SBDC Success Stories
SBDC helps local entrepreneurs
make their small business dreams come true
Small businesses in the region, like those across the country, have had a tough time staying afloat following a global pandemic that shuttered businesses for the better part of a year. However, with the help and guidance of the Small Business Development Center at Saint Francis University, some local entrepreneurs have been able to find renewed success and others have finally found the opportunity to dive in and follow their dreams.
From a clothing boutique and BBQ restaurant to a wellness center and hair salon, the SBDC has aided small business owners across the region, by not only evaluating the feasibility of their visions, but also by helping to build them from the ground up. Amy Wright of the Lace Sparrow Boutique, Brian and Kris Patterson of Backwoods Smoke Shack, LLC, Emily Mahler of the Wellness Community, and Ashly Weyandt of Lux Hair Studio are all recent examples of those who turned their passion into a thriving business.
The Lace Sparrow Boutique Flies from E-commerce to Storefront in Community
Company: The Lace Sparrow Boutique, 122 Market St., Rockwood, PA, Somerset County, owned by Amy Wright
Success Story: In 2020, The Lace Sparrow started as an online boutique for size-inclusive, comfortable, and fashionable clothing and accessories for women. The business took off and owner Amy Wright realized that she needed an outlet to showcase her products. Wright realized that a storefront would help even more women love themselves. The Lace Sparrow wants women to leave feeling good about themselves and find clothes that reflect the beauty they have.
While working as a nurse, Wright started the business plan for the Boutique. She chose a name and logo filled with meaning – a sparrow signifying self-worth and power in community and lace intricate and woven beauty. However, just as she was about to launch the business, COVID hit. As a result, Wright pivoted to operating as a website and the business took off. She offered live-feed sales events featuring models with various body types. This provided the foundation for Wright to realize that the goal was to have a storefront.
Amy contacted the SBDC and started the journey of assessing and developing the business proposal. The vision was to create a space where customers can shop and try on the clothes – seeing, feeling, and experiencing the outfits. Wright met with an SBDC consultant to assist her in the evaluation and feasibility of her dream. She had the knowledge and experience of operating a business but needed to look at the business proposal. The business proposal and projections started to take shape, along with the marketing and services, with assistance from the Center.
The business proposal was completed, and Wright contacted the banks and was denied, but friends and family were willing to assist with the funding to make the business a reality. The funds needed were for minor renovations, equipment, supplies, inventory, and promotional materials.
On July 1, 2022, The Lace Sparrow Boutique held its Grand Opening. Wright’s vision for a storefront in her community is complete. She is still continuing to take online orders and has been able to operate that portion more efficiently from this location. The Rockwood Community has welcomed the business to the area.
“At The Lace Sparrow we want women to leave here feeling good about themselves and finding clothes that reflect the beauty that they have,” Wright said.
Great BBQ is a Family Affair
Company: Backwoods Smoke Shack, LLC, 5963 Seven Points Road, Hesston, PA, Huntingdon County, owned by Brian and Kris Patterson
Success Story: Bryan Patterson knows barbeque. Smoking meats has been a long-time hobby and ultimately a great business opportunity. Taking what he learned and taught himself, he decided to turn his hobby into a seasonal business opportunity when he saw the lack of a good BBQ restaurant in the region – a region that includes Raystown Lake, a state park and resort, visited by over two million tourists annually. Along with his family, his mom, Kris, and his dad, Bud, they started working with Jeff Boldizar, Director of the Saint Francis University SBDC, to open Backwoods Smoke Shack, a BBQ food trailer setting up at various locations and events and selling some phenomenal BBQ. Boldizar assisted them with securing a marketing grant which helped them provide new signage, create new menus, and develop their initial digital marketing.
After losing part of their year to Covid, the mobile business picked up again and began looking for a location to expand their services to include dine-in and take-out options. In 2021, they began leasing a location close to Raystown Lake. Having to upgrade some equipment and make some renovations to the facility, they again sought out the SBDC for assistance with business planning and financing. Working with Covid consultant, Terry Anderson, the Center assisted them with developing a business plan, projections, and marketing. They were approved for funding through the JARI Microloan program, however, they ultimately decided to fund themselves instead.
As they continued to expand their offerings and build a reputation for excellent BBQ, they knew they had to develop a stronger online presence. So, they began working with SBDC consultant Jarrod Piper, who assisted with creating a user-friendly, mobile-optimized website for the restaurant, including brand identity development, graphic design, copywriting, and search engine optimization (SEO). Over the past year, the website attracted over 7,000 unique visitors across 30+ states.
