Category: Start-up

Beartown Film

Beartown Film Bureau

SBDC guidance nets confidence and contracts for Beartown Film

Utilized SBDC contacts and guidance to connect with the Virginia PTAC, an APEX Accelerator, to receive HUBZone certification and his first contract.

https://www.beartownfilmbureau.com/

Jorge Rey retired from federal service two years ago with a plan to move into the world of small business. He credits the Southwest Virginia Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) with moving him in the right direction.

“I started Beartown Film Bureau on my own and then connected with the SBDC for guidance,” he says. “Margie Douglass, Southwest SBDC Director, walked me through the steps for starting a business.”

Jorge found the SBDC while searching for business advice online, and scheduled his first consultation shortly afterwards.

“After hearing my ideas, Margie and her team crafted their services to show me how to be successful in getting government contracts,” he adds.

Jorge previously tested his small business idea by offering free services to community non-profits, which were primarily story-based informational videos. With SBDC assistance, he was able to transition his business opportunities from pro-bono to paid.

“Margie connected me with the Virginia PTAC, an APEX Accelerator, funded by the Department of Defense,” Jorge says.

Together the SBDC and PTAC walked Jorge through the process to become certified as a Veteran-Owned Small Business and enrolling in the U.S. government’s System for Award Management (SAM.gov) to become eligible for federal contracts. SBDC and PTAC also assisted him in achieving HUBZone certification, a program that awards federal contracts to small businesses in underutilized business zones.

“It was a complex process, but they decoded it and gave me the confidence to present myself as a viable vendor,” he notes. “Margie showed me how it all works. Without the SBDC’s help, there’s no way I could have accomplished what my business is today.”

Within two months, Jorge landed his first contract with a government organization. He also received the 2023 Best Video Series for an Attraction (of the Burke’s Garden Artisan Guild) at the Virginia Tourism Summit in Wytheville, a huge accomplishment for a new business

“I consider the SBDC to be my secret weapon,” he concludes. “Their guidance allowed me to move forward with confidence. I would have been dead in the water without the SBDC.”

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Rappahannock Adventures

Rappahannock Adventures

The SBDC puts river adventure business on solid ground

Launched two businesses, and became SWaM certified.

https://rappadventure.com/

Woodie Walker always harbored a love for history and the outdoors – especially being physically on the water. Earlier this year the University of Mary Washington (UMW) SBDC helped him turn those two passions into two new businesses: Rappahannock Adventures, a history-themed tour of Virginia’s Rapidan River, and E & L Acres, a plant nursery specializing in growing trees in demand by the federal government.

“I was in the military for ten years and then in conservation,” says Woodie. His conservation and historical pursuits have led him to serve with organizations including Friends of the Rappahannock and the Rappahannock Tribe.

Those pursuits also brought him to Fredericksburg where he began leading history-themed tours of the neighboring Rappahannock River.

“I started with a Civil War Paddle and Native American History Hike,” he notes. “My hook was history, and people loved it.”

As a lifelong learner, Woodie’s passion for the past still drove him to learn more. In 2020, at 58 years old, he earned a master’s in history from University of Mary Washington and became a historian and environmentalist for the Rappahannock Tribe in Tappahannock. From there, he took his passions a step further and launched his own business, doing so with the help of UMW SBDC Director Susan Ball.

“We met once a week,” Woodie continues. “She helped with everything I needed to be a legit business: state regulations, a business license, tax ID number.”

Susan’s advice also included establishing his businesses as two separate LLCs to minimize risks and allow him the flexibility to sell one or both in the future. She also assisted Woodie with certification paperwork for SWaM, which enhances contracting opportunities for veterans in state-funded projects, and eVA, Virginia’s electronic marketplace for buyers and sellers.

In January 2023 Rappahannock Adventures went live, offering the Civil War Paddle tour to history buffs, tourists and curious locals alike. To solidify the initial structure of his business, Woodie followed Susan’s advice of offering the Civil War Paddle as a contractor through another tour guide.

“That gave me a good payday without the expense for insurance,” he adds. “That kind of advice was valuable.”

As for his nursery, he expects the federal government to soon become a buyer of the trees he is growing on his three-and-a-half acres of land in Tappahannock.

“I’d advise anyone starting a business to visit the SBDC,” Woodie concludes. “Susan gave me positive feedback that made me feel like I could do it — and she was right!”

