Category: Restaurant & Retail


Bikenetic Bike Shop

Pedaling to Success

Jan opened Bikenetic Bike Shop in Falls Church, VA in November, 2011, just in time for the Christmas season. Jan is working full-time in the shop, and in 2012 he hired three more people to help him run his expanding business

Jan Feuchtner first contacted the South Fairfax SBDC because, as a minority partner in a bike shop, he wanted to buy out the majority partner and take the shop in a different direction – a direction Jan knew was much better, more sustainable, profitable, and enjoyable.  Jan came to the SBDC with a business plan and the business’s current financials.  He needed advice regarding the buy out.

He met with several counselors, including an attorney, a CPA, and a business counselor.  They advised him against buying out his partner due to the indebtedness of that business and instead to open his own shop, starting with a clean slate.  The SBDC’s attorney counselor helped Jan create a strong financial plan, ultimately helping him decide not to take out a $50,000 loan and instead to rely on existing relationships with his vendors to provide his new business with interest free, individual lines of credit.

Jan opened Bikenetic Bike Shop in Falls Church, VA in November, 2011, just in time for the Christmas season.  His shop has grown beyond business plan expectations ever since.  Jan is working full-time in the shop, and in 2012 he hired three more people to help him run his expanding business.

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Sinplicity Catering

Sinfully Successful

Generating annual revenue in excess of $2 million, Sinplicity Catering now has a fleet of trucks delivering their gourmet products around the beltway and beyond.

Sinplicity Catering had its fortuitous beginnings in early 2001, when executive chef and co-owner Leland Atkinson became a regular client of the South Fairfax SBDC. Leland has had the good fortune to work with some of the best chefs in the industry at Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons Hotels, the White House, and Mark Miller’s Red Sage. Leland wrote the Julia Child-Award Winning ¡Cocina! A Hands-on Guide to the Techniques of the Southwestern Kitchen. Additionally, he has created recipes and food stylings, and conducted research for numerous other cookbooks, including On Cooking by Labensky/Hause and Mark Miller’s Red Sage.

Leland came to the SBDC seeking technical assistance for turning his wholesale gourmet ice cream business into a brick-and-mortar retail shop. With the assistance of business partner Alex Schriefer (formerly the South Fairfax SBDC Director), Sinplicity Café opened in Crystal City, Virginia. The name Sinplicity was intended to represent their “self-indulgence without apology” approach to cooking (and handcrafted ice creams in particular).  “If heaven had a café, it would be just like this.”

As the business grew, the model changed to meet customer demand, which was for gourmet catered meals. Sinplicity Café relocated to Falls Church, Virginia, and became Sinplicity Catering. Leland and Alex had remained long-term clients of the South Fairfax SBDC, and now they sought assistance on all aspects of business – financial planning, partnership agreements, marketing and growth initiatives.

Fast forward to 2013:  Sinplicity Catering is one of the best corporate caterers in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC market. Generating annual revenue in excess of $2 million, Sinplicity Catering now has a fleet of trucks delivering their gourmet products around the beltway and beyond.

After nearly a decade, Leland has again approached the SBDC with the vision of opening another brick-and-mortar store – built on a commissary model where product will be provided by Sinplicity Catering and assembly will take place at the store. These gourmet sandwiches – known as Sinwiches – will be served for breakfast and lunch in the high-traffic area of the Wilson Boulevard corridor. For the past year, SBDC staff has counseled Leland on creating a concept, conducting market research, and  working with 21 business experts (and hungry customers) to help refine the menu.

Today, Sinplicity Catering is primed for growth and continued success with the future launch of Sinwich; and the SBDC looks forward to continued interaction with Leland (and a few free samples of his delicious gourmet creations).

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Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ, Culpeper

Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ

BBQ Succes

Shawn employs 15 part-time staff between the kitchen and the restaurant.

Shawn Moss opened his restaurant and catering business, Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ and Catering, LLC, in March, 2013.  He has many years’ experience in the food business working with his mother who has been running her own catering service for 37 years in Woodbridge, VA.

The 84-seat restaurant is located just outside downtown Culpeper.  Shawn presently has customers from as far away as Fredericksburg and Stafford, and his biggest problem right now is providing enough parking!

