Doing her homework paid off for businesswoman Kathleen Wilcox of Kathleen's Fudge and Fun Stuff. A former tennis director and accomplished biathlon, triathlon and marathon athlete, Wilcox faced a devastating diagnosis in 1996. She had multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease of the central nervous system.
Facing this mind-boggling change of life event, Wilcox's survival response was to search within for a career change. Thus, she began to research and set the foundation for starting her own business.
"My passion is fun," says Wilcox. Her homework was to study her passion: developing and owning a fudge shop. Subsequently, for two years she immersed herself in different phases of running such a business. Kathleen traveled to Kitty Hawk, N.C., to observe how sweet shops cater to tourists. She traveled to Hawaii to see how cocoa beans grow and are processed. She enrolled in an eight-week, business plan course at the Greater Richmond Small Business Development Center to learn about the important aspects of running a business. Kathleen remembers the course taken over eight years ago and reflects, “I can’t envision going to class without having done my homework.”
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) are resource partners of the U.S. Small Business Administration that provide managerial and technical assistance to start-up and existing businesses. The SBDCs specialize in providing direct one-on-one counseling and training classes on starting a small business. The SBA, founded in 1953 by the U.S. Congress, is a champion for small businesses. SBA helps entrepreneurs start and build viable businesses that create the jobs that strengthen communities. The SBA extends its programs to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Entrepreneurial research and preparation can significantly reduce failure rates by as much as 50 percent. Mike Leonard, Executive Director of the Greater Richmond SBDC, supports this fact by noting that Kathleen's 7-½ year history "speaks to her determination and her extensive planning and research prior to opening her business."
Kathleen's mission statement of "FUN" is shown throughout her store. Her business is a shining beacon to others, especially those who are faced with tribulations. A positive attitude, sound preparation, hard work, and resolute dedication often make the difference between success and failure. At Kathleen's Fudge & Fun Stuff you buy fun and the sweet verdict is definitely "success."
Step into Diva’s Day Spa and be transformed. Tall, elegant Jane Moates, the owner and operator of Diva’s Hair and Day Spa is all about transformation. Diva’s is a busy and flourishing 8-year old-day spa in the center of the universe, Ashland, Va.
Moates comments about her title, “I want the world to know that even as an owner, I am an operator and work in my business.” And work she does, in a business that transforms its clients from the stressed and the ordinary into the pampered and well-groomed. Whether it is hair treatment, a manicure or pedicure, facial, full body spa, or all of these wrapped into one special package, the business caters to the well-being of its clients. Jane’s busy calendar shows that clients find that their time at the spa is a day worth remembering.
Jane Moates converted a former Golden Skillet restaurant building into her day spa by using the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Certified Development Company, 504 Loan Program. She distinctly recalls driving by this building in 1996 and dreaming that someday she would be able to buy the building for her beauty business. She envisioned turning the dilapidated, brick building which had ample parking and great demographics, into what is now Diva’s Day Spa.
The 504 Loan Program, Jane states, “. . . was the vehicle that allowed me to buy the building and establish a permanent location for my business. Our staff has grown to 10 employees. Our revenue and client base after buying and expanding the building have both increased.”
The CDC - 504 Loan Program a financing tool used to promote economic development. The program provides growing businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for acquisition of major fixed assets such as land and buildings. A CDC is a nonprofit corporation set up to contribute to the economic development of its community. CDCs work with the SBA and private sector lenders to provide financing to small businesses. There are seven authorized certified development companies serving Virginia small businesses.
Since 1998, when Moates received her financing through James River Certified Development Company, geographical boundaries established by the program for specific CDCs have been eliminated and competition among Virginia’s seven Certified Development Companies has increased.
Jane Moates is excited about this change. She said, “Competition keeps everyone honest and the small business customer truly realizes the benefit of customer service and choice.”
Diva’s Hair and Day Spa transforms the lives of its employees by providing a secure and safe working environment as well as health and dental benefits for its full-time employees. Jane takes pride in being able to provide something that is relatively unheard of in her industry, regardless of the significant cost to the business.
The philosophy that has served her well says, if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the business. Diva’s Hair and Day Spa has had only one full time employee leave in the last five years. “Such a low-turnover is unusual in the industry,” said Moates.
Diva’s also maintains quality employees by participating in the Virginia Apprenticeship Program through the Virginia Technical Career Center. Businesses select a suitable candidate from high school candidates that come from difficult family circumstances, have made some poor choices or experienced other hardships. By participating in this program, Diva’s can offer the apprentice a tool to transform their lives by offering the security of a profession.
