Category: 2021

Binbox, Sterling

Binbox

The SBDC’s guidance puts a lock on success

Received investment funding from several Mid-Atlantic angel and venture networks

When COVID-19 shut down Binbox, a business Dan Flynn and Eric Herring launched last fall, Dan didn’t despair. Instead, he turned to the Mason SBDC for guidance through the pandemic. “When you’re thrown a lemon, make lemonade,” Dan says.

Dan and Eric started planning the business in Dan’s garage. “It took a while to get some traction,” Dan describes. When a friend suggested the George Mason Entrepreneurship program, Dan decided to check it out. “They linked me with the Mason SBDC, who linked me with ICAP,” Dan adds. The Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), a statewide technology-commercialization initiative, is a program offered by the Virginia SBDC Network. The ICAP program changed the course of the business by focusing on “customer discovery.” As a result, Binbox developed a solution for what people could do with their personal belongings while attending sporting events, concerts, or the like. “We monetized a smart lock and put it in a locker so people could use their phones to store belongings while attending large events,” Dan explains.

After completing ICAP’s Introductory Course, Dan continued to work with his ICAP mentor. “We looked at high volume venues, like arenas,” he says. “We’re currently pushing close to 30 venues, including the Washington Nationals, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Denver Broncos, and Atlanta Falcons — some major teams.”

Binbox was well on the way to success when the pandemic stopped them in their tracks. “We were completely impacted,” Dan says. “With everything closed down, we had to focus on conserving cash and finding a different way forward.”

That way became clear as sports venues cautiously began to reopen. “We became part of the opening plans for these venues,” Dan explains. “The venues needed to keep everything safe and sanitary, and we could provide that service.” Messaging on the Binbox webpage reflects the new focus, which reads, “Keep belongings safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 with secure, no-contact solutions from Binbox.” Dan adds, “Our sales tripled in the last couple of months.”

To ensure a continued future, Binbox received investment funding from several Mid-Atlantic angel and venture networks.When COVID-19 shut down Binbox, a business Dan Flynn and Eric Herring launched last fall, Dan didn’t despair. Instead, he turned to the Mason SBDC for guidance through the pandemic. “When you’re thrown a lemon, make lemonade,” Dan says. 

Dan and Eric started planning the business in Dan’s garage. “It took a while to get some traction,” Dan describes. When a friend suggested the George Mason Entrepreneurship program, Dan decided to check it out. “They linked me with the Mason SBDC, who linked me with ICAP,” Dan adds. The Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), a statewide technology-commercialization initiative, is a program offered by the Virginia SBDC Network. The ICAP program changed the course of the business by focusing on “customer discovery.” As a result, Binbox developed a solution for what people could do with their personal belongings while attending sporting events, concerts, or the like. “We monetized a smart lock and put it in a locker so people could use their phones to store belongings while attending large events,” Dan explains. 

After completing ICAP’s Introductory Course, Dan continued to work with his ICAP mentor. “We looked at high volume venues, like arenas,” he says. “We’re currently pushing close to 30 venues, including the Washington Nationals, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Denver Broncos, and Atlanta Falcons — some major teams.”

Binbox was well on the way to success when the pandemic stopped them in their tracks. “We were completely impacted,” Dan says. “With everything closed down, we had to focus on conserving cash and finding a different way forward.” 

That way became clear as sports venues cautiously began to reopen. “We became part of the opening plans for these venues,” Dan explains. “The venues needed to keep everything safe and sanitary, and we could provide that service.” Messaging on the Binbox webpage reflects the new focus, which reads, “Keep belongings safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 with secure, no-contact solutions from Binbox.” Dan adds, “Our sales tripled in the last couple of months.”

To ensure a continued future, Binbox received investment funding from several Mid-Atlantic angel and venture networks.