When Shawn first came to Lord Fairfax-Culpeper SBDC, he needed help in reducing his costs and growing his market.  His labor costs were very high, since he was paying his staff higher than a minimum wage.  It was suggested that Shawn consider changing the restaurant to a self-order, counter-pickup system, similar to 5 Guys or Panera Bread.  Shawn has followed this advice and greatly reduced expenses.

Shawn also added take-out, and he now estimates that the carryout business is about 40 to 50 % of his total sales.  He offers online ordering and is also thinking about offering home delivery.

The catering side of the business has also been growing — enough that he had to buy an additional food truck.  He is catering for large venues, such as fairs and horse shows.    He estimates that he served 2000 people at one event last year, and he will again be catering this event in 2014.

He employs 15 part-time staff between the kitchen and the restaurant.

To cap his successful year Shawn Smokehouse BBQ and Catering, LLC, was named the Culpeper Small Business of 2013 at the Culpeper Chamber Annual Dinner in November 2013.

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Sugar Hill Brewing Company

Sugar Hill Brewing Company

Opportunity is Always Brewing

Since September 2016, Sugar Hill has secured $463,000 in loans and created 20 jobs in a town that has less than 1,000 residents. “We don’t necessarily pursue our passion. We look at what’s needed and let that become our passion,” Greg Bailey said.

Greg and Jennifer Bailey think starting a new business is a lot like brewing a great beer. Both require hard work, patience, and dedication—traits the Baileys are known to possess. Sugar Hill Brewing Company is the third business the couple has started in the small town of St. Paul.

Five years ago, Greg and Jennifer bought a store in St. Paul and opened Bailey Hardware. They saw another opportunity when Spearhead ATV Trail opened in town. They converted rental property to create overnight accommodations and opened St. Paul Suites and Cottages.

“We don’t necessarily pursue our passion,” Greg says. “We look at what’s needed and let that become our passion.” Sugar Hill Brewing Company opened in September 2016, in a converted hardware store the couple owned in town. “We never planned to own a restaurant, and we knew nothing about brewing beer,” Jennifer adds. “We just knew the time was right and so we took action.”

The Baileys had a lot of help from Mt. Empire SBDC Director Tim Blankenbecler. He directed them to the Ninth District Development Funds, where they obtained a loan of $413,000. The town of St. Paul shared its confidence by adding a $50,000 loan to the project.

“The Bailey’s family-friendly brewpub has proven very popular with folks both near and far,” Blankenbecler says. “Patrons can step into the Asheville-esque atmosphere to enjoy a meal and satisfying brew.”

Since opening for business, the Baileys have hired more than 20 local people, including a head brewer and head cook. “All the right people were sent to us at just the time,” Jennifer says. “All we had to do is look for the opportunity, forget the fear, and do what we intuitively knew would work.”

With a boutique hotel under construction in town, the future looks bright for the Bailey’s newest business venture. “You have to re-imagine the future,” Jennifer says. “With the Western Front Hotel coming in, we knew this brewery would be a part of it. We’re excited that other people are catching the vision and seeing a different way to go forward.”

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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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Crooked Road General Store

Crooked Road General Store

Melodies and Memories

This year, Edwards will have resources to expand the Crooked Road’s location and services, including hiring additional people to help the 9 dedicated volunteers.

A long-empty, abandoned ruin of a convenience store across from her driveway was the first glimpse Marla Edwards had of the vision that would become the Crooked Road General Store. Once known as Collins Market, an establishment famed for its corned-beef sandwiches, it was now an eyesore, and years of disuse had left it filled with dust and debris. “Despite that dark, windowless, cinder-block interior,” Edwards recalls, “I felt warmth.”

Under Edwards’ care, it has become “a convenience store and a little more.” Today, instead of corned beef, the Crooked Road is known for its Monday Night Singing Suppers, featuring local as well as celebrity bluegrass and gospel musicians and a reasonably priced Blue Plate Supper. “My first love is music, and my second is my community,” Edwards says. “What I’m doing here with the store allows me to bring those things together.”

