Category: Restaurant & Retail

Unique Styles & Designs Floral Boutique

SBDC advice grows floral boutique in Martinsville

Grant for over $1770 and a 50% increase in business.

https://www.uniquestylesfloralboutique.com/ 

Shatera Robertson, owner of Unique Styles & Designs Floral Boutique in Uptown Martinsville, built a successful business over the past year with facts and expert guidance. She credits the Longwood SBDC for providing the information that led to that success.

“The key to anything you do in life is wisdom and knowledge,” Shatera says.

Shatera began her journey into floral design 14 years ago with a birthday party for her daughter.

“My interest in doing events grew from there,” she adds. “I actually started my business in 2016.”

Her goal was a storefront location, and during the pandemic, she learned of a vacancy in Uptown Martinsville. After six months of renovations, Shatera held a formal grand opening in June 2021.

“I first met Longwood SBDC Business Analyst Michael Scales when he came to my opening event,” Shatera relates. “He seemed very knowledgeable about business.”

Shatera emailed Michael to see if she could learn more.

“I made an appointment, and he told me about the SBDC services that could help my business grow,” Shatera adds. “He also told me about the Startup Martinsville-Henry County (Startup-MHC) and Grow Martinsville-Henry County (Grow-MHC) programs, so I decided to enroll.”

Startup-MHC and Grow-MHC are mentoring programs that help establish new businesses and grow existing ones through “business boot camps” and have graduated 283 participants since 2016. Michael is a co-facilitator for both mentoring programs.

“Going through the GROW program helped a lot,” Shatera comments. “We received information that a lot of business owners don’t have a clue about. We learned about networking with other business owners, important tax tips and how to write business plans.”

At the conclusion of the program, Shatera presented her business plan to a panel of experts. The result was a grant for over $1,770.

“When I opened my business last year, I financed everything myself,” Shatera says with a note of pride. “I’m a registered nurse and was able to work extra hours in the emergency room during the pandemic to fund my business.”

Since she connected with the SBDC, Shatera has seen a 50 percent increase in that business.

Planning for the future, Shatera is certain of one thing: the SBDC will be front and center.

“The SBDC gave me the information and motivation to keep going and grow,” she concludes. “I recommend the SBDC to other business owners so they can grow as well.”

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The Dog-Eared Page

The SBDC helps launch a dream in Danville

$25,000 grant from Danville’s River District Association’s Dream Launch program.

Facebook Page

Catherine Carter turned the page on a new career when she started a book club to help coworkers deal with the pandemic. Now, with help from the Longwood SBDC and Danville’s Dream Launch program, she has her own bookstore, The Dog-Eared Page.

It started with a dream to open a place for book clubs to meet and buy books. When Catherine learned about Danville’s Dream Launch program, it seemed like fate.

“I contacted Kelvin Perry, Danville’s project manager for economic development, and he encouraged me to apply,” Catherine relates.

The Dream Launch program, sponsored by Danville’s River District Association, features a six-week bootcamp and grant money presented to winners of a business pitch competition.

“Lin Hite, Kelvin Perry, and Michael Duncan from the SBDC all taught classes,” Catherine explains. “Lin, my mentor, helped me with a business plan and pitch for the competition. Throughout the whole experience I felt nothing but support.”

That preparation paid off. The pitch Catherine presented was awarded a $25,000 grant that enabled her to launch her dream.

“Danville hadn’t had a bookstore since I was in elementary school,” she relates.

The bookstore’s location on Main Street in Danville’s downtown revitalization district was also a plus for Catherine.

“It’s awesome to be part of what’s happening downtown,” she adds. “It’s rewarding to see people coming back downtown.”

In addition to the grant, Catherine received a loan from a local bank.

“The River District decided I needed more capital and connected me with American National Bank,” she says. “I didn’t expect to get support from bankers!”

Catherine continues to be amazed by support from the community.

“During our grand opening the store was packed,” Catherine recalls. “It’s a day I’ll never forget.”

Now open six months, The Dog-Eared Page is thankful for continued SBDC support.

“SBDC consultants still call and come by,” Catherine explains. “When I first opened, Lin Hite prepared me for lower volume months ahead. Due to that advice the shop isn’t struggling now.”

Catherine readily recommends the SBDC.

“Even after the doors of a business are open, the SBDC is there to help you,” she concludes. “I’m eternally grateful for that support.”

