How Do I Get More Customers?

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The cost of acquiring new customers has increased almost 60% over the past six years. If this is something you’re struggling with, you’re not alone: 49% of companies report that customer acquisition is their primary marketing objective.

Even with the best small business ideas, spraying and praying doesn’t work for anybody — you need to make sure you’re spreading the word to the right people.

Here’s something to think about:
Finding customers starts with figuring out who your ideal customer is. You may sell to everyone between ages 18-60 BUT who buys the most from you?
What age are they? Are they male or female? Income level?
Where do they get their information from?
What do they care about?

Are you offering a solution to a problem that people are willing to pay to solve?

Are you using pictures of people in your marketing that are similar to your ideal customer? Can your customer relate to your marketing?

If you’re struggling with finding new customers please reach out to us for a
marketing consultation! Email [email protected]

2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report

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On February 1st the National Restaurant Association issued a report that included forecasts for 2022 and the “new normal” eateries face as the nation attempts to move away from COVID.  The report provided the following industry insights:

  • Industry sales are anticipated to reach $898 billion in 2022
  • Foodservice jobs will likely grow by 400,000, for total industry employment of 14.9 million
  • 2022 will not be normal for multiple reasons, including food, labor, and occupancy costs, which will be elevated, all of which will impact industry profits
  • 96% of operators experienced supply delays or shortages of key food or beverage items, starting in 2021 and likely to continue
  • 51% of adult consumers stated that they aren’t eating as often as they would like, an increase of 6% from pre-pandemic levels
  • 70% of eateries state that they are not adequately staffed to serve customers
  • 50% of operators believe that hiring and retaining staff will be their greatest challenge in 2022
  • The industry anticipates adding 200,000 jobs per year for the next decade
  • 75% of operators plan to devote more resources to recruiting and retaining employees
  • Operators plan to reduce their menu offerings and work to improve the quality of take-out and delivery food products
  • 88% of consumers stated that they would be likely try take-out or delivery options if restaurants would use packaging that helps the food maintain the same temperature, taste, and quality as when it’s served in the restaurant
  • Technology advances will continue to help the industry, with fully 80% of members stating that their use of technology helps to give them a competitive advantage
  • Many operators will expand online ordering, reservations, mobile payment, or delivery management, along with back-of-the-house technology
  • Consumers also prefer technology where it doesn’t diminish hospitality
  • Outdoor dining is also favored by many consumers, and 40% indicate that they would select eateries with such options over those that do not have it
  • To-go alcohol sales are also popular with consumers
  • 54% of adult consumers say that takeout or delivery food is essential to their lifestyles, including 72% of millennials and 66% of Gen Z 
  • 50% of operators think the availability of sidewalk, parking lot, or street seating will become more common during 2022
  • 70% of Gen Zs and 62% of millennials stated that to-go alcohol along with take-out or delivery orders would make them more likely to choose one eatery over another without these options

As with many other surveys and data dumps, the results for this critical industry are mixed at best.  For those operators that have successfully pivoted during the pandemic and those that continue to do so, 2022 should be OK, but for those that remained viable only due to federal support programs, the coming year will not be a return to “happy days”.  

Article thanks to Mike Austin of the VASBDC network.

How to prepare for Virginia’s 31% Minimum Wage Increase

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Small Business Consultants Winchester VA - Virginia Minimum Wage Increase 2021

Hello there, I’m Cort Maddox.

I’m an adviser with the Laurel Ridge SBDC and today I get to come to you and talk about changes coming to the Virginia minimum wage.

Not sure if you’ve heard about this but as of May 1, 2021, in the state of Virginia, the minimum wage will go from $7.25 to $9.50.  

After that, we will see an increase on January 1, 2022 to $11.00 per hour then every January 1st thereafter until January 1, 2026 if will increase $1.00 per year until it eventually gets to $15.00 per hour.

All of this barring any adjustments from a Federal level, but right now, that’s the plan for Virginia.

Now I want to dive into how this is going impact your business then talk about things you can do to prepare.  

First, this is a 31% increase.  This is a dramatic increase and one we have not seen in the past.  This is going to impact your small business.

I want to go over a potential example to show we as consumers can expect to see and then show how businesses can try to manage this as well.

On January 1, 2022 the minimum wage will increase an addition 16% when it goes from $9.50 to $11.00 per hour.  This is a 52% increase which is a big increase given that the average business has an average overhead of about 20-30%.

When you increase your overhead expenses by roughly 52% you can see the impact.