The transformation that Moates holds dearest is not seen by many. Its origins reach back to her humble beginnings in Richmond’s Dumbarton neighborhood. Jane’s father, Otis Morris, was a Southern Baptist milkman and raised four children with the expectation that everyone would chip in and help.
"If something needed to be done, my family often looked to ‘tomboy’ Jane to tackle the task.” At age 17, her path took a turn from her conservative Southern Baptist roots. She quit school and had to move from her home. She was on her own and her ‘task-tackling’ attitude was put to work. She worked three jobs and put herself through beauty school. Moates educational detour gave her the opportunity to excel on her general equivalency diploma (GED) and gain experience that enhanced her business acumen. She learned real-life lessons in customer service from those experiences.
From framing and laying the sheetrock for Diva’s renovation to cleaning old chicken grease from the ceiling, and juggling busy schedules and wedding party concerns to caring for her sick husband of 23 years, Larry, Moates did, and still does it, all with a radiant smile.
Diva’s Hair and Day Spa’s backbone is Jane Moates, a transformation wizard. The passion she offers to the community is the same passion that motivates her. “When someone tells me that it can’t be done or it is impossible, that is when I dig deep within and want to find a way to make it happen.”
Would Moates change anything if she had a chance? “No way,” she states, “I am grateful for everything that has happened to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those experiences and the inspiration and support of my husband Larry,” she reflects.
Diva’s Hair and Day Spa, with a flick of the wand, has become a vibrant, successful, and happening place in the center of the universe.
Appomattox Tile Art located in Petersburg, Virginia has grown since their startup in 1999 to become one of the larger and more successful privately owned national custom mosaic tile manufacturers. Cindy and Sean Haynie, both professional artists, founded the company on the belief that they could offer good artistic design and service to the tile business. Through the leadership of this husband and wife team, Appomattox Tile Art has grown from being a small three-person business to employ 25 people and service 67 high end tile showrooms throughout the United States.
Cindy and Sean’s early interest in the arts led them to Radford University where they both earned Bachelors of Fine Arts degrees. After graduation, they worked in the graphics and advertising industry and saw the market potential which helped to foster their business concept: providing the tile industry with unique custom designs and attentive customer service. During the famous Virginia holiday ice storm of 1998, while Cindy’s extended family was awaiting the return of their electricity, they brainstormed and decided to take a leap of faith and open their own small business. The couple returned to Cindy’s hometown to open a mosaic tile manufacturing facility in historic Old Towne Petersburg. They opened the doors in a 7,000 sq. ft. facility and soon employed 12 people.
Although they knew a lot about artistic design and manufacturing mosaic tiles, their business skills were limited to previous careers. An acquaintance referred them to Diane Howerton at the Crater Small Business Development Center of Longwood University. According to Cindy, Diane’s assistance was invaluable to them and Diane helped with “everything from projections to publicity”. Even more than the hands-on assistance she provided, they appreciated Diane’s support and encouragement. Through the SBDC they applied and were approved for an SBA Prequalification loan through the Bank of McKenney.
As the business grew it needed more space. The Haynies leased a second location down the street to expand their location. By early 2003 the business again needed more space and they wanted to consolidate under one roof for efficiency of operations and to house a multi-blade Italian wet saw. The Haynies purchased a 46,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility on Bank Street in historic Old Towne Petersburg. Built in the early 1900s, the building was formerly used as an assembly plant and showroom for model-A Fords. As Cindy said, “This building was an excellent match for us because the front showroom has mosaic tiles throughout the main lobby and entrance area.”
The Haynies complement each other’s artistic skill with Cindy’s strength in design, sales and business strategy and Sean’s focus on artistic design and technology. The real success story for Appomattox Tile Art is the persistence of the owners to keep the doors open during the transitional and growth oriented stages. They have recently hired an operations manager to help them increase their efficiency of operations.
The Haynies participate in the annual Coverings tile show which is a key marketing opportunity. This is followed up by their personally visiting distributors and showrooms around the country that carry their products. During such visits, a seminar is conducted on the use of mosaic tile and how easily it can be utilized with other decorating materials. The attendance typically includes architects, interior designers and showroom sales people. All of these efforts recently resulted in their securing an exclusive contract with Ann Sacks, a major high-end tile dealer with 17 locations in cities across the country. This will result in a doubling of their production and an increase of an employee base of up to 50 people.
In addition to growing their business, the Haynies also give back to the community through assistance on various boards and the Historic Petersburg Foundation. They are also active members in Downtown Petersburg, Inc. and Fridays for the Arts.