Timely connections with the SBDC

The song may be “Time in a Bottle,” but Melissa Foster felt thyme in a basket was a more viable option.

Melissa has been making baskets since 1992. “When the Bay School Community Arts Center of Mathews County was founded in 1997, I was one of its first instructors,” she explains. Melissa continued to teach novice weavers over the next 20 years. “I also did craft shows — as many as 11 a summer,” she recalls. “Putting up and taking down took a lot of time, so I just decided to open my own store.” In June 2014, Melissa opened Thyme in a Basket in Tappahannock. “I was also into herbs, so the name just seemed to fit,” she says.

A few years ago, a friend told Melissa about the University of Mary Washington SBDC in Warsaw. Although Melissa had started her business on her own, she felt the time was right for some expert business advice. “I decided to go,” she says. She attended a Small Business Roundtable where business owners meet in a facilitated discussion format. “Through the roundtable meetings, I met SBDC Director Joy Corprew and Client Relations Specialist Bonnie Haywood,” Melissa adds. “That’s when I knew that the SBDC was there to help me.”

The first order of business was a user-friendly web site. “The SBDC helped me with the design process and gave me some advice on Facebook and social media marketing,” she notes. “With Joy and Bonnie’s help, I’ve learned a lot about the new ways people shop.” Since Melissa is currently the only Thyme in a Basket employee, the SBDC roundtable discussions were especially helpful. “Getting to know other business people in the area and learning how we could work together was a big help,” she adds.

Melissa now displays the work of other local artists in her gift shop, and her inventory has grown to include jewelry, home décor, women’s accessories, books, art, and gourmet food. “I find things that will make you feel good and encourage you to take care of yourself,” she adds. Feeling good about business, Melissa found, is also important. “At the SBDC I took a class on financial records and bookkeeping, and I’ve learned about building a brand and the story you need to tell about your business,” she adds.

Overall Melissa is pleased with the help she has received from the SBDC. “They helped me to be a better businessperson, which should help my business grow,” she says. “Just knowing that the SBDC is there helps a lot. I know if I go to them with a question, they’ll give me good advice.”

Melissa is happy to recommend the SBDC to others. “It has been very helpful to me,” she concludes. “They know how to point you in the right direction.”  

A new website and increased social media marketing have increased sales. Melissa also carries the work of other artists and Thyme in a Basket is now on the River to Bay Artisan Trail.
Virginia SBDC