In addition, this will mean an estimated increase of 13% in employer/employee taxes that you will pay on behalf of your employee.  This is about a $.50 increase per hour that will need to be taken into account.

Now, let’s consider a $15.00 product.  

In order to account for the estimated 59% increase, 52% wage increase plus $.50 per hour in taxes, you will now need to charge $23.85 for that same item to accomplish about the same margin.

That is a heavy hit for customers.

This is why we want to help you to come up with resources to lessen the impact.  We want to help you be prepared to make this adjustment without negatively impacting your current customers.

Our team wants to help you keep the number of disgruntled customers as low as possible.  We’re all dealing with a lot of things in life right now.  Adding another possible stressor to our lives right now is not something we want.

But, this change is coming and you need to be aware of what this change means.  

Please make sure you do not violate any labor laws during this process because the consequences will greatly impact your business as well.  

We will be hosting an online workshop to provide you more resources.  We want to help you navigate these changes because they are going to impact your business.

In the meantime, if you have questions or need help with any business challenge, reach out to our team, we’re here for you at no charge. 

Remember, we are funded by the state and local Economic Development Centers, not by small business owners.  We are here to serve as your resource.  Let us know how we can help!



Struggles Can Bring Out Our Best and Bring Us Together

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Has life taken it’s toll on you and your business the last few months?  Do you feel overwhelmed, stuck and exhausted trying to keep your business going?

You’re not alone.  Your struggle is real.   Yet our struggles can bring us together.

And yet there’s great news. 

As humans, we are made to work with each other.  We are wired to look out for each other and to help each other.  And when we do, we are more likely to get things done.

By ourselves we cannot lift heavy loads and by ourselves, we cannot solve complex problems.  But when we work together, we are remarkable.

If you’re struggling, you do not have to struggle alone.  If you have business problems that need to be solved, you do not have to solve them alone.

Our team of experts is ready and available to work with you at no cost.  We can work together to solve complex problems and be remarkable with you!One local business owner reached out to our team and had this to say:

“Thank you so much to such a great organization and an amazing community! This feels more like home than anything ever has, for I know my voice and needs are not just heard, but also fulfilled.”

If you haven’t felt pressure in your business, you may.

Some small businesses are going to feel the impact of the Virginia Minimum Wage increase that goes into effect May 1, 2021.

Minimum Wage will increase from $7.25 per hour to $9.50 per hour on May 1, 2021 then on Jan 1, 2022 it will increase to $11.00 per hour.  Wages will continue to increase until it reaches $15.00 per hour on Jan 1, 2026. 

Let’s make sure you’re prepared with a strategy in place.  Our team can help you prepare, at no cost to you.  We are funded by state and local Economic Development Centers, not by you the small business owner.

Together, we want to solve complex problems and be remarkable.  This is why we exist.  We’re here for you!

GO Virginia Grant Brings Lasting Change to Local Small Businesses

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The Small Business Resiliency Training (SBRT) has been working in partnership with the Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity (GO Virginia). 

The SBRT Team is made up of members of the Shenandoah Valley and Laurel Ridge Small Business Development Centers.   

Thanks to GO Virginia, small business grants were made available and those grants are having a lasting impact on small businesses throughout the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. 

When the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center partnered with Jon Henry General Store in New Market, VA change was quite noticeable.  The impact is still being felt.

When Jon Henry came into the SBRT program, he was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Without systems and tools and place to keep his inventory as organized as he’d like, the SBRT program was his solution.

Thanks to the GO Virginia grant, Jon’s small business got a much needed boost. 

Listen in as Jon tells about the impact this program had on his small business.



The Small Business Resiliency Training (SBRT) was made possible by a grant from the Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity (GO Virginia).  This is a business-led initiative formed to foster private sector business growth along with the Small Business Administration and the Virginia Small Business Development Centers.  Participating localities include:  Augusta County, City of Harrisonburg, City of Waynesboro, City of Winchester, Clarke County, Frederick County, Rockbridge County, Rockingham County and Shenandoah County, VA. 

If It’s Free, There Must Be A Catch, Right?

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Small Business Consultants - There Must Be A Catch

Have you ever said it?  Have you heard others say it?

Many people say it all the time.   “If it’s FREE, there’s got to be a catch.”

Look, I know a ton of small business owners that say the very same thing. 

But does every small business owner who gets free, personalized business coaching fail to grow their business?  Of course not. 

Just ask Jon Henry, owner of Jon Henry General Store in New Market, VA.

Jon thought that because our services were free there had to be a catch. 

