Category: Years

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

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 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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Northern Neck Popcorn Bag

Sweet, buttery success at Northern Neck Popcorn Bag

The Crowders launched in early 2016 and now have 9 employees and strong sales. They go through 55 pounds of unpopped corn and 50 pounds of butter in an average month.

Growing up working at the family snow-cone stand, Terri Crowder never dreamed her full-time job would one day be selling delicious, savory popcorn from a shop in the heart of charming downtown Kilmarnock, but that is just what she is doing.

She and husband Kevin, a full time chaplain at Mary Washington Hospital, have run Northern Neck Popcorn Bag since November 2016, after settling on Kilmarnock as the ideal location for their popcorn shop. “We just got the vibe that this was the perfect spot,” says Terri. “And we pursued it.”

Although both Crowders come from experienced entrepreneurial backgrounds, Terri still found herself up against some roadblocks when they decided to move forward with their business. The SBDC at the Community Business Partnership in Springfield was there and ready to help. They were able to help Terri craft a business plan, and she was particularly impressed with the quick turnaround of the expert advice they offered.

“I had to put together a package to give me a framework. They evaluated what I needed to work on and they did it in a short amount of time,” Terri says. This enabled things to get popping, literally, for Northern Neck Popcorn Bag, and they show no signs of slowing down.

Terri and Kevin were awarded the Virginia Living magazine’s 2017 Made in Virginia Award.

“I love doing this, and I am amazed by what we’ve been able to do,” Terri says. “From helping families to creating jobs, we are able to do a lot of giving back to the community, and I am so incredibly proud of that.”

The Crowders believe that their popcorn is more than just a tasty snack, it is a memory waiting to be made. “What sets us apart is what people experience through us. We give our customers something that they can share with their loved ones, friends, and family. And I think that’s a really special thing, a unique food experience,” says Terri.

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The Homestead on the Holston

Heart on the Holston: Event venue brings dreams to life

During its first year of operation, The Homestead on the Holston received a matching grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority. It also hosted 5 weddings and served more than 780 guests.

Linda Burkett had always found herself drawn to the art of entertaining and hospitality. She put those skills to excellent use when she and her daughter, Kelsey Kilgore Taylor, opened The Homestead on the Holston in June 2017. Located on the family’s property, The Homestead features a log cabin structure and gorgeous views of the Holston River. It was originally part of a land grant to a Revolutionary War soldier. The history of The Homestead on the Holston is as rich as it is beautiful, and it has now found new life hosting weddings.

“It’s a truly one-of-a-kind place,” says Linda. “People are drawn to the log cabin, to the river, and to the beauty of the setting.” With seating for up to 125 guests, a full catering kitchen, and overnight accommodations for up to 10 people, Linda prides herself on offering her brides a wedding experience customized to fit their dreams and budgets.

Kelsey, a professional photographer, and Linda work closely with local caterer Jo Kilgore to provide a number of in-house event packages for their guests. “It’s ample and affordable,” says Linda. “I try to sit down with every client and help them find exactly the right combination of services to meet their needs.” During their first summer of operation, the venue hosted five weddings, with over 780 guests enjoying the wide, green lawns of The Homestead.

Renovations for The Homestead on the Holston were funded in part by a matching grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority. Linda also received invaluable assistance from Tim Blankenbecler, Director of the Mt. Empire SBDC. A neighbor introduced Linda to Tim at the SBDC. “Tim took us under his wing,” says Linda. “We couldn’t have been treated any better. He went through the proposal with us word by word and number by number to make sure that we got it right,” she adds.

As their second wedding season approaches, Linda is excited to see The Homestead on the Holston continue to grow. She plans to expand the range of services available to brides, as well as make the facilities more handicap accessible.

Without the guidance of the SBDC, The Homestead on the Holston might have remained a hidden gem in the heart of southwest Virginia. Thanks to Linda’s vision and Tim’s dedication, it can now welcome hundreds for years to come.

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Pale Fire Brewing Company

Brewing up business: Pale Fire Brewery a Success

Pale Fire raised an initial investment of $900,000 and recently obtained a bank loan for distribution across Virginia. They employ 5 full-time and 9 part-time workers.

