Category: Prior to 2016

Performance

Performance Signs

Signing Success

Today the company is busy and planning to hire two more employees to join the three hired in the previous year. 

When he was an engineering student at Virginia Tech in 1996, Robbie Morris began making decals for his brother’s racing cars.  As demand grew, he began running a business out of his dorm room until he decided to leave college and give it his full attention.  Today Performance Signs, owned by his wife Katherine, designs, builds, and installs exterior and interior signage, temporary and portable signs, and vehicle signage – now on corporate and municipal fleets instead of just race cars.  The company is thriving despite the recession. They just wish they’d known earlier about the resources available through the Central Virginia SBDC.

Robbie admits he had a “misconception that the SBDC was only for start-ups or for companies that were struggling to survive.”  He credits their SBDC counselor with helping their business bound to new levels, because she “has broad experience and helps us see what we’re missing.” For example, in the summer of 2009, the company was renting a three-bay facility, when they spotted another building for sale.  It seemed ideal for their purposes, so they contacted the SBDC to explore taking advantage of a Small Business Administration loan program funded through the Recovery Act.  Their SBDC counselor helped them organize their financial information so that they not only met the loan criteria but had their paperwork in good order.  She also helped them find a lender.

With a $600,000 loan in hand, Robbie and Katherine were able to buy the building.  With the additional space, they built an extra large bay to increase their volume and meet customer deadlines over the winter months, especially for auto fleet clients.  As Katherine points out, “This building makes a better customer impression and enhances our credibility.”

Today the company is busy and planning to hire two more employees to join the three hired in the previous year.  Customers who delayed purchasing new vehicles, are now replacing aging fleets.  The company is poised for fresh growth with a strong team and with their new building.  Katherine chuckles that, while that space first seemed so large, they’re now considering buying nearby land for a warehouse.  Their advice to other small businesses is simple: “Find your niche and be really good at one thing” and “start looking for the SBDC resources at the beginning.”

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Karen’s Hallmark, Danville

Karen’s Hallmark

Gifting Success

To stay on top Karen has used the SBDC’s STAMP program to her advantage as well as our social media marketing consultant and implemented many of their suggestions in her quest to stay on top of her game and provide her customers with the best experience. 

Karen Johnston has over 35 years of experience with the Hallmark brand.  She began her career working in Eden, NC, for Dee’s Hallmark Shop before coming to Danville in 1984 to work in the Hallmark Shop in the new Piedmont Mall.   In 2003 Karen decided it was time to buy the existing shop and put her unique mark on its operations.   She sought help from the Danville SBDC to facilitate this process and was approved by Hallmark for the purchase.

Since that initial contact with the SBDC, Karen has been the ideal client and SBDC supporter.  She has made judicious use of the SBDC course offerings and special programs and has enthusiastically supported the SBDC with its funding partners.  She took the time to share her unique story as a panelist at the Women’s Business Conference in 2012 thus inspiring the 100 participants in Danville, 35 in South Boston, and those that watched on the Internet from our live webcast.

Locally, Karen’s Hallmark Shop is known for its excellent customer service, beautiful displays, special events, and community service projects.  Karen has taken great care in staffing her shop with employees who ascribe to her belief in providing customers with a great shopping experience and supporting the local community.  Not only does the shop carry the very best that Hallmark offers in terms of cards, gifts, souvenirs and Yankee Candles, it also promotes other local and regional small businesses.  Local authors and poets have a natural outlet to sell their books and have book signings, and community organizations have an outlet to sell their products and/or tickets for events including wine tastings, holiday and garden tours, concerts, plays,  and fund raisers.

To stay on top Karen has used the SBDC’s STAMP program to her advantage as well as our social media marketing consultant and implemented many of their suggestions in her quest to stay on top of her game and provide her customers with the best experience.  She also insures that her staff members are included in the training thus giving them the opportunity to learn and grow.  This in turn provides the Mall with a solid tenant that draws foot traffic, the city with significant tax revenue and the community with 8 good jobs that include benefits!

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Hound

Hound Dog Depot

Hound Dog of Success

Since beginning work with the Region 2000 SBDC, Michelle and Mike have formed their corporation, hired their first employee, increased production due to increased demand, created their website, and started marketing at full speed.