After a year of working with our Small Business Development Counselors free of charge, he has implemented new tools and processes into his business that have given him back his time, lowered his stress, and helped him stay more organized which is making him more money.

Jon says that after a year of working with our counselors for free he feels like he should be paying us money, but he isn’t because we are funded by local Economic Development Administrations, not small business owners.

Now you have a choice to make.

You can keep working hard to figure out what to do to grow your small business, or you can do what Jon Henry did.

Reach out to one of our experienced small business counselors who can partner with you to take away the stress of running your business alone. 

Give us a call:  540-868-7093

How Jon Henry General Store Made Advancements During the Pandemic

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Small Business Resiliency Team (SBRT) Program Helps Jon Henry General Store Implement Changes Needed to Respond to Pandemic

When the Jon Henry General Store opened in New Market in 2018, owner and proprietor Jon Henry could never have guessed that in less than two years he would have to drastically overhaul the way he did business due to a global pandemic. Henry’s vision was to revive the historic Abbie Henkel House (1802) to its past use as a general store and build on his family’s longtime history of Shenandoah Valley farming (and recent pastime of produce peddling along Virginia’s Route 11). 

The business quickly made a name for itself by carrying a wide range of products from local makers, growers, and artisans from across the Commonwealth of Virginia, with a primary focus on items from the Shenandoah Valley and a growing number of women and minority-owned companies. Jon Henry’s is also known for actively partnering with local churches, schools and sports teams as sponsor, donor, and participant.  This commitment to the local community and the principles of shopping small garnered the company a Future of Shopping Small Grant from Main Street America in partnership with American Express.

But when the pandemic hit in early 2020, Jon Henry needed to quickly make major changes in order to meet customer needs. The store shifted to a touchless point of sale and inventory system to ensure the safety of customers and reduce contamination, and added Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) services so that more people could access the fresh, nutritious foods the store provides. But the store’s team still faced significant challenges with upgrading outdated software, training employees on new systems, and accomplishing increased accounting tasks.

In late 2020, Jon Henry heard that the Shenandoah Valley and Laurel Ridge Small Business Development Centers had been funded to form a special team that could help. The Small Business Resiliency Team (SBRT) program was created through a grant from GO Virginia and the support of the Cities of Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, and Winchester and Counties of Frederick, Clarke, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Augusta, and Rockbridge. The program deploys Business Resiliency Navigators to guide growth-oriented businesses towards incremental and sustainable growth. SBRT is designed to assist with financial management, eCommerce, and marketing needs for businesses in the tourism, retail, professional services, and healthcare sectors.

Henry applied for help with upgrading the business to QuickBooks Online and extending the services of his bookkeeper to complete the system migration and fully train employees for best practices on the new systems. Henry talked about how the process played out once he had been approved for the SBRT program:

“Helen spent good time with me on demos and wrote up new closing process for staff etc. with our new systems. It was a bit of a hog on time to convert and [reconcile] with Clover [his POS system]. [It has been] very helpful to finally have the inventory all aligned with our new POS and QuickBooks.”

After a few weeks with the new systems, he said: “I am loving it [QuickBooks online] already. The cellphone app allows me to snap invoice pics, which is great with our on-farm pick-ups.”

Henry went on to say that the SBRT program provided the time and expertise needed to work the kinks out of the new procedures, review the added services for cost effectiveness, and gauge how well they were being adopted in the community. He hopes to use this information to tweak the systems going forward.

Jon Henry’s work with the SBRT Navigators also led to being connected with James Madison University’s BizLab, a digital services group matching JMU students with small businesses and non-profits to help companies strengthen their online presence.  Students work with customers to create websites, design logos and other graphics both for online and print.  “I am loving the website, and it’s amazing the commerce that we’ve already run through it!” Henry said about the collaboration.

“The process of applying for the SBRT program is really simple, and the SBDC can usually engage locally-available providers for the services our clients need.  We hope that more businesses in the counties of Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Rockbridge, Rockingham, and Shenandoah; and the cities of Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, and Winchester will apply to take advantage of this program,” said Joyce Krech, Director of the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center.

If the walls of the Abbie Henkel House could talk, they would probably agree. Making good use of your local community resources, especially during times of crisis, are an important part of resiliency and longevity. What could SBRT do for your business during these tough times?

For more information on the Small Business Resiliency Teams, visit the SBDC websites: www.ValleySBDC.org or www.laurelridgesbdc.org,  or contact Joyce Krech, (540)568-3227, [email protected] or Christine Kriz, (540)868-7094, [email protected].

