Bryan Hollar, co-owner of Reunion Bakery and Espresso, didn’t grow up thinking he would be a chef. As he was trying to figure out his career path he met some people in the bakery and pastry industry and got inspired. He started as a baking assistant at a bakery in Pittsburgh, which led him to work for a French pastry chef. This is where Bryan learned about his future craft. When it came time to move on Bryan determined Staunton was the best place to open a bakery. After much hard work, Reunion Bakery and Espresso opened in October 2017 and has become the go-to place for delicious pastries. Reunion pastries are now featured in many local boutique hotels and restaurants. Bryan says, “SCCF played a key role in connecting me to the people and resources that I needed. I think it is amazing that (SCCF) can exist in a place this small.”
Jennifer Ledford has owned Initial Inspirations in Waynesboro for the past 10 years, and she was ready to expand. During a women’s conference she attended in October 2017, participants were challenged to figure out how they could shine in a world of darkness. She thought, “I can make a shirt for that,” and Dare to Be was born. Dare to Be inspires women to shine through their own stories: “Dare to be Courageous;” “Dare to be Powerful;” “Dare to be Merry;” and “Dare to Shine” are quotes that can be found on the journals, t-shirts, water bottles and other products that Jennifer sells. Since completing SCCF’s 8-week Business Planning Course and putting the final touches on her business plan, Jennifer’s products have been featured in two corporate Hallmark stores, and may expand to 12 more. She hopes to build Dare to Be into a national brand.
In October 2017, Jason and Danielle LaRose were dreaming of getting their business, Queen City Silviculture, off the ground. Five short months later, after successfully completing their business plan through SCCF’s Business Planning Class, they launched their business and, through SCCF, secured the capital for a new chipper they needed. Queen City Silviculture is proud to be a tree service company with a certified arborist. Jason and Danielle share a love for the land and believe in the value of teaching good stewardship practices to the next generation. Queen City Silviculture has already hosted one silviculture workshop and plans to host more in the future.
Heliotrope is more than the name of a flower, or a shade of purple. The Greek etymology of the word is “turn to the sun,” which Jenefer and Erik’s brewery will do in a figurative sense by using in-season local ingredients, shining a light on the artisan brewing process, and fostering a warm sense of community.
As part of the Launch Lex program in Lexington, Heliotrope Brewery owners, Jenifer Davies and Erik Jones, prepared for the pitch competition by taking part in a SCCF business planning class. They received a grant in the amount of $20,000 as one of the winners of the competition. They then worked with SCCF and Natural Capital Investment funds to secure the rest of the funding they needed to begin renovating the property where Heliotrope Brewery will be housed, and to purchase the brewing equipment.
In the coming months, they will begin brewing a carefully cultivated selection of small-batch artisan ales and lagers, utilizing Virginia malt, farm-fresh produce, and microflora culture locally foraged from Rockbridge County. In doing so, they aim to produce beers that are uniquely representative of the Shenandoah Valley.
Jessica Godsie Sawyers so enjoyed her spa time at Mill Street Body and Soul Day Spa and Salon that she left her resume at the reception desk, joking that she “might as well start working there.” The previous owner took note of her entrepreneurial spirit and experience and asked if Jessica would like to purchase the business. One month later — with the overwhelming support of her family and friends — she walked through the door as the Day Spa’s new owner. In 2017, Jessica came to SCCF seeking a loan to refinance the debt from the purchase. The staff went “over and beyond expectations,” Jessica said, “it was more than just the counseling — it was every time you walked in the door everyone was there to support you and cheer you on.” Now, Jessica has just completed construction on a new room, providing more of the excellent service that characterizes her spa’s reputation.
Dave Walsh, Xander Tallman, and Wendy Orison all participated in the Launch Lex competition in Lexington. Dave and Wendy have known each other for years, and they got to know Xander through the SCCF’s Business Planning Class. They then competed alongside him for the grant money being offered through the Launch Lex program. Xander walked away with some cash, while Wendy, Dave, and his wife Tasha were left wondering whether they would move forward with opening their businesses. Along came Gavin Fox, a local entrepreneur and professor at Washington and Lee University. He had a space that he could split between multiple vendors near the heart of downtown Lexington. Dave, his wife & business partner, Tasha, and Wendy started talking, and they realized they could make it work. Xander was still looking for space and Gavin connected all of them. The Hub opened in August of 2018 with fLEX Fitness Studio, Red Newt Bikes, and Just Games.
SHENANDOAH VALLEY, VA
Hannah Johnson, with Hickory Hill Farm in Rockingham County, and board member for the Common Grain Alliance (CGA), took the SCCF business planning class with Heather Coiner of Little Hat Creek Farm. They intended to develop both of their businesses independently but also to create momentum for the Common Grain Alliance, a Virginia-based group of bakers, millers, and farmers working to revive the region’s grain-shed. CGA has received its 501(c)3 designation, established bylaws, elected a Board of Directors, and grown their membership in just 5 months. The members are already trading and selling more goods and they are looking forward to participating in the Fire, Flour, and Fork food festival in Richmond, Virginia in November of 2018. CGA is building a great community of bakers, millers, and farmers. Their mission is “to help people connect on a deeper level to the local product for years to come.”
Jahleel Pettiford, SCCF’s first youth entrepreneur, knew he wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on those around him. Növel, Jahleel’s business, started with sketches in a notebook that inspired him to spread the message of peace, love, and happiness. Jahleel soon realized that his designs would look great on T-shirts and other apparel. His friends got behind his idea, and soon Jahleel was making a T-shirt a week to sell to his friends and others in his community, all while spreading his wonderful message. We met Jahleel at a Breaking Bread event in Staunton in early 2018 and knew we wanted to provide him with some support. Jahleel participated, on a full scholarship, in our 8-week Business Planning Course and started to garner the business skills needed to take his T-shirt business to the next level. He has hopes of making Növel a national brand that can spread the message of hope far and wide.
Michelle Gagnon and Seth Amsden, co-owners of Gray Jay Provisions, first started their partnership by selling Christmas trees next to the building that would become Gray Jay Provisions. As they worked together, they realized that their food philosophies aligned, and they knew they could fill a gap in the Farm to Table industry. Michelle and Seth wanted to create an affordable restaurant where diners could get excellent, fresh food in a comfortable setting. As they started to develop their idea they realized they needed help, which they found in SCCF’s business planning class. Through the course, Michelle and Seth were able to develop a solid framework and be inspired by the people around them. Opening the business was a struggle, but they were persistent and they got through it with the help of their friends, family, and some financial capital from SCCF. Since Gray Jay Provisions opened in March of 2018, they have received great feedback and are continuing to build a strong customer base. Their next dream is creating an outdoor space around their building that feels just as comfortable as their cozy interior. Gray Jay Provisions is real, honest farm food that people love.
Founder and head brewer, Jonathan Wright says, “Our hope is to create a multi-generational manufacturing and service business in Staunton, Virginia.” Jonathan’s interest in brewing began at the Baja Bean Company restaurant in Staunton, where he was introduced to craft beers by one of the restaurant’s managers. He began home brewing, and after the first batches he knew that he wanted to open his own brewery. Jonathan was able to purchase startup equipment with a SCCF loan, and in 2013 Redbeard Brewing Company was born. He expanded his brewery this year with an additional loan from SCCF. Jonathan is proud that Redbeard Brewing Company not only makes great beer, but also draws in tourists who create revenues for other businesses. He has big plans for Redbeard Brewing Company in the coming two years and we can’t wait to see his building renovation and business expansion dreams comes to life.