Category: 2018

Tee Spot Creative Learning Center

Tee Spot Creative Learning Center

Tee Spot is spot-on for early childhood learning

Tiarra moved her business from her house to a 4,000 square foot facility, with an enrollment of 52 children and a highly qualified staff of 12.

Tiarra Dawson believes learning starts at home. “In 2014, I opened Tee Spot, a small early-childhood-learning business in my home. I knew it would bloom rapidly,” explains Tiarra, known as Ms. Tee to her students. “My vision was to provide children with remarkable learning experiences, a loving and safe place to grow, and bonds that would last beyond my care.”

When Tiarra had 10 children enrolled at Tee Spot, she began meeting with Christine Kriz, Director of the Lord Fairfax SBDC in 2016. “Tiarra had excellent training for early childhood learning, but wanted to learn more about business functions,” says Christine. “She knows that you can’t do it all yourself, and she wanted to develop a staff that would offer the best learning environment for children.”

Tee Spot soon outgrew Tiarra’s house. She continued to meet with the LFSBDC, in order to help manage her business growth. Christina connected Tiarra to advisors, realtors, lawyers, and others who could help her move to a new facility. She also advised Tiarra on financing, accounting, operations, and human resource functions.

“At the end of April 2016, Tiarra found a 4,000-square-foot facility,” Christine notes. Tiarra adds, “It was a blessing to find this building. It used to be the probation building, and the foyer is made of bulletproof glass. It’s one of the safest and most secure daycare centers in the area.”

For children from six-weeks-old to third grade, the program introduces a structured learning environment that includes a teacher-directed and student-directed approach. “Each day of the week students focus on a particular area of development,” says Tiarra. Daily areas of study include music and movement, early literacy, writing development, science/social studies, and mathematics.

Given her goals, Tiarra consulted with Christine again in 2017 for help with business operations and staffing needs. To achieve the standards that Tiarra set, the right cultural and educational fit is critical.

Tiarra, who holds a degree in early childhood education, says, “I’m extremely passionate about children and love to aid in their growth and development. We welcome all young children in our place of learning. We teach our young children daily, and they continue to teach us.” “Tiarra’s center is having an impact on the children and the communities it serves,” Christina says. “She is determined to continue to shape the minds of the future — the sky is truly the limit.”

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Envirian of Warrenton

Envirian of Warrenton

Envirian in Fauquier puts the heart in home ownership

The ability to look beyond the immediate sale and focus on the client’s best interest is a hallmark of Dean’s approach.

Dean Wood was a managing partner of Envirian, LLC, a successful real estate franchise company with more than 20 franchises. He decided to get out of franchising and to refocus on local real estate through his brokerages, Envirian of Reston and Envirian of Warrenton. “You can run a large corporation for a long time and realize you’ve gone past the place you want to be,” Dean explains.

As part of his renewed commitment to local clients, Dean completed his certification as a military relocation professional. Dean, who served as an officer in the US Army National Guard, helps veterans build or find adaptive housing.

Dean takes a hands-on approach. He helps clients secure financing through the Veterans Administration, shows up during construction to make sure contractors are building to specification, researches and purchases adaptive appliances, and makes sure his clients’ needs are met at every stage. “Once I was on site when the crew was installing the electrical panel – at their eye level,” he recalls. “I stopped the work and got it placed lower on the wall so that the client, who uses a wheelchair, could reach it.”

The ability to look beyond the immediate sale and focus on the client’s best interest is a hallmark of Dean’s approach. “Many people think of real estate as a single transaction. You find the client a house, and that’s the end of the story,” Dean says. “I don’t work that way. I’ve done a number of houses for disabled vets. While I don’t build the houses, I am with them every step from finding the land to the completed home with all the needed adaptations.”

Often Dean wondered what was next. He reached out to the Lord Fairfax SBDC for help, both personal and professional. “I could have gone in any number of directions,” Dean says. “Dale Maza at the SBDC sat down with me and went through various options. That was very helpful, and I have a good idea of what I’m going to do next. I appreciated having someone like Dale work with me.”

