Success Stories

SBDC Coach Terry Cyfers, J.Q. Dickinson Co-Owner Nancy Bruns, SBA District Director Karen Friel

Entrepreneurship and salt-making runs in the blood of brother-sister duo Nancy Bruns and Lewis Payne. In 2013 the two came together and formed J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works to revive their 200-year-old family trade of salt-making in Malden, West Virginia. And we’re excited they took our resource partner, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), along for the ride.

The Dickinson family first drilled for brine in 1817. They stopped making salt in 1945 but continued drilling minerals until the 1980’s. Bruns could count back at least seven generations of entrepreneurs in her family, including herself who before opening J.Q. Dickinson owned a restaurant and catering company in North Carolina.

The hills of West Virginia called Bruns home and she states the business idea came as an “itch that wouldn’t go away.” SBDC Coach Terry Cyfers was there to help Bruns turn that itch into a successful business that blew through their five year projections in two years.... Read More

Karen Friel, SBA WV district director; Dominica Hermosilla, manager; Ali Gross, manager; Tim James, First Microloan of WV loan officer

Hermosilla’s is a household name in North Central West Virginia dating back to 1910 when the family’s grandparents owned a market in Marion County. Dennis Hermosilla, a tenured school teacher at the time, and his wife Patty opened the Fairmont location in 2013 after throwing around a bunch of small business ideas.

The duo couldn’t have made this dream a reality without the help of Tim James from the First Microloan of West Virginia and SBA. After rejections from other financial institutions James was able to help Dennis secure an SBA-funded $50,000 microloan for equipment, fixtures, and inventory. SBA provides funds to specially designated intermediary lenders, like the First Microloan of West Virginia, which are nonprofit community-based organizations with experience in lending as well as management and technical assistance.

The original idea for the deli and market was to sell more bulk food than custom order sandwiches, but the sandwiches ended up being their... Read More

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