ABINGDON, Va. — A local entrepreneur is learning to grow her business and create more jobs in the community by participating in a nationwide program hosted by a leading investment bank.

Abingdon businesswoman Nicole Dyer, owner and operator of White Birch Food & Juice, recently received a scholarship to enroll in a three-month program through Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses.

Through the 100-hour online program, Dyer is learning practical skills such as accounting, marketing and human resources management.

The business owner is among 152 businesses selected to participate in the 2018 program. The curriculum focuses on helping growth-minded small businesses expand in the community.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be involved with the program. It’s an incredible honor that we were chosen and seen as a promising small business with great potential for the future,” said Dyer.

As a result of her participation in the program, Dyer hopes to increase the amount of cold-pressed juices — a signature item of her business — sold inside and outside the region.

“Hopefully, we can see our juice sold wholesale in grocery stores where more people have access to it. I want to get more juice into more people’s hands and create more jobs in the region while we do it.”

Dyer is already using what she’s learned in the program to better connect with local businesses and members of the community. She is offering a drop-off service for her cold-pressed juices. Local businesses can preorder juices that will be delivered at requested times.

To accommodate the early risers in town, Dyer will offer Saturday Sunrise at White Birch Food & Juice beginning May 1. The cafe will open at 6:30 a.m., serving coffee, pastries, muffins and juice before regular hours begin at 8 a.m.

Another surprise

While participating in the online program, which began in February, the restaurant owner received another surprise when she was featured in the May/June edition of Southern Lady Magazine. Other Abingdon businesses in the article highlighted for their contributions to the area include Barter Theatre, the Martha Washington Inn & Spa, The Tavern Restaurant, Zazzy’z Coffee House and Roastery, Balkan Bakery, the Abingdon Olive Oil Co., Persnickety, the Arts Depot, the William King Museum of Art, Magnolia, Rain Restaurant & Bar and Forget-Me-Not.

“Being featured in this magazine is proving to me that my business is getting noticed, and I want to capitalize on this opportunity to gain better visibility even outside the region,” said Dyer.

Investing in her business

“This program is probably the best thing I’ve ever done for my business,” said Dyer, who will graduate from the program in May in the ninth class or “cohort” that includes business owners in the southeastern United States.

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is an investment program to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, capital and business support services, according to its website.

The program has served nearly 7,000 small business owners throughout the country, many of whom have improved their revenues and created new jobs since exiting the program.

More than 6,700 business owners have graduated from the program in the United States, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

Dyer said the numbers indicate the success rates of businesses who participate.

Program results show 67.2 percent of small businesses increased their revenues in only six months, 73.7 percent of small businesses increased their revenues in only 18 months and 77.8 percent of small businesses increased their revenues in 30 months.

The program provides business education by partnering with local colleges to present curriculum codesigned by Babson College in Massachusetts, the national leader in entrepreneurial education.

A network of support

A network of support offered through the program allows participants to receive advice from business professionals and to connect with other small business owners in the program.

“Networking with other business owners and creating relationships with them has been especially helpful for me since I am located in a rural setting where there are fewer opportunities to brainstorm with other owners.

“Creating those connections has been very helpful,” said Dyer, who has reached out to the California business owner of The Nectary.

“We found out we use the same kind of juicer.”

Dyer has also connected with the owner of Biscuit Love in Knoxville and a grocer who owns Glen’s Garden Market in Washington, D.C.

The Abingdon owner said one of the greatest concepts she’s learned from the curriculum is the importance of community to a small business.

“It’s important in your town, region and even the culture that’s inside your restaurant. It’s important to make sure we’re listening to each other and creating a happy place to work.”

Dyer said the program also educates business owners on how to work with small business lenders to increase their capital for improvements and expansions.

Humble beginnings

In order to qualify for the program, Dyer had to meet multiple requirements, including generating a certain revenue, having at least three employees and operating a business for at least two years.

Dyer was the sole employee during her first three months in business, selling cold-pressed juices at the Abingdon Farmers Market and at an incubator business inside Whole Health Center, which later became Blue Hills Market in Abingdon. She added two employees before the end of 2015.

She moved to Campbell House on the east end of Abingdon for a brief time while her newly purchased cafe was being renovated.

After opening the cafe in December 2016, Dyer increased her staff to 11 employees, later employing 16 kitchen and front workers during her third year of operation.

“It definitely takes patience and perseverance to stick with something that’s not always an easy endeavor,” said Dyer.

“It’s a great practice to reflect and focus on how far you’ve come instead of how far you have to go. It’s a very positive and encouraging way to look at things,” she said.

“I’m really proud of this community for being willing to try something new and different,” said Dyer, who sells healthy cold-pressed juices, smoothies, locally sourced breakfast and lunch and weekend dinner.

Her mission is to inspire people to eat healthy and feel good — a longtime passion for the entrepreneur.

“There’s been an organic growth of the business, and I think it’s been created from what the community wanted. We listened to what people have been asking for and added things that cannot be found anywhere else in the area,” said Dyer.

“We’re focusing on a simple, creative, unique and good-quality menu, spotlighting local produce, meats and eggs. One hundred percent of our meats, eggs and goat cheese come from local producers,” said Dyer, who operates the restaurant with business partner Kyle King.

“At the same time, I am looking at a growth plan for the business — where we see ourselves going in the next three to five years,” she said.

“I’ve learned to look at the overall bigger picture,” said Dyer. “That’s really important to do as a leader in the community and a business owner.”

White Birch Food & Juice is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Sunday brunch; and 5 to 9 p.m. for Friday and Saturday dinner. Follow White Birch Food & Juice on Facebook.

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Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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