SBDC Client Spotlight
Champion Tutoring – Lee Elberson and Clay Daniel
Founded in 1994 and working out of a single room, Champion Tutoring has grown to be a successful enterprise with multiple rooms, programs and expert faculty dedicated to enriching students’ educations. This local business is committed to a high quality of teaching, which has been consistently recognized by Albermarle’s Family Magazine’s “Favorites” awards and evidenced by their steady growth.
The Central Virginia SBDC first became a resource for previous owner, Dr. Anna Patchias, in 2004 after her initial acquisition of the company. Having previously been a tutor and Office Manager for Champion Tutoring, Anna had the drive to make the company successful, but needed assistance in the financial management and strategic planning side. The SBDC was able to aid her financial learning needs through its low-cost to free workshops that focus on a variety of topics such as “How To Start Your Business” and Quickbooks. Anna later met with the Director of the CVSBDC to brainstorm a “Recession Survival Plan” that included potential capital financing options should they be needed. Though the SBDC was able to provide educational resources to Dr. Patchias, the most valuable aspect of her partnership with the entity was its ability to be “a support system that [she] could always turn to” and that gave “a great peace of mind in addition to solid, tangible advice.”
PunchOut2Go – Brady Behrman and Shawn McKnight
Brady Behrman and Shawn McKnight launched their firm, PunchOut2Go, in March, 2012, providing asolution to make PunchOut and B2B Procurement Integrations easy! To date, PunchOut2Go, has connected with and maintains integrations on upwards of 60 different procurement platforms.
PunchOut2Go initially came to the SBDC around the end of their first year of operations, asking for assistance in Human Resources functions, especially related to hiring new employees, and for help with finalizing their business plan and packaging it in a way that would attract the investors they believed were needed to finance the young company’s anticipated high-growth. PunchOut2Go was nominated and accepted into the VirginiaSBDC Network’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program through which they received a SWOT analysis, a Roadmap of steps to effectively grow the business, and some additional counseling from Subject Matter Experts regarding PunchOut2Go’s targeted industry and customers. Simultaneously, the SBDC formed a panel of counselors to assist with financial analysis, strategic analysis, and a business model for taking the company through the proof of concept stages of early growth.
Birch Studio Graphics – David Robinson
“We had a good product and did good work, but we didn’t know how to run a business,” David Robinson observes looking back to when he started his Charlottesville graphic design business 17 years ago. He sought advice from a local business group, but found that the SBDC was able to provide the more intense, detailed counseling he needed.
“We had been ‘winging it,’” he says, “but the SBDC quickly identified a critical gap in addressing basic financials, everything from profit and loss statements, balance sheet, forecasting, budgeting and even some marketing.” Beyond identifying the problem, the SBDC worked closely with David and functioned as a trusted advisor, “almost as a board member,” and gave him confidence as he grew more capable of dealing with this part of his business structure. “I knew we were really on the right track when we sat down for a meeting and our advisor Nora smiled because I came prepared with all the financial reports and budgets,” David recalls.
Faye’s Office Supply – Faye Gish
Faye Gish runs a busy office supply business where she explains earnestly, “I don’t have staff or employees, I have a fantastic team.” Today there are nine members of that team and, in 2014, Faye Gish will celebrate her 20th anniversary as Faye’s Office Supply. Faye’s is a member of the Orange, Culpeper and Madison Chambers of Commerce.
She started out by doing bookkeeping and renting a third of her father’s building in Locust Grove; she poured her earnings into buying inventory for the office supply business she wanted to build. Faye credits the SBDC for providing key assistance along the way as she has grown her business and for continuing support through classes, workshops and consulting on specific issues. She also has referred other small businesses to the SBDC. One of her college friends was able to secure a business loan with help from the SBDC and Faye is quick to point colleagues to their range of consulting services.
Performance Signs – Robbie & Katherine Morris
When he was an engineering student at Virginia Tech, Robbie Morris began making decals for his brother’s racing cars in 1996. As demand grew, he began running a business out of his dorm room until he decided to leave college and give it his full attention. Today Performance Signs, owned by his wife Katherine, designs, builds and installs exterior and interior signage, temporary and portable signs, and vehicle signage – now on corporate and municipal fleets instead of race cars. The company is thriving now despite a slowdown during the recession. They just wish they’d known earlier about the resources available through the SBDC.
Robbie admits he had a “misconception that the SBDC was only for start-ups or for companies that were struggling to survive.” He credits their SBDC counselor with helping their business bound to new levels because she “has broad experience and helps us see what we’re missing.”
Savvy Rest – Michael Penny
For nearly 20 years, Michael Penny lived in a communal spiritual compound where he taught yoga, practiced meditation, and sought a life of simplicity. As a volunteer, his only income was a small stipend and he expected to live virtually money-free for the rest of his life. Ironically, he wound up starting his own company in 2003 to manufacture and sell organic mattresses. While he says he hadn’t previously “felt any attachment to his own money,” he is now responsible for the livelihoods of 25 people and sells his products in over 100 stores nationwide and in Canada.
Savvy Rest is a natural outgrowth of Michael’s abilities, values, experience and insight fostered through his work in the ashram – and of the solid business advice he has gathered through the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center.
Democracy Vineyards – Susan Prokop & James Turpin
Jim Turpin describes himself as a “recovering lobbyist” who began to wonder, along with his wife Susan Prokop, what “life after DC might be like.” While he once toyed with the idea of owning a race car team, he and Susan enjoyed going to wine festivals where they savored the wine and noticed that many of the winery owners they met had former careers in unrelated fields. The notion of creating their own winery began to take root.
Once they got serious about this new phase of their lives, they went about the transition carefully, seeking expert advice along the way. Counseling provided by the Central Virginia SBDC started with help to develop a solid business plan. With the grand opening of their tasting room in September 2012, Susan and Jim met an important five-year goal in that plan. According to Jim, another of the vital services the SBDC provided was assistance in assembling a construction loan application package for that building. Their thorough preparation resulted in expeditious approval from two banks. In addition to advice from peer winery owners, the SBDC also helped to identify key business support professionals such as accountants, insurance agents and a website designer.