For more information on GO Virginia, visit the Shenandoah Valley Partnership (https://theshenandoahvalley.com/) or Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (https://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/gova).


About Small Business Development Centers. The SV and LF SBDCs are two of 29 Small Business Development Centers across Virginia providing professional business advice, training, and information resources to help grow and strengthen local businesses and Virginia’s economy. They are hosted respectively by James Madison University and Laurel Ridge Community College in partnership with George Mason University and funded in part by SBA and local governments. The Virginia SBDC Network (www.VirginiaSBDC.org) is the most extensive business development program in the Commonwealth and part of America’s SBDC – the nation’s proven, cost-effective, and accredited infrastructure focused on small businesses – America’s job creators.

Give Your Social Media Engagement A Boost

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Do you make social media posts for your business?  Ever get stuck and wonder what to post next?  Think it’s time to give your social media engagement a boost?

Try National Days.  They have proven to increase engagement and shares.

And to make it super easy for you, we’ve put together a list of February National Days.  And we have a lot more ideas.


Small Business Consultants - Feb National Days

Small Business Consultants - February National Days

Small Business Consultants - February National Days 3

If you or someone you know has a business challenge that our team can help with, please reach out to us here.

Our services are always FREE.  We’re here to help and our team is ready to go!

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

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Eligibility Restored For Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance

Small Businesses are now eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) just announced that the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance is available to small businesses.

This advance can give your business much needed financial relief.

What You Need To Know

  1. Your business is now eligible to receive $1,000 per employee up to a maximum of $10,000.
  2. You do not need to repay this loan advance.
  3. Your business does not need to qualify for this loan advance.

Questions Your Business Should Consider

  1. Has my business received a Paycheck Protection Program loan (PPP)?
  2. Did I complete my original EIDL application correctly?

Yes, I received a PPP.  Therefore, your EIDL Advance amount will be subtracted from your PPP loan. That amount will not be eligible for forgiveness.

The Small Business Administration will verify and validate the information in your EIDL application. After that, your advance will auto deposit into your bank.

If there are issues verifying your banking or business information you will receive an email. The email will ask you to update any missing business information.

If there is an issue with your bank information, you will be asked to update your banking information as well.

If you have questions about EIDL or need help navigating the loan process, please contact our office:  (540) 868-7093

Our director Christine Kriz is available to answer your questions or point you in the right direction.

In addition, we have created a frequently asked questions page to help you navigate the loan process.  


Supreme Court rules LGBTQ people protected on the job

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For our friends in the LGBTQ community, today’s Supreme Court ruling is a landmark moment.

To fire an employee simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) is now a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

The Supreme Court ruled that federal anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ employees  

This decision was written by one the court’s most conservative justices, Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s first nominee to the court. 

The court made this decision by a 6-3 vote with Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas voting against the decision.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court.

“The Court tries to convince readers that it is merely enforcing the terms of the statute, but that is preposterous. Even as understood today, the concept of discrimination because of ‘sex’ is different from discrimination because of ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity,'” Alito wrote in a dissent that was joined by Thomas.

“The court has previously stated, and I fully agree, that gay and lesbian Americans ‘cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,’ ” Kavanaugh wrote, quoting a previous case.

Kavanaugh added, “Our role is not to make or amend the law. As written, Title VII does not prohibit employment discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

Court’s first cases on LGBTQ rights since 2015

Today’s cases were the court’s first on LGBTQ rights since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and replacement by Kavanaugh. Kennedy was author of the landmark ruling in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States. 

In recent years, some lower courts have ruled that discrimination against LGBTQ employees is prohibited by federal law. 

So far, Congress has not been able to change the law.

Two of the three cases today involved gay men fired by their employers — Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, and Altitude Express v. Zarda

The third case heard by the high court on October 8 and argued separately — R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC — involves a transgender Michigan woman, Aimee Stephens, dismissed from her job as a funeral director after she announced plans to transition. Tragically, Stephens, who was 59, died on May 12, just weeks before the ruling came down.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling will impact federal civil rights laws pertaining to sex discrimination in education, health care, housing and financial credit. Lawsuits currently pending in lower courts are required to follow Supreme Court precedent.

As our country moves forward, there are an estimated 8.1 million LGBTQ workers across the country impacted by today’s decision.  And while most states have not provided workplace protection in the past, Virginia is a most recent state to enact full protection against employment discrimination for LGBTQ people.

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school, there are an estimated 13 million LGBTQ people ages 13+ living in the U.S.


(Excerpts from AP, Washington Post and USA Today)