Dean concludes, “Good advice is worth more than money. Sometimes you don’t need dollars — but you do need ‘sense.’”

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The Well Coffee Shop

The Well Coffee Shop

Hometown grind: couple brings coffee to Tazewell

With the help of the SBDC, The Well Coffee Shop won a grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and employs 5 part-time staff members.

Venus and Mike Laney knew their hometown of Tazewell needed a coffee shop. Rumors would come and go of potential venues opening, but as time ticked by nothing happened. The couple decided to take matters into their own hands.

With the perfect historic building in the center of downtown Tazewell already in mind for The Well Coffee Shop, the Laneys set out to bring fresh, hot coffee to their friends and neighbors, one cup at a time. “Things really fell into place for us to be in that space,” says Mike, referring to The Well’s location.

After signing the lease in February 2017, the Laneys opened the Well Coffee Shop for business in June. Mike and Venus both work full-time jobs outside of the coffee shop and lacked experience with entrepreneurship. They were delighted to find an ally with Margie Douglass, Program Manager at the Southwest Virginia Community College SBDC. Margie helped the Laneys identify, apply, and win a Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority grant to fund their business.

“Margie was awesome,” Mike says. “She helped us through every part of the process, including identifying which type of grant we should apply for based on our needs. Once we decided which one we were going for, she helped us through countless revisions of our proposal,” he adds.

Venus is grateful to Margie for pointing them in the right direction. “Without Margie’s guidance, we would not have known that this program was even a possibility for us,” she says.

As The Well Coffee Shop settles into its new home in the heart of Tazewell, the Laneys are optimistic about the future. “I don’t have a degree in anything,” Mike says jokingly, “But each day our doors are open is a huge accomplishment.”

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Ryzing Technologies, Staunton

Ryzing Technologies

Ryzing to meet technology needs

ICAP influenced Ryzing Technologies being able to win Phase I Option and Phase II awards from the Army SBIR for the development of an adjustable height platform system for military shelters. These awards combine for a 3-year contract, totaling $1.05 million.

Ryzing Technologies lives up to its name by rising to meet the demand for technologies of the future. “Our mission is to provide engineering services to other companies in anything that uses fabrics and textiles as a structural element,” Ryan Gundling says.

At their jobs in the same California company, Ryan Gundling, a mechanical engineer, and Ryan Long, an expert in prototyping and fabrications, helped develop an inflatable technology adopted by the US Army for military shelters, that included inflatable tents ranging from 10-foot to 90-foot wide and all the accessories the military used with the tents.

Both Ryans relocated to Virginia, but not at the same time. “After being in Virginia from seven to nine years,” Ryan G. says, “We felt like this area was a great place to open a business, so Ryan and I resigned from our jobs to do just that.” Ryan G. adds, “Our goal was to create a fast paced, research and development atmosphere that could advance and develop inflatable and textile technologies for the military and find success for those technologies in the commercial world.”

Ryan G. heard about the Innovative Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) offered through the Shenandoah Valley SBDC. A program of the Virginia SBDC Network and available to all Virginia SBDC clients who met the criteria, ICAP helps inventors and entrepreneurs successfully take new technologies and innovations to market.

“I decided to enroll. Initially ICAP provided a general assessment of our technology and gave feedback,” Ryan G. recalls. “It turned out to be an incredible learning experience and really helped focus our direction. ICAP connected us to experts from across the country, who provided counseling on soft robotic technology.” Ryan G. adds, “At a meeting in Verona, we were also given face-to-face advice on marketing, on how to commercialize this technology, and on how to be successful.”

Ryzing Technologies took the guidance to heart, and the company’s revenue figures reflect its success. Both Ryans credit the SBDC and ICAP for their company’s initial success and continue to work with the SBDC since “graduating” from ICAP. Ryan G. adds, “The SBDC didn’t provide money or a grant — they provided guidance, and that was even more valuable.”

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Green Box ABA

Green Box ABA

Outside the box brings big rewards for Green Box ABA

Green Box ABA has 15 full time and 45 part time employees that serve 70 clients with a growing wait list.

