Success Stories

You may never believe that sandals, handmade in Morgantown West Virginia, are gracing the pages of Vogue magazine in Japan, but they are! And the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) had a hand in making it possible.

 Gurkees Sandals are known for their rope sandals that are comfortable, fashionable, and artistic. The small business was established in 1984. Ray Sickles, the product’s largest distributor, decided to “buy his job” in 2009, so he could continue selling a product that he believed in.

To get started, Sickles turned to the SBA and secured a line of credit under the Recovery Act Loan to purchase the supplies he needed to take on owning his own business.

After owning the business for a while, Sickles came across a few challenges in obtaining the rope needed to manufacture the sandals. After attending a financing workshop held by Sharon Stratton, a business coach for West Virginia’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), an SBA resource partner, ... Read More

Judy McCauley, DD; Raja Sundaram, Owner; Tim James, Microlender

SBA Microloan Program Helps Successful Business Get Started

Chaang Thai Restaurant, North Central West Virginia’s only Thai restaurant, soon celebrates their third anniversary. Chaang   

Thai has seen great success in Morgantown and is open to further expansion in the future.

Raja Sundaram, originally from India, was an IT specialist working on a government contract in
Washington, D.C. when his wife, Pookie suggested they open a Thai restaurant. Raja dismissed the idea for six months but eventually got on board with his wife’s idea. After two years of extensive research, Raja and Pookie opened Chaang Thai in Morgantown, WV.

How did they do it?

Raja knew he wanted to open the restaurant in a college town that had 20,000+ students, a busy downtown, a stable economy, and he wanted to be the first Thai Restaurant in the community. All of these factors led him to WVU, High Street, in Morgantown, West Virginia. What kept him here were the great... Read More

Inside Image of Garcia's Latin Market

Garcia’s Latin Market (GLM), Morgantown’s only Latin Market, is “Sharing Culture” with WVU students and Morgantown residents. GLM has market shelves stuffed with unique and hard to find ingredients and specialty items like premium tortilla chips and fresh corn and flour tortillas, and more recently has been making authentic daily specials, announced through their Facebook page.

Ralph Garcia, one-third of GLM’s ownership team and West Virginia native, found entrepreneurship later in life. He started
his career in Texas as a teacher and coach. West Virginia brought him home when his mother fell ill and he landed a vice principal position in the Albert Gallatin School District. The other two-thirds of the ownership team, his wife Amy and daughter Jennifer, presented Ralph with an idea that would drastically change his career.

The Garcia family regularly hosted WVU international students and saw them struggle to find products from their country. This led them to the... Read More

Arria Hines, President and Chief Executive Officer of Allegheny Science and Technology, has a philosophy on Government Contracting: “…you’ll either love the government contracting arena or you won’t. A lot of the work is cyclical, many contracts are five years.  Every couple of years you are re-competing, unexpected things happen and there is risk to that. I happen to love it.”

Working for a government contractor as Director of Programs, Hines provided management oversight for an operation exceeding $120M in annual revenue; however, the contract was on its third re-compete and Hines felt it was time to take her part-time consulting business to the next level.

Around this same time, late 2007, Hines met up with Bob Wentz, the President and CEO of Information Research Corporation who provided mentorship and encouraged her to take the next step. Wentz later came onboard as her professional partner assuming the roles of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer... Read More