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PREAM

PREAM

Lynchburg plant business grows with SBDC support

Secured a $25,000 grant used for startup expenses. https://www.pream-lyh.com/

Tia Hancock loves to grow plants; a skill she learned from her grandmother. Now Tia is growing a business in Lynchburg’s downtown district. With assistance from the SBDC – Lynchburg Region’s CO. STARTERS program and Launch LYH, Tia opened PREAM (Plants Rule Everything Around Me) in November 2023.

Tia’s business plans took root when she signed up for CO. STARTERS, a 10-week cohort-based program hosted through a partnership between the Lynchburg Office of Economic Development & Tourism, SBDC – Lynchburg Region, and Vector Space.

CO. STARTERS includes one-on-one entrepreneurial support, mentorship, and class speakers. The program introduced Tia to Jawansa Hall and Jordan Reeves from the SBDC, who both presented during Tia’s cohort.

Tia followed advice from Jawansa, Jordan, and other CO. STARTERS speakers and sought customer input.

“I talked to people and posted on social media,” she adds. “That input told me Lynchburg was a plant-friendly market.”

Next, Tia applied for the Launch LYH program that supports entrepreneurs ready to start a new business, relocate, or expand an existing business in a Downtown Lynchburg storefront. The SBDC is one of five sponsors for Launch LYH and the pitch competition for cash grants that concludes the program.

“I received a $25,000 grant,” Tia notes with pride. “Downtown Lynchburg Association also helped me find a good location.”

Tia’s grant covered her initial business expenses without additional financing. Nevertheless, Tia says she is now in a more confident position to approach local banks should financing be needed with the required business plan completed during the CO. STARTERS course.

“I still keep in touch with them at SBDC,” Tia relates. “I took information they presented and figured out how it would work for me.”

PREAM’s basic business plan is already blossoming with new ideas.

“We’ve started a Houseplants 101 and Build Your Own Terrarium class,” Tia concludes. “Working with the SBDC and CO. STARTERS definitely gave me a better start in business. I’ve enjoyed working with them and hope to continue.”

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Birch Tree and Foliage

Birch Tree Bookstore & Foliage Plant Shop

Joint Ventures, Singular Success: Bookstore and Plant Shop Craft a
Co-Located Business Blueprint with the SBDC

Created six part-time jobs; the book store has tripled sales since opening and secured a $10K line of credit; created a new dual-business model.

  1. Birch Tree Bookstore: https://www.birchtreebookstore.com/
  2. Foliage Plant Shop: https://www.foliageplantshop.com/

Leah Fallon knew nothing about opening a business, but she felt like Leesburg needed a bookstore. In March 2021, after Googling “How do you open a bookstore?,” she discovered the Loudoun SBDC and reached out to SBDC Manager and Lead Business Advisor Eric Byrd.

“Eric said, ‘You have to be more than just a bookstore. You have to be an experience,’” explains Leah. “So, I really dug down and thought about what creates an experience, and I was like: plants.”

Through SBDC startup classes and one-on-one consultations, Leah worked to validate her concept and identify her target market. In May 2021, she launched Birch Tree Bookstore, testing the waters with a pop-up shop full of books and plants. In September, she moved into her first location, Leesburg’s Cowbell Kitchen.

“I never thought I would own a business,” Leah explains. “Every step of the way, I kept thinking: ‘Once this gets too hard, I’m out. Anytime this gets too hard or too complicated with the town or the government or with money, I’m out.’ But with the SBDC and people in the book industry, I was able to get the support I needed, which helped me become successful and not really worry about it. I just felt taken care of.”

As Birch Tree grew, Leah continued her one-on-one consultations with Eric. She also connected with Ami Mason, a professional gardener at the local nature preserve. A vendor at first, Ami sold plants to Leah, sharing her expertise along the way. It wasn’t long before Leah asked Ami if she wanted to quit her day job.

Ami launched Foliage Plant Shop in August 2022. Two months later, she and Leah moved into a shared space on West Market Street.

“We’re two businesses under one roof, under one register,” says Ami.

“We both have skin in the game,” says Leah. “We want to make plant people book people — and book people plant people.”

