The Jury’s Inn and the Verdict’s Good
Victoria Revilla wanted to live downtown, so she started a hotel business. “I bought this building in 2008,” the retired Army Colonel says. “I was stationed at Ft. Lee three times and liked the Petersburg area. So I asked myself, ‘what should I do now?’” The answer made sense: why not a downtown hotel? “Everybody was building apartments,” Revilla says. “And I wanted to live downtown where the action is.”
Revilla’s plan was to open a six-bedroom boutique hotel like the ones popular in Europe. To enlarge her space, she also purchased the lot next door. Since the 1850s-era building was in Petersburg’s historic district, the first step was restoration. That, Revilla soon learned, could be costly. “When looking for funding, I went to the Richmond Economic Development Corporation to apply for a small business loan,” she says. “They referred me to the Crater SBDC of Longwood University.”
Revilla had a business plan but found that it needed to be presented in a certain format. She enrolled in the SBDC’s free classes and “started learning about all the things I needed to do.”
Revilla acquired a business loan from Virginia Community Capital, a revitalization group that was expanding into Petersburg, and quit her job as a contract employee for the Army to take over the building renovation. “My architect has been with me since 2011,” she says. “I’m the designer, and after he does the drawings, we sit down and talk about it.”
Revilla admits there were difficulties along the way. “You run into some bad people,” she says. “They underestimated to get the job and then did poor work. But I never gave up on it.” Instead Revilla, asked herself, ‘what do I need to do to get over the next hill?’ The answer was the SBDC. Now that her business is established, Revilla plans to keep that connection.
Revilla’s two-year goal is 70% occupancy for her hotel business and event space. Equipped with a full commercial kitchen, The Jury’s Inn also includes an event room that will seat 30 with room for 40 with the courtyard.
Revilla advises prospective business owners to attend the SBDC classes. “You have to have a plan,” Revilla says. “I know I’ve learned a lot.”