Great business stories abound all around the Shenandoah Valley, so join us each month as we gather them all in one place! Blogs, podcasts, video series, and more!
Area high school FBLA clubs recently participated in a business planning simulation sponsored by the JMU College of Business and the SVSBDC.
Learn how Jon Henry General Store curates a local experience in the latest SVLife Podcast produced by the Shenandoah Valley Partnership.
Great business stories abound all around the Shenandoah Valley, so join us each month as we gather them all in one place. Blogs, podcasts, video series, and more!
Ever since helping his father sell produce at farmer’s markets and his mother cook for her small food business in a small town south of Bandung in the West Java province of Indonesia, opening a restaurant of his own has always appealed to Harrisonburg resident Hotmian Ridwan. With that passion for the food of his native Indonesia, a lot of hard work, and a little help from the programs of the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center(SV SBDC), starting a small business has become reality for Ridwan.
Ridwan began working with the SV SBDC by participating in the “What’s Cooking” program, where he finalized his business plan and learned the necessary steps for starting a business.
“I refined the BoBoKo Indonesian Café’s concept by competing in a food related business concept competition, “What’s Cooking Program,” provided by the city of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Virginia’s partnering with the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center. I received further encouragement to open this café after achieving first place in the competition.”
BoBoKo Indonesian Café has been proudly serving the Harrisonburg community traditional Indonesian cuisine ever since, emphasizing bold spices, rich flavors, and unusual tastes. Many reviewers call the café their local favorite:
“Our favorite restaurant in Harrisonburg!! We’ve had everything on the menu and love it all. Try the Indonesian noodles, they are to die for! Coconut pandan ice cream is amazing, so save room for that!”
The story of Ridwan’s small start-up business success has been a long and inspiring jolurney of determination and grit. Ridwan came to the United States through the H-2B Visa program, a work program that allows qualified U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs they are unable to fill with U.S. residents. Ridwan was hired as a cook in various hotels and restaurants across the country, and eventually earned U.S. permanent resident status through a sponsorship from a local business owner in Harrisonburg. He began working full time as a chef and was later promoted to assistant manager because of his strong work ethic and culinary skills. When he became a U.S. citizen through naturalization in 2017, Ridwan started the process of building his business dream — a restaurant of his own where he could commemorate and celebrate the culinary culture that had shaped him.
The BoBoKo menu features a diverse array of dishes from traditional soups to stir fry and curry. They are also known for catering to customers with dietary restrictions by offering dairy free, gluten free, and vegan options.
Today Ridwan has over a dozen employees and contributes significantly to the Harrisonburg community by hosting fundraisers, making charitable donations, and sponsoring local events such as the annual Blacks Run Clean Up. No doubt the small business help and encouragement Ridwan received through the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center’s programs were a catalyst for bringing this popular eatery to life.
Keeping Up with BoBoKo Indonesian Café
To check out BoBoKo’s extensive menu and learn more about them, you can either order online or visit them at 217 S Liberty St #102 in Harrisonburg, VA, 22801. Delicious Indonesian food awaits! Follow on social media and visit their blog for recipes and more great info. Information is subject to change due to COVID-19 restrictions, so please call or visit their channels for updates.
In 2019, Main Street America partnered alongside American Express to launch the Future of Shopping Small Grant Program to provide 10 small businesses with $10,000 each to help them innovate in the evolving retail landscape. The program seeks to support small businesses that have demonstrated new approaches to traditional business strategies and those businesses looking to implement creative techniques, while also helping to revitalize and strengthen historic commercial districts.
We are thrilled to congratulate Jon Henry General Store for having been selected as an award recipient! Located in New Market, Virginia, the business features an assortment of gifts, snacks, produce, crafts and more. Their inventory represents over 50 local makers, growers and artisans from across the state with a strong focus on items from the Shenandoah Valley, along with a growing selection of women and minority-owned companies. The business will use grant funds for new points of sale, developing an online portal for cooking tips and recipes that use their produce, work with local restaurants to have pop-up meals and film quality chef videos to highlight local produce. The project demonstrates a commitment to the local community and principles in the Future of Shopping Small Guide.