 

Read More
ABC Consulting, Smithfield

ABC Consulting

Focusing on success with the SBDC

Increased sales by 300%

Crystal Stump launched her ABC Consulting business with a good idea. But as time went on, she found it wasn’t enough. “I was 27 years old and a five-year employee of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority when I terminated my special agent position and started my own business,” Crystal explains. “I felt that the small businesses I worked with needed someone on their team with the knowledge to navigate the alcohol licensing process. I knew I was that person.”

While her business model was sound, Crystal found managing her own business to be a challenge. “Because I didn’t know how to manage a small business, I quickly created credit card debt,” she relates. At that point, Crystal decided she needed help. “I reached out to the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce,” Crystal says. “They referred me to Jim Carroll, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads SBDC.”

Crystal sees it as a turning point for her business. “My first meeting with Jim Carroll was a painful one,” she admits. “I had to be honest with him so he could provide guidance. We looked at my biggest challenges and what was working — and what wasn’t — and started making plans. I found myself constantly thinking about not making enough money,” Crystal continues. “Once I changed my focus and looked at how I was helping my clients, it was amazing to see the difference.”

That positive focus led to a complete turnaround for Crystal, as well as for her business. “I will never forget Jim Carroll’s smile when we reviewed my profit and loss report a year later,” Crystal recalls. “My sales had increased by an unbelievable 300%.”

Jim also introduced Crystal to workshops offered by the SBDC. “The course on social media was especially helpful,” she adds. “I decided to outsource my social media to the speaker for that course, Wendy Craighill. That was a big help in reaching new prospects.” The SBDC, Crystal affirms, taught her to focus on things she could do herself and outsource the rest.

When the COVID-19 crisis brought a downturn to her business, Crystal again turned to the SBDC for assistance. “Jim Carroll and his team assisted me with applications for various grants, which were approved,” she adds. Since March, Crystal has used her expertise to assist restaurant clients placing skilled gaming machines in their businesses.

“When the state regulations changed to allow skilled gaming, I was ready to help game distributors apply the right way,” Crystal explains. “I also launched a YouTube channel to get information to my subscribers. As a business owner, you have to adapt and move forward.”

Moving forward has been the name of the game for Crystal since she signed on with the SBDC. “Today, I am out of debt, I have learned to hire great help for what I cannot do, I have retirement savings, and my dream is ten times bigger than it was ten years ago,” Crystal concludes.

Read More
The O’Connor Group, Roanoke

The O’Connor Group

Wright on track as marketing agency grows

Bought a company, created 1 job and retained 7 jobs

What began as Rice Wright Creative transformed to The O’Connor Group when Rebecca Rice and Raki Wright purchased the marketing agency in 2019. “We are honor to continue the legacy of Bill O’Connor by keeping the name The O’Connor Group,” Raki says. “It is now a small, women-owned agency that operates as a debt-free company,” Raki explains. “This means we need to raise any funds needed for large projects, keep our expenses to a minimum, and reinvest our profits back into the company.”

Rebecca and Raki use a streamlined business model that allows them a superior level of agility and performance. Raki functions as the digital strategy director while Rebecca adds vision as the creative director. “I consult with clients on digital ads, website content, search engine optimization, retargeting, electronic newsletters, and social channels,” Raki explains. “As creative director, Rebecca oversees concept development, art direction, and the agency team for any creative components of client campaigns. She and the account manager work with clients to make sure projects meet expectations and objectives, and stay on schedule and on budget.” 

Rebecca connected the team with Roanoke Regional SBDC’s Business Advisor Tom Tanner, which has proven to be pivotal for the agency. Tom guided Raki and Rebecca through the purchasing process. With such a big transition, Raki says this level of access to knowledgeable help was pivotal for the growing agency.

“Tom helped us set up our corporation, value the company we were purchasing, create a business plan, create a budget, create our partnership agreement, draft a purchase agreement, and more,” Raki says. “We could not have done this without him.”