Throughout the process, the SBDC has worked with the co-located businesses to determine a joint marketing strategy and a plan for managing expenses, payroll and other finances. Eric has helped Leah and Ami conceptualize a completely new dual business model that they’ve built from the ground up.

Today, Birch Tree Bookstore & Foliage Plant Shop is a thriving community hub with 13 book clubs (one oriented on plants, of course), author events, plant workshops, and local celebrations like First Fridays.

“We want to facilitate people being downtown more often,” says Ami. “A lot of locals have complaints about getting downtown. They’ll just go to the outlets or the shopping mall or shop online. We want to create an atmosphere for downtown that isn’t just restaurants. It’s not even just us — it’s a vibe. It’s fun to do.”

Each enterprise makes the other stronger. The businesses have created six part-time jobs, and Birch Tree has tripled its sales since opening. Foliage Plant Shop has also scaled up.

“What I used to consider a good month is now a bad month,” says Ami. “The SBDC is a powerful resource.”

Driven by a vision to transform downtown Leesburg and backed by the SBDC, Birch Tree Bookstore and Foliage Plant Shop are redefining what local shopping feels like.

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NIRView Biosciences

NIRView Biosciences

NIRView Biosciences brings academic research to market with the SBDC

Received more than $100,000 in funding from numerous grants and events.

https://nirviewbio.com/

Shrishti Singh completed a doctorate degree in bioengineering at George Mason University (GMU) in December 2022. With support from her GMU mentors, she created a promising new imaging technology with potential to impact many lives — including her own.

After finding an injectable contrast dye that enhances healthcare imaging capabilities, under the mentorship of Dr. Remi Veneziano, Assistant Professor of GMU’s bioengineering department and Dr. Parag Chitnis, director of GMU’s bioengineering Ph.D. program, Shrishti shifted her career focus from scientific research to entrepreneurship. With a vision to take her groundbreaking technology “from the research bench to the patient’s bedside,” she co-founded NIRView with Dr. Veneziano and Dr. Chitnis.

During the last year of her PhD, with a novel product and trusted mentors at her side, Shrishti sought out a business advisor for the entrepreneur piece of the puzzle. A consultation with the Mason SBDC connected her with the ICAP Life Science Mentor Elizabeth Pyle, whose work with the Virginia SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) aligned perfectly with Shrishti’s technology and entrepreneurial vision.

Virginia SBDC-ICAP helps Virginia-based technology and innovation-driven startups like Shrishti’s move from idea to launch, offering advising, training and pathways to funding. Elizabeth and Shrishti’s first meetings were to understand the technology, followed by more concrete business planning.

“After Shrishti and her mentors had conducted 20 customer interviews, we realized there was something to develop as a business,” Elizabeth adds.

After completing the Virginia SBDC-ICAP cohort, Elizabeth guided Shrishti and Dr. Remi Veneziano through the I-Corps Program created by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help move academic research to market. Shrishti’s faculty mentors, have since received funding from a number of sources, including the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation Commonwealth Commercialization Fund ($75,000), an NSF I-Corps National Grant ($50,000), and an NSF I-Corps Site Grant ($3,000) to take the technology forward. Shrishti won the top award at the 2023 Patriot Pitch Competition ($6,000) and the event’s Mason’s Choice Award ($1,000).

“The SBDC introduced me to a whole new world,” Shrishti states. “The ICAP Program showed me that while you might have the best technology, if no one wants to buy it, you don’t have a business.”

Additionally, Shrishti was recently nominated for the Forbes Under 30 Summit and has shared her experience as an entrepreneur through several interviews, including the PhD Talk Show podcast episode “From PhD to Entrepreneurship: A Researcher’s Journey of Turning an Idea into a Reality.”

As Shrishti and her team continue to lay the groundwork for the 2024 incorporated NIRView, she plans to use the Prince William County Innovation Park, a university-centered research park anchored by George Mason University, to continue developing her product. This will allow NIRView to progress toward a full launch while Shrishti continues to seek additional funding sources.

“Starting from this space, we hope to expand and enhance the realm of healthcare imaging,” Dr. Veneziano says.

Shrishti and her team note their appreciation for all the assistance they received from the SBDC. “The support we got from the SBDC was amazing,” Dr. Chitnis adds.

“Learning the business end was a bit scary for me,” Shrishti concludes. “Having someone like Elizabeth to rely on — that support was extremely helpful for all of us.”

