Box ABA

Outside the box brings big rewards for Green Box ABA

Green Box ABA has 15 full time and 45 part time employees that serve 70 clients with a growing wait list.

“Our story is what sets us apart. People identify with it and are drawn to it,” says Carl Dzyak, co-owner and founder of Green Box Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in Springfield.

Growing up, Carl and the other neighborhood kids would use the green electrical box on the side of their building as their meeting place. The green box, as well as a lifelong affinity for psychology, inspired him to create a unique business. “We provide high-quality therapy for children on the autism spectrum,” Carl explains. “Our methods allow these kids to gain social skills both inside and outside their homes.”

When Carl started Green Box ABA in October 2014, it was just him at a desk in a tiny, cramped office. Lifelong friend and co-owner Chris Richardson, joined shortly after, and the business began to gather steam . . . rapidly.

Carl’s idea was to employ licensed therapists to provide in-home services to clients for up to 40 hours a week or as few as four. While they do have an office, the heart of Green Box lies with the work they do in clients’ homes.

Once Carl formulated his approach, based on B.F. Skinner’s principles of operant conditioning, he assembled his core team. Often he ran head first into a unique situation: Too much interest. Investors. Ventures capitalists. All with their own angle, and each eager to use.

Green Box’s unique methodology. Carl needed an ally. Enter the business counselors at SBDC at the Community Business Partnership in Springfield.

“I found myself getting a lot of advice from people with many agendas,” said Carl. “The SBDC counselors were the only objective voices I found in all that noise. They had the experience and the connections that I needed to get me where I wanted to go. They gave me the opportunity to practice pitching to a venture capitalist, which was really just invaluable because, honestly, where else, outside of having a family member or close friend, would you get a chance like that?”

Green Box works exclusively with military families through the Department of Defense, and the need is great. Yet pacing their growth has been critical. It takes time to assemble a team of highly skilled, trustworthy “behavior technicians.” Carl is quick to credit his stellar team for every bit of Green Box’s success. “Having that synergy with people that I trust is what has made all the difference,” he says.

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