With a staff of seven, The O’Connor Group dealt with COVID-19 in full stride. Raki notes that the team’s agility has enabled them to be flexible, which provides their agency with a definite advantage. “I’ve been able to control my work-life balance while doing rewarding work and partnering with some of the greatest small businesses in the region, especially since we all began dealing with the pandemic,” Raki says. “It’s been great to have a company culture that puts family first, whether that means working from home, bringing kids to work for virtual school, or altering our schedules around family responsibilities.” 

“We’d like to continue to grow the agency and team. We plan to continue working with the SBDC to learn more about and optimize the operational side of the agency,” Raki says. “There’s so much knowledge inside the SBDC, and we want to take advantage of all of those opportunities.”


Read More
Hustle/Haven, Roanoke

Hustle/Haven

Hustle and Go: Cycling and yoga studio done differently in Roanoke

Started a new business and created 19 jobs

When London Ray-Dykstra discovered hot yoga and cycling, it was a lifeline for her. She describes it as a healing experience for past traumas, and an immersive, mind-body ritual that was as much about strengthening the soul as building muscles or perfecting a tree pose.

With a background in dance and a fast-paced life in Richmond where she worked multiple jobs, cycling and hot yoga quickly became a refuge and reset for London. When she met her now-husband and decided to move to Roanoke to be with him, it quickly became clear that this refuge was about to take a new, critical role in her life.

Hustle/Haven started on Instagram, where London posted motivational quotes and teased the opening of her indoor cycling and hot yoga studio. With no other hot yoga or indoor cycling facilities in Roanoke, London envisioned Hustle/Haven as a place where people could come and, according to her, “learn to take care of themselves gently, because that’s what I was learning to do.”

London says that she wanted Hustle/Haven to take people beyond what they might find in a more typical gym experience. “I wanted it to be more than a cycle studio, more than a hot yoga studio,” she says. “I believe deeply in the concept of fitness for your overall well-being, mentally and physically.”

While Hustle/Haven was making its first virtual debut via social media, London was hard at work with her secret weapon: Amanda Forrester and the Roanoke Regional SBDC. According to London, Amanda was an unbelievable resource. A former gym-owner herself, she easily grasped London’s vision for Hustle/Haven. “Amanda completely got what I was trying to do and encouraged me that this wasn’t a crazy idea,” London says. “Having someone work with me who shared my vision and who was familiar with the concept was such a game-changer.” London worked with Amanda and the Roanoke Regional SBDC to procure a brick-and-mortar location and navigate the complexities of opening during a pandemic.

In August 2020, Hustle/Haven opened its doors. London wanted the name to capture the hustle of indoor cycling and the haven of yoga. “At Hustle/Haven, we emphasize a lifestyle and mindset that’s not built around limitations. I wanted to build a place where you would want to hang out,” London explains. “I wanted to make it intentionally different.”

With fun features like a striking mural on the front of the building, a “potion bar” that sells adaptogenic drinks, and more, there’s no question that Hustle/Haven is different. COVID-19 posed a challenge for the young business, but London says that community support has been warm and enthusiastic. “We’ve been well received. Everyone was very excited for us to open,” she says. “We are trying to stay adaptable as we move into the winter, trying out online classes and other ways to manage the ongoing pandemic,” she adds. “It’s definitely been an interesting situation with COVID,” London says, “but our plan is to just keep adapting. At the end of the day, gratitude carries everyone and everything.”


Read More
Adroit Theory Brewing Company, Purcellville

Adroit Theory Brewing Company

Dark Magic: making better beer in Loudoun County

$100,000 increase in export sales

From the beginning, Adroit Theory Brewery Company has never opted to do anything small, quiet, or dainty. Their inaugural beer, a 10.0 ABV Imperial Stout, set the stage for a litany of wild, novel, and downright extreme beers that have earned a cult following, not only in the United States but beyond. When asked about his favorite beer, owner Mark Osborne quickly describes an “Invisible Black IPA” that is brewed with black sesame seeds. “It’s actually delicious,” he says with a laugh. 

