WV SBDC in action: What small business owners are saying

Each March since 2016, the national Small Business Development Center Day (#SBDCDay) presents an opportunity to give a word of thanks to the organizations that help small businesses get started, sustain, and grow. 

The West Virginia SBDC has a network of business coaches based in centers throughout the state. This network provides confidential one-on-one coaching, training, and access to financial and other resources.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. Here’s what business owners have said about their experience with the WV SBDC.

Charlotte’s Café

WV SBDC in action: What small business owners are saying

Ashley Charlotte Mason inherited her grandmother Charlotte’s love of cooking – and her favorite recipes. Ashley spent years in culinary school and toiling up the restaurant career ladder. Then Ashley, along with father John and mother Kim, worked with WV SBDC Business Coach Mary Hott to open Charlotte’s Café in Berkeley Springs. The family-owned shop was a hit from its first day in December 2019. In 2020, rumors of a novel coronavirus and business shutdowns began to spread. Business Coach Hott stayed in touch, advising them about available loan deferrals and other matters. 

“Mary made sure we knew what SBA programs were being offered and how to apply,” said Ashley. “We discussed our plans, and she provided some insights on what some other restaurants were doing. We never had to shut down, even during the worst of it. We adapted. And we were lucky. People have been generous and kind. It’s nice being in a small West Virginia town where everyone is helpful, especially in these kinds of times.”

Learn more about Charlotte’s Café here

Iconic Air

WV SBDC in action: What small business owners are saying

Before they had received their engineering degrees from West Virginia University, Kyle Gills and James Carnes had already built a new business. Iconic Air is a software platform designed to monitor leak emissions, analyze data, and provide analytical reports that companies in energy and other industries can use to make informed decisions. 

At an energy conference, cofounders Gillis and Carnes met WV SBDC’s Deborah Magyar. Magyar is director of the WV SBDC Innovation and Technology (In-Tech) program, a gateway to valuable Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) opportunities. In-Tech also is a door to matching funds from the new West Virginia Entrepreneurship and Innovation Investment Fund. Gillis and Carnes worked with the WV SBDC programs and won a $700,000 SBIR Phase II contract with the Air Force. They credited the state’s innovation matching fund with giving them the incentive to pursue the SBIR/STTR award. 

“The SBDC does an amazing job, sending people around the state to talk about the SBIR grants and explaining what they are, why they are valuable, and everything in between,” Gillis said.

Read Iconic Air’s full story here.

The Humble Honey

WV SBDC in action: What small business owners are saying

Cori Berlin’s small business, the Humble Honey, had a strong start heading into 2020. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After she shook off the shock, Berlin enlisted WV SBDC Business Coach Mary Hott to help put together a new action plan. Berlin bid her beloved shop farewell and pivoted back to her online roots, with enhanced e-commerce marketing and sales. 

“My SBDC business coach has been an amazing resource for me,” said Berlin. “I don’t know how I would have done everything I’ve done in the last year without her. Once I finally decided what I needed to do, she was able to help me figure out financial relief. I definitely recommend the SBDC. I’m really grateful that I found them.”

Read The Humble Honey’s full story here.

Mountain Ears Hearing Clinic LLC

WV SBDC in action: What small business owners are saying

Erin Wells’ grandfather lost his hearing as a teenager. That family connection led her into a career in audiology. Her curiosity took her to bigger towns out of state, and her roots brought her back to the Mid-Ohio Valley. 

When she was ready to open her own audiology practice, her habits of research and preparation steered her to the WV SBDC and Business Coach Marsa Myers. 

“Marsa was able to point me in the directions I needed to go and help me be on a timeline,” said Wells. “She put me in touch with Peoples Bank. I was able to work with them for my SBA loan. Marsa not only guided me but encouraged me to be confident in what I was doing and be proud of what I am accomplishing. The Small Business Development Center coaches have invaluable knowledge about starting a business and continuing to provide help along the way. Starting your own business is very scary, but having these resources makes it so much easier.”

Read the Mountain Ears Hearing Clinic’s full story here.

Hawk Knob Cidery

WV SBDC in action: What small business owners are saying

Josh Bennett studied horticulture at West Virginia University but what he really wanted to do was to live an agrarian life. To support life in the country, he turned to one of his passions: Appalachian cider made from the fermented juice of locally sourced apples, unfiltered and aged in a barrel.

“After a few good years, we hit a stage in the business where I saw changes in the market and needed to make some adjustments if we were going to continue being successful,” Bennett said. “I needed to find someone to work with to drive the growth of the business even more.”

He met with WV SBDC Business Coach Shannon Mitchell. Together, they studied costs, scrutinized data, and hammered out a new business plan.

“You can have great ideas and work ethic, but SBDC will help you with the business background and organization side of things,” Bennett said.

Read the full story of Hawk Knob Cidery here.

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 through the Ask Me! Line:

Phone Number: 888-WVA-SBDC
Email Address: askme@wv.gov