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Coffee Hound

Welcoming Connections Fuel Coffee Shop Success

Secured $25,000 Harrisonburg Economic Development Loan

Coffee Hound Facebook Page 

For entrepreneur Hailey Rogers, owning a coffee shop is about creating an environment that encourages interpersonal connections and being the best local small-batch roaster serving a variety of specialty coffees. At the Coffee Hound on South Mason Street in Harrisonburg, you will feel welcomed and so will your canine companion. The dog-friendly space is a nod to Hailey’s love for dogs and an additional way to make customers feel at home.

“I was inspired to open a coffee shop because of how the coffee shop environment brings people together. I wanted to have a neutral space where anyone and everyone could feel welcome,” says Hailey.

The road to small business ownership was a whirlwind for the Harrisonburg native, who took over the former Shenandoah Joe in November 2021.

When Hailey, the manager of Shenandoah Joe, was unexpectedly offered the opportunity to purchase the café, she knew it was a path to fulfilling her dream of being her own boss. But she quickly experienced several obstacles; including needing to secure adequate, immediate funding to make purchasing the business possible.

Enter Allison Dugan, a business advisor at the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, who helped Hailey with the necessary steps to make Coffee Hound a reality.

A high-interest personal loan got Hailey started, but becoming an SBDC client helped her work out the kinks of business development.

Allison helped Hailey form a business plan in order to apply for a loan through Harrisonburg Economic Development.

Hailey says, “Allison Dugan provided me with every necessary document I needed to complete my loan application. I found the cash flow projections she provided and helped me fill out to be extremely helpful.”

Hailey, who emphasizes the personal touch as part of her business philosophy, found that a personal connection with Allison was a definite plus. “Allison was always professional and able to answer any questions I had. She worked with my schedule to find time to meet with me via Zoom and give necessary feedback on my work. Her dedication to my success was apparent throughout every conversation we had.”

She goes on to recommend that other small business owners take advantage of the one-on-one counseling available through the SBDC, “Having an advisor right there with me to give input while I worked through what my business needed was crucial to my success.”

When you visit Coffee Hound, make sure to say hi to Gatsby, the Italian greyhound that inspired the name!

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Turkish Coffee Lady

Turkish Coffee Lady brews success with the Alexandria SBDC

Received $215,000 in grants from the SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund and transitioned from an online business to a successful brick-and-mortar shop in Old Town Alexandria.

https://turkishcoffeelady.com/

Gizem Salcigil White’s venture into business literally started on the road. Like any road trip, she encountered several barriers, potholes, and unexpected detours along the way. However, with guidance from the Alexandria SBDC, the Turkish coffee enthusiast and award-winning entrepreneur ultimately found an ideal location for her business, Turkish Coffee Lady, in Old Town Alexandria.

“It all started as a nonprofit cultural diplomacy project and a coffee truck,” Gizem explains.

Fueled by a desire to share the unique Turkish coffee culture with the world, Gizem road-tested her business idea by traveling around the United States, Canada, and Europe dispensing free Turkish coffee. Her ultimate goal was a coffee shop where cultures and friends could meet.

“I wanted to bridge cultures one coffee at a time,” she says. “A Turkish coffee shop is where people meet over coffee and become friends — something we really need these days.”

Gizem started her business plan with the SBDC at the Community Business Partnership in Springfield and opened a brick-and-mortar store in Tyson’s Corner in 2017. As it turned out, that first venture was anything but smooth.

Gizem halted her entrepreneurial journey after being diagnosed with breast cancer, which led her to return to Turkey to seek surgery and chemotherapy. Once recovered, she returned to Virginia to restart her business but soon had to face a different health crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic forced Gizem to close down her business, but she refused to cut her journey short. She applied for and received a Small Business Administration (SBA) Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant and, with $215,000 in hand, she contacted the Alexandria SBDC.

“The SBDC was a great help,” she says. “Old Town is a historic area with many regulations. Assistant Director Gloria Flanagan connected me with the right people to get the permits I needed.”

Additionally, Program Services Director Philomena Fitzgerald offered advice on marketing strategies and engaging the media.

“Gloria and Philomena are life-savers,” Gizem reports. “If they hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have made it this far.”

Since opening in January 2022, The Turkish Coffee Lady’s success has continued to grow.

“I’m so grateful for the SBDC,” Gizem concludes. “Because the SBDC cared about me and my vision, I’m now able to pursue the dream I have for my business.”

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Winchester Ciderworks

Winchester Ciderworks expands distribution footprint with counsel from the SBDC

Grew sales by 30% in 2022; created 12 jobs; received a $500 advertising grant.

https://www.winchesterciderworks.com/

A native of Suffolk, England, Stephen Schuurman began crafting his English-style ciders after moving next door to an apple orchard in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. In 2011, he partnered with that orchard’s owner to open Winchester Ciderworks.

