Since 1983 the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WV SBDC) and our network of partners has helped construct a statewide ecosystem to foster the spirit, support, and success of thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators. Through business coaching and other resources for entrepreneurs, SBDCs have a huge impact on local economies by helping small businesses get started, stay open and grow. That’s why SBDC Day was created to celebrate organizations that help small businesses, like the West Virginia SBDC.
The WV SBDC has a network of business coaches that provide confidential one-on-one coaching, training and access to financial and other resources. In honor of SBDC Day, here’s what business owners have said about their experience with the WV SBDC.
When Utopia Wellness opened in February 2020, owners Courtney Tackett and Olivia Hairston had no idea a global pandemic would soon force them to close their new business, which relied on in-person services.
It was an unprecedented challenge, but Tackett and Hairston didn’t want to give up. That’s why they called WV SBDC Business coach Will Miller, who helped the co-owners find and apply for relief funding. After lockdown orders were lifted, Utopia Wellness resumed offering in-person services, including facials, massages, lash and brow enhancements and aromatherapy.
“Will knew that both of us were ‘go getters’ and that we would relentlessly pursue our vision,” Hairston said. “He became our biggest cheerleader and helped to develop the skills that we already possessed.”
The Chaang Thai Restaurant opened in Morgantown in August 2011. For owner Rajagopal Sundaram, the restaurant provided a way to show his community why the Kingdom of Thailand and its fresh, flavorful and healthy food is so unique.
Having worked with WV SBDC coach Sharon Stratton since their opening, the restaurant turned to the SBDC for support during the pandemic, testing new ways to meet customer needs and expanding their social media marketing.
“Sharon and the SBDC helped from the start, with registering the legal business, all aspects of federal and state taxation requirements and obtaining permits,” Sundaram said. “Sharon was also helpful in making me understand the local demography of Morgantown, advertising a new small business, et cetera. We know we can always count on the help of the SBDC.”
Penn & Co.
One of the hardest parts of starting a small business is making the initial commitment to open a business and finding start-up funds. Thanks to WV SBDC coach Sharon Stratton, Chuck Penn and Phillip Donnelly got the help they needed to open Penn & Co. in 2017 in Westover, near Morgantown.
“Sharon did an amazing job connecting us to available funding,” said Penn.
The specialty fragrance shop sells wax tarts, warming pods, refresher oils, room sprays and potpourris. But none of that would have been possible without funding from First Microloan of West Virginia, which was used to invest in a large wax melting pot, purchase supplies in larger quantities to qualify for discounts and set up manufacturing in their garage.
The WV SBDC also connected Penn & Co. to resources to develop a website to keep up with customer demand. Within a few years, the shop went from selling at fairs and festivals to opening a retail shop filled with unique home décor and scented products.
For years, most people looked at the old Coolfont Resort in Berkeley Springs and saw only an abandoned building whose glory days were past. When Larry Omps looked, he saw potential for a destination resort with a bright future.
When renovation of the building stalled due to issues with its private water/sewage treatment facility, WV SBDC coach Mary Hott was able to set up meetings with the appropriate state environmental, natural resource and engineering officials to resolve it.
“I would recommend business coach Mary Hott to anybody,” Omps said. “The opportunity that she can give you with other agencies, that’s invaluable. It would be foolish not to use a tool like SBDC that’s there for you, especially in a new startup.”
The Coolfont Resort reopened in 2019. In 2020, Hott nominated Omps for a recognition from the Small Business Administration West Virginia office. He was named Rural-Owned Small Business of the Year.
Blue Gold Development
After years of working in construction and heavy equipment rentals, Andrew Furbee and Stephen Toth wanted to start their own business. They heard that the WV SBDC offered one-on-one professional business consultations at no charge and decided to jump right in.
“Since we had little to no money to start out with, we jumped at any opportunity that offered free help,” Toth said. “We contacted Sharon Stratton and she helped us register our company within the state and federal entities to be a legitimate business.”
Stratton and WV SBDC coach Frank Goldsborough helped Furbee and Toth create a business plan for their company, Blue Gold Development, LLC. They also helped create a three-year financial projection, required by a lender when applying for funding.
Blue Gold Development was officially established in January 2020 and Furbee and Toth resigned from their jobs to work full time for their new business around March 2020.
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.
When the Puccios were setting up their business, they turned to WV SBDC business coach Marsa Myers to help navigate licensing from the state.
They also took advantage of the SBDC CARES Business Recovery Project for assistance with their website. “Our website is an integral piece of our business, and without the WV SBDC, I’m not so sure we would be as successful as we are thus far.”
M & K’s Axecitement opened during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Puccios are continuing to look to the future, with plans to introduce ax-throwing tournaments and leagues and a weekly pool tournament.
Connect With Your WV SBDC Business Coach Today
Small business owners in West Virginia can take advantage of WV SBDC business coach expertise at no cost. Business owners can get connected with a business coach by calling 888-WVA-SBDC or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.