U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2017 West Virginia Small Business Person of the Year Utilizes SBA Resource Partner to Expand

Mary Hott, SBDC; Matt Knott, River Riders; Karen Friel, SBA

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2017 West Virginia Small Business Person of the Year, Matthew Knott, purchased River Riders Family Resort in Harper’s Ferry in 1998 after working there as a raft guide in college. In 2015, with the help of SBA’s resource partner, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, Knott was able to secure a loan for $2.95 million to acquire the adjacent hotel property moving his company in a new era of full-service amenities.


Matthew Knott is a natural-born entrepreneur who has spent his entire life in Jefferson County. He was born into a farm family in Kearneysville, and began working at River Riders in Harpers Ferry while attending college at Shepherd University. Shortly after college he became the owner, and grew the business from 10 employees to 156 employees.

Knott had been interested in purchasing the adjacent hotel for 15 years, but the price was never right in the inflated real estate market. Later he received word the property was entering bankruptcy and knew it was then time to take the leap. That is when he contacted Mary Hott, Business Coach with the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, a resource partner partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration.


Hott assisted Knott with his organization overview and marketing analysis, and also helped him develop a business plan for acquiring the hotel property. She advised him to bring in a financial consultant to develop an extensive financial projection for inclusion in his business plan that lead to successfully securing a $2.95 million loan from United Bank. 


With the loan, Knott was able purchase the adjacent property, hire one new hotel manager and all 25 hotel employees were able to retain their jobs.

In addition to building River Riders Family Adventure Resort into the success that it is today, Knott installed the state’s second largest solar energy system that produces enough to offset an estimated $10,000 annually in electricity costs.