Tumbling to the top
As a gymnast, Natalie Kelly-Kimmel likes to keep moving. She grew up in a small town in Indiana. “I got my BA in elementary and special education and taught for six years before my husband’s job brought us to Farmville,” she explains.
Natalie, who trained and competed in the USA Gymnastics (USAG) Junior Olympic program, was dismayed to find that Farmville did not have a gym. “I taught tumbling classes at the YMCA for four years. When that position ended, I started thinking about opening my own gym,” she says. “A friend of mine consulted the SBDC for assistance in starting her business, so I decided to give them a call to help me start mine.” Motion Gymnastics & Tumbling Center was born.
At the Longwood SBDC, Natalie found a welcoming attitude and a wealth of information. “Gary Shanaberger, an SBDC Advisor, helped me run the numbers and price equipment,” she relates. “I’d do my homework and then go back, again and again.”
During the planning stages, Gary helped Natalie set up a focus group with local families with young children. “In the focus group we talked about different ideas about classes and pricing,” Natalie says. “That gave me some feedback — and the confidence to go ahead.”
Next, Natalie secured a business loan. “Creating a business plan was a very valuable piece when looking for a loan,” Natalie adds. “With a projection sheet I could speak to the bank. I’m very glad I had that tool.” Natalie, now in her second year as a business owner, still refers to her business plan. “I have that as a sounding board,” she says. “And I know where I stand.”
Natalie started her business with approximately 100 students. “I actually had people sign up a month before I opened my doors,” she says. “That was encouraging.” Now Natalie teaches 20 classes a week with 150 students. While she is currently the only employee, Natalie plans to add more instructors in the future.
Whatever that future brings, Natalie is reassured that she can return to the SBDC. “I called Gary after I opened my business,” she recalls. “I remember asking him, ‘Am I supposed to stop calling now?’” Gary assured Natalie that she was always welcome to come back to the SBDC. “He said that some of his best clients continued to call the SBDC on a regular basis,” she adds. “He told me that if you’re asking questions, you’re doing something right.”
“The attitude at the SBDC office was great,” Natalie concludes. “As a small business owner I appreciate that very much.”