Southern Plenty, SBDC, and a plan — a recipe for success

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!”

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.
Virginia SBDC