Stephen sold his first dry hard ciders through self-distribution in Frederick County. Over time, his business has grown in tandem with Virginia’s booming craft beverage industry.

“We’re bringing a bit of England to Virginia,” Stephen explains. “My plan is to build us up to be a big cider player in the Mid-Atlantic.”

As Stephen worked to scale up Winchester Ciderworks, he found two key advisors in Laurel Ridge SBDC Executive Director Christine Kriz and Chris Van Orden, Manager for the Virginia SBDC International Business Development Program (IBD) and Craft Beverage Assistance Program (CBA), with whom he connected in 2017.

“I met them, and I came out feeling like, Wow, there is help out there,” Stephen says. “I felt I was going against a brick wall all the time, and then all of the sudden there was this resource for me, and it was free, which was amazing.”

Christine and Chris have been instrumental in helping Stephen expand his business with advice when he found he was struggling with certain decision making. As his main accountability partner, Christine advises him on business planning and funding for expansion, keeping him informed about grant opportunities, including a $500 advertising grant he was awarded in 2021. Chris supports Stephen with distribution and meets with him monthly to help figure out how to approach new distributors and navigate alcohol licensing. Chris also connected Stephen with a compliance officer.

“I couldn’t have asked for two better people,” Stephen notes. “I’m really lucky. If I don’t know something, I will ask somebody, and, nine times out of ten, I can ask one of those two people.”

When Stephen launched Winchester Ciderworks, there were only about five cideries in Virginia. Now there are many. In the past year, Winchester Ciderworks has gone through a number of changes, the most significant being that Stephen took on a larger share of ownership after buying out his business partner. Now, he has big goals for the future.

“I’d like to be the number one premium cider in the mid-Atlantic with distribution to every state,” says Stephen, “and exporting to the U.K.”

Stephen is currently selling ciders in 11 states with online ordering available in 40 states, and he is working with Chris to navigate the complicated process of exporting cider to the U.K.

“The bigger the distribution footprint, the more money you have coming in,” Stephen says, “In this year since I’ve been running the business, our profits have been better than any other year.”

In fact, sales have grown by 30%! Christine is helping Stephen look for a new property in the Winchester/Frederick County area so he can expand his operation to meet the increasing demand. Stephen now employs 12 people and plans to invest in his own canning line. The SBDC will be by his side as he pivots to grow his business even more.

“There are so many obstacles to overcome,” says Stephen. “Nobody can do it without help. Everybody in business needs help at some point. The SBDC is a resource, which, for most small businesses, is critical.”

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The Hangout Sports Bar and Lounge

From laid-off worker to successful restaurateur

Started a new business; secured $425,000 in loans

https://thehangout7717.com/

Some people might have wondered if it was really the right time to open a restaurant. For Lori Edwards, owner and operator of The Hangout Sports Bar and Lounge in Roanoke, Virginia, February 2021 was the perfect time.

“Actually, GE picked the timing,” Lori explains, referring to her last employer. “When GE shut down two years ago to take the jobs overseas (I’d been there for over 23 years), I decided I would rather take early retirement and just get into my own thing.”

Lori knew she wanted to explore a different path, but she also realized she would need help and guidance. She was referred to Tom Tanner, a senior advisor at the Roanoke SBDC, and is thankful that she made the connection. “Tom has been wonderful, working with me every step of the way,” Lori says.

The Hangout is a family business. Lori runs it with her daughter — a big perk, she says. “When I thought about what to do next, I thought about how I love cooking,” she explains. “My daughter was a bartender at Carabas, so she knew all about the drinks. And I like playing pool. So, the place is a good mixture of all that.”

As Lori built her business, Tom offered both advice and guidance in applying for loans. Tom was instrumental in finding the right location for the restaurant and is currently helping Lori apply for COVID payroll assistance.

“He’s helped me with everything,” she explains, “showing me exactly what I need to do and when I need to do it, including helping me write a business plan that resulted in me being able to purchase this building and get me going.”

Lori’s aptly named The Hangout Sports Bar and Lounge has quickly become a popular local hangout, offering billiards (including tournaments), karaoke, live entertainment featuring local and regional bands, and especially delicious home cooking.

Lori is pleased with how her business has grown. “We’ve gotten a lot of regular customers, and the word about our home cooking is getting out. So far, we’ve been very blessed.”

