Growing up in New Jersey, bagels – crackly, crusted, chewy, authentic, NY-style bagels — are ubiquitous. This northern treat was one of the things Lora Gellerman missed most when she moved to the South twelve years ago. She and her family have had ties with the mountains, Virginia Tech and Blacksburg for years, so making the decision to move to the area and start Hello Bagel felt like “coming home” in more ways than one.
The Hello Bagel concept began with Lora’s enthusiasm for enriching lives through good food and conversation. The vision was to open a specialty shop bringing fresh baked New York-style water bagels and bagel sandwiches to Blacksburg. She knew she wanted it to be both an efficient venue for take-out orders and a fun meeting place for friends, neighbors, and food lovers to come together and enjoy good food in a warm, casual atmosphere.
As Lora began the research and business development process, the blizzard of complexities became apparent. There is endless information for aspiring entrepreneurs on the Internet and at the library, but she found much of it contradictory and rarely ever applicable to her specific needs. She was starting to feel very alone in her efforts to start a business. The concept was solid, but she needed to talk with someone from a business and financial standpoint. Once she learned about the Small Business Development Center at Radford University she made an appointment to see what help they might be able to offer.
From the first meeting with the SBDC counselor, she felt like she’d found an advisor who saw the potential for success in her and in the Hello Bagel concept. Her counselor helped her prioritize and break the project into manageable chunks. This renewed focus and sense of direction helped organize her energy and efforts. His management experience gave tremendous value and insight while adapting standard business practices into the Hello Bagel model. Lora’s counselor helped her set realistic goals and offered strategies to accomplish them.
Lora shares, “The advice, advocacy, and mentorship from the SBDC have been a great encouragement during hard times. The counseling and information resources have supported me through an otherwise isolated development process. We collaborated on the refinement of a business plan and timeline, and now I am approaching investors for financing. I’m proud that my vision for Hello Bagel is now a legitimate business with structure, integrity and growth potential.”