The Virginia Highlands SBDC was one of many team players who helped Edwards turn her vision into reality. With encouragement at the project’s beginning and continued support along the way, Edwards credits the SBDC’s Client Specialist Sue Wagner, as well as a host of loving friends and family members, for making her country store a success.

Wagner helped Edwards create a business plan and walked her through every step of execution. She also encouraged her to participate in local business-plan “challenges” that allow business owners to compete with each other for prize money. Edwards says these competitions were great learning opportunities.

Initially tentative about her bold decision to buy the property, Edwards credits the SBDC and her support system for putting her worries to rest. “The apprehension disappeared,” she says. “And only the good memories, uplifting attitudes, and the complete fun of cleaning up, clearing out, and rebuilding remained.”

Today the bustling Crooked Road Convenience Store is a far cry from the rundown building it once was. On Monday evenings the rooms swell with the sound of fiddles, banjos, and guitars. Regulars, who have attended nearly all of the 300+ supper events, line the weathered wood floors. In the end, like the last sweet note of an old melody hanging in the air, the thing that remains for Edwards is the love and the memories.

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Corner Kitchen

Corner Kitchen

Corner Kitchen Realizes Small Town Dream

Corner Kitchen now employs 8 to 10 people and has seen an upturn in customer flow, with increased profits of 50% over the last year.

Laurie Allen always said she’d marry a chef. Four years ago she did and in the process realized another dream when she and husband Sam opened their own restaurant in Blackstone.

“Sam grew up in Blackstone, and I’m from Vermont,” she says. “We’ve been in the restaurant business for years, but Sam’s dream was to have his own restaurant.”

Trained in French cuisine, Sam acquired his culinary skills at the New England Culinary Institute. “We were co-owners of a restaurant in Chapel Hill with two other gentlemen when we heard about the Blackstone restaurant for sale,” Allen says. The Allens decided to buy it for two reasons—to be near family and to own their own business. “We’d lived in cities for 15 years, so it’s really nice to be in a small town,” Allen adds. “We love it!”

Allen admits that making the change from an urban to a small-town business model did take some adjustments. “Blackstone and Chapel Hill are very different places,” she says.

The first step was to rename some of their menu choices. “It was a challenge at first to try new things here,” she says with a smile. “A classic French name can be hard for the servers to pronounce, so a lot of times we just change the names on the menu. If it sounds too ‘hoity-toity,’ nobody wants it. We didn’t want that kind of feeling.”

To help the couple get off to a good start, Sam’s mother recommended a visit with the Longwood SBDC in South Boston. “We ended up chatting with SBDC Business Analyst Gary Shanaberger, who gave us a lot of information,” Allen says. “The business part of a company is something a lot of people don’t know. The SBDC’s program was a huge help to us.”

Shanaberger helped the new business owners develop their business plan. “That’s the most difficult part,” Allen says. Although the Allens did not take out a loan, the business plan the SBDC helped them create still proved helpful. “It showed us what we needed to look for as far as numbers go and what we were projecting,” she says.

The Corner Kitchen, which has eight to ten employees, has seen a significant increase in business since opening in June 2015, especially on Saturday nights. “This year we had a steady stream of customers during the Christmas parade and a packed house after,” Allen says. “Last year, not so much.”

The Allens credit their success to experience and the assistance provided by the SBDC. “Opening your own restaurant can be a scary prospect; to have help from the SBDC was amazing,” Allen concludes. “We’ve been welcomed by the community— that’s very exciting for us.”

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Byrd’s Seafood

Byrd’s Seafood

With the help of the SBDC, Byrd’s Seafood was able to secure a nano loan and became mobile in April 2017; gross sales have increased by 50%.

Bryan Byrd started his seasonal “under a tent” restaurant in an Irvington vineyard in 2015. Two years later, with assistance from the University of Mary Washington SBDC and the Northern Neck Planning District Commission (NNPDC), Bryan’s Seafood was on the road in a food truck trailer. “Food has been my passion since I was a teenager,” Chef Bryan says.

