From Doo Rags to Riches with the SV SBDC

Kathleen McCormick is the queen of doo rags — it’s a title she earned after 25 years in the business. “When I started the business, we were making 1,500 to 2,000 doo rags a week,” the Page County entrepreneur says. “I had a 5,000-square foot warehouse and a dozen people working for me.” Kathleen and her ex-husband had started making doo rags without a formal business plan. “I figured we didn’t need that,” she says.

When the couple separated and the business eventually began to struggle, Kathleen changed her mind. She decided it was time to contact the Shenandoah Valley SBDC. “That’s when I met SBDC Business Advisor Sara Levinson,” Kathleen explains. “I needed someone to redesign my webpage.”

Sara was impressed with Kathleen’s creative ideas and commitment to creating local jobs. “Sara got really excited about me and my work,” Kathleen recalls.

Kathleen admits that working with Sara opened “all kinds of new doors of opportunity.” One opportunity came from an unexpected source: the COVID-19 crisis. It started with a meeting between Sara and the Page County Economic Development Coordinator Liz Lewis. The topic was the idea of applying for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). “Liz wanted to submit a grant application for a mask project to serve our community,” Sara says. “That’s when the pieces came together; I told her about Kathleen McCormick, a local small business owner I’d met, who had expertise in sewing doo rags.”

The grant for the Page County mask project was approved and Kathleen was named project manager. “I was the right person to supervise the project,” Kathleen admits. “I already had a material supplier and knew how to find seamstresses who could make 4,000 masks in six weeks.” Kathleen wisely decided there was no need to reinvent the wheel. “I asked a friend who was already making masks, and she gave me directions for different sizes,” she says.

Looking ahead, Kathleen saw opportunities beyond the grant project. She sent an email to her previous customers and immediately received 300 mask orders. “This was the opportunity Kathleen needed,” Sara explains. “In addition to giving her business a boost, the project created jobs for local seamstresses, who had lost jobs or could not find work. These seamstresses will likely continue to work with Kathleen after the project is completed.”

Kathleen credits SBDC and Sara Levinson for giving new direction to her business. “Sara’s always there with information I need, and she offers suggestions and explains things,” she says. “I love having someone who knows me and knows how to help. I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t gone to SBDC.”

Impact: $30,000 grant produced 3,800 masks and work for 4 full-time workers.

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