Category: Sales & Marketing

Virginia Auto Glass

Virginia Auto Glass

SBDC offers a window of opportunity

David received a loan from the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA), with help from the SBDC, allowing him to weather the 2007-08 recession; later the SBDC helped him get another one to update inventory and equipment.

David Walwer and his family-owned business, Virginia Auto Glass, have provided residents of Petersburg and the surrounding communities a clearer view of their world for nearly four decades. Virginia Auto Glass offers the repair and placement of auto glass, in addition to replacement services for door and window glass, commercial storefronts, screens, storm doors, mirrors, headlight restoration/ cleaning, shower doors, and retractable awnings. “We take care of anything in glass,” David says.

David started in the glass business at a young age. “My dad opened this business in 1978,” he says. “I went from cleaning the office to handling tools and assisting in the garage to managing the shop.”

In 2010, David took over the business and incorporated it under his name.

Soon after, he visited the Longwood SBDC. “I went to the SBDC for some help with financing,” he says. “The recession in 2007 really hit us hard.”

Pat Hood, a consultant at the Longwood SBDC, connected David with the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA), the Commonwealth of Virginia’s business and economic development financing arm that provides businesses, not-for-profits, and economic development authorities with certain kinds of financing. “At the time we needed money for our inventories and to bring another employee on board,” David notes.

Over the years, times have changed for the business started in the 1970s. “I’ve seen changes in everything from the way glass is measured to the way we write tickets — from hand-written to computerized,” David says. For help with some of these changes, David attended SBDC classes on QuickBooks and social media marketing.

“This is a competitive business,” he explains. Some competitors’ ads have actually helped David’s business. “When a national company started doing glass repair commercials, our business actually jumped up,” he says. “Customers started calling to see if Virginia Auto Glass offered the same service. Our answer was, ‘yes, we can come out to repair or replace a window or a windshield,’” David adds.

Recently, David returned to the Longwood SBDC, and Ellen Templeton assisted him with another loan, which came through the VSBFA.“Working with the SBDC made it easier for us,” he says.

David points to a framed sampler on the wall presented by a satisfied customer. It reads, We take care of your pane. “That’s what we do,” David concludes.

Read More
Thrive

Art Thrive

SBDC helps Lynchburg artists thrive

17 Artists enrolled in the initial 4-week small-business course for artists, followed by an exhibit at Riverview Art Space. A second ArtThrive course is planned for Spring 2018.

Thrive

ArtThrive, an innovative business course for artists, began during a casual conversation. “I was having coffee with my friend Stephanie Keener. She works for the SBDC at Central Virginia Community College where she counsels and trains small-business owners,” Kim Soerensen says. “And my background is a blend of the arts and design. I run the Riverviews Art Space in Lynchburg.”

The discussion turned to a common problem in the art world — artists marketing their work.

“Stephanie and I talked about how artists don’t realize that they’re small businesses,” Kim adds. “I said, ‘What if we started a small business course for artists?’” The two friends liked the idea and began making plans.

Many artists, Kim notes, do not feel justified in asking for money for their work. “It’s called artwork for a reason,” she says. “Creating art is work! We called it ArtThrive, because we want our artists to thrive.”

The course ran for four weeks in October and included classes in marketing, social media, finances, taxes, and resources. “We brought in speakers in each field,” Kim notes. “Stephanie did a phenomenal job. She set up the syllabus, and she was there every day for the classes. The response was amazing.”

Throughout the ArtThrive course, Kim stressed the importance of artists marketing their own work. “I would tell them, ‘You have to convey the value of your artwork,’” she adds. “‘You have to tell that story.’”

The business classes ended with an exhibit of the artists’ work held at Riverview Art Space in Lynchburg. “The exhibit opened Dec. 1, just in time for Christmas shopping,” Kim says. During the exhibit, Kim continued to offer advice. “When we set up the exhibits, I asked the artists, ‘Do people know how to get in touch with you? Do you have a website? Do you have business cards? Are you collecting people’s names for your mailing list?’” “I didn’t know that marketing myself as a business for my art was part of the job,” a participating artist comments. “Now I understand it.”

Kim credits Stephanie with helping to set up the small business course for local artists. Kim believes that ArtThrive, being offered again in the spring, should be a pilot program for SBDC. “It was the SBDC that made ArtThrive work,” she concludes. “SBDC resources were imperative to the success of our classes.”