In addition to developing and enhancing their online presence, the SBDC continued to work with them on marketing, pricing, and additional growth strategies including the introduction of a breakfast menu and online sales of apparel and their own custom BBQ dry rubs. Since the restaurant closes seasonally at the end of October, Backwoods continues to offer catering and online sales of apparel and dry rubs throughout the year.
Backwoods Smoke Shack continues to grow, always looking for opportunities to expand their brand. As they wind down the current season for the restaurant, the Patterson family continues to work with the SBDC on the marketing of their rubs and apparel. No rest for this family who are passionate about all things BBQ and their community!
Wellness for Generations Expands into Somerset
Company: The Wellness Community, 112 N. Rosina Ave., Somerset, PA, Somerset County, owned by Emily Mahler
Success Story: Emily Mahler has been involved in wellness for a number of years – selling essential oils, teaching classes, hosting women wellness events, and networking with many in the wellness community. She has created and influenced a community around wellness, even setting up an online wellness directory, Wellness for Generations. Mahler’s passion and experience in health and wellness led her to the realization that the Somerset community needed a retail- and service-based wellness business. She decided she wanted to open her own shop and incorporate her experience and knowledge as well.
Mahler approached a bank for financing and they put her in touch with the SBDC for assistance in developing a business proposal. After realizing that her credit and collateral were probably going to be an issue, she still wanted to continue with the idea and assess the overall feasibility of The Wellness Community. She needed to assess whether the Somerset community was interested in such a space for connection around wellness. Mahler contacted the SBDC and started the journey of assessing and developing the business proposal. The vision was to create a space where customers can shop, spend time in the meditation room, schedule frequency sessions, attend workshops, and additional services taking on the holistic approach. Mahler met with an SBDC consultant to assist her in the evaluation and feasibility of her dream. She had the knowledge and experience of operating a business, but needed to look at the business proposal. The business proposal and projections started to take shape, along with the marketing and services with assistance from the Center.
With the business proposal completed, Mahler contacted the banks and was denied, but friends and family were willing to assist with the funding to make the business a reality. The funds needed were for minor renovations, equipment, supplies, inventory, and promotional materials.
On February 22, 2022, The Wellness Community held its grand opening. The Wellness Community is a space for the Somerset community to connect around wellness. All the products and services meet a need for the wellness of the community, for those looking for alternatives to mainstream, and those wanting to take control of their own health. The Somerset Community has welcomed the business to the area.
Lux Hair Studio Opens in Blair County
Company: Lux Hair Studio, 201 Wayne St., Hollidaysburg, Blair County, owned by Ashley Weyandt
Success Story: Ashley Weyandt has been working in the beauty salon industry for the past few years. She has always loved working on hair and with beauty products, and she enjoys learning about new trends, attending trade shows, and talking with her customers. She felt there was more to the industry than what she was experiencing as an employee.
Often, Weyandt had thought about opening her own salon someday, but figured that may be off in the future. After considering the idea and talking it over with her husband, she decided she would look into starting her own business. She was not sure where to start, so she talked to her local banker about getting started. The bank suggested that she contact the SBDC to discuss her idea for opening her own salon. They explained to her that there was more involved in getting started other than determining how much money she needed to borrow. Weyandt contacted the Center and had an initial telephone conversation about her plan before scheduling a meeting to further discuss the project. She had various ideas for the salon but needed a location. The SBDC discussed with her the fact that the location for the business will have an impact on the startup costs. She would need equipment, supplies, possible renovations, etc., and she would also need working capital to cover the operating expenses during the start-up phase of the business. Weyandt was also interested in whether there were other sources of potential financing besides the bank. During the planning process she became aware of a potential location in Duncansville.
The Center assisted Weyandt in completing her business plan, projected financial statements, and assumptions for the projections. The goal was to show the owner’s knowledge of the business, the market potential for her salon in Blair County, and the ability to service the proposed debt.
Due to the small amount of financing required to get the salon open, this project was a candidate for the Altoona Blair County Development (ABCD) Corporation’s First Frontier Loan Fund. This fund is set up to target businesses that are seeking financing of less than $20,000. The bank she initially spoke with wanted her to pledge additional collateral for the loan, and she was looking at another option, so the Center referred her to ABCD Corporation. They were able to approve her loan through the First Frontier Loan Fund. Weyandt also invested personal funds into the project as well. Since opening, Weyandt has already outgrown her location and moved to a larger facility in Hollidaysburg. In addition to Weyandt, the salon employs three other stylists.