When Mario and Kimberly Puccio first approached the idea of being business owners, they wanted to bring something new and different to their Wood County community that residents could enjoy year-round.
So, they opened M & K’s Axecitement, an axe-throwing venue in Boaz, West Virginia. Patrons take aim at ten axe-throwing targets, practice their game on the available pool tables, or take advantage of the two big-screen televisions. In between rounds of throwing axes, guests can grab a snack or sip on beer or soda.
“Providing for our family’s future is amazing. And being able to have a vision and see it come to life within the community has truly been exciting,” said Mario Puccio. “And our business is different and unique and the first of its kind in the area, seeing the people’s reactions when they come here and stick an axe in the target for the first time, it’s just been great.”
“Axe-throwing is unique because it really can be done by a wide variety of people, age-wise, physical fitness-wise, etc.,” Mario said. “It’s also unique because it can be done year-round, and weather is not a factor.”
When the Puccios were setting up their business, they turned to the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WV SBDC) to help navigate licensing from the state.
The Puccios reached out to WV SBDC Business Coach Marsa Myers in May 2021.
“My immediate reaction was surprise,” Myers said. “An axe-throwing business? Seriously? But, this is one of the fun parts of my job! I get to learn about many different business ideas! Mario educated me on the enterprise, and I learned that not only are they legitimate businesses, but they also serve alcohol – which led me to talk to Mario about his insurance needs. Risk-management is one of my priorities.”
“Mario has a great level of knowledge and (Axe)-citement about his business venture. He is not afraid of hard work, and he’s smart enough to seek assistance from the experts when he runs into a roadblock,” Myers noted. “He and his wife run a clean, fun, unusual business that provides recreation for many people in the area. He’s optimistic and a realist – that’s an unbeatable combination!”
Launching a Business During a Pandemic
M & K’s Axecitement opened following the initial wave of the pandemic.
As part of the CARES Act federal funding, the WV SBDC hired consultants, known as subject matter experts (SMEs), in many areas of business, including marketing, government contracting, business operations and disaster planning, cybersecurity awareness and risk management, accounting, human resources, and business succession planning, business valuation, and selling a business.
“I’m always happy to work with all of my clients, but it’s extra fun when the clients are open to everything the WV SBDC can do for them,” Myers said. “Mario is definitely one of those people, and I appreciate the business acumen he brought to the table and his willingness to incorporate our services.”
After the WV SBDC hired SMEs, the business coaches could connect clients with needs in the covered areas with the consultants. Because this is a funded program, WV SBDC clients benefit from the consultants’ expertise at no cost to the small business owner. This provides a huge advantage for small businesses, especially those just starting. Mario Puccio was connected with a web designer who created a website for the business and helped to set him up for success.
“One of the best things to come out of our relationship with the WVSBDC was obtaining a grant for our website development,” Mario Puccio said. “Our website is an integral piece of our business, and without the WVSBDC, I’m not so sure we would be as successful as we are thus far.”
The Puccios are continuing to look to the future, with plans to introduce axe-throwing tournaments and leagues and a weekly pool tournament.
“I’m from West Virginia, and I was in the military and have been all over the place,” Mario said. “The ability to bring something to the area during a time like COVID when we saw so many businesses shutting down, and to be able to get our brothers and sisters – people that we see at the grocery store – to come in, it’s just very, very rewarding.”