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Monday’s Child

Monday’s Child continues Old Town success with the SBDC

Received $85,000 in loans and a line of credit, plus a PPP loan and grants for $17,000.

https://mondayschildclassics.com/

Old Town Alexandria, noted for cobblestone streets and a tavern where George Washington once slept, is a place that appreciates old-fashioned, personal service. It follows that Monday’s Child, a children’s clothing store that provides just that, has been successful in Old Town.

Store owner Maura Burchette reports that sales were, in fact, great in March 2020. Before the month was out, the COVID pandemic would change that dynamic.

“We went from full steam ahead to shut down,” Maura says.

Maura purchased the store two years before. With only a month to prepare for an opening date of October 1, 2018, Maura reached out to the Alexandria SBDC. “Jack Parker, a business advisor there, told me to write a business plan and come see him, but I put it off for nine months,” Maura recalls. “After I caught my breath a little, I contacted Jack again.”

Maura found Jack waiting with a checklist. “He told me a business owner wears 12 different hats — and I was wearing about two,” she recalls. “But Jack had a plan to show me the rest.”

The first step was writing a business plan. “Writing the plan was very helpful,” Maura notes. “The SBDC tells you like they see it — Jack would say, ‘your strength isn’t here, but here’s the right person to help you.’ The SBDC connects you to the right people to help your business.” It also helped her obtain $85,000 in loans and a line of credit.

During the pandemic, another big help was information on federal assistance and grants. “The SBDC worked very hard to educate us on all the opportunities,” Maura notes. “With help from the SBDC, we got PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] and grants totaling about $17,000 — help that really made a difference.”

The pandemic, Maura adds, did have silver linings. “COVID pushed us to improve our web site,” she says. “We’re much more efficient now.”

By March 2021, the tide began to turn. “People were ready to shop again,” Maura says. “Right now, I’m on track to do double what the previous owner did in her best year. While other businesses were closing during COVID, we, in fact, expanded.”

Maura decided to lease a small shop next door for a first communion/baptismal gown space. “It’s been a big hit,” Maura says.

The SBDC also falls into the “big hit” category for Maura. “Having the right guidance makes all the difference,” she concludes. “The SBDC’s help is indispensable to me — and, even more amazing, it’s offered for free.”

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Abingdon Gifting Company

Creating memories one basket at a time

Won $5000 in Washington County Business Challenge Competition and moved to Main Street and invested $25,000 in new inventory and a new location.

https://abingdongiftingco.com/

Like many, Cassie Rowe long entertained the idea of starting her own business. And while it wasn’t until 2017 that she finally got her company off the ground, the owner of Abingdon Gifting Company hasn’t looked back.

Armed with a knack for creativity and a desire to follow in her parents’ footsteps as a small business owner — but little in the way of her own personal business experience — Cassie made one of the first stops in her journey toward becoming a small-business owner at the Virginia Highlands SBDC for initial guidance on starting her business.

“I initially wanted to open a kitchen, because I love to cook and had been cooking for people on the side, but the food regulations were more than I wanted to deal with,” Cassie said. “A friend of mine suggested gift baskets, and, after I looked into what that would look like, I called Cindy Fields [center director at the SBDC] back and started again. I told her we were going in a different direction. She helped me do it, and they’ve been on board ever since,” she explains.

By February 2018, just two months after Cassie quit her job to pursue the business full time, Build-A-Basket was up and running. Renamed Abingdon Gifting Company in April 2020, the customized store-crafts gift baskets are filled with a variety of boutique products that Cassie sources from small businesses both local and nationwide. Working within budgets of any size, customers can choose from a wide range of preassembled gift baskets of Cassie’s design, or they can create their own.

Through personal goals, dedication, and the encouragement and strategic planning with the SBDC, Cassie competed in and won the top prize of $5,000 in the local business challenge and worked hard to find local unique and high-quality products that she can offer to her customers.

In the fall of 2020, she was ready to rebrand her store and prepare for a move to a bigger location. She received biweekly visits from the SBDC team and counselor Patrick Horn to assist her with growth in the area of marketing, to provide small business education and to help her collaborate with other local professionals to achieve new sales levels. Cassie has doubled her sales each year and is on track to do the same in 2021.

Regardless of what’s in the basket, Cassie says that the goal is to create something uniquely memorable for whoever receives it. “That’s what we do,” she says. “Our mission is to create a feeling, create a memory or a lasting impression through a gift.”

“It has taken a lot of research and a lot of learning,” she says. “The SBDC has been a really good resource, as far as continued learning. I’m pretty confident that anytime I get into a situation I’m not sure about, all I have to do is call Cindy or Patrick.”