“Our story is what sets us apart. People identify with it and are drawn to it,” says Carl Dzyak, co-owner and founder of Green Box Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in Springfield.

Growing up, Carl and the other neighborhood kids would use the green electrical box on the side of their building as their meeting place. The green box, as well as a lifelong affinity for psychology, inspired him to create a unique business. “We provide high-quality therapy for children on the autism spectrum,” Carl explains. “Our methods allow these kids to gain social skills both inside and outside their homes.”

When Carl started Green Box ABA in October 2014, it was just him at a desk in a tiny, cramped office. Lifelong friend and co-owner Chris Richardson, joined shortly after, and the business began to gather steam . . . rapidly.

Carl’s idea was to employ licensed therapists to provide in-home services to clients for up to 40 hours a week or as few as four. While they do have an office, the heart of Green Box lies with the work they do in clients’ homes.

Once Carl formulated his approach, based on B.F. Skinner’s principles of operant conditioning, he assembled his core team. Often he ran head first into a unique situation: Too much interest. Investors. Ventures capitalists. All with their own angle, and each eager to use.

Green Box’s unique methodology. Carl needed an ally. Enter the business counselors at SBDC at the Community Business Partnership in Springfield.

“I found myself getting a lot of advice from people with many agendas,” said Carl. “The SBDC counselors were the only objective voices I found in all that noise. They had the experience and the connections that I needed to get me where I wanted to go. They gave me the opportunity to practice pitching to a venture capitalist, which was really just invaluable because, honestly, where else, outside of having a family member or close friend, would you get a chance like that?”

Green Box works exclusively with military families through the Department of Defense, and the need is great. Yet pacing their growth has been critical. It takes time to assemble a team of highly skilled, trustworthy “behavior technicians.” Carl is quick to credit his stellar team for every bit of Green Box’s success. “Having that synergy with people that I trust is what has made all the difference,” he says.

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Southern Plenty

Southern Plenty

Southern Plenty, SBDC, and a plan — a recipe for success

After taking the SBDC’s SoBo business boot camp class, Mary was awarded a $10,00 SoBo StartUp! grant. When Southern Plenty opened, it had 2 employees and seated 8; now there are 8 employees and seating for 60.

South Boston’s Southern Plenty lives up to its name. Advertised as “nourishment for the body and mind,” the Main Street cafe serves southern-style dishes, with other choices as well. “I opened Southern Plenty eight years ago as a bookstore,” Mary Bagwell said. “Then I met my husband, Don, and expanded the store,” she added with a smile. She has added new things ever since.

One new addition is a second-floor renovation. To fund the project, Mary received a $10,000 grant in the SoBo Start Up! grant competition, which required her to write a business plan. “Lin Hite, Regional Director for the Longwood SBDC, taught the SoBo business boot camp,” Mary said.

Writing a business plan was an eye opener. “Mary’s been through a lot of businesses, but she’s never had any business education,” Don said. “Writing a business plan deepened her understanding of her own business and the restaurant industry in general.” Mary added, “Financially, it was good to see where we’re at and where we’re going. It made me feel like I had a hold on the reins in this wonderful evolving business.”

Pleasantries, Mary’s new upstairs bakery, includes custom cakes, ice cream sandwiches with homemade cookies, fine chocolates, and fruit bouquets. While looking at the new seating area, the bakery for specialty cakes, the wine bar, and the gallery for local artists, Don remarks, “This is not what you’d expect to find in Southside Virginia.”

Mary notes that new ideas come with risks. “I’ll risk $500 on a new item,” Mary notes. “If it doesn’t work out, I put it on sale and take a new direction.”

The SBDC classes, Mary explains, helped her envision how her business could grow. “With SBDC classes and a business plan, I could see I’d done the right things,” Mary concludes. “Business boot camp brought it all together. It was wonderful!”

