Success Stories

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... Read More

Karen Friel, Dakota Janowitz, Lindsey Teets

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2017 West Virginia Young Entrepreneur, Dakota Janowitz, started DJ’s Firewood, a full service landscape, maintenance, mowing and bobcat business, when he was still in high school. With the help of SBA’s resource partner, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, Janowitz was able to secure a loan with the Farm Credit Bureau for equipment to take his small business to the next level.


While Janowitz’s peers were busy with sports and typical high school functions he was busy working in, and on, his business. The day he turned sixteen he got his driver’s license and shortly after started selling firewood and mowing yards. “I always wanted to own my own business,” stated Janowitz.

Entrepreneurship runs through his veins and he has the mentality of “Why get a paycheck from someone when you can earn it for yourself?” At the age of 17 he sold 100 cords of wood and at the age 19 he sold over 200 cords. This... Read More

SBA District Director, Karen Friel; SBDC Business Coach Sharon Stratton;  Co-Owners Phillip Donnelly and Charles Penn

Initial Situation

After his favorite fragrance was discontinued, Charles Penn decided to start his own home fragrance company with business partner Phillip Donnelly in 2012. Starting with limited business knowledge the duo partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) resource partner the WV Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to garner advice on how to get started, file appropriate city documentation for a home business, and find access to capital.

How SBA Helped

Penn and Donnelly had a concept for a business but needed guidance. They ended up at an SBDC Business Fundamental’s workshop hosted by business coach Sharon Stratton, and as they say “the rest is history.” Through one-on-one counseling with Stratton the duo was able to identify and evaluate their opportunity, development a business plan, determine the required resources – including an SBA microloan through the First Microloan of West Virginia, and manage the resulting business.... Read More

Nominated by: Matthew Coffey, WV Small Business Development Center

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s West Virginia District Director, Karen Friel is excited to announce Scott Hedges, President and CEO of Power Sonix, as the SBA West Virginia 2016 Exporter of the Year.  Hedges was nominated for the award by Matthew Coffey, Business Coach for the West Virginia Small Business Development Center.

Power Sonix was formed in 1997 by former employees of Applied Electro Mechanics, including Hodges, following its dissolution. Located just 75 miles northwest of Washington D.C. in Marinsburg, their sound engineers and production management carry on a 50-year tradition of innovation in light weight, high-power, high-intelligibility speech projection for air, land and sea.

Power Sonix is committed to providing high-powered sound technologies for military and civilian authorities to use in homeland defense and emergency first response applications. In just 2015, recent... Read More