SBDC guides business owners

Published 2:57 pm Tuesday, November 27, 2018

When David Bappert took over the reins of Buggy Top Utility Barns and Sheds in April, he had a clear vision of the road that lay ahead as a new business owner.

“I’d worked at Buggy Top for 18 years, so I knew the business,” David said.

While David knew the ins-and-outs of building barns and sheds, there were a lot of things he didn’t know about running a business. He decided to make the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) office in Farmville his first stop.

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Longwood SBDC, a small business resource for 29 years, provides education, consulting, and economic research to support potential and existing small-business owners throughout Southern Virginia. Funded through Longwood University, the U.S. Small Business Administration and local governments, SBDC offers its consulting services free of charge.

David and Danielle Bappert made an appointment with SBDC and met with business consultant Brandon Hennessey.

“The first thing Brandon did was make some projections to see if Buggy Top was a good business to purchase,” David noted.

When the projections were good, the Bapperts purchased the Cumberland business from its previous owner, Allen Easter.

Another helpful service SBDC provided was analytics. SBDC showed the Bapperts how to look at competition in the area and adjust their business plan accordingly.

Finding a business niche, the Bapperts learned, is vital to business success.

“We’re a little different from the competition,” David noted. “We’re not a ‘cookie-cutter’ business. We specialize in more customized buildings and sheds and can match paint, shingles and vinyl siding to a customer’s existing buildings.”

“No one builds chicken houses like we do,” David adds with a smile. “We’ve been told that by many customers.”

Customer service is, in fact, first and foremost for the Bapperts and staff.

“It’s important to keep a good business name,” he said. “We have to put the customer first.”

Good customer service, from their point of view, starts with planning a shed or building and carries through to delivery of the finished product.

“I’m the delivery man,” David said with a note of pride. “Delivery is really the final touch — it’s nice to be able to deliver your building and set it up the way the customer wants it. It takes someone who cares about the customer to do that.”

Customer satisfaction was a major point in an SBDC startup class the Bapperts attended. It confirmed Bappert’s belief that building customer relationships is as important as making a good product.

“In the SBDC class they talked about the work ethic,” Danielle recalled. “They told us we should be ready to work long hours.”

Having SBDC work alongside them, the Bapperts believe, made all the difference.

“Brandon helped us start a Facebook page, set up a new website for online marketing, and advised us to use newspaper ads. All the things SBDC did helped us tremendously,” Danielle said. “I was actually amazed that I didn’t get charged for all the services they provided. I don’t think we would have gotten very far without them.”

The Bapperts are pleased that Buggy Top is off to a good start and would like to share the message with other small businesses in the area.

“Small business is the foundation of the U.S. economy,” David concluded. “You might have big ideas, but you still have to start small. SBDC helped us do that.”

As a small business resource for 29 years, the Longwood SBDC core mission is to provide education, consulting, and economic research to support potential and existing small business owners throughout Southern Virginia. Longwood SBDC works with local sponsors to provide consulting services free of charge; for more information visit