Studio B & The Alley Escape Rooms

Tonya and Travis Belton decided to take a leap. They were running a paint-party business, Studio B, in downtown Galax and were eager to expand. They heard about the JUMP! Galax Business Challenge, funded by the Community Business Launch, a program of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD.  They dove right in and won the $15,000 first place prize.

They are particularly grateful for the counseling and training delivered by Mandy Archer and Ginny Plant at Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC.  “I don’t have a business background. I went to college for nursing so they were very helpful with the business part,” Tonya explainss. 

The specific criteria for judging included the strength of the business plan, the plan’s potential impact on the regional economic development strategy, the contestants’ community involvement, and the quality and impact of the pitch itself during the high-pressure final presentation.  The program also involved six weeks of business boot camp to help with each criteria, starting with a business plan and culminating with pitch night.

It might be a smaller audience than Shark Tank, but the effects of the prize money on Studio B’s business was powerful.  Studio B began using their winnings to add services and to make building improvements, including air conditioning on the top floor of the building to make it usable for events. As a result, customers can rent the space for private paint parties, birthday parties, baby showers, wedding and bridal showers, corporate events, and fundraisers.  Tonya and Travis also added The Alley Escape Rooms, Galax’s first escape room featuring virtual reality.

“Mandy and Ginny have been really good about getting us in touch with the people we need. They share a wealth of knowledge,” Tonya says. “If they can’t answer the questions, they’ll put you in touch with people who can. They’re always there, one-on-one, and they offer tons of webinars. Because I have three kids, the webinars are really convenient for me.” 

From those classes, Tonya and Travis have gained a wealth of networking opportunities. They have relied on Mandy and Ginny to connect them with everyone from CPA’s to local banks.  Thanks to the expertise and resources of the Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC, they survived their plunge and are swimming stronger than ever.