Behind most small businesses is a great story. The idea that started it all. The time, energy, money and stress that went into opening and running the business. The overcome obstacles and the little things learned along the way. And finally, the success of knowing that you did it, followed by the ambition to keep doing it, making it better and evolving as you go. That’s why we’re proud to showcase these 15 companies and entrepreneurs in our second annual small business feature—to tell their fascinating stories, share their advice and inspire those who dream of starting their own small business one day.
This year’s companies were selected based on creativity of their business idea, recent accomplishments and recommendations from area leaders. Established by grand ideas, launched with faith and growing as they go, these small businesses have a big impact on our local economy and the vibrancy of our community.
Building small, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Advanced Aircraft Company was founded in 2015 by Bill Fredericks in a NASA Langley Research Center project when a government agency needed an aircraft that could take off and land vertically and fly for long periods of time. Since its establishment the company has hit the grown running, designing the UAVs Greased Lightening and Hercules.
Advanced Technologies Incorporated (ATI) is an engineering and fabrication services company supporting aerospace industry research and development projects. ATI faced an uphill battle to begin their business, as they had to rely on their own personal funds to start the business. Despite the obstacles, the experience of its founders, backed by its employees, have helped ATI survive and thrive as a small business.
Ario, an acronym for Augmented Reality Input/Output, designs customized augmented reality and 3D applications for commercial, medical, construction and military industries. CEO and Augmented Reality Developer Joe Weaver leads the group of innovators with augmented reality technology to help businesses educate and communicate internally to their employees and externally to their client base.
BedCrafters by Michelle was founded as a result of Michelle Brumfield’s entrepreneurship and expertise in sales. Not settling with her position as a sales representative at her previous mattress company, Brumfield took her passions for sales and knowledge of products to form her own company, and has since opened two additional retail locations. She also hasn’t relied heavily on advertising or marketing—she has developed her small business by selling quality mattresses and having outstanding customer service.
Founder and owner Jeremy Knight created his company Burled & Knotted after seeing West Coast workshops open offering extra space and tools for woodworkers to complete their projects. Getting ahead of the curve in Coastal Virginia, he opened his shop as the first of its kind in its area of Newport News, giving woodworkers in the community what they need to work on their craft.
Courthouse Academy started as a small pre-school with half days and has since expanded to teach students through third grade in both English and Spanish. Owner Kym Pomares developed the program with an appreciation of the benefits of bilingualism, from higher test scores to greater job opportunities in the long run. The experience has been rewarding for both the students and the staff as they have seen the program continue to develop.
Understanding the community’s needs for pet sitters trained to handle animals with special needs, Jennifer Morrone founded Critter Sitters And More in Newport News. The small business does it all, from walking dogs to being trained to administer injections to pets. Critter Sitters And More has fully integrated the most recent technology in pet sitting services too, which helps employees keep track of schedules while providing a more personal service to clients.
Ranked on the Inc. 5000’s list of fastest growing private companies, Endurance IT faced some large challenges to make its way as a small business. Owners Blake White and James Ashmore had all the knowledge in the field but had to learn more about neccessary aspects of building a business from the ground up. Now, Endurance IT is 48 employees strong, engages its customers with excellent service and is an active member of the community with non-profits.
Starting their business with a recipe for cakes that’s three generations old, Marvin and Octavia Townsend began selling pound cakes at a Yorktown farmers’ market before they made their way to five Whole Foods locations. Deciding against a storefront, they’ve taken their focus solely on the quality of their cakes. It’s taken some hard work for Generations to get where they are now, but the Townsends have found the ingredients for success, and absolutely love what they do.
Jollity & Co.’s owner Kristin Lindsey has an eye for details at the party boutique, as the company sells creatively crafted products from small businesses from all over the country for its customers. The team of three also designs unique cake toppers, drink stir sticks, banners, signs and more for sale in-store or online. Lindsey has figured out how to evolve the company by offering different products as a result listening and getting to know its customer base.
Pancopia is a small environmental and energy engineering company with an immense impact, contracted to develop solutions for NASA, the US Navy and the City of Norfolk. The company’s focus is to create environmentally friendly solutions to large scale problems, particularly with water and wastewater. With only a team of five, Pancopia has coped with obstacles such as financing, health insurance and regulations to achieve its success.
Dr. Bryan Fine took his experience and bedside manner and formed Percentric to help human resource managers engage company employees to better understand their health benefits. Percentric is helping to bridge the divide in healthcare, helping to lower and avoid major expenses and helping others get the most out of benefits. Running a business is an evolving process for Dr. Fine, who enjoys the small size of the company that he is looking to grow and strengthen over time.
Not wanting to fit in and blur with its Colonial-era surroundings, Jennifer Raines has made her handcraft gallery and retail store Quirks of Art a unique and exciting shopping experience in Williamsburg during its 20 years of business. Representing over 1,400 artists with their work at the store’s location, Quirks offers artwork with both a function and approachable price point. Raines attributes success as a result of constantly thinking outside of the box.
Stopping fraudsters and preventing errors in the real estate industry, RynohLive is a fully automated software offering its clients financial protection for escrow account management. Founder Richard Reass realized real estate companies were losing millions each year, so he developed the web-based application as a problem solving solution that has since landed RynohLive on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in just five years. The software has revolutioned real estate, and the company hopes to expand its services into other industries.
SimIS Inc. is an Information Technology Service Company focused on developing solutions in Modeling and Simulation, Information Security and Autonomous Platforms. Trends in IT are always changing, and Owner, Founder and CEO Dr. Johnny Garcia has taken his education and experience to lead the company in the age of information. SimIS Inc. has created its own path by smart hiring decisions, providing continuing education for staff and wanting to be a difference maker in the world.