Adroit Theory’s goal was to start small, but with a big idea. “I remember thinking, ‘I can make something different, cutting edge,’” Mark recalls. “Our specialty is experimental beers. We’ve been polarizing our fan base since day one with these wild, crazy beers.” 

Adroit Theory is also set apart by their marketing and the designs on their bottles. “I decided right away that I wanted to heavily brand what we were doing,” he explains. “I wanted to give it a distinct look and feel. People often describe this look as ‘dark art’ or shocking, but it’s still aesthetically beautiful.”

With Adroit Theory releasing over 915 distinct beers in 6.5 years, the creative demand for new ideas is high. Mark credits Adroit Theory’s singular aesthetics for a huge part of their success. “I would say the branding aspect made it possible for us to expand as fast as we did,” Mark says.

Wanting to get into exporting, Mark remembered how neighboring brewery, Port City Brewing Company, had worked with the Virginia SBDC Network to begin selling internationally. The folks at the Virginia SBDC’s International Business Development (IBD) program conducted market research and shared recommendations for a way forward. Mark and the Adroit Theory team found themselves on a trade mission to Europe, where their unique and bold brand of beer was gaining traction. You can detect the amazement in Mark’s voice as he lists the countries that Adroit Theory ships to — Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, Russia, and France — with more orders from European countries pouring in. Production has doubled in the last 12 months. For Mark, the analysis from the SBDC’s IBD program was critical to successfully moving international sales forward. “They provided us so much valuable advice,” he says. “Honestly, it’s changed the way we do business.”

As Mark and his team continue to push beer boundaries, both here and overseas, they know the SBDC will be by their side for a dark, wild, and most importantly, fun ride.

Read More
Local Eats, Palmyra

Local Eats

Foodies in Fluvanna feast on local foods

Increased sales by 40%

Amy Myer wanted to open her own local food store and restaurant in Fluvanna County, but she knew she needed help figuring out the details. She connected with the Central Virginia SBDC and Diane Arnold, an experienced SBDC Business Counselor, who helped Amy with market research, resource connections, and acted as someone to bounce ideas off of. “She was awesome,” Amy says. “She knows her stuff, and she wants to see her people succeed.”

Diane helped Amy make her dream a reality. She reviewed the lease, visited the prospective site, and helped Amy write her business plan. “There were so many little things I wouldn’t have known,” Amy enthuses. “She knew all the ins and outs.”

Local Eats, which carries locally-sourced foods from Fluvanna and across the region, has definitely become a success. Amy has developed quite a following among the foodies in Fluvanna, particularly in Lake Monticello, the major subdivision nearby. She now has two part-time employees, and has even expanded to delivery service. 

Even after the intensive support in the start-up phase, Diane continued to add value for Amy. “She has all the connections,” Amy says. “Anytime she comes across opportunities or gets her hands-on information that can be helpful, she always reaches out to me.” That included scheduling Amy for a meeting with a retail specialist from the Virginia SBDC State Office and connecting her with the SBDC Quad County Pitch Competition. 

Amy continues to refine her vision of expanding, and when the time comes, she plans to call on the wise advice of Diane and the resources of the SBDC.


Read More
Sportlanes, Ten Pin Café, Wild Magnolia, and Shindig Uptown Bistro and Catering, Martinsville

Sportlanes, Ten Pin Café, Wild Magnolia, and Shindig Uptown Bistro and Catering

Surviving the COVID-19 pandemic with multiple businesses

Received $10,000 EIDL advances for each business, $26,000 PPP loan each for Shindig and Sportlanes, and $44,000 PPP for Wild Magnolia, and retained 32 jobs

A Martinsville businessman for 25 years, Will Pearson started with Sportlanes, a bowling alley with the Ten Pin Café attached. Later he acquired the Wild Magnolia restaurant and, even later, Shindig Uptown Bistro and Catering. But in mid-March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Martinsville, and it had a devastating impact on Will’s businesses. Sportlanes and Ten Pin Café closed, and Wild Magnolia and Shindig were limited to curbside pickup, carryout, and delivery. 

