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!”



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A Shenandoah Valley landmark for over 25 years, the Dayton Market brings visitors and residents together in a casual, friendly setting.

Located two miles south of Harrisonburg, the Town of Dayton is one of the oldest settled communities in Rockingham County.  Surrounded by prime agricultural farmland, this historic land is populated by many members of the Old Order Mennonite community.  With working farms and open spaces, traveling through Dayton and the surrounding area is a step back in time.  Horse-drawn buggies remain a common form of travel on rural roads throughout the community.

Since 1987, The Dayton Market has been a shopping destination for both locals and tourists including Massanutten Resort’s weekly annual visitors. The Dayton Market (formerly known as the Dayton Farmers Market) is an eclectic collection of 20 specialty shops owned by individual, local merchants. When owner Fred Shank was faced with the need to update the façade and internal layout, he was referred to the Shenandoah Valley SBDC. Director Joyce Krech and VSBDC Retail Consultant Marc Willson met Fred for a tour of the Shops and discussed the market’s physical layout and “wayfinding” challenges as well as the outer façade and signage. Fred in turn recommended that the merchant-run Advertising Committee meet with the SBDC. Business Advisor Allison Dugan joined the effort and over the next few months led the committee in an extensive review and assessment process of their advertising needs and business brand.

They reviewed the Market’s Web presence, usability of the existing Website, the “findability” of their directory listings, and major referral sources. Rich and lively discussion continued to identify attributes of their customers and target markets, as well as brainstorming key historical descriptions of the Market.  Were their descriptions up-to-date and accurate? Were the meeting customer expectations?

Allison introduced some of the SBDC’s GrowthWheel® tools to the group, including the Branding Opportunities Framework that highlighted the four areas that form the brand of a business: Visual Identity, Physical Identity, Voice Identity, and Attitude Identity fit together like a puzzle to create a full customer experience. The Committee discussed some complex considerations such as how can individual shops, in addition to their own marketing efforts, support the overall marketing message of the Market (and vice-versa), for a united effort and message? How can the exterior and interior designs and layout of the Market support the branded marketing message? And finally, the big question: should we look at re-naming the Market if “farmer’s market” has a different meaning to customers than it did two decades ago?

The SBDC brought in local branding expert Jaye Brumfield to discuss visual identity and the importance of building a distinctive and easily recognizable name and simple logo. Then they facilitated an independent Focus Group comprised of local business owners, destination marketers, and front-line hospitality managers with the goal of gathering a fresh and objective perspective, honest feedback, and candid comments on the continuing development of the name, logo, and tagline for the Market.

The Committee used all the data and feedback to present findings to the full meeting of shop owners. Change of any kind, especially of a branded name, is always challenging but the committee worked diligently and used the resources available to them to present sound reasoning and a plan for adapting a new logo and name. On November 7, 2015 The Dayton Market was re-introduced with the tagline “a community of shops” which the merchants felt expressed all of the aspects of their past, present and future as a very special place for merchants and customers – for friends – to gather.

The committee, shop owners, and Dayton officials continue to work closely with the SBDC to expand marketing strategies and grow as one community.



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