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Laser Thermal

Laser Thermal

Laser Sharp Success: Laser Thermal Hits Million Dollar Milestone with the SBDC

Raised $6.5 million in equity investments; created 16 new jobs; licensed two patents; filed two patents; achieved over $1 million in sales from October 2022 to October 2023. www.laserthermal.com

When it comes to small-scale thermal measurements, Laser Thermal serves a need that hasn’t been fully realized in the market for decades: testing the thermal conductivity of items 1,000 to 10,000 times smaller than the average diameter of a human hair.

“We’re the definition of a niche market,” says Laser Thermal CEO and Co-Founder John Gaskins. “We are the only people doing what we’re doing.”

Until John launched Laser Thermal with Patrick Hopkins in February 2020, that kind of measurement science wasn’t available commercially — meaning that John and Patrick were literally designing their business model from scratch. In October 2020, John sent a consultation request to the Central Virginia SBDC, and the next day, he met with Director Rebecca Haydock on Zoom.

“There are a million different things that you can’t research when it comes to starting a business,” says John.

That’s where the SBDC offered assistance. As John’s main advisor, Rebecca connected him with specialists who helped support Laser Thermal in different areas, including finances, bookkeeping, web development and marketing. Laser Thermal also worked with both the Virginia SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) and the International Business Development Program (IBD).

“I could send an email and ask, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about this. Am I off base?’ Or ‘Is there anybody I can talk to about this?’” John says.

For the large industrial and academic companies Laser Thermal works with, information is everything, especially regarding optimization, performance, and cost cutting. The Laser Thermal team takes lab scale equipment that, for most people, is very unapproachable and packages it so that anyone can use it.

“You come into our applications lab, and I can teach you how to use our tool in 30 minutes,” says John.

John notes that the SBDC played a key role in helping him design his business model.

“A lot of our structure came from those early days talking to the SBDC, Rebecca and various mentors that we were plugged into.”

Ultimately, John points to mentorship as the most valuable resource he gleaned from the SBDC. Throughout the product development process and growth of the business, he notes that it would have been easy to feel like he was making decisions in a vacuum. Rebecca and the SBDC provided a sounding board that allowed an idea formulated in a University of Virginia lab to grow into a thriving small business boasting 17 employees, two granted patents, two additional filed patents, and over one million dollars in sales.

Today, Laser Thermal continues to scale with commercial tool sales, testing and contract services, and three government grants, including funds for new product development through the Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. As John looks to 2024, he predicts plenty of growth and innovation, and he knows it will happen with the SBDC by his side.

“I’ve probably recommended the SBDC to half a dozen different businesses I’ve run into since we started working with them.”

The SBDC has also helped connect John to the entrepreneurial community, an essential support for all aspiring small-business owners.

“The entrepreneurial community in general is very giving,” he says. “They’re giving of advice. They’re giving of resources. They’re giving of connections to other people. Be willing to take advice, and let it inform how you choose to grow your business in the future.”

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Federal Foundry

Federal Foundry

Virginia-ICAP’s customer discovery a win for Federal Foundry

Received $1.5 million in federal grants. Increased userbase of FedScout app to 1,300.

www.federal-foundry.com

Geoff Orazem launched Federal Foundry in 2016 to help small business owners succeed in the federal market. When his company struggled to grow, Geoff realized he needed a better understanding of his business and target customers.

After consulting with the Virginia SBDC Network, Geoff was advised to enroll in the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP). Participating in ICAP influenced Geoff to make fundamental changes to the way Federal Foundry operates.

“I made assumptions about my customer base that were wrong,” Geoff says. “Fortunately, ICAP was there to point out my mistakes.”

Virginia SBDC-ICAP, part of George Mason University and the Virginia SBDC Network, is a statewide collaborative network that supports tech startups during the critical initial phases of business development. Geoff connected with the Virginia SBDC-ICAP through his friend, ICAP Mentor Gary Grenter, who has extensive experience in production management and has founded four companies.

“Gary’s an excellent coach,” Geoff says. “Everything about ICAP is great, but the most valuable piece for me is customer discovery.”

