Category: Years

Corner Kitchen

Corner Kitchen Realizes Small Town Dream

Corner Kitchen now employs 8 to 10 people and has seen an upturn in customer flow, with increased profits of 50% over the last year.

Laurie Allen always said she’d marry a chef. Four years ago she did and in the process realized another dream when she and husband Sam opened their own restaurant in Blackstone.

“Sam grew up in Blackstone, and I’m from Vermont,” she says. “We’ve been in the restaurant business for years, but Sam’s dream was to have his own restaurant.”

Trained in French cuisine, Sam acquired his culinary skills at the New England Culinary Institute. “We were co-owners of a restaurant in Chapel Hill with two other gentlemen when we heard about the Blackstone restaurant for sale,” Allen says. The Allens decided to buy it for two reasons—to be near family and to own their own business. “We’d lived in cities for 15 years, so it’s really nice to be in a small town,” Allen adds. “We love it!”

Allen admits that making the change from an urban to a small-town business model did take some adjustments. “Blackstone and Chapel Hill are very different places,” she says.

The first step was to rename some of their menu choices. “It was a challenge at first to try new things here,” she says with a smile. “A classic French name can be hard for the servers to pronounce, so a lot of times we just change the names on the menu. If it sounds too ‘hoity-toity,’ nobody wants it. We didn’t want that kind of feeling.”

To help the couple get off to a good start, Sam’s mother recommended a visit with the Longwood SBDC in South Boston. “We ended up chatting with SBDC Business Analyst Gary Shanaberger, who gave us a lot of information,” Allen says. “The business part of a company is something a lot of people don’t know. The SBDC’s program was a huge help to us.”

Shanaberger helped the new business owners develop their business plan. “That’s the most difficult part,” Allen says. Although the Allens did not take out a loan, the business plan the SBDC helped them create still proved helpful. “It showed us what we needed to look for as far as numbers go and what we were projecting,” she says.

The Corner Kitchen, which has eight to ten employees, has seen a significant increase in business since opening in June 2015, especially on Saturday nights. “This year we had a steady stream of customers during the Christmas parade and a packed house after,” Allen says. “Last year, not so much.”

The Allens credit their success to experience and the assistance provided by the SBDC. “Opening your own restaurant can be a scary prospect; to have help from the SBDC was amazing,” Allen concludes. “We’ve been welcomed by the community— that’s very exciting for us.”

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College Nannies & Tutors

Building on Stronger Families

College Nannies & Tutors started with 45 employees in 2014, grew to 205 employees in 2015, and expect to double that number in 2016. They generated $700,000 in growth in 2015 and expect their sales to increase by 60% in 2016.

Simon and Caitlin Gillett opened a business because they saw a need in the Fairfax community they now call home. “When we moved to the United States, we noticed there were a lot of working families without grandparents nearby,” Simon Gillett says. “We’re a couple like that with a young family.”

The Gilletts decided to open a childcare franchise of College Nannies & Tutors, a national organization that provides caregivers who bring order, organization, and options to family life.

As the name suggests, College Nannies & Tutors provides reliable childcare and tutoring to children “from cradle to college.” “From infancy we provide child care. As a student ages and requires homework help, we offer tutoring up to college.” The company hires experienced nannies and sitters and requires CPR training and First Aid certification. If sitters have questions or concerns while on the job, Caitlin Gillett or another manager is always on call.

When planning his business, Gillett looked up the Mason SBDC. “I was a college professor, and the connection with the university led me to the Mason Enterprise Center,” Gillett says. “When you’re starting a business, there are a lot of administrative details that need to be dealt with, and knowing there is someone to support you when you run into a roadblock is important. The SBDC helped us with a business plan as well as financial aspects, marketing, franchise opportunity, and accounting.”

“We opened in 2014 with 45 employees,” Gillett says. “In 2015 we had 205 employees, mostly part time. This year we’ll double the number of employees.”

In 2016 the Gilletts launched a My Sitters app that allows clients to book a favorite sitter with as little as three hours’ notice. “It complements what we’ve been doing for a long time—building stronger families,” Gillett says. The last three words of that comment, Gillett adds, are the company’s mission statement. “We’re not a website,” he says. “We’re local and based in this community.”