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Industrial Biodynamics

Industrial Biodynamics

Slipping to Success

Industrial Biodynamics has sold over 65 Slip Simulators to businesses in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

If you think falling on purpose sounds crazy, you haven’t met the founders of Salem-based Industrial Biodynamics. Their signature product, Slip Simulator™, is proof that the concept is revolutionizing workplace safety. Based on the research of former Virginia Tech professor Dr. Thurmon Lockhart, the simulator reduces slip, trip, and fall injuries in the workplace by up to 70%.

“The goal was to create a learning environment that was safe, yet simulated very difficult slippery conditions that would typically result in a fall,” says Jon Hager, one of the original founders of the company. “By using a harness, supported by an overhead gantry, a trainee could experience worst case scenarios, fall safely, and then learn new techniques that would build situational awareness, confidence, and success in conquering the most challenging slip-and- trip conditions.”

Jon, Thurmon, Christian James and another managing partner founded Industrial Biodynamics in 2013, and the company enjoyed meteoric growth, as major companies including UPS, FedEx, and DuPont have begun using the Slip Simulator training system.

The Roanoke Regional SBDC Adviser Christina Garnett offered key assistance to Industrial Biodynamics. “We reached out to the SBDC for help to develop a marketing plan to expand our business, especially locally and regionally. The majority of our sales have been to large corporations across the country, but we are interested in exposing our product and services to midsize regional companies as well,” says Jon. “Christina Garnett has provided excellent insight into social media marketing and networking and has also supported our efforts to acquire staffing to execute our plans,” he adds.

For Industrial Biodynamics, the partnership with Christina and the Roanoke Regional SBDC has been vital, enabling them to increase their local brand awareness while simultaneously bolstering their marketing efforts.

“We offer a fresh take on workplace safety with our unique and effective safety training solution. We change the way companies discuss and address safety challenges by actively engaging the employees in an informative and fun way,” Jon says.

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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.

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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.


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.”

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Sassy Pats Tea Parties

Sassy Pat’s Tea Parties

SBDC suits Sassy Pat's to a 'tea'

With the help of the SBDC, Pat Carson opened her business in 2017. As her business grows, she continues to seek assistance from the SBDC for business related issues.

Pat Carson’s business in Locust Grove started with a tea party. “I held a tea for my sister Pami-Sue,” Pat says. “And that sparked my interest in the lost art of tea parties. I wanted to share it with others, so I decided to start Sassy Pat’s Tea Parties.”

Pat wanted something new to do during her retirement. Fortunately, when she decided to look into a tea-party business, a friend gave some advice. “My friend said, ‘Please do me a favor, and go to the SBDC,’” Pat says. She did and met with David Reardon, the business counselor at the Lord Fairfax SBDC at Culpeper.

“Pat contacted us for startup assistance that would help her understand registration and licensing obligations at the federal, state, and local levels,” David says. “Following the guidelines, Pat set up an LLC.”

Pat developed a business model that minimized her overhead: the client arranges for the location of the tea, often in the client’s home, while Pat provides the food, tea, china, silverware, decorations, etc. “It’s really taken off the last few months,” she notes. “Right now I’m the only employee, and I’ve never been so busy in my life!”

Before pouring the first cup of tea, Pat sits down with each client and makes a plan. “I go over available color schemes and themes, and we look over the menu,” she adds. Sassy Pat’s offers a selection of savory and sweet options and a variety of teas. “There are so many choices to make,” she adds. “Every tea party takes a lot of planning.”

So does, as Pat discovered, starting a business. Pat returned to the SBDC for an in-depth lesson on using QuickBooks. “I showed Pat the various accounting functions in the software,” David says. “This session gave Pat a more comprehensive view of the input and reporting capabilities of QuickBooks.”

As her business grows, Pat plans to return to the SBDC for guidance and assistance with business-related issues. “I will go back to the SBDC— I definitely will,” Pat says. “The SBDC gives you good information that you won’t get anywhere else. Plus it’s free — that’s the best part!”

“Giving these tea parties has become my passion,” she declares. “This is something I want to do for the rest of my life and I want to make sure I do it right,” Pat concludes. “The SBDC pointed me in the right direction!”

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