“Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong,” John Denver sings of the solace found amongst the majestic mountains and whirling rivers of West Virginia. One of these hidden sanctuaries, a place many people consider home, is buried within 4,700 acres of green forested mountains in Hampshire County.
Capon Springs & Farms, a camp-like getaway is managed by the third generation of the Austin family and for more than 80 years has provided a home away from home for its circle of friends. “We create a home-like atmosphere where annually friends and family can immerse in traditions forgotten by many,” states Jonathan Bellingham, Marketing Manager and third generation family member.
The West Virginia District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration has been privileged to work with this small business, Capon Springs & Farms, for over 25 years through our resource partner, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center.
Capon’s first point of contact was with the SBDC in 1986, when they reached out for professional assistance in transitioning the business from the second to the third generation of the family. Capon did not have the funds at the time to bring in an expensive family-business transition consultant and found the coaching they received from Mark Malec, a Business Coach at the time, to be very valuable.
Malec continued the coaching until Capon was able to bring on a consultant. After working with the consultant, Capon reached back out to Malec who had relocated to Maryland but continued to help the family through a SWOT analysis and marketing plan.
In the early 1990’s Capon was ready to bring on a member of management who was not part of the family. This was a first for the small business. They contacted Malec who accepted the position and introduced a management model to the family during his one-year tenure.
“It was a great honor to work with and for a family with such steadfast traditions,” states Malec. “It was a great experience and I’m so pleased they have made their way back to the SBDC.”
The family went on continuing their traditions and serving their guests for the next fifteen years checking with the SBDC, and now Business Coach Christina Lundberg, on a need be basis. That brings us to 2012/2013. The business is now ready to transition from the third to the fourth generation during a time when the economy has seen better days and “family traditions” are not the highlight of vacation brochures. The family, once again needing guidance with the transition and marketing, reached out to their business advocate, Christina Lundberg with the SBDC.
During a tourism conference Lundberg went into “battle” mode for Capon and started introducing the family to her network of tourism contacts and got the ball rolling with a nomination of SBA Family-Owned Business of the Year.
“Capon Springs & Farms is a wonderful example of a multi-generational family business providing a great service for people to come and enjoy wild, wonderful West Virginia,” stated Lundberg. “They were perfect for the SBA award and I am so pleased the won the SBA Family-Owned Business of the year.”
Capon Springs & Farms won the 2013 award of Family-Owned Small Business of the Year and have been in awe of the recognition it has bestowed on them. Recently, during a hometown celebration, Congresswoman Capito toured the property and gave glowing remarks of what she saw.
“I really feel like we have hit the jackpot with the assistance we have received from the SBDC and SBA over the past 25 years,” states Bellingham.
“It was a pleasure spending time at Capon Springs & Farms with the third generation family members,” states Judy McCauley, SBA West Virginia District Director. “I am so pleased Chris nominated the company and brought them to my attention – they are why the SBA Family-Owned Small Business of the Year award was created.”
“Small businesses are the number one job creators,” stated SBA Regional Administrator Natalia Olson. “I am pleased that the 2013 Family-Owned Small Business of the year epitomizes this statistic and is the largest private employer in Hampshire County.”
Do you know of a small business that represents a piece of West Virginia’s heaven? If so, the SBA West Virginia District Office will begin 2014 Small Business Week nominations later this fall. Visit www.sba.gov/wv for updates and sign up for their newsletter to receive an alert when nominations are released.