“They’ve been on board since I started,” Cassie says. “Owning your own business isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It can be tough, and there are ins and outs you don’t know. But anytime I need a resource, a connection with somebody I need to reach, or just some advice, they’re always there.”

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Fredericksburg Food Co-op

Food for all: Community food co-op finds funding

Obtained $4.3 in million in loans — $1.4 million from an SBA 7(a) loan and the remainder from the community.

https://fredericksburgfood.coop/

When you ask Rich LaRochelle, a founding member of the Fredericksburg Food Co-op, to explain what lies at the heart of the 10,000-square-foot food market located in the center of Fredericksburg, his answer is simple: the community.

“We are not a chain,” Rich explains. “We are owned by people. A co-op is a business with a social purpose,” he continues. “Because we are a consumer-owned co-op, our members have a say in everything we do, including what we sell.”

When the Fredericksburg Food Co-op opened its doors, it had been a vision a long time in the making. One of the key players in that vision was Rich, an adjunct professor of Cooperative Business at the University of Mary Washington (UMW). He knew right away that making the food co-op a reality would be a collaborative effort.

Rich and other key stakeholders sought the insight and guidance of the UMW SBDC team to judge market readiness for a local food co-op and grocery store. Rich partnered with consultant Susan Ball to craft and perfect a business plan for the budding idea. “Susan was always very responsive,” Rich says. “She provided a template for us to use as well as training on our business plan and market data, particularly on the grocery industry in our area.”

This business plan was key to helping the co-op secure a $1.4 million SBA 7(a) loan, putting their dreams of a community-based food exchange well within reach.

The rest of the $4.3 million were raised by two incredible loan campaigns within the community itself.  “I think the amount raised from the community shows the commitment to the co-op, and we are grateful for that,” Rich says.

Since opening its doors, the Fredericksburg Food Co-op has enjoyed strong support from members and non-members, and seeks to purchase as much of its inventory from local producers as possible. The co-op also boasts an atmosphere that creates “a gathering place for people and ideas to come together,” as Rich describes it.

While the co-op continues to gain new members each day, Rich is grateful that they still have the resources of the UMW SBDC at their side. “We value the partnership with the SBDC for our business planning and development. Susan is definitely someone we would still use as a resource today.”

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Captain Groovy’s Grill & Raw Bar

Staying afloat during the pandemic

Secured over $1 million in COVID-related SBA loans and grants

Home

Less than a mile from the harbor, Captain Groovy’s Grill & Raw Bar has been serving fresh, local seafood to residents and tourists in the Norfolk area since 2007. Captain Groovy’s is named after Owner Sandy White’s late first husband, who passed away in 2000. Sandy is the majority owner while her husband David Watts, a trained chef, runs the kitchen.

Boasting a menu that Sandy says appeals to everyone — with burgers, sandwiches, specialty cocktails, and a rotating “blackboard” menu in addition to all manner of maritime munchies — Captain Groovy’s has enjoyed a consistent run of success since its first year of opening. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, not even Captain Groovy’s was spared its effects.

“We shut the restaurant down,” Sandy says. “We laid everybody off. We had to figure it out.”

Compounding those unforeseen financial hardships was what Sandy classifies as an uncharacteristically slow 2019 that dug into the restaurant’s “rainy day” account. With their reserves depleted and business grounded for the foreseeable future, Sandy turned to the Hampton Roads SBDC for guidance, both financial and operational.

“We put a lot of effort into [our recovery],” Sandy says. “I took every webinar that [the SBDC] and our local SCORE group put out there — anything I could find that I thought would help. I signed up for everything so I could learn how to do it and do it correctly.”

Over the next few weeks, Sandy and David leaned on guidance provided by SBDC consultants like Mike Austin to plot a course that would keep Captain Groovy’s afloat. To keep customers coming in the door, the restaurant operated on a to-go basis and also established a general store, selling local fare and gifts. They received more than $1 million in COVID-related loans and grants, the majority of which went to rehiring employees.

“I honestly don’t know if we would still be here if not for the [Paycheck Protection Program] loans and the help we got,” Sandy adds.

Now with mask and social distancing mandates lifted in the Commonwealth, Captain Groovy’s is operating at near full capacity five days a week and serving plenty of chatty locals and tourists.

“Customers are coming out. They want to be out,” Sandy says. “The big topic of conversation is their shots — I got mine, did you get yours, how did you react? We’re doing well. We’re proceeding cautiously, but we’re doing well.”

And while Captain Groovy’s may not be full steam ahead quite yet, Sandy says she is happy to put the worst of the pandemic in her wake.

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