In Virginia’s Northern Neck, the restaurant industry is all about seafood. “My vision was to offer ‘fresh out of the water’ oysters along with other local fresh seafood items like soft crabs and fish,” Bryan says. He created his menu with farm-raised oysters from Windmill Point Oyster Company and wild-caught oysters from W.E. Kellum Seafood in Weems. Specialties include fried oyster tacos with sriracha key-lime slaw and soft-crab bites with caper remoulade. “I support the local industry as much as possible by selling fresh local oysters and seafood along with fresh local produce,” Bryan adds.

In early 2016, Bryan received numerous catering requests. “I started with weddings and other venues,” Bryan says. “For each event I would load up my tent, grill, and other equipment. By the end of the year, my business had really grown.”

A mobile food truck made sense for Bryan’s business, but he needed help. “Like so many small business owners, I needed advice and support to realize my dream,” he says.

Bryan contacted Joy Corprew, Director of the University of Mary Washington SBDC in Warsaw. “Ms. Corprew helped me develop a business plan, financial reports, and other information to apply for a nano loan through NNPDC,” Bryan explains. “I was granted the loan to purchase my mobile food truck and other equipment.” Bryan’s Seafood officially became mobile in April 2017. Since then, he has catered weddings and numerous other events and has already made bookings for 2018.

“In May we were voted ‘No. 3 Seafood Restaurant in Eastern Virginia’ by Virginia Living magazine,” he adds. “We’ve been filmed by the Virginia Tourism Department and were featured in the PBS documentary Journey on the Chesapeake. We’ve also been visited by food writers from all over the world.”

“I credit NNPDC and the SBDC for our success,” Bryan concludes. “I’m very grateful for their help.”

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Legacy School Apparel

Legacy School Apparel

SBDC shares a legacy of success

After becoming SWaM (Small Women and Minority-owned) certified with the help of the SBDC, Legacy won its first SWaM business contract with Tidewater Community College for $30,000.

Drenna Love had a problem, so she solved it by starting a business. “Our boys attended a church school,” she says. “After September you were just out of luck if you needed a uniform; none of the local retail stores had them.” In 2005, Drenna launched Legacy School Apparel.

According to Drenna, her success started at the Hampton Roads SBDC. “My relationship with the SBDC began in 2004 when I attended my first workshop on how to start your own business,” she recalls. “I gained valuable information on choosing a legal structure, writing a business plan, and financing a business. I really enjoyed the one-on-one coaching sessions with Debra Hamilton Farley, Associate Executive Director at the SBDC. Whenever they held a workshop that I could benefit from, I always made sure to attend,” she says.

One topic Drenna found particularly challenging was marketing. “My background is in accounting and bookkeeping, so when it came to marketing, I was all over the place,” she says. “I attended as many traditional and social media marketing webinars and seminars as I could. My mission for 2017 was to put together a strategic marketing plan.”

Debra, who has remained Drenna’s SBDC consultant over the years, helped. “Mrs. Farley suggested I put together a presentation packet for a new school I was interested in doing business with,” Drenna notes. “I didn’t get that contract, but I used the presentation packet at two other schools and won contracts with them both.” Last March, Drenna met with Virginia SBDC Retail and Restaurant Consultant Marc Willson. “He came out, evaluated our store, and gave me some pointers on marketing,” Drenna says. “One thing I like about the SBDC: if you’re going in the wrong direction, they will tell you, which is what you want.”

“This past summer I won my first SWaM (Small Women and Minority-owned) business contract for $30,000 with Tidewater Community College,” Drenna says. She became a certified SWaM vendor after completing an SBDC workshop on that topic.

Clients for school uniforms continue to grow, and Drenna added graduation apparel to Legacy’s inventory. “Often we moved into career apparel and became the go-to place for small business uniforms,” Drenna notes. “When we added medical apparel, we started working with several medical training schools.”

Throughout 2017, Drenna continued to add marketing initiatives. “Mrs. Farley reminded me of all the great tools and resources on the Virginia SBDC website,” Drenna says. “I felt like a child at the candy store when I found all the webinar recordings I needed to help me put together my strategic marketing plan. I’m at the point now where I feel like I’m on the right track,” she concludes. “Thanks to the SBDC I have a marketing plan in place to grow the business and take it to the next level.”

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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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