Jon Henry General Store was established in 2018, reviving the historic stone building’s past use. The structure housed a general store in the early 1800’s for several decades. Owner Jon Henry and his family have lived in the Shenandoah Valley for the past five generations, mainly as farmers. The store builds upon the family’s past-time of produce peddling, and its “brick and mortar” location extends beyond seasonal produce. The business offers brooms, vintage license plates, jams and jellies, local honey, canned goods, children’s wooden toys, memorabilia, candies and more for residents and visitors. The general store also actively partners with local churches, schools and sports teams as sponsors, donors and participants.
If you find yourself in New Market, a proud Virginia Main Street (VMS) Commercial District Affiliate (CDA) community, swing by Jon Henry General Store to #ShopSmall. You can also follow the business on social media to view how they are planning for the future and staying ahead of the curve!
As someone with years of experience working in gyms, Dawn Flowers has always enjoyed giving private workout sessions. It was this passion for personalization that ultimately inspired her to open her own, small-group training facility.
At first the idea seemed far-fetched. She questioned if it was an achievable feat, but deep down she knew that she could offer clients more as a personal and group fitness trainer out on her own. She visited the SV SBDC to re-assess her business concept and get help with financials. At this point, she had just opened U Fit, LLC in a small rented space near an industrial park. Now, U Fit is a full-fledged training facility with over one hundred regular clients and has cultivated a highly successful Weight Loss Accountability program.
The process was not as easy as it sounds. Like any business owner, Dawn confronted many obstacles. Since opening in 2015, U Fit has moved locations twice. Facing issues with leasing agreements and then discordant neighbors, Dawn went through a highly stressful process of finding the right location. “I called Allison Dugan out of desperation during this time period,” said Flowers, “I didn’t know if I should move that second time to a third location or just close. She helped me realize that U Fit’s unique atmosphere and client loyalty would carry to any appropriate location.”
What made this transitional phase even harder was the fact that a new interval training center moved into the region at the same time. This worried Dawn and she began exploring memberships and offering discounted packages in direct competition with those other gyms. However, with the help of the SV SBDC team, Dawn was able to re-focus and center on her core values that keep her customers returning. “Allison kept asking me why. Why did I want to change services and prices and make my product more like theirs? Questions like this brought me back to the core reason why I started U Fit. A deeper understanding the needs of my current clients helped me make clear decisions moving forward.”
Dawn proudly trains a variety of clients who have had their lives transformed. Pam Lewis, who has been training for 19 months and lost 185 pounds to date explains “U Fit provides an atmosphere that is safe, secure and non-judgmental. You are welcomed by every person there! Dawn is outstanding at determining, coaching and encouraging you at your fitness level while being able to push you beyond your limits.”
Prospective restaurant owner Hotiman Ridwan had been developing his dream business for quite some time when he joined – and won – the Shenandoah Valley SBDC’s “What’s Cooking” Business Concept Plan Competition. A restaurant manager and 18 year veteran of the hospitality industry, Ridwan began his culinary endeavors growing up in his home country of West Java, Indonesia.
Ridwan recalls, “My passion for food started as I helped my mom prepare her food for the market. My parents owned stores at traditional farmers markets in my small town in Indonesia. My late father was a produce seller, and my mom made and sold Indonesian foods and snacks. Through the following years I learned by experimenting and blending South East Asian ingredients and western ingredients to create a fusion food with a twist.”
In addition to being a seasoned food industry professional, Ridwan is also quite active on social media and the online food community, blogging recipes and posting pictures of his signature dishes to his website, www.riceandcoconut.com.
“I started blogging about food and recipes in June 2011, and use the blog as a hobby as well as a way to share my passion for foods. Riceandcoconut.com gets 10,000-12,000 visitors a month with some blog posts shared on buzzfeed, Boston magazine, and Yummly. My food photography is published in Foodgawker and Tastespotting.com.”
Ridwan moved to the United States in 2001 as a worker in the hospitality industry under the H2B Visa program. In 2008, he became a permanent resident under company sponsorship and in 2016 became a US citizen. After working in various hotel and restaurant departments, he now boasts an impressive and diverse 18 years of experience.
When he won the competition, he was awarded a monetary prize and professional assistance. This helped him to open his dream restaurant – the BoBoKo Fusion Café – in 2016. Located in the IceHouse in Downtown Harrisonburg, BoBoKo has enjoyed bringing its unique cuisine into the already vibrant culinary culture of the city.