Read More
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.”

Read More
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.

Read More
Kylla Custom Rock Wear

Kylla Custom Rock Wear

Kylla Custom Rock Wear

The SBDC connected Kylla Custom Rock Wear with resources that helped with day-to-day operations and provided important information on customs and shipping overseas. Kylla currently has customers in 52 countries. 

Metal vocalist and designer Kim “Kylla” Dylla had a vision: start a business to dress her fellow musicians and entertainers with high-quality, yet affordable, stage wear. Today, that vision is alive and well at Kylla Custom Rock Wear.

“We create unique designs from salvaged, distressed, and reclaimed materials that echo our artists’ music,” Kylla explains. “Designed by an experienced touring musician, our jackets, vests, jeans, shirts, dresses, and accessories fill a unique niche in the rock fashion market.”

As Kylla Custom Rock Wear grew and issues about running a business emerged, Kylla visited Betty Hoge, Director of the Central Virginia SBDC in Charlottesville. “As an artisan who formed a startup business, shaping myself into an entrepreneur and connecting to others in my industry is challenging,” Kylla says.

Kylla had the additional challenge of shipping overseas to her worldwide customer base. Betty introduced her to the Virginia SBDC International Business Development Program and VITAL (Virginia International Trade Alliance). VITAL works with clients to develop export readiness and performance. “The advice from VITAL helped me avoid customs hassles and delays when sending important wardrobes for tours abroad,” Kylla says. “Now my international buyers have more confidence. I also feel confident in my ability to connect with and take on investment in the future.”

Betty also worked with her on the day-to-day tasks of running a business. She recommended some contacts and trade shows, helped expand the reach of Kylla’s website by using key words and search engine optimization techniques, found a manufacturer and distressing house, and taught her how to keep the books. “These steps took me leaps and bounds forward in my development of the new line,” Kylla attests.

Kylla concludes, “The SBDC has been immensely helpful in growing and progressing my business, and I have many new ideas to implement in the coming months.”

Read More
Baby Change-n-go

Baby Change-N-Go

A change is gonna come

In addition to strategic marketing and development assistance from the SBDC, Baby Change-N-Go received help from the VITAL program to identify better efficiencies and cost savings for exporting, including the reduction of export shipping costs by 1/3 by using a specialist in small parcel shipping.

You are out and about with your baby, and it is time to change the diaper. You might find one of those changing tables in public restrooms, if you are lucky (and a woman, because there is almost never a changing table in the men’s room). Unfortunately, those well- used tables are teeming with bacteria and other nasty things. Thanks to two mompreneurs — and a little help from their mentors — an innovative product, Baby Change-N-Go, is putting many minds (and bottoms!) at ease.

“People were so frustrated, trying to find a safe, sanitary place to change a baby or a product that could fit in a diaper bag. But there was nothing out there,” says Mahnaz Moosa, Baby Change-N-Go co-founder and chief executive officer. “So we just sketched out a concept of a device that would fit over a door or side of a bathroom stall. Often we began to develop it.”

Mahnaz talked with safety experts, hazard experts, design engineers, child development experts, human behavior experts, and other parents to develop a unique product that fills a widespread, existing need. Often she talked with mentors at the Greater Richmond SBDC, which is directed by Greg Hofbauer. “The timing was perfect,” says Mahnaz, “because they offered just what we needed — expertise in branding and marketing, as well as a range of other issues.”

After launching, opportunities arose for international distribution of the Baby Change-N-Go product. Mahnaz and Brenda Lee Moosa, co-founder and chief operating officer, were referred to the Virginia SBDC International Business Development Program and VITAL.

VITAL (Virginia International Trade Alliance) works with clients to develop actionable market intelligence and research to improve export readiness and performance. Aaron Miller, International Trade Manager for the Virginia SBDC, explains, “Through VITAL, we helped them create export documentation and identify inefficiencies and cost savings. We provided translations of marketing material into Portuguese and Spanish. We obtained a grant to cover the cost of exhibiting at an international trade show and delivered a market report with demographic information applicable to Baby Change-N- Go’s target market.”

“We were very fortunate to have found the Greater Richmond SBDC. We have worked with outstanding mentors and even have an export plan,” says Mahnaz. “We wouldn’t have had such a smooth process without them,” Brenda adds.

Read More
StageCoach Theater Company

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.”

Read More
The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.