Tim Brady has been brewing beer professionally for years. With both the passion and the expertise to harness the rising tide of interest in craft beer, starting Pale Fire Brewing Co. was the logical next step for the James Madison University graduate. “I’m very drawn to the creative element in brewing beer,” says Tim. “It’s such a great mix of both creativity and chemistry.”

With its high concentration of locally grown and owned businesses, Harrisonburg was the perfect place for Pale Fire to call home. “People here are especially supportive of local businesses,” says Tim, a longtime enthusiast and proponent of the town, “so it’s just an ideal place for us to be.”

A year after opening, Pale Fire quickly proved that its beers were bigger than mere local acclaim. The brewery won not one but two medals at the 2016 World Beer Cup, a highly prestigious global beer competition, held every two years.

The SBDC played a vital role in helping Tim make his brewery a reality. He worked closely with the Shenandoah Valley SBDC Director Joyce Krech to perfect a business plan. Joyce arranged sample investor presentations, which Tim says were invaluable in fine-tuning his pitch. “I would get so much good feedback from these trial runs,” he says. “I was well prepared for questions from actual investors just based on having those practice opportunities.”

Tim quickly raised the capital needed to open his brewery in downtown Harrisonburg. In fact, Tim so impressed his investors that he raised the entire $900,000. With his recipes in hand, Tim began production in 2015. By 2017, the brewery had three full-time and eight part- time employees. Business was so successful that Pale Fire wanted to bottle the beer to distribute across Virginia.

Tim returned to the SBDC and met with Capital Access Advisor Bill Groseclose. Bill helped him prepare a proposal that landed a loan by a local bank. It funded a new in-house bottling line, consolidated existing debts, and improved cash flow for the business.

As craft beer continues to enjoy intense popularity, Tim is reminded of the creative spark that drew him to brewing in the first place. “Craft beer is popular right now and that’s great, but that also means there’s lots of competition, which can be a challenge,” he says. “But our team is what sets us apart. We have the experience and we have a true passion for what we do.”

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Legacy School Apparel

SBDC shares a legacy of success

After becoming SWaM (Small Women and Minority-owned) certified with the help of the SBDC, Legacy won its first SWaM business contract with Tidewater Community College for $30,000.

Drenna Love had a problem, so she solved it by starting a business. “Our boys attended a church school,” she says. “After September you were just out of luck if you needed a uniform; none of the local retail stores had them.” In 2005, Drenna launched Legacy School Apparel.

According to Drenna, her success started at the Hampton Roads SBDC. “My relationship with the SBDC began in 2004 when I attended my first workshop on how to start your own business,” she recalls. “I gained valuable information on choosing a legal structure, writing a business plan, and financing a business. I really enjoyed the one-on-one coaching sessions with Debra Hamilton Farley, Associate Executive Director at the SBDC. Whenever they held a workshop that I could benefit from, I always made sure to attend,” she says.

One topic Drenna found particularly challenging was marketing. “My background is in accounting and bookkeeping, so when it came to marketing, I was all over the place,” she says. “I attended as many traditional and social media marketing webinars and seminars as I could. My mission for 2017 was to put together a strategic marketing plan.”

Debra, who has remained Drenna’s SBDC consultant over the years, helped. “Mrs. Farley suggested I put together a presentation packet for a new school I was interested in doing business with,” Drenna notes. “I didn’t get that contract, but I used the presentation packet at two other schools and won contracts with them both.” Last March, Drenna met with Virginia SBDC Retail and Restaurant Consultant Marc Willson. “He came out, evaluated our store, and gave me some pointers on marketing,” Drenna says. “One thing I like about the SBDC: if you’re going in the wrong direction, they will tell you, which is what you want.”

“This past summer I won my first SWaM (Small Women and Minority-owned) business contract for $30,000 with Tidewater Community College,” Drenna says. She became a certified SWaM vendor after completing an SBDC workshop on that topic.

Clients for school uniforms continue to grow, and Drenna added graduation apparel to Legacy’s inventory. “Often we moved into career apparel and became the go-to place for small business uniforms,” Drenna notes. “When we added medical apparel, we started working with several medical training schools.”