“We heard rumors about grants coming out when everything shut down. A city councilman advised me to talk to Michael Scales at the Longwood SBDC, so I did. He met me in his office that morning, we talked about the different loans available, and he advised me on how to apply.” Will considers it his lucky day. 

Michael explained how the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) worked; Will applied and received a $10,000 advance for each of his businesses. The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) was next on the list. Will recalls, “Michael gave me a great piece of advice. Since the PPP was going to be handled by banks, he advised me to call all my banking contacts to see which one would put me at the top of their list. I did that, and ended up working with one that was really helpful.”

The SBDC’s guidance allowed Will to sidestep problems other small business owners encountered with PPP loan applications. “I ended up receiving $26,000 each for Shindig and Sportlanes, and $44,000 for Wild Magnolia,” he relates. “It allowed me to bring back my bowling alley employees. That was huge.”

Will firmly believes that the SBDC was the secret to his loan success story. “Michael was a super star,” he says. “During the first few weeks, he checked in with me daily. In small-town Virginia, it’s amazing to have the resources the SBDC has to offer.” In addition to loan advice, Michael talked about surviving the current business environment and how to learn from it. With schools closed, Will enlisted his two teenagers and put together an in-house delivery team. “They rotate deliveries every day,” Will reports. “We’ve all learned a lot from this — in many ways it’s brought our family closer.”

Will also believes in building community. “We do ‘Thankful Tuesdays,’ a discount for all front-line workers, and we encourage the community to buy meals for hospital workers or the fire department,” he adds. “It’s been a big success.” Will also does a local TV show, Eat Good with Will, where he offers cooking tips.

“I can’t tell you where I’d be right now, if it wasn’t for the Longwood SBDC and Michael,” Will concludes. “I can’t thank them enough.”

Read More
Back and Neck Pain Relief Center, Martinsville

Back and Neck Pain Relief Center

Holistic care relieves pain

Received a $11,000 PPP loan, a $5,500 COVID grant and retained 2 jobs

Holistic care, or looking at the whole patient before prescribing treatment, is a concept Dr. Japhet LeGrant decided to pursue while a student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. He was leaning toward studying physical therapy his senior year when a representative from Logan University, outside of St. Louis, Missouri, visited the campus. “I decided to look into it,” Japhet says. He decided to finish his academic career at Logan, where he earned a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and, in his own words, “has been going strong ever since.”

Japhet started practicing in 2002 as the chiropractor for Hampton University’s athletic department. Eight years ago, he moved to the Danville/Martinsville area where he practiced as an associate at Hill Chiropractic. “The doctor I was working with decided to retire, so that gave me the opportunity to buy the practice,” Japhet relates. He made an appointment with a Longwood SBDC counselor, and they discussed various factors involved in buying a business. “Kelvin Perry went over a lot of numbers to help me see how I could purchase the business,” he recounts. “The SBDC really helped me with the financial side of it.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to alter those finances, the SBDC was there to assist. “When I moved to Martinsville, I went in to see SBDC Business Analyst Michael Sales,” he adds. “Michael helped me take advantage of the opportunities as far as CARES Act money — everything that was available, I applied for it. That helped me pay my employees and keep everything going.”

While the Back and Neck Pain Relief Center, deemed essential, did not close during the pandemic, Japhet did decide to reduce office hours. “We took the necessary precautions, including cutting hours,” he explains. “I didn’t want my staff to be exposed unnecessarily.” Overall, Japhet treated fewer patients during the pandemic, but there was an influx of injuries resulting from home improvement projects and yard work. “We took care of those patients so they wouldn’t flood the ER during the pandemic,” he adds. 