Gillett noted that his business had $700,000 in growth in 2015 and expects a 60% increase in 2016. “The SBDC is about peace of mind,” Gillett concludes. “The SBDC is always there and ready to help if we need them.”

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C&C Piping and Fabrication

Not Just a Pipe Dream

With encouragement from the SBDC, Cyrus applied for and won a $15,000 grant to expand the business. She is currently looking for a suitable storefront location before expanding into a 10,000-square-foot industrial space.

Starting a business is like cooking from scratch. So says Codie Cyrus, owner of C&C Piping and Fabrication. “It’s like not knowing how to cook,” says Cyrus. “Someone puts you in the kitchen and you say, ‘OK, where’s the recipe?’” Cyrus and her husband, Cody Hurd, have found their recipe for success: hard work, a sound business plan, and community support.

In October 2015, Cyrus and Hurd had an idea for a business that would capitalize on Hurd’s experience as a welder. Welding is both a trade and a talent, and Hurd is extremely good at it. He began welding when he was 12 years old and trained at a technical institute in Missouri. He has traveled all over the country working on welding projects. When the time was right, he and Cyrus decided to go into business for themselves. They would fill a need for mid-sized industrial projects. He would do the repair, maintenance, and design/ fabrication work; she would run the business.

Cyrus had a lot to learn. She researched a great deal on her own and then signed up for Pop-Up Altavista Program. The SBDC at Central Virginia Community College partnered with Altavista on Track, Altavista’s Main Street Program, to deliver a nine-week curriculum based on the GrowthWheel® methodology for start-ups and expanding businesses. Although Cyrus was aware that grants were available through the program, she didn’t intend to apply for one originally, as her business is outside the town limits. With encouragement from Nathan Kolb and Stephanie Keener at the SBDC, she applied for and won a $15,000 grant to expand the business. She and Hurd are currently looking for a suitable storefront location.

Cyrus notes that their expansion happened very quickly. They created a five-year plan and grew into it within the first year of business. And they are grateful for the community support they have received. “It’s all about the support system,” she says. That system has contributed to C&C’s success, helping them turn their dream into a reality.

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Discovery Time Learning Center

Learning on the Go

Discovery Time Learning Center opened in 2014 with a profit the first year; revenues exceeded $1 million in 2015 and are expected to be $1.2 million in 2016. They have also been able to create 23 jobs.

Stephanie Harris began planning the child daycare center she opened in 2014 while still in high school. Profitable its first year of operation, Harris’ Discovery Time Learning Center in Alexandria had revenues exceeding $1 million in 2015 and anticipates an increase to $1.2 million in 2016.

“Having my own daycare center was a dream I’ve had since I was 15 years old,” says Harris. She was part of a comprehensive early childhood program for three years while in high school. Continuing to make plans, Harris went to the Alexandria SBDC in 2011 for advice while pursuing her Master’s in Special Education at George Mason University and working as a middle school teacher. “I needed something to hold me over,” she explains. “My goal was to open a daycare operation for 75 to 100 children in the Del Ray area of Alexandria where there is a large millennial population,” Harris explains. “There continues to be a demand for child daycare facilities there; all of the centers in operation now have waiting lists.”

As Harris continued to make plans, Alexandria SBDC Financial Analyst Jack Parker introduced her to a successful daycare operator in the area who became a mentor. “Most of my research was learning on the go,” she says.

“The SBDC was a one-stop shop for me. They helped me with everything,” Harris says. “I worked with Jack Parker on my business plan, and he connected me with a real estate broker. It took two years to find a location with room for a playground and parking.” Parker also approached Eagle Bank, which eventually approved the SBA 7(a) loan Harris was seeking.

A second property is now on the agenda for Discovery Time. The additional location will make room for more families currently on a waiting list. “We started with 20 kids, and now we’re at 85,” Harris says. “Currently the staff is at 23.”

Harris hasn’t forgotten that the SBDC is the place that helped make it happen. “I recommend the SBDC one hundred percent,” she concludes. “The one-on-one attention the SBDC provides is remarkable.”

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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 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

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

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

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, 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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