Success Stories

Robin Hildebrand, president of Blue Smoke Inc. in Ansted, is in many ways a typical West Virginia small business entrepreneur but in other ways quite unique.

Born in rural West Virginia, the 12th of 14 children, Robin’s family supplemented their food supply by processing fresh fruits and vegetables grown in their garden out of necessity, not as a hobby.

“Being from a large family, we sometimes didn’t have enough food to go around,” said Robin. “Raising a vegetable garden was just a way of life with each and every family member spending time working the garden and canning.”

Robin took the qualities and skills that she learned from gardening; hard work, perseverance, creativity, and enthusiasm to create Blue Smoke, Inc., a woman-owned small business that has grown by leaps and bounds, receiving state and national recognition.

Robin started the company in 1993 as a sole proprietorship out of a need to find a job where she could work at home... Read More

8(a) Small Business Owner Receives 7(a) Loans, Government Contracts

For a little over a decade, Craig Hartzell has been looked to as a leader in the West Virginia technology movement. He’s extremely proud of his company’s accomplishments and successes, which he attributes to their involvement in the federal contracting arena.

Hartzell is Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Azimuth Incorporated, an electronics engineering, software engineering and logistics company with offices in Morgantown, Fairmont and Frederick Maryland.

Hartzell and partner Adam Macias, who met while serving together in the U.S. Army Special Forces, founded Azimuth in 1989. What began with one employee and annual sales of $15,000 has grown to nearly 80 employees and annual sales exceeding $7 million.

“Through our military background, we knew there were not many West Virginia-based engineering firms whose focus was the Department of Defense,” said Hartzell. “We knew that with a little experience, and a lot of hard work, we could... Read More

When a fire on Sept. 12, 2003, destroyed the three saw mills that constituted the heart and soul of Mill Creek Builders Supply, it was a big blow, not only to the company, but also to the town of Mill Creek, W.Va. This small business, with approximately 80 employees, situated in the timber-laden hills of West Virginia is undoubtedly the single largest employer in this small Randolph County community of 650.

Even before the fire was extinguished, Charlie Bell, president and CEO of this small family-owned sawmill founded by his father, Clyde in 1961, was thinking about ways to rebuild. “We actually started the rebuilding process once it was safe enough to bring in equipment to start clearing away what was left of the mills,” said Bell, a veteran of the timber industry with nearly 30 years of experience.

Of course, a project of this magnitude required a lot of capital to accomplish. That’s when the local lending community stepped up to the plate. “The fire... Read More

Entrepreneurship is a familiar word to Chirag Patel. He was just 5 years old when his parents, Pravin and Tara, relocated to West Virginia from New Jersey to open the Heldreth Motel and Restaurant in Kingwood. That small business venture has expanded to eight motels stretched over three states. His grandparents operated small businesses in Tanzania (Africa) and the Fiji Islands more than 50 years ago. Growing up the son and grandson of small business owners, and experiencing firsthand the rewards and benefits of small business ownership, Patel was destined to follow the same path.

Patel is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of DN American, an information technology company certified in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development and Small Disadvantaged Business programs. DN American is located at the West Virginia High Technology Park in Fairmont, W.Va.

During the short course of his entrepreneurial career, he has managed... Read More