Before founding his business as a government contractor, Geoff served as a Marine infantry officer. After leaving the Marine Corps, he graduated from Harvard Law School, and worked as a government contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Drawing on that experience, Geoff was well equipped for the ICAP program and compared it to military boot camp: “It’s a process requiring hard work and discipline but with a big payoff. Once ICAP showed me the value of customer discovery, I started doing it — still do it when considering a new capability.”

Since completing ICAP, Geoff has incorporated those customer-centered practices into his business. As a result, Federal Foundry has experienced newfound growth. One of the company’s tools, the FedScout app, currently has 1,300 users and was awarded a major contract of $1.5 million in federal grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Geoff credits Gary and the Virginia SBDC-ICAP program for that success. “Gary has a ton of experience and networks, plus he’s a good sounding board,” Geoff says.

Geoff considers ICAP’s free service a big win. “It’s been a good couple of years for Federal Foundry,” he concludes. “In the past I made business assumptions that were wrong. Thankfully, ICAP was there to help me correct the errors.”

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Wyndale Gardens

Wyndale Gardens

Wyndale Gardens Cultivates Connections with the SBDC

Secured new loan and capital investment for $101,000; tripled production in one year.

https://www.facebook.com/wyndalegardens/

While living in Colorado at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Scott and Rebecca Ramsey helplessly watched as grocery store shelves became empty.

“In the Rocky Mountains, we were basically at the end of the food chain,” says Scott. “Neither my wife nor I have a horticulture background. We’d never gardened before. We didn’t even know where our food came from. So, it was both scary and kind of a wake-up call.”

As COVID progressed, the couple bought an RV to travel the country, staying at state parks and Harvest Hosts farms and talking with families who had worked the land for generations. Scott and Rebecca started formulating their own plans. In November 2021, they reached out to the Virginia Highlands SBDC and connected with Director Cindy Fields, bringing her an idea for an agritourism business — plus a 10-year roadmap they had already designed.

With the SBDC at their side, Scott and Rebecca purchased property in Abingdon, launched Wyndale Gardens in April 2022, and brought their first produce to market within seven months. Today, their multifaceted endeavor features an aquaponics farm, apiary and agritourism business.

To support their growth, Cindy shared startup resources, including pitch competitions and grant suggestions. Alongside Virginia Tech, she supported Wyndale Gardens throughout the USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit, as the aquaponics farm sought to be the first in Virginia to carry the GAP certification. Scott notes, however, that Cindy’s greatest contributions to Wyndale Gardens are the connections she helped them formulate.

“Cindy being that conduit to help us network has been vital.”

Cindy connected Scott to an advisor at George Mason University to assist with technical questions on hydroponics. Through pitch competitions and other events, she plugged them into a local support system for entrepreneurs.

“Just for networking alone and getting connected into the small business community in your area, the SBDC is absolutely vital,” says Scott. “You need it in terms of, ‘Hey, who can I sell to? Who can I partner with?’”

In fact, community partnerships have been key to Wyndale Gardens’ ability to scale up after only a year in business.

The business started with a small subscriber program, but now Scott sells his romaine lettuce to the largest local grocery chain, Food City, and to the farm-to-school program, serving the city of Bristol as well as Washington and Tazewell counties. He’s currently working to form a co-op of farmers so that local schools can access other fresh produce. He’s also in the process of producing a honey beer in cooperation with local brewery, Sweetbay Brewing Co.

Since launching, Wyndale Gardens has tripled production and secured loans for $76,000. Four farmers have signed on for the co-op, and Scott and Rebecca plan to expand their agritourism focus by adding a boutique campground.

Throughout its first year in business, the company has continued to work with the SBDC and prioritize regional partnerships. In fact, Scott recommends the SBDC to all aspiring entrepreneurs wondering if they should take the leap.

“It’s like a support system,” he says. “We just have to wait for our food to grow.”

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MOVA Technologies

MOVA Technologies

MOVA Technologies discovers its customer base and scales with the Virginia SBDC-ICAP

Raised $1.5 million in private equity; received $420,000 in grants; created 3 jobs.

MOVA Technologies

MOVA Technologies’ selective air capture technology offers a system with nearly infinite possibilities. In the business world, however, limitless potential is not always an easy place to start. With the guidance of the Roanoke Regional SBDC and the Virginia SBDC Network’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), MOVA Technologies spent the past two years narrowing its focus.

