Jumping into the Galax Shark Tank

Won First Place in the JUMP! Galax Business Challenge for $15,000. Studio B and The Escape Room support 7 jobs.

Tonya and Travis Belton decided to take a leap. They were running a paint-party business, Studio B, in downtown Galax and wanted to expand. Providentially, theyheard about the JUMP! Galax Business Challenge, funded by the Community Business Launch, a program of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Despite stiff competition, they won the $15,000 first place prize.

They are particularly grateful for the counseling and training delivered by Mandy Archer and Ginny Plant at the Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC. “I don’t have a business background. I went to college for nursing so they were very helpful with the business part,” Tonya explains.

The specific criteria for judging included the strength of the business plan, the plan’s potential impact on the regional economic development strategy, the contestants’ community involvement, and the quality and impact of the pitch itself during the high-pressure final presentation. This program also involved six weeks of business boot camp to hone each criteria, starting with a business plan and culminating with pitch night.

It might draw a smaller audience than Shark Tank, but the effects of the prize money on Studio B’s business was powerful. Tonya and Travis used their winnings to expand Studio B’s services and to improve the building, including installing air conditioning on the top floor to make it usable for events. As a result, customers can now rent the space for private paint parties, birthday parties, baby showers, wedding and bridal showers, corporate events, and fundraisers. Additionally, Tonya and Travis built The Alley Escape Rooms, Galax’s first escape room featuring virtual reality.

“Mandy and Ginny have been really good about getting us in touch with the people we need. They share a wealth of knowledge,” Tonya says. “If they can’t answer the questions, they’ll put you in touch with people who can. They’re always there, one-on-one, and they offer tons of webinars. Because I have three kids, the webinars are really convenient for me.”

From those classes, Tonya and Travis gained a wealth of networking opportunities. They have relied on Mandy and Ginny to connect them with everyone from CPA’s to local banks. Thanks to the expertise and resources of the Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC, Tonya and Travis survived their plunge and are swimming stronger than ever.

Virginia SBDC