Sometimes the solution to a problem becomes much more than a solution, it becomes a business. Such is the case of Michelle and Mike Elder. As avid owners of competition hunting dogs, the Elders knew there had to be a better method of identifying the dogs during the competitive events than the current method involving shaving or painting the numbers onto the animals. It seemed silly and inhumane to do that to a specially trained and expensive competition dog.

Michelle began toying with the idea of creating a “field-jacket” that the dog would wear. On the jacket were numbers that could be interchanged, depending on the assigned number for a particular round of competition. Having successfully created a breathable, flexible canvas jacket, the Elder’s donned their dogs in their new invention and entered them in a local competition. And that is when they learned just how popular their solution would become.

When Michelle contacted the Region 2000 SBDC, she had already been successfully filling orders for her jackets for almost nine months. During that time she had produced over 200 and had outstanding orders of close to fifty more. Having never expected the “solution” to become a business, she requested help from the SBDC in the form of business planning, funding, employee relations, production methods, etc. She stated that they were barely keeping up with the demand and yet they had not even begun to advertise. It was explained to her that it was a good problem to have.

Since beginning work with the Region 2000 SBDC, Michelle and Mike have formed their corporation, hired their first employee, increased production due to increased demand, created their website, and started marketing at full speed. The orders continue to pour in with steady increase. Due to their quick success, they plan to offer numerous products for dogs of all types on their website in the future.

The Region 2000 SBDC continues to assist the Elder’s as their business continues to grow. Plans are to hire additional staff and increase the size of their production facility in the near future.

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Covenant

Covenant Building Maintenance

Maintaining Success

The company has grown since 2009 from a start-up with a core set of clients to a company that now serves 50 plus businesses (almost 170% growth) in the Shenandoah Valley from Staunton to Hagerstown and east to Fairfax. 

The Gant family, consisting of Taylor, Calvin and Dawn, now own Covenant Building Maintenance. They first arrived at the Lord Fairfax SBDC in 2008, when they were partners with another couple in another building maintenance concern.  The Gants left in 2009 after their son, Taylor, started his own business, which is the current Covenant Building Maintenance.

The company has come back to the SBDC to get questions answered or assistance with a range of situations.  Dawn has used the SBDC library for accounting research.  Calvin and Taylor have had discussions with counselors on types of business entities and marketing.  They have met with our counselors coming out of Richmond on how to do business with the Commonwealth.  They have attended numerous business seminars and conferences.

They have grown the company since 2009 from a start-up with a core set of clients to a company that now serves 50 plus businesses (almost 170% growth) in the Shenandoah Valley from Staunton to Hagerstown and east to Fairfax.  They operate out of the company headquarters in Winchester that serves as both administrative offices and warehouse for their cleaning supplies and equipment.  They have dedicated service trucks, and employment has more than doubled since opening with a base of employees.  During this same time period gross revenue has grown 231%.  The business has a strong customer service orientation built around a foundation of traditional family values.

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New Ravenna Mosaics, Exmore

New Ravenna Mosaics

Mosaic Success

International markets make up 20% of New Ravenna’s $20 million in annual revenues, and the plan is to double that.

Sara McCaleb Baldwin was born on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and grew up with an appreciation for its surrounding naturalbeauty.  Eventually she chose to apply this passion to the business of creating artistic mosaics.

Sara earned two degrees in Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania and became inspired by the fourth-century Roman craft of mosaics.  By 1990, she had launched a small cottage business in the mosaics industry; by the end of 1991, she was the official founder of New Ravenna (named after the historic Byzantine Italian capital of mosaics) with $8,000 in sales and one employee.

Over the next couple of decades, New Ravenna grew and moved and grew and moved.  Today the company, located in Exmore, enjoys a  45,000 square-foot campus of covered space.  Not only has Exmore profited from this growing business that took dilapidated buildings and enhanced their value for a greater tax base, New Ravenna is now  the largest private-sector employer in Exmore, with a diverse staff of 120 people, 63% female and 37% male, with ethnic origins from countries throughout the world.

New Ravenna worked with the Hampton Roads SBDC on the Eastern Shore to explore the possibilities of expanding its international marketplace.  The company’s export customers now include Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, Korea, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, Morocco, United Arab Republic and a myriad of islands in the Caribbean.  In fact,  these international markets make up 20% of New Ravenna’s $20 million in annual revenues, and the plan is to double that.

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