Founder Steve Critchfield incorporated MOVA Technologies in 2016. Under the leadership of CEO John Schott and Communications Manager Luke Allison, the company is scaling up — in part due to the applicability of its system in a world racing against climate change. MOVA Technologies transforms pollutants into products — or as Luke puts it, turns liabilities into assets.

“We aren’t capturing air pollutants to simply throw them away,” Luke says. “Instead, we are selectively harvesting these captured pollutants in a pure form so they can be returned to the supply chain. So not only are we cleaning the air, but we are creating valuable and sustainable reuse, recycle, and resale options.”

Luke met Roanoke Regional SBDC Advisor Cheryl Tucker in 2020. Shortly after, he enrolled in the Virginia SBDC-ICAP’s introductory course, to work on defining his customer segment and value proposition.

“ICAP really helps you look at things through the eyes of the customer,” says Luke. “You could have the biggest, brightest, greatest idea, but if it doesn’t help the customer, then the customer will never buy it.”

During the ICAP course, Luke also developed an important network of connections. ICAP mentor Irfan Ali helped him determine where to broaden and narrow MOVA’s approach. ICAP Director Josh Green provided contacts for potential investors, such as venture capital firms. Additionally, ICAP connected MOVA to the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC) and provided strategic guidance and support for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant submission, which resulted in a $174,000 award through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Now that MOVA has defined a path from discovery to commercialization, the company plans to expand its portfolio of market-focused pollution harvesting products, grow its customer base, and grow its intellectual property. To date, MOVA has raised $1.5 million from angel investors, $420,000 in grant funding, and created three new jobs.

Both Luke and John believe that ICAP is an absolute must for small companies.

“So many small companies don’t necessarily know how to ask the right questions, discover opportunities, and then bring those forward to the market to assess market opportunity,” says John. “ICAP has been very good for us. It’s helped us pivot from some of our initial forays and really lock in on some things that the market is after.”

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Team Excel

Team Excel

Team Excel scores with an assist from the Virginia SBDC - ICAP Program

Expanded to serve 12 schools, created 1 job and is poised to grow revenue by almost more than 40% in 2022.

https://www.teamexcel.com/

Working with Richmond-area nonprofits on youth development programs, Johnathan Mayo noticed a problem: many of the young people he encountered lacked academic motivation. This realization sparked Team Excel, a “reverse fantasy sports” app that turns success into a game, organizing teams to compete with one another based on metrics like academics, attendance, and community service hours. More importantly, Team Excel transforms students into teammates.

Johnathan initially tested his business idea as a pilot program under a nonprofit — with impressive results. Over four years, students increased their GPA by an average of 27%.

“We saw kids holding each other accountable, pushing each other, motivating each other as part of a team to do better,” he says.

Johnathan quickly recognized that to scale Team Excel, he needed to pivot out of the nonprofit sector. In 2019, he registered as a Virginia benefit corporation, which allowed him to create a technology solution that he could scale. He also recognized that he needed guidance in order to grow his business.

Enrolling in the Virginia SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) offered Johnathan essential startup support and connected him with mentor Neil Agate and ICAP Director Josh Green. ICAP helped Johnathan analyze his business model and his marketing strategy, with a focus on customer discovery.

“ICAP really dug deep into your target audience,” says Johnathan. “You might have ten potential audiences, but they really helped you determine who your end customer is.”

ICAP’s advice continues to guide Johnathan. When he first started Team Excel, he focused exclusively on K-12 student-athletes. However, since the pandemic, he’s taken a broader approach.

“Chronic absenteeism and low engagement from students are such huge problems that schools are looking for solutions to service all of their students,” he explains.

Recently, Johnathan pivoted to marketing Team Excel as an enhancement tool that can be used by any existing school, nonprofit or sports team. In 2022, he launched Team Excel in 12 schools, hired his first full-time employee and launched a new website. Eventually, he foresees Team Excel expanding into higher education.

Throughout this impressive growth, ICAP has offered ongoing support, and Johnathan makes it a point to attend monthly meetings and keep up with his mentors.

“It keeps up an ecosystem of founders and mentors — people in the startup ecosystem in Virginia,” he says.

Johnathan readily recommends the Virginia SBDC-ICAP Program to any small business owner.

“Thinking about your journey in business, it was a really good starting point,” he says, “a network of people that really want to see you succeed.”

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