Throughout 2017, Drenna continued to add marketing initiatives. “Mrs. Farley reminded me of all the great tools and resources on the Virginia SBDC website,” Drenna says. “I felt like a child at the candy store when I found all the webinar recordings I needed to help me put together my strategic marketing plan. I’m at the point now where I feel like I’m on the right track,” she concludes. “Thanks to the SBDC I have a marketing plan in place to grow the business and take it to the next level.”

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Barnes Monument

Building a monument to success

After working with Matthew and Megan to successfully jump start their newly purchased Barnes Monument, the BRC SBDC helped them obtain a microloan through JUMP! Galax, which enabled them to hire local contractors.

When Matthew and Megan Barnes purchased a monument business in 2015, they were building on a foundation that had been there for over 45 years. Barnes Monument LLC creates beautiful, timeless memorials, while carving out a place of their own in the Galax community.

The couple worked with Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC to jumpstart their dream. The BRC SBDC Director Mandy Archer helped them develop a marketing plan and financial analysis that included expansion opportunities. Business boomed.

But in early 2017, Barnes Monument found themselves without a truck of their own that could transport the monuments. Purchasing a used truck solved that problem, but it created cash-flow issues for the fledgling business.

Mandy helped Matthew and Megan obtain a low-interest loan from JUMP! Galax. Mandy explains, “JUMP! was developed by Galax’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to encourage investments which would create locally owned microbusinesses. By investing in small businesses, the IDA is helping to create a sustainable local economy.” The loan also allowed Matthew and Megan to hire local part- time contractors to transport, set, and clean monuments, further boosting the local economy.

Because of its partnership with the community and the BRC SBDC, Barnes Monument has established itself as a permanent fixture in the Twin Counties. Mandy applauds the commitment this couple made to their entrepreneurial dreams. “Opening a new business can be difficult, but Matthew and Megan keep their eyes on their goals and continue to move forward,” Mandy says. “The BRC SBDC looks forward to providing on-going support as Barnes Monument continues to grow.”

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Cork & Table

Planning and patience — a recipe for success

Now in its third year, Cork & Table has doubled its sales over year one and eliminated almost all debt. Plans for a new location are already underway. 

Chef James Fallon ran the successful Northern Neck Gourmet Restaurant in Warsaw, VA, when he began thinking of moving to a larger market. With advice from the University of Mary Washington SBDC, James found a recipe for success in Fredericksburg.

“James wanted to carry his food and wine points of view to more people,” SBDC Executive Director Brian Baker says. “He had built a strong brand with the Warsaw restaurant, but like other graduates from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, he hungered for growth opportunities. He was determined to move to Fredericksburg, where the market was significantly larger.”

The SBDC helped James develop a business plan, identify a location, negotiate a lease, and identify sources of working capital. “With reserves from Northern Neck Gourmet Restaurant and a Virginia Small Business Financing Authority microloan, he started the Cork & Table restaurant,” Brian says. “The Warsaw brand gave James market familiarity and loyalty,” he adds, “which helped nurture Cork & Table’s early brand.”

One of the biggest challenges for James was learning the tastes of his new community.

“Not only was it challenging to find the right individuals to assist with building the restaurant, but once it opened it took another three months to solidify the concept and menu,” he says. “It took the entire first year to understand the downtown market.”

“The UMW SBDC and Brian Baker played key roles in defining the process of developing the business, both financially and logistically,” James says. “Most importantly, Brian helped me negotiate the terms of the lease. The process required a focus on long-term goals instead of dwelling on the short-term struggles,” James states. “Brian was available for routine guidance meetings, site visits, market strategy sessions, and telephone calls on the fly.”

Patience, planning, and hard work paid off. Cork & Table is successful and already expanding. “As Cork & Table concludes its third year, it has enjoyed fantastic growth, doubling our sales over year one,” James says. “We have eliminated almost all of our debt and are at the point of needing a new location to accommodate the volume of sales and to bring new food concepts to the market.” UMW SBDC is on the job assisting with the process.

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