To learn more visit www.BoBoKoIndonesianCafe.com
It was mid-December 2015 when James (Jay) North learned that the vendor-based market where he sold his home décor and antiques was being shut down. He and the other vendors were facing the end of their small businesses.
Not willing to accept this, Jay and a committed group of owners stepped up to create a new organization that would serve the local business community. They sought guidance from the Shenandoah Valley SBDC and advisor Sara Levinson, who lives and works in Page County.
The first item of business: establish The Hawksbill Trading Company as a co-operative. According to Jay, without the SBDC’s guidance this would never have been possible. The new board worked diligently with Sara to create membership applications and vendor contracts, draft by-laws and other organizational documents, set up a new accounting system, and manage all the other aspects for a new venture.
“Every vendor now has a say in how we operate and grow. We each have a role in the success of not only our own business but our neighbors’ as well” says North, who serves as Board President. “By working together we can accomplish great things.”
The new business opened its doors on January 20, 2016 with 20 local vendors selling antiques, jewelry, up-cycled furniture, original art, home goods, meats, and produce. Unlike many “mall-type” markets, HTC does not work around pre-defined stalls or booths. Some vendors need only a few shelves for their products; others need lots of floor space, so HTC’s board works hard to find the right space and lay-out for each vendor, which allows businesses of all sizes to participate.
One year after opening, HTC hosts nearly 60 vendors. Merchants and local artisans offer a variety of workshops in everything from essential oils to painting to fly-tying. HTC is a thriving hub of entrepreneurial spirit and activity – a place to share ideas, gather resources, be inspired, and find support. In partnership with the SV SBDC, HTC offers business development resources to budding entrepreneurs throughout the community. Together they are partnering with Page County Public Schools to conduct the Young Entrepreneurs Program in 2017, and plan to expand their cooperative retail model to the food and service sectors in the future.
To learn more, visit www.hawksbilltradingcompany.org
This success story is dedicated to Paul Keppel III, Principal Broker of the ProRealty Group in Harrisonburg, VA . Paul was extremely helpful in the leasing process with the SV SBDC and Blossom Spas. Paul suddenly passed away one week after Vunly signed the lease. He would be proud of their achievement.
Starting a business is neither an easy, nor a quick process – and if anyone knows this to be true, its Vunly Luangrarj, owner of Blossom Spas in Harrisonburg. Vunly, who is originally from the country of Laos, came to the Shenandoah Valley SBDC for advice and support as she was determined to open her own nail salon. Although she had previously owned successful food businesses in the past, Vunly faced skepticism from family and colleagues who were concerned about her competing in the pre-existing and saturated nail salon market.
With unwavering determination and support from her daughter Mim, Vunly was able to realize her dream of building a 1700 square-foot full service nail salon within just one year. Along the way, Vunly faced many obstacles; a language barrier proved to be one of them. Proficient, but not yet fluent in English, Vunly relied on the assistance of her daughter and the SV SBDC to help translate and explain important forms and documents. Updated building codes and new regulations for air quality affected the budget dramatically. A local attorney, Jared Burden helped to decipher terms of the lease agreement enabling her to negotiate with the landlord, while the architects from Blue Ridge Design were patient and careful to understand Vunly’s vision for the salon. Just three months after signing the lease, the spa was fully built and furnished with a new ventilation system, pluming, flooring and lighting.
Today, Blossom Spas employs approximately 6 licensed technicians and cosmetologists specializing in Nail Care, Facial Services, and a full range of Eye Beauty care including Lash Extensions. Daughter Mim Luangrarj has been instrumental in adding to the interior design, and developing marketing materials plus constantly keeping up with social media. “Something I take the most pride in is the supportive culture that we’ve cultivated with our staff. Each person brings a unique value to our team. We are culturally diverse staff and collectively, we take pride in providing the very best service for our clients together.”
Blossom Spas has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers, including those who travel an hour over the mountains of West Virginia to Harrisonburg for services. Customer Carrie Moyers reviewed Blossom Spas on Facebook in November and said: “Today was my first time visiting & I was blown away by how nice & clean the environment was! There was no smell of fumes or anything! The ladies were so very sweet & kept me laughing the whole time! I was also given a pomegranate smoothie to try & it was amazing! I am very pleased with how well my nails look. I have officially found my new place to get my nails done!”
To learn more visit www.blossomspas.com