“I love the holistic approach to care and helping my patients get better without the use of drugs or surgery,” he says. “It makes me happy when patients tell me they can play with their grandchildren again or mow their own grass. That’s why I got into this profession.” 

Japhet says he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the SBDC. “The SBDC really helped me with the financial side of my business,” he concludes. “They’re always there to help and keep me informed.”

Read More
Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home, Vienna

Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home

Amy Peltier goes from coast to coast with the SBDC

Increased sales by $200,000 and created 6 jobs

“I’ve spent almost 20 years refining my design style and skill set, but I’m learning more every day when it comes to running a business,” says Amy Peltier of Amy Peltier Interior Design and Home. The design agency boasts East and West Coast offices, and specializes in a signature preppy style infused with California, classic, and modern vibes. She and her team work with clients on anything from selecting new furnishings to entire remodels and new construction.

As owner and founder, she brought a wealth of knowledge in residential interior design when she left Michigan for Southern California to re-open her design firm. Armed with a passion for design and a high standard of professionalism, she quickly became a well-known interior design name in the Pasadena area. Amy was even featured in HGTV Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and was on the cover of California Homes. This success has allowed Amy and her team to expand their services to the East Coast. Amy’s company serves the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. areas, and brings a hint of California-casual to the traditional East Coast design landscape.

Amy sought out the Mason SBDC to help expand her firm “the right way.” They helped with everything from business planning, budgeting, marketing, and most recently, obtaining a PPP loan. “The SBDC advisors have been invaluable in helping me navigate the roller-coaster climate of 2020,” Amy says. “For many years, my business had been strong but stagnant. My SBDC advisor helped me plan and execute an organized and logical growth strategy.”

The advice she received helped her remain on track during this difficult year, and as a result she has emerged more determined. “I look forward to my regular meetings with my advisor because it is a way to strategize with an experienced professional that I otherwise would not have access to,” she notes. 

 

Read More
Nextdoor Drug, Lebanon

Nextdoor Drug

Nextdoor Drug: A hometown pharmacy

Received a $10,000 VCEDA grant and created 5 jobs

An abandoned building and an auction sign along a quiet Main Street were the first glimpse Jackie Hackney and Nicole Lawson had of a decade-long dream. Rewind to 2005, when Jackie, Nicole, and Cline, Nicole’s future husband, forged a friendship in pharmacy school and an unwavering desire to combine their passions into one business. Last November, Jackie and Nicole were able to purchase the empty space. It would become the hometown pharmacy that delivers custom healthcare to local residents. They decided to call it Nextdoor Drug. 

“We have been looking for 10 years, and this opportunity to buy at auction fell in our lap,” Nicole says. “Location has been an issue for us; most Main Street areas don’t have a lot of land available, and they’re expensive.” 

Opened on August 24, Nextdoor Drug goes above and beyond run-of-the-mill retail pharmacies. Jackie, Nicole, and Cline bring different experiences to the counter — from clinical pharmacy to hospital work — and incorporate their diverse skills to meet the needs of their patients. 

“We do a lot of clinical work,” Nicole says. “We have a health counselor that does a program called Ideal Protein, and we also do hormone replacement therapy. It brings in a lot of patients.”

The Southwest Virginia Community College SBDC was one of the key players in giving Nextdoor Drug a head start. Jackie and Nicole credit Center Director Margie Douglass for helping with initial business plans and applying for a Virginia Coalfield Economic Development (VCEDA) grant. It allowed them to purchase high-quality, over-the-counter products, as well as invest in a nutritional program. Most importantly, it allowed them to purchase a top-of-the-line computer system. 

“That computer system is the gift that keeps on giving,” Jackie says. “Since it does reimbursements and recording for us, we can spend more time with our clients and focus on expanding our services.”

Today, that Main Street building is a far cry from what it used to be, and with the help of the SBDC it is home to a state-of-the-art computer system, top-notch care, and a loyal base of clients.


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.