Small Business’ Big Deal

It was mid-December 2015 when James (Jay) North learned that he was facing the end of his small business. The market where he sold vendors’ home décor and antiques was being shut down. But he and the other vendors decided to make the most of a difficult situation.

Unwilling to accept a forced closure, North and a committed group of business owners created a new organization that would serve the local business community in Luray. They sought guidance from the Shenandoah Valley SBDC and advisor Sara Levinson.

The first item of business: establish The Hawksbill Trading Company (HTC) as a co-operative. According to North, without the SBDC’s guidance, the co-op would never have been possible. The new board worked diligently with Levinson to create membership applications and vendor contracts, to draft bylaws and other organizational documents, as well as to set up a new accounting system and manage all aspects for a new venture.

“Every vendor now has a say in how we operate and grow. We each have a role in the success of not only our own business but our neighbors’ as well” says North, who serves as Board President. “By working together, we can accomplish great things.”

The new business opened its doors on January 20, 2016, with 20 local vendors selling antiques, jewelry, up-cycled furniture, original art, home goods, meats, and produce. Unlike many markets, HTC does not work around pre-defined stalls or booths. Some vendors need only a few shelves for their products while others need lots of floor space. HTC’s board works hard to find the right space and layout for each vendor, which allows businesses of all sizes to participate.

One year after opening, HTC hosts nearly 60 vendors. Merchants and local artisans offer a variety of workshops in everything from essential oils to painting to fly-tying. HTC is a thriving hub of entrepreneurial spirit and activity—a place to share ideas, gather resources, be inspired, and find support.

Virginia SBDC